Sometimes it's wise to trust one's instincts. The matter where I was too hasty on Wikipedia and backed up on something turned out to be something I probably shouldn't've worried about. Basically, the relevant user is very likely to be a problem user, and at least a number of people are going to need to keep their eye on them. Still, taking the responsibilities I have in the project does make me worry that I might abuse them -- right now there's a lot of controversy among the admins regarding two core philosophical points of the project -- consensus and IAR (explained below). The literal interpretation of consensus, which was somewhat more accepted in times past, was that discussion should continue to the point where hardly anyone disagrees over whatever point is being discussed. Other parts of the encyclopedia claimed to use consensus but in reality voted. Now that policy has become complex enough and enough people are present, politics have appeared on the 'pedia, as people have strongly different views on how things should work, and they're forming associations and manipulating polls to get their way. I was once involved in this in the past, but I stopped about a year and a half ago. The end result is that relying on proper consensus leads simply to a paralysis everywhere it is used -- because it's impossible to get most people to agree on anything, nothing happens. This may not be terrible on policy issues, but for other issues (like deleting articles that don't belong), it leads to essential maintenance not happening. As a result, "approximations" of consensus are used, such as requiring a supermajority (Usually 2/3 for most decisions or 3/4 for really important things). This kind of works, but it is made difficult by another thing -- admins (of which there are many because anyone can become one if they're of good standing and pass an election) are, roughly, free to interpret policy as they will, including using whatever idea of consensus they happen to have. This may involve ignoring votes that don't include any reasoning, or sometimes votes that use what the admin in question thinks is bad reasoning. This usually works out, surprisingly, but sometimes there is contention when matters are important to more than one admin, and people undo each other's decisions. The general rule of thumb is whatever admin gets to the relevant thing to administer has their decisions stand unless they're really outrageous. It gets messy though, and I can see continued wrangling over the meaning of consensus, or efforts to abandon it, wasting a lot of time and damaging the community. IAR is another problematic philosophical element -- it stands for Ignore All Rules, and is a guideline whereby people are reminded that the primary goal is to produce a good encyclopedia, and they're told to ignore all rules that get in the way of that. This is an interesting way to keep things from becoming too bureaucratic, but it ends up being very problematic when, again, administrators with different ideas about the way things should work ignore all rules that keep things civilised and go at cross purposes. Normal users can ignore all rules too, but they don't have the big guns (ability to block each other or the prominence/mandate that admins have to get their way). This naturally leads to dissatisfaction on the part of normal users when they get bumped around. Again, this usually works out, because Admins generally can be trusted to be working for the good of the encyclopedia, but there are some cases where it doesn't, and occasionally this leads to incredible amounts of friction between one group of Admins and their supporters and another analogous group. It is not unheard of for a number of very good, important editors, to leave together when this happens, and that hurts the community. Is it inevitable? Is this the best way to run things? It might be, but it's sad that the downsides are so harsh. There are, of course, a number of admins who oppose IAR and want to remove it as a guideline, and at least one very prominent admin who says that they never read any policy because they think it is obvious what to do. I suppose I believe that for Wikipedia, a different heuristic is called for that helps avoid bureaucracy -- if you can get away with it (that is, if it is not invisible and no other admin calls you on it), do it. If you're called on it, then you undo it and start a discussion. I don't have a complete idea what happens then -- I don't care strongly about how to interpret consensus so long as the meaning doesn't cripple the community. I would be happy with anything from fiat by Jimbo (our philosopher-king) to a supermajority. Simple majority would not be kosher because it would lead to too much gaming of the system and instability as things dance around the 50% mark. Anyhow, the admin community is tense right now because of some difficulties along the lines above. Thankfully, most users and non-policyshaping-active admins don't deal with any of this, so even though maintenance isn't happening to the degree it should be, the project is still moving on other fronts.
