Wikipedia Through the Looking Glass/Esperanza

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Esperanza[1] was a project founded on August 12, 2005[2] by editor JCarriker.[3] The project, as it was initially conceived, was intended to build a sense of community among Wikipedia editors by establishing a support network for wikipedians in an environment that is often hostile and apathetic.

And it failed, dramatically.

Genesis of Esperanza

  • Completely forgotten today, was a very early attempt to start a similar organization, the "Association of Members' Advocates"[4]. It was started by in April 2004, and interest in it died out by 2006. An attempt to delete[5] its page in March 2007 failed.

Esperanza itself was started as a last-ditch effort by JCarriker, who had taken enough grief and was about to throw in the towel and quit. As he said openly on the first revision of the Esperanza page:

I almost left wikipedia a few days ago, I change my mind and reduced edits to admin and mediator tasks. If the issue of the failures of the wikipedia community in recognizing, encouraging, and keeping good editors can be addressed. This is one way that I think we can. If the following project and subsequent discussion are fruitful I'll consider expanding my edits to include mainspace contributions again.

The list of founding members is rather ironic, in hindsight:

  • ES- JCarriker[6] 12:28, August 12, 2005 (UTC)
  • P- -
  • E- — Ŭalabio‽[7] 06:57:27, 2005-08-13 (UTC)
  • R-
  • A- 14:59, August 12, 2005 (UTC)
  • N-
  • Z- maltmomma[8] 16:21, August 12, 2005 (UTC)
  • A- Shem[9] 23:04, 12 August 2005 (UTC)

Within several weeks of creation, the small group of people grew to a community of around fifty, which quickly organized itself according to typical Wikipedia bureaucracy: for example, on October 7, 2005, the great and powerful added a notice for an election of an "advisory committee".[10] This was clearly an idea whose time had come! When the election results were announced by Essjay himself seven days laters, the results were predictable[11]:

Administrator General

Advisory Committee [*restore missing users --Abd]

  • Tranche A (Serves until Feburary 28)
User:Acetic Acid[12]
  • Tranche B (Serves until December 31)
User:Ryan Norton[13]

However, there was to be trouble in Paradise! Only a few weeks later, the following important proclamation[15] was made on the Esperanza page:

", our beloved Administrator General, has resigned his post and says he's leaving the project. Please

rally round, as you all do so well, to bring this fantastic Wikipedian back on board!!!"

New elections were held and Essjay eventually did return to participate in his own special way...[16] An Explosion of [* restore --Abd] ! the project expanded to eventually include a number of subprojects which included the following

  • Admin coaching[17]
  • Reach out[18]
  • Stress Alerts[19]
  • Tutorial Drive[20]
  • Calendar[21]: now part of the Wikipedia Birthday Committee[22]
  • Article Creation and Improvement Drive[23].

How to kill the monster

  • first MfD[24]
  • Second (successful) MfD[25]

The second MfD was started by Dev920, who framed his [* the--Abd] nomination in this way. "I am aware that in renominating Esperanza, I am potentially making myself a hate figure among certain sections of Wikipedia, but I think the deletion of Esperanza is something that is ‘’vital’’, not just for Wikipedia, but for Esperanzans themselves. The Overhaul is now effectively at an end, and Esperanza is little different. This could get quite lengthy, but I want to pre-empt as many arguments as I can, so hang on in there. There are many other good reasons to delete Esperanza, which I’m sure others will lay out below, but these are mine."

"Many of the extremely valid reasons for deletion in the previous MfD still hold. The very first comment on the MfD was that Esperanzans had an arrogant belief that without Esperanza, Wikipedia would meltdown. I wrote this to one EA user: ""Esperanza is necessary because, without it, I seriously doubt that anyone would do what we do without it." Well, I do for start, without ever having been a part of Esperanza. It's this "Wikipedia would collapse without us" mentality that garnered you so many delete votes at the MfD. You keep implying that every editor without the omnipresence of Esperanza is some sort of hardhearted firebreathing deletionist who want to chain everyone to their desks and have them edit fourteen hours a day."'

"The recent reforms I think have shown some Esperanzans that that is not true, but many Esperanzans have argued, and continue to argue that Esperanza is needed because “we are not robots”. The implication is that non-Esperanzans are somehow less than human: we have been called (and I am lifting this straight from the MfD and EA pages) “obsessive nerds”, “geek”s, “stark impersonal monolithic bureaucracy”, “A soulless coldhearted group of people”, “emotionless editor”s, “made of stone”, “have no feelings”, “robots”, among others. Other comments made are “People can't work nonstop”, “All this nomination shows is the sheer boredom of such nominators”, “without it, the community would just be...well, hopeless”, “Maybe all the delete "vote"-ers should go find something useful to do instead of trying to make happy editors unhappy”, and “Without Esperanza, I would feel like there is no-one to turn to on Wikipedia”. Make of this what you will.

"Several users have pointed out that Esperanza has useful programs, like Collaboration of the Month. To quote Quadell, “The Esperanza CotM is a marginally good thing, I suppose, but it's the only collaboration type that is defined by who edits the article, not by what article is about, and I don't see that as a good precedent.” The same goes for the Esperanza barnstar, only awarded to good Esperanzans. This simply sets the Esperanzan community further apart from the rest of us, for no reason. It works by who people are, not what they do, which goes utterly against Wikipedia’s principles. The Tutorial drive is creating and keeping helpful information that would be easier to find if it were placed in the Help articles for the rest of us.

