Archive for the ‘research’ Category

Your failure to understand basic policies seems to be a violation of policy

March 25, 2011
Wikicop Barnstar

Building a collaborative learning community by bashing community members with the banhammer.

In the previous blog post, I mentioned abusive Wikimedia Functionaries, with particular emphasis on misguided sysops. Abusive sysops drive away honest Wikimedians while attracting more misguided souls who want to be Wikicops who can play with their toy banhammers.

Here, in this post (Part I of a two part series), we can also explore the actions of misguided stewards who systematically disrupt the educational mission of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Two primary technical tools of the stewards are blocking and oversightingStewards are also responsible for extending or removing administrative privileges to other WMF functionaries, in accordance with the Guidelines for Stewards.

The block tool makes it possible to prevent vandals from editing at wiki websites. At Wikiversity, since the Hostile Takeover in 2008, the block tool has also been used to block fellow Wikiversity community members. It is interesting to read the reasons that are given for blocking well-known and long-standing wiki community members. The first such block at Wikiversity was for “intentionally being offensive.” We can ask what the blocking sysop thought was “offensive.” Here is how the blocking sysop described the situation: “Moulton’s like that uncle who always gets drunk and acts inappropriately at family gatherings“. What is an objective account of the situation?

Some Wikipedians violated the Wikimedia Policy on Biographies of Living People (BLPs, for short; see this account). Some of the policy-violators from Wikipedia had gone to Moulton’s otherwise obscure personal blog to harass him and thereby revealed that they were using their work computers to carry out online harassment. In an effort to save their jobs, they wanted to prevent Moulton from linking to his personal blog where there was evidence that they had violated the terms of their employment.

Moulton was stalked off-wiki by misguided Wikimedians who subjected him to vicious online harassment. Why? Because Moulton objected to their violation of the Wikipedia policy on Biographies of Living People. Moulton was unjustly blocked from Wikipedia, in a sham action without due process, for trying to fix damage done to Wikipedia and to the subjects of BLPs by policy-violators.

Moulton found his way to Wikiversity and worked with the resident scholars there on a learning project that explored how it is that Wikipedia can be exploited to publish false information about people.  After diagnosing the systemic corruption, Moulton proposed a remedy based on the introduction of Best Practices for Managerial Ethics for WMF-sponsored projects, to ensure that the projects remained true to the published Charter, Vision, Mission, Values, and Policies of the Wikimedia Foundation.

One of the policy violators from Wikipedia created a puppet account and began disrupting the learning project that was exploring ways to improve Wikipedia. Another such puppet account was created and declared the intention of getting a Wikiversity community member banned from participating. Several disruptive Wikipedians came to the Wikiversity community chat channel and tried to get Moulton banned.

Jimmy Wales, then a steward, blocked Moulton.

Here is how one “insider” described part of the secret off-wiki decision-making process that led to this bad block:

1. Jimbo threatened to shut down Wikiversity if we didn’t block you.
2. We told him no.
3. Jimbo threatened to shut down Wikiversity if we didn’t block you.
4. We told him that if he was so interested in you being blocked, he should do it himself.
5. Jimbo blocked you, and said it was done on our behalf.

Steward actions must be transparent and respect consensus at wiki communities. Jimbo set the standard for misguided application of the steward tools. The disruptive effect of Jimbo’s misguided use of his stewards tools was discussed previously.

The part of this story (Jimbo’s Misadventure) that has yet to be revealed is how a gang of BLP policy-violators from Wikipedia managed to game Jimbo into imposing a bad block at Wikiversity, a block imposed against consensus, a block imposed on a Wikiversity community member who had not violated any policy. Will Jimbo ever tell the world who asked him to block Moulton? Who continues to try to hide the truth? Who continues to try to silence Moulton?

More videos about the sad and abusive culture of Wikimedia wikis.

