Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn


I just finished rereading Steven Brust's "To Reign in Hell", a kind of fiction on fiction where he attempts to tell a fantasy prequel to the christian/judaist/muslim holy works, set in heaven. I always feel a bit odd rereading it -- it doesn't really work for those who are completely outside of that worldview, partly because it tries too hard to tell the story and focus on development of characters that don't have any intrinsic meaning to me. Thankfully, it doesn't adopt the moral absolutism and (worse) dichotomy of good and evil that are part of the religious works, but it's more meant, I think, for christian atheists than for vanilla atheists because of the emphasis on the framework.

I suspect I'm going to get questions on my use of the term "christian atheist". There are many people I know who grew up with some particular faith, decided it didn't make sense and became atheist, but still have considerable affection for it. They're not hard to spot because they take efforts that are beyond a passion for truth in defending criticisms of their former faith, efforts they generally won't take for other belief systems. Some of them are perpetually waving an olive branch to that end, saying that their lack of belief shouldn't seperate them from believers, twisting themselves and distorting the meaning of their former faith to let them preserve that illusion of unity. I've met a variety of atheists who fit this, and other atheists who don't. I suppose, not having ever had any faith, I'm free of this. For this I'm glad. Radical shifts in worldview are jarring, and sometimes change the nature of friendships and family relationships.

Webcomics have been particularly awesome recently. The text accompanying the last link is especially worth looking at.

I was talking yesterday on IRC, and realised I had forgotten how close Wikimania is. This is exciting. For better or for worse, I've been a bit more involved in trying to guide user behaviour/protecting the project from problem users recently (sometimes the difference is how hard I try). I'm never sure I'm doing the right thing, but I suspect that nobody but the overconfident ever really does who has power. Getting things right is more important though, the more one uses one's account privileges, and I've seen some other fairly high-profile admins do some questionable things recently. There's no real right and wrong in these issues, and finding acceptable judgements in the midst of things is really hard sometimes. My general tendency is not to get involved in things that I'm not sure about or that looks too hairy. This may, however, be unhealthy cowardice -- I've been chewing on that. In a theory put forth by some prominent folk, we're never after any conception of justice, just "what works for the project first and the community second". I don't think "what works" can be separated from conceptions of justice though, because justice is preoccupied (and perhaps born of) the same set of circumstances that "what works" is concerned with. Intuitively, justice is a set of patterns that govern "what should happen" in interpersonal disputes, and those constitute the vast majority of contention on the project. I don't think that the current institutions for dispute resolution would be in place if it wern't for some intuition that could be called a system of justice. It is possible then that the "what works" over "justice" is intended to make clear that people should not expect Wikipedia to work by their own conceptions of justice (as these can vary greatly, even though most people are not enlightened enough to understand this). The one thing that's become most clear to me is that people who are routinely impolite and inflexible in situations of conflict or higher authority tend to be ejected from the project in not too long. This might be seen as early steps towards virtue. Like Usenet, Wikipedia's popularity and social nature causes it to filter water like baleen, usenet trolls and wikipedia trolls our rejected plankton. Also like usenet, there's always the possibility of working with marginal users and recovering them (probably making them better people in real life too), but it's a lot of work. We don't have enough social workers on Wikipedia, but then, that's true of many societies.

I'm looking forward to using my new running shoes. I might do that tonight when I get home. Hurrah!

Tags: wikipedia

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