35 votes

The Culture War Has Finally Come For Wikipedia

26 comments

  1. [7]
    emdash
    Link
    This seems to be a constant, irrespective of whether you have an encyclopedia, discussion board, games forum, or real life committee—although it is certainly exaggerated online. One of Tildes'...

    “There are users in the community who have a reputation for creating good content, and for being incredibly toxic personalities,” Wales said. “On this issue, I have a very simple view that most of these editors actually cost us more than they're actually worth.”

    This seems to be a constant, irrespective of whether you have an encyclopedia, discussion board, games forum, or real life committee—although it is certainly exaggerated online. One of Tildes' goals before it gets too much larger should be focusing on egalitarian moderation that prevents concentrations of power; and actually dismissing the term "moderator" entirely. It's a dated term which I don't think is needed anymore. In my view, many people should be given many small permissions quickly, centered around trust.

    32 votes
    1. [2]
      DanBC
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      There's a term for it that I found on Meatball Wiki: Vested contributor. http://www.meatballwiki.org/wiki/VestedContributor This is something that wikipedia really struggles with. They have...

      There's a term for it that I found on Meatball Wiki: Vested contributor.

      http://www.meatballwiki.org/wiki/VestedContributor

      This is something that wikipedia really struggles with. They have someone who makes very many good edits, but who is an arsehole. But many admins do not recognise the arseholery - they're very quick to excuse bad behaviour, they think other editors should just be tougher, they don't think this example of harassment is actually harassing. And so the arsehole keeps editing, and keeps driving away new users.

      “I'm not a model admin or editor,” he wrote, “But I believe I was steadily improving. But that's not for [English-language Wikipedia] to decide apparently.” The real reason behind his ban, he said, was his history of sparring with the foundation over the technical details of software updates to the platform.

      He's saying "yes, I'm toxic, but that's not the reason they banned me. It's this other stuff" -- and wikipedia editors agree with him. This is to me key evidence that the site is toxic.

      In my view, many people should be given many small permissions quickly, centered around trust.

      I'll repeat what I said before: I'd be a terrible moderator, and I would reject mod powers if they were offered to me.

      8 votes
      1. Atvelonis
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm surprised I missed this thread. I've been editing a sizable wiki for just under five years now, and have been an administrator on it for four of those, bureaucrat for three. While my community...

        I'm surprised I missed this thread. I've been editing a sizable wiki for just under five years now, and have been an administrator on it for four of those, bureaucrat for three. While my community is generally much sweeter than Wikipedia's, being so much smaller, we have run into the "he's a good editor, so we'll give him another chance" issue on more than one occasion.

        At a certain point, a bureaucrat just has to put their foot down. You're completely right to say that toxic behavior drives away future editors; admins need to think about these things in terms of "net gain" and "net loss," not short-term benefit. It doesn't matter how prolific one single editor is; the site is made up of many, and if that one editor is discouraging a lot of people from editing, their net contribution is negative, regardless of how many beautiful pages they create.

        Most community leaders do not put much consideration into administrative theory, especially on wikis. This is a mistake. If you cannot recognize bad behavior, then you are part of the problem. The issue is not really structural insofar as the idea of centralizing power among specific people can and does work in other environments. At work, for example, your boss can fire you. Someone who is in the same position as you cannot do that. There's a certain capacity for misuse here, but in a well-managed company with thoughtful hiring strategies, a dictatorial boss is not an issue. The boss is instead a philosopher-king for his work, so to speak.

        Wikis are exactly the same; they just need to become more established, and go through a tougher selection process for staff. Currently, I believe that the process for user rights requests on Wikipedia is incredibly loose. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia's "requests for adminship" page:

        There are no official prerequisites for adminship other than having an account, but the likelihood of passing without being able to show significant positive contributions to the encyclopedia is low. The community looks for a variety of factors in candidates and discussion can be intense.

