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August 13, 2007

From correspondence: Top this!
Posted by Teresa at 05:06 PM *

Received this morning from Kathryn Cramer:

I think I’ve just gotten the ultimate comment to my Wikipedia User talk page. If I can figure out the formatting, I’ll frame it. The commentor (an admin and a Wikimedia intern) argues that I have never been nominated for a Hugo on the grounds that the nomination was for NYRSF.

Here it is in its full perfection, Wikipedian self-satisfied ignorance at its highest purity:

About Wikipedia

I’ve noticed something about the past couple of conversations we have had. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Nobody needs any special knowledge, or special position, any qualifications to edit. It’s not helpful to demand that other editors present their credentials or show their knowledge, to edit an article. It would be appreciated if you no longer did that again. ⇒ SWATJester Denny Crane. 02:15, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

I was trying, as politely as possible, to explain him that he knew nothing about either Hugo rules or pre-web hypertext (he’s nominated the Eastgate Systems entry for deletion), and so should back down on his wikipedian boldness.

Kathryn

p.s.: Note also that Wikipedia has no entry for Complacency, and that the WP entry on Ignorance covers Willful Ignorance, but not Self-satisfied Ignorance. (The closest they come is the enty Avidya (Buddhism): “Avidyā is a lack of knowing, and can be associated with intention.”

It seems to me that the situation needs to be corrected.

Let us despair: Swatjester is indeed a Wikipedia Administrator. He’s very active. As of this writing, I count 4,882 “User Contributions” of his for this year alone. His run-in with Kathryn isn’t an isolated case. For instance, here you can see him peremptorily telling another user, “Please do not revert my edits. The Vietnam war was not “lost” as there was no declaration of war. Please stop adding in POV items.”

Swatjester’s been running loose on Wikipedia since January 2006, when he popped up in Talk: Counter-terrorism to announce:

==Here I am!==

I’ve got some experience in the field of counter-terrorism. I’m taking it upon myself to clean up this page, as it absolutely reeks of kiddies playing too much Counter-strike.

He was all over the place in Talk: Greenpeace, where he argued doggedly that Greenpeace is too a terrorist organization; and he took it upon himself, in the main article, to change mentions of “Greenpeace representatives” to “Greenpeace agents.”

Swatjester has continued as he began. He’s downright bellicose about credentials any time he thinks he has them. When he has none and is arguing with an expert in her field, he’s equally insistent that citing credentials, or expecting them to be taken into account, is grossly inappropriate. Wikipedia has responded to this astounding buffoon by clasping him to its institutional bosom. As it says in the opening paragraph of Swatjester’s user profile:

I am a legal intern for the Wikimedia Foundation, a member of the Communications Committee, an OTRS representative on the legal queue, and an English Wikipedia administrator. I also edit Wikiversity, Meta, Wikimedia Commons, and sometimes Wikisource.
It would be nice to believe that Swatjester’s comment is the acme of Wikipedian self-satisfied ignorance. If we find a worse one, Kathryn can frame that too.

Addenda: Kathryn from Sunnyvale has requested a list of our stories about Wikipedia. If anyone remembers a piece we’ve omitted, let us know.

Making Light, 05 May 2007: Grep that spool (TNH).
(Idiot in question: Initially: earless busybody Azer Red, who’s big on tone complaints and deletions. Later: mendacious troll Will BeBack. He was so mortified at having his Wikipedia pseud linked to his real identity that he organized a campaign against Making Light, calling it an “attack site,” and vandalizing unrelated Wikipedia articles that contained links to material at ML.)
Sidelights, 02 July 2007: Wikipedia: still run by horse’s asses who think print is magic (PNH). Note: that discussion at Talk: Fred Saberhagen has since been archived. Link was via John Scalzi’s Whatever, same date: Fred Saberhagen Is Dead, But Not on Wikipedia.
(Idiot in question: the invincibly ignorant Quatloo.)
Making Light, 24 July 2007: Gaming Wikipedia (PNH).
(Idiots in question: this gets complicated, but the chief culprit is clearly the vile Hayden5650, a racist nazi homophobe and known Wikipedia vandal. Significant contributory idiocy was provided by Dmcdevit and a complete and utter airhead who signs herself “Alison :)”.)
Particles, 03 August 2007: Another way to game Wikipedia (TNH).
(Not quite the idiot in question: Professor Luca de Alfaro, who wants to color-code the reputability of Wikipedia contributions. How? If an author’s contributions go unchanged, their reputation rises. If their material is reverted to a prior version, their reputation falls. Problems with this system are left as an exercise for the reader.)
Making Light, 13 August 2007: From correspondence: Top this! (TNH).
(Idiot in question: Swatjester, of course.)
Note that every one of them is anonymous. It’s enough to make you think there might be problems inherent in giving people power without responsibility.
Comments on From correspondence: Top this!:
#1 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:46 PM:

Ah, Wikipedia, land of a thousand fuckups.

Talk about a good idea spoiled...lately all I hear about Wikipedia is the complete and total failure to live up to its ideal. From friends randomly getting pages deleted (such as anything webcomics-related; apparently there are certain editors who think the entire genre should be one article) to everything at Wikitruth...it's disappointing.

Disappointing, but a bit unsurprising, I'm sorry to say.

#2 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Speaking dispassionately -- I have no interest in ever editing anything on Wikipedia, ever -- Sir Swatjester needs to get a life...

#3 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 06:59 PM:

Have you seen the followup on Kathyrn's talk page?

SwatJester offers an apology that includes the statement: "some of your edits were not civil either"

My guess is that this is another case of admincandonowrongitus, wherin the suffering admin confuses someone pointing out their mistake with uncivil behaviour.

I'd love to see some supporting diffs for this accusation or a retraction from swatjester.

#4 ::: jmnlman ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:00 PM:

It could be worse. Ever take a look at Conservapedia?

#5 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:34 PM:

I wonder if our kids will have the same level of stereotyping and disdain for net-moderators as we do for civil servants?

Disclaimer: I'm speaking in cultural generalities here, not commenting on any one individual's abilities or profession. If I were, I'd point out that TNH is that exact opposite of the stereotypical bad net-moderator!

#6 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:34 PM:

LazyComment Request:

Could someone put together a list of the several Making Light threads about Wikipedia? They're an important and useful background to this current thread.

#7 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:35 PM:

To paraphrase myself from a different corner of Making Light:
Wikipedia and Tragedy of the Commons go together well, don't you think? Enabled by the concept of "equality" expressed by Vonnegut in Harrison Bergeron, except that the Vonnegut story is a cautionary tale.

#8 ::: DarthParadox ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:44 PM:

Wikipedia is a fantastic resource for learning about topics that are widely considered important, and rarely considered controversial - i.e. the kind of stuff you tend to find in encyclopedias. At least if you catch a popular page between vandalisms.

But the Wikipedia userbase is filled with this sort of self-important jackass, and the Wikipedia administrators disproportionately so. There's no process to protest or appeal the unilateral decisions made by these admins, apart from reverting their edits and hoping (invariably in vain) that they have less time and attention to spend on the issue than you.

#9 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:50 PM:

The SwatJesters of Wikipedia turned me off the project not long after I started contributing. If there's something I can speak on with some degree of authority (not that there are many subjects where I could), I'd rather post it to my blog and get critiqued or corrected in the comments than deal with mindless edit/ego wars.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:52 PM:

Wonderful. This guy sounds like an idiot with an agenda.

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 07:55 PM:

I saw this when it was just a particle, and didn't realise the target.

#12 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:15 PM:

John@7: I'd say it's the Tragedy of the lowest Common demonominator. Wikipedia rules gives the most power to people who have nothing else to do. Last edit wins. Most allies wins. The more edits you have, the more important you are. Actual knowledge has no measurable value in the system. edit counts, time since started editing, and such, do. Adminship is a popularity contest.


#13 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:17 PM:

Yes, Teresa put up this post before she noticed that I'd particled it already. Some precisely-coordinated, fine-tuned global conspiracy we are.

Anticredentialism is a good and healthy thing in any society, not because it's a bad thing to have credential-issuing bodies, but rather because those bodies are always imperfect, and an excessive reliance on them means that a great deal of skill and knowledge go unused because they happen to reside inside of uncredentialed people. Which leads to a hidebound and excessively stratified society.

But saying that nobody needs any special knowledge in order to write in an encyclopedia, or that it's unacceptable for critics to demand that authors demonstrate that they know something about the subject they're encyclopedising about, isn't anticredentialism, it's insanity. When Swatjester writes "Nobody needs any special knowledge, or special position, any qualifications to edit. It’s not helpful to demand that other editors present their credentials or show their knowledge", he's jumping off a cliff. While, I might add, wearing a bulbous rubber nose and big floppy clown shoes. It's not a blow against the empire, it's slapstick. The non-insane people who've invested time and work in Wikipedia really deserve better than this.

#14 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:19 PM:

It's a quagmire.

And it interests me to know that since I did some work with Greenpeace back in the day, I am therefore a terrorist. Little did I realize the nefarious agenda hidden behind those nonviolence training sessions.

The wikiwienies strike again.

#15 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:20 PM:

Ignorance, arrogance, and bias are certainly not the traits one wants in an editor. I'm curious as to how this fellow got--and how he retains--his position of authority.

#16 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:25 PM:

jmniman #4: It sounds to me like this guy wants to turn Wikipedia into Conservapedia...

#17 ::: jmnlman ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:43 PM:

16: precisely. Just looked through half a dozen definitions of terrorism Greenpeace wouldn't qualify for any of them. That's including the US DOD definition.

"The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological. See also antiterrorism; combating terrorism; counterterrorism; force protection condition; terrorist; terrorist groups. "

#18 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:45 PM:

This just drips of a noxious mixture of self-pity and arrogance:
Treat the admins with deference and respect. Through the RFA process, they basically pass a peer-review of their knowledge on policy. That means they likely understand it better than you do. So give them a bit of deference.

Are WikiPedia admins the last kids picked for kickball/you name the game, from all over the internets?

#19 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 08:57 PM:

um. er.

I like to edit military, law enforcement, and firearms related articles. To a large degree, they are free from the nationalism and polemic vitriol that plague other articles.

Well, there you go.

#20 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:06 PM:

*snortle* Once upon a time, I contributed to many a Wikipedia article. Larry Sanger was still there then, and there was some semblance of sanity. I can think of another couple of bloggers who moved from the 'pedia to blogging as our procrastinatory vice of choice. One gets tired of dealing with idiots/ If you're ever in need of a laugh, check out any of the old discussions about people and cities in current Poland that were once part of any incarnation of Prussia. The best discussion was the one on Copernicus (Pole or German?), much of which is missing now.

#21 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:10 PM:

#15. He passed through the peer review process, rigorous as I am sure that must be.

In all seriousness, does anyone oversee how Wikipedians conduct themselves? This one admin is a first class jackass, but I suspect there are a few other poorly socialized peers of his over there.

Perhaps it's more fitting to call it "Anarchipedia." Last edit wins boils down to "edit submitted by person more committed to winning the argument wins" and I'm not sure that's how an authoritative information source should be managed. Not that this shakes my faith in Wikipedia, as I never use it for depth, merely to locate sources, but I know school kids (mine included) use it as if it were edited by people who care about the facts.

And how does one file a grievance or complaint about the actions of knuckleheads like this?

#22 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:15 PM:

paul@18: Are WikiPedia admins the last kids picked for kickball/you name the game, from all over the internets?

That would seem to sum it up nicely.

swatjester: they basically pass a peer-review of their knowledge on policy. That means they likely understand it better than you do.

Or, more likely, they have more weiner friends than you that helped them stuff the ballot and get elected.

So give them a bit of deference.

Good lord.

Swatjester has completely mixed up authority with knowledge. Since he's a military man, I'll put it into a metaphor he might particularly understand: He's like one of the military's most dangerous weapons: a lieutenant with a compass.

Hm, with the advent of GPS, that doesn't quite translate as it once might have. Oh well.

#23 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:21 PM:

paul@21: In all seriousness, does anyone oversee how Wikipedians conduct themselves?


Oh, sure. It is peer-reviewed, as he said. All the admins make certain that all the other admins don't abuse their powers and priviledges.

I should get bonus points for being able to type that with a straight face.

And how does one file a grievance or complaint about the actions of knuckleheads like this?

You, uh, haven't spent much time on wikipedia, have you? For your sanity, you might want to keep it that way. Admins are not people you grieve against. Your grievance will be reviewed by other admins, who, like swatjester said, give other admins "a bit of deference."

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Greg @ 22

Well, a lieutenant with GPS who doesn't realize that altitude matters too. Marching them straight over a cliff, I'd think, because GPS doesn't show that difference, and of course he knows where he is.

#25 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:22 PM:

#18: Actually, they're the kids who think that, because they were picked first for kickball, they are entitled to get As in the advanced science and math classes - without doing any of the work.

#26 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:44 PM:

@22,23: OK, I'll take your advice and stay well away from all of that. And to amplify this "completely mixed up authority with knowledge" I would add that some admins, specifically the heavily-armed one who ignited this thread, have confused knowledge of policy with knowledge, full stop. Knowing how to run a printing press doesn't mean you can write the books that come off of it.

I just spent some time at WikiTruth (funny stuff, there, if a little bitter) and it's just disappointing that in spite of all the high-sounding talk (like this guy's page), it's all as ego-driven as the print encyclopedias (or anything, come to that). You just can't read the bitching about who got picked to write or edit a given article between the lines.

It's just so sad when people lack the self-awareness to recognize when they're boring or annoying.

#27 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 09:55 PM:

Wow, seems to be a full-time nasty. I wonder if this guy is a paid propagandist.

#28 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:02 PM:

For those with the patience for it, the info on filing a grievance against an administrator is here.

I suspect, however, that the process is stacked against anyone filing a complaint (if only because admins aren't likely to turn on their own).

The Becoming an admin page provides much (unintentional) amusement, with lines like From early on, it has been pointed out that administrators should never develop into a special subgroup of the community but should be a part of the community like anyone else and Although standards for administrator appointment have risen over time, several administrators are created every week.

#29 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Conservapedia, like the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, is at least up-front about its bias, even if the authors consider their bias to be The Only Truth.

And to call Wikipedia "Anarchipedia" is an insult to anarchists.

#30 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:20 PM:

Wikipedia--the Weekly World News for the 21st Century! (Sometimes.)

#31 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:36 PM:

Thank goodness there's someone to carry on the stories about Bat Boy and the B52 that was found on the moon and then became missing again. ;)

#32 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:41 PM:

Jon Meltzer @25: Thank you. I was itching to protest that I was the last kid picked for kickball/whatever. I felt kind of uncomfortable with the implication that we should join in the ridicule of the last-kid-picked when goodness knows the last-kid-picked always had it pretty bad.

No, no. These are as you have stated, or else they are the kids picked just before the last kids. They're the middle-managers of abuse, not the final receivers of it.


So, when is an honorary WikiAdmin going to show up and tell us how we're all wrong to diss the light and wonder of the world that is WP? Come on, all the other Wikithreads had one! (Some of them had two!)

#33 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 10:42 PM:

#29: how about 'Wankerpedia'?

#34 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:02 PM:

#33, no, wait, Wiki World News!

#35 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:35 PM:

Help me out here... which member of the Communications Committee is this user claiming to be? And why is it that some of the members of the committee do not appear to be using their real names?

#36 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:41 PM:

Randolph Fritz: The WWN was a wonderous thing because it knew that it was ridiculous and went for it. It was a sort of Cyrano de Bergerac of newspapers. The lifeless asshats at Wikipedia are the ones going "your nose, sir... is rather large."

#37 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2007, 11:57 PM:

In the grand scheme of things, is this Swatjester clown Danton, Robespierre, or Marat? The circle jerk that is Wikipedia reminds me of no period in history so much as the Terror. It's way too disorganized to be the Show Trial of the Old Bolsheviks, and insufficiently scary to be the Spanish Inquistion. Oh, wait, I know, the Kilkenny Cats.

#38 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:21 AM:

For me, the problem isn't the cause ("Wikipedia's culture is f'ed up"), it's the effect ("Wikipedia's content sucks").

I know the former argument is a more sophisticated line of attack, and the latter argument leads down a road where Wikipedians feel much more comfortable. ("Well, stop complaining and improve the content then!" "Hmmm, maybe *you're* the wrong one here." "Oh yeah, Britannica is just as wrong. Worse even!" "Be patient, Wikipedia is constantly evolving and improving.")

But seriously. Just pick one topic where you feel you have significant expertise: your job, your hometown, your area of research. Visit the relevant Wikipedia article. I defy anyone to come back and report that the article ranks as "pretty good." I just visited the article about Technical Writing and ye gods, it is awful. Did any technical writer contribute to this thing? I sure hope not.

#39 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:25 AM:

#37 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers)

In the grand scheme of things, is this Swatjester clown Danton, Robespierre, or Marat? The circle jerk that is Wikipedia reminds me of no period in history so much as the Terror. It's way too disorganized to be the Show Trial of the Old Bolsheviks, and insufficiently scary to be the Spanish Inquistion. Oh, wait, I know, the Kilkenny Cats.

I have a couple of Art/Literary Historical suggestions:

1. Pickleherring
2. Pantaloon

The sad thing is that Wikipedia has had a decent reputation for accurate information.... where should one go now for reasonable accurate info...

===

Regarding credentialism... I've known some people who were acknowledged by their peers to be among THE world experts in their fields.... those folks tended to a) have a sense of humor, and b) said flat out they didn't know everything/could be wrong about things/were open-minded about taking additional looks at most things.

It's the third raters who have a much stronger likelihood of spout dogma, having senses of humor that don't include poking fun at themselves, and getting huffy-defensive when challenged....

[Someone I worked with years ago at MITRE, is an IEEE fellow. I see him in the local supermarket on occasion. Last week, he told me that he'd made an error in his calculations regarding retirement income, and realized that he had the funds he needed for retirement and buying a quite nice condo in either Boston or New York City. "You, an IEEE Fellow, making a math error?! I said, my voice dripping with gratuitous sarcasm. He took no umbrage at my teasing.

#40 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:26 AM:

When I was first introduced to Wikipedia, I promptly looked up the article on the province of Ecuador where I grew up. It was full of amazingly glaring errors. I checked the article again a few months ago, and it's now full of completely different errors, some of them much more subtle than the original set. I suppose that's like improvement.

Why bother editing when someone can just change it to another type of error? Especially since I don't have citations in print to wave around, or the patience to keep coming back and checking the article again. I go to wikipedia when I want information about pop culture--because you can always find someone obsessive enough about scifi shows to jealously guard those articles and keep them accurate--or an overview of something where I don't care much about the accuracy.

I mean, if I want a quick reference on a minor Farscape character, Wikipedia's definitely the fastest place to get it. But I can't imagine using it as a reference for anything important where I wanted something approaching accuracy.

#41 ::: Darkwater ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:48 AM:

My recent favorite Wisdom of the Crowds moment on Wikipedia was finding out that the article for Wild Wild West, a song by the '80's band Escape Club, has been proposed for deletion despite the fact that Wild Wild West was a Billboard #1 and the deletion would break the template that links Billboard #1s to each other. Once the link is broken, Wikipedia will redirect to a page asking for a new article to be written, which, I suppose, will result in cycle beginning anew.

#42 ::: Kevin Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:59 AM:

I think Patrick summed it up perfectly in Comment #13:

"It's not a blow against the empire, it's slapstick."

Wherefore, let it be decreed to Seekers of Knowledge, it shall henceforth be known to all as 'Slapstikipedia.'

#43 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:01 AM:

Top this!

So where's the bottom the top's looking for? [Considering all the telecom and computers, byting the bag or bagging the byte, nibbles everywhere, bit buy bit, and through the looking glass, it's wicketpedia en flamingo... ]

#44 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:20 AM:

I, for one, am not impressed by our new wiki overlords.

#45 ::: Vance Maverick ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:22 AM:

#38 -- how right you are. I looked up "Harmony", and it's pretty pathetic. The discussion of "tensions" is especially lame, but the stuff that comes before the quality disclaimer is no great shakes either.

Part of the problem here is that of composing a short article as a first point of reference to a deep and complex topic. Not easy for a single competent author, and evidently even less so for a tag-team of dabblers.

#46 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:27 AM:

"I mean, if I want a quick reference on a minor Farscape character, Wikipedia's definitely the fastest place to get it. But I can't imagine using it as a reference for anything important where I wanted something approaching accuracy."

That's just it. I would like for Wikipedia to at *least* be useful for looking up Ultimate Galactus. That would be super. But given how poorly Wikipedia performs in subjects where I do have real expertise, I can't trust it even for that. Not even for trivial stuff. Not even as a starting point.

#47 ::: Hob ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Here's my 200 cents, as someone who spent an embarrassing amount of time on Wikipedia till 2 years ago & isn't particularly partisan about it (I think).

The way I remember it, the process for complaining formally about someone like that is the same as any other dispute: you start nicely with a Request for Comment, see if anyone bites, carry on editing the disputed material in as level-headed a manner as possible, and if he persists in being an ass, file a Request for Arbitration. If others have been paying attention to the disputed material, they will probably comment on this. Eventually the arbitration committee makes some kind of ruling. In a case like this it probably wouldn't go further than telling the guy to refrain from making edits on that particular subject and telling everyone to play nice; you'd only strip someone of admin powers if they were using the actual powers badly (rather than just abusing their cred).

Anyway, I used to read lots and lots of RFA's (eventually this took over from actual editing as my timewaster of choice) and it's true that admins are treated less skeptically than non-admins. BUT...

1) There are tons of admins - the bar is not set very high for that, as there's a whole lot of basic janitorial work to be done - thus you end up with many duds, and this is common knowledge. But ArbCom is a very small subset of admins who are (in theory) nominated for demonstrable conflict resolution skills, and it's not a Judge Judy kind of power trip, it's a rather tedious job of proposing little bits of rulings.

2) I really didn't see admins treated with the kind of deference people are assuming here. Sometimes someone who seemed like a jerk was given a pass, and the plaintiff raised hell about the Wiki cabal etc., but I could usually see where the Arbcom was coming from... the complaint started out at such a fever pitch and had already gotten so personal that the plaintiff came across, justly or not, as just another crank editor, whereas the admin could point to tons of uncontroversial useful work that he'd been doing.

I think that for every pure idiot on WP - admin or not - there are 100 people who do useful work on subject A, ditz around in an uninformed but harmless way on subjects B/C/D, and go rapidly insane if anyone argues with them on subject E.

#48 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:50 AM:

Vance @ 45 -- that reminds me, someone else had a similarly unpleasant experience with the Minimalism article. (I think that article was posted on Making Light a couple months back, but I can't remember for sure.) To be fair, music-related subjects are probably tougher than most.

#49 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:03 AM:

Good grief. I just looked at a page that I edited about a year and a half ago to correct several errors. My changes were well-referenced to the primary literature. Now all such changes are gone, replaced by a hodgepodge of error and omission. Most galling of all: the most serious errors utterly misrepresent my own (peer-reviewed, published, frequently-cited, made-it-into-the-intro-level-textbooks) work. It's like a community of malevolent retarded hamsters. And, yes, that's an insult to malevolent retarded hamsters.

#50 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:46 AM:

Sorry to disappoint you, Nicole, since I'm not a Wikipedia admin, but I'll come along anyway and say...

Well, no, I won't, because hey, I said it last time and there's no reason why anyone who may not have agreed with me then would agree with me now. Also because you guys as a collective are as intimidating when discussing Wikipedia as intelligent when discussing anything else.

So I'll just say that my best work on Wikipedia has been on subjects that I had no special knowledge about. What I had, and included in the articles, were references to reliable sources. And I've never lost a dispute I could cite reliable sources for.

#51 ::: Jason ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:48 AM:

The problem might stem from the fact that Most Time To Devote To An Article is rarely, if ever the same as Most Knowledgeable About the Subject.

To test this hypothesis, I posit that AD&D ruleset article is sparklingly beautiful, cogent, and correct to a level that would reduce an entire random encounter of level 4 Orcs to tears. If Orcs cried.

#52 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:00 AM:

When I encountered this through the Particle, I didn't realise just how stupid SWATJester was. After all, there is a point when self-puffery through qualifications is a nuisance, while there's a whole fuzzy area on the fringes of No Original Research which seems to get variable handling.

I mean, I can go outside when it stops raining and check the manufacturer's plate on my Land Rover. I can measure it. But it's verifiable because there are a lot of Land Rovers out there.

Mind you, just because you're an old soldier isn't sufficient reason to think you know anything special about some military topic. I recall wastching a documentary on the AK47 in which a Russian DI stated the AK47 bullet was so lethal because it tumbled in flight.

Maybe mistranslation: lots of modern miklitary bullets seem to tumble on impact.

I don't have any pieces of paper, but do you need any to wonder how two tumbling bullets can even hit the same barn door? It sounds like one of those teaching stories for children, or new recruits.

Anyway, he claims to have been on a sniper team, usually a spotter. Why should that give him any special status on counter=terrorism? He's just too low down. And besides, being a sniper in Iraq is a very narrow viewpoint,

I'm rather more inclined to doubt his claim to be a legal intern. If he's doing that, how does he find the time to edit Wikipedia? More to the point, has that claim got him into the special-status admin positions, and has it been checked by Wikipedia?

And I wonder a little why he's been let out of the army.

#53 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:20 AM:

Zeborah (50):
I don't think that anyone is really saying that you must have great knowledge of the subject to be able to do good, useful, edits to a WikiArticle. Teresa starts this by commenting about someone who apparently thinks lack-of-knowledge trumps experts-in-the-field, and games the system to their personal ego advantage. Yeah, we can be intimidating, and we're (collectively) being a bit snarkey, but we had high hopes for Wikipedia only to see it degrade as people rise to their Peter Principle ultimate position of incompetence. Unfortunately, what a lot us us are seeing is the effort of contributing to Wikipedia (with reversion and deletion and fugheaded edits to contend with) exceeding the value that we get for the effort. Gresham's law comes into play as well, with cheap bad edits driving out expensive knowledgeable edits.
Note also that the occasional Wiki thread ends up as a collecting pot for all of our WikiFrustration. If we didn't care about it, we wouldn't be paying attention.

#54 ::: Randall ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:26 AM:

Teresa:

The link at the very top of the article, to Kathryn Cramer's blog, is set to go to: http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/www.kathryncramer.com. Which page, alas, does not exist.

#55 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:30 AM:

Not to be contrarian, but I like/use Wikipedia.

I’ve never bothered with an account, but I’ve added the odd ISBN number where needed, contributed a section on transportation in my town, and casually fixed typos and other such minor errors when I’ve come across ‘em.

I’ve done these as a result of my using Wikipedia. No, I’d not consider it definitive on anything, but it is good for getting a gloss and springboarding on to source materials.

As others have noted it does have strengths and failings. Controversial subjects or ones dealing with abstract or subjective material (eg arts) are typically problematic. But a quick glance at an article’s Talk page usually gives an good idea about it’s potential weaknesses.

Again though, for a a quick primer on ‘nearly anything’ who-is-that/what-is-that it’s often quite good.

That Wikipedia has officious little monsters building even smaller kingdoms of egoboo is unfortunate, but hardly unexpected. There does seem to be an increasing need for a “civility administrator” with the ability to swiftly correct innapropriate attitudes.

But they, or the occasional mindlessly misguided application of an inappropriate policy, hardly seems sufficient cause for discounting or disparaging the entire body of work.

It’s more accurate then Paul Harvey, and broader then the dead-tree encyclopedias mouldering on my shelves. That’s enough for me to appreciate it.

#56 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:32 AM:

@26: It's David Gerard's continuing presence on Wikipedia that convinces me that it's not wholly without hope. He's a genuinely nice guy, and he contributes to Uncyclopedia as well, so he can definitely laugh at himself.

#57 ::: paxed ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:54 AM:

I used to do some small edits on WP, but it started feeling like trying to swim up the stream of cluelessness, so I left.

(My personal favorite of the edit idiocy so far has been the Death of Fred Saberhagen)

#58 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:16 AM:
http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/www.kathryncramer.com. Which page, alas, does not exist.
And www.kathryncramer.com itself has become a Network Solutions domain squatting page.
#59 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:43 AM:

#37: Show Trial of the Old Bolsheviks ... the Spanish Inquistion ... the Kilkenny Cats

Uh, the Kilkenny Bratz.

#60 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 07:24 AM:

#26:It's just so sad when people lack the self-awareness to recognize when they're boring or annoying.

To be fair, this isn't unique to Wikipedia. (e.g., I have this terrible fear that I'm unaware of my own lack of self-awareness and I've never edited at Wikipedia.) However, Wikipedia doesn't seem to have done anything to address this.

#38:I just visited the article about Technical Writing and ye gods, it is awful. Did any technical writer contribute to this thing? I sure hope not.

It's not impossible that some technical writers did contribute, then had their edits reverted because they didn't cite what some admin considered a relevant source. (If the incident with John Scalzi is any indication, at least one editor seems to be rather arbitrary and capricious with when a fact needs citation and when it doesn't.)

This is the point in the comment thread where someone points out that the goal of Wikipedia is not accuracy, but verifiability.

Personally, I wonder what Wikipedia would be like if their goal actually was accuracy. I understand why Wikipedia doesn't want original research on their web pages. However, the verifiabilty criteria reads to me like they're more interested in ass-covering than useful information. Now, I don't think this is the intent, but I think this is some times how it's practiced. (During the Scalzi incident, the editor actually he said that he didn't care if the datum was true or not, he just wanted to be able to point to something which claimed it was true.)

If you think about it, this is exactly the sort of thing we (or, at least, I) revile in journalism. i.e, the "he said, she said" story. Maybe the standards for editing an encyclopedia and writing a newspaper article aren't the same. (I haven't thought about it until now, and what I know about editing could fill an iguana.) But they're both supposedly interested in the dissemination of facts. (Newspapers, however, should be interested in original research. I can see why Wikipedia should not be.)

As for credentialism, my experience has been that the people who really know what they're doing, or what they're talking about never resort to it. More often than not, it's the people straining to give the impression of being more than they are who resort to it. The best microprocessor designer I'd never known didn't point to all of his advanced degrees. (Actually, he didn't have any to point to anyways.) He just kept coming up with designs which were utterly right in every respect.

It's sort of like how anyone who ostenatiously pushes the notion that he's a tough guy probably isn't that tough. The toughest guys I know are also the nicest. It's almost like they don't want you to know how tough they are.

#61 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 07:51 AM:

#56: It was David, more or less, who convinced me to give Wikipedia-editing another try, and reminded me that most Wikipedians are

i) Genuinely well-intentioned
ii) Not aggravatingly incompetent
and iii) Mostly invisible.

It's just the people who bring themselves to our attention who, er, deserve that attention.

Making Light: improving Wikipedia, one idiot at a time.

#62 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 07:57 AM:

Sniper, my arse. I bet he's a walt.

#63 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 08:16 AM:

Alex #62: What's a walt? A wannabe?

#64 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 08:23 AM:

He has a blog in which he claims to have been getting drunk a lot lately. He also attracted favorable notice from a NYT reporter a little while back. He's 24.

These three things taken together explain a lot, I think.

#65 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 08:36 AM:

JC @ 60: As for credentialism, my experience has been that the people who really know what they're doing, or what they're talking about never resort to it. More often than not, it's the people straining to give the impression of being more than they are who resort to it.

That's been my experience as well. It's not that real experts won't mention their credentials (usually when someone asks them something like, "Oh yeah? And how do you know that?"); it's that they don't pound people over the head with how expert they are because of X, Y, and Z.

I don't have enough experience with a wide enough range of credentialists (and please, may I never have that much experience with them) to determine whether they all know, at heart, that they're not really experts, and are trying to compensate for insecurity, or whether one set of them is basically insecure and the other is genuinely clueless about just how much in-depth knowledge makes someone an expert.

#66 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 08:51 AM:

George @ 49: Whenever I look at Wikipedia entries on subjects I know something about and see errors, I remember stories like yours and move my mouse away from the edit button.

#67 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 08:59 AM:

Michael @ 55 Not to be contrarian, but I like/use Wikipedia.

A lot of people--including a lot of people here--do, and a lot don't but would like to, if these kinds of screwups and fundamental problems could be corrected. Pointing out serious problems with a thing (such as a design flaw in a product, a group dynamic problem in an organization, or a logistical problem in a process, for example) doesn't mean you don't like the thing. Sometimes it means you care enough to want to see those problems corrected, because you believe the thing has potential.

If you read the other Making Light threads about Wikipedia, you'll see that other people point out that if the posters didn't like or care about Wikipedia, they wouldn't bother to point out the problems. It wouldn't be worth the headache.

#68 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:20 AM:

#64: I suppose he's just throwing some D's.

#69 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:21 AM:

If anything is well documented, it's the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor that opened WWII for the US. The US Navy has extensive resources available on-line. The first of several congressional investigations into Pearl Harbor was launched before the smoke had cleared; the reports of those investigations are available on-line.

The Wikipedia page on the Pearl Harbor attack lists the US vessels that were damaged or destroyed at Pearl Harbor.

That list is objectively, factually, and documentably, wrong. Errors include, but are not limited to, counting the same ships more than once.

#70 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:37 AM:

Kathryn #6: The one I bookmarked as the best resource on Wikipedia's brokenness was # 8953, Grep that spool from May 5 - I must say the discussion there was rather more informative from here. That was the latest one, I think; I'm not aware of other ones, some googling should help, but I don't have the time to lose myself in them now :-)

#71 ::: Malcolm ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:40 AM:

I lasted about 3 months on Wikipedia. In my time there I got into about a dozen fights with administrators, mostly about the exercise of administrator fiat in inappropriate contexts (where rule by consensus was formulating, or not formulating, but where that should have been left well enough alone). I eventually left because I found that Wikipedians' ideas of what consensus is (as in consensus rule) were unsalvageably misconstrued to be equivalent to supermajority. Being a child of the Society of Friends, I know in my bones that this is not the case, and repeatedly running up against that misunderstanding was really ruining my year.

So I left. I don't know if there's a good way to fix the problem. I suspect not, since most folks are kind of uncomfortable with consensus decision-making and even though they give a lot of lip service to the goal of egalitarian consensus-based rule, they're really more comfortable with a hierarchical system where folks who want and have power make binding unilateral decisions instead.

I don't think that basic social issue will really ever be fixed there. Besides, the internet is an uncommonly difficult place to achieve consensus in gigantic organizations anyway.

#72 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:43 AM:

Me #71: Oops. I see: that post was actually the first, and more came when I wasn't following Making Light. Also, this has a wiki-like quality of evolving under one's hands (comment #59 was last when I loaded the page), only without the editconflict warning...

#73 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:44 AM:

Just makes me wish citizendium (http://www.citizendium.org) will eventually blossom again. Does anyone know how they're actually doing right now? I mean, of course THEY'LL say they're doing fine, thank you, but to me it seems like not a whole lot is happening over there yet.

#74 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:53 AM:

Gaming Wikipedia was the other recent WP post - after that, google displays mostly comments on those threads, or 'comments by' pages.

#75 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:54 AM:

#3 ::: Greg London I'd love to see some supporting diffs for this accusation or a retraction from swatjester.

He thinks I was uncivil for inquiring whether he had any base of knoweldge about Hugo rules or hypertext history. He also thinks I was uncivil for addressing him as "Denny," which I thought was his first name (since Denny Crane trails from his user name in small blue type).

I have no idea whatsoever why he took an interest in my entry or in me. SF editors seem to be a subject a bit off the beaten track for him. He seems to have arrived at Eastgate's entry via mine.

He seems to have a high rate of banning people. The experience of dealing with him was rather like having a cop tailgate you on the highway with highbeams on. He's a Wikilayer so he knows all the rules. My feeling is that he was pushing on me (and on Mark and on a guy in the Eastgate deletion discussion) to get us to do something he could ban us for. He was scalp-hunting, or at least trying to drum up something he could post to the Wikipedia Incident Noticeboard, which he is on a lot.

#76 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:57 AM:

Paula Lieberman @ 43

"The 'facts' come and go so quickly here!"

#77 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:01 AM:

The followup to Kathryn from Swatjester that Greg quotes in #3 goes on to say, "As for the citizendium remark it wasn't intended as "go there, leave here", it was intended as "If you're looking for an editorially peer-reviewed encyclopedia, that might be more what you're looking for." Judging from the sources I've seen provided today, you'd certainly qualify as an editor in the SF genre there."

Am I reading it wrong, or does that come to a grudging, "Well, OK, some Other People might call you an editor, I guess," statement?

#78 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:02 AM:

There's a really fascinating set of questions here, related to how a Wikipedia like operation could do better. I am not sure, but it's something we (the net) need to work out. Maybe Wikipedia will evolve some good mechanisms to improve, maybe not.

I checked some of the cryptography pages, and they ranged from a bit wrong to not too bad, with a lot of not done yet. A lot of the errors I caught (in one pass) were pretty simple things.

I ought to spend some time fixing them. One issue I have with this is time, since I could be spending that time doing other stuff, like playing with my kids or working on a paper for which I'll actually get recognition. The cryptography section has a fair number of articles that still need to be written, and I don't feel like I have time to write a lot of them. A lot of times, the best way to fix the presentation of the information in one article is to write two or three linked articles. (The differential cryptanalysis entry, for example, never mentions product ciphers, which strikes me as really odd. The product cipher article could be expanded to cover enough to really support the discussion of differential attacks, and that would also help with writing the linear cryptanalysis article.)

Another issue is that I saw that some of my previous edits to one of the pages have disappeared, and I think (but I am not 100% sure) that errors were introduced in their places.

One thing that would be nice, is if there were expert consultants along with editors. You'd like something like a note at the bottom of a page saying that this was checked and okayed by an expert consultant, or checked against a neutral respected reference work, or whatever.

#79 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:02 AM:

#58: You probably put in kathyrncramer.com without the www. My site seems to be functioning perfectly well.

)www.kathryncramer.com aliases into a Typepad account)

#80 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:06 AM:

Dave Bell @ 52

And I wonder a little why he's been let out of the army.

I wonder why he was let in.

IIRC the US Army had a special load for the M-16 involving 2 bullets in tandem which tumbled on impact and ripped large holes in targets. I think it was specifically for going through barn doors.

#81 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Am I reading it wrong, or does that come to a grudging, "Well, OK, some Other People might call you an editor, I guess," statement?

My impression is that the "apology" was very hastily written after someone handed him his behind. He had posted a very hostile remark in an edit description 12 minutes earlier. Look at this edit history:

20:59, 13 August 2007 (hist) (diff) User talk:Pleasantville (apology) (top)
20:51, 13 August 2007 (hist) (diff) Talk:Kathryn Cramer (→Hugo Rules?)
20:42, 13 August 2007 (hist) (diff) Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Eastgate Systems (→Eastgate Systems - please stop calling me denny. It's been made overwhelmingly obvious to you that is not my name.)

. . . is he bipolar? Or did someone bigger than him tell him to apologize? I think it's the latter.

#82 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Actually, I should have let that list run a little longer. This is what he did right after "apologizing." He found someone else to block:

I've reset your block, and extended the length for 1 week, due to your blatant incivility, and obscene personal attacks written above. I'm also removing your access to edit your talk page for that length of time to prevent further incivility. If you want to remain an editor here, you will change your ways. If not, you can take your insults elsewhere. They are not welcome here. ⇒ SWATJester Denny Crane. 22:54, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

#83 ::: David Gerard ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:30 AM:

Thanks for the compliments! Even though I'm actually an arrogant arsehole and as genuinely nice as castor oil. t's ls nc t s PNH rfrnng frm tlkng lk bckt f ccks nd cllng ppl psychpths fr drng nt t knw wh h s s wll,even as he is in the class of expert who can actually shut idiots up on Wikipedia just by saying something, and even as he has been around Wikipedia long enough to damn well know better.

Wikipedia is on the Internet and shares its characteristics. Last count (Sep 2006) there were 43,000 editors with over 5 edits in that month, and 4300 with over 100 edits in that month. Given that, if you didn't have people getting up your nose I'd be wondering just what sort of malign influence they were working.

I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else. Write for Citizendium. Or write something else that's freely reusable content if that's too odious either.

#84 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:34 AM:

Alex #62: What's a walt? A wannabe?

A Walt is a military phony.

#85 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:49 AM:

David Gerard (83): "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else."

Plug a few names into Google and see.

#86 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Hi David. I really do need to get across to you WP admins how annoying it is when you suggest that we take ourselves over to Citizendium if we a re dissatifated with the behavior of obnoxios admins on WP. I got it from Jossi. I got it from SwatJester, but I would have thought you would have more sensitivity than that.

It translates to Wikipedia: Love it or leave it! And it is used that way.

I was thinking about requesting that a discussion of this point be added to WP civity rules.

Also, can you do me the favor of posting this sentiment to the Wikipedia discussion list? Admins need to understand what such a remark really conveys. (I unsubscribed from the WP list this morning and took back my own comment which was taking its sweet time getting through the moderation. I kept getting messages from at least one person who is stark raving batshit crazy, who talks about stuff like how not being able to edit WIkipedia is forcing him/her to OD on painkillers. I couldn't stand getting that stuff via email anymore.)

Also, given that a large number of the contributors to Making Light are professional writers and editors, don't you think that maybe we do occupy ourselves writing and publishing?

#87 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:50 AM:

Kathryn #84: From Walter Mitty?

David Gerard #83: To quote one of your rules from your user page referenced above: "Don't be a dick.' Oh, and as has been pointed out on these threads multiple times, criticism does not mean that we don't think WP's goals are admirable. Equally, just because we do not spend our every waking hour on WP does not mean we have no right to comment on its manifest flaws.

#88 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:52 AM:

Kathryn@64: speaking of credentialing: I'm a 24 year old law student at American University Washington College of Law, one of the top law schools in the nation.

sheesh

Kathryn@75: He thinks I was uncivil for inquiring whether he had any base of knoweldge about Hugo rules or hypertext history. He also thinks I was uncivil for addressing him as "Denny," which I thought was his first name

Yeah, that's standard admincandonowrongitus alright. It's a common illness affecting a great many admins. The pattern goes something like this:

editor: Did you know that your pants are on fire?

admin1: Please keep your comments on the topic of the article and avoid making personal attacks.

editor: No, really, there are flames coming out of your pant legs.

admin1: Uncivility will not be tolerated on wikipedia. If you do not desist, you will be blocked.

editor: it looks like you have third degree burns.

admin1: You have been blocked for 24 hours for violation of NPA.

editor: (on appeals page): I just got blocked by an admin for telling him that his clothing had burst into flames.

admin2: well, he's an admin. I'm sure he had a perfectly good reason for blocking you. you do realize that we admins defer to other admins, right?

admin1: I blocked you for violations of wikipedia policy. If you continue causing further trouble then your block will be extended for wikistalking me onto this appeals page.

editor: but I came here before you did.

admin1: That's it. Your block has been extended for a week. When your block expires, I hope you will find a way to contribute positively to wikipedia.

#90 ::: David Gerard ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:56 AM:

@83: I mean writing about it ... that's free content per the definition. I am unaware of examples, but if you have some I'll happily further them.

#91 ::: David Gerard ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:02 AM:

@86: Said person is now on mod. Have they been sending them privately? If so, I can't stop them ... more than one person who's exhausted wikien-l's remarkable patience has progressed to this. I've been getting their messages privately and ignoring them.

It's not "love it or leave it," it's that I see a lot of people complaining of the evils of Wikipedia and ... complaining. More "we write, you do so too, it's not like there's a barrier to entry." e.g. @78 - he's basically asking for Citizendium. If pointing this out is offensive arrogance, I'm not clear on what a productive response would be.

#92 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:03 AM:

@83: I mean writing about it ... that's free content per the definition. I am unaware of examples, but if you have some I'll happily further them.
Given WP's deep contempt for anything related to blogs, I don't suppose I should mention I'd ever provided free content to the world about New Orleans or the Pakistan Earthquake, or private military contractors. Or that your hostess has saved countless newbie writers from unscrupulous "publishers" and "literary agents," an expertise Mr. Beback will neither acknowledge nor forgive her for.

Simply put, that argument doesn't work here. We are a highly productive bunch and do give things away for free.

#93 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:04 AM:

Bruce @89: Yes, I know. My comment was alluding to the way said "cats" are acting as they eat each other: like teenage social-status-obsessed airheads.

#94 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:11 AM:

David Gerard (90): "I am unaware of examples, but if you have some I'll happily further them."

Nice try, slacker. You made a comment for which you had no justification, and you got called on it. That leaves you the one with a deficit of credibility to be made up. In short: you did the sneering, you do the research.

#95 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:13 AM:

David@90: You're completely uninformed and yet you continue to attempt to exert authority.

If it's free content you want, I've got a book on copyright that's cc-by and a perl programming book that is GFDL. I've been programming perl for years, I've been interested in fair copyright law for maybe a decade.

Jim just posted a whole bunch of first aid and emergency prepardness information under a CC license. he's an EMT.

You have no clue what you're talking about or who you are talking to, and yet you waltz in here with the typical confidence of the cocksure wikiadmins that we were just discussing. You have completely demonstrated our point.


#96 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Regarding Citizendium, see SwatJester's remark here:

If you dislike Wikipedia's "anyone can edit" policies, you need not stay here. Citizendium is that way. ⇒ SWATJester Denny Crane. 03:53, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Jossi's usage, some time ago, was very similar. Don't like it here in Alabama? Russia is thataway, is essentially the sentiment conveyed.

