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RE: [xml-dev] Recent allegations about me

The first phase of endorphins mixed with testosterone (note how many of the
combatants are men) has to pass.   Our wiring predisposes us to that and we
just do it and get done.

Then comes the phase where we ask the hard questions among ourselves and see
if we can evolve something better.

<strong>The hard question:  what is the process for determining the truth,
falsity and/or applicability of an edit to a topic?</strong>

Everything of value in this debate turns on the answers to that question.

Note I am staying away from conflict of interest.   Tim and Microsoft had a
conflict of interests when he was a Netscape consultant editing XML
specifications even though he was an expert.  Rick has no apparent conflict
of interest but one is being claimed.  Rick may be sloppy with attributions
but that is epidemic on the web where technology articles have become mixed
into entertainment and politics.  Rick is as Tim was, an acknowledged expert
in his field so pay to play is how we keep them going.  Rick is a consultant
just as Tim was, is a director in a company, just as Tim is, and both have
personal and commercial interests in the outcome of this.  They can defend
those as they will.

But it comes back to the edit and citation processes themselves just as it
always has even before there was a web.  Were I Rick and interested in
defending myself against these charges in the broader context of the editing
of open source resources, I would outline my procedures and considerations
for answering the question posted above independently of his employer's
interests, or the policies of Wikipedia.

David Megginson has claimed that process is the death of the specification
and standards process; yet, no alternatives have been offered that overcome
the Spy Vs Spy arguments that ensue is there is more than one side, honest
or conflicted, to any argument.  David is simply wrong or at best, na´ve.

There is a need for a better discipline here, yes, but also a better policy.
ISO has had paid editor for many years but it backs that up with certifiable
processes.   Jimmy Wales has no real experience with this.  Jimmy was raised
in Huntsville where I live and attended the privileged schools and has had a
charmed life.  He has done good deeds with that and my hat's off too him for
it, but he doesn't have the experience.  Wikipedia in some ways is another
example of the witless fielding of the web with its Candide-like
moralizations and shallow assumptions about the goodness of crowds or the
assumptions that lack of expertise can be overcome by sheer numbers as if
asking the opinion of every sheep in a herd about the efficacy of the herd
dog is the way to pick the one that will be bred for the next generation.

We are dealing with multiple problems.  

O  The centrality of Wikipedia and its like as an information resource, 

O  the eigen-locking problems of the search engines coupled to the
population of that resource, 

O  the incentives offered to enable experts to contribute, 

O  the culture of wikipedia that depending on the market forces can push
experts out of the process and result in very thin coverage of very
important topics but posh dense coverage of trivia, 

O  the policies of wikipedia that will force expert coverage to be voluntary
even where it creates a monastic life for the experts, and since Jimmy
doesn't live like a monk, exacerbating the increasing tensions between the
technological haves and the content producing have nots, 

O  and lastly, the big reputations established that are themselves becoming
power-laws unto themselves finally bursting on to the public stage like a
Hollywood catfight so that the late night comedians are outing them as
foolish boys on a snipe hunt.

I feel sorry for Rick, but he accepted the gig and now he is the guinea just
as Tim Bray was when he agreed to be the consultant for Netscape and has
made a punching bag of Microsoft ever since.   Eventually, it isn't that the
opposition fades away; it is that the punches take a toll on the arm. The
bag can't feel them.

We're really starting to look stupid and we brought it on ourselves.  It
might be time to step back and answer the question I posed because if we
can't, we don't need to be doing this kind of work.


From: Michael Champion [mailto:mc@xegesis.org] 
> The sorry bit is the follow on.  Even the comedians are picking up on it
> starting to make fun of Wikipedia.  

Yup.  It was interesting to see how various people over-reacted to protect
their own image or preconceptions, and choked on the poisonous blowback. In
my humble and biased opinion, the person who comes out looking the best,
with integrity fully intact, is Rick himself.  

Seeing Rick be absurdly characterized as a Microsoft shill reminded me of an
interview on NPR a couple of weeks ago with Robert Sapolsky
Apparently our amygdalas, which are deeply involved in fear/aggression
reactions, have evolved to make such categorizations automatically. In the
article linked off that page, Sapolsky concludes: "Thus, it seems quite
plausible to me that we are hard-wired towards making Us/Them distinctions
and not being all that nice to the Them". 

I'm getting a bit weary of the Us vs Them stuff in the software world.  As
much as I enjoyed  http://www.oreillynet.com/xml/blog/2007/01/wikigate.html,
I wish we could all just agree that *nobody* eats babies, but everybody
happily chows down on the competition, commercial or ideological, when given
the chance.  Sapolsky goes on to say: "But what is anything but hard-wired
is who counts as an Us and as a Them -we are so easily manipulated into
changing those categories.... So, I'm optimistic that with the right sort of
priorities and human engineering (whatever that phrase means), we can be
biased towards making Us/Them dichotomies far more benign than they tend to
be now. Say, by making all of us collectively feel like an Us with Them
being ... s***ty, intolerant people without compassion."


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