Debate:Dealing with community growth at RationalWiki

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This "debate" was originally named "What has happened to our fun website?", but was renamed in a more positive manner following some of the comments below to reflect one of the major issues at hand. Namely, has the website outgrown the management style (or lack of) that it was set up with, and does the system cause more problems than it solves when the website has grown so much.

What went wrong? Why are we so angry at each other? Why are we at odds over silly issues, like whether some user should be "blocked" or not?

We are failing at the one reason we are "together" right now - fellowship.

Do we need to re-address the community standards in order to be able to block one troll?

Why are people so wound up over some user?

We have dealt with worse, and survived.

Why are some people here so bent on "banning" a user? If we are to "ban" a user, we will have to implement "checkuser". Is that what we want? Feel free to comment on this page or its talk page. ħumanUser talk:Human

Huw, we are growing and having growing pains. But we will come out better for it. Be positive. Tetronian you're clueless 04:16, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Growing pains, yes--more people to try to manage, more chance for friction points to develop. Add in a younger demographic brought on with CP's higher profile, too. TheoryOfPractice (talk) 04:21, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Tet, thanks, I hope things will be better. ToP, "more people to try to manage", I think we just need to manage ourselves, when I look at my antics here. ħumanUser talk:Human 07:34, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
It was brought up by Trent a while ago and I thought we were a lot further off this point but it seems to be happening anyway. We've passed "Dunbar's Number" according to the MW generated list of active users. Now, this isn't a bad thing, but it does change the social dynamics a lot. You can't just rely on cultural memory and ad hoc consensus beyond this stage. So, the question is more about whether we want to move to the more common model of Admins and Moderators to patrol the place and make the decisions, getting a group consensus on large issues is a great idea, but it can't work in practice, someone will always whine, and with the current structure, there's no measured way of doing this. Scarlet A.pngbomination 09:35, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
In reality the old guard is finding anyone, any person to blame the decline on. The fact of the matter is that RW hasn't been getting a steady stream of new users in absolutely yonks; and this is most certainly not any one persons fault. The fault lies in the group dynamics and the fact that the project (Which some of you quaintly still insist on calling it) has failed its mission objectives and people disillusioned with CP see a 4chan imitation site, packed with childish memes and other rubbish. I tried to help you, but you wouldn't listen. But certainly, do blame it all on one truthful troll if it makes you feel any better. MC (talk) 13:00, 11 December 2009 (UTC)


We are failing at the one reason we are "together" right now - fellowship.

Not really. We're together because we signed up- fellowship applies to Cabal only.

Do we need to re-address the community standards in order to be abler to block one troll?

Yes, otherwise someone with no knowledge of the situation will overturn it

Why are people so wound up over some user?

Insulting behavior and harassment.
Emperor, go fuck off! Its obvious who I am, who fucking made you the grand policeman around here? Why do you feel the need to block everyone you dislike forever? RW is a trolling hub yet you insist that an outed troll should be blocked indefinately. You fucking hypocrite. I do nothing worse than what you cunts do to CP. Now grow the fuck up and stop behaving like A FUCKING DICTATOR!!!

We have dealt with worse, and survived.

Yes, because we dealt with it, not left it unresolved. TK anyone?

Why are some people here so bent on "banning" a user?

Because we believe that he crossed the line and needs to be removed as a member of this community
I'm sorry, but believing that means you're a fascist, apparently. --Kels (talk) 04:56, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

If we are to "ban" a user, we will have to implement "checkuser". Is that what we want?

BULLSHIT. We are perfectly competent of identifying destructive socks of one user and dealing with them as we see fit. See my response over at RationalWiki:The case of MarcusCicero‎
I think we're finished here. --The Emperor Kneel before Zod! 04:21, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Emperor, I don't think you improved this discussion in any way whatsoever. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:33, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Remember TK. I mean, fuck, it doesn't take a genius to find when somebody is chock full of bullshit. If you let it grow, nothing good can happen - only more pain will come from it. Chop off this infected finger now, and live with that injury, don't let the infection spread throughout the arm. If you can, remember TK. If not, I hope you've read enough to know the dangers of letting bullshitters actually sow seeds of their own validity into your mind. I don't intend to offend, but we should learn from our own history. --Hojini hao 04:26, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
We should just remember that most people on the Wiki are agreed that the trolls are not doing us any good. The disputes are amongst ourselves concerning how best to punish them. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:39, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
I feel that the best way to deal with him is to leave him in the bin, and ignore his whining when he wants out. Eventually, from a lack of attention and his edits being slowed down, he will go away. Javascap05:43, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
I like him, he pisses Ace off and I don't like Ace very much. Web (talk) 05:49, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