Sadly, misguided stewards like Jimbo frequently make decisions in secret and implement them against community consensus. There should be an exploration of Wikimedia Stewards, their misguided actions and the vast damage that they have done to the mission of the Wikimedia Foundation…but who has the time to try to fix such a corrupt system? Worthy of investigation:






Jafeluv, Eptalon, Matanya, Barras, Laaknor, PeterSymonds


Your failure to understand basic policies seems to be a violation of policy

2010: Jimbo again threatened to close Wikiversity. And why not? It worked wonders in 2008! Related reading.

2011: Is there openness as long as decisions are made in secret, off wiki, about how to block and ban honest Wikimedians?

Image credits: The Wikicop Barstar was made using 3D-printed-ban-hammer.jpg by Eagleapex and Barnstar Admin.png by Carn et al

Things like that really, really, really annoy me

June 16, 2010


"And so we live in a universe of new media with phenomenal opportunities for worldwide communications and research — but populated by volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects." (Photo by Curtis Palmer)

In May of 2005 a Wikipedia editor entered false information into the Wikipedia biography for John Seigenthaler, Sr. The false information was not discovered until September 2005 after which it became known as the Seigenthaler incident. In response to the publicity generated by this and other similar cases, Wikipedia restricted page creation (see: Wikipedia Signpost 2005-12-05 “Page creation restrictions”) and created new guidelines for biographies. The Wikipedia community continues to struggle with biased and false content in its biographical articles.

Yesterday Wikipedia began testing a new tool for catching casual Wikipedia editors who add unhelpful information to the encyclopedia. Of course, anyone who wants to add false information about living people to Wikipedia can easily defeat all of the lame “safeguards” that Wikipedia has put in place. The larger problem, that goes beyond just Wikipedia’s  “Biographies of Living Persons”, has always been Wikipedians who use the encyclopedia project as a platform to purposefully harass and slander people, particularly critics of Wikipedia. The Wikipedia:Biographies of living persons policy page was started in response to the Daniel Brandt “situation“.

I linked “situation” to the 14th round in the argument at Wikipedia over the issue of having a biographical article about Daniel Brandt. The casual user of Wikipedia might wonder how there could possible be a never-ending argument about whether Wikipedia should have a biography of Daniel Brandt. Daniel Brandt has been a vocal critic of Wikipedia, “the basic problem is that no one, neither the trustees of Wikimedia Foundation, nor the volunteers who are connected with Wikipedia, consider themselves responsible for the content.” Actually, problems at Wikipedia go deeper than that since there are Wikipedians who actively use the encyclopedia to harass people and publish false information about people and Wikipedia has not taken common sense steps to prevent such abuse.

It would be easy for Wikipedia to require that anyone adding information to biographical articles edit Wikipedia under their real world identity. This would allow those who post false claims about people on Wikipedia to be traced and subjected to legal remedies that protect us all against libel and online harassment. Under the leadership of Jimbo Wales, Wikipedia has persistently avoided its ethical responsibility to take simple steps that would prevent Wikipedia from being used as a platform where Wikipedians can publish false and harassing claims about people.

Many educators are astonished that the Wikimedia Foundation, an education-oriented 501(c)(3), fails to operate in an ethically responsible manner. Since many people assume that what they see in Wikipedia is true, some educators have tried to help make clear to their students that Wikipedia cannot be trusted. For example, history professor T. Mills Kelly’s learn-by-doing project created a hoax biography on Wikipedia (Edward Owens). In addition to showing how easy it is to put false information into Wikipedia, the course, Lying About the Past,  helped its participants learn to, “think critically about the impact of media past and present on our daily lives and views,” quoting one student evaluation.

What was the response of Jimbo Wales to this successful educational project? “To ask students to deliberately hoax Wkipedia is a very bad thing“. Wikipedia editor Moulton was similarly dismayed when he came across this version of the Wikipedia biography for Rosalind Picard.

Rosalind Wright Picard is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the MIT Media Laboratory. She holds Doctor of Science and Master of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech. She has been a member of the faculty at MIT since 1991 and a full professor since 2005.

