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Saturday, May 05, 2007

What happened to Wikipedia:Attribution?

You may remember the introduction of Wikipedia:Attribution. If you edit Wikipedia on a regular basis you may have noticed that the link just below the edit box went back to Wikipedia:Verifiability about a month ago, or some three weeks after was first changed to point to WP:ATT.

What happened? Well, when the switch was first made at the end of February I (and few other editors) were not happy. We reverted the change from having the seperate WP:V and WP:No orignal research to the single WP:ATT, but we were reverted straight away by the user Radiant. I also left a note on Jimbo Wales's talk page alerting him to the changes, but he was away travelling with limited net access. A day later the Essjay storm broke and when Wales regained regular net access, everyone's attention was on that and WP:ATT was forgotten. My note on Jimbo's page was lost in a page-blanking after the Essjay affair.

But then on March 20 Jimbo noticed for himself that WP:V and WP:NOR had been merged, and he wasn't happy. He left this message on the WP:ATT talk page while reverting the changes (and this time, Radiant did not revert, lol). This suddenly brought the whole thing to everyone's attention, leading quickly to a poll where the merge only gained the support of around half the 900 or so people who voted. This was quite a blow to the main architect of WP:ATT, Slimvirgin, who had been working on the merge since last October.

Jimbo's suggestion to resolve the issue was to form a "cross-party working group" (seriously). This seems more of a move to calm the heated debates rather than to actually reach a solution other than the status quo, and it worked. There were efforts to try and pick people for this group and work out what they should actually do but there were arguments over every detail, even over whether they should have terms of reference or not. Slimvirgin eventually tired of the discussions in mid-April and left, though she still tends to WP:ATT from time to time. The "working group" discussions gradually petered out.

What's the outlook? WP:ATT is dead. Far too many people recognise and support the need to have seperate policies, policies that have worked very well for six years now. AP:ATT pretty much worked but wasn't really needed. The "merge" process was badly mishandled - there were no merge tags placed on the the policy pages and only one small invite for community input early in the process, which left a small group of isolated editors working on the project out of the eye of the general editor population. When these folks decided WP:ATT was ready for the prime time they felt they had consensus, but it was only within their subgroup (clique, really). A few people objected but couldn't be bothered to fight the socially inept, stubborn and arrogant editors Wikipedia attracts like Radiant. When Wales noticed the change and came down against it, it was game over.

Throwing a bone to the clique was almost cruel - it would have been better, especially after the results of the community poll, to make it clear that WP:ATT was dead and to help the people who'd invested so much time in it begin to move on.

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Comments:
Radiant's a perfectly nice fellow. I think we've even changed each other's minds about something on some occasion, which is probably remarkable for either of us.

But yeah, ATT is a perfect example of how not to do consensus.
 
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