        The problem here is that the community doesn't actually do a very good job of vetting candidates in a public vote. They look at their contributions, see that they're good, and then glance at their talk page. If the aspiring sysop has not made any cartoonishly offensive remarks in the past few months, they give it the go-ahead. Some users ask probing questions during the application, but they are rarely hard to answer and most voters do not think about them for more than a minute. The only time that someone in the wider community opposes a request for adminship is when they have personally been affected by misbehavior, or it is incredibly obvious that a candidate is undeserving of the role they are applying for. What Wikipedia needs is a much more thorough staff selection process; it needs specific behavioral guidelines, probably a private interview with a panel of bureaucrats (I've held them on my wiki; they work wonders), and, importantly, an emphasis on kindness just as much as pragmatism. The expectation must be that they are pleasant.

        The idea of giving out "many small permissions" is interesting, and I know that at least one of our sister wikis is considering taking a baby step in that direction. However, there are some permissions that are simply not tenable in large groups; the most salient of these is user blocks. It's not really like a social shunning, where people simply refuse to engage with someone toxic. That already happens on wikis. Blocking is a step up from almost any other permission because it literally changes the makeup of the community; there's no way for a permission like this to exist in MediaWiki and work in a decentralized fashion. It would take a complete revamp of the system to work, and, if completely decentralized, would still be subject to mob mentality.

        3 votes
    2. [4]
      suspended
      Link Parent
      I'm throwing my hat in again. I believe that I've earned substantial trust here.

      many people should be given many small permissions quickly, centered around trust.

      I'm throwing my hat in again. I believe that I've earned substantial trust here.

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        cfabbro
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        I'm pretty sure all you have to do is message @Deimos asking for "mod powers" [tag editing, topic moving, and title editing (which is the most elevated user privilege at this point)] to get them....

        I'm pretty sure all you have to do is message @Deimos asking for "mod powers" [tag editing, topic moving, and title editing (which is the most elevated user privilege at this point)] to get them. AFAIK there aren't really any restrictions, other than having been an active user for a while and showing a willingness to take on the responsibilities... not that there really are many yet.

        But I would definitely recommend that anyone who does want elevated privileges at least read through all the official docs and the relevant wiki entries in the sidebar of ~tildes beforehand. Joining the Unofficial Tildes Chat on Discord (invite link) is probably a good idea too, since many of the other users with similar privileges, myself included, communicate with each other in there.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          suspended
          Link Parent
          Since you've tagged him he'll see this and I would like these responsibilities. I've, also, joined the discord chat and will introduce my self there. Thanks @cfabbro. BTW, I haven't forgotten...

          Since you've tagged him he'll see this and I would like these responsibilities. I've, also, joined the discord chat and will introduce my self there. Thanks @cfabbro. BTW, I haven't forgotten about our media project.

          2 votes
          1. cfabbro
            Link Parent
            Glad to see you there! And yeah, that's why I tagged him so hopefully he can chime in on the matter. p.s. For those curious, suspended has been doing an awesome job of remastering a bunch of...

            Glad to see you there! And yeah, that's why I tagged him so hopefully he can chime in on the matter.

            p.s. For those curious, suspended has been doing an awesome job of remastering a bunch of horrible quality music/coversong Youtube videos for me that I have collected over the years moderating /r/coversongs. Once he is done I will definitely be encouraging a topic submission on it... and if suspended doesn't do it I will, and all that sweet submission karma will be mine, ALL MINE!!!! oh... wait, no karma here ;)

            4 votes
  2. [6]
    Macil
    Link
    This was previously discussed a little on /r/internetdrama which I mention because it has a short summary, some relevant links, and a post by me I'm reusing a little from. From one of Fram's posts...

    This was previously discussed a little on /r/internetdrama which I mention because it has a short summary, some relevant links, and a post by me I'm reusing a little from.

    From one of Fram's posts about why he was banned:

    And then a few hours ago, they posted my one year ban, and helpfully gave the actual reason. Which is one edit, this one. That's it.

    How would someone expect not to get de-admined for that, and then after getting removed for that, post a link to it and think that it made them look good? If I made a public post at my work with "Fuck <my company> HR, why don't they crawl in a corner and shut up until someone asks for their opinion" in response to them, I'd have to be crazy to think I still had a job. Yeah I know he's a volunteer. That absolutely doesn't mean there's no professional standard.

    I'm really annoyed with the general myth of a super-competent asshole that's too valuable to risk telling to be nice. Even if someone is as competent as several people, they can easily repel even more people, and they can easily set a bad standard that causes other people to be assholes too. It's a shame that ArbCom couldn't realize that for themselves.

