Friday, July 10, 2009

Please state your age

There's a disturbing trend lately at Wikipedia's requests for adminship and requests for bureaucratship. Although no age requirement exists for either position, an increasing number of people are opposing due to age. The most heated opposes are directed not against the youngest candidates, but against an individual who refuses to answer an optional question. Observe the reaction:
"I do not wish to state my age (for security reasons)" (see candidate's response to Sandstein's oppose, #10 at the time of this writing). Seriously? What "security concerns" could there possibly be here? "Congratulations, by knowing the age of this pseudonym, we can narrow it down to one of roughly 400,000,000 people on the planet! Soon the world will be ours!". To put it bluntly: this, er, "position" shows definite kookiness. Whether this is kookiness due to being kooky like most kids, or the more entrenched nuttiness of age doesn't matter: It is incompatible with a position of responsibility. That is, of course, Assuming Good Faith® and taking the candidate's statement at face value. Were I to read into the statement, I might conclude that the candidate is using trumped-up "security concerns" as a cover for the fact that, for some reason - perhaps due to youth - he is actually ashamed of his age. I would then still oppose, partially due to maturity concerns, partially to the unmigitated audacity displayed by the candidate honestly expecting anybody here to swallow such a far-fetched yarn. But, again, I strive to Assume Good Faith wherever possible - hence, I will assume kookiness, rather than juvenile embarrassment. Badger Drink (talk) 14:19, 10 July 2009 (UTC)
Scathing. I do not know the candidate in that RfA, but imagine--hypothetically speaking--another candidate who refuses to give his age due to security concerns. We'll call him User:Nematode. Nematode is actually a thirty-four year old stepfather of two children, but he does not like to disclose personal details because his wife's prior husband is violent. The ex has been jailed repeatedly, but never for a long time. Last year Nematode moved his family to a different city for their protection. The ex's most recent conviction was for stalking.

Nematode has been an active Wikipedian for a year. He accepted a nomination for administratorship in the belief that no personal disclosure would be required. He is aware of websites that publish the names, photographs, and home addresses of Wikipedia administrators. He does not want to do anything that could assist such an exposure regarding himself because if that occurred he would have to move his family again. Due to market changes he owes slightly more in mortgage than his home is worth. Very early in his Wikipedian career he made a few edits to his undergraduate university and to his favorite sports team. That isn't enough to identify him, but he doesn't want to pass out more pieces to that puzzle.

Now he is expected to disclose those circumstances or else be labeled a child or a kook, with the strong suggestion that he is also a liar. This is the appreciation he receives for a year of volunteer contribution to an educational charity. Of course Nematode is not going to explain his answer more fully than "security concerns." He has every reason not to.
The oddest thing about this dilemma is how easy it is to get away with lies at RfA and RfB, if a person is inclined to do so. It was not too long ago that an editor, a woman in her twenties, became a bureaucrat at a Wikimedia Foundation website. This popular individual subsequently returned to Wikipedia, where she had previously been banned as a sockpuppeteer--a decision which was widely believed to have been wrong and driven by internal politics. Then it turned out she wasn't in her twenties and wasn't a she. He wasn't a teenager either; he was in his fifties and was running three separate administrator accounts on that other project. Previously he had been running an administrator sock on Wikipedia.

A dedicated liar tells his audience what he knows they want to hear.

I'd like to ask Badger Drink and the people who think his way to step back and reconsider. Is that really a tone to be using? Is it constructive or effective?


Kaldari said...

I left a note on his talk page, not that I expect it to do much good.

MZMcBride said...

Ugh. Why must you always reach for the appeals to emotion? The 34-year-old has two children and editing Wikipedia is more important than his safety? Even if we assume that this is a legitimate scenario, that's his decision to make. And as others have noted, his age won't make him nearly as identifiable as his editing patterns or his username will.

I agree that people should mind their own damn business and only focus on issues relevant to a user's ability to block users and delete and protect pages during requests for whatever, but there's really no need for such "think of the 34-year-old recently-divorced father of two" rhetoric. It simply makes you look silly and alarmist.

Lise Broer said...

Oddly enough, when the candidate passsed RfA s/he gave me the "Your opinion means more than you think" barnstar. Judge for yourselves who knows better.