On a more personal wikipedia note, I have noticed that I tend to look more into the mind of those considered trolls than most people do -- I am very disinclined to totally give up on people, and even when I do, I still try to understand exactly where they're coming from. I have not noticed other people on there who have that tendency to read and try to understand other people no matter what. Perhaps this is a good thing for a mediator (and hopefully an arbitrator, if I do well in the upcoming elections), although it tends to make me tired sometimes because I don't move on as quickly from case to case. I think as the years go by, on Wikipedia, in philosophical discussions, and other areas, I am getting kind of worn down by understanding people and trying to be fair. I don't think I can change that, nor do I really want to, but it makes me kind of tired of life in general in a sense. I've been trying to reshape, heal, and understand so many people in my life, from fascists and people who have tendencies towards that, anti-semites, primitivists, people who don't respect human life, people who believe in power politics and oppose virtue, and the like, and while I've been very successful in some cases, there is never a break. I am beginning to think that maybe this is part of why I have trouble being around people for prolonged periods of time. I am certain that this is not all there is, because it doesn't explain why some people don't trigger this (even though they often still are people I would hope to help/reshape/etc), but it seems likely that this is at least a good part of it. The only thing that can easily get me to consider someone not worth any of my time is if they are particularly unintelligent or against thinking. Some cultures tend to make people like this -- I have a tough time dealing with cultures with a strong antirationalist bent, especially if it is shaped a certain way..
It is amusing to me that the way I learned to spell bureaucracy properly is to remember bureau and tack on the cracy -- before I learned that trick, I always badly mangled the spelling because I tried a number of different phonetic spellings. The word is quite far from being phonetic by any language's rules though.
I suppose I have found one new tradition I am comfortable with -- at the closing of the year, I will strive to identify physical possessions that I don't need, and find ways to pass them on in some fashion to people who want them. Apart from trying to do this with my car and my playstation, I've identified some Gamecube games I don't play, and will hopefully manage to pass those along too.
I continue to be troubled by something that I both got from "auditing" a class at Pitt on evolutionary psychology and heard from a friend (in significantly less scientific terms) -- the evolutionary cues that the genders look for (e.g. masculinity, violence, unreasonability, etc) to match up do not work very well in today's society, especially as traditional gender roles fall away and intellectual achievement slowly becomes more important. The kind of mental self that the intellectual elite treasure is, at least by our instincts, almost a sexless being, relying at best on fetishes (in the sense of internalised dissatisfaction with aspects of life being repurposed for sexual relations) for sexuality. It makes a lot of sense why human instincts match people up with what in modern society are actually fairly poor matches. This is particularly troublesome for me because in who I am trying to be, I have moved pretty distant from the typical male gender role from our evolutionary environment. I hope the cost of this progress is not too great -- I am committed to progress regardless of the costs in this area, but this does not mean that I wish to be unaware of said costs.
Something appears to be up with my metabolism, but it's usual for this time of the year -- I don't seem to be getting normal feedback from my stomach, and it feels like food just sits in my stomach all day. Then, at some point I suddenly become ravenous. I think my body may be trying to hibernate -- without alarms I've been sleeping close to 16 hours a day. I've also gone up to 175 pounds (from my normal 160). I think all this will probably go away in a few weeks though.
The title of this entry relates to a conversation I had with my friend Eric regarding Milk versus Meat kosher -- Eggs are normally not considered to be milk or meat, and thus can be used with either, but when a chicken is slaughtered and the egg is still inside it, it is considered meat and mixing it with milk would not be kosher. I asked the question, if a slaughtered cow were to be milked, would the milk be considered to be meat? The answer is apparently unimportant because people would not do that and it's a pathological border case (unlike in programming, these are not to be worried about too much). I find myself idly wondering if the rules for Halal food tend to rule the same way on milk/meat that the rules for Kashrut do.
I am still struggling to learn to use Fontforge. Unfortunately, it looks like using it is even more tricky than becoming adept at using GIMP or photoshop, and amateur Fontforge-produced things are considerably worse than people using GIMP/Photoshop in an amateur way. Oh well. If I am stubborn, I may eventually get decent at it. I may, if lucky, have someone to help me get started.
And now, as usual, linktime..
- A very interactive DVD. It's odd that we haven't seen more of this -- everyone still thinks of DVDs as being just another way to pack in a movie, while the standard for DVD players is capable of so much more.
- While Linus hasn't always been good about promoting free software as much as he should (e.g. the whole Bitkeeper mess), there are some points where he will stand up for the freedoms that are important to the movement.
- Amusing quotes I have seen recently:
- Passing along some humour a friend passed me