I did look into getting a membership in Citizendium, but they have this long paragraph you must agree to, which read to me a bit like a loyalty oath. I didn't read it in detail, but decided I didn't want to get into deciding whether I agreed with it all at just that moment. I may eventually end up there. But last time I checked, it had about the same traffic level of this blog.

#97 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Greg (95), just take it as a measure of the company in which he normally finds himself.

#98 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:26 AM:

I guess I should add that in the wake of the BADSITES controversey involving this blog, I had some private correspondence with Mr. Beback & Mr. Wales at the invitation of Mr. Wales.

One thing I tried to outline for them was that SF and WIkipedia have a major culture conflict. Wikipedia regards itself as having long traditions established by consensus, but SF has a much longer history and also has traditions established by consensus.
Initially, I had hoped to resolve this by getting the most crucial sf materials housed elsewhere. But that won't work.

So Wikipedia is stuck with us sf people, and in sf authority is built as much on knowing what you are talking about as on credentials as such. We are willing to put up with assertions by people without credentials. We are much less willing to put up with self-satisfied ignorance, especially when combined with coersive authority.

This culture conflict isn't going away. And the collective we aren't going away either.

(One thing I can say in SwatJester's favor is at least he isn't trying be anonymous.)

#99 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:31 AM:

#60: "It's not impossible that some technical writers did contribute, then had their edits reverted because they didn't cite what some admin considered a relevant source. (If the incident with John Scalzi is any indication, at least one editor seems to be rather arbitrary and capricious with when a fact needs citation and when it doesn't.)"

That's a fair point, JC. Actually, I could pick nits with the accuracy of the piece and its sourcing, but I'm really much more concerned about the quality of the prose. The whole Technical Writing article is a textbook example of anti-tech writing. Disorganized, pompous, wordy, passive blather. The first two sentences alone -- you could just nuke those and move on. Ugh.

#100 ::: David Gerard ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:33 AM:

Er, fine. I was invited here; if you were trying to convince me of something or seeking help in any way, these probably aren't suitable approaches to either. I'm sure that won't stop you doing it again and again. Good luck with it all, then.

#101 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:42 AM:

I don't think he's talking our point about self-satsified ignorance on the part of admins.

#102 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:44 AM:

David @ 100

That sounds, to me, remarkably like 'I'll just be leaving now before the door hits me on my rear end'. I'm still at a loss to understand your hostility to the people here, since nothing I saw before your first comment seems to have justified it.

#103 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:45 AM:

"Walt"; a British slang term for one who claims undeserved military glory. It is indeed derived from Walter Mitty.

#104 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:48 AM:

I started to put this in my earlier post, thought better of it, slept on it and decided to go ahead.

Wikipedia can be a great (micro) social engineering tool for herding the lazy, ignorant, irrational masses of middle managers, bureaucrats, zealots and other authority worshiping sheep in the direction you need them to go.

Where facts and rational argument fail, there's nothing a couple of critical assertions backed up by links to (carefully edited) corroborating articles to lend your powerpoint, memo, email a lot of weight with the kind of people who prefer to let authority do their thinking for them.

#105 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:57 AM:

[Shuffles back onsite in time to catch Mr. Gerard's departing taillights]

[Removes lovingly-tended meerschaum from mouth]

Son, if you're going to to try that sort of thing around here, you really need to bring your best game. Some of these people have been whacking trolls and flamers since the Age of Myth.

[Replaces pipe, shuffles back offsite]

#107 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Evan @ 99: The whole Technical Writing article is a textbook example of anti-tech writing. Disorganized, pompous, wordy, passive blather. The first two sentences alone -- you could just nuke those and move on. Ugh.

Absolutely. It's horrible. The sad thing is, the earliest version of the article that I can find is much better. It could still do with some improvement, but it seems that all the edits were in the direction of making it worse.

This is where the difference between Wikipedia and the scientific process becomes manifest. A process of continual revision will produce a progressively better result - if there is a metric for determining whether a new version is better than the existing version (and hence should be kept), or not (in which case it should be discarded). Wikipedia lacks such a metric.

#108 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Lance, at #104, wrote: Wikipedia can be a great (micro) social engineering tool

The problem with that one is that if you don't pick your targets carefully, one of them'll catch you at it and then the situation gets quite a bit worse than it started out.

Regarding the self-satisfied ignorance on the part of admins, I think a lot of it is fundamentally CSR burnout. They start off tending the flowers and mowing the lawn, picking up the odd crisp packet or beer can, and they end up brandishing pitchforks at anyone who even looks like they might be about to step on the grass - and it's all an incremental process, and at each step along the way they're still firmly convinced that they're contributing to the overall good of Wikipedia.

Which is probably not what they ought to be aiming at at all, of course. "Wikipedia is not about Wikipedia" is very noticeably missing from what Wikipedia is not, and the thought of suggesting myself that it should be added in is rather intimidating.

The delightfully named be nice policy, of course, means that the admins wouldn't even think about biting newbies. Therefore, anyone who deserves biting is either someone Wikipedia is best off without, or someone who's been around long enough to know better. Dehumanization: fun for all the family, FSVO 'family'. [Insert sarcasm tag here, and all that.]

Iain at #107: AFAICS, the article improvement process seems to work by some sort of Monte Carlo method. It flops around all over the place, generally heads towards the lowest energy state (best configuration, ie. accurate-useful-and-doesn't-cause-arguments), but sometimes gets stuck in a local minimum (one or two of the three, but not all).

#109 ::: FungiFromYuggoth ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 12:44 PM:

It looks like the "Wikipedia is no more flawed than anything else on the Internet" people have a couple of powerful slogans but no bench depth.

This pro-Wikipedia worldview doesn't have a place for critics of Wikipedia who write information for the public domain or who did "just fix it" on Wikipedia, only to see the wrongness return months or years later.

Personally, I think the element of this thread that represents the largest threat to Wikipedia's Way of Life is the corruption of good articles by the motivated and wrong. If there's a crapward reversion to the mean, Wikipedia will eventually hit a steady state where articles are getting broken as quickly as they're being fixed.

(With apologies to Douglas Adams, it is possible that this has already occurred.)

Regarding a solution - it sounds to me like experts are better off writing free white papers on their own sites, which can be cited (or not) by Wikipedians.

#110 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:03 PM:

John Meltzer @ 93

Ah, sorry, you clearly got it.

#111 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:04 PM:

Kathryn (101), I know he's not.

#112 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:08 PM:

If the standard for Wikipedia its advocates express is "no worse than the rest of the Internet as a whole" *, then I don't know why they're bothering. If we want a nearly impossible-to-evaluate mixture of correct information and random truthiness, we can just Google for it.

But I thought they were trying to create - what do they call those things? - an encyclopedia. For people to get information from.

* Hey, maybe that should be my new motto!

#113 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:11 PM:

Lance Weber @ 106... You mean that Louis Armstrong didn't really land on the Moon in 1969?

"We had all the time in the world..."

#114 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:11 PM:

I'm hoping someone out there is crazy enough to fork wikipedia and sane enough to do a good job of it.

#115 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:22 PM:

Lance 106: that's great. I particularly like "u dont think we went to the moon why not tell louis armstrong to his face." (My period.)

Nancy 114: I was thinking that a Wiki (moderated!) of Wikipedia misinformation might be a good thing. Someone with energy would have to do it though, which lets me out.

#116 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:34 PM:

Nancy --

Can't do a good job of it, because the process design is broken.

You get what you reward; Wikipedia-style processes don't reward, cannot register, information quality or net value. They inherently reward -- with social status -- energy over accuracy.

Information reduces prior uncertainty, and that is measurable, but nothing about that says whether or not your reduction in uncertainty was factually justified. It's the factually justified part that's truly challenging to measure.

#117 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:36 PM:

FungiFromYuggoth @109:

Regarding a solution - it sounds to me like experts are better off writing free white papers on their own sites, which can be cited (or not) by Wikipedians.

In my opinion, that would be true in any case; mostly because referencing dynamic material is so annoying, but also because tone matters (and is usually destroyed by disjoint authorship).

#118 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:40 PM:

#114 Wasn't that Frank Sinatra?

"Fly me to the moon...."

#119 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:45 PM:

#38: The article on my great-grandfather the railroad engineer is pretty good, although it does leave out the fact that he did the initial survery for what eventually became the Hoover Dam. And, no, I'm not going to go in and fix it.

#120 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:59 PM:

Nancy@114, I'd be crazy enough to do it. But I'd be quite happy if wikipedia simply cleaned up its act.

There are plenty of open source projects that work well, produce good results, and get the job done.

Wikipedia isn't one of them.

You could probably solve a whole chunk of problems simply by removing the "edit count" feature. if you have an edit count feature, then eventually edit count becomes more important than content quality. It encourages people to make dumb and minor edits to rack up their count, and then you get all these high count editors taking their tens of thousands of edits they've made and throwing it around as if it means something. Edit counts have become similar to gold in War of Warcraft, it isn't real, it doesn't mean anything in the real world, but it becomes important unto itself to the point that you get gold farmers running around in your simulated world rather than people just playign the game.

Edit histories are good. They help you track changes to an article. Edit counts for an individual editor are bad and wikipedia should remove any tools for doing edit counts and should make mentioning of edit counts == authority off limits behaviour.

There are a whole slew of social engineering things that can be done to improve wikipedia. The problem is that the current system rewards people with edit counts, with lots of allies to help vote for their version of "consensus", and with articles they've claimed as their own. Wikipedia doesn't make its rules based on social engineering, it makes its rules based on mob vote.

As long as wikipedia allows this mob to make the rules, they will never rewrite the rules to take their own power away. It would be like expecting politicians to vote themselves out of office.

Either the board or J Wales will decide that its better to have good articles than let this untamed mob continue to rule, or nothing will improve.

#121 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 01:59 PM:

albatross @ 118... Well, that Sinatra song has already been used, in Clint Eastwood's Space Cowboys...

#122 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:12 PM:

Has there been any indication that Wikipedia's high-level administration even acknowledges that there is a problem?

#123 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Graydon @116
You get what you reward; Wikipedia-style processes don't reward, cannot register, information quality or net value.

Pirsig!*

-----
* There is a trend that every Wikipedia discussion veers toward a rewrite of Phaedrus' dilemma about the how to define quality. I've been thinking of it as Pirsig's Law.†

† Well, there oughta be a law!

#124 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:25 PM:

Norman@122: Has there been any indication that Wikipedia's high-level administration even acknowledges that there is a problem?

Were you here for the recent "Making Light is a Wikipedia Attack Site(tm)" discussion? I think that pretty much gives you your answer.

What I've seen, and granted I got to see the worst of the worst, the upper echelon response to accusations of admin abuse is quite similar to, say, the Bush administration's response to accusations that US abuse at Abu Graib was systemic and went all the way to the top:

"Nothing to see here. Just a few bad apples. Move along, move along. MOVE ALONG BEFORE I TIE ELECTRODES TO YOUR GENETALS! Oh, wait."

#125 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Greg@124:
Man, that's depressing.

#126 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Wikipedia has a quasi-legal system and a corporation associated, etc. But those only matter if you let a situation get out of hand enough to merit a trial of some kind.

My solution to the problem of pseudonymous admins spouting acronyms at me was to let the good folk of Wikipedia Review coach me through how never to get banned. They devote far more brain space than I ever will to the ins and outs of Wikipedian policyl. (Wikipedia Review is one of those BADSITES the Wikipedian inner circle wants you never to visit because you might find out someone's True Name there and who knows what would happen then. I find WR very hospitable, much more so than WIkipedia itself or the Wikipedia email list discussed above.)

It seems to me that tin the long haul is that the sf field is much bigger and more socially networked than the inner circle WIkipedian cult (the one from which SwatJester learned the nonsense quoted in my initial letter) can ever hope to be, and that they cannot win.

Wikipedia is too big a website with too high of traffic to be truly controlled by a little cult that believes that all they really need to know can be read on the Wikipedia policy pages. Ignorance is not a virtue, nor an effective means to power. And they are further hampered by their senseless commitment to Xtreme pseudymity, in which they convince themselves that wondering out loud who someone things they are is equivalent to stalking them and sharing such info is the equivalent of rape.

This kind of nonsense is detrimental to web culture in general, but specifically it hampers the ability for the Wikipedian ignorance-is-bliss cult to organize itself. Intense paranoia breeds social alientation even within their own social networks.

In terms of traffic and public notice, Wikipedia is relatively healthy. But the social network of the inner circle is, at the moment, in extremely poor health. It can't win against sf; not because we are a conspiracy, but because we're not.

#127 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Kathryn@126:
And that's NOT depressing! Thank you. It's always good to see optimism.

#128 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Sigh. I don't recognize any of the names of the people doing awful damage to the IPv6 article, the only one I ever try to improve. All I want is for the introductory preamble to be almost sorta kinda reasonable, and it's nearly impossible to keep it from being a total clusterfumble.

I haven't been hammered by an admin yet. We'll see.

#129 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:05 PM:

Hey, *I* used to be a Wikipedia Admin ... back when they were called sysops! Back then (in about 2002?) admins were a small group and some care was taken to see that they were people who had conflict resolution skills and had contributed quality work to the 'pedia. That has clearly changed. If I could point to a point where those changes started, it was about when Wikipedia started looking for money on a much larger scale.

As for the whole social engineering thing, um ... I seem to remember Jimbo Wales saying at the outset that the Wikipedia was partially an exercise in social engineering. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember.

re KC's comment about anonymity ... some of us like our Noms de Net!

#131 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:29 PM:

Recent and relevant: a CalTech grad student just released a tool for searching for Wikipedia edits from particular IP address ranges. Unsurprisingly, some of the edits turn out to be self-interested; Wired's collecting particularly egregious examples.

And now for the dangerous part: suggesting a use for somebody else's spare time.

I'm wondering if it would be helpful for people who have persistently run into this kind of trouble to have a way of posting well-sourced revisions to Wikipedia pages somewhere else, perhaps with documentation of what happened when they tried to make the same edit to Wikipedia itself. This would (well, could... well, might) have two useful effects: getting correct information posted someplace, and creating a useful pile of evidence to throw at people who deny that there's a problem.

Unfortunately, setting up the infrastructure for this project would itself involve at least several days of someone's Copious Free Time... but that aside, would it help?

#132 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:42 PM:

I suspect that for the most part, the only major corporations or organizations that wouldn't show up as editing WP to their own advantage are those that already do it with such regularity that they know not to leave IP trails.

(I was just trying to search on American Association of Retired Persons, but the Wired traffic seems to have overwhelmed the servers.)

#133 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:48 PM:

ADM@129: Jimbo Wales saying at the outset that the Wikipedia was partially an exercise in social engineering. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember.

Yeah, but that doesn't mean he actually knows anything about it. You could have a kid play around with matches and explain how it's all an exercise in fire safety.

Wikipedia has been around for years, and the house is still on fire.

#134 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:52 PM:

Good God. <looks for a bucket in which to hold my temper> Trying very hard to remain calm; please excuse any mild hyperbole or figures of speech that cannot be substantiated.

Firstly -- thank you John for your reply to me. I appreciated it.

But moving on to the meat of my matter: David Gerard came here and was, on the whole, polite and civil. He asked a question about whether people here contribute free information -- he didn't claim that no-one did, he asked a question. Some people answered, "Yes, we do." But they didn't give him so much as a chance to say, "Thanks for the information, and that's great," nor even (if you want to take the question as some kind of rhetorical denial of existence) to say "My mistake"; instead they went on to castigate him for something that he didn't actually say.

And when he called them on it -- when he said "I didn't come here to be castigated, this isn't fun for me, I'm out of here" -- you mocked him as if he was jumping before he was pushed.

He wasn't. He was jumping because when you guys talk about Wikipedia, you make this a hostile environment for anyone who happens to disagree with you in the slightest.

WikiFrustration is one thing. Nastiness is another.

If ever you have a Making Light thread about Wikipedia in which no-one tries to disagree with you, don't think that it's because your arguments are stunning the world with truthiness. It'll because people are scared of you.

#135 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 03:56 PM:

Zeborah,

I'm not a very frequent poster here. But from my perspective, it read as if David Gerard came in and began accusing people of not having credentials, then got upset and did a classic flounce out when people didn't lead him gently through all the credentials they already had.

I don't know if this is what actually happened, but I can see why people would be reading his messages that way. I certainly did.

#136 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Apropos of rogue edits, someone has been keeping track of the edits made by users from Fox News's netblock. and there's also WikiScanner.

#137 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Zeborah @ 134: But moving on to the meat of my matter: David Gerard came here and was, on the whole, polite and civil. He asked a question about whether people here contribute free information -- he didn't claim that no-one did, he asked a question.

Going back to David's comment at 83, I see he said some things about Patrick that led to a disemvowelling, and then said,

I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else.

That's not a question. That's an insinuation that people in this thread are complaining without contributing anything useful. It's the usual canard about critics being useless and serving no function. It bends attention from the subject under discussion and onto individuals who then must prove that they "create something else" in order to be given a pass to the criticism lounge. That's a rhetorical device used to tamp down dissent without addressing any possible root causes.

In short, he came in swinging, and took punches in return.

#138 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:16 PM:

Greg #120 . It encourages people to make dumb and minor edits to rack up their count, and then you get all these high count editors taking their tens of thousands of edits they've made and throwing it around as if it means something.

Something very similar happened in the CIA. Unfortunately, if I were to tell you exactly what it was in enough detail to make it clear how bad the result was, I'd have to cut off your head and put it in my safe.

#139 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Zeborah@134: He asked a question about whether people here contribute free information -- he didn't claim that no-one did, he asked a question.

You are completely correct from a purely functional point of view. I agree.

However, Gerard's actual words @ #83 do seem to indicate that there was more to his question than just the functional request for information:

I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else.

I was picking up a rather strong signal on the sarcastic modulation subband. I think it blew a speaker, actually.

For those who've had to deal with wikitrolls, the attitude of "love wikipedia or leave it" is rather common. Whether Gerard intended this sort of facism or just bumbled into it by accident, I really don't care. If he was so clueless as to not grasp the full spectrum of his transmission, he's as dangerous as someone who did it on purpose.

Seriously, what does Gerard care about my CC-BY book, "Bounty Hunters"? Does it mean he'll suddenly listen to our complaints as valid? People here are complaining about wikipedia because they've tried to contribute to wikipedia but were thwarted by editors and admins. I spent around two years contributing to wikipedia before I threw the keyboard against the wall and finally gave up. That people tried to contribute to wikipedia should be enough qualification to report on wikipedia problems.

Gerard didn't want to discuss the problem. He wanted to silence the discussion by raising the entry fee. Then after I pointed out FLOS stuff by myself and Jim, which should have satisfied his requirement for legitimacy, he stormed off.

So, I question just how functional his request for information really was.

#140 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:26 PM:

#134: I'm not saying that David Gerard is a troll or flamer. However, the last paragraph of #83 unfortunately fits the structure of what a troll or flamer might say.

You can characterize it as a question if you wish, but it doesn't really read that way to me. The word "whiny" is pejorative and not at all descriptive of what people here were doing. The first sentence of that last paragraph may qualify as musing. However, the last two sentences are clearly imperative, nowhere near a query for information.

The overall effect of that last paragraph is to say "Quit your whining and start contributing!" This is at least vaguely insulting. Now, I'm not saying that you can't read that last paragraph as a question. That's exceptionally kind and generous of you. However, given that most of the sentences are imperative, and none are actually interrogative, a question is not the most obvious interpretation.

It seems to me that he wanted to castigate Teresa and Kathryn for being "part of the problem." When they called him on this, he made a few passive-aggressive comments, then left. Whether or not he intended to come out swinging, he behaved exactly like someone who wanted to, right down to the way he left this thread.

I didn't see anyone jumping on him. I read the responses to David as being unfailingly polite, especially given the somewhat passive-aggressive tone of his comments.

Now, honestly, it seems what he really meant to do, rather than attacking, is say, "I've read some things on this thread which reflect poorly in Wikipedia. I take this personally, and it really hurts." (I'm reminded of a Jed Hartman blog post to this effect.) However, that's really hard to do. It's much easier to attack instead.

Did he intend to post disruptively? Probably not. Could he have gotten his point across less accusatively? Probably.

#141 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:27 PM:

Zeborah -- first post I see from David Gerard on this thread is 83. Which to me looks like a classic Wikipedia "how dare you criticise", complete with swipe at Patrick that he should know better, and asking whether anyone here ever actually contributes anything -- asked in a way that to me certainly looks as if it was intended as a rhetorical question where the answer was clearly implied to be "no". That post is very far from what I'd call polite and civil.

Please note that I did not start reading that post already inclined to see insult, as I had only a few seconds earlier read a post saying that David Gerard was a nice guy. It was his own words I reacted to.

#142 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Jim@138, I'm rather fond of my head, although I suppose there would be some consolation if your safe was nicely outfitted with a cooling system. Perhaps you could give a hint whilst I keep my brainbox? Shall we use the one time pad? Leave it at the dead drop. Chalk the usual spot when it's there. The eagle flies at dawn.

#143 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:32 PM:

Jim #138: ...I'd have to cut off your head and put it in my safe.

Now there's an interesting idea for a followup to your jump bag articles "Essentials for your safe"


  • Heads of enemies, nosy neighbors, unfortunates who know too much and critics.

  • Compromising photographs of editor at the sheep farm

  • Signed copy of Necronimicon

  • Spare keys to Time Machine

#144 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:35 PM:

@134, I was surprised he left so quickly. If he had a. taken the time to read the initial post or b. scanned the thread, he might have clued in that the commenters here (myself excluded) are productive and generous (generously productive?) and suggesting they do something they're already doing is dumb, rude, choose your own descriptor.

His remarks and attitude read to me like an admission that Wikipedia is broken, he can't/won't get involved in fixing it as there are other similar places to homestead. It's a shame really, as Wikipedia is getting more attention as if it were reputable every day. School kids are pointed to it, my own included, but not for long.

Can they fail to realize/understand that they're handing the mantle of authority back to Brittanica, et al? If, as noted above, fundamental, easily-verified articles like the one on Pearl Harbor are allowed to stand, who will be willing to rely on it?

Or conversely, is this like Conservapedia in that the admins (the lunatics running the asylum) are trying to create an alternate universe, where ships at Pearl are counted twice and Fred Saberhagen never existed?

#145 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:41 PM:
He asked a question about whether people here contribute free information -- he didn't claim that no-one did, he asked a question.

And people here merely responded with cordial invitations for Mr. Gerard to bring his teeth into close proximity with their epidermises! I don't see what you're so upset about. My spouse and I do that kind of thing reasonably often. It's fun!

#146 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:42 PM:

Zeborah 134: David Gerard's first post to Making Light begins with the words Thanks for the compliments! Even though I'm actually an arrogant arsehole and as genuinely nice as castor oil. He then sets out to prove this: the first part of his next sentence is disemvoweled (I don't know whether by him or Teresa) and is composed of snarling about Patrick. That paragraph ends by saying Patrick should "damn well know better," though he doesn't say about what.

His middle para is innocuous.

His use of the word 'whining' to describe people's comments about the problems in Wikipedia removes all doubt that the message had hostile intent.

Given these facts, I find it curious that you say that he's been civil on the whole. Perhaps his civil comments outnumber his uncivil ones, but the first comment carries the greatest weight.

Reviewing his other comments, he tries to backpedal in his second one, but still conveys the message of "prove I should listen to you." His third comment seems perfectly civil to me. In his fourth, he takes his marbles and goes home.

I honestly do not understand how you can say he's been civil on the whole. Maybe you read those differently? Maybe you know him, and you know he's joking when he says those things about Patrick, or NISMW calls us all a bunch of do-nothing whiners?

I felt attacked by what he said. That doesn't mean he intended that effect, but if not it means he communicated ineffectively.

#147 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Zeborah,
This is how Nix refres to Mr.Gerard: @26: It's David Gerard's continuing presence on Wikipedia that convinces me that it's not wholly without hope. He's a genuinely nice guy, and he contributes to Uncyclopedia as well, so he can definitely laugh at himself.

And this is Mr. Gerard's response: Thanks for the compliments! Even though I'm actually an arrogant arsehole and as genuinely nice as castor oil. t's ls nc t s PNH rfrnng frm tlkng lk bckt f ccks nd cllng ppl psychpths fr drng nt t knw wh h s s wll,even as he is in the class of expert who can actually shut idiots up on Wikipedia just by saying something, and even as he has been around Wikipedia long enough to damn well know better.... I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else.

Let's begin with the silly idea that maybe one should know what one is talking about before switching to attack mode. A couple of googles should have told Mr. Gerard that these folks are as talented and productive as they come. Some of them are even published in print, bookstore sales and all. Some are academics of known standing, experts in their fields. Trying to be snide about the accomplishments of this group is silly, and the snark falls completely flat--like a six-year-old shouting nyah-nyah to adults. To persist on the behavior after some folk tried to answer calmly is to be intellectually suicidal.

Hostile environment? Because people are trying to point out problems, and responding to hostile comments in like fashion? I hope you never have to deal with sitting oral exams, or even a research review. Professors can do things to you that would make this bunch seem as mild-mannered as David Banner.

#148 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:44 PM:

Zeborah, that you describe David Gerard's manner as "polite and civil" does nothing to decrease my trepidation over the social skills and communications ability of the broad range of WP admins. Maybe the problem is that too few of you deal with people off the web, where civility is something other than avoiding frank insult.

#149 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:47 PM:

emma,

can do things to you that would make this bunch seem as mild-mannered as David Banner.

or as mild mannered as bruce banner!

....sorry.

#150 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:50 PM:

Miriam,in the tv series he was called David. That's all I can remember.... Old age, maybe?

#151 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:53 PM:

JESR #148: Right! no one would ever act this way to people they knew in real life!

#152 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 04:57 PM:

emma,

oh. i didn't realize we were actually talking about the same person. i thought i wasn't getting your highbrow reference, & making a lowbrow joke.

this reveals more geekery than i display in the course of a normal day, but i am certain that in the books his full name was robert bruce banner, called bruce. & that all his suits were purple because of his clinical lack of fashion sense (this was spelled out, believe it or not).

#153 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:03 PM:

Lance Weber, in my experience, people in 3-D environments usually reserve the passive-aggressive attack mode for people they know pretty well, or at least well enough that they know they're safe from massive retaliation in the aggressive part of the spectrum. Or they refrain from it simply because it is almost always a losing gambit.

#154 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:04 PM:

I'm wondering at this point whether the problem of creating a high-quality, comprehensive, volunteer community-built open encyclopedia is too big for any one organization to handle. Wikipedia's problems are well described here and elsewhere. Projects like Citizendium and Scholarpedia have general-purpose ambitions, but I'm not sure if they're strong enough to scale, either due to politics or workflow. The Britannica approach worked for a long time for high-cost content, but is expensive to construct and maintain.

I have, however, seen a number of specialized groups create very high-quality and interesting encyclopedias in their particular specialties. This includes some examples from the SF community.

So I wonder if there's something that can be done to federate the work of these more manageable groups, so that you could, when looking up a particular topic, or following a linked topic reference, be directed to a reasonable article from one of them, and also see what other encyclopedias had articles on that topic. There'd be a weighting favoring sources likely to have good articles, but falling back as necessary to more diffuse or chaotic sources when necessary, or when requested.

I can imagine some protocols, techniques, and lightweight editing regimes that might make this possible. This would not be easy: there are various problems to solve, some fairly straightforward, some trickier than they might appear at first glance. But it may ultimately represent an easier set of problems to solve than trying to get it all right in Wikipedia (or any other single online encyclopedia).

#155 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:13 PM:

JESR #153: Sorry, for being a little too snarcastic (my new word for snarky + sarcastic!) - I actually agree that the anonymity and lack of real life consequences tends to make the net a harsher place than real life.

#156 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:13 PM:

Charles, #131: *whistle* That's gonna upset some applecarts for sure!

I wonder if there's a way to customize that software to search a blog the same way? It would be a really useful tool for rooting out some forms of astroturfing...

Zeborah, #134: If "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else," fits your definition of "polite and civil", I think you need to recheck the dictionary. That's not a question, it's a sneering challenge, and was treated as such.

And y'know... if people are afraid of the knowledge level to be found here, that's not necessarily a bad thing. It sure beats what's been happening over in your neck of the woods, where the people with actual knowledge are the ones who have to be afraid of a crowd of playground bullies.


#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:15 PM:

miriam beetle @ 152... Off-topic, but you do know about the upcoming Hulk movie starring Edward Norton as Banner and as his alter ego, right?

http://www.superherohype.com/news/topnews.php?id=6100

#158 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Miriam,
There were books? :-) Purple suits???
Amazing what one misses...
To be sober and thoughtful about it all (bah, humbug): I didn't "get" comics and illustrated novels until recently when, trying to cope with a severe bout of insomnia, I came across something called "Inuyasha" on the Cartoon Network. Now I'm looking at these things as art, and it's opened up a whole new world of, as you say, geekery.
Fascinating. Morbid.

#159 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:40 PM:

j h woodyatt (#128): I've made what should be a completely justifiable wording change to the IPv6 article that ought to address the criticisms made by some editors. Bets on how long it lasts are not being taken at this time.

#160 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:44 PM:

#152: He was "Robert Bruce Banner" because Stan Lee slipped up in an early Hulk comic and called him "Bob" instead of the previously established "Bruce". Immediate No-Prize! Then the TV producers decided to rename him "David" because "Bruce" was not manly enough. You can look this up on, uh ...

#113: Wasn't it Lance Armstrong? "Bicycle to the moon" ...

#161 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:49 PM:

Jon 160: Robert Bruce, huh? Fighting a neverending battle against a hulking opponent?

#162 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:50 PM:

serge,

hulk was one of my favourite comics growing up, & i was terribly disappointed by the ang lee movie (i was expecting better from someone who did jane austen so well). i like edward norton a lot, so i'm hopeful for this new one.

emma,

i had the opposite experience. being raised by hippies (not to say wolves), i had minimal exposure to tv growing up. so all the trashy eighties culture my peers were immersed in from saturday morning cartoons, i only experienced from their comic book equivalents. he-man, ewoks, strawberry shortcake, muppet babies, etc., i only knew in printed form.

to this day i'm not sure which of my childhood pulps had animated equivalents. top dog? planet terry? madballs?

(a nod to the topic: i could look up what-all were saturday morning cartoons on wikipedia. but i won't!)

#163 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:51 PM:

Emma @ 147
Hostile environment? Because people are trying to point out problems, and responding to hostile comments in like fashion? I hope you never have to deal with sitting oral exams, or even a research review. Professors can do things to you that would make this bunch seem as mild-mannered as David Banner.

Amen. I am blessed in my committee who manage to point out my mistakes clearly without pulling my ego to shreds. They are not the norm, and I still am dreading my defense.

I gave up on Wikipedia when someone kept changing the articles on fertility/sex gods and goddesses to reflect Victorian social mores. The best bit was from the talk:freyja page "Uhm, you're talking to someone who reads mythology books intended for high-schoolers and over..." After that? Even though response was required and given, I lost hope in the editing process. God forbid someone come along and cite the Eddas.

#166 ::: Xopher finds extraordinarily inept comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:53 PM:

"It is nice site," indeed.

#167 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 05:55 PM:

Ladies, gentlemen, people we never knew were dogs,

I think everything that can productively be said to Zeborah has been said, at least three times*. Can we untangle our limbs from the pile-on and move the conversation on?

-----
* In prose. Usual exemptions apply for poetry.

#169 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:10 PM:

Miriam #162,

Capitals please. Your sentences are visually merging into one continuous stream that takes me several readings to sort out.

#170 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:13 PM:

Sisuile,

I remember trying to hold up the corridor wall as I waited for the decision after my orals, and knowing, knowing, I had made a right cockup of it. Finally the door opened and one of my inqui...er...examiners came out, pointed at me, and simply said "any landing you walk away from is a good landing".

I slid down the wall until I was sitting down. Then I noticed at least three or four other people doing the same thing in front of similar doors...

Ah, those were the days. Long stretches of frantic cramming punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

Brain-eating zombies? BAH. UVa history professors, that's the ticket.

#171 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:31 PM:

#149 JC I didn't see anyone jumping on him. I read the responses to David as being unfailingly polite, especially given the somewhat passive-aggressive tone of his comments.

I was considering after the fact whether I should have written to Gerard offline. I do have his email address, though I don't think I've ever corresponded with him directly. I was earnestly trying to ask him to intercede with other Wikipedia admins and ask them PLEASE to stop trying to send people like me to Citizendium the moment we raise the issue of an admins competence to judge something in a specialized subject matter. I honestly don't think they realize how rude it is.

Further, it is my general impression that a certain segment of Wikitopia has been hoping that pesky experts would all flock to Citizendium and stop challenging their knowledge of subject areas. From that perspective, Citizendium is a failure in that it has not relived 24-year-old admins of troublesome know-it-alls like me and Teresa.

Other than the fact that he behaved like an ass toward me and toward Mark Bernstein, I have nothing in particular against Dan Rosenthal aka SWATJester. He is fixable if he's willing to learn a bit of humility: he's a bright kid, recently back from Iraq where no doubt he was taught all manner of macho posturing, and he's been sold a bill of goods by the Wikitopian clique. (I certainly wouldn't want to be held permanently publicly to account for every bit of unreasonable arrogance I emitted under the age of 30.)

Also, despite Dan having posted his perfect philosophical gem on my user talk page, we do need to remember that as far as his editing of my entry goes, and our dialog on Hugo rules, what we were actually arguing about was essentially a footnote. (Given his general position that no knowledge is necessary except knowledge of the rules of engagement, I suppose it's good that he's off to law school and not med school.) I would have left it alone and let the sf-non-conspiracy take care of Hugo rules interpretations except for his nomination of Eastgate for deletion. I took him on over the Hugo issue partly because I truly was trying to understand whether he was editing from ignorance, from malice, or from what he thought was an informed point of view.

One possible reason for Gerard's departure is that the rules of civility are different here than on Wikipedia. He would probably think them looser than WP, though that's not the case. I am here before a jury of my peers, and some of you I'll know for the next 20 years, and TNH is one of the best comment section moderators there is. It is much easier to get yourself banned on WP; all you have to do is look cross-eyed at a cocky admin, and bang. Nonetheless a certain level of candor, impossible on WP is found here.

#172 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:32 PM:

tw,

i'm sorry. i understand, & i am one of those people who checks & rechecks for grammar to get my ideas across as painlessly as possible, but capitals are not going to happen.

#173 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:32 PM:

#149 JC I didn't see anyone jumping on him. I read the responses to David as being unfailingly polite, especially given the somewhat passive-aggressive tone of his comments.

I was considering after the fact whether I should have written to Gerard offline. I do have his email address, though I don't think I've ever corresponded with him directly. I was earnestly trying to ask him to intercede with other Wikipedia admins and ask them PLEASE to stop trying to send people like me to Citizendium the moment we raise the issue of an admins competence to judge something in a specialized subject matter. I honestly don't think they realize how rude it is.

Further, it is my general impression that a certain segment of Wikitopia has been hoping that pesky experts would all flock to Citizendium and stop challenging their knowledge of subject areas. From that perspective, Citizendium is a failure in that it has not relived 24-year-old admins of troublesome know-it-alls like me and Teresa.

Other than the fact that he behaved like an ass toward me and toward Mark Bernstein, I have nothing in particular against Dan Rosenthal aka SWATJester. He is fixable if he's willing to learn a bit of humility: he's a bright kid, recently back from Iraq where no doubt he was taught all manner of macho posturing, and he's been sold a bill of goods by the Wikitopian clique. (I certainly wouldn't want to be held permanently publicly to account for every bit of unreasonable arrogance I emitted under the age of 30.)

Also, despite Dan having posted his perfect philosophical gem on my user talk page, we do need to remember that as far as his editing of my entry goes, and our dialog on Hugo rules, what we were actually arguing about was essentially a footnote. (Given his general position that no knowledge is necessary except knowledge of the rules of engagement, I suppose it's good that he's off to law school and not med school.) I would have left it alone and let the sf-non-conspiracy take care of Hugo rules interpretations except for his nomination of Eastgate for deletion. I took him on over the Hugo issue partly because I truly was trying to understand whether he was editing from ignorance, from malice, or from what he thought was an informed point of view.

One possible reason for Gerard's departure is that the rules of civility are different here than on Wikipedia. He would probably think them looser than WP, though that's not the case. I am here before a jury of my peers, and some of you I'll know for the next 20 years, and TNH is one of the best comment section moderators there is. It is much easier to get yourself banned on WP; all you have to do is look cross-eyed at a cocky admin, and bang. Nonetheless a certain level of candor, impossible on WP is found here.

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:32 PM:

miriam @ 162... I didn't care much for Ang Lee's movie either. Too full of itself. My understanding is that Norton is a fan of the old TV show, but also of the comic-book, and that he was involved in the script's writing. It's reassuring when someone who 'gets' comics is involved. Not only that, and not only are there no mutant poodles in this movie, but Betty Ross is played by Liv Tyler. Woohoo!!!

#175 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Kathryn Cramer @ 171... troublesome know-it-alls like me and Teresa

Great.
Now I've got Rocket J. Squirrel on the brain.
Thanks.

#176 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:39 PM:

#168: I knew that.

#177 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:41 PM:

#67 Aconite

Wikipedia is nothing more than a committee-driven entity where the committee changes randomly and without notice, has no agenda, and doesn't have to meet a deadline. You could "fix" it, but you would have to implement some changes that go against Wikipedia's stated intent.

As for me? I've worked with too many committees to ever take Wikipedia seriously. Too often, directionless committees turn into social clubs with a regular discussion list and occasional chores. The only thing I find it useful for is a petri dish about net culture.

Which doesn't mean that I don't care about it. I just care about the debates it spawns off-site more.

#178 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Serge @ #175 "Now I've got Rocket J. Squirrel on the brain."

This is a problem because. . .?

#179 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 07:11 PM:

Linkmeister @ 178... It's a problem because my wife won't let me put Moose & Squirrel on the DVD player while she's around. And her parents are here.

#180 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 07:13 PM:

Linkmeister @ 178... It's a problem because my wife won't let me put Moose & Squirrel on the DVD player while she's around. And her parents are here.

#182 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Zeborah (134):

"Good God. Trying very hard to remain calm;"
Good. You do that. We'll do the same. Good firing discipline is especially important when you aren't shooting at unarmed indigenes.
"please excuse any mild hyperbole or figures of speech that cannot be substantiated."
They'll be given the same latitude anyone else's speech enjoys here.
"Firstly -- thank you John for your reply to me. I appreciated it.

But moving on to the meat of my matter: David Gerard came here and was, on the whole, polite and civil."

No. I'm sorry, but that's not at all true.

Did you not notice that there's a section in his very first paragraph that's missing its vowels? Until I disemvowelled it, that was a coarse, untruthful, and completely gratuitous attack on Patrick, who hasn't posted in this thread since comment #13.

Is that really your idea of "polite and civil"? That's not a rhetorical question. I would like an answer.

I suppose DG's "even as he has been around Wikipedia long enough to damn well know better" was meant in the same spirit, but his syntax was too badly botched to convey whatever insult he had in mind.

Onward, then, to your description of DG's language:

"He asked a question about whether people here contribute free information --"
First: that's a disingenuous quasi-quote. What DG actually said was, "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else" -- deliberately offensive, and clear evidence that DG neither read the thread nor thought before he posted to it.

He came into a weblog where the discussion threads often run to hundreds of messages, and asked whether the participants ever create free content. That isn't just rude and shallow; it's stupid. If David Gerard is your idea of an impressive writer, I'm every bit as embarrassed for you as you ought to be for yourself but doubtless aren't.

Second: The sentiments you quote are from the last and shortest paragraph DG's comment. As already noted, quite a lot had come before it. So here's a question: do you, like David Gerard, believe you aren't obliged to pay any attention to the people with whom you you interact, or read with any degree of care the written material to which you're supposedly responding? You do seem to have that in common.

In truth, I have difficulty believing you didn't notice the disemvowelled text. But if you honestly missed it, you weren't paying attention to the actual words being exchanged -- an unwise strategy in a forum where you have neither more nor less power than any other participant. If you don't believe me, just ask David Gerard.

"he didn't claim that no-one did, he asked a question."
Spare me. What he did was take a cheap shot, and everyone who attended an English-speaking high school knows it. (Yes, fluorospheroids, the rest of you know it too. I was establishing minimum qualifications.)
"Some people answered, "Yes, we do."
I didn't. I told him that if he wanted to have any credibility, he'd do his own damned research. Insulting us does not confer the burden of proof on us.
"But they didn't give him so much as a chance to say ...,"
He had every chance to say. This is not a live face-to-face conversation, and at the time it wasn't moving all that quickly. He had leeway to type anything he wanted. What he typed was intentionally offensive and unintentionally stupid.
..."Thanks for the information, and that's great," nor even (if you want to take the question as some kind of rhetorical denial of existence) to say "My mistake";
Again, he most certainly could have said it, if that had been his intention. He could say it now. He hasn't. We've been responding to what he did say.
"instead they went on to castigate him for something that he didn't actually say."
False. What he said is precisely what he was called to account for. You'll find the same applies to you.
"And when he called them on it -- when he said "I didn't come here to be castigated, this isn't fun for me, I'm out of here" -- you mocked him as if he was jumping before he was pushed."
Wrong again. And while we're waiting to queue up the actual quote, allow me to ask you whether you normally get away with this kind of hogwash during arguments. You must square off against some very feeble opponents -- or perhaps you don't read their messages either? That might account for it.

Meanwhile, here's what DG really said:

"Er, fine. I was invited here; [No more so than anyone else, he wasn't.] if you were trying to convince me of something or seeking help in any way, [From him? No. We were having a discussion, which he was free to join under the same terms as any other reader.] these probably aren't suitable approaches to either. [Doubtless because that's not what they are.] I'm sure that won't stop you doing it again and again. [Another badly adapted cheap shot; and I'll bet a bottle of my favorite whisky that that's not the first time he's used it.] Good luck with it all, then."
I've been on the nets for a very long time. I know the sound of a retreating troll.
"He wasn't. He was jumping because when you guys talk about Wikipedia, you make this a hostile environment for anyone who happens to disagree with you in the slightest."
A fine brave defense, marred only by the fact that that's not what happened.
"WikiFrustration is one thing. Nastiness is another."
Reading comprehension is a third.
"If ever you have a Making Light thread about Wikipedia in which no-one tries to disagree with you,"
So far, it's not happening. If it ever does, we'll disagree with each other just to be polite.
"...don't think that it's because your arguments are stunning the world with truthiness."
I think we know our readers better than you do.
"It'll because people are scared of you."
I know. In most cases, it's a shame.

#183 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:43 PM:

(This blog seems to be having some outages this evening.)

One other subculture conflict that bears mentioning in the context of SwatJester's edit history is the conflict between Wikipedia admins and the exposure sub-culture. In particular, in about the same timeframe Swatjester was in conflict with me, he also banned XavierVE. (XavierVE is associated with a group trying to stop pedophiles from using the internet to their advantage. He is affiliated with the site corporatesexoffenders.com).

In terms of basic Wikipedia rules of civility (and perhaps my own) I certainly see SwatJester's point in banning him: XavierVE claims to have identified several Wikipedia editors as pedophiles, and has created a Wiki of his own where he posts information about this. Calling someone a pedophile is a pretty heavy charge. If someone is doing that, it is pretty hard to figure a way to assure civility; perhaps even impossible.

I am a participant in a private online support group that promotes exposure of online predators of a different type, so I can also see XavierVE's point of view: civility is immaterial because website should not be hospitable to Internet predators.

I know this dispute has a history, which may also be entangled with Scientology's beef with Wikipedia.

This is not a simple matter or situation. But it also does not seem to me to be easily navigated via a set of cook-book rules that put Wikipedia's notion of civility above all else.

I don't know what to make of the situation. But having immersed myself at least a little in the exposure subculture, I understand what's at stake.

Can someone like Swatjester make reasonable decisions about this? Or is some other social mechanism called for? (And yes I know about Wikipedia's quasi-legal system and how some of this has worked its way through this, but the frontlines of this is patrolled by people like Swatjester, who may possibly even be doing a good job of it, for all I know.)

#184 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 09:44 PM:

*schwing* *snicker-snack* *thwip*

Abi #167: I believe the issue has now been, ahem, fully dissected (#182).

#185 ::: Ed Dravecky III ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Maybe I just haven't been editing Wikipedia long enough to run into the worst of the bunch. Maybe I've just been toiling in the articles of so little controversy (directors of the Marshall Space Flight Center, various science fiction conventions, etc.) that I've only been bugged a couple of times. (Who knew "Chopper Chick" would have so many dedicated fans?)

I saw the note here about the 80s hit "Wild, Wild West" and checked out the article. It was a couple of incoherent lines of uncategorized, unreferenced text. There does seem to be a trend among some folks on Wikipedia to trash these sub-stub articles rather than improve them. I spent a few minutes tagging, writing, and referencing this article to bring it up to a level that, while still inadequate, won't make children cry when they see it.

I only wish more of the good people who spend time eloquently bemoaning the tragedy of the commons would spend a few minutes each week helping to improve them. Maybe pick a subject area (say, American science fiction conventions) to work on together knowing that you wouldn't be alone facing the "mob" should it try to act up.

#186 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:03 PM:

I only wish more of the good people who spend time eloquently bemoaning the tragedy of the commons would spend a few minutes each week helping to improve them. Maybe pick a subject area (say, American science fiction conventions) to work on together knowing that you wouldn't be alone facing the "mob" should it try to act up.

