Monday, July 21, 2008

#wikipedia-en: forking to ##wikipedia-signal

"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

I can't be the only person frustrated by the recent levels of off-topic and frankly spammy conversation in #wikipedia-en on freenode. I've tried agitating for change, and have gotten nowhere; the hands-off approach taken by current operators is hardly helpful, here. Things have only been getting worse, and I've come to the point where I'm willing to fork the channel, if there's interest.

Tonight's topics of conversation in #wikipedia-en have included: womens' breasts, mens' breasts, lactating breasts, and other things that decidedly are not Wikipedia. Channel operators are often unwilling or unable to stop these trends, recently, and I'm sorry to say that what once was a useful channel is now even worse than #wikipedia ever was.

It used to be that #wikipedia was (mostly) off-topic and #wikipedia-en was (mostly) on-topic. Currently that's still the official story. Lately they're both off-topic, although surprisingly #wikipedia actually has the slightly more "intellectual" sort, where #-en is a more "frat" atmosphere. Don't get me wrong, I love social channels and generally favor a hands-off approach to moderation... but one on-topic channel hardly seems too much to ask for, and current chanops just aren't making this happen, it seems.

Wondering why I care? Just look at how effective #wikimedia-tech is. Currently I'm not aware of any public channel which regularly discusses the English Wikipedia with any degree of seriousness. Private channels are smaller, and less representative of the wider community.

With that in mind, I'm starting a ##wikipedia-signal channel for public, on-topic discussion of the English Wikipedia and its sister projects. Realistic concessions to social conversation will be made, but overall I'd prefer to keep a high signal-to-noise ratio (hence the name), and plan on backing that up with moderation as needed.

There are, however, a few options to consider:
  • Option 1: Good old culture and self-moderation. Allow anyone to join and speak, and encourage them to stay on-topic. Proactively kick or ban repeat problem users as needed, as other channels do (or should).
  • Option 2: Set the channel +i (invite-only), but keep trivial standards for access. Essentially an opt-in, semi-private channel. Repeat problem users could have their invite access removed. Easy to keep out misfits and botnets, but risks creating a barrier to entry, if users with the ability to access user flags are difficult to find.
  • Option 3: Set the channel +m (moderated), so that anyone can join but only "voiced" users may speak. Probably would set most regular users to be voiced by ChanServ on joining (+V flag), and might allow a smaller group to voice other users by request (+v flag). Repeat problem users could have their voice access removed. Similar advantages to Option 2, but creates a smaller barrier to entry if more users can be trusted with the ability to give others voice.
Currently I'm favoring the third course. Thoughts?

If the atmosphere in #wikipedia-en improves, so be it. This isn't a power play; I just want a decent forum for on-topic talk.


Update, 2008-07-25: Looks like ##wikipedia-signal hasn't taken hold. Thanks to the users who gave it a shot, and to those who offered feedback both positive and negative. However, it's worth noting that several concerned users have intervened in the affairs of #wikipedia-en since this post was made, and the situation there has improved. For now. Forking hasn't proved viable, currently, but it seems to have successfully drawn attention to the issue.


Anonymous said...

I always wondered what the difference between #wp and #wp-en was :)

But I'm not sure yet an other fork is a solution (I assume -en is a fork), though...

Scarian said...

No. 3 seems okay, Luna.

Kelly Martin said...

#wikipedia-en is where all the under-20 boys that don't want to be around the older folk in #wikipedia hang out. The channel's maturity level suffers mightily as a result.

Luna Santin said...

Just making a note, updated the post.