Sunday, May 31, 2009

The maturity test

Some people assert that there ought to be a minimum age limit for editing Wikipedia. Perhaps it would be better to work from an alternative: a minimum maturity limit. Provided below is a multiple choice test.

1. "The encyclopedia anyone can edit" means:
A. Everyone is welcome to try and improve articles, so long as they abide by Wikipedia's policies.
B. Idiots and high school students write two-thirds of the content.
C. Epic lulz.
D. I've got access to a /12 range so you can't really stop me.

2. You make an edit and it gets reverted. What do you do?
A. Discuss it on the article talk page.
B. Restore it with a nasty edit summary.
C. File a frivolous noticeboard complaint against the person who reverted me.
D. Restore it under a sockpuppet account.

3. You get blocked for edit warring. What do you do?
A. Sit out the block and return calmer and refreshed.
B. File an unblock request filled with four-letter vulgarities.
C. Make bias accusations against the people who reverted me.
D. Blame the administrator who blocked me at a "critical forum".

4. The purpose of featured articles is to...
A. Highlight the site's best material for readers, and motivate contributors to excellence.
B. Earn clout that can be traded for unblocks after I unload on people I don't like.
C. Boss people around until they comply with my favorite Manual of Style clause.
D. Wait until the primary editor goes on Wikibreak, and then 'fix' the page until it confirms with my point of view.

5. Dispute resolution exists to...
A. Settle differences and improve the encyclopedia.
B. Settle scores.
C. Wear out the patience of everyone who disagrees with me until they retire.
D. Provide entertainment while my favorite "critical site" has been hacked.

6. Wikipedia's administrators are...
A. Seasoned volunteers who have earned the trust of their peers.
B. Children, wankers, and assorted incompetents.
C. The cult leaders of the twenty-first century.
D. Worth eight hundred to a thousand dollars at Craig's List.

7. Vandalism at Wikipedia is...
A. Easily reverted due to the robust structure of wiki software.
B. Often more intelligent than the Pokemon article it supposedly damages.
C. A fun game between me and my friends. We trade bets to see which of ours lasts longest.
D. A cheap source of mainspace edit reversions to bolster my next RfA.

8. Inline citations exist to...
A. Provide verification of the statements in the article.
B. Litter the page with nonsense. The list of books I've provided at the bottom of the page is far superior, and don't you dare slap a template on my work of genius.
C. Add new layers of fun. I've been citing MySpace and The Onion for two months and getting reverted a lot less often.
D. Make my point of view appear legitimate. The trick is to go with older text references not covered by Google Books. After all, who really uses interlibrary loan anymore?

9. Checkuser is...
A. A technical power entrusted to select individuals that helps to detect sockpuppetry.
B. Useless and easily defeated by anyone who has brains.
C. Not that serious a problem as long as I never log in to my main account at the office.
D. A good way to smear someone's name, even if the result comes back negative.

10. Jimbo Wales is...
A. The founder of Wikipedia.
B. The cofounder of Wikipedia.
C. A good user talk page to watchlist.
D. One of the few humans on the planet who can still get venture capital in 2009.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wikipedia's longest arbitration case

After five months and 17 days it's finally over: Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Scientology

Case Opened on 04:16, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Case Closed on 13:31, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

A few of the remedies deserve discussion:

Review of articles urged

9) The Arbitration Committee urges that knowledgeable and non-conflicted users not previously involved in editing Scientology-related articles, especially Scientology-related biographies of living people, should carefully review them for adherence to Wikipedia policies and address any perceived or discovered deficiencies. This is not a finding that the articles are or are not satisfactory in their present form, but an urging that independent members of the community examine the matter in light of the case.

Passed 11 to 0 at 13:31, 28 May 2009 (UTC)

In the Scientology arbitration case which closed today, two senior administrators were sanctioned even though neither had edited this topic since 2007: one was topic banned and another was restricted.

Two years ago as I responded to a positive checkuser finding and a noticeboard request related to this dispute. That problem could not be resolved at the community level. As a result of that situation and its followup I requested two arbitration cases on this subject. The other was Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/COFS. These two cases consumed 253 days of my life. Two administrators and various other editors were less fortunate; they are now under formal sanction regarding actions they had ceased long before the case began. In several instances, diffs cited in the decision were cherry picked, inconclusive, or very old.