What are you people talking about? Do we not name names? Do we not have the skills to embed difflinks to make our cases? ħumanUser talk:Human 06:16, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

First off, I've got to say that this page is quite difficult to read.
Secondly the way to deal with a Troll is not to feed it. However many users do not seem to be able to do this or they enjoy feeding trolls which gives us the problem and we need a secondary solution. Given the ease which which socks can be created on the net neither the Bin nor the Block will really work. To make it really effective we'd need to find a way to block Tor and perhaps install checkuser.
The case of TK has been mentioned. TK's permaban was a chaotic mess. There was nothing to stop him socking up and coming back. Something he has almost certainly done but kept a low profile. Also the site was a more coherent entity then.
Finally, I think the problem is simply that we are growing and that as a consequence we have a more diverse group of people with differing ideas and ways of having "fun". Sometimes their "fun" will be at the expense of everybody else.
I have no solutions for any of the above.--BobNot Jim 07:44, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
My played out old video games are now more fun than this site, I know which one I will spend more time doing. - π 07:53, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Pi has a good point, can you send me some, and a player for them? Look at the title of the page... ħumanUser talk:Human 07:54, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
I agree with both Bob and Pi. The users who most want to punish MC are the ones that kept him alive by responding to his posts, even going so far as to use the intercom in one recent case. If you pour oil on a fire, you shouldn't be surprised if the fire gets bigger. As for played-out old video games, they can become fun again after enough time: certainly more fun than this. –SuspectedReplicantretire me 08:08, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
All that's happened is that the fun activity du jour is pissing of valuable members and making them quit in disgust at the complete lack of sanctions for the more disruptive members. EddyP (talk) 13:57, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Sanctions? Grow up! This is the internet and this is an open wiki. None of your sanctions will do any good. The fact of the matter is that if I wasn't saying something worthwhile nobody would react. Since the likes of Jeeves (A natural autocrat and bigot) seem incapable of tolerating dissenting opinions they do the only thing that autocrats know how to do - remove the person in question.
Snakes don’t really have parts, but if I were to say we was eating anything, I’d have to say that it was his knee. --Edgerunner76 Mary Magdalene In The Cave.jpg 17:46, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
<Feed troll> Marcus, it's not what you say so much as the way that you say it! Diplomacy ain't one of your strong suits is it? If you'd gone about things in a less antagonistic way, you might have found more people likely to listen.</feed troll> I am eating Toast& honeychat 17:48, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

I think this is the most interesting the site has been in a long time. I have to applaud MC and admonish his keepers. — Sincerely, Neveruse513 / Talk / Block 17:58, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

June should have five letters. --Edgerunner76 Mary Magdalene In The Cave.jpg 18:01, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

Trent's "wall of text"[edit]

I think the primary problem lies in issues of scaling. Scaling on two fronts actually, the first is scaling of the project, and the second is scaling of the community. There are many small issues that I could ramble on and on about but I thought I would offer my thoughts on an example of each of these and point out ways other communities have sort of dealt with them.

First, project scaling. What makes editing new wikis fun? I think one of the most entertaining aspects of a new wiki is that it is a blank slate. When I first joined up with Conservapedia I had a blast writing articles about subjects that interest me because there were no articles about those subjects. Wikipedia all ready had an article on everything I knew, and had more information in it than I could provide under most circumstances. Sure you can tweak things here and there, but the creative process felt suppressed. Wikipedia is saturated there is not much room for growth except in the most obscure directions.

When RationalWiki first started and I wanted to write an article I could pick any subject, and big ones, like pseudoscience, homoeopathy, creationism, intelligent design, and there wasn't an article there to write. We could create from the ground up. These days the “big topics” seem mostly covered, and even a lot of smaller topics have decent articles on them. I have had the best luck doing new articles about relatively obscure topics or people. But even still, sometimes an idea for an obscure article comes to my mind and I find an article all ready written. Sure we can tweak and add to existing articles, but it seems to lack the creative spark of something fresh.