"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.

"When the first MfD happened, Esperanza immediately started an Overhaul. Seriously problematic programs such as User Page Awards, the Coffee Lounge, and the Barnstar Brigade were quickly deleted, a welcome development – except that they were deleted for the wrong reasons. I have seen multiple statements indicating that people accepted the deletion of these programs, not because they were distracting, or a bad idea, but because Esperanza would be deleted otherwise. They never accepted the arguments behind the deletions. I find that concerning.

"The overhaul continued, and many programs were chucked or kept. I had a large part in that. However, as I had predicted, the momentum of change died and many of the overhaul discussions have been effectively abandoned without ever reaching a consensus. Little reform of the kind promised at the MfD has happened, and now seems unlikely to, with many members of Esperanza now having left.

"Discussion has since now intensively focused on the creation of the new charter. This brings up another impetus for my nomination for deletion: Esperanza is thoroughly unwikipedian in its desire for endless bureaucracy. At the time of the MfD, Esperanza has a seven member council who held closed meetings on IRC that made binding decisions about Esperanza. Any contentious decision was to be passed up to them. There was no consensus building, no discussion, nothing. This has been a problem from Esperanza’s founding[26], and it seems to be a intrinsic part of Esperanza that cannot be removed.

When these points were raised in the overhaul, which you can see here,[27] and (Charter Convention page, now deleted), it was repeated over and over again by virtually every Esperanzan that they needed the leadership, that bureaucracy was needed and that Esperanza would collapse into a mess without it. They do not seem to inhabit Wikipedia, where we seem to function just fine without it. One person even said “I just believe that we cannot all decide policies, we need leadership”. I endorse deletion to disabuse Esperanzans of this notion, most of whom seem to genuinely believe this, and are being sheltered by Esperanza to the detriment of us all.

"The biggest issue with Esperanza is the members themselves. I wrote this to someone, and I think it sums up what I want to say: “Esperanza only has 700 members (and I bet under half of them are in any way active) but Esperazans believe they are completely indispensable, and insult the rest of us accordingly. I am "robotic", "cold-hearted", "heartless", "made of stone" and in some way inhumane because I do not agree with Esperanza's existence and do not participate in it. I cannot do anything about this, just like I cannot do anything about Esperanza's constant belief that bureaucracy is good. And that, I think, is the true problem. I can advocate deleting the council, but I cannot stop an Esperanzan thinking it is a marvellous idea. I can insist massive disclaimers be put everywhere saying "ESPERANZA IS NOT BETTER THAN WIKIPEDIA", but I cannot stop an Esperanzan thinking me "made of stone" because I act on my beliefs rather than join an organisation that stands for them. I can change Esperanza, or try to, but I cannot change an Esperanzan. I can edit their pages, but not their hearts.” Esperanzans are deluding themselves about Wikipedia, and will continue to do so as long as Esperanza exists.

"I want to end with this: What does Esperanza do? Never mind the criticism above, look at the positive aspects. What is Esperanza for? Spreading hope? How do you spread hope? Ultimately, Esperanza, at its core, is just like Concordia – nice idea, impossible to implement. And the bad side of Esperanza, the bad faith, the bureaucracy, the superiority complexes, I think, means it should be deleted and salted. This organization has gone badly, badly wrong, and its members need to be brought back into the Wikipedia fold with a fresh start. I urge you to delete. Dev920[28] (Have a nice day!) 22:00, 28 December 2006 (UTC)"

Dev920, aka Sarah McCulloch[29], was a bisexual deletionist patroller. Ironically, she left Wikipedia in 2012 after years of declining interest.


The MfD discussion can only be described as being truly epic and extremely violent, one of the longest and most contested MfD discussions in the history of the English Wikipedia. The first MfD was 286k bytes (almost textbook length) and the second was 244k bytes. In many respects, this one combined discussion can arguably mark the reason for the decline of Wikipedia's editor base. The closing decision by to decentralize Esperanza, made on January 1, 2007, only weeks before the broke in March 2007, was to have far reaching implications in later years, some of which continue to this day.

"The result of the debate was to decentralize Esperanza. I see this as the only viable way to minimize the pain between all parties involved, and understanding that this MfD will have wider, serious implications for other similiar organisations in future.

"What do I mean by decentralization? The one main concern brought up in this MfD is the membership, the structure of this organisation. Its programs are good-intentioned, and they are supposed to be avaliable to any editor on Wikipedia. This is also the cause of the perceived "better than thou" and "cabalism" claimed by members, and the lack of consensus building.

"This means as from now, the membership, council and associated pages are to immediately go. They will be salted. This is a warning to all editors that existing projects must be open and transparent to all editors at all times, not to be overly hierarchical lest they are to meet a similar fate as Esperanza...."


An unrelated Wikipedia "organization", Concordia was started in January 2006[30] by Computerjoe[31]. It called for "fairness" and "justice" on Wikipedia. And was quickly set upon by many of the same people who opposed Esperanza.[32] [33]

In February 2007, the Concordia page and all subpages were put up for final deletion[34]. The nominator: Dev920. The result: almost identical, the main Concordia page was tagged as "inactive". Computerjoe, a WP editor since 2004, finally gave up and left in 2011.


  23. (name changed)