What does wiki-based decision making look like?
Answer: MESSY! Right now, I’m involved with one of the biggest deliberative processes I’ve seen yet on Wikipedia. At issue is whether or not it’s OK to put “placeholder” images, like the one pictured at right, on biographic articles. Some people think they unnecessarily deface an article, while others think they’re an important tool in soliciting new images for the encyclopedia, and getting new contributors involved.
This has led to a huge discussion. It’s pretty chaotic, but also highly structured; it can be a little hard to see what’s currently getting the most attention, but because of the section headings and table of contents, it’s not too hard to get an overview of what people have been discussing.
I often wonder about this sort of process. I see decisions made through this sort of process on Wikipedia, with a great deal of input from diverse groups, and a completely transparent process. But I also recognize that it’s a very unfamiliar format, very off-putting to anyone who doesn’t do a lot of work on wikis. I think the “best of both worlds” approach involves meeting face to face, and keeping notes in a format more like this, but after the fact. In essence, highly detailed and structured meeting minutes.
So, dear readers, what do you think? Is a process like this too unfamiliar and confusing to jump into? Or can you imagine a scenario where you might participate in something like that, with the goal of reaching a carefully-considered conclusion with broad participation.
(Note: I published a notice about this in the Wikipedia Signpost as well.)