Monday, December 29, 2008

ArbCom 2009?

This may be a preview of what to expect from the 2009 Wikipedia Arbitration Committee, and if this is a sample then things don't look good.

Two days ago Geoff Plourde opened a request for clarification on the recently closed Piotrus 2 arbitration case. AGK agreed that a case which had about 20 named parties and remedies upon a substantial number of them would be better named Eastern European Disputes then named after one party.

The first arbitrator to respond was Rlevse:

Question--did anyone ask this before the case closed, by any method? RlevseTalk 01:47, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

Well, if you know Wikipedia arbitration, the first place you'd look is the top of the case workshop page. And sure enough, second from top is a formal motion to do that.

Geoff was on the ball. Nine minutes after Rlevse's query he supplied a link to the motion:

A motion was filed
here, but Arbitrators did not act on it despite support from several members of the community. Geoff Plourde (talk) 01:56, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

In a sensible world that would clarify things, right? Kirill had a comment (more on that in a moment) before Newyorkbrad dropped this on the page:

It frequently happens that the final scope of a case winds up being different from what was anticipated, and we don't usually rename the case for this reason (except sometimes by dropping the name of a party who winds up not really being mentioned in the final decision at all). That being said, I might be willing to consider taking action here if Piotrus feels strongly about it; otherwise, there's really no reason to.
Newyorkbrad (talk) 00:27, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Okay, Brad may be everybody's favorite arbitrator, but how hard would it be to click on Geoff's link and see that the motion to rename the case was actually initiated by Piotrus himself?

Proposed. First, it is obvious that I and Deacon are not the only parties. I believe that all editors who have presented extensive evidence sections or started their own workshop proposals (other than arbcom members) should be recognized as parties. Second, the focus of this case is not only my person, but quite a few other editors (this was also the case with Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Piotrus. However, framing it as "Piotrus arbcom" is misleading, as it gives uninvolved bystanders an impression that it's "all about Piotrus and nobody else". This ArbCom started as "Piotrus-Deacon" but have obviously outgrown that, and should be renamed to something more general and less fingering individuals, such as "Eastern Europe". Let me stress: this is not a technicality, naming is important (see framing (social sciences).--Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| talk 18:39, 9 October 2008 (UTC)

Apparently Sam Blacketer didn't click on Geoff's link either because he reflect's Brad's confusion over whether Piotrus wants it.

It's a bit late but a rename would not be inappropriate if, as Brad says, Piotrus feels it is important.
Sam Blacketer (talk) 19:55, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

FayssalF also weighed in with a curious condition.

I have no problem with renaming this recently closed case (to reflect final remedies). However, I'd recommend such requests be made within a week of the closure; otherwise we'll end up renaming cases closed years ago. --
FayssalF - Wiki me up® 17:15, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Um, how about considering requests that get made two months before the case closed? Could you do that perhaps? Or could you (ahem) pay attention to them?

We have not, traditionally, renamed cases merely because the final decision dealt with users whose names did not feature in the original title; the only occasions I can recall where we undertook this sort of change involved removing names, not adding them. I'm not convinced that the idea of matching the title with the scope, in and of itself, is worth the confusion that radically renaming the case will cause; is there some substantive benefit to doing so? Kirill 03:20, 28 December 2008 (UTC)

No arbitrator commented upon Piotrus's motion during the case (or apparently even noticed it was there), so even though editor responses ranged from neutral to favorable apparently, by Kirill's rationale, the fact that a reasonable motion gets ignored by the Committee eventually becomes grounds to hallow the mistake.

The most sensible comment so far has come from FloNight:

I'm open to renaming this case. My preference is to never name a case after an user since it often causes them distress. In situation such as this one, I think that naming the case after a single user in not for the best since it over emphasizes his importance in the situation.
FloNight♥♥♥ 13:58, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Although I wouldn't go quite as far as she does about case names generally, she appears to recognize the basic problem here.

