|This page in a nutshell: Two or more people who agree with you constitute a consensus. Two or more people who disagree with you constitute a cabal.|
On Wikipedia the term "cabal" is often used loosely to describe real or imagined collectives of users who have chosen to group inside or outside of the mainspace or Wikipedia:Project namespace in order to pursue an interest. Whether any given cabal actually exists usually is impossible to determine conclusively. Often the existence of a cabal is posited by a group holding opposite views to those of the supposed cabal; they in turn may look like a cabal to others.
In the early days of Wikipedia, annoyed by a huge amount of vandalism and other irresponsible editing, a number of persons, including "fathers-founders" themselves, considered the idea of "benign cabals". Larry Sanger was a strong proponent of giving editors considered to be experts an extra power, which was one of his major disagreements with Jimbo, and he even attempted to implement "expertocracy" in Citizendium. In 2001, Jimbo himself mused on the idea of "cabal membership", which had eventually led to the concept of Wikipedia:Administrator.
Cabals can be roughly divided into three types:
- Secret cabal – This type of cabal is restricted in its membership and secretive about its functions or existence. The aims of such groups may be disruption of the project, promotion of its members to become Wikipedia functionaries, or canvassing and/or meatpuppetry and/or tag teaming, possibly to impress a specific point of view on the encyclopedia. While speculation exists about how much influence such groups have over the encyclopedia, social groups are a fact of life, and some users have been known to use off-wiki means (IRC, e-mail, external websites, etc.) to coordinate their actions on-wiki.
- Editor cabal – This type of cabal went through discussion on Wikipedia. In August 2005, a group was formed called Esperanza with the idea of fellowship and strengthening WikiLove. The main concern about Esperanza was that it was bureaucratic and elitist and this was a strong concern when the group was brought to MfD. In December 2006, the group was disbanded. Wikipedia:Counter-Vandalism Unit is an example of a sanctioned cabal, dedicated to fight vandalism.
- Joke cabal – Wikipedia is often accused of operating hierarchical cabals which most editors would not know the existence of. To satirize the theory a number of editors formed joke cabals. Some examples are The Bathrobe Cabal, The Rouge Admin Cabal and The Penguin Cabal. They can offer light relief to editors especially after periods of heavy editing.
Joke cabals are generally tolerated until they affect the project, at which point the matter often is taken up at one of the administrative noticeboards. Wikipedia pages used by individuals who are solely here to socialize, not contribute, may be raised at WP:MFD.
- Jimmy Wales Thu Oct 18 19:22:46 UTC 2001 post on Wikipedia-l: A proposal for the new software
- Signpost Introducing Esperanza 19/09/05
- "This highlights a perennial and worrying problem about Esperanza: that they constantly set themselves apart. They say they give Wikipedians hope – but who has any interaction with Esperanza who isn’t Esperanzan? Why is there even a special term for someone who's in Esperanza? This organization ought to be deleted because they’re targeting new and vulnerable users, who then see everything on Wikipedia through green-tinted lenses, and it is not good. It does lead to superiority complexes, regardless of what the front page says. Esperanzans, at least the active ones, see themselves as Esperanzans first and foremost. We have to delete Esperanza for their own good, to show them what Wikipedia is like outside the wall of their sub-culture" (from the Esperanza MfD)