    15 votes
    1. [2]
      DanBC
      Link Parent
      Also, it's we should remember that the foundation have said that they're not going to release details of why Fram was banned. So I either trust the foundation and their unreleased info, or I trust...

      Also, it's we should remember that the foundation have said that they're not going to release details of why Fram was banned. So I either trust the foundation and their unreleased info, or I trust Fram and his version.

      Personally I trust the foundation. I've seen way to many abusive toxic people say "but I don't know what I did or why they're so upset!".

      12 votes
      1. Macil
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Agreed. Having moderated places in the past, outside of simple troll situations, it was very rarely one incident that would cause someone to get banned or removed. Sadly that's nearly impossible...

        Agreed. Having moderated places in the past, outside of simple troll situations, it was very rarely one incident that would cause someone to get banned or removed. Sadly that's nearly impossible to explain to an internet mob. It's soul-sucking to try to find a dozen examples of someone being aggressive and then publicly defend it. Every single time, someone will chime in how this specific example isn't bad and it's on the other person to have thicker skin. I suspect it's a bad idea to try to defend a ban like this, and instead a general description of principles broken is better.

        Most sites are about trying to become fun places to hang out (this includes places like WP which rely on volunteers; they volunteer because it's fun to them), and fun places need to boot out assholes regularly to stay fun. Being completely transparent all the time in the execution of that is a crazy high standard that generally leads to moderators not going through the immense effort of banning assholes. I really love this article about this: Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism

        9 votes
    2. dubteedub
      Link Parent
      Here is the text of the edit he made in case anyone has difficulty parsing through Wikipedia's arcane editing structures. This seems like a super obvious reason for a ban. Like I get the guy has...

      Here is the text of the edit he made in case anyone has difficulty parsing through Wikipedia's arcane editing structures.

      Fuck ArbCom which doesn't even understand their own messages and again give themselves powers they don't have. First it was deletions, then it was mandatory 2FA, inbetween it is loads of evidence of utter incompetence in many of its members (witness the statement by AGK above, but also some of the comments at e.g. the Rama case request). Just crawl into a corner and shut up until the community asks you to do something within your remit, but don't try to rule enwiki as if you have the right and the competence to do so. Or collectively resign. But don't give us any more of this bullshit. [[User:Fram|Fram]] ([[User talk:Fram|talk]]) 07:39, 4 May 2019 (UTC)

      This seems like a super obvious reason for a ban. Like I get the guy has experience in the community, but being that level of dick is just not acceptable in almost any online community.

      Not to mention it is a pretty clear break from Wikipedia's own civility rules.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Civility

      Admins, moderators, and anyone else given additional privileges and power in a community should absolutely be held to the highest standards possible.

      9 votes
    3. welly
      Link Parent
      Agreed. Being good at something, or even great or beyond that, does in no way allow you to be a dick.

      Agreed. Being good at something, or even great or beyond that, does in no way allow you to be a dick.

      7 votes
    4. Luna
      Link Parent
      This situation seems ridiculous. A user who has a history of being an ass, has been warned twice in the past not to be an ass, and poisons the well so the ArbCom can't review any future cases...

      This situation seems ridiculous. A user who has a history of being an ass, has been warned twice in the past not to be an ass, and poisons the well so the ArbCom can't review any future cases without potential for bias gets a temporary ban...and now some admins are saying they feel threatened, that this makes them "feel much less safe working on a Wikimedia project today than [they] did a week ago"?

      The solution is simple: don't be an ass. These pearl clutchers sound like the types who would claim SJWs are taking over the WMF as well.

      5 votes
  3. [4]
    dubteedub
    Link
    I have attempted to get involved with editing some Wikipedia pages in the past and while the site presents itself as some egalitarian place where everyone can make edits, it quickly became...

    Fram is also known within the community as an asshole. “He’s like Inspector Javert,” one Wikipedian wrote of Fram recently, comparing him to the ruthless and inflexible antagonist of Les Misérables. “Brusque, bordering on rude sometimes,” another longtime admin, Floquenbeam, told BuzzFeed News. “He has a reputation for almost always being right on the underlying merits in a dispute, but going about it in a fairly obnoxious way.” Over the years, Fram has clashed with other admins, with editors, with ArbCom, and with the foundation itself. Still, he remains part of a caste of old-school admins, with nearly 15 years of social capital in the community.