One of the major issues is that RationalWiki has a much smaller goal than something like a “general purpose encyclopedia” so the “saturation point” or the “project complete” point approaches a lot quicker than more general wikis.

Our community is also having problems scaling. Based on these talk pages it seems that those interested in the superordinate goals, the main space, and not so much CP or Saloon bar are the ones feeling most alienated from the project at the moment. I think this is in a large way due to the use of recent changes as our community bulletin board. Most people use RC to figure out whats happening on the site. A year ago this worked perfect as there were about 50-100 edits a day, at the most, so you could see everything clearly.

As the community has grown, so has the number of edits. Unfortunately the rate of editing between aspects of the project does not grow at the same rate. Talk page edits, or edits of a more superfluous nature are going to grow at a much greater rate than main space edits. Several reasons why, first it takes a lot less effort to participate in talk page discussions than alter or write articles, and second the back and forth nature of talk pages means more edits compared to the approach to writing articles which is usually one or two major edits in blocks. Another problem is the shear number of edits in a day makes it hard to trace everything.

A year ago if someone started an interesting article all you had to do was, well, start it. It would stand out in recentchanges and people would come edit with you. Now a days merely starting an article gets lost in a sea of recent change edits that appear dominated by the “lolz” and the “talk.” Recent changes doesn't scale well with “project building” aspects of the site as the community as a whole scales up.

So here are some of the problems as I see it, what about solutions? What have other wikis done? For the first issue, project scaling, there are several approaches. First we could expand our mission to include a broader number of topics. We have sort of done this by including “general educational” type articles on math and science. Maybe there are other areas to expand into?

Another approach is to more actively seek out articles that the site needs and put them up as “we need to write this article.” We have done this with the to-do list, but its not working out quite as planned. I will have more to say on this when I talk about community scaling issues. But I think we need to look at “to-do lists” on a more specific topic related fashion.

Another thing we need to be more tolerant of new editors. We are way to antagonistic toward new editors trying to bring fresh ideas and article on to the site. Our initial reaction to an off-topic mediocre article should not simply be to slap a delete template on it and bash the article on the talk page. Stop and think if there is a way to make the article on mission, ways to improve it, work politely with the new editor. If we want to expand the project we need new people with new ideas to feel that we offer a safe environment to work in.

Okay, community scaling issues. First we need to stop seeing recent changes as the primary bulletin board for the site. It all ready isn't scaling and its only going to get worse. Watch lists only work for maintaining existing articles.

We have several attempts to change where the site gets its news and ideas. The two that come to mind are the bulletin board and the to-do list. Both excellent concepts, but are not working as well as they could for several reasons. What we want to do is reach the people interested in building the site, article creation, etc. The bulletin board is used mostly for “meta issues” and is posted in places like wigo talk and saloon bar, where people don't really go when thinking about or interested in the “main space” articles.

The to-do list is also struggling a bit. I think the main issues with it are its to broad, and a bit too complicated, and interactivity is limited. One of the ways wikipedia as dealt most effectively with saturation issues is projects. Pages are created for specific topics and people interested in those topics know where to go for information about them. I think we should take the ideas of the bulletin board, and the to-do and integrate them into sub-pages that deal with specific topics. Such as pseudoscience, medicine, paranormal, etc. The bulletin and to-do lists should only be part of it, we also need a saloon bar style form of communication but focused on those topics. Here we can generate article ideas and a community feel for people interested in growing the project along specific areas.

Previously are community was too small to support sub-projects, but now we are two large to use the methods we are currently. I am not sure if we have reached the community size yet to support any vibrant sub communities outside of CP but I think it is worth trying to set up.