I don't post at Wikipedia, so I feel rather Olympian, but righteous, in saying, in response to and with all due respect to Dave Dravecky III, with whom I have no quarrel at all -- why bother, if one is constantly running into folks like Mr. Gerard, who seems to wish that all clean up be done wearing a Hazmat suit? There are other ways to get useful and valuable information on the Internet than attempt for the gadzillionth time to wad through crap at Wikipedia. There does seem to be too much of it. I support improving common space, but other people have butted heads with this particular goat too may times -- it makes me wonder if the trash pick up is worth it. I'd rather wash windows.

#187 ::: Ed Dravecky III ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:11 PM:

Lizzy #186: I understand the frustration but I'm a foolish optimist that believes that enough good people working towards a goal can overcome the bad guys.
By the way, "cousin" Dave and I have met exactly once about a decade ago.

#188 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:18 PM:

Ed, the problem is that the bad guys can ban the good guys from Wikipedia and delete all their edits.

#189 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:22 PM:

Well, I spent some time trying to come up with a specific field on which I can regard myself as having decent knowledge. Then I went and had a look at Wikipedia's article on Richard III.

Yes, quite. I see what you mean.

#190 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:23 PM:
I only wish more of the good people who spend time eloquently bemoaning the tragedy of the commons would spend a few minutes each week helping to improve them.

Shrug. It'd be an inefficient use of my time.

Let's say I decide to edit the entry for Joshua trees based on the last eleven years of work I've put into writing a book about the critters. To pick just one of the problems with the current entry, let's say I decide to edit the part about the origin of the popular name of the tree. Fact is, the version on that page is folklore. Might be true, might not be, but there's not a single piece of historical evidence to back it up. But there are a couple hundred iterations of the folklore online, and all I'd be able to point to, to back up my position, is failure to find any real evidence that the folklore's true.

Why should I spend my time arguing over people who don't understand what constitutes actual evidence, when I can just write the book?

Hell, I've got a good enough Google Rank that if I write more than two posts about a specialized topic, I tend to wind up in the top page of results, sometimes above the Wikipedia entry. I'm not alone in this. What's the point of spending time arguing with the Swatjesters of the world when a person can do good-faith research and some approximation of peer-review?

#191 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:30 PM:

When I'm wandering through Wikipedia and see a quick fix I can make, I make it. Most of my changes are wording cleanups, typo fixes, and similarly uncontroversial tweaks.

Even so, I've had a four-word addition reverted with a 10-word comment that boiled down to "who cares?"

I don't bother getting into revert wars at points like that; it's not worth my time. The article can rot until I have another reason to look at it.

#192 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:37 PM:

Oops. Sorry. Ed Dravecky. Nice to meet you, Ed.

#193 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:38 PM:

CKD @ 159: Thanks. I agree with Berkowitz that your edit is excellent.

#194 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2007, 11:44 PM:

Ed: Maybe I've just been toiling in the articles of so little controversy (directors of the Marshall Space Flight Center, various science fiction conventions, etc.)

Go find a wikipedia article that's been the center of a long, ongoing battle. Check out the RFC lists, requests for mediation, and the arbcom cases. Find a nice hot, juicy article that has been the center of a sht-storm for a few months and is just boiling to a head.

Read the entire article. Then go back to the intro and read it again. You'll find something wrong with it. It favors one POV and dismisses the others. It's biased. It's wrong. There will be something wrong with the intro, I guarantee it.

Now, and this is the important bit, rewrite the introduction to be fair and balanced. Do this offline with a text editor, and then swap in the new introduction in one edit.

If you don't get reverted within ten minutes, threatened with some rules violation by an editor within half an hour, and visited by an admin dolling out some condescending advice within 24 hours, I will eat my flat fing hat.

Until you've experienced the wrath of the swarm, the relentlessness of the wiki-borg, you do not understand the meaning of the phrase "resistance is futile". And suggestions that maybe "a few minutes a week" will somehow slow the borg shows you've never actually dealt with the borg hive mind.


#195 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:01 AM:

Graydon @ 116: ”They inherently reward -- with social status -- energy over accuracy.”

Greg London @ 120: ”You could probably solve a whole chunk of problems simply by removing the "edit count" feature.”

Right. Wikipedia rewards exactly the wrong behavior. How many edits you’ve made is utterly irrelevant to how useful your contributions are, and making it the arbiter of social status just encourages every MMORPG-trained min-maxer to make the easiest, most superficial changes as often as possible. If killing a [citation needed] rat gets you the exact same XP as taking on a tarrasque's worth of unreadable techno-gibberish, then why bother to do anything that requires time, knowledge or effort? Only an idiot would waste their time on the all those thankless tasks that actually make Wikipedia better.

All of which begs the question: how useful is it to have a social ranking system at all? Does having a couple hundred thousand edits under your belt actually make your contributions on the modern music page better or more important? I think not. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard of some highly-knowledgeable newbie driven off by some pig-ignorant admin. Wikipedia's anyone-can-edit policy could be a major strength, but as long as the edit count is in use, it is a hollow lie--they're just ignoring potentially useful status indicators in favor of reliably meaningless ones. I can't think of a single good reason for having any sort of social heirarchy on Wikipedia. When you’re trying to create a (relatively) bias-free reference work, ego can only get in the way.

So here's my crazy idea. In addition to getting rid of the edit counts, I think that Wikipedia could be enormously improved by limiting the number of edits users can make. Imagine that every day each user gets ten edit/revert points--no more, no less. If you care more about a particular edit, you can spend extra points to ‘harden’ your edit, making it that much harder to revert: an equal number of points must be spent to undo it. Additionally, if you approve of someone else’s edit, you can spend your points to harden that edit. I think this system would have several advantages:

-This system would encourage quantity over quality, and force people to focus on a narrower range of posts—hopefully the things that they actually know something about.
-Allowing people to record their silent approval would help lend good articles stability—-as it is now, any article is only one edit-grinding wannabe admin away from chaos.
-Reverting someone’s edit would come at the cost of making your own edits, imposing a fierce opportunity cost. Hopefully this will encourage people to work out compromises, or, at the least, keep the assholes tied up sniping at each other, limiting the damage they could do.
-It would even the odds between those with radically different amounts of time to devote to Wikipedia. Fewer disputes would be decided by who has the most time to spend on the matter.

This is just a rough sketch of an idea, and I’m mostly just curious how it will stand up to scrutiny. For one thing, if edits are limited, sock-puppetry would become rampant. How to counter that? Maybe a more fluid system, where your edits lost weight the faster you made them, would work better than a flat number.

#196 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:42 AM:

Jon (160): You can look it up in Mad Magazine. (Something to the effect of "We changed his name because "Bruce" wasn't manly enough" while on the television in the background "Bruce Jenner wins Olympic Decathlon, declared world's top athlete")

#197 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:17 AM:

(Am I the only one constantly misparsing David Gerard as David Gerrold, resulting in petit context mals?)

I recently came across, and now can’t find easily again, an interesting suggestion for Wikipedia–reputability by stability.

The idea was, recalled from my casual look-over, that a web of trust be built using Wikipedia article & edit stability as the criteria. Color-coding material based on this, in a sort of heat-map, would be used to communicate a soi-disant measure of reliability (? reputability?)

It’s an interesting idea, not the least as a tool for discussing what drives Wikipedia Authors, Editors, and the dynamics between them.

Under such a regime I imagine lower visibility, less controversial articles would become ‘more valuable’. As would quality writing & editing. Participation in battles would quickly burn off whuffie. Thus a possibly different breed of Wikipedians would be moderated up into authority.

It would also bring about new ways to game the system, organized credibility assaults resulting in collateral article disreputability, hot-button issues becoming too toxic for cooler heads to participate in, and evolving stories not as actively updated.

What really caught my eye was that this wouldn’t be particularly hard to do even from outside Wikipedia. Indeed I imagine some clever coder could make a Greasemonkey script that would parse an article’s history as it is loaded, reference the editors involved, and quickly come up with some first-order analysis of stability & ‘reputability’ (for lack of a more precise term.)

I’m sure there are other ideas out there for refining, or forking and complementing/competing with Wikipedia. I’m ust hoping they’re being given active attention by the senior folks involved.

#198 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:42 AM:

Get rid of anonymity. Make it so that only people with real names can edit or even post to talk pages.

Yeah, it might force out some editors who desire anonymity, but it seems to be the key tool for users who abuse the system. Charge people a buck on their credit card to create an account, then use the name on the card, then take any records offline to keep the thieves away.

Yes, I know anonymous people make valuable contributions to various web efforts. But were they communities on the scale of tens of thousands of users? probably not.

#199 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Lance @184:
Abi #167: I believe the issue has now been, ahem, fully dissected (#182).

Indeed. It's always a pleasure to see a master at work.

#200 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:02 AM:

divide the admins into different categories.

Janitors can revert vandalism, which is a massive wikipedia task.

Jurists can vote on whether or not subjective behaviour is a violation of any other policy, such as NPOV, NPA, wikistalking, etc.

Janitors would be allowed to edit articles.

Jurists would not be allowed to edit articles. Ever.

I've dealt with wikipedia admins like swatjester who operated in a pack. One would edit an article they were interested in. The other would come in and act as admin handing out blocks for editors who opposed their friend. On a different page, the admins would swap roles.

Alliances are massively encouraged and rewarded on wikipedia. If you have allies you can get elected to admin, you can win votes for consensus, you can stuff an RFC with votes, you can pile on the voices during arbcom. You name it.

The simple and effective way to fix this would be to disallow the admins making subjective judgements from ever editing any wikipedia articles. When an admin has a personal stake in an article, things can get ugly really quick.

The biggest admin job on wikipedia is reverting vandalism. This can be handed out fairly easily to a lot of editors. Abuse will be fairly easy to spot, and revocation of priveledges should be no big deal. a janitor can only revert vandalism and hand out blocks to users who commit vandalism.

The next big job on the list is dealing with POV pushing and personal attacks. The only way to deal with this neutrally is to be completely unattached to the articles involved. Currently wikipedia does not allow admins to use their privileges on articles they edit, but this is easily and commonly circumvented by allies who act as meat puppets for the admin, in return for the admin acting as a meat puppet for his ally on their article. quid pro quo is a natural reinforcer of alliances on wikipedia.

Remove the ability to edit any article, and give these admins jurist privileges that allows them to make the judgement calls on subjective rules like NPOV and personal attacks (yes, on wikipedia, a personal attack is definitely subjective. swatjester proved that by example)

yes, this means that jurists/admins can only operate as jurist/admins and cannot edit articles.

Yes this means you'll lose some admins because they're attached to editign some article. This, in the overall view, is probably a good thing, because in the end it means being an admin is not all power and privilege. It means you have to give up something to become an admin, to gain the privileges of blocking and banning other users. And the thing that is the cause of most problems is a biased admin working on a biased article. Disallow that by fiat, and an editor more concerned about making his article biased will be far less inclined to go for adminship to get extra privileges.

Since the big job is dealing with vandalism, and since this job is easily defined and limited, it should be easy to hand out janitorial positions to a lot of people and quickly spot janitor abuse adn revoke the privilege.

This also means that the number of admins needed for jurist duty is much smaller because they're not dealing with vandalism. They're only dealing with subjective judgement calls like whether someone is POV pushing or whether he just disagrees with another editor.

Given that jurist duty won't exactly be a huge draw for people, the fact that far fewer jurists are needed should balance out any logistics.

these are the sort of things that I mean by social engineering.

#201 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:06 AM:

hm, you could let janitors hand out blocks for vandalism and 3RR violations. Both are pretty obvious which makes abuse pretty easy to spot. And vandalism and revert wars are probably the biggest source of work for admins currently.

The RFC's and the arbitrations and mediations and arbcom stuff is much more rare, comparitively speaking anyway.

#202 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:10 AM:

Michael @ 197: 'twas recently particled under the title "Another way to game Wikipedia," which I guess sums up TNH's opinion on the matter.

Maybe the real problem isn't that Wikipedia can be gamed--there's no way to avoid that, better fools and all that. The problem is that they make gaming it really rewarding.

#203 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:22 AM:

Heresiarch @ 202: The problem is that gaming Wiki World News is rewarding and easy. Limiting people who can game something to those who are very clever keeps abuse way down (and the threshold doesn't have to be high; consider the scary devil monastery).

#204 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:23 AM:

Greg @ 200: I like it. One problem I see--it'd be pretty easy for jurists and editors to work in teams much like they do now. You don't like my edits? Let's go talk with my good friend here, the jurist. There's an easy way around that, though: assign cases randomly. Make a docket for dispute resolution requests. The jurists have to take the one that's on the top when they log in. No cherry picking and only ruling on your friend's cases. It'd also get jurists out of their comfort zone: they'd be ruling on cases where the actual content is clearly beyond their knowledge, forcing them to rule according to policy, not opinion.

#205 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:26 AM:

Hm, the more I think of this, the more I like it. Yeah, I know it was my idea, but still, I think this would actually work really well.

Two different types of admins: Janitors and Jurists

Janitors can block users for vandalism and 3RR violations. strict interpretation of 3RR, not loosey goosey, it was more than 24 hours, but I don't like you, so I'll say it was 3RR and block you.

Janitors can edit articles like normal editors.

Handing out janitorial privileges should be easy since vandalism and 3RR violations are pretty easy to spot and not open to a lot of leeway, which means if a Janitor calls something vandalism that really wasn't strict vandalism (This is GAY! You suck! Blah!), then its easy to spot the abuse of privilege and revoke it.


Jurists make the judgement calls on stuff like POV pushing, personal attack violations, wikistalking, etc. These are rather open to interpretation and therefore give the jurist a lot of leeway in abusing their privilege and hiding it under a creative interpretation of "violated NPOV" or something.

Because of this difficult subjectivity, abuse is harder to spot. To encourage neutral jurists, and discourage jurists creating alliances of fellow jurists, a jurist will not be allowed to edit any articles. They can only perform jurist duties. weighing in on RFA's, handing out blocks for NPOV violations, handing out blocks for NPA violaions, etc.

That Jurists will not be allowed to edit articles will discourage some editors from becoming jurists. This should not be too big of a logistical problem since fewer jurists are needed than admins because admins had to deal with janitorial duties and jurists duties.

That jurists will be a smaller number makes it easier to spot jurists misusing their priveleges.

Also, since a jurist cannot edit articles, it may also encourage jurists to eventually give up their admin privileges. Currently there is no incentive for an admin to give up their privileges. Once they can block editors, they can build alliances to misuse that privilege, and then their influence on an article becomes much greater. Admins do not willingly give up power very often.

Jurists, because of their restrictions against editing articles, are more likely to serve shorter terms and then step down so they can go back to editing.

Bcomeing an admin on wikipedia is a lifetime appointment. Becoming a jurist might be a selection process for a limited term.

#206 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:34 AM:

Heresiarch: it'd be pretty easy for jurists and editors to work in teams much like they do now. You don't like my edits? Let's go talk with my good friend here, the jurist.

One difference is that two admins can quid pro quo without a lot of work. Oh, you need a block, sure, a minute's worth of work. later on, I might need a block. a few bits of minor work for you. We can block for each other while we do large amounts of work editing our own articles.

If I'm a jurist and you're an editor, then I can't edit anything. I can block for you, but you can't repay me unless you happen to be working on an article that's important to me, and editing it the way I want. Otherwise you have to go edit some other article that you're not really interested in as payment for me.

That system doesn't naturally fall into a quid pro quo sort of feedback system.

#207 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:49 AM:

Oh, one other thing that sort of dovetails into the jurist/janitor system:

jurists must declare any personal biases on any case they are dealing with.

Wikipedia, at least when I was editing it, had this assinine concept that editors were neutral by default. As if people naturally drawn to edit an article on some political topic would only do it for altruistic reasons.

It's a complete load of bollocks.

Everyone should have to declare their personal biases regarding an article. Then when editors are trying to hash out what goes in the introduction for the Sneetches article, its a simple matter: those editors who favor the Star-bellied sneetches get to write that part of the introduction favorable to starbellied sneetches, and those editors who favor Sneetches with no stars on thars would get to write the part of the intro favorable to starless sneetches.

As an article becomes more polarized, a pro-star editor editing a section that reports a no-star point of view would be a red flag for possible POV violation.

One of the biggest problesm on wikipedia is POV pushing. And allowing the editors who support one point of view to come in and write teh entire introduction or the entire article, and downplaying the POV's they don't like, is just asking for trouble.

Hopefully most articles don't need to enforce that sort of editing, but the ones that get combative need some way of isolating the different editors to different corners of the article.

So, to edit an article that's declared polarized, you would have to declare which POV you personally support, and you'd only be allowed to edit that POV.

It isn't perfect, but it would definitely limit article thrashing as editors try to weaken the other point of view or remove it completely from an article.

Jurists would then have to likewise declare their personal side of an article, and vote their opinion.

which means you might have to get more than one jurist to reach a conclusion. If all the jurists vote along party lines, then that's a red flag for bias.

Again, it isnt' perfect. the point isnt' to be perfect, but to remove the things that cause feedback loops that reward bad behaviour. Feedback loops cause small problems to spiral out of control. If you disconnect the loop, then it stays small enough to manage.

yes, polarized articles would still need jurists to step in once in a while, I'm sure, but article thrashing should go down, and the combat that occurs when everyone is stepping on everyoen else's writing should go down when people are segregated into their separate corners.

#208 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:57 AM:

[Looks at the Richard III article....]

It looks like a schoolboy's history essay, doesn't it.

(I'd class myself as a Weak Ricardian.)

#209 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:10 AM:

Greg: I like it, and I think Heresiarch's suggestion of a docket list is an excellent one. I don't know how hard it might be to implement, and I'm sure there are ways to game it, but it has that whole separation of powers thing going for it.

(This seems to be a model that is popular for trivial things, like nations.)

#210 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:19 AM:

Greg: Citizendium also has rules on real names and division of labor similar to what you advocate above. You may be interested in checking them out (citizendium.org).

It remains to be seen whether that project will scale up well. (The fact that editors are required to endorse, not simply agree to abide by, a statement that in some important ways -- like their essay on neutrality -- is rather a mess is not encouraging to me, and I have not signed up to edit to date for that reason. I'm not sure how the politics of that particular project will develop in practice. But my uneasiness may be unwarranted, so I'd be interested in hearing from folks who've gotten more involved in the project.)

#211 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:37 AM:

So, what's the chance that ML will be punitively categorized as an "attack site" again by one of the people subject to justifiable correction herein? It would be a shame if that were the cost of being right.

#212 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 07:05 AM:

I only wish more of the good people who spend time eloquently bemoaning the tragedy of the commons would spend a few minutes each week helping to improve them.

I do. Does one assume that since I have complaints I do not put in time removing commercial spam or reverting vandalism or working to actually improve articles?

#213 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 07:19 AM:

#211 So, what's the chance that ML will be punitively categorized as an "attack site" again by one of the people subject to justifiable correction herein? It would be a shame if that were the cost of being right.

My impression is that the large majority of Wikipedia admins are loosing patience with heavy-handed gestures taken to serve the interests of a very small number of admins.

#214 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:19 AM:

Abi @167: thank you; and indeed I would never object to verse. @199: I hope you took a great deal of pleasure in it, as it would be a pity for a master's work to sadden more than cheer.

Teresa@182, I don't know whether you think I'm so great an opponent to require, or so despicable a person to deserve, such a lengthy dissection. In either case you're much mistaken.

I have always had the highest regard for you, Patrick, every regular here, and Making Light as a whole. It is not lightly that I allow that regard to be shaken, and it is certainly not lightly that I step up to challenge your behaviour. I do so because I have honestly been hurt by the atmosphere here in these threads and -- knowing you to be generally respectful of others' feelings and tolerant of others' points of view -- have sincerely believed you would want to be aware of that.

I am not well-versed in rhetoric nor in debating tactics. Wrong or right, I could never in my life hope to defeat you point by point. Despite what you think, I've never been fool enough to take anyone here for an unarmed indigene, and certainly never fool enough to wave a gun I can't handle in the midst of a force which so clearly outnumbers me. I merely spoke up in the hopes of convincing you to see (however briefly) the nature of these threads in a different light; no more, no less. That I have so far almost entirely failed in my objective does not negate my intentions.

You ask of a certain disemvowelled text, Is that really your idea of "polite and civil"? and insist on an answer.

The first few words I've only just decoded, but they're not very contentful. If I had to classify them as anything other than neutral it would be on the courteous side of bitter.

Then there's a noun phrase which is not nearly as polite or civil as "Wankerpedia" and the like, which is why I qualified my sentence with "on the whole".

Following that is a specific claim about one instance of Patrick's past behaviour which, although loose in its attribution of the motivation for said behaviour, is not untruthful in its description of it: Patrick did call one person in particular a psychopath, though he didn't explain anywhere I find readily why exactly he made this diagnosis. (In the same conversation he also called someone partially defending that person a cowardly troll. To the best of my knowledge he was wrong in both instances, but particularly so in the second; in the first, though I disagree with him, I can at least understand why he came to the conclusion.) Unless it is inherently uncivil to call someone on their past behaviour, I don't consider this particular claim uncivil.

That's as honest an answer as I can give, so I hope it's satisfactory. Your other questions do appear rhetorical, so I'll leave them alone.

#215 ::: mds ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:56 AM:

Abi #167: I believe the issue has now been, ahem, fully dissected (#182).

Indeed. It's always a pleasure to see a master at work.

[Shuffles back onsite in time to catch Ms. Z's latest passive-aggressive schtick]

[Removes lovingly-tended meerschaum from mouth]

Ma'am, if you're going to to try that sort of thing around here, you really need...

[Breaks off with disturbing sense of déjà vu]

Hmm, self-righteous indignation coupled with further venom for one of our hosts. Perhaps I need to finish thrashing out that limerick after all... But if I may beg your forbearance, a higher priority is editing Mr. Nielsen Hayden's Wikipedia entry. I'm tackling the controversy over whether he's history's greatest monster, or merely the reason for everything that's wrong with Wikipedia.

(I have joked about this with my peers, but the threads at ML have made me seriously consider that these "My Wiki, Right or Wrong" people actually fit the definition of a cult. Something about the way they mobilize to attack criticism of their practices, with a brittle veneer of faux civility.)

#216 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:58 AM:

Sisuile @ 163

Oy, I can imagine if some Wikiwanker got hold of the Holldander Poetic Edda, which changes the sex of Sun and Moon. Or Guerber's Myths of the Norsemen, which uses (e.g.) Tennyson as a source and has bits that no one has ever found any source for. But it's in print! It is citeable! It must be true!

gah.

#217 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:01 AM:

You know, back to the initial craziness of SWATJester's complaints ... I was thinking last night that there is a fairly common analog outside the sff community -- The Academy Award for Best Picture goes to the producer(s), doesn't it? Of course, the fact that all creative products are the work of real people does seem to have passed him by ...

#218 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:11 AM:

Dave Bell: I'm not quite sure what to say about an article on Richard III, said to be suitable for an encyclopedia, that quotes the Patron of the Richard III Society and various other Riccardians at some length, but dismisses Thomas More in one word ('questionable') without quoting him at all. 'Neutral' and 'unbiased' are not terms that leap immediately to mind.

But it's the curious lacunae that seized my attention. For instance, Rivers is stated to have been "arrested and taken to Pontefract Castle", but no more, leaving the reader to suppose that he thereafter led a life of cloistered retirement. Hastings, Grey, Vaughan and Haute are not mentioned at all, nor Stillington by name. I can't think why not. The paragraph or so on Richard's earlier doings doesn't mention Barnet or Tewkesbury, nor the death of Henry VI. One would take from it the impression that Richard was a sort of industrious and successful civil servant.

Whether one is a Riccardian or not, the missing facts are more vital than a fulsome repeat of that foolish story about him striking his head against the stone on the bridge. I mean, he was already dead by then.

#219 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:14 AM:

mds @ 215: (I have joked about this with my peers, but the threads at ML have made me seriously consider that these "My Wiki, Right or Wrong" people actually fit the definition of a cult. Something about the way they mobilize to attack criticism of their practices, with a brittle veneer of faux civility.)

It's downright creepy, isn't it? It's the coordination of the attacks that is especially disturbing. They strategize them. They actually spend time getting together and planning how they're going to do this. Ick.

#220 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:21 AM:

Here is a specific on a subject I know something about. Compare the articles on Abel Wolman on Wikipedia HERE and on Bookrags HERE.

#221 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:33 AM:

Zeborah@214: Patrick did call one person in particular a psychopath,

Quatloo? The editor who reverted information about the death of Fred Saberhagen for lack of "reliable sources"? Who reverted people who had personally known Fred Saberhagen and threatened them with a block for 3RR? Quatloo, the one who basically imposed the notion that some fact that no one contested is contestable because it doesn't have an external source?

Quatloo basically said "I'm sorry for your alleged loss, but until your friend is important enough that his death can be reported in a significant independent source, he's in wikipedia limbo, and if you keep insisting on his death, I'll see you blocked for 3RR violations"

Hm, what exactly was your complaint against Making Light folks? "you make this a hostile environment for anyone who happens to disagree with you in the slightest."

That you're "hostile environment" alarm was triggered because Patrick called a psychopath a psychopath and a troll a troll, and yet that very same "hostile environment" alarm failed to launch when Quatloo threatened people with 3RR blocks for reporting an undisputed fact, when Patrick's troll misrepresented Teresa's words into nonsense, and when Gerard came in here and made his "whining" comment, just boggles my mind.

You might consider that perhaps, the sensitivity of your "hostile environment" alarm contains a bit of internal bias to it. A tad oversensitive when wikipedia is being criticized, and not just a little tone deaf and color blind when wikipedian admins act like complete asses.

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:52 AM:

abi @ 167... Can we untangle our limbs from the pile-on and move the conversation on?

I second the motion.

#223 ::: Koneko ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:54 AM:

#221 - " You might consider that perhaps, the sensitivity of your "hostile environment" alarm contains a bit of internal bias to it. A tad oversensitive when wikipedia is being criticized, and not just a little tone deaf and color blind when wikipedian admins act like complete asses. "

I lurk here... er, almost constantly. In threads like these, you do all seem very hostile. Perhaps this is because everyone seems to be of a like mind, and it can get very intense, which can be seen as aggressive? You've certainly been making me a little scared.

#224 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Another longtime lurker. I'm not a Wikipedia partisan. My experiences with Wikipedia have not predisposed me to defend the site, and SWATJester's behavior makes me physically stressed with anger.

That said, the treatment of Zeborah in this thread is ridiculously rude. I know you all know each other, and see a lot of trolls show up. That does not excuse treating a stranger with such hostility.

I thought of just sending mail to her, but I know how much you dislike the phrase "the lurkers support me in email" so I'm doing it in public.

#225 ::: George Smiley ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:03 AM:

@214: I am not well-versed in rhetoric nor in debating tactics.

Points awarded for self-awareness and candor. Points withheld for charging ahead in an an unaltered manner anyway. An additional point removed for clumsy use of "nor."

#226 ::: John Hawkes-Reed ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:13 AM:

Aconite @ 219:

Young Mr. Gerard pitched up here because I mentioned this thread on my LJ out of a sense of good fellowship.

#227 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:14 AM:

Koneko #223: When you say 'in threads like these', do you mean Wikipedia threads, or threads in which there are many replies to someone who does not voice the majority opinon?

If the second, this is to some degree inherent in the asynchronous nature of a comment thread; people responding don't see the other posts in the queue saying much the same thing.

Back to the issue: Given the way that the same issues seem to arise over and over again with dysfunctional WP admins, I would argue that this suggests major flaws in the way that WP functions; merely pointing out that WP admins are only human is not enough. Has WP done any work on thinking about alternate procedures to ameliorate the situation? Like I said above, I think Greg's idea is a good one, but I'm sure there must be other possible solutions.

#228 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:17 AM:

Zeborah, those who agree with the majority here generally get along very well. Those who disagree, but do it politely (my trolldar is not calibrated to the majority's standard here; I do not see the same early warning signs as many do), get along pretty well. Those who do not voice an opinion on major things but stick to the open threads and lighter conversation seem to get along best-- they can read the more argumentative threads, pick up the context for the fun bits, and go on.
And that is okay. This is a big party, but it is in someone's private space. Just because everyone's invited doesn't mean you can complain about the decor without some repercussions. Yes, the conversations will be biased toward what Teresa, Patrick, Jim, and Avram say. They are the ones in charge.

So yeah, while I agree that we pile on people who disagree with the majority-us, I also figure that it's not completely wrong. It's not my site, not my comment threads, I'm not the one doing any of the work. And since I don't perceive the same trolls as others do, I often can't defend them unless I know them or can see the misunderstanding.

#229 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:20 AM:

#214:Zeborah, maybe it's because I've read the "Flamer Bingo" thread. Maybe I'm now reading everything in that context. However, it's hard for me to read your comment without thinking, "Hey, she's committing the bit of verbal jujitsu where she makes hay of her supposedly artless rhetoric and supposed unimportance."

Of course, there's nothing wrong with verbal jujitsu in and of itself. And we can always agree to differ on its proper use. I would say that the tone of your comment does not read completely genuine to me.

e.g. Then there's a noun phrase which is not nearly as polite or civil as "Wankerpedia" and the like, Surely, you did not expect me to take this at complete face value? While I'm happy you agree that David's words were despicable, not polite or civil at all, I'm struck by your curious presentation. (If I was supposed to get from your initial post that you meant that David's words were polite and civil but for a significant exception, I'm afraid I missed it.)

It's certainly quite admirable of you to defend someone whom you think has been wronged, if that's in fact what you're doing. You seem to have shifted from a defense of David to an attack on Patrick. (Incidentally, this sort of subject shift is also a common troll tactic.) I think that's unfortunate since the only reasonable interpretation of your argument is that calling someone a troll or a psychopath is wrong even when that person is, in fact, a troll or psychopath. i.e., context does not matter.

Of course, I feel context does matter. Note that I have not yet called you a troll (and don't think you are a troll) despite the fact that you have engaged in some trollish tactics, which I have pointed out in this comment for your enlightenment.

I hope you will reconsider this attack and focus on what is important. Some people said some things, not directed at you, which have hurt you anyways. The important thing here is not Patrick's justifiable actions, but whether you are able to deal with words which have unintentionally hurt you with the grace and dignity that you undoubtedly show in your other dealings.

I read this comment thread as a discussion as dissecting which parts of the Wikipedia social experiment are not working and how they might be fixed. But I can see how someone with more at stake in Wikipedia than I do might read it differently. For that, I'm sorry.

#217: Exactly. That's why I find SWATJester's complain so bizarre.

#230 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:37 AM:

John@210: Citizendium also has rules on real names and division of labor similar to what you advocate above.

Aw, shoot, there goes my great idea for a patent.

;)

editors are required to endorse, not simply agree to abide by, a statement that ... is rather a mess

Hm, that is a bit odd. I looked at their statement here. It doesn't seem too bad, a bit vague. I'm not sure what exactly they are trying to get at by saying you must "support and endorse" this statement. I might be able to agree to it. But support? Odd.

It's also a bit odd that they put rules like divisions of power in that statement. I'm not sure how one can support that statement and also support changing it and/or improving it. Oh well.

They have a couple of different jobs penned out. authors, editors, and constables. It's not quite the same idea as mine, though, if I understand it correctly. I might have to read it again to absorb it.

I'd rather wikipedia fix it's ways than to fork the project though.


#231 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:37 AM:

This entire thread points out how powerful the forces of community norms can be. By norms, I mean acceptable forms of behavior, accrual of reputation and the processes by which members attain status.

I find it fascinating that we have a great deal of disdain for Wikipedia's current community norms, spending a lot of time deconstructing/criticizing them while in the very same thread we smack down people who act outside the norms of this community (DGerard, Zeborah), demonstrating our very high dedication to maintaining Making Light's norms.

My point is that once these norms gel, it is almost impossible to change them or gain acceptance by acting outside their bounds. I would submit that the likelihood of changing Wikipedia's community norms to reflect the majority of opinions voiced here is about the same as Patrick/Teresa deciding to annoint an Inner Circle based on number of posts in open threads.

Like it or not - Wikipedia, Making Light, Slashdot, Digg, You Tube, et al have imprinted their community norms into their firmware, leaving the disgruntled and dissatisfied the equally bad choices of non-participation or forking.

#232 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Lance, the only problem with that is that it ignores any underlying committment that caused the community to get together in the first place.

If wikipedia is about creating a great, free encyclopedia, and the current rules and regulations are making that impossible to happen, then wikipedia needs to decide whether it is more committed to its original goal of creating a great, free encyclopedia, or more committed to counting edits and having admins maintain their little empires they've built.

I've seen other Free communities adjust and shift and change its strategies as they found their actions weren't fullfilling their commitments.

People aren't usually willing to change their failings until they see the full cost of what they're doing. Maybe citizendium will become more popular and give wikipedia a wake up call. Maybe Jimmy Wales will decide that a good encyclopedia is better than lots of editors with lots of edit counts and little empires. Maybe if enough people point out the utter failings of wikipedia, and the public begins to learn how messed up its results are, and wikipedia becomes enough of a laughing stock, then maybe enough people who are committed to creating a free encyclopedia will be willing to rewrite the rules and throw the bums out.

#233 ::: Seth Finkelstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:12 AM:

What's more likely to happen is Wikipedia becomes an encyclopedia of Pokemon/comics/TV/movies/anime/etc., with the occasional odd other article.

It's trending that way now, and the situation is likely to get worse, because the pop-culture editors are by and large not very knowledgable on other topics (but too many think they are).

#234 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:17 AM:

I'd go with abi (#167) and Serge (seconding the motion in #222), except I don't think there is any way to "move the conversation on" -- not in this thread, anyway.

The devolution of Wikipedia seems to be a prime example of blatant human stupidity and folly -- nearly as blatant as politics in general -- but if all the discussion leads to is endless exchanges of ill will and frustration, what's the point of continuing?

Yes, there's the relief of venting, but that can get old pretty quickly. So I'll conclude this vent.

#235 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:30 AM:

Faren @ 234... what's the point of continuing?

None at all. Of course, people are free to keep at this if they so desire. Me, I'd rather go elsewhere and wonder what if Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea had been directed by Stanley Kubrick instead of Irwin Allen. (I imagine we wouldn't have had to suffer thru Frankie Avalon singing over the opening credits.)

#236 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:41 AM:

Aconite @219: It's downright creepy, isn't it? It's the coordination of the attacks that is especially disturbing. They strategize them. They actually spend time getting together and planning how they're going to do this. Ick.

Well, now, that seems a little unfair to me. That a community would coordinate/strategize their response to what they perceive as attacks, or their attacks on what they perceive as attack-worthy, is not in and of itself creepy and cultish, is it? Otherwise we'd have to call the anti-PublishAmerica brigade (over at AbsoluteWrite) a creepy cult, too. And, hell, I'm part of the anti-PublishAmerica brigade. I don't think I'm part of a cult.

Coordinating one's talking points is just something that a community does to make their actions more effective towards their cause. There's got to be something else that adds the creep-factor. What, for instance, makes the coordinated actions of the PublishAmerica boosters creepy, but not so the actions of the anti-PublishAmerica brigade?

And is there some quality that the PublishAmerica boosters' coordination shares with certain of the Wikipedia defense team's strategizing?

I think, if anything, the creepiness factor comes from defense of the Thing (or attack on the Thing's detractors) without any concern for whether the Thing is actually defensible. Or, rather, defense of the Thing (or attack on the Thing's detractors) that is more concerned with Thing-as-tribal identity than with Thing-as-inherent-good.

Both sorts of WP defense have shown up here. It's only the tribally oriented ones, I think, that have pinged people's troll radars. No one, for instance, called Hob a troll or otherwise chastised him for troll-like behavior.

#237 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:13 PM:

I know Zeborah from elsenet. She's the last person I'd consider a troll, or indeed any other sort of stirrer. As I said early on, I think she's wrong about Mr Gerard's posts; but I also think the current pile-on calling her a troll, and in particular a couple of impressive displays of passive-aggressive behaviour while accusing her of same, is drifting unpleasantly close to the sort of ganging up to squash dissent which we find so unedifying in the weirder end of Wikipedia.

Yes, I'm well aware that my reading of her posts would be different if I didn't already know her. That's something to bear in mind -- would you be reacting the same way if someone who posts here every day had said exactly the same things? This thread has, in my view, edged past legitimately viewing an infrequent poster as a potential troll, and into tribal identity.

(And I am about to duck out of the conversation. This because I am getting on a transAtlantic flight this afternoon, and will not be in a fit state to post anything more than an "arrived safely" on my LJ for a couple of days.)

#238 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:27 PM:

(Pinches bridge of nose.)

(Looks at clock: important conference call in five minutes.)

(Holy Saint Isidore of Seville, please keep an eye on my weblog until I can come back and deal with this. Amen.)

#239 ::: Koneko ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:36 PM:

#227 - Some of the first, some of the second, and thirdly a little because it's always intimdating going somewhere everyone agrees with each other on something and you don't quite agree with them.

Especially when not quite agreeing would put you up against people so well-worded and -phrased, and that you respect; as much as I love debates, I am a junior at that skill and an introvert to boot.

#240 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:43 PM:

I might be a bit of a thicky,
but I find all this fuss about wiki
is all about fact
and how we should act
when the articles are a bit dicky.

#241 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:45 PM:

I think there's an important difference between what goes reputedly goes on in Wikipedia and what happens in blogs. Some threads give the impression of piling on because several individuals are reacting to another individuals' posting at the same time. For example, when I read Zeborah's first message, there were no responses yet posted; by the time I posted mine and refreshed, there were several messages ahead of mine, all stressing the same points.

As far as tolerance of disagreement goes, check the Harry Potter thread. Now that was a pile up! And yet the person directly involved is still very much welcome here. It's not a matter of when to disagree but how.

#242 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 12:47 PM:

Somebody please catch my runaway apostrophe...

#243 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:00 PM:

Fragano@240:

Very nice. [applause]

#244 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:10 PM:

Emma @ 242... Somebody please catch my runaway apostrophe...

Tonight, the SciFi Channel presents Runaway Apostrophe, followed by Disasterisk, and Semi-colonial Fleet, a special episode of Battlestar Galactica...

#245 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:15 PM:

One important thing to consider about someone's social comfort level in this thread or any other on Making Light is that this place runs by rules with roots in fanzine letter columns, panels at sf conventions, and informal conversation at cons.

Nothing that I've seen here that was said to Gerard or to Zeborah is out of line within those traditions of discourse.

Wikipedia has different ones, which makes it very hard (or for me at least) to communicate in plain English with Wikipedia admins on their own tuff. I have yet to be banned for anything, but I'm pretty sure I would have been threatened with banning had I been candid with Dan Rosenthal (SJ), had I for example responded to his suggestion that we all depart for Citizendium by suggesting that he go edit the entry on Superstring Theory where his views on knowledge could truly shine.

Talking to admins in Wikipedia is like talking to traffic cops or customs agents. No jokes, no backtalk, or you may find yourself in cuffs in the virtual squad car. There has been some attempts to export restrictions about speech concerning Wikipedia admins to the rest of the web, but these attemts have not gone well.

I don't really understand Zeborah's role in this conersation, in that she seems to be standing in the way of bad feelings not aimed at her, and the post wasn't about David Gerard in the first place. I'm sorry if her feelings are hurt, and I certainy don' object to someone defending DG, but DG's character is not really a central issue of this conversation.

#246 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Faren asks, "what's the point of continuing?" regarding critique of Wikipedia.

I used to regard discussions of Wikipedia as one of the ultimate time-wasters, and thought that there truly was not point in discussing WP because there was truly nothing we could do, that its social disasters were uninterruptible, its cliques best ignored, etc. And further, it is only a web site.

I no longer feel that way. I have observed significant change for the better in the past few months over there. The power of one of the more pernicious cliques has been substantially eroded, and Wikipedians who are tired of the loonier side of Wikipedia politics are becoming more vocal about it.

The situation as it was a while back was that those who were in Wikipedia for the power-kick had managed to brand their critics as fanatics, and to some extent their critics had played the part.

Reasonable people with public repuations critiquing the situation there is what is most likely to cause it to improve. It emboldens the reasonable people who edit WIkipedia to stand up to nonsense.

That's the point of continuing.

#247 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Norman #243: Thanks!

#248 ::: Seth Finkelstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:37 PM:

"Respectable" people critiquing Wikipedia for its flaws do a service, in that they help damp down the marketing hype which it generates. The more Wikipedia gets regarded as a somewhat exploitative cult - disturbingly similar to vanity press, in fact - rather than a harbinger of the Networked Wealth of a New Era, the fewer people will get hurt by that exploitation.

#249 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:41 PM:

#244--Serge, I have an interrobang and I know how to use it. Be warned, sirrah!

#250 ::: patgreene ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:51 PM:

It's interesting that several people have talked of the "hive-mind" here, as though we all said the same thing. Although there has been a lot of criticism, there have also been people saying they use Wikipedia, and pointing out that the reason these discussions go one is because we *do* care about Wikipedia, as well as several suggestions (Greg's being the best, I think) for how to fix the site so it works. Before Mr. Gerard showed up, there were people complimenting him!

Zeborah, I think it may be a matter of knowing your limits. I love ML, but I avoid all the comment threads on posts about religion. While I might have something interesting to say, it's not good for my blood pressure.

#251 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 01:53 PM:

For those with strong stomachs and wondering how Wikipedians talk among themselves I suggest reading the thread The Second Rape: Victim-Blaming (was Re: Self-sensorship, how far should it go?) (sic). The victim in question is an admin whose identity was Slashdotted. (Her identity had been easily accessible via Google for quite a while before that).

For those of extreme intestinal fortitude, read this one.

#252 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:00 PM:

Greg London's #232 touches on something important that I want to expand on a bit. Katheryn Cramer's already been here, but...the conventions that tend to prevail here have been tested for a long time (decades, in fact) and found to help support a creative community in producing works of commercial and amateur value and in allowing a rather motley crew of folks to enjoy time together creating, appraising, discussing, and using those works, and having other fun together.

They're not perfect. In fact sometimes they suck a lot, as witness discussions in the Making Light archives over institutionalized sexism and other prejudice, the problems in defining good standards of eligibility, responses of the fannish community to crimes and abuses by fellow fans, and a bunch more. The Making Light style is recognizable as a descendant of the fannish communities running back to the 1920s or so, but is also recognizable as not just like them in all kinds of signficant ways. They evolve, and sometimes there are genuine revolutions in what's accepted and how what isn't gets responded to.

Despite all, they work very well. Look over the Making Light archives. There is an astounding wealth of information, of actual research and scholarship being done, and of various kinds of fun being had.

In recent years I've come to the tentative conclusion that one sign of an actually healthy community is the ability of its members to recognize others as healthy even when those folks don't want to do things at all like the other community does - to distinguish "my taste" from "what must be". Likewise, it's just a simple sign of charity to tell people that you've seen where the road they're on goes, particularly if it leads to trouble.

That's how I read the Wikipedia criticisms here. As nearly as I know, every single Making Light regular would like Wikipedia to fulfill its potential. Virtually all of us have used it, and we'd like to keep doing so. We'd also like it to work well for people whose interests may have nothing in common with ours. And we're seeing structural/behavioral problems that we have dealt with before. Wikipedia isn't inventing brand new human behavior breakdowns; it's going sour in ways that countless conventions, fan clubs, BBSes and other organizations have before. We point this out not to glory in its collapse but to maybe help folks doing good stuff skip trouble that they can avoid, if they're willing to do the work now.

Now, the Wikipedia community may decide that the price is worth paying. Fannish groups like Making Light have decided similarly in some matters. But this attitude that folks who have a continuous organizational and social experience crossing most of a century simply have nothing to offer and must just be jealous poopyheads...that's big trouble right there. That's the seed of implosion. It makes me sad to see it. I wish it could be plucked up and tossed out, but I'm not in a position to do the plucking.

#253 ::: Ed Gaillard ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Since it seems to be a day for the lurkers to come out and play, so I'll join in.

Marc at #224 -- I disagree. I don't think Zeborah's treatment has been genrally rude. She offered a reading of the thread that did not seem to be supported by the text, and people pointed this out. Unfortunately, in an online community of this size, when someone posts something that appears off-base, many people will respond. Mostly they will be making the same points, often without having yet seen the other responses. The cumulative effect is quite overwhelming, even if each individual response by itself is reasonable.

(For this reason, when I see a post that seems obviously wrong, I tend to leave it alone for a while and let someone else respond. If it just hangs there unrefuted, I can always post later.)

Lance at #231 -- Wikipedia is meant to be a public information resource, and its community norms are getting in the way of that purpose. Making Light is basically Patrick and Teresa's permanent floating room party, and _it's_ community norms are generally helpful for that purpose.

#254 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:05 PM:

Fidelio @ 249... I have an interrobang and I know how to use it. Be warned, sirrah!

Does the interrobang gun simply stun its targets, or does it render them commatose?

#255 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:05 PM:

On a bit of a tangent: Kathryn, what exactly is the BADSITES phenomenon? Following your links, I see that it's explicit WP terminology; where is it described in greater detail?

(From context, I am presuming it to be shorthand for "list of websites WP Admins have designated as WP haters that should be considered a threat to the tribe." But that's not a flattering description, as it's heavily colored by biases common here. So I'm trying to learn more.)

