Fuck, no one gets the social dynamics of RW.
This article explores the social dynamics of RationalWiki. It documents the various roles, personalities, and facets of people who participate in RationalWiki.
What you will find here are caricatures, straw men, and psuedoarchetypes. It boils down the varied roles found on RationalWiki to their most basic level. If you're offended, just remember there are hundreds of lists like these across the web and they all typecast and offend people.
You will find that many of these overlap. Most users will fit into any number of these archetypes—sometimes at the same time, sometimes only in particular circumstances.
The Casual userEdit
It is notable that, while the core number RationalWikians has remained fairly stable, the number of casual editors has vastly increased. The strain this puts on the community tends to show: RationalWiki's community-based system is reliant on regular users to function to a greater degree than most online communities. Consequently, RationalWiki has no experience with administrating a community of users with only a casual interest in the site.
These people are named for their catchphrase, which amounts to "chill the fuck out." (The full version is actually "The internet should be for fun. Don't treat it as serious business." But it's hard to put that whole line in a header.) The chill-the-fuck-outer is not a complete archetype in and of itself, though it is an approach shared by many people.
This is a tried-and-true technique that's been around forever. Its purpose is to silence the opposition: "I can lecture you about how your idea sucks, but if you utilize your right to respond, you are a tight-ass."
A hypocrite, this person never says this about efforts concerning Conservapedia (certainly the chill-the-fucker-outer made no appearance when people where discussing whether slamming student's essays was harassment or crossing the line, or disobeys the cp boycotts, or criticizes how serious people are about taking down fundies).
In its worst stage, the chill-the-fuck-outer combines with the statist and argues sincerely to oppose some change... then asks why people are taking it seriously. "Don't take things too seriously. Now excuse me while I continue angrily opposing this idea" they are then bewildered that person gets even more frustrated.
Observe that *actual* moderators never say this because they realize it is counterproductive and never works.
RationalWiki's answer to wikipedia's Jimbo Wales. Only person whose leaving would fundamentally change the community's dynamics.
When they abandon ship, whole flocks of users emerge with bleary-eyed condolences ("Come back"!). They command such enormous amounts of respect that a concerted effort of theirs can rescue an ignored or forgotten idea from the dustbin and put it in the mainstream, and their determined opposition can permanently kill any nascent idea.
How can any one person do this? They aren't alone. Their support/opposition brings with it that of a number of other editors, who rarely disagree with the Jimbo. This is because the Jimbo is also a symbol -- whether he knows it or not -- and represents the current way things are, and those editors like the way things are.
Being a large fish in an otherwise small pond, the Jimob often crushes less respected editors. Their statist allies invariably chalk this up to "acceptable losses" (see below)
Because of the MASSIVE amount of brownie points they built up, other users may feel threatened by that authority hanging over them -- even when that authority is unused. It makes them a natural target for the other.
The Jimbo on RW is especially dangerous since they have (a literal) phone line to God. The text-based on-wiki-only relationship of others cannot compete: once you put a voice to the name, it humanizes them and it becomes much harder to tell them no.
For reasons still at large, the Jimbo stopped being nearly as active, and the wiki just moved on. So much for that theory.
By definition we know next to nothing about the lurkers, because once they contribute they cease being true lurkers. But they contribute to the page-view tally, which is a source of great pride for some Wikis we know.
The Moderator (not to be confused with the elected position)Edit
The Moderator is a respected and acknowledged as a calming voice in discussion pages. Many of them are Old Guarders. They included AmesG, Mei, PalMD, and AKjeldsen. Note that all the examples are long gone.
The Newbie has just arrived, or been around for only a couple weeks. The only real factor separating them from the regulars is that they often haven't caught the tone of RW. What edits are acceptable? What subjects do people talk about here? What's the blocking policy? Should they openly boast about vandalising CP or find some subtle way to mention it on WIGO? Can they write articles about their favourite bands?
These are pieces of the gestalt that newbies have yet to pick up—but they will, in time.