    I have attempted to get involved with editing some Wikipedia pages in the past and while the site presents itself as some egalitarian place where everyone can make edits, it quickly became apparent to me that is not the case. The site is managed extremely tightly by a minority of super active users and admins who expect anyone making edits to be aware of decades of rules and meta WP pages.

    The page edits I worked to implement, while sourced and topical, were always found to be deficient by one user who monitored the page and inevitably would revert them and leave some snarky comment. It got to the point where it just was not worth dealing with the assholes who had higher standing than me on the site so I dropped it.

    6 votes
    1. emdash
      Link Parent
      Wikipedia's rules is basically kind of like the U.S. tax system at this point. Many carved out rules and arcane laws which have been consistently stacked on top of each other for years, completely...

      Wikipedia's rules is basically kind of like the U.S. tax system at this point. Many carved out rules and arcane laws which have been consistently stacked on top of each other for years, completely reducing accessibility for first comers to make a difference.

      6 votes
    2. gpl
      Link Parent
      This happened to me a few times when I started, but as I edited more it definitely happened less and less. That might just be a lucky trend for me, but I'm putting it out there for what it's...

      The page edits I worked to implement, while sourced and topical, were always found to be deficient by one user who monitored the page and inevitably would revert them and leave some snarky comment. It got to the point where it just was not worth dealing with the assholes who had higher standing than me on the site so I dropped it.

      This happened to me a few times when I started, but as I edited more it definitely happened less and less. That might just be a lucky trend for me, but I'm putting it out there for what it's worth. I've written a few articles and edited a few somewhat more visited pages in my area of interest, and so far none except those initial ones have been reverted. I think sometimes 'power users' see that someone is new or has few edits and then looks for reasons to revert their edits. A strange combination of RTFM attitude and small trappings of power.

      1 vote
    3. Fdashstop
      Link Parent
      I'm sorry, isn't the point of Javert that he's wrong? His death song is him slowly realising that his entire worldview has been backwards and twisted and throwing himself into the river because he...

      I'm sorry, isn't the point of Javert that he's wrong?

      His death song is him slowly realising that his entire worldview has been backwards and twisted and throwing himself into the river because he can't deal with it.

      Actually, the comparison might work, then.

  4. clr
    (edited )
    Link
    I’m an avid user of Wikipedia and have been for over a dozen years, mostly as a consumer. But as a contributor... any attempts I’ve made to edit Wikipedia to remove bias, fix typos, add content,...

    I’m an avid user of Wikipedia and have been for over a dozen years, mostly as a consumer. But as a contributor... any attempts I’ve made to edit Wikipedia to remove bias, fix typos, add content, or restore deleted articles have always been met with harsh edit reverts from some troll guarding the articles seemingly 24/7.

    In recent years, Wikipedia has gotten really bad with propaganda, censorship and corporate shilling. Every day companies make edits to articles to remove criticism of their products and services, and politicians embellish their biographies straight from Capitol Hill. Articles that paint the US government in a bad light have been outright deleted. Here’s an example of one of those deleted articles, thankfully backed up by IPFS.

    5 votes
  5. [3]
    DonQuixote
    Link
    Interesting how some of the most expert people are assholes. "What do we do with them?" "What would we do without them?"

    Interesting how some of the most expert people are assholes. "What do we do with them?" "What would we do without them?"

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      "Brilliant jerks" are a sadly common phenomenon in tech circles.

      "Brilliant jerks" are a sadly common phenomenon in tech circles.

      3 votes
      1. DonQuixote
        Link Parent
        I'm reading a novel The Library at Mount Char where individuals have developed a variety of arcane skills at the expense of losing some of their brain functions, like humanity, speech, morality,...

        I'm reading a novel The Library at Mount Char where individuals have developed a variety of arcane skills at the expense of losing some of their brain functions, like humanity, speech, morality, emotion, and so on, depending on the skill set learned. By Scott Hawkins. Very dark, sort of like John Dies At the End except missing the humor.