With over a quarter of a million biographies, Wikipedia has many biographical articles about university professors. In 1997, Dr. Picard published a book entitled “Affective Computing“, an innovative branch of Computer Science which studies how to make systems that recognize and respond to human emotions. One might guess that her Wikipedia biography would have been started in order to describe her scientific research and seminal contributions in Digital Signal Processing, Pattern Recognition, Affective Computing, and Autism Research. However, that is not the case.

On Feb. 21, 2006, The New York Times published “Few Biologists but Many Evangelicals Sign Anti-Evolution Petition” by Kenneth Chang. The petition comprised a two-sentence statement, “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.” Dr. Picard was one of a group of 105 scientists, researchers, and academics who agreed with this statement when it was circulated (in E-Mail) in academia in 2001.

On March 8, 2006 the Rosalind Picard article was created by an otherwise unidentified pseudonymous editor named “Tempb”, by copying Picard’s online Faculty Profile and adding a section called, “Intelligent Design Support”. It is clear that the purpose of the author of the biography (User:Tempb) was to craft an article that labels Dr. Picard as a supporter of Intelligent design and as “anti-evolution“. Notice that the Wikipedia user account “Tempb” was a single purpose account, used only to push into Wikipedia the conclusion that Dr. Picard is anti-evolution and a supporter of intelligent design. Note that “Tempb” is an experienced wiki editor who decided to use a “throw-away account” in order to make a biographical article that violated the Wikipedia policy on Biographies of living persons, part of which said: “Editors should be on the lookout for the malicious creation or editing of biographies or biographical information. If someone appears to be pushing a point of view, ask for credible third-party published sources and a clear demonstration of relevance to the person’s notability.”

Wikipedia editor Moulton tried to correct the problems with the Wikipedia Rosalind Picard biography. For his trouble he met stiff resistance, was harassed and was soon blocked from editing Wikipedia. Astonished by his treatment at Wikipedia, Moulton began to study Wikipedia and the Wikipedians who use the encyclopedia to publish false and misleading attacks on living people.

I first became aware of User:Moulton on or about 4 August 2008, even though he came to Wikiversity on 9 July 2008. When I first saw Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia I linked it to an existing Wikiversity topic, Topic:Wikipedia studies. At that time I did not have any knowledge of Moulton’s editing history at Wikipedia. I started studying the sorry history of how Administrators at Wikipedia drove Moulton out of Wikipedia rather than support his good faith efforts to fix a policy-violating biographical article. As a Wikipedia Administrator, I am frequently horrified by the sickening behavior of other Wikipedia Administrators who abuse their sysop power and do damage to the Wikipedia project. After an initial study of what happened to Moulton at Wikipedia, I established some objectives for further study.

1) Has the Wikipedia:WikiProject intelligent design attracted a group of editors who damage Wikipedia by trying too zealously to defend Wikipedia against creationists and other editors who question evolution by natural selection?

2) Is Moulton an example of a Wikipedia editor who was unfairly treated by editors associated with the Wikipedia:WikiProject intelligent design?

3) Is there something we can do to prevent this kind of problem in the future?

During the past two years my research into these kinds of issues at Wikipedia has revealed that, right from the start,  several important Wikipedians “set the tone” for using Wikipedia as a platform for fighting battles against “fringe science” and religious groups that are viewed as cults. One of these Wikipedians remains as a paid employee of the Wikimedia Foundation. There is need for further research into the institutionalized practices of the Wikimedia Foundation that allow Wikimedia wiki projects to continue to be used to publish false information about living people.

The main work page for my research into Moulton’s experiences at Wikipedia attracted the attention of Wikipedians who ultimately tried to have the entire Wikiversity Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia project deleted. One Wikipedian came to Wikiversity and stated his reason for participation as being an attempt to get Moulton banned from participating at Wikiversity. This “wiki hit man” was ultimately successful. Jimbo Wales blocked Moulton from editing and declared him as being globally banned from all of Wikimedia.

Wikipedia remains a website where its participants can publish false information about living people and never face consequences for their actions. Wikipedia remains a website where Administrators and other high officials protect policy violators and ban good faith Wikipedians who try to correct Wikipedia’s problems. Given the anonymity that is given to Wikipedia editors, it may be that the Administrators who protect policy violators (like User:Tempb and his buddies) actually are alternate user accounts of the policy violators. Who knows?