What's worrisome is that several of these arbitrators weigh in with statements and questions that demonstrate a lack of even cursory examination of the matter at hand. I admire and respect people who disagree with me when their research and reasoning holds together, but it is frankly impossible to respect the opinions of people whose statements reflect a refusal to do obvious and easy homework. This is not the way to arbitrate, and several of our Committee members ought to be blushing when they read this.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Regarding this week's stuff

"You can fool all of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time." - Abraham Lincoln

Been a bit busy with onsite stuff the last week or so. Once in a while a handful of edits take a whole lot of work. Just a few asides to go along with that.

A certain episode of The Simpsons played a role in some evidence. Well, that goes both ways. So here's a suggestion.

In another episode called "Missionary: Impossible" Homer becomes a missionary on a South Seas island. At the end of the episode he tells the natives they can follow any religion they like. "Except the Unitarians. If that's the one true faith I'll eat my hat."

Well ya know, watch that show long enough and sooner or later, whoever you are, they take aim at you. I was sitting in a room with a bunch of other UUs when that came on, and for two seconds we all exchanged glances, gasped somebody remembered us. And then we laughed our ears off.

So if you don't like what I did this week (or if you do like it) go ahead and take revenge (reward) by building up that article. Heck, run the insult on the main page.

It's a joke.

And it's a cartoon.

Peace on earth, goodwill toward Marge.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Who watches the watchers?

Following up on the other day, let's see what effect the Internet Watch Foundation's censorship of Wikipedia has had. Traffic to the Virgin Killer article skyrocketed in two days and half a million people suddenly needed to see what all the fuss was about. Clearly, most of them never would have cared about a 32-year-old release by a heavy metal band. That's the kind of attention ham-handed censorship efforts bring.

And it's sad, because nearly everyone does sympathize with IWF's fundamental goal of combatting child pornography. So The Guardian reports IWF is reconsidering its decision. That's a good sign but it's not enough, because it leaves me wondering how many of the other 10,000 censorship decisions IWF makes each year are equally loopy. Either it's never been wrong before (not bloody likely) or there's a serious lack of oversight and appeal.

I had my own run-in with censorship a few months ago. Not with the IWF but with Facebook. And to this day it remains unresolved. It started innocently enough. I do a lot of image restoration volunteer work for Wikipedia. Quite a few of those had been selected as featured pictures. So I created a few Facebook photo albums, one of which was exclusively for my Wikipedia featured image work.

After a few months, without warning, the Facebook staff sent a nasty notice and blocked my access to the featured picture album. The notice offered no means of appeal. When I located a feedback email address at their site (which wasn't easy) and attempted to appeal, they didn't reply.

The image here seems to be the source of their complaint. I can't tell for certain because I prefer to give up access to that gallery than to acknowledge the Facebook team's accusation. The poster comes from the 1866 Pennsylvania gubernatorial race and the text of the full size image is an appeal to white voters to oppose voting rights for African-Americans. It's history--undoubtedly a distateful bit of history--but it's important to document how blatant those attitudes were a century and a half ago.

This image ran on Wikipedia's main page on June 29, 2008 where it received 17.3 million page views without any complaint. It currently appears at the articles racism, John W. Geary, Hiester Clymer, Disfranchisement after Reconstruction era (United States), and as a selected picture at Wikipedia's featured Civil War portal.

If it makes you feel any better, Clymer the racist lost that election. Real bigotry is appalling; I'm not it. I've also done featured restorations of African-American Civil War soldiers, postwar buffalo soldiers, and a portrait of Harriet Tubman.

What's scary is that in our own era, despite obvious encyclopedic value, somebody at Facebook decided to censor the wrong stuff. There's no way of telling who or why; no way to appeal the decision or correct their error. Both Facebook and IWF are equally prone to trolling and gaming in their attempts to manage inappropriate content because neither organization acknowledges that it might not be right every time. Once they make a decision--short of an outcry in the press--there's no appeal.

