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Rushes Sequences - Einar Kvaran - Wikipedian interview - USA (Video)

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Dan Biddle Dan Biddle | 12:49 UK time, Monday, 26 October 2009

Einar Kvaran is a dedicated Wikipedian who contributes articles to Wikipedia (mainly) on the subject of American sculptural art. Aleks Krotoski and the Digital Revolution team met and interviewed Einar to discuss his views of Wikipedia, democracy in an online collaborative environment, and the emergence of hierarchies in online communities.

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Transcript:
(Please note that this transcript is the 'raw data' text we receive from a transcription company. It is a tool commonly used in production to facilitate editing and review the content. We publish it for users in that same spirit, rather than it standing as a 'perfect' representation of the content.)

Intvr Wikipedia initially was, a giant free for all you know as you said anybody could go in they could you know vandalise things, and it's evolved into a, an interesting system that has a very structured hierarchy that's erm, that's been implemented by Wikipedia itself. Can you talk us through that hierarchy?

Elner A little bit, I have intentionally avoided the hierarchy because I am in heart an anarchist.  And I don't work well on power structures.  But the way it works it there are editors, everybody's an editor and then there are folks called administrations and they're elected through anybody who wants to vote in these elections can vote in an administrator and they have certain powers, of editing and blocking erm, people that are considered disruptive.  So I deal with that level occasionally if I have a problem of if I need to know something initially it was technical. How do I post a picture on Wikipedia? And you know they were I download some instructions and they would make no sense to me it was like it was, translated from computer geek or something like that.  No very well translated. So then I would just go out there and I'd randomly pick an administrator and I would email that person and say can you help me with this and they would say, you know give me some simplified version. So those the administrators above the administrators are another level that have as far as I know powers of dealing with the situations where administrators don't agree.  Erm, err if you and I were having an editing war, and we reached the point where administrators were required it's possible that I could find an administrator who would back my position you could find one who'd back yours. So then it gets kicked up a layer, and then the final erm, buck stops here in Wikipedia is the err in, encapsulated in the phrase Wikipedia is not a democracy. So up until this point it has been a democracy anybody can edit anybody can change other peoples edits. Anybody can be an administrator. Boom and then if, if, reaches that top level no the people that own it it's they're, they're thing and they can get in and settle the dispute. I have never been involved in a dispute that has gone beyond the administrator level.  

Intvr How does the buck stops here mentality err defeat the purpose of Wikipedia. Do you feel that it does? Or is it just an evolution that has to happen and in, in such an enormous erm, objective as Wikipedia has to document the truth, to document all of knowledge.  

Elner Tough question. I would say that I'm not going to have a problem, with it until I have a problem with it. OK, so far the system has worked, for me. And if I get into some situation and I can't imagine what it would be, but if I suddenly find myself  in a situation where it gets passed up to the hierarchy and they make a decision that I don't agree with and if they make a decision I agree with I'm going to go greatest system in the world, nothing could be better. If, if they go the other way then I have to either decide oh dam, well or you know get an attitude about it. there are people who are a Wikipedia who are intentionally disruptive, erm, sometimes in very nasty ways and I, I don't know if this is because they have a problem with the Wikipedia bureaucracy or if they just have a problem. I suspect it's that.

Intvr Another question that's sort of dealing with the  the final media issue question is what do you think the objective of Wikipedia is, is it to, is it to identify the objective truth or is it to err generate a truth that is, crowd source of something completely different?

Elner I used to think that the point of Wikipedia was to create a, a valuable commodity for someone and that at some point someone was going to say well sorry folks but we are going to now start putting advertising and we are going to start, using it as a income generating thing and know all of you million editors thanks a lot I'll see you later. I don't think that anymore. Erm, I think that they're being up front that they want to keep it, open as it is and free. Free is very important and if we're not free then I would feel that I had been taken advantage of by which I don't feel that way at all. I don't as far objective truth the total truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth I think it's just too create the best articles they can on every possible topic. As far as I know the Beatles have an article every album the Beatles produced has an article and every song the Beatles recorded has a separate article. This is just from a music stuff that I'm interested. You get into computer games of which I know nothing about every game has an article the k. each character has an article I mean it, it's huge I think it's more. I think of it as in documentary terms that it's not an absolute truth it's trying to just put as much information in one space as I possible.

Intvr Some critics say mob rule is driving Wikipedia, do you think that this mob rule err is effective?

Elner I don't think that mob rule is real. I don't think that's what happening erm I think it is. I mean I don't see mob action very much. I don't go to controversial erm, sights that much. Occasionally I stumble across them sometimes I get involved mostly I go oh no erm, but no I don't think it's a mob rule at all. It's, it's a complex process for sure. And how it's going to sort out remains to be seen and that's part of the fun.  I mean I'm 60 years old I wish I could live to be 200 to see how some of these things are going to resolve themselves. I'm not going to be. I don't see mob mentality I see you know a form of democracy that you have in any democracy where if you want to get the votes then you got to go out there and you got to do this and, and that and make whatever promises to get the votes and maybe there is some of that happening I don't consider that to be a mob. To be a mob is a threatening thing. I'm not threatened by what I see on Wikipedia.

Intvr How do you feel when people edit your articles?



Elner Don't touch, don't do that there, there's big disclaimers everywhere that, that say these are not your articles, OK. Don't edit unless you're prepared to have it ruthlessly hacked apart by mindless whatever, chimpanzees or something along these lines. Erm, I watched the edits to my. I do think of them as my articles. Casper Bouble the is my article and if somebody goes there and makes an edit I want to know what the edit is and why they've done it and if they've got through and corrected all my spelling that's a good thing. If they've turned all my American spelling into British spelling that's a bad thing. It's something that Wikipedia has had to deal with because huge wars have happened about err the spelling of particular words and it has come down to the, the rule is first person there gets to spell it the way they want to.  erm, another problem that comes up is, it touches on this mob rule thing in interesting ways is people get up and complain that it's too American. That the article on Fasces which is a err a symbol of lion order from the roman's it's a bundle of sticks with an axe and it err, in my version of the story it goes back to Roman law of the strength through unity but also corporal punishment versus capital punishment. I  mean the axe is there for a reason. So err America uses that Fasces a lot as a symbol you see it all over the place if you know how to look for it. so the Fasces article is, maybe half American content so then some people from I'm sure not Britain let's say France show up and complain well no there's Fasces all over France to this article is too American centred I...

Chatting.

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