Participation at Wikimedia wiki projects remains an educational experience. As long as Wikipedia fails to correct its problems it will remain the target of “Ethical Breaching Experiments” and hoaxes that aim to either correct Wikipedia’s deficiencies or educate the public about those deficiencies.

Image. Photo by Curtis Palmer, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike

First Response from the WMF Board

April 13, 2010
Samuel Klein

Samuel Klein

The Open Letter to the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees (shown in my previous blog post) was built around the good faith assumption that there was some truth to the claims made by Mr. Wales after he deleted the Wikiversity Ethical Breaching Experiments project (a copy of the main project page is here). When asked about his out-of-process page deletions, block of Privatemusings and emergency desysop of SBJohnny (see timeline of events), Mr. Wales claimed, “I have the full support of the Wikimedia Foundation” and “This is a Foundation matter“.

The Open Letter has begun to shake out some information from the WMF Board of Trustees. Samuel Klein wrote that Mr. Wales “was not acting as an agent of the Board nor was there any ‘Board authorization of an intervention’.

Can the statements by Mr. Wales and Mr. Klein be reconciled or is it safe to assume that Mr. Wales did not accurately characterize his level of support from the Board? Did Mr. Wales incorrectly claim to have support for his actions from the Board in order to prevent his personal actions from being reviewed and over-turned by the Wikiversity community? Did Mr. Wales’ claim of  “full support of the Wikimedia Foundation” only mean that he told Sue Gardner that he was going to deal with a troll at Wikiversity and she said something like: have fun with that?  The WMF Executive Director does not have the authority to grant Mr. Wales permission to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity.

Will we ever know what constitutes “full support of the Wikimedia Foundation”? We need to know the details of how the Foundation authorized the deletion of a Wikiversity learning resource that was aimed at improving Wikimedia wiki projects. We need to know how Mr. Wales was authorized to impose blocks against participants at Wikiversity, participants who never violated any policies or rules, blocks imposed without any prior discussion or warning and apparently without any chance for the Wikiversity community to object. We need to know how Mr. Wales was authorized to perform an emergency desysop procedure when no emergency existed.

Exactly what authority does Mr. Wales have for use of his “founder” tools? When Mr. Wales was being stripped of his Stewardship, he wrote, “Please take no action until we have finished with a mailing list discussion.” What mailing list discussion? He wrote, “I would support the creation of ‘founder’ group”.  Initially the creation of the Wikimedia “founder” user group was attributed to a request from the Board. However, while Darkoneko initially let that statement stand, three days later he did not agree with that assertion. Thus, it appears that Mr. Wales suggested that he be given special user rights (“founder”) that would give him the powers of a Steward and he was given those rights. Was there any public discussion of this grant of user rights?

It appears that people who were critical of the “founder” rights were “faked” into going along because of the claim of Board involvement in the decision (see).

Similarly, at Wikiversity, Mr. Wales’ claims about “full support” from the WMF were used to prevent the Wikiversity community from over-riding Mr. Wales’ actions (example). Has Mr. Wales ever been given more authority than a Steward? If not, his recent intervention into Wikiversity affairs was a violation of procedures that must be followed by those who are given Stewards tools. Does the Board intend to allow Mr. Wales to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity while claiming that his actions are Board actions?

Privatemusings has now started a new learning project. The entire Wikimedia Ethics project is an example of action research. Action research is a way for members of the Wikimedia community to study their community and seek ways of improving the community. Such action research is a normal part of participation in Wikimedia wiki projects and requires no special oversight or review beyond those already provided for in Wikiversity policy. What does it mean when a few members of an online community try to prevent other members of the community from participating in action research? Have action research projects at Wikiversity been disrupted by Wikipedians who fear having their actions studied?

Image. Photo of Samuel Klein by Flickr user Joi (source); image license CC-BY.