Update: the IWF has ended its censorship of Wikipedia, per their appeals procedure. What they haven't done is implemented a rational way of initiating an appeal. Since they don't report their decisions in the first place, most of the 10,000 sites they go after each year never even know they've been targeted. Nor is there any independent watchdog to second guess their choices.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Bad taste v. hypocrisy

In the eternal struggle between bad taste and hypocrisy, usually bad taste is less offensive. In case you haven't seen the new Associated Press article, British readers have been blocked from accessing an article because it contains an image of a nude child. The article itself is about a 1976 album released by the German band The Scorpions. In a cheap tasteless gimmick the band and its record label called the album Virgin Killer. In case for whatever reason the image isn't available to you, here's a direct link. You can also view the image at on a couple of pages, or at The Scorpions official website, or any number of other places.

Yet rather than target any of the other sites that host this 32-year-old commercial image, the Internet Watch Foundation has decided to focus on Wikipedia. The lady depicted has reached middle age. The image would remain in well-deserved derision and obscurity if it weren't for this attention. And the consenus of Wikipedia volunteers aren't happy about the hassle.

In the words of one site administrator, Jonathan Hochman:
There are two stories: a) censorship, and b) technologically hamfisted measures.

If the censors used XFF, at least there would not be so much collateral damage.

I am also very nonplussed that this censorship was approved by a private charity that answers to nobody.

XFF stands for X Forward-for. It's a protocol that proxies use to identify the source of an Internet transaction. This helps Web 2.0 sites have the ability to identify users by IP address and block those who are disruptive.

As things stand now, if any user in the UK gets blocked, the autoblock will prevent a huge swath of the UK from editing. This is an enourmous [sic], unnecessary problem.
So in response to one image readily available elsewhere, Wikipedia's ability to respond to inappropriate conduct of any sort from UK users has been severely hampered. And actual UK pedophiles (if any are active) have an easier time hiding in the crowd. In other words, the worst of all possible worlds.

Want to do something about it? Well claims are floating around that the album cover has been banned. It hasn't been; a lot of music stores carry it. And Wikimedia Foundation UK press contact David Gerard is speaking to the press tomorrow. Editors who don't mind letting their face and identity be known can help demonstrate that the image is indeed widely available, by photographing themselves with it.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Fun with umlauts

Along with writing music articles I've put up a few good article nominees. That means I owe the karma bank a few reviews. Another editor put up a music article for GA consideration recently. It wouldn't be fair to review an article written by someone I know so I picked a different entry from the top of the nominee list. That way his would move up in the queue.

The oldest unreviewed candidate turned out to be Defeated Sanity, "a German brutal death metal band from Dachsbach, Bavaria." Well isn't that something? Not my cup of tea, necessarily (especially since my cup of tea is usually coffee), but let's have a look.

It appears to be a well organized article with adequate references. Summarizes the band's history, releases, reviews, and personnel changes. Brief, yet probably comprehensive given the limitations of the subject. The prose could use a polish, though.

What caught my eye especially was a strange accent mark over the u of a band member's name. Might that have been a misreading? Checking the references, indeed it was in error. I had found perhaps the world's only encyclopedia article about heavy metal that had a legitimate shortage of umlauts. So here's the review:
Overall looks pretty good. In good conscience, however, it would be an insult to the genre to outright pass a metal article that lacked needed umlauts. I've fixed the missing ones in the band member name. Please copyedit and proofread, then contact me for a second review. DurovaCharge! 19:35, 6 December 2008 (UTC)
...another day on Wikipedia.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Small worries

Ever notice how trolls dish it out but they can't take it? If you've wanted to turn the tables then you're going to love this post.

A fellow who calls himself Grawp has been having his lulz at Wikipedia. He's got one joke, which was never very funny. Grawp has been going through Wikipedia volunteer userspaces in his entirely predictable manner for months dragging on into years and it seemed like a matter of time until he got to me.