One final note, to those of you who find MC tedious and boring you are certainly not alone. He has failed to gain even a blip of interest from me. tmtoulouse 18:32, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

We tried the idea for sub-projects some time back. Could be worth revisiting. Scarlet A.pngbomination 18:41, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Sub-projects require a certain community size to be viable and vibrant. Conservapedia is essentially a sub-project. We just have to choose carefully, perhaps the community is not yet at a point it can support sub-projects at the level of "astrology" versus "homeopathy", maybe even broader ones like "paranormal" "quack medicine" might be too small. We could even start something as broad as "project goals." tmtoulouse 18:44, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
Could sub-projects have their own "recent changes"?--BobNot Jim 18:50, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
You can cut it down by namespace. Hence why I switch RC to mainspace only and get quite disturbed. But you can have notices, watchlists and so on. Perhaps we could combine this with, or possibly start it off by using, my idea of sub-foruming the saloon bar. Scarlet A.pngbomination 19:22, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
I like the idea of projects, or even just ongoing talk pages for specific categories. Trent is probably on to something when he talked about our scope. We already go beyond our scope, mainly because we do need some articles to become encyclopedic in order to refute irrational claims. One thing I like about unw / uncyclopedia is the "pee review" system. If we can have some broad areas that people can sign up for, editors can submit their articles there for some lovin'. (Concernedresident) (talk) 19:42, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
That was the aim for the to do list, but it's not working out as well as planned. Not sure why, feedback on it is sparse at best. But thing thing about "signing up" is that people won't go for it, feels too much like work. Scarlet A.pngbomination 19:44, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
True. Maybe what we can do is to just watch edits to mainspace, and encourage people. May seem silly, but a quick compliment, or some friendly feedback works wonders. We don't need a group for that, just people interested when they have the time. (talk)
I've done the occasional pat-on-the-back thing, perhaps I should do it more. Scarlet A.pngbomination 19:57, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
I think we could maybe get people to contribute about sociological/newsy aspects of pseudoscience/anti-science articles. The stuff we write about does not have to technical, rebutting anti-sceince stuff. For example, Climategate is largely a news item. How did it evolve in the media? What actually happened? What are denialists saying about it? I think these are all things anyone could at least write something about. Sterile counterpane 20:02, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

<-- Thanks tmt, for being open to growth and its attending complications. I guess I will hold off on the template that says 'tis mean to byatch-slap the newbies, and mean people suck, since it would just add more negativity. Sprocket J Cogswell (talk) 20:04, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

EC Ec. must admit that I've never understood the purpose of the "to do" list. If an article is worth writing then why not write it? I've always suspected that the "to do list" is about suggesting articles which "somebody else" should write. I'm also not that interested in sub-sections of the bar. Sure there is a lot of chat, but a lot of it doesn't interest me much anyway.
But if I were able to only see edits to mainspace articles, or particular categories of mainspace articles, that might be interesting.--BobNot Jim 20:07, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
The point of the todo list was to act as a scratchpad - I'd noticed two things - one, some people had "things they might write someday" lists on their user pages, and two, I would sometimes just scribble a quick note to myself if I saw a dumb ad on TV or something. The todo list was supposed to be a central repository of such ideas for articles, a place to mention things one might not have the time or knowledge to even write a stub. Indeed, a given topic might not even be worth writing about (ie, the medicine is legit, or the huckster isn't one). But after some early activity, and then Pi rebuilding it and making it a lot prettier, it seemed to drop off the radar entirely. ħumanUser talk:Human 22:39, 11 December 2009 (UTC)
The thing with the to do list is that everyone has ideas for articles they would like to write if they had the time & perseverence & organisation to do it, hence they add them to the list, but nobody really wants to write articles based on what somebody else wants to write about. So it will sit on the to do list indefinitely, & then maybe somebody will create a worthless two-line stub just so they can tick it off the list. Really I think the only solution is to start the article yourself when you havde an idea, or - if you don't know much about the subject matter but know another editor or editors who do - suggest it to them & see what they reckon. €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 00:55, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
I took 2 recently from the wanted list (granted, I'd added one myself) and made non-stubs of them. Maybe the problem is in the suggestions? Not enough interest? Most of the suggestions made are in the negative number realm as far as yea/nay voting is concerned. Personally, I thought the Bayou of Pigs was fascinating, insomuch as I'd never heard about it before, so I chose it from the list to write about. Most everything else seems like reaching for something to add when suggested. Aboriginal Noise Theist, barely hanging by a nail 01:07, 12 December 2009 (UTC)
Well, the purpose was that, via up/down voting on the suggestions, we'd bypass a ton of crap brought up by someone creating an article and someone slapping a DELETE template on it 5 seconds later. Secondly, the purpose was to suggest ideas and possibly discuss their relevance and gather information before writing, but it hasn't taken off like that. Perhaps if we split the saloon bar (and given the 40 hour time limit that Pibot needs to keep it in check, this has to be done, it cannot continue as it is and sustain based on the community growth) a page dedicated to "new articles" could be useful. Then you generate a discussion, and if the article is made, you write it and transplant that discussion to the article talk page. That one on ancient nulcear wars could have been interesting, but whoops, there's so much crap on the bar that it disappeared despite being only a few days old. Scarlet A.pngbomination 14:14, 12 December 2009 (UTC)