Remedies in Wikipedia are supposed to be preventative rather than punitive. When it comes to arbitration this is no longer true. It is not possible to endorse the Committee's request for "knowledgeable and non-conflicted users not previously involved in editing Scientology-related articles" to involve themselves in this dispute. The dispute does need help, but it's like stepping into quicksand.

The dead trees standard

June is coming in a couple of days, which will be the two year anniversary of the dead trees standard. It's an idea that applies to courtesy deletions for Wikipedia's biographies of living people.
If the living subject of a Wikipedia biography wants their biography deleted, and that person does not have an entry in any reliably published paper encyclopedia including specialty encyclopedias, then we delete their biography upon request.
It's objective, it's measurable, and it's sensible. A Wikipedia article is going to be a top Google return for nearly anyone's biography, and nobody is more affected by that than the subject himself or herself. Many of these biographies are not watchlisted, they're openly editable, and biography subjects are strongly discouraged from editing their biographies themselves.

So in other words, David Bowie is here to stay. And everyone else who has an entry in the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll is going to stay in Wikipedia. But if a fellow who played bass for David Bowie for a year wants out of Wikipedia, we'll delete the bassist's biography if he asks us to.

There are two great sides to nailing this down:
  1. Wikipedians cut down on low priority drama.
  2. Biography subjects get an answer they can understand.
Ever call the cable company with a service request and get the run-around? It's no fun. When you want a refund for a service outage, the last thing you want to hear about is how Cable Inc. organized their departmental structure. If the answer is yes you want the money now, and if the answer is going to be no they could at least say it without wasting your time.

Living people who want their biographies out of Wikipedia want straight and simple answers. Put yourself in their shoes: the top Google return for your name is a lot more important than a five dollar refund from your cable company. We can't stop corporate bureaucracy, but we can fix this.

So let's do the decent thing: add dead trees to policy.
Image credit

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Useless self-disclosures

Geek cred:
Naturally ambidextrous--used crayons and pencils with either hand as a small child, couldn't tell the difference or understand why adults made a fuss about it. Got pressured to choose a side; became left dominant for most purposes including writing.

Can actually write with either hand. Penmanship is better with the right but it's slower so hardly ever use it. Able to write signature simultaneously with both hands: forward, backward, and in mirror writing. It makes an entertaining party trick for about two minutes.

For image restoration, though, always and only use the right hand. That was the inadvertent result of an old desk's geography.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Power and cluelessness

Among people in power, a profound lack of clue is indistinguishable from greed for more power.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Friday, May 08, 2009

Fred the great

I miss the old days of arbitration. Fred Bauder read the evidence, read the diffs, and determined whether the claims held up. Then he'd figure out who the primary antagonists were and write up a decision to deal with them. He didn't sanction everyone willy-nilly and he didn't try to pass the buck. Usually he got it right. Then Fred Bauder's term ended. Slowly this website drifted away from the notions that arbitration is the final step in dispute resolution and that it has something to do with justice.


Image credit: self-portrait by Fred Bauder.  Slightly edited for color balance.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The POV pusher's lexicon, continued

More guidance for deciphering ANI:
  • Consensus: I think so.
  • No consensus: I don't think so.
  • Groupthink: Nearly everyone disagrees with me.
  • Canvassing: They disagree with me twice.
  • Cabal: They disagree with me three times.
  • No cabal: Six of my buddies join the thread in the space of eight minutes, all copy/pasting my opinion.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The POV pusher's lexicon

To a POV pusher:

  • Impartial: anyone who hasn't said no yet.
  • Fair: anyone who agrees.
  • Biased: anyone who's said no.
  • Corrupt: anyone who's said no and made it stick.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Legitimate street gangs

No, not the cast of a West Side Story Broadway revival. This is a Wikipedia blog; obviously an oxymoron that silly could only occur at articles for deletion.

Kudos to Ilyrwch for the best post of the day.