Now before proceeding a caution is in order: Grawp's only joke is graphic and sexual. Basically it's an explicit boast about his own supposed prowess. So what follows here is not family friendly.

The matter got me to thinking why a fellow would go on in that way. Doesn't that demonstrate an obvious need to compensate for something? If Grawp had an actual partner then eventually he'd go out to the movies instead. Maybe he'd even get lucky and have sex in earnest. But his behavior was entirely consistent with a man who was--for want of a better word--his own best friend. One who takes matters into his own hands and yet still comes up short.

So here's the welcome I had waiting when he paid me a visit. Isn't it sweet? The image is my own creation and copyleft; feel free to reuse it. The puppet is of course a generic troll, but if the ruler fits...

And today I got a friendly ping and a history log from a contributor to another wiki. You see, the one advantage to Grawp's proclivities is that the troll sockpuppet with the two inch ruler is the only thing about him that's going viral. Apparently Grawp isn't quite happy about that. Could it be (ahem) that this little quip has too much truth about it?

What follows is Grawp getting short with another Encyclopedia Dramatica editor. I don't edit that site so click at your own risk:

  • cur) (last) 23:45, 3 December 2008 Ritegroic (Talk | Contribs) (53,467 bytes) (lulz)
  • (cur) (last) 23:43, 3 December 2008 Ritegroic (Talk | Contribs) m (53,477 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 23:21, 3 December 2008 Raspberry Rush (Talk | Contribs) m (Protected "Grawp": STOP THE BULLSHIT. [edit=sysop:move=sysop] (expires 07:20, 6 December 2008 (UTC)))
  • (cur) (last) 23:15, 3 December 2008 Milton Hoe (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes) (fixing some stuff; you Wikipedos have conflict of interest regarding this article and thus cannot be trusted)
  • (cur) (last) 22:55, 3 December 2008 Cracked (Talk | Contribs) (53,058 bytes) (hey Allie, be nice)
  • (cur) (last) 22:04, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) m (53,045 bytes) (oops - missed a bit)
  • (cur) (last) 22:02, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,049 bytes) (Here, if you don't want your email addy visible, do this. It's still available to bots y'know.)
  • (cur) (last) 22:01, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,058 bytes) (rv- quit the wholesale revert of my changes, Grawp. Everyone knows you don't use proxies, hence the begging unblock requests on Meta. Also get over WoW.)
  • (cur) (last) 21:12, 3 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes) (fixing some stuff)
  • (cur) (last) 20:42, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,058 bytes) (Various fixes and copyedits / factual fixes (like the proxy stuff))
  • (cur) (last) 18:37, 3 December 2008 Captain Emo (Talk | Contribs) m (53,072 bytes) (This one works so much better, Jeremy, you inadequate, limp-cocked little fuckbag)
  • (cur) (last) 18:02, 3 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) (51,538 bytes) (Nice job erasing half the article, you stupid slut. Go back to Ireland. I hear the standard of living is higher there.)
  • (cur) (last) 17:39, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (23,725 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844969 by Grawp(Talk) GTFO)
  • (cur) (last) 17:26, 3 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 11:03, 3 December 2008 Hagger? (Talk | Contribs) (53,072 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844576 by Norbert(Talk) fucking cunt doesn't know when to fucking stop)
  • (cur) (last) 10:53, 3 December 2008 Norbert (Talk | Contribs) m (53,002 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 10:13, 3 December 2008 MysteryBot (Talk | Contribs) m (53,072 bytes) ([Automatic] Reverting possible vandalism.)
  • (cur) (last) 10:10, 3 December 2008 6T3nwt3FYoiQi (Talk | Contribs) m (2,391 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 09:32, 3 December 2008 Raspberry Rush (Talk | Contribs) m (53,072 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844512 by Norbert (Talk) You killed a pic for a pointless edit.)
  • (cur) (last) 09:21, 3 December 2008 Norbert (Talk | Contribs) m (53,002 bytes)
  • (cur) (last) 08:21, 3 December 2008 Hagger? (Talk | Contribs) (53,072 bytes) (so true)
  • (cur) (last) 08:02, 3 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,074 bytes) (Fuck off yourself, pal)
  • (cur) (last) 07:50, 3 December 2008 The Gaffer (Talk | Contribs) (53,002 bytes) (Past life)
  • (cur) (last) 07:39, 3 December 2008 The Gaffer (Talk | Contribs) (52,963 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844205 byAlliecat (Talk) - fuck off, you stupid, annoying, menopausal bitch)
  • (cur) (last) 22:53, 2 December 2008 Alliecat (Talk | Contribs) (53,035 bytes) (+pic, courtesy of Durova - lol)
  • (cur) (last) 22:08, 2 December 2008 Cracked (Talk | Contribs) (52,963 bytes) (rv repeated vandalism)
  • (cur) (last) 22:04, 2 December 2008 Grawp (Talk | Contribs) m (53,248 bytes) (Undo revision 1997844151 byCracked (Talk))
  • Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    Shiny happy people holding hands