        2 votes
  6. [4]
    alyaza
    (edited )
    Link
    as of now this is still ongoing, and it's racked up quite a death toll. slate pegs the number at 21 administrator resignations in protest of the decision, which is obscene, because through 2017...

    as of now this is still ongoing, and it's racked up quite a death toll. slate pegs the number at 21 administrator resignations in protest of the decision, which is obscene, because through 2017 and 2018 combined wikipedia promoted 31 people to administrator (and the number of people promoted has been continually on the decline since successful promotions peaked in the 400s in 2007). a lot of the people who resigned are well known, too.

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      Atvelonis
      Link Parent
      I personally think this is actually not as big a deal for Wikipedia as it is being made out to be by the media and themselves. While 21 resignations is not insubstantial, it is also important to...

      I personally think this is actually not as big a deal for Wikipedia as it is being made out to be by the media and themselves. While 21 resignations is not insubstantial, it is also important to note that Wikipedia still has 1132 users with the "administrator" right. Some of these users are more inactive than others, but admins are procedurally culled for inactivity, so most of these users are either somewhat or very active on the site.

      Wikipedia will be perfectly fine. Given the issue at hand here, the people leaving are very likely somewhat toxic themselves, or lack the proper judgment to hold a leadership role.

      1. [2]
        alyaza
        Link Parent
        people have done the math on this and that's not exactly true. most of them seem to have below 24 actions a year, which constitutes two a month. the 21 admins who have resigned make up at least 2%...

        While 21 resignations is not insubstantial, it is also important to note that Wikipedia still has 1132 users with the "administrator" right. Some of these users are more inactive than others, but admins are procedurally culled for inactivity, so most of these users are either somewhat or very active on the site.

        people have done the math on this and that's not exactly true. most of them seem to have below 24 actions a year, which constitutes two a month. the 21 admins who have resigned make up at least 2% of all admin actions on wikipedia, which is not insignificant because wikipedia has some pretty large backlogs already.

        I threw together a quick analysis, summarized at this table. My preliminary conclusions:

        Observations:

        • There are 731 editors (current or recent admins) with one or more admin actions in the one year.
        • This number overstates the number of active administrators — some of those actions may literally have been to avoid a desysop 115, including Jimbo, has 1 or 2 in last year
        • As a very low bar, there are 574 with five or more actions in the year
        • As a more reasonable bar, there are 411 with 24 or more in the year (i.e. averaging two a month)
        • As a higher bar, there are 237 with 240 or more in the year (i.e. averaging 20 a month)
        • The 20 resigned admins were responsible for 18,347 admin actions or 2.3% of the total (updated)

        Feedback welcomeS Philbrick(Talk) 14:32, 30 June 2019 (UTC)

        other groups have also taken hits which won't go unnoticed:

        So, just for reference on seeing that damn depressing issue of the administrators' newsletter today, in addition to the above, we have lost:
        Two of 20 bureaucrats. (Wizardman left before any of this started.)
        Two of 15 interface admins.
        Three of 43 checkusers.
        Four of 44 oversighters.

        1 vote
        1. Atvelonis
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          I agree that they're certainly not insignificant per se—2% of administrative actions is a large absolute value—but because of how big Wikipedia is, I'm not convinced that any of these hits are big...

          I agree that they're certainly not insignificant per se—2% of administrative actions is a large absolute value—but because of how big Wikipedia is, I'm not convinced that any of these hits are big enough to be seriously concerned about in the long term.

          My comparatively tiny wiki took a major user rights hit a few years back (petty drama, mostly). From August 2014 to January 2015, we lost 12 administrators. Of those 12, only 5 were at all active, but after this mass exodus we had exactly 2 remaining administrators, 0 of whom were active in any meaningful capacity; that is effectively a 100% decrease in administrative actions (or, at best, 83%). And yet, by some miracle, the wiki stands today, and functions perfectly well! We're a bit short on the old guard, naturally, but enough institutional memory was preserved through other staff members and written documentation that the community was able to regroup and get back to work. Nowadays, I think we are actually one of the better-functioning wikis out there.

          These things do become exponentially harder to manage as the scale of the site increases, but I think that Wikipedia's remaining userbase is still more than equipped to handle this.

          2 votes
  7. ubergeek
    Link
    I have a prettily heavy barnstarred account there.... I should start editing there again.

    I have a prettily heavy barnstarred account there.... I should start editing there again.

    1 vote