#256 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little @ 236: That's a good distinction. I was trying to figure out just what it was that felt so creepy about those types of responses, and using PublishAmerica (on both sides of the issue) as a test case helped clarify it. Part of it is, as you pointed out, the defense of the Thing as the Thing, regardless of whether or not the Thing is defensible. Another part, I think, would be a sense of proportion: what lengths the participants go to defend the Thing. That would be the difference between showing up on a board on which someone has criticized the Thing to say "That's not my take on the matter; here are my experience and my thoughts" and classifying a site with negative statements as an attack site and the participants as evil people worthy of harrassment or harm, for example. Even when the Thing is worthy of defense, the response can be disproportionate. And that's where it starts feeling cult-like for me: when the defense is coordinated and disproportionate, founded on the belief that the Thing is more important than people involved, and anyone who speaks against the Thing is evil.

#257 ::: patgreene ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:11 PM:

I wrote this once, and the computer battery died.

I really hate that I can't judge my tone until after I hit post -- even previewing doesn't seem to help. Sigh.

My comment to Zeborah came across as condescending, now that I read it. I am sorry. I honestly intended to only relate my experience to hers. I do realize that people may end up in comment threads which upset them, even knowing beforehand they will be upset, for a whole host of reasons -- correcting misinformation, e.g.

*wanders off to the open thread, where the likelihood of putting one's foot in one's mouth is somewhat reduced*

#258 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:17 PM:

The tool "Charles Dodgson" cites in comment #131 has been used to learn other interesting things, this one about the Al Franken entry:

Finding out that someone from the Fox News network changed this:

The lawsuit focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken's book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the [[National Public Radio]] program ''[[Fresh Air]]'' on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox's case against him was "literally laughed out of court" and that "wholly (holy) without merit" is a good characterization of Fox News itself.

into

The lawsuit focused a great deal of media attention upon Franken's book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the liberal [[National Public Radio]] program ''[[Fresh Air]]'' on [[September 3]], [[2003]], Franken said that Fox's case against him was the best thing to happen to his book sales.

I suppose the policy of open edit privileges means this kind of nonsense is unavoidable, but it does seem to run counter to the goal of creating a neutral "encyclopedia."

#259 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:23 PM:

Has someone here done some editing on citizendium? After poking around citizendium for a bit, I can't seem to figure out where all the articles are. For example, if you go to an article like Black Hole, you'll see a whole bunch of red links, which are links to nonexistent articles.

Do those articles not exist in any form? Does the article exist in some unreleased form that only editors and authors can see?

If the former, then did citizendium start from scratch rather than copy over all the wikipedia articles? That seems like a bad thing to not leverage wikipedia as a starting point.

If the latter, erm, that might actually be worse. Most people start contributing to wikipedia because they were reading an article, saw something that wasn't right, and made a little tweak. If the articles are behind a firewall, then people aren't going to read them. People don't register to read and edit wikipedia. People read wikipedia and then end up editing it, and then end up creating an account.

Either way, the barrier to entry for working on non-existent articles seems to be much higher than it needs to be.

And their editor/author distinction is still a little unclear to me.

#260 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:29 PM:

Nicole@255,

the policy page is here.

#261 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:32 PM:

I should note that the BADSITES policy was rejected.

On the other hand, the note says chunks of the proposal were rolled into No Personal Attacks.

#262 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:34 PM:

215 mds: "...a brittle veneer of faux civility..."

Very nice. If you dashed off that phrase without a fair bit of effort, I'll be overcome with envy.

182 tnh: I love this site. I seldom have much to add, but I visit every day, to read and laugh and learn. It's always good, but that was special.

#263 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:35 PM:

Thanks, Greg. That clears things up for me.

#264 ::: Evan Goer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:52 PM:

I have nothing further to add here, other than to compliment Heresiarch @ 195 for using the word "Tarrasque". :)

#265 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 02:52 PM:

As I said on the last thread, this is all part of the natural development of the infosphere. If somebody does manage to produce a viable replacement for Wikipedia, it will in due course grow and displace Wikipedia. (Admittedly, that's a tautology, because "viable" has to include issues like sponsorship/funding and growability.)

The scheme that Greg London is working up here (with it's contributions) seems perfectly reasonable. It needs some more elaborations, like a conflict-escalation ladder and a High Council structure (to constrain the founders and backers themselves), but it certainly could work. Of course, it also needs resources and a secure source for ongoing support! Anyone want to be an angel?

#266 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:03 PM:

#255, regarding the BADSITES phenomenon - I am not Kathryn, nor was meant to be, but the details are here. It's a failed policy, ie. one that explicitly doesn't have the support of the community and shouldn't ever be cited. It references 'no personal attacks', but that's specifically restricted to onsite ones. I still find it hopelessly optimistic, but that's a practical rule as much as anything else - akin to mud-wrestling pigs.

Similarly, I'm not David Gerard (and definitely was not meant to be) but I'd commend this post on his Wikimedia blog to your attention. (Shorter: collaboration difficulties and the expertise problem.) Disclaimer: whilst he's a personal friend, this comment should not be taken as any endorsement or indeed condemnation of his comments here. My first comment to this post very much stands.

#267 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:08 PM:

So, according to wikipedia No personal attacks policy, launching personal attacks on a non-wikipedia site or linking to a site that launches personal attacks, is policy violation. i.e. you can be banned or blocked. Also note that the definition of personal attack is open to "creative" interpretations.

#268 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Greg London @ 206: "One difference is that two admins can quid pro quo without a lot of work."

True. I think that your solution will cut down on the strictly quid pro quo alliances enormously. However, like you bring up in #207, there's still the ideological POV-ers that need dealing with, and they, I think, would still find it tempting to become a jurist just to babysit their pet article, relying on others of a similar ideological bent (or a sockpuppet of their own) to do the editing side of it. Trusting people to report their own biases seems idealistic at best. Putting a docket in place would eliminate the temptation entirely.

#269 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Zeborah @214
I am a little divided at my feelings on Teresa's comment. I admire her crisp delivery and style in analysing a piece of text, even as I am aware that you, the writer, are pained by it. I'm therefore a little ashamed at my admiration.

But, though I suggested that the pile-on stop, I can't say that I disagree with the gist of Teresa's comment: you were defending rudeness by pretending it wasn't any such thing.

It's not a strong position to argue from.

Lance Weber 231:
I like this comment.

#270 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:16 PM:

#254--Serge, if you define "commatose" as "A state of confused overexcitement" then I'd say that it does do just that.

To bring this back to the main point of the current discussion, I'm someone who uses Wikipedia at times, but hasn't made much of an effort to edit any of the articles. A good part of the reason for this is that I have, in looking over edit histories, seen too much rules-lawyering and POV-pushing to feel that this would be the best use of my time*. I'm a civil servant who spends a lot of time dealing with rules lawyers, and a lot of time finding tactful ways to tell my co-workers that they've done something wrong and need to not only fix what they've done, but learn from their mistakes and start doing things differently, often with little good result. I can't see adding more of that as a hobby, or part-time unpaid work, or whatever editing Wikipedia is considered to be.

I would add that the suggestions Greg London and others have made for separating administrators from editors is simply good policy; it comes down to a matter of Quis custodet ipsos custodes?--you really do need to handle these as two distinct jobs--they call for different skillsets, and years of work in the bowels of the bureaucracy have taught me that while the quality checkers and the managers have to work together, it's not often anyone can manage to do both jobs at the same time and do them well, and do them even-handedly. Humans are highly likely to try and game any system they use, and a good system limits our chances to do this, as it's a hard temptation to resist.

*Time's winged chariot is hurrying near, and all that. I'm middle-aged enough to know there's a limit to my hours, and to want to use them well. Perhaps not enough Wikipedians have reached this point in their lives.

#271 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:19 PM:

Evan Goer @ 264: Thank you.

#272 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:19 PM:

#267: Good point, I was entirely wrong.

Whilst I positively hate the 'suck it up' school of thought, this particular incarnation of the reverse seems almost worse, and rather depressingly binary.

#273 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Oldsma @ 216

There is a reason the Holldander in the university library gets "vandalized" every so often with a tag on the front cover- "Do not use for scholarly research. Do not cite. You will be laughed at." We aren't particularly certain who does it, but the librarians seem to object.

The prof who does the Norse Myth class has a list of "Books to Avoid" for each of his classes and commentary about why one should avoid them. Since he's generally quite witty, this list has been the source for much amusement.

Now that is a Making Light thread I'd love to see: Scholarly works to avoid citing at all costs. It would be fun and useful, with all the experts/proffesional amateurs running around here.

#274 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:28 PM:

Zeborah, I have to say if some stranger accused my spouse of "tlkng lk bckt f ccks" on my blog, I wouldn't have just disemvowelled the one sentence but the whole post, maybe even have banned his IP. David Gerard has got off lightly, considering.

About that, I think one of the principles of this permanent free-floating party called Making Light is that the guests here are entitled to freedom from abuse, but not freedom from having to defend their opinions. Disputation is not to be avoided, but rather welcomed as a tool for testing our ideas and improving them. Or breaking them, if they are defective.

#275 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:33 PM:

Greg at 267, the Wikipedia "no personal attacks" policy that you linked to made me mildly queasy, but at the same time, I can understand it and respect it. If one view teh interwebs as one big not-so-happy community, then personal attacks on a popular and much visited blog are going to be hard to ignore, especially if you are the person attacked. Attacks on or criticism of Wikipedia in general (its rules, policies, etc.) are both easier to disregard and easier to defend against.

I recognize that the "no personal attacks" policy might be misused by Wikipedia admins, but softening this policy doesn't strike me as the way to deal with such misuse -- not that you were suggesting that, BTW. You were not, I think.

#276 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Re: 273

(sigh) Reminds me of an article published in a scholarly journal some years ago, where the author cited a Bible translation not available to the creator of the work she was studying. Since a great deal of the article (not to mention its value to me) was based on that translation, it was very annoying to discover this.

And this was in a reviewed journal, and the author was a professor in California! Taught me the importance of verifying secondary sources - preferably early on in the writing process.

Which is why I don't use Wikipedia for much beyond, "Where is Andorra, anyway?" and "So whatever did happen to Jean Grey?" It would be nice if it were more reliable, but if you have to be careful with peer-reviewed papers, I don't know what you could do about something organized like that is.

Oh, and Greg, I'd think about having two classes of editor in your scheme - one for content, and one for style.

#277 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 03:58 PM:

I started to wonder what was motivating my intensity on this topic. Bruce's excellent comments on the collective leadership and experience (#252) could be applied to any failing community, so why do I care more about the decline of Wikipedia versus, say, Slashdot? I realized there was a deeper more passionate reason in this particular case and I suspect it applies to many of us here.

I'm an optimist at heart, a dreamer and free-thinker who values knowledge and learning above almost anything else. Like all great strengths, it is also a great weakness. I was seduced by visions of Wikipedia as Encyclopedia Galactica in all its Golden Age of Science Fiction glory. Now that those visions have been shattered by harsh human reality, my disillusionment is that much more profound, hence my disdain and harsh judgement of the wikipedians. This judgement, no matter how well deserved, is as much my own fault as it is theirs and I'll own that.

I wouldn't have come to this introspection without the dialog here, it's one of the reasons I lurk so regularly (yes, I need to commit to decloaking more often).

Thanks for, well, making light.

#278 ::: Marc Moskowitz ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Ed@253:
You have a good point, and I did overreact a little. The general response looked like an escalating response to a de-escalating one, and gave the impression of a pile-on. I probably escalated some in my reply, for which I apologize. The point many have made about the amplifying effect of response lag is well taken, as well.

#279 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:01 PM:

I was struck by the Badsites proposal's repeated mention of "Wikipedians," that being the class of persons the proposal was intended to protect. Its concept of a Wikipedian is at odds with Wikipedia's prime directive. If anyone can edit Wikipedia, doesn't that make everyone who interacts with Wikipedia a Wikipedian? But that can't be the sense of the word intended by the Badsites proposal. They'd be obliged to keep track of half the Internet, which is clearly impossible.

I think it was talking about people who self-identify as Wikipedians, and are in a position to invoke and enforce the (draconian!) provisions of the Badsites proposal. That's not the everyday users and occasional writers and editors. That's the administrative community. And while the proposal in theory covers various kinds of harassment, it's primarily focused on preserving the anonymity of Wikipedian pseudonyms.

If I behaved myself like some of those guys, I wouldn't want to be outed either.

#280 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:02 PM:

276- Those are my uses for wikipedia. Also, studying for IDs on exams. "When the hell did Osman II live and why should I care again? - Oh yeah. Early 17thc. and he disliked coffee and the Poles." It's a good place to remind me of some of the high points while I'm studying.

I've got one article getting published that will be much more solid when I get footnotes in it and cleaned up. At this point, I am well aware of *all* its issues, including some poor scholarship on my part. I tried to refrain from using secondary sources as much as possible, though, which is both easier and harder when dealing with renaissance textiles and creates its own pitfalls. But it does mean that I'm not dealing with the situation that you discribe.

#281 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Abi's a better human being than I am. Must try harder.

If I were going to articulate a rule that covers both the aversion to rudeness, and the expectation that participants can (when appropriate) defend their own opinions, it would be that words matter.

Ascertainable meaning that passes from one person to another is something of a miracle. There's not much I'd trade for that.

#282 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Kathryn 245: Dan Rosenthal (SJ)

No WAY is that guy a Jesuit.

#283 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Margaret@276:
"I'd think about having two classes of editor in your scheme - one for content, and one for style."

I second that suggestion. I've had plenty of negative experience with copyeditors who are perfectly qualified to correct spelling, grammar and other technical errors, but get out of their depth when they take it upon themselves to "correct" reportage or factual information that they do not have the knowledge to appropriately edit.

Permit me a tangent: I worked for a company (which I shall leave nameless) where a very immature early-20s guy was given blanket authority as a copyeditor to demand things far beyond what the role should have allowed (and as a guy now working as a newspaper editor who started as a copyeditor, I know where the boundaries should be). He sent out a weekly style-guide email to everyone in the company, with the bosses' blessing, that included tips like not misusing a particular grammar error (I forget what) or he'd "get so mad I want to RIP MY HEAD OFF AND THROW IT AT YOU!" (I'm paraphrasing, but the gist and the all-caps bullying is accurate.) The experience was incredibly frustrating. He was really a very smart guy, and usually right about style issues, but he extended that to think he could call himself an expert on everything else, and he was often a real jerk about it. The company later imploded, I think in no small part because it did things like that. The Wikipedia troll-editors (who I'm sure are a small percentage of all Wiki editors, but a loud percentage) remind me a lot of this guy.

Also, I think the notion of letting Wikipedia editors be anonymous or pseudonymous is a very bad idea, despite the fact that I am posting here pseudonymously. My real name is on the pages of everything I write for my paid gigs, in part because that puts a greater emphasis on the fact that what's in those pages is my responsibility.

#284 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:39 PM:

Teresa @281
Abi's a better human being than I am.
Abi's a different human being than you are, with different weaknesses - quite serious ones - and gifts. Abi would give her eyeteeth to write like you, or to have your intellectual strength and rigour.*

Must try harder.
You're right. Abi must.

-----
* Abi is now stuck in the mode of writing about herself in the third person. Send rescue.

#285 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:41 PM:

I'm not a frequent poster, though I'm a consistent reader. I hope I'm not about to make an ass of myself.

Someday someone needs to teach a course on being sociable on the internet while still having opinions. It's a long, slow process... learning to avoid pejoratives and absolutes. Learning when to argue and when to ignore. In my other internet lives I am an old greybeard, and the master of tactful phrasing. Here I'm but a babe in the woods, and have put my foot in on several occasions. I think one of the fundamental problems with Wikipedia is not that many admins haven't graduated from such a course, but rather than they don't even admit that one would be useful. They're not even trying.

And that may be one of the issues here, really.

Honestly Zeborah, I really don't understand your posts here. But I do know one thing: people here aren't denying your right to disagree, and they're not criticizing you for disagreeing. They're criticizing you for being discourteous while doing so.

I'd like to tell a little story, and drop some internet experience. Take this not as an attack on you, but an effort to give a general set of instructions to people who would venture into somewhere where something you like or love is being maligned, and hope to stem the tide or bring up the positive.

Another community I belong to often comes under attack. Let's say I'm part of a club called the SFCA (made up name). This club has kicked people out in the past, or others have left over policy arguments, so there are some people who feel the SFCA are a bunch of jerks, and seek to establish that as a fact on the internets. When that happens, I try to appear on the attack thread as the first representative of my community.

I usually say something in they key of "Hey folks. The SFCA is really not as bad as anyone says. If you have specific problems, please let me know, and I'll pass them along appropriately. Yes _____, ______ and ______ are concerns, but unless we have specific names and references, we can't really do a lot about it."

If there are legitimate complaints, or anything I've personally encountered, I make sure to acknowledge at least some of them. If there are actual flaws that I am in a position to report to important people, I do so.

I usually try to end on a joke. And you know what? 80% of the time the people trying to spread negativity against the SFCA are left flabbergasted, the neutral people start saying things like "oh, so the SFCA are monsters, are they? Full of bile and hatred? Yeah, reaaaaaaaaaal scary." And generally the problem goes away, or is in some way reduced.

The problem gets WORSE when someone like David Gerard gets there first, and says to our detractors. "The SFCA is better rid of scum like you. Why don't you whiners go start your own club where you ________ each other's _______ all day."

When this happens, the "First Mistake and Thing That Will Make Sure it All Goes Wrong" is to defend the David Gerard. My choices are to 1. confront him privately asking him to rephrase 2. ignore him as best I can 3. publicly distance myself from his statement and make my own. Our pre-existing relationship (or lack of one) will determine which action I take.

Basically... if someone had appeared here and made a positive case for Wikipedia that did not involve putting down the people with legitimate complaints and defending people who had already acted negatively, I don't think there would be a pile on. It's a hard lesson to learn on the internet. But most lessons about dealing with people and organizations are hard, and a good number are learned with a bit of pain and embarrassment (for more information see: everyone in the world's high school experience).

Something else: context matters. Not all insults are equal. Calling someone who punched you in the face for no reason a "jerkwad" is more acceptable then calling someone who says they don't like your favorite TV show a "jerkwad." It is one thing to stand on your home turf and vent against someone specific who has caused great pain to a friend. It is another to barge into someone else's home and make a blanket statement against anyone who complains about your pet project.

There are a thousand more nuances to those particular posts and exchanges, based on past history, action, other rudeness, the value of a good introduction... I could go on. It's all very fascinating socially.

It's all well and good to admit you don't understand how social systems and debates work, or to claim that you cannot stomach any insults leveled against anyone associated with projects you hold dear. But that will not help you survive here.

I have traveled the internets as a member of its native generation, and I have only ever been involved in one community that was more welcoming and kind than Making Light. It was the community for Pinky St, a certain variety of Japanese doll. However, there was a catch to the welcoming kindness... a limitation. One day one girl tried to create a thread on the topic "Who is your least favorite Pinky design?" The topic was locked, with the idea that someone's favorite doll being insulted might lead to hurt feelings.

It was totally appropriate to the site's purpose and current style. But that's what you get when calling a troll a troll is seen as being rude, or when saying you don't like something is seen as cruelty. That's not what Making Light is about, thank goodness. Take context, roll a little, when you get out of hand admit that you have been out of hand.

This doesn't mean you have to back down, or go away. It just means you have to think that there might actually be something that's not coming through in the phrasing... ask a friend "does this sound ok to you?" Reread everything you write three times. Find a way to say it more levelly, and you will be listened to. It's not about playing by the rules or agreeing with the prevailing opinions, it's about communicating.

#286 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 04:59 PM:

Abi #284: One would send the third-person rescue squad, but one understands that the squad is still working on Bob Dole.

#287 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:00 PM:

#253 Ed:

Proposed rule-of-thumb for a pile-on: When you see something that p-sses you off, you aren't the first commenter to say something, and you're pretty sure many others will also react this way, roll a 10-sided die (yes, I'm geeky enough to want to write that as d10). If the result is a 9, post. Otherwise, say nothing.

This is only partly a joke. Distributed pileons are a big problem in this kind of community, and not posting to something that makes you mad when you think there are other peopel who will respond about as well might decrease them.

#288 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:05 PM:

albatross @ 287

I think there's a store at my friendly local mall that has them, and it's also 'mall and cat visitation' this evening. Something to look for, and forward to!

#289 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:11 PM:

albatross: My own version of that would be to roll a 20-sided die and wait that many minutes before hitting F5/Refresh and then, if the point still needs making, making that point.

Leah's words here are wise: But I do know one thing: people here aren't denying your right to disagree, and they're not criticizing you for disagreeing. They're criticizing you for being discourteous while doing so. I would further submit that anyone who wants not to be mistaken for a troll must, must, must come to some level of proficiency in differentiating these things. Because actual bona fide trolls act as if they can't, and the strife this inevitably causes is their deliberate aim.

#290 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:20 PM:

#255: BADSITES refers to this WP policy page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:BADSITES

I gather that the policy didn't really get a through hearing until after the Making Light situation in which this blog was designated a BADSITE. After a more transparent discussion, the policy was apparently rejected. (I haven't been following this closely and so my have mangled the details. Despite its rejection, there remains a contingent that would like to behave as though it were still in play.

TNH in #279: If I behaved myself like some of those guys, I wouldn't want to be outed either.

Anonymity is disinhibiting. And because of that, the choice to live under a pseudonym can be a one way street until soneone outs the person or the person accidentally outs herself (ala Tiptree).

I am pleased to say that our boy SwatJester told the NYT some time ago that his name is Dan Rosenthal, and hence has not at least fallen prey to that particuar bit of groupthink.

#291 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:23 PM:

I can't match Fragano, but how about haiku?

Revert my edit
ban me for a week or two
I've still got your vowels

or maybe

Wikipedia
comment thread on Making Light
Disemvowelment

#292 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Kathryn #290:

The hard thing is that anonymity* is disinhibiting in both good and bad ways. You're not inhibited from telling the world you're gay, but you're also not inhibited from showing the world you're a jerk.

* Really pseudonymity, right?

#293 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:27 PM:

Something I try to do, and fail at, far too often (there's always the "Ready, Go, Set" problem in any action I take) is to differentiate between being touchy and being sensitive. Touchy is knowing how I feel about something someone else has said,and replying based on that, sensitive is being aware of how others are responding to my words and trying to change my form of expression to produce the effect I intend.

Part of being sensitive is choosing context; interrupting an ongoing conversation, even a group I'm a member of is the subject of that conversation, and being accusatory, is not likely to convince anyone to my side.


Shorter JESR: I agree with Leah Miller, and call that "knowing the difference between being touchy and being sensitive."

#294 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:28 PM:

People have made far too many comments for me to address points individually. This is probably a good thing; I always get hopelessly tangled when I try to do that.

I've made three posts in this thread. I've just reread them again. The word "nastiness" was the wrong choice. Not being really explicit from the start that I agree that David Gerard's offensive remark was most deserving of being disemvowelled was foolish. For these, and for all other offense I unwittingly gave, I apologise unreservedly.

But I never intended offense. I never tried to attack, and I never tried passive-agressive jujitsu. I can understand why people who don't know me think I did, but I do not know how I could have phrased things differently to prevent it. Boggle you as it may, I told at all times the truth as I see it. If someone is able to grant that premise and explain to me how I could have communicated my views and most particularly my feelings more effectively, I would be very grateful.

#295 ::: Stephen Granade ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:28 PM:

I note in passing that shirt versions of John Gabriel's Internet Dickwad Theory (normal person + anonymity + audience = total dickwad) are now available.

#296 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:29 PM:

My silly responses aside, Teresa, this is an important thing you've said, and it bears repeating.

words matter...Ascertainable meaning that passes from one person to another is something of a miracle. There's not much I'd trade for that.

If you'll pardon the expression, word.

#297 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:33 PM:

Greg #120:

It's spooky how nicely this tracks to publication count for academics, or size of budget/staff in bureaucracies. As abi pointed out, this is a very common problem with managing anything--any imperfect measure of what you care about is imperfect, and most are subject to elaborate (if sometimes expensive) gaming. So you get academics wringing six publications out of one idea that wasn't really all that good to begin with, empire-builders in bureaucracies establishing their importance by the size of their empire (and thus getting more resources and promotions), etc.

I think the overarching problem of automated rating of comments and commenters and reputation is really, really hard.

#298 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:35 PM:

#279: I was struck by the Badsites proposal's repeated mention of "Wikipedians," that being the class of persons the proposal was intended to protect. Its concept of a Wikipedian is at odds with Wikipedia's prime directive. If anyone can edit Wikipedia, doesn't that make everyone who interacts with Wikipedia a Wikipedian? But that can't be the sense of the word intended by the Badsites proposal. They'd be obliged to keep track of half the Internet, which is clearly impossible.

During the BADSITES debate, I pointed out that Wikipedia linked to at least 4 sites that had harassed me personally -- LGF even has its own vanity WP entry! -- several in the context of my editing of Wikipedia. I asked, hypothetically, what they proposed to do about this in context of the BADSITES policy. The response I got was that SlimVirgin archived my remarks in under 24 hours as "old". I was clearly not one of those the policy was intended to protect.

#299 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Damn, I meant of course to thank those who've jumped in to say that they agree with at least part of what I've said, and/or to say that I don't normally act like a troll. Most particularly I'm grateful to the (de)lurkers.

#300 ::: Zora ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:46 PM:

I was a gung-ho (high-editcount!) Wikipedia editor for several years and recently stopped editing. I'm intimately acquainted with both the strengths and the weaknesses of Wikipedia.

One strength that folks here haven't mentioned is that if you take your editing seriously, it's an educational process. I started by editing the Muhammad article and ended up owning shelves full of scholarly texts on early Islamic history. Every argument sent me to the books and I learned more and more. I'd say that I have at least the equivalent of an MA in Islamic studies after that experience.

The grind sets in when you start having the same arguments over and over, with endless new waves of idiots who don't intend to learn anything. If you're just replaying old fights, you aren't learning anything yourself.

I've also had some great experiences working with intelligent, thoughtful editors who greatly expanded my horizons. It is FUN to see a good article emerging out of a back-and-forth with someone who disagrees with you, but does so productively.

Strange how most of them left eventually :(

The POV warriors, however, were tireless. They drove me out. I was losing my temper and wasting my time trying to keep controversial articles respectable. I ended up feeling as if I were shoveling dung, and hating it.

I'm still convinced that the wiki process, with appropriate social controls, could be a great way to learn. It's one thing to write a paper for a bored professor whom you know doesn't care deeply what you say. It's entirely another to argue something hammer-and-tongs and scour the books for citations to prove some @#$!@#$!@ wrong.

#302 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 05:54 PM:

par'me if someone's already posted this and I missed it - changes to Wikipedia entries from the Fox News IP address

#303 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:11 PM:

julia @ #302, that's a welcome supplement to the item I posted @ #258.

#304 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:15 PM:

#285 Leah Miller : I have an urge to print this out, frame it and hang it over my monitor or somesuch. Posts like this are great for putting out flames.

#305 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:21 PM:

Zeborah @294
"If someone is able to grant that premise and explain to me how I could have communicated my views and most particularly my feelings more effectively, I would be very grateful."

Is this a literal request? And would you prefer this request be filled via email, or would it be ok to post it in the thread? I have done this in the past and quite enjoy it... but I don't want to make you any more uncomfortable if you didn't mean it literally.

Alex @304 (& others who have been kind)
Thank you! Whenever I post here I have a bit of stage fright, so it's good to hear people understand and even like some of it.

#306 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:25 PM:

Kathryn Cramer @ 295 writes: "...I am pleased to say that our boy SwatJester told the NYT some time ago that his name is Dan Rosenthal, and hence has not at least fallen prey to that particuar bit of groupthink."

Really? Well, that makes my question at #35 even more pointed then, doesn't it? How many pseudonyms is Mr. Rosenthal using? And, why isn't Swatjester one of the ones listed for members of the Communications Committee, on which he currently claims to be serving?

And I'll repeat my earlier sentiment: it seems to me that having any pseudonymous members of the Communications Committee at all is kinda weird, no?

#307 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:42 PM:

Leah@305: It's a literal request, and I'm happy for it to be either via email or on here. I'm off to take my cat to the vet right now and my work hours are wonky for a while but I'll do my best to reply when I can to anything you can offer.

#308 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:44 PM:

Lance Weber@277:

Always remember, a cynic is just a frustrated idealist....

#309 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 06:55 PM:

Heresiarch@268, yeah, some sort of automated ticketing system would do nicely. People file requests for jurists and those requests get queued. as jurists log in and sign up to spend some time on a new case they request a ticket. Software randomly assigns them a ticket, perhaps based on user priority or something.

Jurists are allowed to "pass" on a docket assigned to them for whatever reason, (they recuse themselves, they don't know the topic and the problem requires understanding the content, whatever) but these passes are publicly visible so jurists don't pass until they get some axe they can grind. Maybe have a short wait after a pass so they have less control over what tickets are in the queue.

Lizzy@275, no, it's not NPA that's a problem. It's the "hard to pin downedness" of NPA combined with admins who suddenly realize that if they declare statements like "You're abusing admin privileges" as an attack, then they can block this editor that's getting in their way.

NPA is a good idea. It's just that it needs humans to interpret it, and those humans can't get personal rewards if they interpret it a certain way.

Margaret@276: copyedit and content editors would probably be good distinctions. Probably could add something about "experts" as well.

So, it seems everyone supports the idea of Janitors/Jurists combined with some sort of docketing/ticketing system. (And hints for an editor distinction like Copyeditor/Content) Now, if we took this proposal and smelted it into a gold ring of power in the heart of Mount Doom, then give the ring to Jimmy Wales, wikipedia could live happily ever after.

Which way to Mordor?

#310 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 07:20 PM:

Kathryn Cramer #246: Reasonable people with public repuations critiquing the situation there is what is most likely to cause it to improve.

I am particularly encouraged by Cory Doctorow's attempts to Bring Light to the Wikipedians.

#311 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:01 PM:

Listen to the Leah. The Leah has wisdom.

I haven't seen such a clear, warm, friendly discussion of that topic in ages. You should post more often.

#312 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:35 PM:

Greg at 309:

Second star to the right and straight on till morning!

Um, no, that's not right. Let's see...

Follow the Yellow Brick Road...

Nope. That's not right either...

Oh, yeah. The road goes ever on and on, Down from the door where it began...

#313 ::: Snb ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:41 PM:

Ths g s prck vrywhr h gs. H's mdrtr n mssg brd tht frqnt nd h's jst s mch f slf-cntrd, pmps ss thr s wll.

T sm p SWTJstr, h's spld rch jwby wh hs hd vrythng hndd t hm n plttr. H'll s th fct tht h srvd s n xmpl f hw h sn't pmprd twt, bt tht's n bvs qvctn tht's bt s trnsprnt s glss.

Fck tht g, nd hs btt-bdd KllrFlff.

[Posted from 70.16.73.159]

#314 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:46 PM:

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. You, sir, are disgusting. Teresa should be along any moment now...

#315 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:54 PM:

313 isn't worth a disemvoweling, Teresa. Just delete it.

#316 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 08:56 PM:

Ths g s prck vrywhr h gs.

It would appear to be contagious.

#317 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:30 PM:

Yeah, that's over the top. sshls can fight sshls, and here's an example.

#318 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:47 PM:

Xopher #317: I just spent a half-minute or so trying to figure out this cool new unix zen master humor/insult based on SSH before the lght blb went off. I am a such a geek...

#319 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:48 PM:

KillerFluffy may be some sort of Wikipedia in-joke. It's a user page that has no core page, but has a discussion page. Odd.

#320 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 09:53 PM:

Side perspective: last month a friend pointed me at an online essay entitled "Trollspotting", by David C. Petterson:

http://home.comcast.net/~bichaunt/Trolls/index.html

This is a long and detailed guide to practical housekeeping in the presence of trolls. The context is not any sort of Internet forum, but small pagan covens. But all the case studies will be immediately recognizable to longtime Net citoyens.

The solutions that Petterson talks about are not always meaningful for Net forums. They presume a particular community structure; he's writing for the coven leader, who can back up decisions with an irrefutable power of "You're outta here." That maps well to a mailing list, but not so well to a blog-with-comments -- the moderators here can throw out postings, but not people. And unmoderated Usenet groups will have to look elsewhere. (Primarily to each other, since Usenet continues to stagger along, despite itself and everything.)

However, it's still worth a read, and the sections on recognizing trolls and their modi operandorum are useful anywhere.

#321 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:00 PM:

Guy can't be all bad if he's got enemies like Snb.

#322 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:14 PM:

Yes, didn't you just love "jwb"? That's got to top out at about 8.5 on the trollometer. A wonderful example of not only not getting the point, but of falling thirty floors to impale himself on it and still not noticing. This is a black hole calling the kettle beige.

#323 ::: Laertes ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:16 PM:

Re Snb: On second thought, I smell a rat.

I'm reminded of #219 Aconite: "It's downright creepy, isn't it? It's the coordination of the attacks that is especially disturbing. They strategize them. They actually spend time getting together and planning how they're going to do this. Ick."

Do they have any history of, say, cooking up evil racist trolls to join threads/discussions they find inconvenient, so as to discredit their critics by association?

#324 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:30 PM:

Laertes #323: I'm with you on this one. This is no random troll, and the attack is far too convenient in too many ways. If I were still inclined to invest time in troll hunting* I'd love to see the weblogs, referrers, etc on this one.

*I have to echo Fidelio's #270 sentiment in this regards - life is too short.

#325 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 10:38 PM:

Folks, I wrote up a stand alone document which describes the whole Janitor/Jurist thing along with the ticketing system idea. It got rather long so I didn't go into the other suggestions like editor subtypes and whatnot.

You can read it here.

The idea was to explain the whole idea to someone who hadn't read this thread, but had working knowledge of wikipedia and it's problems.

It's licensed CC-BY-SA, so you can cut and paste it as you wish.

Enjoy.

#326 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:05 PM:

Abi (284): "* Abi is now stuck in the mode of writing about herself in the third person. Send rescue."

How are you doing, Abi?

#327 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:18 PM:

Can Abi read about herself in the second person?

#328 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: August 15, 2007, 11:35 PM:

Seth, if she's reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book, she can!

#329 ::: Zarquon ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:31 AM:

I am afraid for Abi that the rescue squad will never turn up in person.

#330 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:31 AM:

You are reading a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. The outer edges of each page are lightly browned with age, reminding you of toast. Your stomach makes a slight growl of Pavlovian response.

If you ignore it, turn to page 4.
If you carry the book with you into the kitchen, turn to page 6.
If you need to buy a toaster, turn to page 7.
If you decide to put the book down and make pancakes, implode into a small *poof* of metatextual paradox and then start over.

#331 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:32 AM:

Although #313 did trigger a 1980's BBS Flamer Bingo nostalgia hit, it does also occur to me that this particular troll may have hair of astroturf.

#332 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:44 AM:

#330: You don't have a small poof.

#333 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:47 AM:

Julie at 330, this is Abi we're talking about. The choices really ought to be organized in verse.

#334 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:29 AM:

My pages are all toasted on the edges.
My toast is spread with butter on one side.
My book's a twisty maze of stairs and ledges,
Disjointed 2nd-P plot threads inside.

I'm hungry, but I *must* find out what happens
Should I tread on from pillar unto post--
What adventure waits upon page seven?
"THE END!" Oh well. I'd better make more toast.


(Dear Fluorites: Help, I am stuck in the hamster wheel behind the PREVIEW button. Send someone with a toilet plunger and some soap.)

#335 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:39 AM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little:

Gently turn the wheel in the opposite direction three full turns. When the PREVIEW button pops out, quickly but firmly press the POST button and hold for at least half a second then release. If you hear theremin music and see a smoky red light you have held the button too long, and must roll 4d4 under 10 or miss one turn. Good luck in your next life.

#336 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:56 AM:

Zeborah @ 294

This is a truth it took me several decades of residence on the net to learn: there are two critical actions everyone should take with every post on the net. One: when composing, and before posting, think about how another person reading your post might take it, and especially try to think of ways in which they might be hurt by their construal. Two: when you realize after posting that someone has taken it in a way you didn't intend, apologize and try to clear up the misapprehension.

I see from your post that you do understand this, and that, at least in my book, makes you welcome here.

Please consider carefully what Teresa and abi were saying about the importance of words. Most of the posters on Making Light are deeply involved with communication in some form or other, professionally or personally or both, and therefore committed to making the best use of words they possibly can. That may explain to you why we write as we do, and why it matters what words are used in that writing.

#337 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:24 AM:

Ok, Zeborah @294, you asked for it. I've attempted here to provide both a rephrase and some general pointers. I'm going to do it here so people can tell me if I'm wrong, and because I'm awful at checking my email.

What follows is how I'd phrase posts with similar content and emotion to the ones I gathered from the posts as a whole. If I misjudged your meaning anywhere, let me know. I've also not resorted to the lame attempts at humor I normal pepper posts with to "lighten the blow" because humor isn't for everyone or every situation. It's good to try, though. Humor or verse lightens any conversation.

Post @ 50: my version

"Whoa. It's sort of weird coming in here, especially as Nicole has predicted the appearance of someone who supports wikipedia - as if that person would automatically be unreasonable. I'm not an admin, and hopefully I'm not unreasonable. I'm just someone who really loves Wikipedia, and who dedicates a lot of time to it. I've never run into the things you describe, so far. Maybe the subjects I edit are simply less controversial, but I've had good luck with citations upholding edits, and reason winning out in disputes. I've done a lot of work on subjects where I am not an expert, but I feel that I've contributed a great deal. Some people have grouped together all non-expert edits as unproductive and I feel that is unfair. The fight is really between people willing to do research and be educated and people who are stuck with one Point of view."

(General points: specify exactly what you found unsettling, don't accuse: explain. Make it clear that you're only disagreeing with some people, not everyone. If possible, you might want to give some examples of the kind of things you edit on wikipedia. Most people who have commented so far on edits getting destroyed or surviving have given at least some idea of what category their article fits in. This will also seem less dismissive of the experiences of others. In general, defining your area of experience helps.)

This section consolidates a point made both in 50 and 134

"Previous threads relating to wikipedia on Making Light have gotten sarcastic and dismissive. Sarcasm and dismissiveness isn't everywhere in those threads, but it appears often enough to make me uncomfortable. I'm a little scared to post disagreements, because you all have poked some pretty harsh fun at individual Wikipedians before. It's intimidating, to say the least. I was a bit bothered by the easy dismissal using terms like "wankerpedia." While some criticism may be fruitful, a mocking dismissal of that sort makes me want to retreat."

(Note that I've moved your comment about the term wankipedia up here. If something bothers you, point it out as soon as you are able, rather than referencing it in response to something someone else says. Point out that it is bothering YOU, try to see the other side of it/if it was meant in jest, and say specifically what about it troubles you.)

Post @ 134: my version

"Look at the pile on David Gerard. While he may have been quite rude, it's hard to start out being polite when something you care about is under attack. I wish some of you had contacted him directly rather than all of you replying in public. I would have liked to see us recruit another voice with the potential to be positive about wikipedia, even if it took a little work to get him civilized. People who have the fortitude to speak positively about wikipedia in a thread where so many others are obviously hurt and angry may start out a little egotistical. If we don't give them more leeway in the future, we may never fully understand the opposing viewpoint. It's possible he couldn't have been civilized, but I had hope."

(be very careful when defending someone. Assess how closely you want to associate their actions with your own. Also, I have no idea from your posts which replies/comments you felt were out of hand and which you felt were edifying. When you don't specify, it sounds as if you believe all the replies on a specific subject were inappropriate.)

Post @214
(This one is hard for me, as I'm having a little trouble determining exactly what you're trying to say. Also, if the earlier posts had been differently phrased, I don't know if this one would have occurred. Still, I've come this far)

I've taken a wrong turn somewhere. I am sorry for anything I did that made you all feel I needed such a harsh talking-to in order to set me straight. I just wanted to have a conversation, and disagree.

(The third paragraph regarding your intentions reads fine to me)

I can't argue any of what you said point by point. Your dissection is based on my previous statements being read in a way other than I intended them. I'm not sure if this is because we have different rhetorical styles or because I'm arguing against prevalent views here, but I'm not trying to be offensive. I'm just trying to be convincing and expressive. I think both sides have used offensive terminology periodically here, from the aforementioned "wankerpedia" to the more recent use of "whining." While I'm not arguing that the disemvoweling wasn't justified, and I don't know the circumstance of the original use of the word psychopath, it seems that everyone is reacting to negative words rather than actual arguments.

(This last statement is harder to rewrite. You're obviously upset, and because of that your intentions are a bit less clear to me. I'm also tiptoeing around the last two paragraphs. I'll explain why in a moment. Generally, If you want to comment about a particular statement, it's best to go into some detail. If you're going to remark that someone is out of hand in an argument, make sure you have a good understanding of the argument. If both sides of an argument are out of hand, confront them both instead of picking one side.

I'm hedging the heck out of this last bit though... because I DO know the circumstances of the use of the word psychopath... simply from keeping up casually with this blog. Patrick was angry at someone for acting bureaucratic and nasty in the face of bereavement, thus calling that person a sociopath. The person called a troll appeared and made light of the situation. Whenever something as serious as the death of a friend is involved, your best bet is to not comment unless you're sure you understand every aspect of that situation. That's the gentlest I can say THAT one.)

#338 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:57 AM:

You are in a featureless corridor.
You see here:
Lawyers
Guns
Money

Get Lawyers

The Lawyers keep wriggling out of your grasp. Maybe you could use some bait.

Get Money

You pick up the Money.

Get Lawyers.

You pick up the Lawyers. They buy you an expensive meal, and lot of interesting cocktails. When the waiter comes with the bill they take your money, pay the bill, and run off with the rest. Your money has gone.

Get Guns.

You pick up Guns

Shoot Lawyers

There are no Lawyers here.

#339 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:39 AM:

abi @ 284: Heresiarch attempts a rescue, only to find that the trail of bread crumbs leding home was eaten by rats. Curses! Heresiarch mutters.

Leah Miller @ 285: "Take context, roll a little, when you get out of hand admit that you have been out of hand."

I think that this is a key point. Apologizing when you realize that you've been behaving poorly is just about the hardest thing there is. The internet is particularly harsh in this respect--words hang around forever, interminable and unforgiving. It is so much easier, in the short run, to simply pretend like you've done nothing wrong and blunder forward. Yet stopping things right when they start saves immeasurable grief in the long run.

Nicole @ 289: "I would further submit that anyone who wants not to be mistaken for a troll must, must, must come to some level of proficiency in differentiating these things. Because actual bona fide trolls act as if they can't, and the strife this inevitably causes is their deliberate aim."

I find that more than anything else, trolling is just inept argument treated as a performance art. (Being defensive is just a sort of projected ad hominem.) Thus, it's disturbingly easy for someone who isn't paying too much attention to what they are saying--treating their comment like oral conversation--to come across sounding quite trollish without any bad intentions. (Every sloppy phrase or weak logical leap looks like a planned irritation to an eye trained for troll detection.)

Standards for spoken argumentation are much looser, and the pace is much faster. You can get away with a lot more. This isn't a bad thing, just different. But when you transition from speaking to writing, words can pick up an unexpected amount of weight, and easily throw writers off their rhetorical stride.

#340 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:13 AM:

Leah Miller @ inter alia 285 & 337
You can has a internet. Use it wisely and wear it in good health.

Zeborah,
Despite the fact that we got off on the wrong foot, I have never thought you a troll or passive aggressive. You were defending incivility, which is not something I'm fond of.

Indeed, when I end up in conflict with people on this site, it is almost always about this very topic. I've clashed with both Jim and Patrick over it at times (very politely, of course.)

I can't put my finger on which comment in particular makes me think it, but I feel that you are someone fits in well here. Don't let this awkward incident put you off.

Do you write poetry, by any chance?

#341 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:51 AM:

Actually, the book is called Kies je eigen avontuur*, and is written in a mix of Dutch and English.

Opening it at random in a few places:

- o0o -

3. The commute
You wheel your beloved bicycle out of the garage and get on. You are wearing a long, flowing skirt. You do not have a helmet on. You check to see that your rain jacket is in the panniers.

If you want to take the quick route to the office (15 minutes), turn to page 6.
If you want to take the scenic route to the office (25 minutes), turn to page 10.

(glances at page 6)†
You ride through a pleasant suburban district. It is flat, except when you are going over a canal. Although you are riding on the road, cars give you a wide berth. You feel very safe. You are in Critical Mass's vision of heaven.

(turns to page 10)
You ride through the local recreation area, shared with dog walkers, joggers, rollerbladers, and other cyclists. An old man in a black cap says "Morgen" at you as you pass each other near a windmill. A morning glory shocks you to stillness with the purity of its blossoms. A bridge thrums under your wheels as you cross the canal. The skies look like something out of a Dutch Old Master painting††.

The bike hums as you ride, and you laugh with joy.

- o0o -

15. Je koffie ziet er uit als een eend.
You look in the dictionary, and determine that it really does mean that your coffee looks like a duck.

- o0o -

21. Conversations with colleagues.
Your colleagues are having a casual conversation in Dutch. They're laughing. You are obviously welcome in the group, judging by their glances and their body language.

If you let them continue in Dutch, turn to page 33.
If you ask them to speak English, turn to page 25.
If you wander off to be by yourself, turn to page 22.

(turns to the well-thumbed page 33)
You are in a maze of twisty Dutch comments, all alike.