Great moments in online learning. Part II.

March 21, 2010
Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks

This is the second part of a series that started with a discussion of censorship at the Wikiversity project. In Part II, I want to focus on the use of blocks and bans to intimidate participants at Wikiversity.

In 2008, Moulton became a Wikiversity participant. He participated in a range of learning projects and the Wikipedia Ethics research project. Moulton worked in accordance with scholarly ethics and the Wikiversity research guidelines. I’ve previously blogged about Moulton’s participation at Wikiversity.

Before coming to Wikiversity, Moulton was banned from participation at Wikipedia. He had stumbled upon some biographies of living persons (BLPs) that violated Wikipedia policy and he had tried to correct them. Unfortunately, he had also stumbled upon one of the gangs of Wikipedia POV pushers that takes ownership of encyclopedia articles in order to advance their agenda. Rather than correct the defective biographical articles, the gang managed to get Moulton banned from editing at Wikipedia.

Moulton became interested in the idea that it is unethical for Wikimedia participants to allow anonymous wiki editors to publish lies about people (famous example), thus, the Wikiversity “Wikipedia Ethics” project was born. Wikiversity was then visited by some of the Wikipedians who had previously banned Moulton from Wikipedia rather than repair the faulty biographies that Moulton had identified. One Wikipedian in particular stated his purpose for participating at Wikiversity as an attempt to get Moulton banned from participating at Wikiversity. That Wikipedian was successful in getting Moulton banned from Wikiversity and he was even rewarded by being made a sysop at Wikiversity.  An effort was made to deleted the “Wikipedia Ethics” project. Of course, Moulton never violated any Wikiversity policy, but he was banned on the basis of trumped-up charges. Such abusive treatment of a scholar who tried to help the Wikimedia projects was a  great moment in online learning.

The main excuse for banning Moulton was that he insisted on using the names of wiki participants who published lies about him. There was no policy at Wikiversity against using the names of participants, but Moulton was banned any how. It is a true embarrassment for the Wikimedia Foundation that a scholar would be treated in this way. There should have been a mature discussion of the idea that true collaboration and authentic scholarship cannot be performed by people hiding behind screen names such as “KillerChihuahua” and “Salmon of Doubt”. Following this atrocity, some honest Wikiversity participants left the project out of disgust and others curtailed their participation.

Wikipedia has a serious problem with not welcoming criticism and fixing its deficiencies. The more that Wikipedia fights against Wikimedians who want to improve the Wikipedia project the more it creates new problems for itself.

In 2010, Privatemusings created a new Wikiversity project called Ethical Breaching Experiments. I suppose that Rosa Parks performed the equivalent of a ethical breaching experiment when she refused to follow the rule that a black person must give up a bus seat to a white person.

The stated goal of the Ethical Breaching Experiments project was to explore the idea that it might be possible to find a breaching experiment that: “causes no harm in its execution, whilst yielding results useful for the greater good, or which inspire positive change”.  The question was, could a breaching experiment be “designed and executed to best inform policy and practice on WMF projects”? The project was deleted and Privatemusings was blocked from editing even though he violated no Wikiversity policy, just as Moulton had been blocked without having violated any Wikiversity policy and just as Rosa Parks had been arrested without having violating any law.

I believe that Privatemusings did find a perfectly good ethical breaching experiment: the Ethical Breaching Experiments project itself. The project shows that Wikipedia is unable to permit well-intentioned individuals from exploring the weaknesses of the Wikipedia project. Certain authority figures of the Wikimedia Foundation seem to go out of their way to attain the same moral standing as others who, down through history, have wildly lashed out at and punished the brave seekers of justice who, ban by ban, arrest by arrest, execution by execution have brought light and liberty to the world.

Wikiversity could be an exciting environment for research into the problems of Wikipedia and a source of ideas for how to make improvements. Instead, knee jerk punishment of Wikiversity scholars drives away honest Wikimedia participants and attracts more abusive personalities who are all too willing to use vandalism fighting tools to punish people who dare to think and explore issues like ethics and justice.

