Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A parable

Suppose that there is a country where many people live and build houses and are involved in productive activities for the most part. However, suppose that there are also some criminals that occasionally ravage this country, looting and burning houses. It is not easy to catch these criminals, but eventually most criminals are caught. And trials are held for these criminals, and those found guilty are locked up.

After they have served their time in prison, the criminals are released. Some go back to their previous destructive behaviors, and are caught again and locked up again to serve more prison time. Others become model citizens, building houses and getting along well with their neighbors.

Suppose that there are two groups of people living in this country; group a and group b. Suppose that one type of criminal, the Cb criminals, only target group b, burning group b houses and attacking group b. Group b works hard to catch these Cb criminals and locks the Cb criminals up so they can do no more harm to group b.

But group a sees all these Cb criminals locked up, and thinks that it is unfair. "Why not let these Cb criminals out?", they ask. Group a sees nothing wrong with the Cb criminals being free. After all, some of these Cb criminals might turn into productive citizens! And if they do not, the Cb criminals can always be sent back to prison, so what is the problem?

Group b protests that it was hard to catch all these Cb criminals, and that they do not want to have to catch them again. Group a dismisses this argument, since they did not have to do the work to catch the Cb criminals, and they will probably not have to do it the next time either. Group b protests that the Cb criminals burned the b homes and were destructive. Group a does not care, since the Cb criminals did not burn the group a houses. Group b protests that the Cb criminals have not even promised to not return to their lives of crime, and have said they intend to burn more b houses when they are let free. Group a dismisses this argument as just more stupid group b whining.

Is this fair? Should group a be allowed to let the Cb criminals out to cause problems for group b? If group b protests the group a actions, is it fair for group a to attack group b as being selfish and greedy and stupid and %$#@?

As ridiculous as this parable sounds, this is a very common theme at Wikipedia. One group can demand that disruptive elements that attack other groups be given unrestricted editing privileges. And if the group that is under the threat of attack protests this, they are accused of being greedy and worse. And there are no consequences for demanding the release of disruptive elements, the control and restraining of which will cost a lot of someone else's time and effort.

Perhaps we should consider a different way of doing business.

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