- o0o -

40. I can has internet access!
You have internet access at home (without recourse to any unsecured networks in the neighbourhood). The children are in bed, the dishwasher is humming in the background, and your laptop is warm on your lap. Your better half is a comfortable presence in the room, but he is doing his own thing.

You owe 25 people very long emails. If you write one this evening, go to page 45.
You have a blog post you would like to write. If you decide to do that, go to page 46.
You want to order a number of items online. If you start the market research on that, go to page 47.
You have some work-related things that you would like to do this evening. If you do that, go to page 48.
You have been woefully remiss at posting on Making Light. If you choose to read the threads and write all those replies you've been brewing, go to page 49.
You really should call your mother. If you just want Mom, turn to page 50.
A friend is visible on Skype. If you chat with her, go to page 51.
If you say fsk it and watch some TV, go to page 52.

(flips through pages 45-52, which all say the same thing)
The evening disappears in a flash. It is now midnight, and you still have to wash your hair. You realise you are behind on your laundry as well, and have very little to wear tomorrow.

You go to bed, knowing that your adventures tomorrow will lead you right back to page 40.

-----
* Despite the Dutch fondness for diminutives, it is not Kies je eigen avontuurje; an avontuurje is an affair.**

** I am sure this book also exists, particularly in Amsterdam.

† Everyone does it. Bet you even did the thing where you choose an outcome and trace your way back to the beginning so you can end up there. I certainly did.

†† Not very surprisingly.

‡ This is actually one of those pages that you can only get to by reading back from the end. Coming to it any other way violates the laws of probabilty and several internal KPN procedures.

#342 ::: John Hawkes-Reed ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:25 AM:

abi@341:

That was beautiful and made me very aware that I've not spent anything like long enough in the Netherlands.

#343 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:55 AM:

Abi inquires of Zeborah: Do you write poetry, by any chance?

If you hang around ML long enough, you will, even if it's haiku, limericks or the occasional double dactyl. (cackle)

#344 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:02 AM:

By the way, I would contribute a double dactyl to the thread centered around the word "wikipedanticly", but I'd rather not unnecessarily increase the Attack Site Rating of ML as a result. heh.

#345 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:08 AM:

Zeborah #294: I have a slightly different perspective on "ways to be the only voice of dissent" than Leah Miller #337. Before I go into answering your question, though, a tangent.


*****************************
Anyone else notice how disproportionately "passive-aggressive" is used to put down females? It's a great multi-layered insult that often makes people shut up, and in common usage its meaning is so vague that it can be applied to almost anyone... And yet, I'd guess it's 4:1 applied to females:males doing the exact same stuff.

Pisses me the fuck off.

*****************************

Anyway, back to Zeborah. So, at 32, Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little says, "So, when is an honorary WikiAdmin going to show up and tell us how we're all wrong to diss the light and wonder of the world that is WP?"

You come into the thread at 50, "Sorry to disappoint you, Nicole, since I'm not a Wikipedia admin, but I'll come along anyway and say... Well, no, I won't, because hey, I said it last time and there's no reason why anyone who may not have agreed with me then would agree with me now."

This opening is just all kinds of wrong.
1. You accept the mantle of nutcase honorary WikiAdmin that Nicole left lying around. Why claim to be a nutcase in your first post? Ignore any insults that aren't directed specifically at you. Also, read very carefully when you throw yourself into a debate. Looking sloppy attracts more piranhas than looking perceptive. "honorary WikiAdmin" is not blocked by "not a Wikipedia admin".

2. You claim that no one here has the intellectual integrity to grapple with your cutting and incisive argument, so we're not worthy to hear it. Note: one of the dangers of getting into a debate with people who bear the scars of a hundred flame wars is that they see the ultimate form within your proto-argument.

3. "may not have agreed with me"? Hedging is fine and can be polite, but not when you're casting doubt on whether the people who disagree with you know their own minds.

Next, "Also because you guys as a collective are as intimidating when discussing Wikipedia as intelligent when discussing anything else."

4. You're directly contrasting Making Light intelligent discussion with Making Light Wikipedia discussion, and thus saying that Making Light Wikipedia discussion is unintelligent.

5. "intimidating". Is that a compliment? It could be, but not in this context, where it's paired with unintelligent.

6. "you scared me away from presenting my incisive and brilliant argument." What are we supposed to feel, here? Guilt? "Not in the face?" As mentioned above, looking weak attracts attacks.

You came out swinging, with attacks and offensive implications. What was your intent? I'm guessing it was to push back against the tide, clear yourself some defensible space, and present your argument. Pushing back against the tide is best done with your argument, which you should trust to stand alone against a sea of dissent. A better way to clear yourself defensible space is with something complimentory. More flies with honey, etc. Perhaps, "Man, I've been lurking here for a while, and you guys in full cry scare me shitless with your eloquence... But I have to say about Wikipedia, my experience has been nothing but gold blah blah specific examples writing about how WP makes you feel good and how for you the dream is still alive."

As Accordion Guy said, "People don't remember what you said, they remember how you made them feel."

Moving along to #134. "Good God. <looks for a bucket in which to hold my temper> Trying very hard to remain calm; please excuse any mild hyperbole or figures of speech that cannot be substantiated."

Again with the attack + 'not in the face'. The attack? "You have pissed me off". It's a mild one that could easily be part of a grey area. For 'not in the face', "please excuse hyperbole" is common enough that it's generally written off, too, though "figures of speech that cannot be substantiated"? That's a bit baffling, are we supposed to excuse crazy disproportionate metaphors? Anyway, it's still an opening that weakens your argument and poisons your interactions with your fellows.

Then you fail to grasp the nature of David Gerard's interaction with the thread. "On the whole" means considering the whole of his output, and writing off "whiners" and "bucket of cocks" with it makes you look crazy. Which further undermines your following attack of "you all lie ('truthiness') and you're scary bullies". Your opinions hold far more weight if you seem to be based in reality.

*****************************
Tangent! Think of it as an intermission from a ridiculously long comment.

Once, I got the chance to hang out after dinner with Steven Brust and Elizabeth Bear. (This came about because I knew Elizabeth Bear from the mailing list devoted to the roleplaying game based on Roger Zelazny's Amber.) They were talking about how to make characters sympathetic or unsympathetic without telling people "Oh this guy is so great/this guy is a wanker".

To make a character sympathetic: show him caring for something. "Like Jaws in the Bond movies! As soon as he got that little girl, everyone's like, 'Noooo! Don't kill Jaws!'"

To make a character repugnant: make him whine about stuff.

*****************************

A better way to defend David Gerard would be to 1. make sure that first you know what you're defending... What was the disemvoweled bit? Does the fact that everyone but you found offensive stuff in DG's comments have some basis in reality? Next, 2. appear level-headed. 3. Acknowledge everyone else's points. I assume you're going to use the same defense of DG here that you used in #214 once you looked more into what DG was saying, so the better post #134 looks like, "It pisses me off the way you went after David Gerard. Sure, he was a jackass, but I've seen him in other places being very smart, as someone earlier said. In a thread full of insults like 'Wankerpedia' and 'psychopath', 'bucket of cocks' didn't seem beyond the pale."

Then leave off the part about how we're driving away dissenting voices. It might be something to bring up elsewhere in cooler threads, but bringing it up here is making a bid for "persecuted" status, and thus again with the attack on us + preemptive defense which inspires disgust.

On to 214. Your opening bit to abi is an old tactic, the "praise the one who's maybe sorta on your side to separate her from the herd so that it looks like you have allies." The social dynamics are such here that it's clear to everyone that abi is on the side of politeness, so it didn't work to set us against abi, so you looked a bit weak for that failure. On the other hand, thanking people is always nice. On the other other hand, only paying attention to the one person who sortof maybe was nice to you disses all the people who were being nice by pointing out where you went wrong, and makes it look like you can't face the people who were outright attacking you. On the whole, a wash.

"it would be a pity for a master's work to sadden more than cheer." What? This is clearly a sotto voce kind of comment... Sounds like it means that Teresa made you sad and abi should maybe feel guilty for taking pleasure in that. "Well, I'm glad someone enjoyed it" would be more direct about what you're feeling, but it sounds a bit snippy, eh?

Then you grovel to Teresa, which... grah. See above. Then you say, "you're making me not like you" which again with the what, are we supposed to feel guilty? Then "this stuff hurts me" which is a valuable point.

Too much with the "honestly/sincerely". What, are you saying that we're going to be questioning your honesty? Are you questioning your fellow debaters' honesty? Then you fail to apologize for missing DG's content, tone, and drive; thus remaining in the "crazy" category. If someone says "Don't you see anything wrong here with this thing you're supporting?!" the best response is, "I'm looking... Oh crap! I didn't see X! Sorry for supporting that." The quicker the apology, the more goodwill goes to the apologizer.

Instead, you drag in new attacks like "but you said Wankerpedia", "but Patrick called someone a psychopath." What you're using here is the "it wasn't that bad, and also you deserved it" defense, which will never win you an argument, nor goodwill. And by using it in defense of DG, you're aligning yourself even more firmly with his "whiny bucket of cocks" attack: his attack is your attack now.

Then, "Your other questions do appear rhetorical, so I'll leave them alone." Best not to get snarky in questions of whether Teresa's rhetoric is clear.

A better way to write that post would have been a much shorter and clearer, "Thanks, abi, and blah and blah also. Teresa, I'm sorry for arousing your wrath. The tone of ML's WP threads really does hurt me."

On to 294. You apologize! Brilliant! It really is a good move.

But then... You never intended to attack? What was running through your mind when you wrote all those attacks? You never tried passive-aggressive jujitsu... I'm afraid one of the real definitions of passive-aggressive is "attacks that you can pretend to yourself weren't attacks." Frex, attempting to give guilt is a classic attack defined as passive-aggressive. So regrettably, you're wrong there.

"I can understand why people who don't know me think I did". Blaming us for getting mad because we don't know you is ridiculous on the internet. We can't possibly all know you. You have to be clear.

"Boggle you as it may, I told at all times the truth as I see it." Here again you're edging towards "persecuted for my heroic stands". (And you've stabbed yourself in the back already by recanting your support for the cocks.) Also, why would we boggle that you weren't lying? Are you saying we're accustomed to lying, as you said in 134 and 214? Are you saying we've never listened to a word you said, as you said in 50? There are few non-insult ways to read the sentence. And think: even if it wasn't insulting, a focus on the "honesty" of your opinions is pointless. It doesn't matter to anyone but you what you think in your heart of hearts: only what you say here.

And now we're to the start again. Upshot: present strong, do your research, own your attacks, don't borrow trouble by grovelling, be direct about your feelings, brevity is the soul of wit.

#346 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:38 AM:

Strangely enough, this thread has led me to make my very first edit to Wikipedia:

Someone linked to the article on Usenet. The article on Usenet links to an article on the Legion of Net.Heroes. I hadn't the slightest idea that an article about the LNH existed! Looking at it, I noticed that Squidman (a character near and dear to my heart) was incorrectly called Squid Man.

(The character did start out as Squid Boy, so the error is understandable. Squid Boy had a name inspired by classic Legion of Super-Heroes characters such as Sun Boy and Chameleon Boy. When Squid Boy was revamped to be more like Batman, his name became more like Batman's, too.)

So I corrected the error. Hasn't been reverted yet...of course, I can't imagine that the LNH article gets many views.

In other news: I want to testify that I know Zeborah from rec.arts.sf.composition, where she is sensible and interesting. Although she has gotten off on a bit of a wrong foot here, I want to urge everyone to give her a chance.

#347 ::: Nell ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:42 AM:

OT - I was pleased and amused to see that the McClatchy News Service site moderates the comments on stories using disemvowelment.

#348 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:47 AM:

albatross #291 - You pronounce disemvowelment with five syllables? It sounds to me like I pronounce it with four.

On the other hand my haiku would be rubbish if I did that, so your accent is clearly superior in this case.

abi #341 - Everyone does it. Bet you even did the thing where you choose an outcome and trace your way back to the beginning so you can end up there. I certainly did.

I still have the decision tree flow charts for some of them in my parent's loft (Or I did last time I came across that file... what? Doesn't everybody file their 20 year old choose your own adventure notes? But what if you needed them again?)

#349 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:48 AM:

#338: You are in a featureless corridor.

That's wonderful. Thanks.

#350 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:17 AM:

Regarding David Gerard: I have read other forums in which he participates and simply don't believe that he is an easily bruised fragile creature that desvered careful nurture before exposing him to the hazards of candor.

What I think underpins his reaction to comments addressed to him is perhaps an attitude that, well, we Makilinglightians have got all our links back and been a factor in the defeat of the BADSITES policy. Why are we still complaining? Aren't we ever saisfied?

There is a lot that is actually good and/or functional about Wikipedia. In some ways, it is too good at what it does, and so many people with legitimate interest in various subject matter areas are drawn into the Wikipedia political situation whether they like it or not.

I prefer to avoid deeply dysfunctional social organizations, especially those whose governance structure compares unfavorably to the government of Somalia, but Wikipedia has become an important repository about subject matters traditionally currated by sf fandom. The existence of Citizendium does not solve this problem. There is no particular reason a site housing and curating such information should be a wiki. The reason Wikipedia is important in this area is its relationship to Google, in which a wikipedia entry on something will usually top a google search. Can that be changed? I doubt it.

We're stuck with then and they with us. He should deal.

#351 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:06 AM:

Abi #341: You have got to have the word 'fiets' in there somewhere, preferably in a bilingual pun. Then you have to explain why a moped is a fiets that goes vroum (I know it's a 'bromfiets' and not a 'vroumfiets', but still...).

#352 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:25 AM:

::: Sisuile @ 273:::

Now that is a Making Light thread I'd love to see: Scholarly works to avoid citing at all costs.

Rydberg!

I would love to see that thread here. AKICF.

MAO

#353 ::: oldsma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:38 AM:

This old .sig quote of mine pushes its way to the front of my mind:

"They know the truth but cannot get recognition; those in power conspire to suppress them; anyone who disagrees is deluded or lying. If you argue against them, you're shouting them down (which proves their point); if you dismiss them as crackpots, you're resorting to name-calling for lack of a better argument (ditto.) If you're educated on the subject, you're part of the conspiracy, which explains why you disagree. The more effort you expend on them, the more they are supported, because you're demonstrating how hard the conspiracy is working to cover up the truth." -- Andrew Plotkin

It seems to me that the Wiki ideal suffers from getting these kind of saddle-burrs from content and editing obsessors. Then "bad cases lead to bad edits / laws"; iterate.

MAO

#354 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Thank you to both Leah and Madeline. I need to read those again a few times after I've had some sleep, then won't have a chance to reply until after work. There are a few things I want to clear up but obviously I want to be careful how I go about doing that (and once I've slept on it there may be fewer than there are now). There are other things that are quite startling and I need to think about more, and other things still that I immediately see where I went wrong.

Abi, I write poetry rarely, and I don't think ever quickly enough for the speed Making Light threads proceed at. (Practice might improve that, of course, but practising in public feels weird on a number of levels.) Most of the time, partly to do with timezones, if I have anything to say on a thread here (and often I don't because it's all beyond my experience) someone has already said it before I've even read the original article, let alone had time to consider metre and rhyme. Wikipedia articles are the most prominent exception, but there I suspect concentrating on metre and rhyme would only distract me from the other things I should be concentrating on....

#355 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:13 AM:

abi @ 341... your coffee looks like a duck.

How would you say in Dutch "Your coffee looks like Cthulhu"?

(Yes, Mary Dell, this is an invitation for more photoshop-fu.)

#356 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:18 AM:

Serge #355: 'Je koffie ziet er als Cthulhu uit', or 'Je koffie ziet er als een gruwelijk tentakelmonster uit'.

I have had Dutch coffee that could be described as a black pit, but have never caught even a glimpse of any of the Old Ones...

#357 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:25 AM:

Madeline F, @345: No, you're not the only one who's noticed how much more often charges like "passive-aggressive" are thrown at posters who seem to be female. It does suck.

Zeborah, three suggestions out of my own ongoing experience to fight only about the things I actually want to fight about. :)

#1. Don't imply things about the people I'm disagreeing with. When I feel confident that I can undertake a defense of a charge and that it's important enough to risk displacing discussion of my other points, then I make the charge clearly. If one or both of those conditions doesn't apply very strongly, then I aim to cut it out.

(This isn't to say I don't think such things. Lots of stuff simply belongs somewhere other than the present locus of contention - email or instant message or chatty phone call with friends, for instance. I say a lot of things to select audiences I don't say in public, and so do most folks I know.)

#2: The more heated I feel, the more important it is to keep my sentences simple. I get rather Dickensian or Faulknerian if I don't police myself. But rambling sentences invite misunderstandings; short simple ones don't force clarity and ease of correct/desired reading, but they help. If I do allow myself some rambling room, I need to at least make sure my key sentences are pretty simple: if I want to make a statement, declare, and if I want to ask, get interrogative, and then stop.

#3: The more I'm tempted to say things about people's motives, generally the more important it is I not yield to temptation. When faced with boggling, hurtful, or otherwise not-happy-making prose, I tend to get best results if I can cool myself down enough to ask "What led you to that conclusion?" or "My experience of X is like this; what experiences of X did you have that make you think that?" or something.

I, um, I don't always manage to follow these. But my life is happier when I do. If there's anything you can scavenge or swipe, help yourself - and if these aren't what you need, maybe they'll help in figuring out the stuff you do need. (A professor of mine called that being usefully wrong.)

#358 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:50 AM:

Bruce #357: Usefully wrong

I believe that fully captures my wife's perception of me...

#359 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:56 AM:

Lance Weber @358:
What, are you a software tester too? I make a living out of being usefully wrong.

#360 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:03 AM:

Jakob @ 356... I have had Dutch coffee that could be described as a black pit, but have never caught even a glimpse of any of the Old Ones...

To quote Richard Benjamin in Saturday 14th after he notices eyeballs floating in his coffee cup:

"I don't like the way it looks."

#361 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Zeborah, how did the visit to the vet go, and how is the cat?

#362 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:14 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 346:

Likewise I made my first WP edits yesterday: some minor revisions and additions to the entry on "Redowa." I have resolved to think more seriously about the entry, which is still not what it could be.

If my Power Twin ever needs another way to spend time (*snrk* ... as if!) she could do some serious good to some of the historical dance entries. As it is, I have resolved to check the entries for whatever my danse de la semaine happens to be, and see if they match my understanding of the dance in question. This should keep me off the streets for a bit.

#363 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:28 AM:

::: Sisuile @ 273:::

Now that is a Making Light thread I'd love to see: Scholarly works to avoid citing at all costs.

If it happens it should be called "If you read it in Stanley-Browne" for the eponymous H. Beam Piper chapter from Uller Uprising dealing with the same sort of scholarly work.

#364 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Zeborah, best wishes from me too about the vet stuff. That's just tough on the emotions, at least for me. It does remind me of one more of my own rules that may or may not help:

#4. Be up front about sources of stress, distraction, etc., outside the exchange. Statements like "I have a feeling I'm forgetting something, but I've been waiting for a job offer call all day" and "I've got a friend coming for a visit from Australia, and between meal planning and housework, I think I vacuumed up some of my brain by mistake", and "I can't really be fair in discussing Company X when it comes to Policy Y because they did tremendous harm to someone I love, never made amends, and continue to deny it long after the facts have been established to everyone else's satisfaction, and I'm just a ball of hate about it", all deliver the message "Hi, I'm not a detached observer bot about this, my feelings are engaged too." They always are to some degree, of course, but sometimes much more so than others, and sometimes it's feelings about the subject, sometimes about something else important to youa t the moment.

Some people will take that as a sign of weakness and try to exploit. In doing so, they mark themselves as losers and assholes, and will earn scorn from decent bystanders. Being thought of as one of the decent folks when it comes to basic human respect no matter what your stance on a particular disagreement may be is a good thing, and so is having a clear boundary between yourself and the losers and assholes.

It's also a good hook for other conversations. Common interests and bonds turn up in the most surprising places, and in my experience, a lot of social disagreements get solved when a problem area pit can be surrounded by boardwalks of shared other connections. Then it gets bounded, quarantined, and filled in, by people who've learned how to see each other in other terms. It can also just be fun in its own right, of course, and trying to be too utilitarian about these things is (for me, at least) a mistake. It's still true, though - I will more likely get to a solution or at least a comfortable place of argument rest with someone who's also a cat fancier, or shares my fondness for Thomas Ligotti, or agrees about the merits of the Sierra Nevadas national parks, or who knows what I mean about just really not enjoying the super-hot foods so popular in sf fandom and likes rich but not hot seasonings, or whatever.

The easier it is to attach some humanity to the text, basically, the easier it is to get out of the really nasty thickets and into better argumentative terrain.

#365 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:52 AM:

#273 Scholarly works to avoid citing at all costs.

Not exactly a scholarly work, but it's been observed that the fact that Herbert Schildt's "The Annotated C Standard" was cheaper than the actual ISO standard (whose text it includes) correctly reflected the value "added" by the annotations.

#366 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:52 AM:

Foo. I lost a long message last night when our hosting service went screwy.

Lance (318): Secure shell, list file? That's some heavy-handed security.

General: I think part of what's happening at Wikipedia is a process I've seen in many times and places, where people mistake a thing one does for a thing one is.

I first spotted it in clubs and concoms. In the beginning, you have a task-based system: "Okay, Ferdy's running the huckster room and Lulu's doing hotel and banquet. Mo's just about got the program pulled together. We're not doing a daily newsletter, so Felix, your work is finished when the pocket program's delivered. Think you can take charge of the fruit punch in the consuite in the evenings? It's just a little bit more than Margie can handle." Felix says yeah, sure, and does fruit punch duty at the convention. As a joke, someone sneaks the line "Fruit Punch Czar: Felix" into the published committeee list.

The job's not a lot of trouble -- arrange for fruit punch, keep an eye on the punchbowl, police the area -- and it gives Felix a reason to hang out in that end of the consuite in the evening. That works out well. Felix is an amiable soul, and a lot of people hang out in that area. The "Fruit Punch Czar" thing gets immortalized when Felix wades into an incipient fight, and one drunk and belligerent would-be-combatant says "Who the bleep are you?"

Felix instantly replies: "Fruit Punch Czar, with powers of High and Low Justice anywhere within fifty feet of the punchbowl."

"Oh," the drunk says meekly, and subsides. So after that everyone refers to Felix as the Fruit Punch Czar. But really, that's just the way Felix is. If given the job of hanging out in the main corridor wearing a rubber duck tied to a string, Felix would do it -- and would still be wading in to stop fights and sort out problems, and would still accrete a random group of cheerful conversationalists.

(Why sort out other people's problems and adjudicate disputes? Felix would say, because it's a good thing to do; also, that anyone can do it.)

After a few years, the job is up for grabs. Felix and spouse have had their first kid, and are busy. This is where the saga of Yorick begins. Yorick is no Felix, to put it mildly, but he has a flaming yen to be Punch Bowl Czar, dispense High and Low Justice, and be at the center of the coolest gathering at the convention. At the annual committee meeting where everyone settles out who's doing what job, he and his like-minded crony Jan make a real push for the jobs of Consuite Coordinator and Fruit Punch Czar. Margie says fine; she'll run the Green Room instead. Someone else takes on publications.

Yorick is way into being Fruit Punch Czar because he thinks it makes him Felix. Do I need to describe the whole dysfunctional sequence of events that follows, winding up with a bitterly destructive committee fight four years later because Jan and Yorick are upset that plain convention attendees have been "usurping the powers" of the Fruit Punch Enforcement Squad, who wear matching FPES t-shirts and have (according to Yorick and Jan) "paid their dues" by working as gophers and dogsbodies for the Fruit Punch Department?

Isomorphism: I recently had a long, interesting conversation about moderation with Ken Fisher, one of the bloggers and forum-minders at Ars Technica. I mentioned a bizarre phenomenon I'd seen on various forums: longtime regulars being sharply reprimanded for explaining local customs to newbies. The term used to describe this supposed misbehavior was "backseat moderation."

Ken said he certainly didn't agree with that policy, but he knew what prompted it: busybody users running around on boards playing pretend-moderator, telling other users that You've Been Bad, and The Moderators Are Gonna Get You For That. It tended to happen, he said, in forums where the moderators were a separate class from common users. He may have also credited it to another one of his bêtes noires: boards where moderators aren't part of the general conversation and community, but instead are semi-anonymous figures who appear out of the darkness, distribute reprimands and penalties, and then disappear again.

The thing about Wikipedia is that almost anyone who hangs out there regularly and identifies as a Wikipedian is going to run out of expertise. Most people are going to start out there by writing and editing articles about subjects they're familiar with. But the longer they hang out, the smaller the remaining stash of hitherto unapplied general knowledge they have to expend on articles, and the more they know administrative policies and procedures. Wikipedia grants status for activity. They have to do something. So they go around looking for material which they can declare to be inadequately sourced or significant or encyclopedia-like, or which they can pretend they understand well enough to edit.

I mean, look at Swatjester. Lord knows he's no rocket scientist, and he's not a broad generalist, but over the course of this year he'll probably commit more than 6K "User Contributions" upon Wikipedia. Judging from the edits of his I've seen, in many of those six thousand cases he's not going to know what he's talking about.

***

I need to get this posted. But before I do: Leah Miller, message #285 was luminous with good sense. More on this anon, if I get to it.

#367 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:58 AM:

OK, I just got this package from UPS, its addressed to Making Light, c/o me. Return address says "Iurker" or something. Can't quite make it out. I open it up, and it's full of, like, maybe a thousand capital "I"s. You wouldn't neccessarily think a capital "I" would weigh much, but when you a thousand of them in one place, well, suffice to say, Iurker spent a lot of money on shipping. No instructions were included though. Not sure what I'm supposed to do with them.

Did I miss something?

#368 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:59 AM:

The bad scholarly works thread is up and running. Have fun!

#369 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:10 AM:

Greg @367:

It's because you've been appointed Official Rescuer of People Trapped in Third Person Mode, with powers of pronoun dispensation within 50 feet of a browser window open to Making Light. Did you not get the memo?

Teresa picked them out of her vowels box, accumulated from all those disemvowelments over the years.

Use the power wisely. And if Teresa finds out you're selling them on on the black market to people named Trey, she'll get you.

(You don't get to hand this power on; see comment 366 for details of why).

#370 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:14 AM:

Kathryn (somewhere way upthread) noted that these kinds of discussions are useful because they *do* help Wikipedia to start cleaning up its act. That would be great, though from other comments I get the feeling that such optimism is uncomfortably close to Shrub's proclamations that things really are turning around in Iraq, thanks to the Surge. (Sorry to say anything negative at this point. Ignore at will.)

What I like best in this thread is the way the bile is finally leaking out as people go off on interesting tangents in recent posts. "Making Light" tangents are some of this site's greatest features!

#371 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:19 AM:

Teresa@366: a bitterly destructive committee fight four years later because Jan and Yorick are upset that plain convention attendees have been "usurping the powers" of the Fruit Punch Enforcement Squad, who wear matching FPES t-shirts and have (according to Yorick and Jan) "paid their dues" by working as gophers and dogsbodies for the Fruit Punch Department?

I can't stop chuckling at the scene stuck in my head.

;)

#372 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:20 AM:

Making Light: it doesn't matter how angry we are, we will eventually drift into a spiral of poetry, recipes, obscure references, and puns. Eventually.

#373 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:29 AM:

Zeborah @354:

Wikipedia articles are the most prominent exception, but there I suspect concentrating on metre and rhyme would only distract me from the other things I should be concentrating on....

If there is ever a Wikipedia spinoff that demands all of its articles be written as poetry, please let me know. I will once again fail to contribute due to my lack of skill, but I'll certainly spend a long time admiring the whole thing. My Han Dynasty research would have been much more interesting if the history had been written in heroic couplets.

#374 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:34 AM:

Abi #359: At the risk of shattering a burgeoning friendship, I must shamefully confess that I am no software tester. I'm a...*whisper* programmer.

Yes, its true, I'm one of _those_ people who consider a successful compile to be the extent of their software testing. Before you other programmers welcome me as one of your fellows, I have another admission to make: I'm really more of a software architect than an engineer.

Teresa, could you send Frank over here before both sides shred me?

#375 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:44 AM:

Diatryma @ 373... it doesn't matter how angry we are, we will eventually drift into a spiral of poetry, recipes, obscure references, and puns.

You forgot knitting, the knit-pickers will say.

#376 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:45 AM:

Diatryma (372), it's the mulch of happy thoughts.

Lance (374), will any Frank do?

Greg, Abi: Have fun with them. There are always too many of those in the vowel box.

#377 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:49 AM:

abi #369: It may be too late. My co-worker is named Fulmer, but calls himself Tra (with a long "a").

#378 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Dang! I meant Felix! But I'll settle for anyone...just don't send Yorick :)

#379 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:52 AM:

I can be Frank with Lance. I am practiced at being frank with developers and architects.

#380 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:02 PM:

Teresa @366

...is a process I've seen in many times and places, where people mistake a thing one does for a thing one is.

Ach, piffle. I came up with that all on my own, but now I'll find myself attributing it to you.

It's how I remain in charity with obnoxious comments, by remembering that a person who trolls is not necessarily a troll.

(I have been in Yorik's position, by the way, inheriting the job title of TSA from a wise and clever man. The letters usually stood for Technical Support Analyst, but if you held them to the quarter moon on Durin's Day, they meant Technical Smart Ass. The trick was to do both things at once, which Peter managed much more gracefully than I.)

#381 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Fade Manley @ 373

There is the OEDILF aka The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form - http://www.oedilf.com

A dictionary rather than an encyclopedia but with limericks! They have over 42.000 definations now. It's rather impressive.

#382 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:17 PM:

367:OK, I just got this package from UPS, its addressed to Making Light, c/o me. Return address says "Iurker" or something. Can't quite make it out. I open it up, and it's full of, like, maybe a thousand capital "I"s.

I dub you Sir Greg of London. Arise, Sir Greg.

Why? Well, isn't it obvious? He must be a knight, because everyone knows the knight has a thousand "I"s.

#383 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 12:21 PM:

#351, Fragano Ledgiste wondering about why a moped is a bromfiets: because, in Dutch, that's the sound it makes. There's also the snorfiets the decidedly unhip for decades [1] bike with electromotor usually only ridden by the blue rinse brigade, which makes a purring noise.

#356, Jakob : better to use 'Je koffie ziet er uit als Cthulhu' or even "Je koffie lijkt op Cthulhu".

[1] now new and improved and becoming cool amongst the grachtengordel as a replacement for a car, due to concerns about global warming. Also because everybody has a bakfiets now and you need to have something else to be hip.

#384 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:02 PM:

Ow ow ow ow ow! Make ajay stop doing that!

Martin Wisse, have I mentioned noticing how often it happens that when stupid Wikipedia snarls get untangled, the untangling has your name on it?

#385 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:17 PM:

#370 Kathryn (somewhere way upthread) noted that these kinds of discussions are useful because they *do* help Wikipedia to start cleaning up its act. That would be great, though from other comments I get the feeling that such optimism is uncomfortably close to Shrub's proclamations that things really are turning around in Iraq, thanks to the Surge.

Where is Peter Watts when we need him? Clearly what is called for is some pure unadulterated bracing gloom!

Peter would probably say something like, Wikipedia doesn't matter anyway. We're all on the road to extinction and shortly the planet will be under the control of canny giant squid!

Or perhaps he would suggest a method of indentifying psychopathy in teenagers that we could use to our advantage: 14 year-old psychopaths can be identified and then specially trained to fight all our net battles for us: the uninformed 20-somethings with narcissistic tendencies could not possibly hold out again such an awesome army, or . . .

(Never mind.)

#386 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Martin Wisse #383: Ik weet. I was trying to make a very bad joke. It didn't work. I hadn't, however, heard of the 'snorfiets', mostly because I don't think I ever saw one in Surinam.

#387 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:33 PM:

#385 Kathryn:

Thus providing the plotline for the alternate universe SF classic, _Sender's Game_.

#388 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:45 PM:

Heh.

Here's a great quote from Peter Watts that I'm not even making up. (Maybe this should go in Wikiquotes?):

The future belongs to the sociopaths.

#389 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 01:53 PM:

Teresa @366: Foo. I lost a long message last night when our hosting service went screwy.

I was experiencing trouble as well; for a moment there, I thought, great googly moogly, ML's enemies have finally launched a denial of service attack. Whew!

In other news:

Fox News Changes Wikipedia To Smear Rivals; Comprehensive List of Changes

List anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations

#390 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:04 PM:

Diatryma @ 372: Making Light: it doesn't matter how angry we are, we will eventually drift into a spiral of poetry, recipes, obscure references, and puns. Eventually.

One thing newcomers might not know yet is that if you want to delight people here, ask them to explain an obscure reference.

#391 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:10 PM:

elise @ 390... Do you think the newcomers seldom if ever ask us to elucidate those obscure references because they're afraid of looking ignorant? I hope not.

#392 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:25 PM:

elise (#390): [*]

#393 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:27 PM:

I hope not as well, but it suddenly occurred to me that maybe this route to delight was not obvious.

It might also not be obvious that we correct each other to be polite, if I am recalling the button correctly. (If I'm not, somebody will correct me, and I'll be glad of it.)

#394 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:34 PM:

elise @ 393... Well, let's hope that our bringing this up makes newcomers realize that a request to explain references to Irwin Allen's oeuvre (for example) will not result in their being ostracized.

#395 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:34 PM:

Christopher Davis @ 392: [*]

Dang! I just knew somebody was going to ask me to explain the asterisk panel, and I have to go do some work and errands.... OK, I'll try to keep this short and accurate, but I can't vouch for my memory, because I was there. (That makes sense if you're in my head. Really.)

Um, before a Minicon a few years back, some of us were talking about those tantalizing moments in discussions and panels where you want to ask somebody to explain the reference they just used, but you don't want to derail the main discussion, and so sometimes you don't ask, but you wish that you could. One of us expressed a desire for real-time footnotes, where a little glowing asterisk would flash and then the text would appear. A person got the idea that we could do this as a panel, one that was designed to be entirely digressions, if we got the right people on it. We'd print out sheets of paper with a big asterisk on each one, and hand them out to the audience as they came in. When somebody wanted a footnote, they'd hold up their asterisk. It was a great galloping good time.

I can't remember who all was on the panel there. I think I was. I know Mike was. (For them as just came in, Mike = John M. Ford.) Teresa was. Singer was, right? And.... OK, now I need help remembering. (And I'm off to get more work done and then do errands. Will check back later.)

#396 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:37 PM:

And Serge @ 394, just try saying "Irwin Allen's oeuvre" five times fast and see what happens. I had a train wreck of the lips halfway through the second iteration.

#397 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 02:46 PM:

Elise #396: I blew up on my third iteration, either referring to Irwin Allen's ulvula or vulva, I'm not sure which.

#398 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:16 PM:

#398: Wasn't the Seaview attacked by a giant uvula? And sparks flew out of the control panel, too.

#399 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Leah 337: Wise, kind, and patient. You're impressing me more and more.

abi 340: Hear, hear.

____ 341: Back in form, I see! We love you, abi!

#400 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Kathryn Cramer @ 388: Oy. You tempt me sorely. I've been itching for an opportunity to air my rebuttals of the theories in Blindsight since the moment I finished reading it. Surely, I thought, if I simply bide my time the topic will come up on Making Light on its own. But it never has. What a brilliantly, excitingly, fascinatingly wrong book that was. How I'd love to discuss it.

#401 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 03:54 PM:

elise... Hmm... My lips suffered no damage from repeatedly saying Irwin Allen's oeuvre, but my brain is still protesting.

Jon Meltzer... Is there anything that didn't attack the Seaview? Giant humanoid goldfish? Check. Lobster men? Check. Kelp monsters? Check. Blackbeard the Pirate? Check. Michael Dunn made up as a clown? Check...

Ow!

I think I just sprained a few synapses.

#402 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Oooh, Heresiarch, please rebut. I'd love to hear it.

Maybe in the open thread?

#403 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:12 PM:

TNH @384
Make ajay stop doing that!

Ain't no power in the 'verse.

#404 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:35 PM:

abi @ 403... No power in the 'verse? Not even Flash Gordon?

#405 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 04:41 PM:

And it's time for another Round-up Response, as is so inevitable in these fast-moving threads. (I'm convinced the only reason I got that verse in directly after verse was called for was that temporary problem with the site that put everyone's posts on hold. cf. "hamster wheel," "preview button.")

...

First, foremost, most importantly, I owe Zeborah an apology. If you got off on the wrong foot, my post was undoubtedly a stone in your shoe. Both Leah and Madeline have quoted or made reference to that post in their excellent dissections above, but neither seem to be taking me to task for it, which is more than I deserve...

What I was referring to was a well-established pattern in previous Wikipedia threads, in which someone will come along, identify as an admin or at least an enthusiastic editor of WP pages, and scold the entirety of the Fluorosphere for criticizing WP. So my swipe was only intended in the direction of those whose argument consists of "WP can do no wrong and y'all are just hatahz!" Permutations of that argument involve "You have no right to criticize because you're an outsider" or "You have no right to criticize here; if you want to do some good bring your gripes to the Talk Pages" or "You got a problem? Citizendium is that way."

Unfortunately, my post was a bit too gleeful and too little specific, so it came across as unnecessarily provoking. And I'm sorry for that.

My best wishes for your cat's health. Pax.

...

Teresa, I admit to feeling snarky about "backseat moderation" myself, and I'm not a newbie (except in comparison to others). I think the reason it rubs me wrong is, I often see it as an attempt by someone trying to assert an authority they haven't earned. There are places all over that sentence for me to be wrong, of course. "Trying to assert" is one place; "they haven't earned" is another. As always, the bad feeling arises somewhere between infelicitous phrasing and incorrect interpretation. But, if I'm not alone here, this could be one reason why you and Ken see backseat moderators getting chastised in various fora.

...

So, recently, my writing group enjoyed responding to the prompt "write something using only one vowel." If you're wondering what to do with your "e"s post-disemvowelment, I could put them to good use that way.

...

"Keys To The Fluorosphere: 101 Useful Ways To Delight The Natives" is a thread title that comes to mind.

#406 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Re: ajay #382
because everyone knows the knight has a thousand "I"s

Darn, that earwormed me with an Old English riddle, so I'll share the joy of it:

A weird creature came to a meeting of men,
Hauled itself in to the high commerce
Of the wise. It lurched with one eye,
Two feet, twelve hundred heads,
A back and belly -- two hands, arms,
Shoulders -- one neck, two sides.
Untwist your mind and say what I mean.

Of course, ajay and Greg were talking about a multitude of eyes.
This is the opposite: one eye and a multitude of heads.

#407 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:39 PM:

And he'll freeze you
He'll enquease you
All to film-disaster cheese you.
He's atrocious, and he's discussed
What he fakes to make a block bust
He casts Bujold where you'd cast Deneuve
He's got Irwin Allen's oeuvre.

#408 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 05:48 PM:

Although the BADSITES proposal is officially defeated, there is a clique of powerful Wikipedians who insists on enforcing it anyway, citing an ArbCom decision from last year banning links to a particular site (Encyclopedia Dramatica) on the grounds of it being a "harrassment and outing site". In my opinion, that was a bad decision, exceeding the proper bounds of the ArbCom which is explicitly barred from making policy or intervening in content decisions, and it was made worse by the way it's been misused ever since to suppress criticism. I wrote an essay about this on Wikipedia.

I was formerly one of the "fanatical" supporters of Wikipedia, who referred to critics as "Wiki Whiners" and generally took the pro-Wikipedia party line. What "turned me" away from this was my strong dislike of censorship, which led me to strongly oppose the "BADSITES" policy in all its forms (ironically, the way I first ran afoul of it was in my tendency to post links to sites like Wikipedia Review in order to criticize and make fun of them; the draconian interpretation of the no-link policy bans even that).

At present, I'm still not an "anti-Wikipedian"; I still generally like the site, and haven't really had major disputes over its actual content, and I still participate in editing it. However, I really wish that annoying clique would go away.

#409 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:30 PM:

Do we have another internet to award to Chris Clarke? I do believe Chris Clarke wins an internet.

Which will then be given to me in recompense for the earworm, kthxbye.

#410 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:36 PM:

I also owe Zeborah (and the rest of you) an apology... My dissection was too long, too repetitive, and thus needlessly heavy-handed. I did not resist the urge to re-tread ground already thoroughly covered wrt DG's meaning. I used tendentiously insulting words like "grovelling". I was, in fact, tacky. I'm sorry about that, Zeborah. The number of people saying, "I know her and she's cool" is really impressive, and I really do hope you hang around.

By way of reparation for the rest and useful contribution to the thread, I'm going to try a haiku with no vowel but E. Cripes.

The end never seen,
Esteem ebbs, men enter hell...
Whence seeds emerge.

Eeek! Grim! These are words I thought up, if anyone else wants help for a try.

The best french ten hen when send ken keen seen been be breed bleed feed freed seed ends enter rent ever never except between esteem ebb edge lessen recede geyser whence emerge descend

#411 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:42 PM:

Argh! I'm imploding under the weight of my own stupidity! I can fracking sing Chris Clarke's little ditty at #407, but I somehow can't make the leap to figure out what it's based on. And...it's...driving...me...mad!

#412 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:51 PM:

ethan: Orggr Qnivf Rlrf

#413 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 06:57 PM:

Ethan: hint: Joan Crawford

#414 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:22 PM:

#400: I've been itching for an opportunity to air my rebuttals of the theories in Blindsight since the moment I finished reading it.

My illustrious spouse is Peter Watt's editor. My favorite anecdote about PW: We had dinner with him at the Toronto WorldCon, and brought out small son, also named Peter. Peter Watts is trained as a marine biologist.

When I mentioned that our son wanted to grow up to be a marine biologist, he replied: "You'd better hurry or they'll be nothing left out there to study but squid."

And then we had a discussion of how the squid will inherit the earth; and we may or may not have then ordered ourselves a pate of calamari.

#415 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:29 PM:

Glee! The freeze recedes.
Bees, ever fennel-seekers,
flee the nettle-trees.

#416 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Chris Clarke (415):

::applause::

#417 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 07:41 PM:

Xopher @ #412, Gah. The first three lines work for Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," so that's what I assumed (yeah, yeah, I know the aphorism).

#418 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:02 PM:

Xopher, Lizzy L: Duh. OK. Thanks.

That song is fun, but hard, to sing at karaoke.

#419 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 08:19 PM:

Serge @401: [..] Irwin Allen's oeuvre [..]

One of the markers for me is those Irwin Allen computers. You've seen them in all the TV shows, and even in his movies (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Towering Inferno).

I'd thought it would be interesting to create panels of blinking lights that would simulate that look. Hang them up on the wall to create the illusion of rooms full of computer. 'IA Computer Co', or 'Cargo Cult Computers' (since that would be what they would be).

#420 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:12 PM:

Madeleine, #345: A bit of elaboration on the following:

Instead, you drag in new attacks like "but you said Wankerpedia", "but Patrick called someone a psychopath." What you're using here is the "it wasn't that bad, and also you deserved it" defense, which will never win you an argument, nor goodwill.

For me -- and I suspect I'm not the only one -- that tactic comes across as a variation on the political "But Clinton did it too!" To which my response tends to be, "Okay, so if you think it was so wrong when HE did it, why are YOU doing/defending it here?" (Or sometimes, "And if all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?") Two wrongs don't make a right, and someone else's bad behavior doesn't give you free license to do the same thing... although the temptation to respond so can be very strong indeed.

ajay, #382: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! *holds nose and runs screaming into the night*

ethan, #418: Don't feel bad; if you can't sing it, that just proves you have both a voice and an ear. (Meee-ow!)


#421 ::: Seth Finkelstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 09:23 PM:

FYI:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article2267665.ece
"Wisdom? More like dumbness of the crowds"

JW reaction:

http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikien-l/2007-August/079209.html

> "The notion that a false claim to knowledge is wrong is not part of
> Wikipedia's culture."

This is preposterous.

> "It combines the free-market dogmatism of the libertarian Right with
> the anti-intellectualism of the populist Left. "

Nonsense.

It is hard to know how to coherently respond to ignorant ranting which
appears to make no attempt to even connect at any point with the facts
of reality.

--Jimbo

#422 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 10:32 PM:

That line makes almost no sense out of context (at least to me it didn't). The bit leading up to it helps explain:

The problem is not that there are too few voices in the editorial process, who can skew the result, but the opposite. Participation is prized more than competence. When a prominent Wikipedian who claimed to be a tenured professor of divinity was revealed instead to be a young college dropout, the site’s founder Jimmy Wales responded that he was unconcerned. The notion that a false claim to knowledge is wrong is not part of Wikipedia’s culture.

This reference to the Essjay Controversy may be incomplete. At first, JW didn't see anything wrong with Essjay's false claim to knowledge, but then at some point JW asked for his resignation. Whether this was due to a sense of moral obligation or an attempt to avoid more bad press, I'm not sure.

I think wikipedia portrays it as JW didn't realize how bad it was, but then found out and canned him. But then, wikipedia has in the past attempted to report JW's previous work in porn as "Glamour Photography", so maybe using wikipedia as a reference regarding its own behaviour isn't a good idea.

#423 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:25 PM:

Here, by the way, is the statement you need to sign off on to join Citizendium. While a lot of this sounds good, it also sounds half-baked, and unexpected insistence that I must agree to this stuff was off-putting enough that I didn't complete my registration.