Wikiversity is a place where if there is a problem with a project such as the Ethical Breaching Experiments project, then anyone can click the “edit” button and improve the project. At Wikiversity the culture should be that of a gentle learning environment where there is thoughtful discussion. It is sickening to watch  barbarians rush into Wikiversity and delete content and punish learners, with the barbarians having made no attempt to follow the community rules and first engage in thoughtful dialog. It is amazing that these barbarians imagine they can build an authentic learning community upon such practices. All they will produce is a herd of sheep who bleat “two legs bad” or “two legs better” upon command. As long as foolish censorship and abuse of learners is practiced at Wikiversity,  authentic scholars and honest learners will decide to go elsewhere for their online collaborative learning.

Related Learning Project

Part III in this series.

Great moments in online learning. Part I.

March 17, 2010

This is the first in a series of reflective blog posts about online learning at Wikiversity. In Part I want to discuss the topic of censorship at Wikiversity and its impact on learning. Part II is about bad blocks imposed on Wikiversity participants who never violated any Wikiversity policy. The following screenshot provides a convenient starting point:

censorship at Wikiversity

Censorship at Wikiversity

The image above shows that the Wikiversity page about censorship at Wikiversity was deleted at 5:32 on 16 October, 2009. This was a great moment in online learning. Why is discussion of censorship censored at Wikiversity?

Related reading: “Identifying and understanding the problems of Wikipedia’s peer governance: The case of inclusionists versus deletionists” by Vasilis Kostakis.

Vasilis Kostakis mentioned the fact that decisions about wiki page deletion at Wikipedia are often swayed by notability concerns. We can ask: Is notability important for decisions about content deletion at Wikiversity? Interestingly, almost four years after its inception, the Wikiversity community still does not have official guidelines for making content deletion decisions. If a Wikiversity participant is interested in learning about a topic, should it matter if the topic is “notable”? Would it be unwelcome if someone had a novel idea and wanted to explore it at Wikiversity? No. Wikiversity even allows original research.

However, some Wikimedians have never been comfortable with the inclusion of original thinking at Wikiversity and some Wikiversity project participants have even suggested banning from Wikiversity any topic not found in the curriculum of conventional educational institutions. Other Wikiversity participants think that Wikiversity’s scope should be broad and defined by the interests of its participants: if you are interested in learning about a topic then you should be able to explore that topic at Wikiversity. Such differences in opinion about desirable content at Wikiversity lead to conflict and have contributed to paralysis in the Wikiversity self-government process. Is free and open learning too dangerous, is free thinking too radical of an idea to find a place inside the Wikimedia Foundation?


The Wikiversity:Censorship page was not in the main namespace, it was in the “project namespace”. The “project namespace” at Wikiversity is named after the Wikiversity wiki project, so it is called the “Wikivesity namespace” and the names for all of its wiki pages begin the “Wikiversity:” prefix.  The project namespace is a collection of “meta” pages: “The Wikiversity namespace is a namespace containing pages that provide information about Wikiversity.” A typical page in Wikiversity’s project namespace is Wikiversity:Namespaces, which describes the various types of wiki pages that are grouped for convenience in the various “namespaces”.

We can ask why some Wikiversity participants found it useful to create and edit the “Wikiversity:Censorship” page and why other Wikiversity participants found it necessary to delete this particular page. The community discussion leading up to the deletion of the page can be read here. Additional discussion of censorship at Wikiversity (discussion which was itself censored)  is on this talk page. When did censorship of Wikiversity begin?

The roots of censorship at Wikiversity can be traced to the first year of Wikiversity project. The early community of learners at Wikiversity was interested in setting itself apart from Wikipedia. For example, rather than have “administrators“, Wikiversity has “custodians“. An attempt was made to use “rounded corners” for buttons in the graphical user interface of Wikiversity webpages. For example: the image near the top of this blog post shows “rounded corners” on the “create” button. A Wikipedian complained about the use of rounded corners at Wikiversity and so Wikiversity was not allowed to use rounded corners. This was an incredibly trivial example of outside influence being applied to Wikiversity, but it was a sign of things to come and it started the process of Wikiversity participants first noticing that Wikiversity was never going to be free of unwanted and disruptive interference from Wikipedia.

