Things I learnt about managing people while being a Wikipedia admin

Colour explosion Just over four years ago I gave up my volunteer, unpaid role as an administrator of the Finnish Wikipedia. Today, while discussing with a friend, I realised what has been one of the most valuable lessons in both my professional life and hobbies. While I am quite pessimistic in general, I still benefit from these little nuggets of positive insight almost every day when communicating and working with other people.

  • Assume Good Faith. “Unless there is clear evidence to the contrary, assume that people who work on the project are trying to help it, not hurt it.” Most people aren’t your enemies. Most people will not try to hurt you. If stupidity is abound, it’s (usually) not meant as a personal attack towards you, nor is it intentional.
  • When someone does something that doesn’t immediately make sense, which contradicts your assumptions about the skills and common sense of a person you are dealing with, discuss it with them! Don’t make assumptions based on partial information or details, ask for more info so you don’t need to assume the worst! If something is unclear, asking won’t make things worse.

Pessimists are never disappointed, only positively surprised. But while the world seems like a dark a desolate place and the humanity seems to be doomed, I still have to try to believe in the sensibility of people and that we can make something special for the project we are trying to work for. Ubuntu, Wikipedia, Life… or just your day-to-day job.

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2 Responses to Things I learnt about managing people while being a Wikipedia admin

  1. Ryan Abel says:

    Assume Good Faith is probably one of the biggest positive take-aways I had from my (brief) stint as an active English Wikipedia contributor. It’s an especially important tool when working in such an un-nuanced form of communication.

    Actually, the whole reason I stopped contributing to the project was an administrator assuming bad faith on my part in a dispute with another (slightly cockeyed) contributor on the Maemo article . . . something involving Maemo’s enablement of DoS attacks against 911 services, as I recall. Unfortunately all-volunteer projects like Wikipedia all seem to suffer from the same affliction of time-rich busybodies. . . .

    • myrtti says:

      Actually the whole reason I stopped contributing as an administrator to the project (apart from a picture here and there and some typofixes) was a group of users assuming bad faith on my and other administrators part in a series of long-running disputes… :-D