Archive for July, 2010

Community discussion at Wikiversity

July 12, 2010

Ever wonder how a group of collaborators in a wiki community can reach consensus about contentious issues? The Wikimedia way is to block a wiki participant who disagrees with you. If your block stands, it will intimidate everyone who does not agree with you. Below is a recent community discussion at Wikiversity, presented in wikitwit format.

A community discussion at Wikiversity

A community discussion at Wikiversity.

Background. In 2008 the Wikiversity community was invaded by a wiki-hitman from Wikipedia. The hitman created a puppet account and declared his mission to be getting another Wikiversity participant banned. The hitman was successful and was even rewarded by being made a Custodian. I’ve previously blogged about the way Moulton was banned from participating at Wikiversity.

When a gang of thugs from Wikipedia invaded Wikiversity and tried to get Moulton banned, he objected to the false claims that were published about him by that gang. Moulton’s common practice is to use the names of people who persistently publish false claims about living persons. Some of the invaders from Wikipedia objected to Moulton’s use of the real names of other editors, although doing so was not against Wikiversity policy.

At the time, I proposed that the dispute over using real world names be dealt with by crafting a Privacy Policy. It is now two years later, and there is still no Wikiversity policy against using the real name of a fellow editor. Indeed, the professional academics on the site routinely call each other by their real names.  Of course, lack of a policy does not prevent a few Wikimedia functionaries from erratically imposing policy from Wikipedia upon the Wikiversity community. On that basis, Jimbo Wales banned  Moulton from editing at Wikiversity. I view the banning of Moulton as unfair and disruptive, depriving the Wikiversity community of Moulton’s expertise and knowledge. I view the persecution of Moulton to be a serious violation of Wikiversity policy. It is against the civility policy to call for unjustified blocks and bans.

Recently there was a fresh initiative to make the Privacy Policy an official policy (so far it is only proposed). I was participating in the process of developing that policy and it was natural to discuss the need to protect Wikiversity participants and other living people against the publication of libelous claims by anonymous wiki editors. I said, “Wikiversity participants need common sense protections against the unsubstantiated claims of the anonymous editors“. I also made this point: “Calling IRC chat ‘private correspondence’ is false.” In the context of these issues arising from the proposed privacy policy, I mentioned:

“The main problem is a gang of abusive sysops who make unsubstantiated claims about honest Wikiversity participants. When the honest Wikiversity participants object and challenge the unsubstantiated claims, the abusive sysops ignore the objections or impose blocks and censor community discussions so as to silence the objections.”

and

“The problem is that #wikiversity-en has been systematically disrupted during the past two years by abusive sysops who misuse their channel operator power.”

Another Wikiversity participant objected to my mention of how Wikiversity sysops have previously abused their power and he blocked me from editing. Rather than come to my user talk page and discuss his concerns, he blocked me and posted accusations about me on a page that I cannot edit. This situation is what prompted the ludicrous discussion illustrated in the figure above.

The discussion. During the discussion (see the figure above) I was forced to post my comments on my user talk page while other editors used another page. During the discussion, Moulton tried to participate, but his contributions to the discussion were reverted by the sysop who had blocked me from editing.

I think that Moulton was improperly blocked and should be allowed to edit at Wikiversity. I view continuing efforts to ban him from Wikiversity as a serious violation of Wikiversity policy. I don’t believe that the “block” tool should be used to end discussions at Wikiversity, but it would have made more sense to block the wiki-hitman who attacked Moulton. Moulton and I preferred to study the wiki-hitman’s behavior.

I think the Wikiversity community still has much to learn from the events of the past two years. In particular, Wikiversity policy needs to be developed so as to protect the Wikiversity community against invaders from Wikipedia. Doing so would allow the Wikiversity community to return to its roots, the peaceful community of collaborating learners, as it existed from 2006 to 2008.

Wikiversity:Community Review/Problematic actions