The Citizendium's Statement of Fundamental Policies

Version 1.0, September 29, 2006; 1.1, October 7; 1.2, October 9; 1.3, October 10; 1.4, October 11; 1.5, January 22, 2007

The Citizendium project is launching with some fundamental commitments, articulated in this document. Those who support these commitments are invited to contribute to the initial shaping of the project. Those who reject any of these commitments are hereby asked to abstain from participating.

I. The nature of the project.

The ultimate goal of the Citizendium community, a global group of collaborators, is to create the most reliable and largest encyclopedia that they can.
If an "approved" or "certified" version of an article is available, that version will be presented to the public by default; in that case, viewing unapproved versions will require further mouseclicks for the public, and such versions will be clearly labelled as unapproved, and users will be instructed not to rely upon them.
The Citizendium will be a wiki. Edits will not be required to be approved by editors before appearing on the wiki.
The Citizendium will be owned and ultimately controlled by a non-profit organization.
The Citizendium will not sell advertisements. There may be unobtrusive non-profit sponsorship statements, but sponsors will have no editorial influence over the project, and enforceable, adequate oversight of this rule will be in place. Similarly, no grants that make specific editorial demands will be accepted.
The Citizendium will be devoted to simplicity, both in presentation of content and in the organization of the community. Many features as implemented by Wikipedia, such as subject categories and so-called user boxes, may be eliminated from (or never included in) the Citizendium. Special roles will not be created without excellent reason, and bureaucracy will be kept to the absolute minimum necessary.
II. Fundamental policies concerning content.

The content of the Citizendium will always be open content.
It will be the project's aim to make the content of the Citizendium:
accurate
based on common experience, published, credible research, and expert opinion
neutral in this sense
legal and responsible
family-friendly
III. Fundamental policies concerning community governance.

All contributors to the Citizendium must do so using their own real names, unless special and unusual permission is granted by project management.
The Citizendium will be open to contribution by anyone (tentatively, "authors") who is able to make a positive difference and who is willing to work collaboratively under the policies and management of the project.
The Citizendium will invite subject area experts to serve as editors. The term "editor" is, however, used in a restricted sense. Editors will be expected to work "shoulder-to-shoulder" with authors in the wiki. Among the things that editors will be empowered, singly or collectively, to do are (1) to make decisions about specific questions, or disputes, concerning particular articles in an editor's area of expertise, and (2) to approve high-quality articles. Editors will not have the right, except perhaps in very unusual cases, to "lock" articles and thereby prevent the collaborative process from continuing. Finally, editors will be expected to share authority with other editors who are expert on the same subjects.
The Citizendium will have a set of persons of mature judgment specially empowered to enforce rules, called (at least tentatively) "constables." The enforcement of project rules--up to and including the ejection of participants from the project--is to be carried out using common sense and leniency while following "the rule of law."
There will be a separation of powers: enforcement officials ("constables") will not be able to make editorial decisions, and editors will not have the ability to enforce their own decisions, though they will be able to make recommendations.
IV. Statement of rights.

Contributors in good standing have a right to build the Citizendium without constantly having to do battle with people who are constantly breaking project rules or trying to undermine the project. So there will be a process for rapidly removing rulebreakers from the project. While most people will enjoy the privilege of contributing to the Citizendium if they are able to make a positive difference, there is a blanket right neither to contribute nor to participate in the project's governance.
There will be a right of appeal, and analogues to other traditional "legal" rights will be observed, such as the right to view and respond to the evidence cited against one. We will make extensive creative efforts toward effective design of oversight processes, to ensure that the appeals process is not abused, e.g., in a self-serving way or to advance ideological views.
The general public has the right to expect the quickest possible removal of copyright-protected and libellous material. Processes and tools will be created that make it difficult for libel to appear on articles concerning living persons and their activities, and for such to be removed as quickly as it is found.
V. The adoption of a Citizendium Charter.

An Advisory Board for the Citizendium Foundation will be appointed by the Editor-in-Chief, in consultation with persons of his choosing.
Within six months to a year after the launch of the Citizendium, its Advisory Board will adopt a binding community charter that states, in a clear but general way, the fundamental goals and policies of the Citizendium project. The judgment of the Advisory Board, on the matter of the Charter, will be regarded as final.
The Charter will supersede the present Statement of Fundamental Policies, and it will include information about how it may be amended.
The Charter will be regarded both as the supreme policy of the Citizendium community and as the legal basis of operation of the project as part of any non-profit organization.
Consequently, all positions of authority designated prior to the adoption of the Charter, including that of Editor-in-Chief, will immediately fall within the purview of the Charter, and of the mechanisms it specifies, upon its adoption.

I don't for example, agree that they shouldn't use categories. I personally like categories a lot more than Wikipedians. And half the time reading this I wasn't sure that the person writing it was entirely clear on what he or she had in mind. So I didn't finish signing up.

#424 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2007, 11:52 PM:

"All the boys think she's a spy...." Wasn't this song mentioned in that Michael Bérubé blog thread a few years back about Songs That Were Obviously Written By Space Aliens? If not, it should have been.

(Found it! Here. And no, it wasn't. Damn.)

#425 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:01 AM:

Oh, and I'm loving the single-vowel verse posts. I humbly request more.

Would it utterly disgust anyone if I mentioned that one of the members of my writing group came up with a 200-or-so-word story with just the letter "e"? He read it aloud to us. Almost none of it sounded forced. Amazang.

#426 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:04 AM:

Teresa, #366, it was your hosting service screwing up? I couldn't get a post on, either, and then DSL wouldn't connect this morning, so I was blaming Verizon for my lack of post. I'm still blamimg them for lack of DSL. I had the same connection problem happen Monday, fixed on Tuesday, and I'm not actually willing to spend hours with techs to get DSL two out of three days. If this doesn't fix it, bye-bye DSL. Good thing dial-up still works.

I was posting that I knew Zeborah from rasfc and while she may have been a bit off, she's not a troll or jujitsu vendor or whatever. And she's been posting here since 2005, just not very often.

#427 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:04 AM:

Would it utterly disgust anyone if I mentioned that one of the members of my writing group came up with a 200-or-so-word story with just the letter "e"?

No consonants?

#428 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:51 AM:

I'd like to have that discussion on why Blindsight is wrong too. I haven't decided whether I think it's wrong. For that matter, without extratextual material, I don't think you could even tell whether we're meant to believe all of the things that the main character believes by the end of the book. (He isn't exactly a reliable narrator.)

Without getting too much into spoilers... I think it's probably wrong too, but in fascinating ways. I think the author has conflated a number of different things and given them the same name, but even thinking about how to separate them is hard.

#429 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:58 AM:

Nicole @ 425: Your whim is my inspiration.

Too old for joy? No.
Hold on to moon's cord, to moor,
to hold on to now.

#430 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:19 AM:

And one more:

And a hand that has art
can call, can attack, can dart and harass,
can pass all, can ask all
(as all skalds ask all)
has man an art?
Ah. Sharp calls of altar and brass,
small art and dark glass,
clasp and stalk,
pass and talk,
and tap at a glass,
and after, and all.

Hand and art,
sand and a glass,
and after and all
falls away.

#431 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:21 AM:

Drat. An e snuck in there. I need a pocket selective disemvoweller. Change it to:

And a hand that has art
can call, can attack, can dart and harass,
can pass all, can ask all
(as all skalds ask all)
has man an art?
Ah. Sharp calls of altar and brass,
small art and dark glass,
clasp and stalk,
pass and talk,
and tap at a glass,
and all.

Hand and art,
sand and a glass,
and all falls away.

#432 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:26 AM:

I feel like there should be an 'always' in there somewhere, but 'after and all' is so lovely even with the rules-breaking that I can't mentally swap the two.

#433 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:42 AM:

#425: Just the letter e? Did it go something like this?

'E, Ee. Eeeeee! E? 'E: "Eee." EE? EE! "Eeeeee!" "EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!"

Hmmm. While there's clearly drama and conflict, I confess I'm having trouble seeing how to get it to the vast length of 200 words.

#434 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:55 AM:

Clifton @ 433: through repetition for dramatic effect?


And I did commit something with the letter i, but it turned into a very odd children's story, I think.

Vicki's Ibis

"Is it --? Is it Vicki's ibis?"

"It's Vicki's ibis! It is!"

"Is it ill?"

"Ill?"

"It's tipping."

"It isn't ill. It isn't tipping; it's imbibing."

"It isn't tipping, it's tippling?"

"Vicki's ibis is impish. Which spirit is it tippling?"

"Gin."

"Gin." *sigh* "Illicit ibis tippling."

"Tippling isn't illicit."

"It is if it's ibis tippling. Is Vicki in?"

Vicki's ibis is still in its bin, tippling. I-yi-yi!


(And I should obviously go to bed now.)

#435 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:57 AM:

There was something niggling at me about my E haiku, when it hit me: it needed more lines.

Edge effects
Glee! The deep freeze recedes.
Even the bejeweled bees, ever kept penned,
Greet the respected beekeeper.
These stretched present vessels, these feeble knees,
These leveled, dependent legs,
End the secret sense the experts set,
The present red-dressed regret.
Yes, pen the letters. Send them west,
Let sweet green verses rest well there,
News needle-tests the chest-nerves' senses.

#436 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:59 AM:

Chris @ 434: oooooooooooh!

#437 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:12 AM:

P.S. Hi, Zora. I'd know that adventurer's name anywhere!

When Wikipedia was first growing in popularity, it was staggering how fast articles would improve. But are they still improving? I was thinking, here's a Gedanken-experiment which could actually be performed:

Wikipedia has over the years been subject to various "prove it's inaccurate!" or "prove it's accurate!" stunts, basically consisting of having a bunch of experts do surprise-ratings of some of its articles for errors, and comparing the results to other encyclopedias. (Naturally, one of the points the Wikipedia advocates always make is "Well now that we know there are errors, those articles have been fixed already!") It might be worth going back to some of those articles which were rated and corrected at some point in the past, and comparing their present correctness with how they were doing back then.

I'm curious to know - is the overall average article quality improving, standing still, decreasing, or "going sideways" as Wall Street is wont to say?

#439 ::: Greg Machlin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:51 AM:

Nicole@425--You may or may not have heard of a wonderful book by a French writer named Georges Perec called "La Disparition," written entirely without the letter E. It was published in 1967.

(cue Hollywood preview voice and drumroll):

It took 25 years to find a translator, but Gilbert Adair unleashed "A Void" on the world in 1994.

I wrote a review of the book and also avoided using the letter E… it's on amazon.

Ajay@382: That's *awful.* (Chortle)

Serge@235: Was that an actual possibility? The timing would have been right, as he hadn't been through "Spartacus" and fled for England and the magical land of final cut yet, at least not when they were choosing directors…

#440 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:24 AM:

I can't remember if I thanked everyone yet, for variously vouching for me and giving me a second chance. Even if I have, there are more people to thank now, so thank you all.

Nicole: apology accepted, and please accept mine in return. I knew the pattern you were referring to; I empathise with quite a different view of it and, in short, took your comment far more personally than was wise. It took Leah's and Madeline's dissections for me to realise how my reply to you sounded; I'm sorry for that.

To all those who asked after my cat (Boots, for her white paws and the fairy tale), thank you; she seems to be doing better. She was completely off her food, lost all her playfulness, and had a fever, but the vet gave her antibiotics and a painkiller, and she wasn't but a minute back home before she started eating again. This morning her fever was back to normal (and she's currently back to trying to get on my laptop keyboard and lick the trackpad), so hopefully it's just a matter of keeping up the antibiotics.

I'm going to reread the dissections properly over the next few hours and reply separately as soon as I can. (I've been writing this achronologically on the commute, but before I post it I want to also thank Madeline for, and accept, her apology. I'll take what you said in your dissection as a measure of how badly my original posts came across rather than as anything else.)

In the meantime, something (long! <wince>) I've been working on/working out for a couple of days, sort of a meditation on a theme. It's not a reply to anyone in particular, and not intended to attack or defend but to explore and explain the mode I operate in. Some of it I've thought about like this for a while, some of it I'm just thinking about in these terms now. It's possible that none of it is true in an objective sense, it's just the best description I can find at the moment for my subjective experience.

I understand the importance of words. The problem is that different cultures use words differently ('gas' and 'biscuit' come to mind, and I'm beginning to suspect something subtler and probably not geographically based with 'on the whole'); and different subcultures use words differently ('mundane' within and without sf fandom); and different sub-subcultures use words differently (though by here the lexicon is less likely to be involved, so one is fooled into thinking there aren't any differences, until they blow up in one's face). When I was in South Korea, the majority and the worst of my culture shock issues weren't with Koreans - they were with other English speakers, because I wasn't expecting issues there.

I'm used to the sub-subculture of rasfc. (It helps that I've been there a long time so rasfc is also used to me - which is not to say that I habitually go around making random outbursts there, but that I don't need to.) I've been acting under the unconsidered assumption that the sub-subculture of Making Light is identical to that of rasfc.

It's quite possible that this assumption is mistaken in at least one respect: specifically, on rasfc the population is mixed in a certain proportion between those who approach disagreements as debates to be addressed logically point by point and won or lost, and those who approach them as opportunities to share different points of view and enrich both/all 'sides' without necessarily convincing anyone of anything. (This is a vast simplification of a sliding scale with all sorts of other interacting factors.)

I normally tend towards the 'sharing' side of things, and I'm not at all comfortable with the extreme end of the 'debate' side of things; if I get into a disagreement in debate mode with someone who is comfortable with it, they could be claiming the sky was yellow with purple and puce polka dots and I'd still lose, and look shrill, unreasonable, and confused - at best - while I did so. Fortunately for me, the population on rasfc tends, on average, to lean more towards the 'sharing' side of things than the 'debate' side (and I've learned who tends towards the 'debate' side so I can avoid getting into disagreements with them). But it's possible that Making Light's population tends, on average, to lean more towards the 'debate' side of things than I'm used to.

I'm not sure to what extent, if at all, that stuff is inherently connected to this: when I make a post, I make it as a whole; the sentences aren't intended to stand alone but to work together to shape the boundaries of my ideas, or triangulate on them, or both. (A few years ago I'd have sworn I didn't think kinaesthetically. I don't know whether my thought processes changed or only my awareness of them.) If one sentence isn't strictly conformant to objective reality then-- I can't figure out how to say this without sounding as if I'm happy to lie if it suits my argument, which isn't the case. It's more... brushstrokes of an impressionist painting: there's nothing realistic about that in the way a photograph is realistic, but if you look at it all together, it's a picture of something real. But it's got to be looked at as a whole. So when someone latches onto my sentences individually, one by itself or one after another, I feel as if they're tearing my post to pieces without understanding how it fits together into what I'm really saying.

I've sometimes also seen this in terms of empiricism vs post-modernism. (A few years ago I thought postmodernism was academic waffle, and then I discovered I was operating in a postmodernist mode myself.) Yes, I've had arguments where this underpinned the problem before. That only makes it slightly easier to recognise a second/third/tenth time, because people don't start a conversation by telling you what their preferred mode of discourse is.

I'm aware that people who do expect sentences to stand alone, and each be individually accountable for its own truth, can see my impressionist/postmodernist mode as, well, being willing to lie to win an argument. Among other things. They're as uncomfortable with my mode as I am with theirs.

The thing is, I can try (have tried, elsewhen) to operate in an empirical, each-sentence-stands-alone mode. But it does my head in something horrid. Plus I'm no good at it; cf the polka-dot sky. It's like learning to speak a foreign language, but there aren't any textbooks to teach me how to do it and if I make a mistake the natives flame me because they don't realise any language but their own exists: my native tongue to them is barbaric.

Words are important; they're the only tools we can use. But they're not the only things there, just the only things we can see by the naked eye. Beneath them lie the really important things: our presuppositions, our patterns of thought, our modes of discourse: rakes in the grass.

#441 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:41 AM:

I.
sing bright, kind silk bird!
ringing trills in this first light,
writing mind with wind wings!
birth night's living mist;
imprint this spring skin with flight.

II.
If I did kiss this still chin, did kiss this lip,
If I bit this slight girl's thin milk-tit shirt,
will I find print, livid signs in bright ink?
will insipid sin lift this stiff-stitched skirt?

#442 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:41 AM:

Chris C:

1) Noooo. It can has had consonants. Sloppy kitty tawks sloppy. (Love that y'all took that ball and ran with it though. Eeeee!)

2) Yay!


CONFESSION:

I am a stinkin' coward and haven't actually tried the exercise myself yet... so here goes my sad sack of an attempt.

"Cat Angharad, can'st catch a rat? A gnat? A fat daft bat? Alas and alack, sad Cat! Can't catch at all! All's aghast at tha'. What chants tha'? 'Cat Angharad can has angst.' Aha."

I think my internal thesaurus works on alliteration, rhyme, and meter, but not assonance. Alas and alack!

#443 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:47 AM:

Thanks for the book recco, Greg - I had not heard of it, as it turns out. Kudos on making your review suit the story.

#444 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:05 AM:

Greg Machlin #439: No e's? It's that kind of thing that drives cryptographers completely nuts. That would raise holy heck with solving substitution cyphers by letter frequency analysis. heh.

#445 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:55 AM:

Zeborah @440

First of all fantastic that your cat is doing better. I'm a very dedicated cat owner myself and I know I would not be able to function properly if my cat were sick. I'm not quite at crazy cat lady level since I only have the one cat but it's pretty close.

I've read your last post through several times and I'm still trying to get my head around it.

I can't speak for everyone on Making Light, far from it, I'm a lurker mostly and now I'm speaking just for myself.

I enjoy discussions where the main purpose is to share different points of view. In a lot of (most?) areas there is no winning or loosing, it's more a case of clearly and without offending people communicating your point of view while trying to understand theirs and hoping that the people that disagree with you will maybe take home a fraction of what you were saying and maybe, just maybe change their opinion slightly.

This is hard though, especially if emotions are high. It is a skill to be able to not back down on your principles and state your opinion and take part in a heated discussion while not offending people.

I say without offending because if you do offend people, reasonable debate can often fly out the window and you get hurt people lashing back and the whole thing turns very messy.

I don't think an argument is a strung together list of stand alone sentences. The whole thing works together to form.. well to form an argument or a statement, paint a picture in words but from my point of view the individual bits, i.e sentences and points need to be able to stand alone as well.

I think you could describe it as a fractal view where at all zoom levels your argument needs to be sound. Does that make sense?

So I think you're right in that there's a culture clash, atleast with me here because for me an argument falls to pieces if the individual points don't make sense or communicate something very different from what I read as the overall meaning of the rest of the post. I can't just stay at the zoomed out level.

I see it as being responsible for what you write. I.e you should be able to defend or justify every part of your argument and post. If you can't, why put it there?

I say defend but I sort of mean clarify, basically that if you get called out on "Hey why did you write X here!" you can go "Because I was feeling Y at the time and there are facts U,T and S and really W happened a while ago so I was very Y especially after Z said Q"

#446 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:39 AM:

#425: Niki, if you like the 200 word story where the only vowel is 'e', you may want to look up Eunoia by Christian Bök. He does the same thing with each of the first five chapters, only a different vowel per chapter. (He then moves on to other constraints. The two poems using only 'y' as the vowel are impressive but cryptic.) Also, Chip Delany blurbs the back cover!

Much less avant-garde is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn, a epistolary novel about people forced to interact in an increasingly lipogrammatic fashion.

(BTW, Georges Perec is an Oulipo author. A quick web search on that may turn up other works, many of which have undoubtedly been translated into English. Their contraints weren't always lipogrammatic though.)

#447 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:53 AM:

On Richard III:

I said I'd class myself as a weak Ricardian.

By that, I mean that I consider hima prime example of the winning side writing the history, but he was a man of his time, where politics was ruthless and losing wasn't an option.

So you have a combination of a boy king (not a good propect for the country) and a guardian with ties to the defeated Lancastian faction, while Richard is a proven soldier and administrator.

We can't know whether Richard, as regent, would have worked out. Some of the timing of events suggests he was willing to take that path, since opponents such as Earl Rivers were not executed until after he was proclaimed King. It's possible he decided he couldn't mould Edward V into a source of future safety.

But the big problem--the elephant in the room--is the disappearance of the Princes. You can argue that Henry Tudor had a greater motive, but it was Richard who had the opportunity. And disappearance suggests a death that couldn't be passed off as natural, or blamed on foreign terrorists.

Kings of England do not have to be nice guys. Richard or Henry or Edward, you don't want to piss them off.

#448 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:57 AM:

Elise@395: As I recall, the panel was Mike, Teresa, Jo Walton (I seem to recall someone telling me that it was her idea originally), and Graydon Saunders, with you as moderator.

A week or two after the con, someone on rec.arts.sf.fandom imported the idea to Usenet by posting an ASCII-art page-with-*-on-it. I would love to know who it was...unfortunately, it's not really practical to search for that on Google, so to find out I'd need to sit down and just read every rasseff post for April of 2001, which would take some time.

Anyway, the idea gained immediate popularity. People being lazy, the ASCII-art pages quickly shrank in size, until Mark Atwood suggested reducing it to just {*}. The eventual standard, however, became [*].

The panel's been done again, so far as I know twice; with mixed success.

#449 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:40 AM:

Madeline:
There are a lot of things that I crafted very carefully to mean X -- and you see it very unambiguously meaning Y. Not infrequently it's a thing that I crafted very carefully to mean X-and-not-Y. This is frustrating. I'm trying to understand why. Sometimes it's because I was attempting to wring too much out of grammar. Sometimes it's because I wasn't considering how presuppositions on the other side of the fence would colour my words. Sometimes... I still don't understand why those presuppositions should have been there so soon.

I don't know to what extent it matters - or particularly to what extent I should correct misapprehensions that you seem to still hold about what I meant. (I grant absolutely anything about what I sounded like.) Naturally I want to, but it could get long and I doubt it's productive.

Bits and pieces that I think might be productive:
"On the whole" means considering the whole of his output
This is interesting. To me it doesn't: it means 'in general/for the most part' and explicitly means that there's a part of his output which I'm not, for the purposes of the statement, considering. So I was never defending the disemvowelled bit. Later you talk about me recanting my support for it (and about this recantation destroying my claim to having always told the truth as I see it), but I never recanted anything as from my point of view I'd said nothing to recant.

Then leave off the part about how we're driving away dissenting voices. It might be something to bring up elsewhere in cooler threads, but bringing it up here is making a bid for "persecuted" status, and thus again with the attack on us + preemptive defense which inspires disgust.
The only reason I made the post was to protest [my view] that people were driving David Gerard away and then mocking him for leaving.

This (#134) was by far the sloppiest of my posts. I had to leave for work so I didn't have much time to edit; at the same time I didn't want to leave it for ten hours because Making Light threads move fast and I wanted to stop the pile-on early, and maybe prevent DG's departure. (As best and, to be honest, as generously as I recall.)

Onward...
Then you grovel to Teresa, which... grah. See above.
<wry> Above, where you say "A better way to clear yourself defensible space is with something complimentory. More flies with honey, etc."? Yeah, that's what I was aiming at.</wry> --Plus it was the simple truth.

Too much with the "honestly/sincerely". What, are you saying that we're going to be questioning your honesty?
Teresa had just referred to one of my comments as "disingenuous" so, well, yes.

Then, "Your other questions do appear rhetorical, so I'll leave them alone." Best not to get snarky in questions of whether Teresa's rhetoric is clear.
I can't figure out where the snark is in this - in the 'do appear'? or the 'leave them alone'? or something else? Teresa asked a number of questions, one of which she said wasn't rhetorical and so I answered it; the others of which she didn't say one way or another, so I explained that the reason I wasn't answering them was that I was assuming they were in fact rhetorical.

[the apology]
But then... You never intended to attack? What was running through your mind when you wrote all those attacks? You never tried passive-aggressive jujitsu... I'm afraid one of the real definitions of passive-aggressive is "attacks that you can pretend to yourself weren't attacks." Frex, attempting to give guilt is a classic attack defined as passive-aggressive. So regrettably, you're wrong there.
I accept that I sounded as if I was attacking, attempting to give guilt, etc. But I never intended any of that.

"I can understand why people who don't know me think I did". Blaming us for getting mad because we don't know you is ridiculous on the internet. We can't possibly all know you. You have to be clear.
Um. How can I communicate that I <wrestles with words> really do understand it? I never even conceived of blaming anyone for it, and even if I had I'd have felt awfully foolish saying "and I don't blame you for it," because... well, blaming people for such a thing would be ridiculous. --I can see where the presupposition re blame is coming from in retrospect, but I don't know how I could have prevented it.

"Boggle you as it may, I told at all times the truth as I see it." [...] why would we boggle that you weren't lying?
I understand passive-aggressiveness to be at least not entirely truthful, and at least one person had accused me of that directly. Another had doubted whether I was genuine and whether my (admittedly too crafted) sentence was meant at face value. (It was.)

a focus on the "honesty" of your opinions is pointless. It doesn't matter to anyone but you what you think in your heart of hearts: only what you say here.
I do hope you're wrong about that. I'd have no interest in participating in a group which didn't care whether I was, say, genuinely nice or just a very skilled hypocrite. --OTOH, I take the point that people can't see into my heart of hearts and that saying 'honestly' doesn't give any more proof than the ungarnished sentence would. 'Let your yes be yes and your no be no;' and indeed I think fewer words makes it easier to spot the rakes in the grass. <glances up> So I'd really better stop talking now.

Thank you.

#450 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:56 AM:

Bruce:
There's not much I can say to any of that except that they're all very wise things, and thank you.

Though I ought to also say that:
#4. Be up front about sources of stress, distraction, etc., outside the exchange.
Actually I had no worries about Boots' health until well after I'd dug myself into the hole. Still, even when I did mention it, I half-feared that it would sound like a bid for sympathy. (This was foolish if Making Light is anything like rasfc where food, chocolate, and cats are always on topic. I must have been feeling a bit paranoid at the time.)

The extent to which my expectations of discussion fail to match those of people here now officially makes my head hurt. :-)


Sica@445:
I see it as being responsible for what you write. I.e you should be able to defend or justify every part of your argument and post. If you can't, why put it there?
I say defend but I sort of mean clarify, basically that if you get called out on "Hey why did you write X here!" you can go "Because I was feeling Y at the time and there are facts U,T and S and really W happened a while ago so I was very Y especially after Z said Q"

Oh, sure, I can do that. But the question is often not asked in that way. Often it's "But that doesn't make sense because P!" and they're right, from a frame of reference of P it doesn't make sense. And even though from a frame of reference of O it does make sense, it's really hard to express that when the person makes P sound like the natural, obvious, only frame of reference possible. It's often even hard to remember it, and I sit there frowning at the computer screening thinking, "But I know I made sense to myself a minute ago."


I think I may now be caught up. Also Boots is agitating to go to bed, which sounds like a good idea.

#451 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 08:49 AM:

JC @446: Perec is my favourite modern author, just beating out Jack Vance. If you haven't already, get hold of LIFE A USER'S MANUAL and W: THE MEMORY OF CHILDHOOD - two of the great novels of the 20th century.

He recycled the 'e's left out of LA DISPAIRITION into a shorter lipogram called LES REVENENTES.

#452 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 08:55 AM:

Rob Rusick @ 419... I was so bummed in the early 1970s when I went to college to become a programmer and I discovered that computers didn't look like Irwin Allen ones with all those neat lights. On the other hand, real computers don't shoot sparks like his did. (Speaking of which, how many times did bad guys and/or monsters get into the Seaview's circuit room and knock the racks over, with the usual sparking that then caused the submarine to tilt all over the place? Didn't anyone ever think of bolting the racks to the floor?)

#453 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 08:58 AM:

Bruce Cohen @ 438... "Hey! There's a squid in my swill!"

#454 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:02 AM:

Talking about the evolution of human culture, particularly what may be happening at Wikipedia, I thought I'd repeat a quote discussed in Open thread 89: "If you don't measure what you value, you end up valuing what you measure."

You can probably think of examples across many times and places.

#455 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:12 AM:

Greg Machlin @ 439... Nah. I was just trying to come up with the silliest cinematic what-if I could think of. One dreadful cinematic what-if is if Irwin Allen had been the brain behind 2001, A Space Odyssey.

"Danger, Frank Poole! Danger, danger!"

#456 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:34 AM:

Disingenuous, sure. Hard not to see it that way.

One of the basic questions is, "How are people likely to read this sentence?" Some sentences have a lot of leeway for interpretation. Others are more constrained. (Like, "He didn't mean it the way you think he did," vs. "Do not take internally.")

Zeborah had said of David Gerard that "He asked a question about whether people here contribute free information -- he didn't claim that no-one did, he asked a question." However, the David Gerard sentence under consideration was, "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else."

Now, "whining" is a peculiarly powerful word. It renders a person thus described singularly unattractive, deserving of no respect. I'm not exaggerating. If there's a character you want to kill off, and you don't want your readers to feel bad about it, all you have to do is tag one of that character's lines of dialogue with "-- he whined," and boom, the guy is fair game.

"I'd love to know whether --" isn't always a marker for sarcasm; but when you have "actually" in the same sentence, signifying doubt that it's so, and you use a word like "whining" to characterize the people you're talking about, there's no way it can be a neutral remark.

I know two more things about that sentence. One is that it would unhesitatingly be read the way I've described whether it appeared in a modern mainstream novel with pretensions to quality, or a shoot-'em-up novelization written in six weeks, or a not terribly good comic book. It doesn't have much leeway for alternate readings, and its default reading is evident even to unsophisticated readers.

The other thing I know is that Zeborah's revised version of DG's statement required a considerable amount of transformation. She used different syntax, and different terminology; and the concept she asserts is its central focus, "free content," is present only as an implication of the sentence I've quoted plus his following sentence.

In order to come up with her recast version, Zeborah has to have given that passage in David Gerard's post a complete and careful reading. Now: I'm supposed to believe that when she did that, she failed to notice that the statement was carrying a negative emotional load that would be excessively obvious in a Xanth novel?

Sorry. Not possible. If she could read well enough to create that restatement, she could read well enough to tell what David Gerard was really saying, tone and all.

Thus "disingenuous." Are there any other terms I used that need to be explained? Just say the word.

#457 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:37 AM:

455: Irwin Allen had been the brain behind 2001, A Space Odyssey

The "acid trip sequence" would have featured giant humanoid goldfish, lobster men, kelp monsters, Blackbeard the Pirate, Michael Dunn made up as a clown ...

Hmmm. Much becomes clear about the IA writing staff meetings.

#458 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:27 AM:

I gotta go with TNH here.

Zeborah, I'm pretty sure even Saruman wouldn't get away with his bulls...er, I mean disingenuous act on this crowd.

#459 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:37 AM:

Jon Meltzer @ 457... One could look at Lost in Space as Irwin Allen's philosophical counterargument to A Space Odyssey's vision of the Universe. The latter suggests benevolent forces at work to nourish Life throughout the Universe, while the former suggests that said Universe is a mad house.

#460 ::: Russ ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:48 AM:

BADSITES ~= Suppressive people ?

http://www.planetkc.com/sloth/sci/sp_rules.html

That was certainly my first impression, and describes why the whole concept immediately made me extremely uncomfortable. I really can't see how anyone on Wikipedia would want the association.

#461 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Chris Clarke@435
(Bows deeply)

#462 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Do not meddle in the affairs of Making Light, for your disemvowelled bsht shall be laughed at' and read as a knitting pattern.

#463 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:12 AM:

Zeborah@440: when I make a post, I make it as a whole; the sentences aren't intended to stand alone but to work together to shape the boundaries of my ideas, ... If one sentence isn't strictly conformant to objective reality then-- ... It's more... brushstrokes of an impressionist painting: there's nothing realistic about that in the way a photograph is realistic, but if you look at it all together, it's a picture of something real. But it's got to be looked at as a whole.

I'm not sure how to look at Gerard's post as a whole, without looking at his "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else" comment as anything other than a "You haven't served in the miltary, so you can't criticize the war" argument.

Only problem with Gerard's argument is, everyone here who has a complaint is basing that complaint off of their time spent on wikipedia.

those who approach disagreements as debates to be addressed logically point by point and won or lost, and those who approach them as opportunities to share different points of view and enrich both/all 'sides'

Gerard did not occur to me as attempting to enrich anyone's life with his "whiners" comment.


The distinction you are talking about, logic versus sharing, is the distinction between language development versus emotional development. People tend to naturally develop one over the other, and then use that mode when interacting with others because, well, because people tend to go with what works best for them.

The thing is that if you're undeveloped in language, then when someone who has a developed ability for language is talking to you, they won't make a lot of sense to you. Likewise, if you aren't fully emotionally developed, then someone who is probably won't make a lot of sense to you either.

I'm a language guy. I'm an electrical engineer, I'm a programmer, I write fiction, I do all that language stuff, that representational stuff, where words on paper represent some thing in reality, and I map one to the other.

I'm weaker in the emotional axis. But I keep trying to push myself in different ways to develop that. I married a woman with a huge heart who is patiently teaching me what she knows in that field. I learn a lot here on Making Light as well. Usually by trial and error. Folks here will probably says its mostly error, but I'll keep trying as long as they'll have me.

The short of it is that if you have an underdeveloped sense of language, this is probably a really good place to learn that too, if you're interested.

#464 ::: jennie1ofmany ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:26 AM:

I'm trying to write a "u" poem, but I'm having a difficult time keeping it remotely clean.

A lot of dirty words contain "u" as their sole vowel.

#465 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:37 AM:

459: the former suggests that said Universe is a mad house.

Irwin Allen directing a Philip K. Dick script: Palmer Eldritch and electric sheep prowl the Seaview, as it fights the takeover by VALIS. Focus on Kowalski, who was a stereo repairman in civilian life.

#466 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:52 AM:

Jon Meltzer @ 465... What about the airducts? There should be some scene set in the Seaview's airducts. That's where Richard Basehart hid when Michael Dunn was looking for him, appearing very angry as he clenched an automatic pistol. (Dunn to self: "Where could the Admiral be? Where? In the airducts maybe. Nah.")

#467 ::: Jp ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:20 PM:

A quick 'u' effort (in lieu of a tea break...). I'm blaming the lack of any coherency on the lack of any conjunctions, prepositions, or anything else I've been taking for granted, word-wise. Are there any which fit?

Skunk scum fully pump hum.
Snuffly, scummy runts sully sumps: numb?

Mulls....
Null!
Lull my bumps!
Snuff my lumps!
Cull my skull!
Dump skunk chumps.

#468 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Dave Bell: ...for your disemvowelled bsht shall be laughed at' and read as a knitting pattern.

Which works best if the consonants which remain are predominately Ks, Ps, Ss, and Rs.

Can we reconstitute a knitting pattern into prose poetry, I wonder? Of course, so as not to cheat, we have to disemvowel the pattern... maybe resort to 1337-5P34J<...

Cst 5 sts
R1 & 2: P
R3: K1, *y, K2tg tbl*

(From an online shawl pattern.)

Iciest siestas,
real and too pure.
Ki, eye, key to tag it. Blue.

...Which probably puts us among the space alien poetry again. Which could be fun.

#469 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Kathryn Cramer @423:

I suspect the reason that Citizendium doesn't want to use subject categories (or at least isn't committed to using them) is technical rather than philosophical. Dynamically updating subject categories uses a lot of CPU time on Wikipedia's servers. I seem to remember that another Wikipedia fork -- don't recall the name of it -- also disabled categories in their version of the MediaWiki software for the same reason.

Maybe subject categories that are updated once per day as a low-priority background task would work better.

Clifton Royston @437:

You could also look at articles that have been through peer review at some time in the past, and/or been designated a Feature Article at some time in the past, and see if they've improved, stayed the same or gotten worse.

A couple of years ago I took the article on Esperanto through peer review; by the time I was done with that I was too exhausted to try nominating it for featured article, and took a long break from Wikipedia. I just read through it again and I think it has overall improved a good deal from the state it was in when the peer review ended, though there are some details I would be inclined to spin off into other related articles if I had the energy to do it, and there are a fair number of statements that need citations (though not nearly as many as there are [citation needed] tags, IMO).

#470 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:06 PM:

For no letter "e", there's also Ernest Vincent Wright's _Gadsby_.

#471 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:10 PM:

#467: Thank you, Fergie.

#472 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:42 PM:

Another article I originated and worked on extensively in one of my earlier Wikipedia-active periods was Bible Society. It is a more ample than it was when I last looked at it a year or two ago, but I think it has even fewer references than it had then (the reference to the Catholic Encyclopedia article on "Bible societies", from which I got all the dates of various Bible society foundings etc., has disappeared, for instance), and the section "Catholicism and the Bible Societies" has degraded a bit, including at least one serious factual error. And the formatting could stand some improvement, as well. [I just fixed the most egregious error and added back at least one lost reference; it still needs more work.]

#473 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 01:56 PM:

From TNH: However, the David Gerard sentence under consideration was, "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else."

One easy response to his question would have been, "You're not wondering. You're trolling." since the remark was so obviously a rhetorical question and not something he cared a bit about.

As the author of the correspondence quoted in the main post, it would seem that the question was at least in part directed to me. Also recall the context of the conversations with Our Boy Swatjester: The argument was over whether Locus was correct in asserting that I was one of those with the highest number of Hugo nominations without a win, or whether it was only NYRSF that should be described so. The Hugo nominations are not given for looks.

Gerard was either being wide-eyes sloppy and recycling phases used to defending against dissent in the past, OR he just hadn't bothered to read the supporting materials in Wikipedia (like, say, my edit history or the page under discussion (the entry on one Kathryn Cramer) or the discussion of the nomination of Eastagate for deletion), OR he was simply trolling. My vote is for the first two, since I'd rather attribute his remark to laziness than malice.

#474 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:15 PM:

I note that the subtitle of David Gerard's blog is "arrogant pontification," so I guess he has some insight into the fact that he might come off that way sometimes.

#475 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:37 PM:

. . . actually, one could do a lovely Youtube parody documentary exposing the "fact" that the Hugos are in fact a beauty contest. The possibilities are very rich!

#476 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:49 PM:

WITH HUGO AWARS awards season under way, fans will see plenty of stunning gowns, sculpted bodies, flawless skin and camera-ready coifs around the WorldCon.

What they won't see are the industrial-strength girdles, silicone nipple covers, fake hair and skin treatments beneath those flawless facades.

Stylists work overtime during the stretch from the Nebbulas to the Hugos, and it typically takes a team to ready authors for their stroll down the red-carpet runway. Some of science fiction's most-coveted image experts took time out to share their best style secrets.

The first step? A body-enhancing airbrush tan, says spray-tanner- to-the-sf writers, who expects to wield his tanning wand at least 100 times before the Hugo Awards.

These tans do more than lend a healthy glow. They can add muscle definition where none exists, says Coco, who has worked with Gardner Dozois, Mike Resnick, Charles N. Brown and Mike Glyer.

"If they haven't quite been to the gym, I can make it look as though they have," he says. "I give them an even glow and lightly etch in where the muscle is."

Next come body-shaping undergarments. Stylists swear by Spanx, a brand of bodyshapers that promises to "rescue women from love handles, waistline spillage and cellulite," according to the company's Web site. Spandex is the Future!

#477 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 02:49 PM:

I'm trying to figure out if there is a non-rude way of asking that question. I can't think of one. I could soften the blow by wording it differently, but it seems to me that it's inherently insulting to suggest that the person you're talking to doesn't ever create anything of value.

There are, mind you, different-but-related questions you could ask that aren't inherently insulting. You might ask what kind of creative work someone does (assuming you genuinely don't know and you're genuinely curious). You could ask someone what they've written. You could ask whether they write things that they give away for free on the Net. (No moral judgment either way; people who do aren't pixel-stained technopeasants, and people who don't aren't evil hoarders.)

But asking someone whether they "actually create something else"? It's not just the "whining" and the "actually" that makes that question rude.

#478 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Kathryn Cramer... They can add muscle definition where none exists, says Coco, who has worked with Gardner Dozois

And there I was, folishly thinking that Daniel Craig had decided he liked worldcons.

#479 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Kathryn 2 476

ROFLMAO! (Especially trying to imagine the 'muscle definition' on, say, Glyer.)

#480 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Matt Austern @ 477... I'd also ask what being 'creative' means. My work as a programmer is an act of creation. My blog's entries are an act of creation, and, English being my second language, I probably use it in a.. ah.. creative manner.

#481 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:09 PM:

And then of course there is the widely practiced technique of gaming the Hugos by simply sleeping with all of the likely voters.

#482 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Ugh! Unduly lucky Huns clutch my just cut curry buns. Run! Run! Run unruly Huns! My gun's unslung, but curly shrubs spurn my drubs.

#483 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:26 PM:

Greg@422:
Jimbo Wales worked in porn? Seriously?

#484 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:35 PM:

PKD. Irwin Allen. Hugo stylists. My brain explodes.

#485 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:39 PM:

The "...if they create something else" question reads a lot less stupidly if it's an unclear attempt to ask "...if they are helping to create a better replacement for Wikipedia."

He said something about "freely reusable content", but Making Light comments *aren't* that. Most of the Web is freely usable but not reusable (in, say, Creative Commons terms).

#486 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:41 PM:

Elise @431: You still have an "o" in the sixth line. But it almost looks like it belongs there, just at the centre of mass.

Zeborah: For most people, I don't think the phrase "on the whole" allows for cherry-picking or averaging on a sentence by sentence basis. Even if it does, in DG's comment, the whining sentence and the bckt f ccks one carry so much emotional weight that they distort the feeling of the whole, to this reader at least.

I don't know why I was so shocked to read that; I grew up in a fishing town, my dad was a fishing-boat skipper, so I'm no stranger to swearing. I've probably heard worse, or even said it myself. Context, I think. Though I've seen bad language here occasionally, it's not usually directed at another guest, let alone our hosts.

#487 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:42 PM:

Teresa @ 484... PKD. Irwin Allen. Hugo stylists. My brain explodes.

C'mon,Teresa, admit it. You like it.

#488 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Norman, it depends on who you ask.

#489 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Kathryn @476: If I ever win a Hugo – I guess I might have to actually write something first – I'll be sending my robot double, who has perfect skin and muscle tone already.

Come to think of it, maybe I can get it to write something Hugo-worthy for me. I'm sure I saw Superman do the same thing with his robot double once....

#490 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 03:57 PM:

NelC #489: Well you could just update your Wikipedia entry to state that you're a Hugo nominee. Then they'd have to invite you, right???

#491 ::: Norman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Greg@488:
Ah, I see.

I'm even more disappointed to find out he's a devout fan of Ayn Rand.

#492 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:45 PM:

A long time ago, Haykawa's Magazine in Japan published a photo of Shawna McCarthy winning for the Hugo. When I asked what the cation said, I was told the caption translated roughly to "Look how lovely she is!"

#493 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 05:54 PM:

Lance @489: I think that would earn a "Citation needed" tag.

#494 ::: Zeborah ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Teresa, I understand why you believe I was being disingenuous (and don't blame you for it, if that needs to be said). You're wrong that it's not possible that I wasn't being disingenuous; I just had an extremely different point of view on the whole thread and context of David Gerard's question. I could use a lot of words trying to explain what my point of view and thought process were - and if you think I should then I will - but I'd rather not risk digging myself deeper just when it feels I might be starting to get out of the hole.

I am very sorry for all offense I gave you. I would like to stick around Making Light if this conversation isn't going to sour your opinion of me. If there's something I can do to help in that regard, please let me know.

#495 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:09 PM:

The Man of Many Faces

A Playe By M. Vernor Vinge

SCENE I: An Air Duct on board the USOS Seaview

:

LAUMER OF SYRACUSE:

This dump of AIs I received from you,
And Bolio, my man, did bring them me.
I see we still became each other's man,
And I was ta'en for them, and you for me,
And thereupon these errors are arose.

LOBSTER MAN:

Grrrrr!

ADMIRAL NELSON:

Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
The switch. Throw it. In hours you
Must be a million miles out into space.
Chain reaction in the Krell furnace.

#496 ::: Iain Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:17 PM:

494 Zeborah: I am very sorry for all offense I gave you. I would like to stick around Making Light if this conversation isn't going to sour your opinion of me. If there's something I can do to help in that regard, please let me know.

I think the best idea would be to abandon this thread - the poor horse has been flogged into the ground - and go on to make positive contributions to the many other threads on this blog. Life's too short to pick over all the scabs. You've explained yourself and apologised, and all the other interested parties have had their say - let's all move on.

#497 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Niall @ 496... Irwin Allen meets Shakespeare meets Vernor Vinge? Terersa's brain must have exploded all over the Big Apple now.

#498 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 07:51 PM:

MAJOR NELSON:
Now does my project gather to a head:
My tests fail not; reports are laid; and
The Doctor, Alfred Bellows, soon arrives. How's the day?

JEANNIE:
On the sixth hour; at which time, master,
You said your work would cease.

MAJOR NELSON:
I did say so,
When first this episode commenced. Say, my genie,
How fare the cocktail partiers?

JEANNIE:
Confined together
In the same fashion as you gave in charge,
Just as I left them; in the kitchen, master,
Magic-frozen at the electric range;
They cannot budge till my release. Healey,
The captain and your friend, shall keep distracted
The doctor and his bride, attendant on
Receiving your report. As you did ask,
Mindful of old past labours lost, perhaps,
I have, with care, secreted your report
Where no harm might befall it, so ensuring
Your occult celestial works' success,
And then our honeymoon. My heart so longs
That if you now beheld it, your affections
Would become tender.

MAJOR NELSON:
Where hast thou hidden my report, Jeannie?

