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In the past few weeks, I've noticed an unsettling change in the tone of debate on Lostpedia.
To be fair, conflict has always taken place here (and everywhere). Like a microcosm of any large group IRL, there's bound to be disagreement. Disagreement is good and healthy. It causes us to reevaluate thoughts and ideas that we hold. In doing so, we either correct those in which we are wrong or we reinforce our beliefs when we are right.
But with disagreement often comes the uninvited guests of temper, irrationality, and personal attacks.
In any other forum, wiki, or comment board, I am rarely affected by such flaming. In fact, I'm not too self-important to admit that I often find it entertaining: like a nature program, our species' interactions with one another are often fascinating to watch. And when the flames threatened to burn me personally, my feelings were rarely hurt: why would I desire the admiration and respect of someone who chooses to erratically vent their personal frustrations through a keyboard?
Yet one area that I was devoted to was Wikipedia. The idea of a seemingly infinite repository of all human knowledge was very attractive. Diving in headfirst, I made countless edits, devoted many hours of hard work, and, while avoiding ownership, I felt a sense of pride to be a contributing member of a pseudo-academic organization. Humans often strive for self-identity, and I was more than content to be labeled as a steward of knowledge.
I'd been a spectator to many heated edit wars, occasionally offering my interpretation of the situation in an attempt to diffuse bickering and press forward with our goal: to document, preserve, and spread knowledge. But I'd never personally attacked another editor, nor had I felt insulted by a personal attack (though, I was lucky that my work hadn't met much opposition).
But with such an enormous armada of editors, a conflict was bound to happen. I won't get into details of the dispute, but my edits brought me into conflict with an extremely unreasonable editor. He used all the common tools of the edit war participant: name-calling, CAPS LOCK SHOUTING, unhealthy sense of article ownership, unwarranted self-importance, vague and unprovable IRL "credentials" that "validated" his arguments, etc. We left lengthy monologues on each other's talk pages (noting that his was crowded with many concurrent arguments with other users), but to no avail. While I was obviously biased to my own opinion, every other editor and sysop agreed that I was correct. Yet this one individual's strange desire to shape the world the way he saw fit overruled all of that: he was prepared to argue through the Wikipedia judicial process. As my grandfather used to say: there's just no reasoning with an unreasonable man.
I considered fighting it, but I soon realized that a system in which I have to maneuver through bureaucracy just to say 2 + 2 = 4 is not a system in which I want to participate. The base had become too bloated and the editors unmanageable. All it took was one bad personal experience to turn me away from Wikipedia.
This happened right around the time that I started getting heavily into LOST, and likewise into Lostpedia. Though I was hesitant to join another wiki-based community, I was seduced by the dialogue and atmosphere taking place here. While LOST draws a wide variety of viewers, the editors of Lostpedia seemed to share a set of values: intelligence, reason, and most importantly, a dedication to the series as opposed to a dedication to their own interpretations. The editing rules were tweaked just enough to maintain the sense of freedom and openness while weeding out trolls and those who would hinder progress.
So, listening to some of the debates currently taking place, I've noticed a strange influx of Wikipedia-esque flaming. I'm not wagging fingers at any particular individuals, and I'm not trying to be alarmist (the debate on episode re-numbering has ben very civil and productive, IMO). Calling out specific conflicts would only embed myself in them and thus make the problem worse, so I apologize for the lack of sources. But it doesn't take much searching to locate such disputes.
I've always taken pride in our distinction from Wikipedia. After all, trying to contain knowledge about ... well, everything is bound to bring a large amount of people with different allegiances and agendas. But we've always been devoted to one goal: documenting, analyzing, and discussing this brilliant television show. Let not our egos get in the way.