Hay guys, we're in HCM. That's all. It's happened before and it will happen again. After a while it will calm down and we'll all get back to the lulz. Meanwhile, let not take ourselves too seriously. Bob Soles (talk) 20:12, 11 December 2009 (UTC)

I disagree. Discussing the future of the site and dealing with difficult situations is not HCM. People can disagree; as long as they don't go after each other, come to it with a level head, don't call each other names, and look forward and avoid finger pointing, it can be a productive discussion. I suspect, however, the bigger problem is that mid-December, and in most people's work and school lives, mid-December is never a good time for something that requires time, especially on what is an essentially volunteer basis. It's just reality. Sterile counterpane 02:23, 12 December 2009 (UTC)

I wanted to agree with something Kels said[edit]

But she didn't say it here, and buggered if I'm going to look for it. This is a community, and one of the things that communities do is police themselves to make sure that things which are detrimental to their well-being are taken care of. It is hard to believe that a self-avowed troll whose stated porpoise is to sow discord and "bring RW to its knees" is an advantage to the community. We need to consider ways, without being dicks about it, to make sure this remains a fun and productive place. MC could come back tomorrow and successfully troll us back into a not-fun state of being. We're all trying to respect DFTT, but that puts the onus on us to make sure things stay cool--when the problem is easily traced to a particular perpetrator. While the fact that we're willing to try that says a lot about us, (as in good things), the fact ism I can't think of any other community that plays by those rules and thrives. TheoryOfPractice (talk) 04:18, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

A big-buddy program where a sysop or crat must approve of article edits before they are posted? Prevent idiots who want to just sign up and vandalize articles.--Thanatos (talk) 04:22, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
"While the fact that we're willing to try that says a lot about us" Yup. That's who we are. DFTT is the key. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:28, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
The fact that MarcusCicero is even able to disrupt the Wiki by lobbing a couple of unintelligent insults says a lot about the community. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 04:31, 14 December 2009 (UTC)
It certainly makes one wonder. ħumanUser talk:Human 04:34, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

I don't see long term blocks as any kind of practical solution since blocks can fairly easily be bipassed - to police them properly would involve disabling proxy editing & giving admins access to checkuser, neither of which would be desirable. If we're dealing with a known troublemaker, it's better for everyone to recognise him/her when s/he appears (i.e. editing with the existing account) than for him/her to be using a series of sock accounts & making us suspicious of every new user. Hence I think we should continue using the vandal brake/bin, & maybe rename it to something less specific, as was suggested somewhere earlier in this discussion, so that it can be used for anyone who has proven themselves to be a general nuisance. €₳$£ΘĪÐWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 23:42, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

L would like to say I agree with Weaseloid here, but I would also add that if somebody is trolling, don't enable tham. If they say what you don't like, don't argue with it but, rather, archive it or something. I know I have been guilty of feeding the troll before, but never again if it means HCM. Gooniepunk2010 Oi! Oi! Oi! 23:45, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
With you on that. Counter-trolling is fun, but in the end the wiki suffers. No more from me. Totnesmartin (talk) 23:51, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
Agree. Aceof Spades 23:52, 15 December 2009 (UTC)
Nice idea. Can someone with a aesthetic sense take a look at this for me and make it worthy? TheoryOfPractice (talk) 00:43, 16 December 2009 (UTC)
Template looks fne to me. ħumanUser talk:Human 05:26, 16 December 2009 (UTC)