JEANNIE:
Why, in my father's keep, master, In Araby's far sultanate.

#500 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 08:46 PM:

Modern promos can make anything look good, even that old episode where a werewolf goes on a rampage aboard the Seaview.

#501 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:15 PM:

Kathryn @ 414: Oh, I'm not saying that the squid won't inherit the earth. I'm just saying that they'll be very social and cooperative squid.

ethan & Matt Austern: I'm not sure I'm be totally comfortable dropping a ginormous Blindsight rebuttal in an open thread unannounced--all that ROT-13 clogging things up. A few people seem interested though, so maybe our illustrous hosts will grant permission. Or maybe they'll see fit to give us a spoilerful discussion thread a la HP...

All this is, of course, contigent upon me writing down and organizing all my ideas down into something approaching coherence. The trans-Pacific flight in my near future may hinder that effort--or aid it; it's hard to say for sure. We'll see what happens.

#502 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:19 PM:

Heresiarch: Only if you feel up to it, of course. Have a good flight!

#503 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 09:52 PM:

So the Wikipedia article for deletion debate has concluded with a decidion to keep the article. The person closing the debate closed along with this odd little note:

The result was keep. I do, however, warn that incivility and personal attacks (irrespective of who said it or whether any were said) will be met with our full power of dissuasion from doing so. Kurykh 00:36, 18 August 2007 (UTC)

If you follow the link it goes to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WP:BLOCK, which is to say that Kurykh was threatening to block someone, and I don't think it was Our Boy SwatJester. Kurykh's user page proudly announces that he has been an admin "10 months and1 day."

#506 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:05 PM:

That SwatJester really needs to lose it all. What a flmng sshl.

#507 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:12 PM:

No mouthin' off to da Man.

#508 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:19 PM:

Kathryn: Also notice that Kurykh makes Swatjester seem like a senior citizen.

That said, I'm taking the comment at face value and giving him the benefit of the doubt; certainly, the only person in that thread who would merit any sort of repercussions is the one who abused his power.

#509 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:27 PM:

If we were stupid or naive, we could reasonably be expected to take Kurykh up on his offer and complain about Swatjester, at which point our explanation of the situation could be construed as uncivil, and then -- poof! We experience his full powers of dissusion! They have veys to make us not talk!

#510 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:37 PM:

That "power of dissuasion" riff is an interesting phrase. That sort of rhetoric is most commonly used in terms of nuclear weapons, as in the Iranian Defense Minister speaking of "equipments which give us the greatest power of dissuasion".

#511 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:40 PM:

Heresiarch @ #501, the squid won't inherit the earth

Um, has PZ Myers been informed of that? He'll be crushed.

#512 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:48 PM:

Hm, SwatJester as a Jurist with no editing powers.

One can dream.

Of course, he'd be canned in a heartbeat as a Jurist, but oh what a lovely shooting star it would be as he burned up.

#513 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:50 PM:

I wonder why Swatjester prefers "incivil" over "uncivil"?

#514 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 10:54 PM:

Earl @513 --

I've got some ideas, but voicing them wouldn't be civil, no matter what the prefix.

#515 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:17 PM:
MAJOR NELSON:
Now does my project gather to a head:
My tests fail not; reports are laid; and
The Doctor, Alfred Bellows, soon arrives. How's the day?

JEANNIE:
On the sixth hour; at which time, master,
You said your work would cease.

Yes, yes, I get it, but I have the urge to drop this into a very, very different TV show.
#516 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:37 PM:

Which one, Nicole?

#517 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:37 PM:

Teresa, my brain belew up a while ago.

I regard Wikipedia as a source for quick, glance-at informatic and I would rather go to a more accurate source if I'm citing information to others. In other words, it's a place to start, if the author cites original sources I'll try to get to them to research.

Between all this tsurris and the information that companies/government officials are going in regularly to edit anything unfavorable toward them makes it even more a requirement.

#518 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2007, 11:49 PM:

Kathryn, #423: I wouldn't have gotten as far in as you did. The occurrence of "family-friendly" in Section II is a HUGE red flag for me, because that's a term which is so ill-defined as to be meaningless. Is it "family-friendly" to have an article about breast cancer? What about one on pedophilia? What about one in which the bawdiness in Shakespeare (or Chaucer, or the Bible) is mentioned? All of the aforementioned are items suitable for inclusion in something describing itself as an encyclopedia -- but that one phrase gives censorship and Bowdlerism a wide-open field of action.

Zeborah: If you want to learn more about language and the way it works in everyday life, one excellent place to start is with the works of Suzette Haden Elgin. She's a professional linguist who (among other things) has made a deep study of the tactics of verbal bullying and how they are used to, as you put it, tie people into knots. She also has a LiveJournal account (username ozarque), in which you can find many long discussions of specific language constructions and how they signify different things to different people.

For example, here's one that resonated strongly for me: In some cultures (including some American sub-cultures), it's considered polite to say, "It would sure be nice if someone were to take out the garbage," rather than directly asking any specific person to do so. Say that around me, and (1) you guarantee that the garbage will NOT be taken out and (2) I'm likely to snap at you or slam out of the house! Because to me, that construction, which I call "hinting and waiting for someone to volunteer," is the exact opposite of polite; it's both passive-aggressive and manipulative, and I refuse to reward (what I consider) bad behavior by doing what it suggests I do. But if you just ASK me to do it, odds are I'll say, "Sure!" and go take care of it.

There's a better-than-even chance that the conversational mores here at ML are enough like the ones in rasc to look familiar, and just enough unlike them to trip you up on your unexpressed assumptions. But the best cure for that is to hang out here and read the threads for a while, until you get a feel for the way things function here.

Teresa, #456: WRT David's sentence, exactly so. That's a classic Verbal Attack Pattern; if we'd been able to hear it, it would probably have gone something like this: "I'd LOVE to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually CREATE something else.". Read it out loud, with those stresses, and the attack is obvious -- but the words alone imply the attack even in print. And any native speaker of English is going to see it unless they have an impairment in the language-processing area (for example, one of my friends who has moderately severe Asperger's syndrome might not catch it).

Jp, #467: That could fit easily into the lyric structure of "My Hump". :-)

All poetic contributors: I'm enjoying the single-vowel experiments immensely, thank you all!

#519 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 12:18 AM:

NelC @ 486: Elise @431: You still have an "o" in the sixth line.

Aw, crud. So I do. Hmf.


But it almost looks like it belongs there, just at the centre of mass.

That is kind of you to say. It was a fun limitation to play with, that one, but I think I can't stay inside the lines with my color crayons.

Niall @ 495 and Chris @ 498:

My head's all 'splodey now too, and I am likely to walk around for the next few days saying, "LOBSTER MAN: Grrrrr!"

#520 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 12:18 AM:

Sorry, Serge - I didn't realize I was being so obscure. Doctor Who was what came to mind when I saw in such close succession those words which I've bold-faced. That actually hit me, briefly, before I realized it was an I Dream of Jeannie pastiche and revoiced the dialogue accordingly in my head.

#521 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 12:32 AM:

That's funny, Nicole, because the Master is the first thing I thought of when you wrote that, but I couldn't see how Jeannie fit in there. (It's been a long day of telecommuting made longer, thanks to some of my smarter teammates improving on my deployment plan. Yes, my sarcasm subroutine is cranked all the way up.)

#522 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 12:42 AM:

Lee @518: Jp, #467: That could fit easily into the lyric structure of "My Hump". :-)

Including the Alanis Morissette version?

#523 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 12:57 AM:

Y'know, until recently I thought of ML as the one part of my life where I could count on not encountering Fergie in any way. Even when tensions were high, I would think, "Wow, the conversation sure is heated--but at least Fergie's nowhere to be seen!"

Recently, though, it's been Fergie Central here. What happened? Where did my refuge go?

#524 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:05 AM:

ethan @ 523... Where did my refuge go?

It moved into the airducts of the Seaview.

#525 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:30 AM:

Belated response to JC -

My writing group meets in the front part of a small Denver bookstore, at a table that just takes up all the available space between about a million shelves and display racks. I believe that the actual origin of this particular writing prompt was someone noting a copy of Eunoia on one of those display racks. I wasn't at that particular meeting, but at the one following where people read aloud their responses to the prompt--and from random pages in Eunoia, just for fun.

It's a neat little book, isn't it?

#526 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 03:18 AM:

More fun with Wikiscanner: CIA, FBI Edits Outed

#527 ::: Jim Satterfield ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 03:57 AM:

Ah, I see Earl beat me to it. Yes, WikiScanner is a site that once the onslaught of traffic that it has recently had calms down will continue being useful. The best section is the one that he's had to disable until things calm down, which is where you can search for modifications made by WikiPedia entry.

#528 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 05:06 AM:

Kathryn@481: WHAT?? I've voted on the Hugos four times, and not one of the nominees has ever slept with me! Why am I being left out? Who do I complain to about this?

#529 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 07:23 AM:

#528: The signup sheet is at registration with the signup sheets for the Koffee klatches.

#530 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:12 AM:

PKD. Irwin Allen. Hugo stylists.

And Fergie.

#531 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:20 AM:

Kathryn Cramer @ 529... The signup sheet is at registration with the signup sheets for the Koffee klatches.

Ah! That's why David Goldfarb hasn't been asked to participate in sinful intercourse. When you register for Koffee klatches, they never give you any coffee to drink. It follows that if you register for the Other Thing...,

#532 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:01 AM:

497: Irwin Allen meets Shakespeare meets Vernor Vinge?

Yes, you can find slash about Absolutely. Everyone.

#533 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:59 AM:

Julie@522: Including the Alanis Morissette version?

(stumbling back from watching video)

I... it... ah...

I think my brain went sproing.

#534 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:10 AM:

Jon Meltzer @ 530... PKD. Irwin Allen. Hugo stylists. And Fergie.

And Barbara Eden, who, besides being known for I Dream of Jeannie, also appeared in the movie Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea...

#535 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:13 AM:

John Meltzer:

Yes, you can find slash about Absolutely. Everyone.

My two favorite comments about this are by Neil Gaiman:

"(although I still find the idea of Good Omens slash fiction fairly mindboggling) (er, and Knight Rider slash fiction. I think that Knight Rider slash fiction is pretty weird, to be honest)."

and

"(I wasn't making up the Knight Rider thing either: I remember a table selling printed fanzine slash fiction, before there was ever a world wide web, with several volumes of "Now impale yourself upon my throbbing gearshift" stories which I thumbed through with delighted and horrified amusement. But then, I was never a David Hasselhof fan.)"

MY problem is that I happened to read this shortly after I'd shown someone I knew most od the lyrics to My Mother The Car.

Eew. Just eew...

#536 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:27 AM:

Bruce Durocher @ 535...

You asked for it.
The closing credits of 'My Mother The Car'

Oh, and, speaking of David Hasselhoff, did you ever see him in Star Crash?

#537 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 10:53 AM:

#525. There's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea slash. There's probably even My Mother The Car slash.

But, we really need to get back on topic here:

Wikipedia admin slash.

#538 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 11:05 AM:

Wiki admin slash. Hmm. Does that count as Real People Slash because they are not entirely fictional? Or not, because the pseudonyms do something? It'd probably be more like Aspects of Real People Slash, because it includes only the wiki-pertinent bits of the people involved. Imagine the embarrassment if you slashed a sockpuppet with its creator!

#539 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 11:14 AM:

I woke up at 3:30 this morning realizing I had utterly failed in my attempt at a U only vowel movement* by failing to include the word Spung! I then spent the next half hour trying to come up with a U word that would refer to breasts/nipples and could only go back to sleep once I hit on "jugs". Please, please someone get this out of my head!!!

*if removing vowels is a disemvowelment, it only follows that these are vowel movements, right? right??

#540 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:06 PM:

#531: Ah! That's why David Goldfarb hasn't been asked to participate in sinful intercourse. When you register for Koffee klatches, they never give you any coffee to drink. It follows that if you register for the Other Thing...,

Or perhaps the rooms were already full. There are only ten slots for each hour.

#541 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:08 PM:

Wikipedia admin slash.

I definitely needs to include that guy who threatened to whip out the ultimate tool of mass dissuasion! I expect to weep at the very sight!

#542 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 01:12 PM:

#538 Imagine the embarrassment if you slashed a sockpuppet with its creator!

My goodness! Wikipedia lacks an entry for mastrubation!

#544 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Kathryn 543: I'm absolutely certain that Wikipedia utterly lacks an entry for mastrubation. Therefore, your statement in 542 is perfectly true as it stands.

#545 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:11 PM:

I've been too busy to concentrate for the vowel game, and I've missed the boat now.

So can I offer a variant? Each line gets to use one more letter than the previous ones, but it must start with the new letter.

O
Do
Good, do good!
So do gods do good:
No songs, no
Words. O Son on
Rood, O Wood
Lord, O Sorrow God
Undolorous,
Your glory undoes
My words.

#546 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:13 PM:

And only after posting do I see that stray e in the last line. Drat.

#547 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:26 PM:

And the stray R a line before it's allowed.

Trying again:

O
Do
Good, do good.
So do gods do good:
No gongs, no songs.
Rod or rood, God's
Wood on God's own son.
Lord, O Sorrow God
Undolorous,
You, Glory, undo
My words.

#548 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:35 PM:

abi (545-7): I am in awe. And my brain hurts. (How do you *do* that?!)

#549 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:40 PM:

Mary Aileen @548:
For this one, step one was to abandon any interest in poetic quality, in the faith that the next few people to attempt it would outdo any first effort.

I am completely out of practice with the words and the making them go together right thing.

#550 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 02:56 PM:

abi (and the other constraint fans here) might like to look at Walter Abish's Alphabetical Africa. If you don't know it already, that is. And yes, I'm aware of the mild irony in pointing you at the relevant Wikipedia page.

#551 ::: Rich ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 03:53 PM:

Somewhat on topic, just added to the New York Times site:

Lifting Corporate Fingerprints From the Editing of Wikipedia.

Wikiscanner strikes again.

#552 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 05:35 PM:

#544: Hooray for Troothiness!

#553 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 06:07 PM:

My goodness! Wikipedia lacks an entry for mastrubation!

Did you know that Wikipedia has no entry for "Gullibility"? It's true!

#554 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 06:49 PM:

Best I could do, Abi's challenge was hard:

O
Ho,
Too hot!
So hosts toss
A shot o' Taos stash.
Lo! All toasts stall as
Noon's hot toll lasht us all.
Ease at last, Sol's heat
Flees these ashes.
Pleasant E'en as
Moon passes

#555 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 07:17 PM:

I tried with I and A, but didn't get far. It's impossible with U and E, at least in English, because neither of those is a word by itself (except as the name of the letter).

#556 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 07:19 PM:

I,
Pi,
Tip
Spit
At Psi as Psi sits: a spat.
Rapt is
Eta. Eta, parasite, reiterates:
"Faster, Pi! Spit rafts at Psi! Psi reaps a repast!"
Oaf Eta traipses off after Pi, praises
Naif, profane tropes
Meant as nastier praise for Psi.
Hasten from Pi, o seraphim, o phaetons, o pantheism metaphors!
Defiant morphs, fare the herdsman's fate in Hades!
Laden tenfold, phantom morphs fade fated, flattened, damned,
Under Pi's unshielded insult, Eta's froth, Psi's profane and unfed mirth.

#557 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:01 PM:

That which I predicted in 549 comes true in 556 (though I do like 554 as well).

#558 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 08:48 PM:

*falls flat, stunned & amazed*
<echoes Mary Aileen @548>

#559 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:15 PM:

And the Wikiscanner juggernaut keeps rolling on: Entertainment Software Association Altered Wikipedia Entries on Mod Chips, Abandonware

This feels like a sea change. I wonder who will be next to fall? I'm hoping it's the RIAA.

#560 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:26 PM:

Wow, I am not smart.

Compared to you guys, I mean. Not the same thing by a long shot.

#561 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:32 PM:

Wow, I am not smart.

Compared to you guys, I mean. Not the same thing by a long shot.

#562 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 18, 2007, 09:35 PM:

Well, it's time to start making popcorn and watch the show, folks, because Wired.com is tracking Wikiscanner exposés: Vote On the Most Shameful Wikipedia Spin Jobs -- UPDATED

#563 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 01:49 AM:

Get out the popcorn and keep an eye on Wikipedia: someone there has dumped Randall Milholland's biography. So far Randy just thinks it's sort of strange (I haven't tried to fill him in on the crap that's been discussed here) especially when he was told by someone involved with Wikipedia that without written sources Wikipedia could be sued for libel by angry bio subjects (somehow the newspaper articles when he got so many contributions from readers he could quit the horrible job he had weren't counted), but if some dim-bulb gets around to deleting the listing for his webcomic Something*Positive then his fans are likely to go into action--something like the Winged Monkeys in The Wizard of Oz but less restrained...

#564 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 01:54 AM:

I recently read Ken Jennings' nifty memoir, Brainiac, and in it he mentions that by the end of his run on "Jeopardy!" people were slashing him and Alex Trebek.

#565 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 05:09 AM:

Xopher @555
It's impossible with U and E, at least in English, because neither of those is a word by itself (except as the name of the letter).

You could use the following letters as exclamations to start:
A
E (screaming...I got partway through one with W as the second letter, but it turned into a horror poem about sewing ewes' eyes. Ugh.)
I
M (maybe about food?)
O
S (hissing)
Z (sleeping)

I agree that A, I and O are the most open-ended.

(Smart? Inventing an unusable poetic form is like inventing a chocolate fireguard, honestly. It's Chris Clarke who totally pwns this thread.)

#566 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 06:00 AM:

My thunder has been stolen a bit here - the site was too busy when I tried to post this last night - but this was the best I could do with "I". Still not poetry, exactly:

"I
did
aid a
naiad,"
said Diana, "and I
ended an idea. I need an Anadin."
"O Diana," said Odin, "one
reads and one renders a naiad as one
finds one
prefers."

#567 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 09:46 AM:

How do your brains *do* that? I mean, yes, training and work, and a lot of exposure to people who do it better so you imitate them, but... how?

#568 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 10:24 AM:

#563 Wikipedia could be sued for libel by angry bio subjects

I thought the Big Idea was that Wikipedia is just an ISP and not a publisher, so it's just the individual creators (hiding behind pseudonyms and IP#) who are liable.

My impression is that the Xtreme enforcement of the Bio of Living Persons stuff is a bid to keep it that way by avoiding legislation or actual litigation.

#569 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:14 AM:

I just did a blog post on the subject of the Wired article, tracking back to this post.

#570 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 12:16 PM:

Ultimately, I think the main effect that Wikiscanner will have on wikiculture is that the corporate and government spinjockeys will be forced to protect themselves with at least one additional layer of anonymity, though use of personal disposable Internet accounts. The hard core spinners probably already maintain long term separate and deniable online identities, and we'll never know, except through analysis of content (follow the money).

#571 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Wikiscanner is cool.

#572 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 08:36 PM:

Nell, #347: "OT - I was pleased and amused to see that the McClatchy News Service site moderates the comments on stories using disemvowelment."

This is--as grizzled lefties are prone to say--No Accident. Did you notice who moderates McClatchy's comment section? (No, not TNH.)

#573 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 08:45 PM:

Kathryn's post about Wikiscanner deserves attention. She's got a point. Up until now we've discussed Wikipedia and its discontents as if the official story about Wikipedia's administrative subculture is more or less true: that it's a self-selected group of grassroots hobbyists.

But should we take this at face value? As someone noted upthread, Wikipedia's privileged position in Google PageRank makes it worth corrupting. We can see beyond doubt that corporate and political interests are hard at work altering Wikipedia's content. Why should we assume they aren't equally hard at work suborning Wikipedia's anonymized, unaccountable administrative cadre? Exactly who is, in fact, running Wikipedia? And why should we believe anybody's answer to this question?

#574 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 19, 2007, 11:02 PM:

There's a Dvorak home-row primer hiding in this exercise.

A,
Aha,
Hath tha'
the tea, a-heat, at the heath, at
Ten (neat), 'neath the tent, then eaten? Nah.
Anon, note that hot the heat hath
Shone. So see to the toast,
Sue; test the oat-nut toast, thus.

And you haven't even had to stretch for "i" and "d" either. (Of course, all that punctuation is cheating.)

#576 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 03:56 AM:

Nicole @574
Nice one.

One thing: each line should start with the new letter. So in theory the first letters of your poem should read:

A
H
T
E
N
O
S
U

(Or we can drop that rule, because it would make the form more viable).

#577 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:23 AM:

Me @565
The letter S is actually not too bad to use, if you make the main narrator a snake.

Ssss?
Shh...
His hiss is
This:
List. I sit
As it sits. As it hits, I sit still.
Miss? Still I sit.
Dismiss? Ahhh...I hit it.
And I
Eat.

#578 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 06:26 AM:

Except that you have to take out the second to last line, which doesn't start with the N that it introduces.

Ssss?
Shh...
His hiss is
This:
List. I sit.
As it sits. As it hits, I sit still.
Miss? Still I sit.
Dismiss? Ahhh...I hit it.
Eat.

#579 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 07:00 AM:

abi: If I understand the game correctly, the third and fourth lines should be: 'Is his hiss/ this?'

The second line doesn't quite follow the rules either. Is Hssss allowable as an onomatopoeic line?

#580 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 07:12 AM:

Jakob @579:
You're right, I got it wrong. How about, somewhat less coherently:

Ssss
Is
His hiss?
This is his hiss:
List. I sit.
As it sits. As it hits, I sit still.
Miss? Still I sit.
Dismiss? Ahhh...I hit it.
Eat.

#581 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 08:45 AM:

jennie1ofmany @ 464: I'm trying to write a "u" poem, but I'm having a difficult time keeping it remotely clean.

A lot of dirty words contain "u" as their sole vowel.


Write the poem and disemvowel the dirty words.

#583 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 10:22 AM:

Jon Carroll's latest column introduces (via a reader's letter) a new passtime that ties together Wiki and poetry: Wikku. Check it out!

#585 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:33 PM:

Mike Godwin has been an outstanding Bill of Rights warrior over the years; I don't envy him his current task.

#586 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 04:51 PM:

Penny Arcade's take on Wikiscanner's baleful eye.

#587 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 05:00 PM:

Mike is a friend. I like his discussion of editing his own entry. That may come in handy later.

#588 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 20, 2007, 08:16 PM:

See Mark Bernstein for his entry on this subject, and the resolution of the Eastgate deletion discussion, and especially for the context of the line, "The judge, according to his wikipedia profile, will begin 12th grade next month."

#590 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 02:19 AM:

abi,

I totally overlooked that rule!

*feels silly now*

I just remembered being very impressed at the complexity of sentences you could make with just the home row of the Dvorak layout - Google "ABC Dvorak" for the exercises.

#591 ::: Wouter Groenewegen ::: (view all by) ::: August 22, 2007, 11:56 AM:

You should also take a look at his work in keeping the:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearms_game

article neutral.

#592 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: August 23, 2007, 10:59 AM:

The filker Tom Smith is bemused to find that this page is up for deletion.

"Meddle not in the affairs of filkers, for your name sounds funny and scans to Greensleeves."

#593 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:17 AM:

Meanwhile, over here in .au....

PM 'not behind Wikipedia edits'

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet says Prime Minister John Howard did not ask any of his staff to edit online public encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Staff from the department have been found to have made edits to Wikipedia entries on topics such as the "children overboard" affair.

Treasurer Peter Costello's page was also edited, removing a reference to the nickname "Captain Smirk".

The Defence Department has blocked staff from editing the open access encyclopedia, amid revelations they had made more than 5,000 changes.

The changes, discovered using the WikiScanner program, range from removing anti-Liberal Party comments, to correcting factual information about the Australian Defence Force.

Sometimes, I wonder how anyone writes satire these days...

#594 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:40 AM:

The business of Australian PM John Howard's staff's many edits to Wikipedia is a story that keeps on giving. My favorite detail is that one of them evidently altered a martial-arts related entry to read, ahem, "poo bum dicky wee wee".

Atrios keeps harping on the point that, actually, politics becomes much less mysterious once we realize that most politicians and reporters are, despite their gift of gab, basically kind of stupid. I'm beginning to think he has a point.

#595 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:04 AM:

It's getting more and more tempting to add William Melvin Shakespeare.

#596 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 10:02 AM:

Patrick @ 594

It's glaringly obvious that most politicians inhabit the left-hand tail of the IQ curve. William Jefferson keeps bundles of Franklins in his freezer, Mark Foley commits his (illegal) indiscretions to the IM'osphere, etc., ad inditem (and convict 'em). Similar to my rant on the lack of good henchman in these degenerate times: most days James Bond just lays back and waits for the bad guys to screw up.

For me, that was William Jefferson Clinton's major attraction: he had a brain and he used it. I can forgive a lot of "Slick Willy" sleaziness for that. Politicians like that are thin on the ground these days.

#597 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 05:22 PM:

Randolph (#592) Tom Smith commented on it.

#598 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:18 PM:

Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers): Most politicians have only one skill: electability. That is frequently less than enough.

#599 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:53 AM:

It's less than enough for us, certainly. Seems to be more than sufficient for them, which points out the other serious lack (other than intelligence) in most politicians: reasonable expectations.

#600 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 08:39 AM:

Crow, cock, for gold orb!
On cold or hot morn, crow, crow!
Now cook, o good fowl!

#601 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 10:04 AM:

SwatJester is trying to get your site declared an "Attack Site" yet again... this time for alleged antisemitic remarks against him that I've been unable to locate.

#602 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 10:45 AM:

Dan 601: He used a sock puppet to make antisemitic remarks against himself, which were denounced and deleted right away.

That wouldn't work anywhere but Wikipedia, and wouldn't be attempted by anyone but a flaming jackhole like SwatJester.

#603 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 10:48 AM:

The sockpuppet remarks are disemvoweled here.

#604 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 10:51 AM:

Dan #601: It sounds as if SwatJester and public reality parted a while back.

#605 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 11:12 AM:

He's actually complaining that Teresa disemvoweled it instead of deleting it! I really hate that guy.

#606 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 12:20 PM:

After practicing a bit of search-fu, it appears that SwatJester has received anti-semitic comments from someone with a similar IP address in the past, so my best guess is that one of his enemies googled his wiki handle and found Making Light that way, then posted the drive by attack.

#607 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Xopher @602
I don't see any evidence that he made the remarks about himself, actually. He misquotes the insult (which disemvowels to "jwby"), rendering the last syllable as "bag".

Considering the level charm he displays, I am certain that he is capable of attracting a fan club which follows him wherever he goes, describing him in its own terms, without his assistance.

I'd suggest giving him the benefit of the doubt - he's done enough overtly to permit one to form an opinion of him anyway.

#608 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:10 PM:

I can imagine him pointing a pistol at his own head and saying "One false move and the moron gets it!"

#609 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Pseudonymous fools develop fits of pique
when first confronted with a straight critique;
all that then follows, in their twisted sight,
is further evidence of their sad plight.
So to blame those who merely took the mickey
for stupid slurs, sure indicates a thicky.
We aren't surprised that falsehoods they retail
in tones that signify moronic wail,
they hope the reader will lack common sense
and fall in line with their silly pretense.
We aren't supposed to think, merely agree
while they of fact and courtesy are free;
with idiotic threat they seek to cow
any who won't to their slight wisdom bow.

#610 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:58 PM:

James @ 608... Have you been watching Blazing Saddles again?

#611 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 05:51 PM:

And I was absolutely certain that the entire Wkipedian tribe was much too smart to try that idiotic BADSITES ploy again regaring Making Light. Shows you what I know!

#612 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 08:48 PM:

And, if we go to the renewed "attack site" discussion and scroll up, we arrive here, at an example of Wikipedian self-satisfied ignorance at least as spectacular as the one that started off this thread, in which an admin with the handle "But Seriously Folks" is caught fast-tracking deletions of many pages related to the IEEE, a major, major technical society, because they do not assert clearly enough that their own subjects are "notable", even though some of the targeted pages have dozens of incoming links within Wikipedia itself. Called to account, he protests:

I never said these things were not notable. I don't know whether they are in fact notable, and it is not necessary for me to have independent knowledge of the subject according to the rules of this project. I said the articles failed to assert that their subjects were important or significant, which nobody has challenged (except for one article which I myself undeleted).

This privileged vandalism was undone, but the guy who first cited it, and took the first steps, was roundly criticized for his incivility in calling this attitude "militant ignorance".

Also of note, if folks haven't already seen it, a direct link to Tom Smith's musing on the subject...

#613 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 09:20 PM:

Wow, Charles. That is an astonishing discussion...

If they're that interested in rules-lawyering, makes me wish they'd find themselves an RPG instead of trying to edit an encyclopedia.

#614 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 09:56 PM:

Some of us RPG players don't really want them mucking about on our forums either, thanks. Maybe they could go nitpick with the wargamers instead?

#615 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:08 AM:

Jim@608: I can imagine him pointing a pistol at his own head and saying "One false move and the moron gets it!"

Well, at least he's a "super dooper trooper weapons expert, HOO-AH!" so if he does try that, hopefully he won't miss the target and hit an innocent bystander.

Although, I do have this image stuck in my head of him struggling with a pocket mirror so he can look through the red-dot sight to see if he's pointing at the right spot.

#616 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:14 AM:

Hey, whoa whoa whoa! You're doing something that could be construed as talking about hypothetical events that could potentially involve death or harm coming to him! That sounds like a threat to me!

Attack site! Attack site!

#617 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 02:24 AM:

Careful: do not expect sarcasm to be willfully penetrable by them; it's pretty clear that they're truth parsers.

#618 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:55 AM:

ethan @616
Attack site! Attack site!

As opposed to the infamous attack cite, which, when used on the most innocuous fact in the world, turns it into a POV tool.

#619 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:44 AM:

Coming soon: Bush nominates SwatJester to replace Gonzales.

#620 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:52 AM:

Earl@617: it's pretty clear that they're truth parsers

hm, truth parser, parser truth, parseltongue....

Holy crap, that means... they're SLYTHERYN!!!

#621 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:46 AM:
Beware the Wiki Pirates, who sail the server seas.
They flaunt their fake credentials and their advanced degrees.
They control the information with bullying moderation,
'Cause arrogance and online swagger trump your expertise.

Wiki Pirates. It's available as a free download, released under a Creative Commons Noncommercial Sharealike license (for the benefit of the [fellow] who sneered, "I'd love to know if those whining about Wikipedia actually create something else").

#622 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 09:52 AM:

See also this argument over whether or not to ban links to michaelmoore.com, because Moore had publicized the name, photo, and employment history of an American Enterprise Institute employee who had edited the Wikipedia article on Sicko. Before Moore had made this information public, the editor in question had revealed this identifying information on his own Wikipedia user page, but apparently, in the eyes of some, Wikipedia editors do not only have the right to be anonymous, but they have the right to become anonymous at their convenience.

BADSITES, the gift that keeps on giving psychodrama.

(h/t Seth Finkelstein)

#623 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:00 AM:

Dan (601), thanks for the heads-up and the link.

Oh my goodness, SwatJester is upset. I don't think he's a very good reader. He appears to hold me responsible for everything said here. Also:

"Now, when someone googles my name and wikipedia together, the top results are.....'FOMG SWATJESTER IS EVIL!'"
No. His User Page on Wikipedia is the first and fourth result. Making Light is only in third place. And in second place? Miles Gloriosus.

Perhaps that's why he thinks I dissed his military service? He's wrong about that, of course. Linking his name to Miles Gloriosus was making fun of something else entirely.

Xopher (602), I'm pretty sure that Earl's right in #606, and that the disemvowelled troll followed SwatJester here from another forum. I'll admit that when I first saw comment #313, I suspected SwatJester had posted it himself, as a way of discrediting this forum and drawing sympathy to his side. Some poking-around online brought me to the forum where Snb and SwatJester probably conceived their mutual enmity. Snb exists. It appears (I read as much as I could stand, which wasn't extensive) that on the forum in question, he's disliked but he's not a standout.

Fragano (609), do you suppose anyone writes verse in Wikipedia's internal arguments? I think they'd be much the better for it.

Kathryn (611), the BADSITES ploy, and labeling any site an "attack site" that contains comments wounding to adminiswiki feelings, seems to be a recurring theme. I'm starting to feel like I'm dealing with Scientologists, and that "attack site" is their equivalent of "suppressive person."

Of course, to really get labeled an attack site, what you have to do is give the real name of a Wikipedia administrator -- even if that name is publicly known, like SwatJester's.

There was an astounding dust-up a while back when a Pharma employee, active on Wikipedia as THF, repeatedly astroturfed entries relating to Michael Moore and Sicko. Moore sussed this out and broke the story, loudly, on his own site. You want to guess how Wikipedia reacted? Were they embarrassed that this had been going on, and relieved that Moore had spotted THF's repeated vandalism? Maybe a little, in the sense that I can't prove that that reaction didn't exist. But mostly, what happened was that a couple of Wikipedia administrators declared MichaelMoore.com an attack site, and went to work deleting links to it in Wikipedia entries, because Moore had revealed THF's real name.

The question of how Michael Moore was supposed to establish that THF was a paid employee of Pharma without mentioning his name apparently never crossed their minds. Ditto, that it was an entirely justifiable outing.

Wikipedia's internal culture seem to have completely lost track of the fact that the rest of the online world doesn't think anonymity is sacred, especially when it's being used irresponsibly. To them, identifying the person who's being paid by a large corporation to vilify you in the public record is a far greater sin than falsifying entries in Wikipedia.

Now here's where things get truly absurd: I could point you to a forum thread that discusses the Michael Moore dust-up, but for all I know, doing so will once again get Making Light labeled an attack site. Is this not ridiculous? We're not Wikipedia. Making Light's comment threads are a respectable public forum where many subjects get discussed. The conversation we're having now is a legitimate discussion of matters of general interest. I found the forum in question via some very simple googling on matters Wikipedian. Yet I'm having to stop and wonder here whether admitting that I'm aware of the existence of non-Wikipedia forums devoted to discussing Wikipedia will get the entire Making Light message base quarantined.

Remember the last time that happened? Remember who did it? I'm not going to mention his real name, though it's easy enough to find if you go looking. The single most pertinent fact I know about yon troll is that he has now picked fights with a statistically improbable number of professional science fiction editors. I first became aware of him because he showed up out of nowhere to harass me.

He makes the same excuse for his anonymity that the rest of the Wikipedia admins use: he has to be anonymous to protect himself from evil trolls, stalkers, and death threats.

I don't believe it.

I know of one Wikipedia admin. who was genuinely stalked, and I suspect that had more to do with her being female than a Wikipedia administrator. I sincerely doubt that the rest of the Wadmins get anything like that on a regular basis. The one who made the biggest fuss about it, EssJay, is a proven serial liar, and his claims about the harassment he'd received were demonstrably false.

You're one of the better counter-examples I know. You don't operate pseudonymously. You frequently research genuinely scary people. Independently of that, you've been the target of one of the Internet's serial stalkers. You're a little slip of a thing -- Macdonald could pick you up one-handed -- and you have two young children. Your partner frequently travels to preannounced locations where security isn't terribly secure. And yet, you don't claim that life would be insupportable if you weren't allowed to operate behind a screen of anonymity.

Charles Dodgson (612), that thread involving ButSeriouslyFolks' deletion of numerous articles he didn't understand was a tragedy in progress. I couldn't stop reading it. BSF's chief concern is that another Wikipedian reacted with dismay to his hasty and ignorant deletions. The fact that he's destroying other people's work and damaging Wikipedia is nothing to him. He holds it as an article of religious faith that he doesn't have to be an expert to edit Wikipedia, and therefore he's entitled to delete entries that don't make it sufficiently clear to him that they have a reason to exist.

Wikipedia grants authority to people who make lots and lots and lots of edits. Not only does this selects for unthinking confidence in one's own judgements; it means that the higher someone stands in the Wikipedian hierarchy, the more likely they are to be editing material they aren't familiar with and don't understand.

I'll tell you where Wikipedia's founders made one of their most terrible mistakes. To say that you could contribute to Wikipedia even if you didn't have credentials was a great and liberating insight. The disaster was that that got turned into "you don't have to be an expert." There are plenty of informal experts in the world, and they could have built an interesting encyclopedia. The same can't be said for non-experts (and proud of it!) who have only the courage and conviction of their ignorance.

I do like Tom Smith's commentary. To quote -- hurrah for Creative Commons --

Some lust for gold and silver, and some for gems and jewels
But some want greater treasures, and they use their software tools
For some of us quest for knowledge, and we wants it undefiled,
But now and then you get a troll who thinks he's Oscar Wilde.

Beware the Wiki Pirates, who sail the server seas.
They flaunt their fake credentials and their advanced degrees.
They control the information with bullying moderation,
'Cause arrogance and online swagger trump your expertise.

No matter what your sources, no matter whom you cite,
He doesn't want to hear it, 'cause he knows for sure he's right
There is no compromising, no bargain or accord,
He's never heard of you, or doesn't like you, or he's bored.

Beware the Wiki Pirates, they love to wield their clout
All day they'll argue details that no one cares about
They don't see as overreachin' their demands for page deletion
Web pages are in short supply, and what if we run out?

Yo ho, yo ho, no one ever thought,
Yo ho, yo ho, in this web we'd be caught,
The Wiki's meant to document the stuff the mainstream missed,
Instead we've got a pompous sot who's building up his wrist.

So if ye've got a subject that really interests you,
Beware the Wikipirates, they've got nothing else to do.
Someday we'll have a knowledge base with all you want and need,
Till then we'll take cold comfort that they're likely not to breed.

Beware the Wiki Pirates, who whine at our attacks.
They're only trying to help us, never mind the rules and facts.
They're just honest, not unpleasant, it's not their fault that we're peasants,
If we'd only see their brilliance, everybody could relax.

Beware the Wiki Pirates, that basement-dwellin' band.
They regulate and obfuscate what they don't understand.
The grief they give ya will reduce ya to trivia and minutiae,
And prayin' that you really do get banned,
Only "public noteriety" will get you in their library,
Be grateful they're all lost at sea... they'd try to delete the land.

Thank you, Wikipedia. I'll have to look up more of Tom Smith's work.

#624 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:15 AM:

#614 Some of us RPG players don't really want them mucking about on our forums either, thanks.

Have you ever heard of an old eldritch horror called Hybrid RPG? It used to troll around the rec.games.frp newsgroups, gradually accumulating rules and astonishing bystanders.
I'm sure it's a worthy challenge for bored Wikipedia editors...

#625 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:27 AM:

#622: It gets better. Said AEI employee has been here on Making Light. (Search the thread for "Ted").

#626 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:32 AM:

Jim, Seth, it appears we're of one mind, or a couple of overlapping ones.

Jim, I've been reading up on things, and yon fellow who was here and did the sneering appears to be above-average-sensible for a Wikipedia admin.

Yes, it is, isn't it?

#627 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:49 AM:

Jon Meltzer: You're kidding! That was Ted Frank? The same guy who turned up in the Cylert thread (comment #118) posting as "anon" and accusing me of reflexively attacking tort reform? I knew he was paid astroturf as soon as he showed up. That's why he lost his first set of vowels so quickly. It's also why I posted his IP address -- which, come to think of it, was probably how you spotted him.

I think that demonstrates that what he was doing on Wikipedia wasn't an aberration. And he's a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the Director of the AEI Liability Project? How utterly disgraceful.

If anyone's interested in whatever additional light it may sheds on THF/Ted Frank's online career, he hung around on that thread for a while.

There's a post I've been contemplating for a while. I'm now convinced of the need to write it. Patrick, if you're reading this, we have a smoking gun.

#628 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:58 AM:

I may not be sleuthy and able to track people down or anything, but boy is it fun to watch. Many thanks.

#629 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:00 AM:

Lis Riba #624,

Now I'm going to be having Hybrid flashbacks. If anything could surpass the sheer mind-bending horror of the joke RPG someone made from the Timecube site, it would be the Hybrid RPG. Mostly because the latter seems to have been written in all seriousness.

#630 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:06 AM:

Soprt of connected: at Firedoglake yesterday, someone was saying that entries for some of the crew of Enola Gay had disappeared from Wiki.

#631 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:24 AM:

#627: It wasn't the IP address; the name set off my trolldar and, after a little googling producing hits on rec.arts.sf.*, the thought "I wonder if he's been here ..." quickly followed.

Makes me curious about what happened to other well known Usenet persons of controversy.

#632 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:53 AM:

P J Evans #630: That's why I largely sympathise with Zeborah: one look would have been enough to tell you that the page has links to 6 apparently more notable of the 12 men, and with a few more clicks (I won't copy the links here as the spamfilter doesn't like it) anyone can see that:
1. the entry hasn't been edited since August 9
2. since May, the link to Beser was added (after his entry was created in June).

Also, substituting "wiki" for Wikipedia is Wrong, if not Evil.

#633 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Teresa@623: Linking his name to Miles Gloriosus was making fun of something else entirely.

That he didn't even make the connection says something. As much as his user page talks about his military service, you'd think he had been in special forces for 20+ years. The one black ops guy I know hardly ever talks about what his experiences.

#634 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:18 PM:

Teresa@623: He makes the same excuse for his anonymity that the rest of the Wikipedia admins use: he has to be anonymous to protect himself from evil trolls, stalkers, and death threats. I don't believe it.

The worst wikiadmins, the one who've been around the longest, have the biggest posse of allies, and have shown an ability to willfully game the system to push their POV and avoid admiting any wrongdoing, those admins are the most anonymous folks on wikipedia.

Some admins have pseudonyms but some information is known about them one way or another. The admins that have managed to maintain a complete blackout on who they are, where they work, what area they live in, or anything that might possibly reveal any source of bias, those admins are the absolute worst of wikipedia.

Real Names. Real Responibility.

Anyone who understands power would destroy the Gyges ring if offered. These guys covet it and hold it as their precious.

#635 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Greg London: Yeah, I had a comment drafted, but the trip made it seem pointless. The nature of his comments (esp. the "got some time on the M-24) as well as his list of hardware seems like some compensating to me.

After all, anyone who wants to spend 600 bucks can own an M-24 (in any caliber they like). I say that because I have one (in 30-06) and even without the tune-up the Marines/Army give it, it shoots at sub-MOA, out of the box, with a cheap scope.

Some of that is me, but a lot of it is the rifle. A Model 700, out of the box, shoots better than most of the people who own it.

And so what? I don't care how many toys he has, I don't care, per se, that he may have, deliberately; and with decision, killed people. None of those things are relevant to his actions as an editor.

That he thinks they do, does however, tell me a lot (some of which is cultural unpacking, like the linguistic unpacking in the "who you calling a terrorist Willis?" thread).

But I am losing my faith/hope in Wikipedia, and things like this are why; which saddens me.

#636 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:15 PM:

Greg (633), Terry (635), that bothered me too. I don't have the background, but I've known guys that do, and they have a distinctive tone when they go anywhere near the subject -- which they don't, unless it's necessary and appropriate. SlapJester doesn't have the tone, and he's registered that subject as his home address.

Terry, be of good cheer. There are plenty of people who'll tell you that human nature makes it impossible for a comment thread to stay constructive and civil much past the hundred-comment mark.

#637 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:28 PM:

Jan @ 233

They were complaining, specifically, about the navigator, IIRC. There had been an article about him and they said it apparently has been removed.

#638 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:41 PM:

Teresa @ 636... human nature makes it impossible for a comment thread to stay constructive and civil much past the hundred-comment mark

abi has a lot to answer for and...
Ouch!
(Those frying pans pack a punch even when they're hurled all the way from Amsterdam. Abigah-El indeed...)

#639 ::: Todd Larason ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:11 PM:

This may be well-known and obvious, but just in case... back in the mid 1990s, Ted Frank (I'm pretty sure the same one) was heavily involved in Usenet groups including alt.kibology and alt.folklore.urban, where he practically invented a form of trolling which was at least initially humorous and apparently good-spirited.

From a 1994 draft of David Delaney's net.legends FAQ:
Ted Frank: Alt.folklore.urban has *no* loons. Really. An a.f.u "old hat", ted
is considered the master of the "trolling" post - one with deliberate
misinformation inserted in order to stir up endless followups from unwary
people. Generally crossposts, as a clue, to alt.ted.frank.troll.troll.troll -
but so *many* people ignore the Newsgroups: and Followups: lines. ted (along
with most of the rest of afu) regrets ever reviving the Monty Hall thread
("1/2!" "No, you idiot, 2/3!") that recently (11/93) took over
a.f.u, rec.arts.startrek.misc, alt.sex.bondage, alt.fan.hofstadter,
soc.culture.british, alt.(fan?.)rush-limbaugh, and maybe another I'm
forgetting; when that finally died down, a "Robbie the Robot" thread was
spawned from it with one simple touch from his poster - from a *.sig*
reference. Posts as t...@kimbark.uchicago.edu (Ted Frank).

#640 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:45 PM:

Makes sense, Todd -- he started flirting with the dark side of the force, and look where he wound up.

#641 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 03:52 PM:

People who flirt with the Dark Side of the Force (without first taking her out for dinner and some flowers) usually wind up in serious need of dental care.

#642 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:08 PM:

Serge @638
Those frying pans pack a punch even when they're hurled all the way from Amsterdam

Now, I tried to throw it in a constructive and courteous way. If you didn't take it in that spirit, I'm afraid I can't be answerable for that.

#643 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:19 PM:

abi @ 642... If you didn't take it in that spirit

I did, sort of. You should see the dent in my skull.

