The Wikipedia Militia

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What is this?

This is an organizational page, in which we invite our fellow Wikipedians to consider themselves part of a so-called (humorous) "Wikipedia Militia." The purpose of the "Militia" is as follows: if Wikipedia ever receives a really enormous amount of new traffic, which it very well might, we will ask some "old hands"--the people who have put their name on this page--to help break the new contributors into the process and remove the inevitable vandalism and other dross. We'll "call out the Militia."

Background: why a "Wikipedia Militia" at all?

A wonderful problem we haven't yet had to deal with: lots of media coverage. Despite having been written up by the New York Times and MIT's Technology Review, Slashdotted a few times, and inundated with enormous amounts of traffic after some Kuro5hin articles, Wikipedia has never actually been the focus of a sustained and enormous barrage of media coverage. Of course, Wikipedia isn't about the publicity, the fame, and the recognition; it is a work of passion and love. But we might indeed get a lot of publicity and that could have some ill effects we might want to be prepared for.

A media barrage: if we stay the course, it's not whether, but when. If we stay the course, however, this will happen within the next year or two. It's not a matter of whether; it's a matter of when. This could happen all at once, too, which we might well be concerned about. If it happened relatively gradually, the new recruits could be quickly trained to break in the even newer recruits. But what if it happens suddenly? Next summer, for example, we might break 50,000 articles, and be going gangbusters. We might decide to do a press release (we've never done one!), and Time (or whatever) might decide to write up a big hyped-up article about it, and that might lead to evening broadcast news coverage, Wall Street Journal analysts mentioning it as the next big thing, interviews for TV and magazines, the works. It would probably be a mistake to dismiss this possibility. If Wikipedia becomes as large and useful as we want it to be, this will happen.

The accompanying invasion of new contributors. Now, if that happened, of course it would be mainly wonderful and fantastic. What worries me is that, overnight, most of the people working on Wikipedia, at that stage, would be new contributors. Suppose there were, say, 200 people on average working on Wikipedia. (Presently, it's somewhat less than that.) Then suppose that, over a period of two weeks, that number were instantly increased by a factor of ten, or a hundred: 2,000, or 20,000. In that case, it's possible that many of the newbies in this generation of contributors could be of the "clueless" variety, and that a significant minority would be downright malicious. This could be a significant threat to the integrity and credibility of the project.

The worry can be stated slightly differently. In the past, the Slashdottings and Kuro5hin articles, in spite of the overall greatly positive effects of these events, have resulted in a lot of dross, which, one might think, we're still recovering from. It's clear we just weren't able to keep up with it. Now consider the possibility that we are suddenly invaded with, say, fifty times that amount of traffic. It could be a major disaster. The face of Wikipedia could change overnight, and for the worse. So it would help considerably if we were prepared to help preserve the quality of articles and the positive elements of the Wikipedia ethos.

The Wikipedia "Militia." In case of a media-induced invasion of new contributors, it would be instantly, but probably temporarily, important that we have a very high proportion of old hands (you know who you are) working constantly doing Wikipedia weeding. This weeding should focus not on each other's work, but on the new contributors' stuff, and particularly the work of the "clueless" new contributors.

In preparing for this (otherwise most welcome) sort of invasion, it would help if we had something akin to a (humorous) "Militia," where, when "war" or "flooding" (i.e., the aforementioned media-induced invasion of new contributors) strikes, the "troops" are called out to, er, very nicely assimilate and teach the "invaders." To declare yourself a member of the "Wikipedia Militia" is to declare that, when asked, you are committed to doing unusual amounts of Wikipedia weeding, focusing particularly on the contributions of the more "clueless" of the new contributors, as well as the just-plain-malicious people. (Of course, we don't take the "war" analogies seriously. We're actually delighted to be "invaded" when it happens!)

The Militia officially loves new contributors. None of this should be construed as a claim that old hands are better than new contributors or that new contributors should be looked down upon. We love them. But very often, as those of us who have been at this for a while know, when there are disproportionately large numbers of new contributors at work here, quality can suffer, and many of the new contributors often need guidance of one sort or another. This is not to say anything bad about the new contributors. Again, we love them. We need them. We want to assimilate them.

Calling out the Militia. We encourage you to put your name on the following list. If we are "invaded" as a result of massive amounts of news coverage, any alert Militia member can "call out the Militia," meaning that somebody will post an announcement on Wikipedia-L (all Militia members should be subscribed) as well as on Wikipedia Announcements, and that will be your cue to "do your duty," namely, do some heavy weeding on the Recent Changes page and on a (hopefully automatically-generated) list of new article topics. We should also, some time after that, try to make a point of declaring that the "invasion" is over; but, of course, as the newer people are still learning, we should still be on "heightened alert."

So, join the Militia! Add your name to the list below! Wikipediholics should enlist--what more productive way to contribute to your addiction? :-)


The Wikipedia Militia

Add your name to the list; then you will be enlisted.

B
His Excellency, Major General Manning Bartlett, Lord Sovereign of National Capitals, Protector of the Split Infinitive

C
Lee Daniel Crocker
The Cunctator (see WikipediAhimsa)

D
Dmerrill

E
The Epopt of the Wikipedic Naval Forces

G

J
Jzcool I would think this would be more of a SAS type of operation...

K
J Hofmann Kemp, wondering if the Epopt means the Wikifleet... ;-)

M
Mathijs (with some reservation toward the military, somewhat Stalinistic, terminology - nothing personal!)
Sargeant Major Robert Merkel, 108th Evidentiary Defence Brigade :)
Magnus Manske, soon to replace the UseMod muskets with fully automated PHP assault rifles ;)

N
nameless one from Texas

R

Vicki Rosenzweig

S
Larry Sanger
Simon J Kissane (muskets? i want cruise missles...)
sjc

T
MichaelTinkler, who'd rather stay off wikipedia-L if you don't mind
tbc, because duty calls

U
Uriyan

W
Jimbo Wales (of course, I'm in! Do we get muskets?)
Wojpob, Commander of the SSN Wikipedia Wmorrow

The Wikipedia Pacifists

As some people already mentioned, such military wording is likely to scare newcomers, and this 'Militia' thing won't serve any purpose above and beyond simply posting a call to action for everyone to the mailing list and placing a notice at the top of RecentChanges. I'd also add that it has really bad communist feel for me. So here is a list of Wikipedia Pacifist.

T
Taw


/Talk

Force people to wait 2 minutes between page modification/creation submissions. Would prevent/slow down brute force script modification of pages. I can't edit the talk page, too long for Netscape.