    Kmweber has been benched from this blog for turnovers.

    First down Durova. Passing play.

    As you might have noticed from another post around here, a lovely troll puppet recently made its way to another website, much to the chagrin of a particular person being lampooned. That fellow was indeed a troll.

    Some people say Kurt's a troll too. I haven't decided.

    Of course two factors make all the difference. One is caption. That last image sat around innocently for a month until properly captioned. That other puppet with a two inch ruler didn't mean very much until I suggested 'inadequacy complex'. This image isn't captioned yet. Won't it be fun to see what the caption would be? The other is license. This one's still under full copyright.

    I'll probably take about five days making up my mind. Of course, if Kurt Weber just happens to write an article during that time--any article--and it happens to get onto Wikipedia's main page at "Did you know", then I'll be impressed. I might even be so impressed that I take down this whole post and give him a barnstar for good sportsmanship.

    Meanwhile, here's Kurt's campaign song.

    And here's my response. Never forget, Kurt, that when you come to this blog you're in my house.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    A mandate from the community?

    It's a surprise to see the shape of this year's arbitration elections, particularly the voting trends on reelection candidates. It's tough work deciding Wikipedia's most stubborn disputes. And in making those decisions, inevitably some of the people who care about a case will return at election case holding a grudge. But there's a big difference between last year's pattern and this year's.

    In the 2007 elections two former arbitrators sought a return to the Committee. Although neither of them made it, they finished a respectable seventh and eighth in the overall results and tallied solid two-thirds support.

    Support: 233
    Oppose: 125
    Percent support: 65.08%

    Support: 317
    Oppose: 171
    Percent support: 64.96%

    This year three arbitrators are seeking a return. None of them are faring nearly so well. As of this writing here's how the vote is shaping up:

    Charles Matthews
    Support: 21
    Oppose: 108
    Percent support: 16%

    Support: 26
    Oppose: 119
    Percent suport: 18%

    Sam Korn (candidacy withdrawn)
    Support: 56
    Oppose: 54
    Percent support: 51%

    What's even more interesting is to read the rationales for those supports and opposes. A good number of people articulate the desire for change, and it may be significant that the returning candidate who fared best ended his previous term before 2008.

    So maybe it's time to ask if that big gray thing in the corner is an elephant in the room: are these results about the candidates, or are these results an informal referendum on the 2008 Arbitration Committee?

    Look at this string of comments:

    105. Oppose. I see you as the continuity candidate. Skomorokh 01:19, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    106. Oppose The current ArbCom is a disaster. We don't need more of the same. AniMate 01:47, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    107. Oppose sitting arbcom member --Random832 (contribs | signing statement) 02:04, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    108. Oppose. Let's have some fresh faces. --Wetman (talk) 02:28, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    109. Oppose. It's a change election. --Akhilleus (talk) 03:36, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

    Darkness is the best disinfectant?

    The sun sets on California as this occurs. Was I unfair?