Durova, don't you know if you buy a license from San Diego county you can make your gang legitimate? The sheriff's office makes an extra effort to go after the gangs who didn't buy licenses. (That's how the 42nd Street Mooks were put out of business.) Gangs can get into a lot of trouble just for not paying their $100 to the county clerk. -- llywrch (talk) 05:46, 1 May 2009 (UTC)

Complete text below:

List of San Diego County Gangs

List of San Diego County Gangs (edit|talk|history|links|watch|logs) (delete) – (View log)

Almost entirely unsourced list that is unverifiable and unmaintainable. Kevin (talk) 10:36, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

  • Delete-Per Kevin--Skater (talk) 11:43, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete Obviously unreliable. They left out the Westside Wiki Witches. DurovaCharge! 16:52, 30 April 2009 (UTC) stews
  • Two Questions - (1) Why would something be unmaintainable? To maintain it, all you have to do is add new gangs when they crop up. (2) Did you try sourcing the list? Can it be sourced? If so, it should be tagged as such, and not deleted. — LinguistAtLargeTalk 18:04, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
I tried sourcing the list, but was unable to. I also asked the original author to add sources, and then waited to see if this happened, which it did not. Kevin (talk) 21:46, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete - All content that I spot-checked in the article is not verifiable on the internet. Some (or all) of this is probably a hoax. — LinguistAtLargeTalk 18:12, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Don't Delete Why delete this? These are legitimate street gangs in San Diego. This page may help parents and law enforcement in San Diego County recognize gang monikers. This page is well organized-more so that most of the other gang lists on wiki. The content is verifiable on the internet. I went to the websites that were listed as the sources. One website ( is ran by a PhD who specializes in gang culture.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)
    • "Legitimate street gangs": isn't that an oxymoron? DurovaCharge! 20:13, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
      • Durova, don't you know if you buy a license from San Diego county you can make your gang legitimate? The sheriff's office makes an extra effort to go after the gangs who didn't buy licenses. (That's how the 42nd Street Mooks were put out of business.) Gangs can get into a lot of trouble just for not paying their $100 to the county clerk. -- llywrch (talk) 05:46, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Do not delete I don't understand why someone would think this page is a hoax. I work with ex-gangmembers and active gang members from Southeast and South Bay San Diego near downtown as a couselor. The enteries are legitimate. In fact, there are some gangs that are not on that list. I am assuming that the author is either in law enforcement or is a gang couselor, since the enteries also include initials and numbers associated with the gangs. The info here is very detailed, which makes doubt that a layman wrote the list. (talk) 20:16, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
Note: This user's first ever edit was to this page. --ThaddeusB (talk) 18:16, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete per WP:ATP and a resouding lack of sufficient WP:V for the negatives portrayed. This is a legal headache waiting to happen. Jclemens (talk) 20:56, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
  • Don't Delete Legal headache??? LOL Over what?? That list is a good resource. There are a lot of gang lists on wiki. Why is everybody up in arms over this one. This page is put together well. Maybe they should lock it for editing, so people cannot vandalize it. That makes more sense that deleting the whole page. (talk) 21:34, 30 April 2009 (UTC)
Note: This user's first ever edit was to this page. --ThaddeusB (talk) 18:16, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Comment While a list of criminal gangs in San Diego (or any city) is possible on one level -- namely compiling a list of groups mentioned in news & police reports -- the problem is that both sources do get facts for a number of reasons. Probably the most important one is that informants & gang members lie. So the article title probably should be "List of alleged San Diego county Gangs". And a last point -- I find it odd that 3 different anon IPs all vote "Don't delete", not "Keep". -- llywrch (talk) 05:46, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete I failed just like LinguistAtLarge when I tried to verify the contents including an attempt at the mentioned website. To the people questioning the discussion: Wikipedia reports on what is verifiable. Proof it is verifiable instead of making empty claims and we'd be happy to listen. - Mgm|(talk) 12:05, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete - unverifiable. Concerning the (alleged) existence of other gang lists on Wikipedia, this is an WP:OTHERSTUFF argument; we're only discussing this list. If this list is a useful resource, it will have to be hosted somewhere else. -kotra (talk) 18:00, 1 May 2009 (UTC)
  • Delete - Not important. Most of these gangs wouldn't be notable enough anyway. Enough said. --Sky Attacker (talk) 02:19, 2 May 2009 (UTC)

Swine flew

The real reason swine flu spread internationally so quickly.