The Oddball loves RationalWiki - they just don't completely understand it. And the rest of RationalWiki really doesn't understand the Oddball either. They spend most of their time creating articles and edit wars that have more to do with their own hobbies and opinions than any of RationalWiki's missions. Concepts such as mobocracy are foreign to them; they have their own methods of conflict resolution, which do not involve listening to anybody else's advice. Inevitably they come into conflicts with saner and more established RationalWikians, such as the Jimbo and the Statist.
The Old GuardEdit
The Old Guard has been around forever ever since the early days of RationalWiki 1.0. They're respected and senior members. Their opinion bears much weight on subjects. They differ from the regulars by not editing every two minutes or participating in every conversation, only commenting in a handful of issues that catch their eye. They are keepers of the institutional memory.
The Other is a wannabe-Jimbo, a Jimbo without charisma. They have ego and passive-aggressiveness that equals The Jimbo's, but lack any allies. Often longtime members with fantastical edit rate and widely known accomplishments under their belt, they have but no profound effect on the social dynamic (unlike the Jimbo).
Any Other is different. One was SusanG, an Old Guarder who could easily have competed with the Jimbo himself, if only she had asserted herself more on discussion pages. Another was Jellyfish, having a meteoric edit rate and meteoric prominence, but when push came to shove lacked the brownie points to challenge the Jimbo. RA was crippled by the perception of being too ambitious and has never overcome suspicions of having a personal agenda. All had the power to start sitewide war but not enough to win.
If/when they leave, they are chalked up as "acceptable losses" ("couldn't take the heat", implicitly blaming any problem on them not a community failing or failing of the Jimbo) and the general site dynamic continues unchanged.
The outsider is a person whose loyalty is not to RationalWiki. There are three kinds, all there with apparently external motivations, and who are consequently held at distance by regular RWers.
- The first kind is a Conservapedian who never truly defected and whose first loyalties are to CP and not RW. Depending on what's going on, they are persecuted like HelpJazz in the Fuck You Too Incident; martyred like Iduan as a casualty of ASchlafly; respected like CPAdmin1 as an honest voice; crucified like Newton for being Conservative; or labeled a troll like TK. Lurker was a suspected conservapedian and treated so.
- The second kind is uncommon and rarely comment, being there most to advertise their own site. They are like Lay Scientist, Ameripedia, and Fallen Morgan.
- The third kind is a member there to press an agenda over one issue like Earthland, JimJast, Rembrandt.ryan, Abd, Radical feminist, Astrophilia, and Fall down.
"Everything is fine. There are no problems. New rules are a solution looking for a problem."
Sound familiar? This is the statist. They believe that everything is just fine as it is, and oppose any change in policy that threatens to change... well, anything they like on the site. Often overlaps with the chill-the-fuck-outer.
Any casualties of way things run at the moment are invariably chalked up to acceptable losses. (Literally half the community could abandon ship and they would still say, "fuck them they tried to change the site.")
SusanG, especially over LQT; many of the older regulars in the bitter HCMs of spring 2011, who stuck their heads in the sand and blamed 'noobs' for the whole mess.
The Regulars are established and active members. They are prominent, active, and generate many of the edits.
Trolls cause disruption for fun. The most infamous troll was TK, but the long-lost HeartOfGold might fit into this category as well. Fall down was likely the most obnoxious troll, and MarcusCicero is the most prolific troll.
The Wannabe is a member who desperately wants to be part of the in-crowd, and may even think that they are part of it, but is only just tolerated by the Regulars. The Wannabe's problem is a lack of imagination, and they exhibit symptoms including the unironic and excessive use of internet slang, a childish understanding of other people and situations, and an over-eagerness to report their own petty, unoriginal vandalism on WIGO.
- "Assfly used teh range blockie!
- Assfly thinks that statistics works like this. It actually works like this. He doesn't understand statistics.
- Many women are abused by husbands like teh Assfly. They are good christian wives."
[That's not paraphrasing. That's how he/she talks]
Everyone else, externally: "...That's nice." internally: cringing, wishing he/she would stop
The radical is the one who wants RW to become more... well more. They often rarely edit WIGO:CP and are often involved in trying to get the site to have some coherent rules, creating templates, looking for software upgrades, or horror of horrors deleting articles. This generally gets the Statist upset. Radicals are often forced to LANCB, due to the power of the Statist and the Jimbo.