The Signpost


The Signpost in 2005

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Thoughts on 2005

In 2005, the Signpost was a new institution, as was the Wikipedia it documented. Initially, it was solely the work of Michael Snow; as it gained steam, it gained contributors, and as it gained contributors, it gained perspective. While Wikipedia was already a large community getting regular press coverage at the beginning of 2005 (or at least enough to fill out an "In the media" section every week), it remained a curiosity in the eyes of most. It was an also-ran to traditional encyclopedias like Britannica and online expert-written encyclopedias backed by large companies like Encarta; the days of Nupedia were over, but the long-term viability of the wiki model still remained unproven. This can be seen in early Signpost coverage -- Wikipedia's credibility was not a question in the eyes of most, it was a "no". While its existence was increasingly well-known, it was still worth noting each time a traditional publication mentioned it (or, better yet, cited it for a definition). The last part is notable as well: while newspapers and magazines constantly debated the question of Wikipedia's reliability, they often felt no compunction about using it to cite definitions and history in their articles (as well as trivia and factoids). Perhaps this was even more validating than a positive article about Wikipedia -- proof of its superiority, or at least proof of its greater breadth and accessibility, the few times a week it happened. At this point, one can imagine that all results in a news search for "Wikipedia" in any given week would fit into a small Signpost column; indeed, even trivial mentions in passing are recorded. In 2022, it goes without saying that this is absolutely not the case; typically, only major media coverage is even mentioned in Signpost issues.

Reporting on the proceedings of disciplinary procedures, primarily (and most visibly) the Arbitration Committee, became an integral part of Signpost reporting. The Committee, started as an ad-hoc tribunal of last resort, was at this time becoming steadily more integrated into the dispute resolution process. ArbCom cases in early 2005 are sparse, and their conclusions are mostly arbitrary; even within the space of one year, it is easy to see its current structure developing (with ubiquitous reference to previous findings of fact, principles and precedents).

The structure of arbitration proceedings (and indeed, of Wikipedia goings-on as a whole) in early 2005 can be seen as somewhat reminiscent to societies of antiquity, like the Greek polis: they were carried out primarily by (and to) small groups of people with recognizable names who showed up again and again. Personal relationships seem to have been quite relevant at this stage in Wikipedia's development; indeed, arbitrators were still being personally appointed by Jimbo. By the end of the year, a process of gradual accumulation enabled more regularity: precedents were established when arguments led to consensus on a variety of subjects that could be referenced afterwards as a source of common understanding.

However, the process of development was not linear -- Wikipedia's history is not a Whig history. A number of evolutionary dead ends are present during this time. One example of this is the strange occurrence of advocate groups, and counter-advocate groups, who brought (and defended) arbitration cases involving their own members. While the modern Arbitration Committee acts in a capacity largely equivalent to civil courts, its jurisprudence in 2005 was markedly different and resembled criminal proceedings in many ways. Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Regarding_The_Bogdanov_Affair is a typical ArbCom case of the period: note that people are listed as "defendants"! Also of note is that every single person listed (except the people who later changed their usernames) is now blocked -- most of them for totally unrelated reasons.

In the days of 2005, long-term patterns had yet to emerge, whether for better or for worse. Editors like JarlaxleArtemis, for example, are extended the good faith of clemency many times in a way that now seems alien. If a user in 2022 were to create dozens of sockpuppet accounts threatening an administrator, it seems patently absurd that this administrator would welcome them back to the project under mentorship: yet this was a regular occurrence in 2005. It was impossible, of course, for someone to have been a Wikipedia troll for more than four years at that point.

While Wikipedia's rise to prominence certainly did not start in 2005, and it didn't end there either, a number of pivotal events happened in that year. This is the year that its Alexa rank went from [whatever it was before] to [27 I think], as well as the year during which ratings of reference websites placed it above competitors like Britannica, Encarta,, and even

As for the Signpost itself -- a rising tide lifted all boats. There was not only an increase in editors, but an increase in highly involved editors (with up to seventeen sysops being promoted in a single week); this provided a massive boost for readership, but also for material to cover, as a "well-attended vote" went from the high thirties to the high hundreds and it became increasingly impractical for one person to keep track of even major discussions. It is fortunate, then, that as the amount of readers increased, so did the amount of potential writers and editors. A large portion of the Signpost's content in 2005 is routine descriptions of everyday events -- like requests for adminship, featured articles, summaries of media coverage and updates on WMF fundraisers -- that one can imagine automated by script. However, there are many pieces of original reporting on the proceedings of noticeboards, policy debates, and dispute resolution. Moreover, towards the end of 2005, we begin to see detailed investigations, like Flcelloguy's series on the Arbitration Committee; documentation of events that, were it not recorded here, would be nearly impossible to know about the existence of, let alone understand and interpret.

It is in 2005, then, that we see not only the origin of the Signpost, but the beginnings of an expansion from a simple newsletter into something that could be called a genuine news publication.

2005 part 1

Okay, this is getting tedious, I think I will adopt a different format for these.

Okay, here we go for the rest of 2005, I guess:

Part 2

For this, I think I will try a new approach and transclude these to a single-page view in the test zone; the approach of opening each page individually takes an extremely long amount of time. I had figured that, since it was only for 2005, I wouldn't need to worry about it, but even the first half of 2005 has taken a solid several hours to go through.

Anyway: it is June 2005. George W. Bush has just started his second term, everyone is malding about Terri Schiavo, New Orleans is still above water, the Pope is lying in state, people are camping out for the release of the new Star Wars movie (the sixth and the last one that is planned), Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani is on the radio, some nerd has uploaded a video called "Meet me at the zoo" to some random website called "You Tube", Greece just won Eurovision, and the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit is buckling in for another year of exponential growth.

In this issue
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