#644 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:21 PM:

P J Evans #637: Nope; no change since 26 July, no entry in logs.

BTW, Googling for "Gyges ring" (I thought it might be ROT13 :-) I got this mention by Teresa a year (and a month) ago that she wrote a long screed into the Wikipedia edit war of that time. Alas, the talk page has been deleted together with the entry itself. Is a WP sysop in the house who could resurrect it, or perhaps somebody with access to the database dump from that time, or did anybody back it up somewhere back then?

#645 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:34 PM:

Jan@644, google might have been looking at my post here. same page, post 503.

#646 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Um, I actually went to college with Ted Frank; we weren't friends, but he was someone I at least could recognize on sight.

I don't know when he started trolling*, but back as an undergrad, he was well-known for his crusade to prevent fraternities (and sororities) from gaining official recognition by the school -- or from misleading incoming frosh to think they were more accepted at the university than they actually were.

Nonetheless, some of his activities make me embarrassed for my(our) alma mater...
_____
*checking the Google Groups archive, looks like he didn't get a Usenet account until grad school.

#647 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 04:45 PM:

Whoops, I was wrong -- Just discovered a couple postings from his pip account in March 1991 - about 2 months before graduation.

BTW, looking @ his Wikipedia profile, it's up for deletion, with massive comments so far

#648 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 05:35 PM:

People who flirt with the Dark Side of the Force usually wind up in serious need of dental care.

No. That happens when you flirt with the Dark Side of the Floss...

#650 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Teresa: It's not a loss of faith here (though some of the comments in wikipedia related threads about how we mmight be prone to call troll for violations of, local, social norms has been interesting/enlightening).

Rather it's a loss of hope that Wikipedia can maintain relevance.

Reading the thf imbroglio, and the strange logics (and vicious peeves... lord but the idea that anytime someone disagrees with a "conservative" it's because of their politics, and just how oppressed they all are... sheesh) being used (Because I stepped in it, and my very visible conflict of interest is now exposed, I get to reset the clock, become anonymous and no one who uses Wikipedia to find things can be allowed to see any mentions of my previous self/activities) are orwellian.

If the culture of wikipedia is going to endorse that sort of rewrite of history, I'm not sure thriving is a good thing.

Which is sad, because the idea of being able to tap the expertise of the world seems like such a good thing.

But human nature will show itself.

As for SJ, well the ways in which he feels to be more puffery than substance are great. I was leery, before, of chiming in, because it was an off the cuff reaction. Having looked at it some more, more grandiose, and braggadacio than seems warranted. As you say, that sort of person doesn't usually talk that sort of talk.

#651 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 07:51 PM:

TNH: I'm starting to feel like I'm dealing with Scientologists, and that "attack site" is their equivalent of "suppressive person."

Wikipedia's admins have fought 'netwars with the scientologists, so maybe they picked up some bad habits in the process.

#652 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 07:53 PM:

. . . where as I usually fight them my Internet battles with Guys With Gun gone off the rails and their fan clubs, plus the odd psychopath. What does that say about me, I wonder.

#653 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:23 PM:

Kathryn Cramer @ 652... That sounds like a movie that Joe Bob Briggs would have loved airing on the Drive-in Theater.

#654 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:30 PM:

(The extra word or so in the sentence probably helped with that impression.) That's why I'm swearing off that kind of internet interaction.

#655 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:35 PM:

Kathryn Cramer... If you add giant spiders that run around the web and jump at people out of their computer screens, you might get the SciFi Channel interested in such a movie project.

#656 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:36 PM:

BTW, just found this essay on a Wikipedia change. It's a bit alarmist, but sounds like it will give admins even more power to hide edits they don't like...

Somebody more familiar with Wikipedia able to explain further?

#657 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:31 PM:

That's the "stable revisions" concept, that's been under discussion for a long time. If well-implemented, it might actually be a good thing. It depends on who gets to approve revisions; there are a wide variety of proposals out there in that regard, some of them very inclusive (like automatically granting the power to long-standing editors with a decent edit count). On the other hand, if it winds up being a select clique that has this power, it could be bad as the blogs claim.

#658 ::: Seth Finkelstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:34 PM:

Lis: Just a quick reply - I've heard that called "stable versions". The idea is to fix the vulnerability of any vandal mucking with the page, since there are pages near-continuously vandalized ("George Bush" being a notable example, for obvious reasons). In some cases, Wikipedia's iterative editing process doesn't converge at all, but goes into full-scale chaos.

#659 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:57 PM:

Lis@656: Somebody more familiar with Wikipedia able to explain further?

When an edit war breaks out, which can occur if a whole bunch of editors modify the text and do so in a way so that no single editor violates 3RR, the rule is lock the latest revision.

Not the version before the edit war, the latest version. This removes much of the ability for an admin to decide what is the "right" version and revert to that and lock it to that version.

Note, that an admin working as an admin on a particular article is not supposed to edit that article as well, other than to revert vandalism and such.

Which means if an admin sees a revert war on a page they have a personal, vested interest in, they would have to wait until the time is just right and lock the page when it reflects their POV. This can be difficult in an article that's thrashing.

If a particular version of an article is "sighted", it would justify an admin to go in during a revert war, lock the page, and revert to the previous "sighted" version.

The point where the system can be gamed is then determining how an article is "sighted". Wikipedia's history for rule-making, in a word, sucks.

Odds are, whatever system they come up with, will become gamed and reshaped into a system where the admins end up having more power than regular editors. If regular editors can "sight" a version, then what used to be a "revert war" will end up being a "sight war" as different sides try to "sight" their particular version of the article.

In short, this is a waste of time, and will likely make things worse.

If an article is vandalized, any admin can simply revert that vandalism.

This only kicks in when an edit war erupts. If you've seen enough edit wars blow up, you'll understand that this proposal will simply be another source of contention that the edit warriors will argue about.

If you've seen enough meglomaniac admins on wikipedia, you'll understand that this proposal will simply create a way for them to game the system and lock the article to the version they like.

If an edit war erupts, and the rule is lock the current version, then odds are more likely that the article will have a little bit of both POV's, and then both sides have an incentive to unlock the article and fix the parts they see as wrong. This creates an incentive to resolve the problem that caused the edit war in the first place.

It also makes it harder for admins to game the system and separates them from editing the article while they're exercising admin powers.

As it happens, "lock to the latest rev" also removes any incentive for admin allies to come in and edit while the other one acts as admin. When an article is locked to latest, it remains locked until the issue is resolved.

#660 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:05 PM:

The first problem with wikipedia is the vandals and the POV pushers.

Wikipedia responded by creating admins with basically unlimited power. This created wikipedia's second problem.

Any wikipedia rule that operates under a system of vandals and POV pushers mixed with admins of unlimited power is going to fail.

If wikipedia wants to solve the first problem it needs a way to scale admins to keep up with the vandals adn POV pushers, without creating yet another problem. Janitors and Jurists would solve the two biggest problems plaguing wikipedia, without creating any major new problems.

Once implemented, I think that wikipedia would find that problems that "sighted versions" is supposed to solve would automatically be solved by getting rid of Admins and creating many, many Janitors and Jurists.

#661 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 11:11 PM:

John Meltzer #648: That can lead to flossing with a mill.

#662 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 02:45 AM:

(I'm a long-time Wikipedia contributor and a member of the English Wikipedia's arbitration committee, fwiw ...)

I think that Wikipedia's policy of de facto encouraging pseudonymity is a problem, even though it was understandable and has some seductive short-term benefits.

Pseudonymity is not anonymity, even though it looks like it on first glance. You're not as anonymous as you think you are; your IP address is internally logged, and if your web browser logs you out in between edits, OOPS!, it's there for the world to see. Someone sufficiently motivated/crazy can watch you for years and note every time you slip up and mention anything personal. If you use the same identity anywhere else, it's even less secure.

Wikipedia has put in a lot of effort over the last few years attempting to help people stuff genies back into bottles, or to close stable doors after the horse of anonymity has long since bolted. Once something's out there, it's out, unfortunately.

At the same time, pseudonymity has meant for little transparency, little personal investment in being a decent human being on the site, too-easy reincarnation every time you screw up, and interminable sockpuppeting and trolling.

It's worth noting that most of the currently sitting arbitration committee (arbcom) of which I'm a member are not pseudonymous; some of us use handles as our login names, as I do, because of familiarity, but most of us have our real names available. It's certainly a step in the right direction, and some editors and admins have followed suit.

#663 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 03:15 AM:

Matthew Brown @662:
Once something's out there, it's out, unfortunately.

I call this the Star Wars fallacy - that information once lost can be retrieved safe and sound.

#664 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 04:17 AM:

Lis @656

From the proposal page:

The vision is ambitious: to make Wikipedia a reliable source, and requires that we shift our focus from quantity to quality.[2] These proposals are modest beginnings towards that goal.

Ah. My Death Knell Alert just went off*. The last site I spent a lot of time on decided to do this once. (We called it "Raising the Bar".) Not a good notion. The problem is that (pace Pirsig) you can't measure quality. You can argue about quality, though, which takes time and effort that could be spent producing stuff.

And it's a change to the foundations of the operation, possibly too fundamental a change for the superstructure to maintain. Wikipedia, even more than my old place, grew on an evolutionary model: volume submissions, followed by cleanup and expansion. Requiring quality from the start - or even so explicitly placing quality over quantity - is like a factory deciding it wants all of its suppliers to send it pre-manufactured products instead of making them itself.

Even worse, most people who start writing on these sites don't start with fully developed, high-quality pieces that conform to the site's peculiar standards. Generally their first few efforts are low-value pieces, testing the waters and learning what to do. If they aren't discouraged (by, say, being told that their work doesn't match the drive to quality over quantity), they then learn the peculiar customs of the place, and start to produce better work**. So these impulses to quality choke off the supply of workers as well as raw materials. And you need fresh blood, as older members get stale, get bored, get annoyed, or get lives.

On sites like these, quantity is not the enemy of quality. It's the raw materials of quality.

-----
* a ghastly sound, all boomy and meta
** my first sonnet here was pretty poor.

#665 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 05:19 AM:

Just for the record, not that it mattered much, but I have this terrible wikipedian-blogger-fannish-nerdy-anal urge (and after all, as the comments thread slouches towards the number of the rough beast [hmm... 664 as of writing this but I'm afraid finishing it will take me too long to hit the jackpot; although it being the night in America might help? {so - no. still 665 on final preview before posting. Well, it's just like me, coming short}], no more seriousness can be really expected of it), so let me expand on the process how I came to get off on a tangent: Greg London #645 - yup, being lazy and in a hurry, I tried googling [Gyges rot13], and the ML page is top of the 3 results (and the only articulate). I did read [or at least scan for the context of the search term] your comment, and after finding that this Gyges ring apparently wasn't a one-off metaphor (and surmising it might be an item from some fantasy or perhaps comics unknown to me :-) googled it straight (I did mention that, didn't I), getting - of course - the Wikipedia entry Claude Muncey #649 links to.

(And now for some - marginally - more useful contribution:)

Greg #659:

When an edit war breaks out, [...] the rule is lock the latest revision. Not the version before the edit war, the latest version.

Hm... At first I thought that you were mistaken but it turns out I was. I thought that the existence of The Wrong Version concept meant that it doesn't really matter which version gets locked, but Wikipedia: Protection policy # Content disputes does say

Except in cases of clear vandalism, or issues with legal impact such as copyright or defamation, pages protected in an edit war are protected in whatever version they happen to be currently in. Protection during an edit war is not an endorsement of the current version. Editors should not ask for a specific version of a page to be protected or, if it has already been protected, reverted to a different version.

I'm not sure whether this can be interpreted as absolutely forbidding admins to protect another version if they took the trouble to look it up (which mostly would be too much bother), but I guess that to protect it, they'd have to reinstate it first (if they don't weit whether it might not appear by "itself", as you mention) and that would be against the letter of the rule forbidding to "protect pages when they are involved". Oh well, I also may have been confused by somewhat different rules/practices from cs:.

Still, I don't quite agree with all of your reasoning - maybe I just haven't seen enough edit wars blow up? :-) I think that edit war versions are alternating extremes rather than mixtures unacceptable for either participant (or maybe I do tell a lie: the more reasonable one will try to suggest some concessions and compromises; I've been in that position a few times. Very frustrating). And I can certainly imagine (and actually consider likely) situations where the pre-breakout version is Wronger than any of the later: Take a topic obscure enough not to attract much of attention (i. e. what, 90% of articles? 80%? I'd certainly say the majority; frex that Enola Gay navigator has had remarkably few edits for having existed since 2004), full of nonsense (which does happen all the time; I try to collect the cases I run across - on my user page, see link in the header), or POV, etc. Then, possibly after very long time, an expert or at least somebody sensible sees it and tries to correct it. The possessive original author reverts, war ensues.

#666 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 07:18 AM:

Wikipedia
Entropy by POV?
Inevitable.

#667 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 09:25 AM:

abi @ 664

I'm really tempted to pick nits around your argument; for instance quality* won't appear at all unless there's a desire to learn from the initial failures and improve, not matter what the quantity is. But to a great degree I agree with you, and the other stuff is not very controversial, I'm sure.

The whole quality vs. quantity debate reminds me of the Great Reuse Debates in software in the 90s. On hearing what great advantages reuse would give to a project, all the managers wanted the programmers to write the code so it would be reusable from the first, thus saving iterations in development. Sound familiar? "Let's just invest in the books that will be bestsellers, so we'll make more profit." Many people still don't get that you can't make software reusable until you've first made it usable.

These are all specific examples of the principle behind the old Russian parable of the peasant who goes to market. He gets there and discovers he's really hungry, so he buys a couple of pirogi and devours them. He's still hungry, so he buys a sausage, and eats it. He's still not full, so, seeing a pretzel vendor, he buys one of those big, soft pretzels, smears it with hot mustard, and eats the whole thing. Now he's full, and he thinks to himself, "If only I'd eaten the pretzel first, I wouldn't have had to eat all that other stuff."

* I originally typed "quanlity" which is surely a portmanteau that Humpty Dumpty would love.

#668 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 09:29 AM:

Re 667

Whenever we hear of a particularly nasty murder-suicide (an abusive spouse killing his family for instance), or an amoker who shots a bunch of people and then himself, Eva and I always turn to each other and say (often in unison), "Should have eaten the pretzel first."

#669 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 10:19 AM:

For a recent example of surprising civility, TV tennis watchers can see John MacEnroe's "hug the umpire" ad for American Express during the US Open broadcasts. (Of course, as his fellow broadcasters hinted, he probably got paid a bundle for doing it.)

#670 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 12:06 PM:

Just heard three amazing databits during a presentation from a representative of Woz Media: First, twenty percent of all German internet users contribute to the Deutschsprachige Wikipedia. Second, the German Wikipedia is the most popular website in Germany. Third, their universities are complaining because so many German academics cite the German Wikipedia.

What this tells us is that the Anglophone Wikipedia's problems are in its use and administration, not its structure, software, or basic concept.


#671 ::: Adrian ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 01:05 PM:

Teresa (670), do you know if the German Wikipedia articles tend to converge on reasonable approximations of the truth most of the time? Or at least on high-school-textbook level inaccuracies, rather than wild crackpot ranting?

#672 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 03:15 PM:

Teresa @670
I recall hearing that the German government was going to fund some updates to Wikipedia. Ars technica says that it's a fairly limited effort, for specialised articles on renewable resources.

I wonder how that will go? I am presuming that the government-funded experts will be openly declared as such. It should produce some interesting culture clashes, but if the German Wikipedia doesn't have the same authority problems as the English one, it could be a viable effort.

#673 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 03:28 PM:

I think part of the problem with our favorite WikiAdmins is that they, personally, are not "notable," have no hope in hell of ever being "notable," and resent the fact that they have to deal every day with "notable" people and concepts and events. So they take their petty revenge on the world. This may even be unconscious on their parts.


There was a rumor at Readercon that a bunch of SF authors' Wikipedia pages were slated for deletion, and, I was told, mine was among them. I knew that there was such a page, but having it be deleted didn't cause me any grief, nor did I (then or to this day) go to check. I knew there was a page on me once; a while back I was interviewed for something and the interviewer told me that they usually went to Wikipedia for the biographies of their subjects. So I went to look. To my astonishment, the article appeared to have been written by V*nn* B*nt*. So I told the interviewer to use the bio from my own web page, and that was what was done.

#674 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 03:39 PM:

Does the german wikipedia use different rules for administration? Or did they get a good crop of admins?

While kindly tyrants could produce a pax wikipedia, it isn't the sort of system of government that can consistently reproduce those same good results.

#675 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 06:47 PM:

Jim@673: Some wikipedia admins are like that, I'm sure. I expect, though, there are others who believe that they have become notable by means of the status they've attained as noted Wikipedia admins, and are cheesed off at the disrespect they get from the likes of us.

That's ironic, considering that the most common complaint I've seen against these folks is their failure to acknowledge or respect hard-won subject matter expertise, but no one ever said human behavior had to make sense.

#676 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 07:10 PM:

James @ 673: I knew that there was such a page, but having it be deleted didn't cause me any grief, nor did I (then or to this day) go to check.

That was, approximately, Tom Smith's initial way of looking at the subject as well -- somewhat flattered that someone had created a page about him, not particularly fussed about its prospective removal. "If this page goes, it goes. If it stays, it stays. But I did not put it here. I don't need a vanity page. Is all I'm sayin'."

What inspired him to write that song was the incredible persistent pettiness of the dink who was trying to "prove" that Smith wasn't notable, dismissing all of the references to airplay, independent citations, awards ("filk ... represent[s] a very narrow area of interest within fandom"), etc.

#677 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 07:59 PM:

The German language wikipedia has the advantage of being smaller, for one thing, with a smaller readership, a smaller authorship. It's simply easier to keep a smaller project together; I think a first guess is that German is Goldilocks' choice, neither too big or too small.

English Wikipedia also has the disadvantage (or advantage) of being everyone's Wikipedia - since it's the biggest project, and since there are many English-speaking nations and a world full of ESL speakers - it definitely gets more partisans of more rabid points of view than the other projects get.

I think there's also a cultural difference - perhaps between English-speakers and German-speakers, but more specifically in this instance between English-speaking internet nerds and German-speaking internet nerds. It strikes me that the German wikipedia is simply more accepting of the need for organization, strict standards, uniformity, etc etc - rather than the very anti-authority types who populate the regulars pool of the English project. I'm aware that this matches the default stereotype of Germans vs English-speakers, but it does seem to follow - more so than could be explained by personal blinkers, I think.

#678 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 08:06 PM:

As to criteria for adminship on Wikipedia (talking about the English edition, of course) - the situation has been deplorable for some time and has been a constant source of argument on e.g. the wikien-l mailing list for years. Nobody has yet been able to push a replacement that sticks, though.

Edit counts and other mechanical qualifications are pointless, but people seem to (unfortunately) like them - because people like quantifiable stats even if they're not actually indicative of anything, I'd guess. There's an unfortunate tendency to promote 'vandal-fighters' - who tend to acquire the mindset that Wikipedia is a war zone and they're the soldiers on the side of right. They fall victim to the policeman's fallacy - "everyone I see is a criminal, so everyone's a criminal".

Over time, these people become less and less human in their behavior towards others, and more and more insular, to the degree that they become unable to deal reasonably with "outsiders". From their point of view, every newcomer is a suspect, either a potential vandal or a self-promoter or a troll.

Worse, as they get more and more burned out, they get worse about it - and they cause their own burnouts by thinking of it as a war in the first place.

Be aware that this stereotype is something we are trying to avoid - at least, I am and a fair number of long-time editors/admins are.

#679 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 09:31 PM:

Largely meaningless 'stats' are a big part of Scientology staff incentives, too. Another odd parallel. (Not that Wikipedians are Scientologists, but the stats-uber-alles thing seems to be a common sign of a bureaucracy gone seriously dysfunctional.)

Here's another little anecdote: Someone by the handle "Dnckid" started an article for Young Adult Novel, a 1982 book by Daniel Pinkwater with a wonderful little Dada-esque plot. They included a brief and fairly accurate plot summary.
Within two minutes, a would-be admin "TheFearow" had swooped down, putting in a speedy-deletion request on the grounds that it was "patent nonsense" (well, it's a Dada story, for heaven's sake!) and left a stern note on Dnckid's talk page "This is your last warning. The next time you create an inappropriate page, such as Young Adult Novel, you will be blocked from editing Wikipedia." Dnckid tried again, with a longer description of the plot, and then his edit history ends abruptly.

I can't tell from here whether he was actually banned. But I do know that TheFearow appears to have never corrected or apologized for his action on Dnckid's webpage-- that warning is still the last thing on it-- and there appears to be no sign that he ever realized Dnckid was describing a real book (something that a few quick searches could have told him).

Oh, it looks like he's considering another run for admin, according to his talk page. (Edit count was too low the first time he tried, but other admins are encouraging him to try again....)

#680 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: August 28, 2007, 11:26 PM:

I'd argue that "edit count" may actually be worse than useless as a figure of merit. It can give people intent on gaining status within the project an incentive to make the product worse, by boosting their edit count with ill-conceived changes to articles whose subjects they know nothing about. Which may explain the edits that took a technical writing article that needed work (vide supra, post 107 in this thread), and turned it into a mess that sends real tech writers recoiling in horror (post 38, post 60). That may also explain why some of these folks seem to take umbrage at the notion that they ought to know something about the subject matter of an article before editing it; I get the feeling that in some cases, that's not how they got where they are.

There's an old story about what happens if you give programmers incentive pay for lines of code produced and bugs fixed: they churn out tons of unreadable, buggy code, and then mop up an extra bonus fixing the problems they shouldn't have introduced in the first place. It's not a joke; this has happened repeatedly. And it'll keep happening as long as there are naive, newly minted MBAs who have to find out the hard way that when you set up incentives like this, you get exactly what you measure, whether or not it's what you really want.

#681 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 12:05 AM:

Well, according to the the block log, that guy doesn't seem to be banned.

In the defense of the other guy who scolded him, there is a large problem on Wikipedia with people creating pages about "stuff they made up at school one day"... so when somebody writes about a real, but little-known work that sounds like that sort of hoax, it just doesn't look good to the next editor who comes by.

#682 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 12:39 AM:

Well, it doesn't look good to the next trigger-happy anti-spam goon that comes by. Unfortunately, we're training people up to be that all too well.

'I've not heard of it' is not supposed to be a deletion criterion.

TheFearow is not an admin, by the way.

#683 ::: Matthew Brown ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 12:43 AM:

Most metrics only work until people realise they'll be judged by them. After that, the system is gamed.

Officially, Wikipedia isn't supposed to give a damn about edit count. Most people who vote for admins, however, seem to use edit count as one of the major ways to gauge worthiness - high edit count, having "checked the boxes" about having done a fair range of different tasks, having sucked up to the right people and not really offended anyone who votes.

A great way to choose mediocrity, I feel.

#684 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 11:28 AM:

Edit count is an alternative to judging the quality of their edits. If you do the latter, you stand a chance of being wrong. Anyone can look up an edit count.

Charles Dodgson (680), my favorite example of incentives misfiring was the bank -- I think it was Chase Manhattan -- that tied the annual bonuses given to its international loan officers to the size and number of the loans they'd made.

For some reason that reminds me of my all-time favorite misconceived advertising slogan: THE END OF BORING BANKING.

#685 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 11:45 AM:

You can't design an incentive program properly unless you treat it as a game, and ask yourself what will happen if some people simply try to maximize their score without regard for the consequences. Inevitably, some of the "players" will do that. This is why there are professional incentive plan consulting firms.

#686 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 12:18 PM:

I should mention that SWATJester has offered an unqualified apology and has devoted some effort to writing me a long letter. I have accepted his apology.

#687 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 01:03 PM:

Teresa, banks do misguided things with incentives all the time. If I learned anything from working at one for two miserable years, it's that they are institutions of Pure Evil and should be trusted only as far as you can throw them.

#688 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 01:13 PM:

It's not just banks that screw up their incentives, believe me. As I still help implement commissions systems for a living I don't think I can tell any good stories on-line, sadly.

#689 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 02:53 PM:

(a) congrats, Kathryn, re #686
(b) wikirage lists the pages in Wikipedia which are recieving the most edits per unique editor over various periods of time

Apparently, the Archaeopteryx is hot today...

#690 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 03:07 PM:

Kathryn@686, that is interesting. I wonder if that means he learned something such that similar incidents won't happen again.

#691 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 05:19 PM:

Kathryn 686: Good. Since he was stupid at you in public, I assume his retraction/apology is also public? If so, could you link? If not...why not?

#692 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 05:32 PM:

Oh, never mind, it's on the same page. Sorry.

#693 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2007, 07:36 PM:

#691-2: Actually Xopher, you were right the first time. I'm being nice and mentioning in public a privately offered apology.

#694 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 02:07 AM:

TNH @ 684

Precisely my argument wrt program line counts versus quality of code.* "But quality is a subjective characteristic!" Yep, and line count and $US 3.50 will get you a latte. What a lot of people these days seem to have lost track of is that there are domains where objective measurement isn't just useless, it's counterproductive. Take comment moderation, for instance ... Sometimes you just have to bear down and make a personal, subjective decision.

* No, not here on ML. Just one of my many tasks as a professional Software Sisyphus.

#695 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 05:46 PM:

Since I believe all the information on Wikipedia, imagine how excited I was to discover that Robert Rodriguez is Rumoured to have collaborated with Quentin Tarantino on the Mexican vampire novel The Book With No Name by Anonymous.

I question Mr. Rodriguez's and Mr. Tarantino's choice to publish their book anonymously through lulu.com but what the hey, they're the successful pop cultural figures.

#696 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: August 30, 2007, 11:24 PM:

Of late litmus tests by the Cabal(tm) have been a feature of administrator nominations.

#697 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 09:49 AM:

As part of a discussion over on LiveJournal I wanted to post a pointer to the old Making Light thread on animal hoarding.

Naturally, I hit Google for "making light cat hoarding" since I figured that would be the fastest way to find it. The search also brought up the Wikipedia entry on animal hoarding, so I figured I'd look over there for more resources.

When I got there, no sign of the Making Light link, though it was in Google's cached copy. Time to check the edit log!

Oh, quelle surprise.

I think it's a justifiable edit, inasmuch as TNH is not the authority on animal hoarding that she would be for SF editing, fandom, online moderation, or similar topics; however, considering who made the edit, I wonder if the page was noticed because of the links on it rather than a more general desire to improve Wikipedia.

#698 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 11:55 AM:

Of course the edit was made by that [fellow] Will Beback.

It's part of his years'-long campaign of low-level harassment against Teresa. Why he may have started it -- she turned him down for a date, she rejected one of his manuscripts, he's jealous of her talent, he's just a [fellow] -- I have no idea.

But that his campaign exists and has been on-going for years is beyond doubt. That he vandalizes Wikipedia in furtherance of his grudge is likewise beyond doubt.

To the people who say "Don't complain about Wikipedia, improve it!" here's the reason why we can't. Any attempt to improve Wikipedia is met with gameplaying by the admins who don't care about the project.

#699 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 12:32 PM:

I contributed to Wikipedia on two occasions -- both suggestions to improve typoes on botanical pages, which were received graciously, and dealt with promptly and cleanly. But these are not controversial taxonomical issues, but simple typoes, so there was no reason to expect anything else.

#700 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 12:41 PM:

Jim 698: Of course the edit was made by that [fellow] Will Beback.

What, we're not allowed to call him a jackhole here? Or is it just you front-pagers who aren't?

#701 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 31, 2007, 01:52 PM:

Since those [fellow]s seem to be unable to tell the difference between a front-page post and a comment in a comment thread (even one that's been disemvoweled), I'm just calling those [fellow]s "[fellow]s."

#702 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 03:45 AM:

Members of the Slugtribe writers' group (which I have administered their online discussion for about twenty years, reaching back to the early days of the SMOF-BBS) are attempting to write a Wikipedia page about the organization, but it has already been gunched with a "speedy deletion" tag.

#703 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 05, 2007, 09:38 PM:

For better or for worse, I've just cut the section from Julius Schwartz's bio concerning sexual harassment.

One of Wikipedia's defects is that if something gets said in "the press" it's very hard to keep out of a Wikipedia bio. That can come in handy if one's enemies have WP bios, but in this case, I think the wordage devoted to a single Comics Journal article was a bit over the top.

I was friendly with JS when I was a sweet young thing in my early 20s, and so I think I know what was at issue. (But I could be wrong.)

#704 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 12:38 AM:

Jim@701, this [fellowing] [fellower] won't [fellow]!

It just doesn't have the same ring to it...

#705 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 10:49 AM:

TNH #670 re wonderfulness or at least general workability of German Wikipedia: Sorry, but I just don't believe this until I hear WAY more details. (Apparently Mathew Brown #677 has more experience with dewiki than me, I'd love to hear it.) This sounds just like mis-reported hype founded on distorted half-truths out of context:

"First, Twenty percent of all German internet users contribute to the Deutschsprachige Wikipedia." Um, in a developed, 80-million country (not counting the rest of the Deutsshprachige people)? How many users is that, and what do they consider "contributing"? (Cf. general knowledge that most of [English] Wikipedia's content is created by a couple thousand regulars.) And even if they arrived to the percentage validly, is it then that different from France, Netherlands or UK?

"Second, the German Wikipedia is the most popular website in Germany." While it might be nice to know what particular poll it was, and how close to capturing the Platonic idea of a country's most popular website, the only response is - so what? The English Wikipedia is also pretty popular, it's even won some awards.

"Third, their universities are complaining because so many German academics cite the German Wikipedia." - Um, and what is THIS supposed to mean? Bad translation of what even Jimmy Wales is first to admit, that students shouldn't quote Wikipedia? Or are even German TEACHERS actually that dumb they don't know that you don't quote a tertiary source, especially when it is freely overwritable by anybody anonymous? (I have an experience with a guy who could be called a "german academic" who indeed did just that, with disastrous results; perhaps some other time.)

I actually believe that (any) Wikipedia's problems are in its structure and basic concept (coupled with human nature). Yes, there might be more or less random differences between individual languages, and after all Jimmy Wales is not in the position to judge conflicts for himself as the last instance; but the "Five Pillars" are the same anywhere, and most of the finer rules get emulated.

#706 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Christopher, Jim (697, 698): Did you know that Will BeBack has interfered with Wikipedia's reporting of the Barbara Bauer lawsuit? You can see him bullying Mavarin for the sin of having some kind of connection with the lot of us. And who's he hanging out with? Marky48, also known as Mark York -- the worst and most persistent troll Making Light has ever dealt with. It's true: Will BeBack is pontificating about who is and isn't "neutral and unassociated" while hanging out with Mark York.

Jim says that Talk: Barbara Bauer page used to be a lot longer. Considering what they let stand, you have to wonder what they deleted.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Will BeBack removed the Wikipedia link to my article on animal hoarding, on the grounds that I'm not an expert on the subject. That's rich, considering that Wikipedia's administrators insist they need no expertise to back up their opinions. I doubt he cares how many animal shelters and animal care organizations -- you know, the people who really are experts -- linked to that article.

What am I saying? Of course Will BeBack doesn't care. We already knew he was willing to sabotage Wikipedia's scope and accuracy in pursuit of his vendetta. This is the man who was willing to remove every link to material on Making Light, and declare the entirety of this large and notoriously diverse message base an "attack site", merely because a comment in one of the threads linked to an old Google cache of a web page that mentioned Will BeBack's real name. He was nearly hysterical about it.

The link got removed from that thread. The Google cache is still there where anyone can find it. This has nothing to do with the good of Wikipedia. It's purely about a talentless troll -- well, two of them, if you count Mark York -- using Wikipedia to pursue their personal grudges.

#707 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 05:42 PM:

Verily I say unto you, they already have their reward.

#708 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 06:18 PM:

Teresa @#706:

Mark York

Who? Oh, you mean Mrk Yrk.


#709 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 06:35 PM:

Speaking of Mrk Yrk, it appears that Google is doing a reasonable job of indexing disemvoweled words. I figure data compression in that part of the index pretty much sucks, though. heh.

#710 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 07:33 PM:

Oh, I always thought it was Maoriuk Yeeriaek.

#711 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 07:46 PM:

An insult to the Maori community in the UK. And for all I know to the Yeeria community in the EK, but I'm not familiar with them.

I always pronounce Mrk Yrk "Murk Yerk"—the second name being a Germanic/Scandinavian pronunciation.

#712 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 08:26 PM:

It looks to me as if the whole Barbara Bauer entry has been removed completely and the associated talk page, too. If you go in via the homepage and search on Barbara Bauer you get "No page with that title exists." By clicking the link in post #706 you can get there, but it's otherwise gone.

#713 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 08:29 PM:

ethan @#710: bwa!

#714 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 09:10 PM:

Dawno, that's an archive that's being maintained by someone else.

#715 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 10:03 PM:

ah - thanks, Jim! Probably would have helped to actually look at the URL, huh? I still had no idea that the BB page had been deleted. Did they do it because of the lawsuit?

#716 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 10:44 PM:

I didn't think of this at the time, but do you suppose we're going to get labeled an Attack Site because I said Marky48 is Mrrk Yrrch? I don't recall him going to any effort to obscure that fact.

#717 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 11:14 PM:

Teresa @#716: seems likely, now that you mention it. You could strike his wiki name and keep his real name, thus removing the verboten connection while allowing us to still reminisce fondly about Mr. Yrk.

God, what a pain in the ass...you have my sympathies.

#718 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2007, 11:25 PM:

Teresa@706, good grief the entire Barbara Bauer article is gone from wikipedia? BB sued WP to bury any incriminating evidence?

nice touch.

#719 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 12:20 AM:

Teresa #716: It's more likely that ML will be labeled an attack site because the cleartext of Snb's disemvoweled post is still available on the site, and is easily Googled using the term "swtjstr". I brought that to Jim Macdonald's attention, but I guess he didn't think the situation merited a protective edit.

If you do decide to edit that post, please feel free to delete this message as well, for safety's sake.

#720 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 02:23 AM:

Xopher #711: An insult to the Maori community in the UK. And for all I know to the Yeeria community in the EK, but I'm not familiar with them.

How I managed to type "Maori" without realizing it is beyond me. I also realized later that I should have said "Amerika."

Is the EK the Extended Kingdom? Or is it the (totally) Awesome Kingdom?

#721 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 02:51 AM:


I'm the person who originally disemvoweled the comment.

If it's still available on this site I don't know where. Nor is it in my power to edit it.


As I already said when you wrote to me, what Google does is Google's business, nor can I control Google.

#722 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 02:59 AM:

EK is the Eldritch Kingdom, of course. Where else would the Yeeria, otherwise known as the "Eerie" reside? Indiana, perhaps?

#723 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 03:00 AM:

And now, thanks to Xopher, I know how to give the Firefox spellchecker conniption fits.

#724 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 03:02 AM:

Even funnier: the Firefox spellchecker flags "spellchecker".

#725 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 03:17 AM:

Bruce Cohen: My Camino spellchecker (which I'd assumed was the same as the Firefox one until it just didn't flag "spellchecker") cracks me up. For one thing, it just flagged both "Camino" and "Firefox."

#726 ::: myrthe ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 03:30 AM:

Jim @ 721

The full text of Snb @ 313 shows up if you click (view all by), appended to the disemvowelled post.

I couldn't quickly locate another fully disemvowelled post to see if this always happens, however it does not appear with David Gerard's partially disemvowelled #83. Hope that helps.

#727 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 05:32 AM:

Okay, that's odd. What happened with #313 is that I preserved a reference copy of the original text between carets when I disemvowelled the message. It was invisible when the message was normally displayed. I had no idea it would be visible in "view all by" mode.

It's gone now.

#728 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 06:50 AM:

I note, having had a quick check on his userpage, that Mrk Yrk has not actually done anything on Wikipedia* since 2 June 2007.

-----
* under that username, but note that he was heavily invested in that identity.

#729 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 08:15 AM:

Bruce Cohen @#722 Where else would the Yeeria, otherwise known as the "Eerie" reside? Indiana, perhaps?

Hey, Indiana has pockets of coolness! Eensy, tiny pockets of coolness...I'll think of one shortly.

#730 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 08:15 AM:

Teresa and I must have been disemvoweling that text simultaneously, and she hit "send" second.


#731 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 08:19 AM:

An interesting recent situation on WP, not associated with BeBack or SWATJester, is the WP article on Cahokia.

Cahokia is in Collinsville, Illinois, a couple of miles from the convention center where Nasfic was held. While we were there, a strangely haphazard-looking excavation began on Monk's Mound, a very large mount with a footprint about the size of an egyptian pyramid.

David and I asked about it, while we were there, and no one in an official capacity really seemed to know what was up. The start of excavation seemed to have come as a surprise.

I have no opinion on the legalities etc. of the excavation, but the situation I saw at Cahokia seemed odd enough for me to be intensely curious about what was up.

Someone wrote about it on the Cahokia entry, and also on the talk page. Others responded (on the talk page and on some of the user talk pages). All of those arguing seem to have been officers of the Cahokia Archaeological Society at the same time, which is to say that all can be assumed to have a fair amount of expertise.

How has this played out on Wikipedia? Well, the good news is that information is available on WP about the excavation, though only on the talk pages. The bad news is that the person who raised the matter has been blocked. The admin who blocked him was a bit sheepish about it.

This seems to me to be a case of If what you have is a hammer, then every thing looks like a nail. The tools and policies available to admins, which emerge out of governing mostly high school & college kids, really don't have much utility in cases of passionate disagreements among experts.

#732 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 08:38 AM:

T --

For future reference, when commenting something out, put it between HTML comment tags (<!-- Invisible text here -->) rather than between < and >. The latter is just a broken tag, and various browsers will render it in various ways.

#733 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Mary Dell # 729

Sorry, I wasn't being snarky about Indiana. That was a veiled* reference to a TV show of the 1990s called "Eerie, Indiana". Which I've just discovered, is now available in DVD, including one episode that never aired —— * sound of air rushing in to fill hole left by rapid apportation to the video store *


* And, I guess, swaddled in a bhurka to the point of unrecognizability,

#734 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 09:55 AM:

Another data point: the Firefox spellchecker likes "glaucous". Is it trying to tell me something? Great Heavens! It accepts Case Nightmare Green! We're doomed!

#735 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 12:09 PM:

That Mark York guy has some -- ah -- interesting conspiracy theories about the sf field, as manifest on the Barbara Bauer talk page Teresa linked to.

"I will also disclose that I have a submission in the slush pile at Tor." Yeah, there's no connection to defending the cause to the death there. No sir. Albeit probably won't help when money is on the line for the company. This is how connected the editors here are. Possibly Jules has too? Sci-fi is his genre according to his page. Does anyone think this is not evidence of bias? Conflict of interest r' us Marky48 00:24, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

#736 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 12:09 PM:

That Mark York guy has some -- ah -- interesting conspiracy theories about the sf field, as manifest on the Barbara Bauer talk page Teresa linked to.

"I will also disclose that I have a submission in the slush pile at Tor." Yeah, there's no connection to defending the cause to the death there. No sir. Albeit probably won't help when money is on the line for the company. This is how connected the editors here are. Possibly Jules has too? Sci-fi is his genre according to his page. Does anyone think this is not evidence of bias? Conflict of interest r' us Marky48 00:24, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

#737 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 12:27 PM:

A couple of hundred comments ago I made an allusion to Usenet trolls on Wikipedia.

Let me make that explicit: I suspect (though have as yet no evidence for this other than a gut feeling) that many of the notorious Usenet trolls and kooks of the 1990s have found Wikipedia a wide open fertile playing field, where they can troll away with full administrative rights. We already have two that have trolled this site (one with a long Usenet record) that are known to be there. Without any accountability or oversight from Wikipedia one really cannot assume otherwise.

I would hope that the Wikipedia management eventually realize that they are leaving themselves open for more lawsuits.

#738 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Bruce, 733: Wahoo! Time to dig out my GM-9000s!

#739 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Kathryn Cramer:

That Mark York guy has some -- ah -- interesting conspiracy theories about the sf field

Based on his postings here, I wouldn't be suprised at any theories he posts, up to and including the role of the cabbage leaf in human reproduction.

#740 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 02:39 PM:

Bruce Cohen @#733: I was completely unaware of that show...but I was only pretending to be defensive about Indiana. It has some wonderful qualitites, many of my near and dear are there, and my alma mater is fabulous. But interesting? Not so much.

#741 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 03:30 PM:

Bruce Cohen (StM) #733: Eerie, Indiana is on DVD?!?!?!? Where's my Netflix queueueueueue? Where is it? I need to add something to it!

Foreverware! Braces that let you hear what dogs are saying! I'm so glad I was at the appropriate age when that show was on. It used to scare the delighted shit out of me.

#742 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 06:15 PM:

I wouldn't be suprised at any theories he posts

Among admins he's not unique in enviously fantasizing conspiracies among the Connected.

Back six or eight months ago, a very prominent WP admin theorized that my (ahem) Hugo nominations should be considered a form of vanity publishing because I am sooo Connected.

Weird weird weird.

#743 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 07, 2007, 06:22 PM:

I guess I should add that at the time I just thought the woman was being rude. Now I understand that when that sort of nonsense is claimed on WP that these people actually believe what they are saying.

Which is much worse than simple rudeness.

What I guess these folks don't understand is that people connected to the Real World are most effective when they don't conspire.

#744 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2007, 06:44 AM:

Okay, I step away for a few months, only to belatedly stumble upon this thread while Googling for a posted picture of a friend of mine. Funny how that works sometimes.

The Barbara Bauer article was deleted months ago on the argument that Bauer was not sufficiently notable to merit an article, along with concerns about the preponderance of negativity in an article about a living person. (Notability, in WP parlance, basically means that non-blogs have published material worth citing on the subject, along with the more usual meaning of the term.) It was not deleted because of the lawsuit per se; at least, I don't recall anyone arguing for deletion on that basis. Well, maybe one person, in passing.

Oh, and I would not characterize WB as "hanging out" with Mrk Yrk, any more than he was hanging out with me. Will was reacting to the fact that I didn't vigorously defend him in some thread or other; it had nothing to do with Mrk. Mrk's attack was just his usual opportunism.

Dang. It's late. This is one reason why I don't hang out here very often. Three hours go by in a blink!

#745 ::: Karen Funk Blocher ::: (view all by) ::: September 17, 2007, 06:50 AM:

Addendum:

Oops! I now remember that there was a discussion about whether Wikimedia Foundation was going to express a preference as to whether the BB article should be deleted, presumably in light of the lawsuit. The deletion discussion was tabled until word came down that the Foundation was not going to interfere. discussion continued, and the result was to delete the article.

#746 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 11:01 AM:

Here's a fun one. A Men's Rights activist who has been blocked from editing WP a couple of times for behavior associated with the article on abortion has staked out the article "Mother" as his personal turf, and is feeling very threatened by my suggestion that his personal obstetrical take on the nature of motherhood doesn't belong in the first paragraph.

#747 ::: Dan ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2007, 11:45 PM:

The Wikipedia ArbCom is considering the issue of links to so-called "attack sites" now. This site is one of those coming up for discussion; the consensus seems to be that it's not an "attack site", but that hasn't stopped a person from getting smeared for being a participant here.

#748 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2007, 10:27 PM:

So I was just on the wikipedia entry for Pangaea, and what should I see at the top of the article? A tag that says "This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject."

But...but I thought...huh?

#749 ::: Swtpssr ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:13 PM:


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[Posted from 71.232.176.63]

#750 ::: miriam beetle sees driveby ::: (view all by) ::: October 08, 2007, 11:16 PM:

is it another attempt to get makinglight labeled an attack site?

#751 ::: drinkinstein ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2008, 02:55 AM:

yh, lts ll d th wrld fvr nd lt g f wkpd, bt t th sm tm ldl tll th wrld tht wkpd s nt n NCYCLPD bt rthr gnt clb fr dcks! thts s tr, w ll wntd t s t th "cmc bk gys" f th wrld hv rn mk nd th cll t wkrsng!!!(n ffns t ctl rl cmc bk gys) ths s mr f ft ss ht pckttng smrm wkpd dt s hv pwr n m pthtc lf g thng. whdd bnch chmps h?

#752 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2008, 03:03 AM:

drinkenstein @751:
There is a term in French, l'esprit d'escalier, meaning "the spirit of the stairs". It's the tendency to think of the killer comment after the conversation is long over.

Sadly, though the conversation has moved elsewhere, you missed the "killer comment" part of the formula.

Stairs, check. Spirit, not so much.

#753 ::: Mike Glyer ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 02:55 AM:

And to think that time one of Kathryn Cramer's co-panelists held up the handwritten sign that said "SAVE ME" I actually felt sorry for her.

#754 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 17, 2008, 10:02 AM:

Mike 753: I don't understand your comment. I don't see Kathryn being in the wrong anywhere here.

#755 ::: Alex Cavanaugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2008, 12:52 AM:

No doubt about it: [name removed] (aka "Swatjester") is a Class-A douchebag.

#756 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2008, 05:29 AM:

Alex @755:

Alex, you know that's bad manners.

You want to pick a fight with Swatjester and reveal (what you allege to be) his real name, do it on your own site.

This is not a Wikipedia attack site*, and we're not keen on outsiders coming in and trying to get it labeled as one.

-----
* the views of many people here about its reliability, administrators and social structures notwithstanding.

#757 ::: spam deleted ::: (view all by) ::: October 09, 2010, 11:03 PM:

[ spam from 173.234.151.20 ]

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