The conflicting points of view with respect to content removal at Wikiversity began early with the “problem” of “red links“, as mentioned in my blog post, Deletionists vs content development. In the early years of Wikipedia there were many “red links” in Wikipedia’s encyclopedia articles and they were useful for showing which new pages were needed. People saw red links and wrote the needed articles and the links turned blue. With time, Wikipedian’s came to view red links as a problem and they were banished from Wikipedia. An early symptom of “Wikipedia Disease” infecting Wikiversity was people who tried to imposed the relatively mature Wikipedia project’s dislike of red links to the brand-new Wikiversity. Thus, quite early in the existence of Wikiversity the question became: is it possible for the Wikiversity community to do what it needs to do for its mission without interference from Wikipedians imposing inappropriate and unwelcome rules from Wikipedia on Wikiversity?

This question began to grow in importance when banned Wikipdians started to participate at Wikiversity. Why can’t Wikiversity participants who follow Wikiversity rules be allowed to participate at Wikiversity? Enraged Wikipedians began to descend on Wikiversity and demand that anyone banned from participating at Wikipedia also be banned from participating Wikiversity. This kind of Wikimedia cross-project ban “policy” is still enforced today. In other words, the Wikiversity community does not control the fundamental decision of who is a welcome participant at Wikiversity. That decision is made by outsiders who impose their decisions on the Wikiversity community, without discussion (see). Similarly, decisions about page deletion have been imposed on the Wikiversity community from outside. This is unwelcome censorship.

Conflict at Wikiversity over censorship first came to a boil when Wikipedians decided to prevent Wikiversity participants from studying problems at Wikipedia.  For example, a Wikiversity study of a particular violation of Wikipedia’s policy on biographies of living persons (BLP) was attacked by Wikipedians who were responsible for that policy violation’s existence and long continuance at Wikipedia. An attempt was made to delete the entire Wikipedia Ethics project, which explored Wikipedia as an example of online media and how editors at Wikipedia publish false claims about people. A Wikimedian who participated in the “Wikipedia Ethics” project had previously tried to correct a violation of Wikipedia’s BLP policy and for his trouble he was banned from both Wikipedia and Wikiversity (more details about this are described in Part II of this series).

Emboldened by externally-imposed and out-of-process censorship of Wikiversity, the censorship of Wikiversity was soon extended to efforts by policy-violating Wikiversity sysops to prevent the policy violations of sysops from being discussed by the community. By late 2008, the “hostile take-over” of Wikiversity by participants suffering from “Wikipedia Disease” was complete. According to an odious and unwritten rule, it is now a blockable offense at Wikiversity to discuss the censorship of Wikiversity. A large number of honest Wikiversity participants were disgusted by these shenanigans and left the project, leaving it in the hands of a gang of thugs who enjoy participating in the censorship of Wikiversity and banning Wikiversity participants who dare to ask questions about the problems of Wikimedia wiki projects. When the honest scholars of Wikiversity are banned and driven away from the project, then Wikipedia Disease spreads and Wikiversity sinks to the level of Wikipedia complete with witch hunts, kangaroo courts…..use of the delete button replaces use of the “edit” button.

A collaborative online learning community such as Wikiversity must have tools to protect the community from vandals. However, the existence of such a community as an authentic learning community can easily be destroyed by abusive administrators who use the vandal-fighting tools against the honest learners and scholars of the community while letting policy violators become the police. Wikiversity needs to be returned to the custodianship of thoughtful and honest learners who think, discuss and learn. The unwelcome invaders from Wikipedia who delete, block and prevent learning must be removed.

Summary: Casual observers of Wikiversity might think that there is no censorship of Wikiversity because the wiki page for documenting censorship at Wikiversity has been deleted. The censorship  methods at Wikiversity are analogous to the methods employed by Max Amann. Censorship occurs at any institution, but at Wikiversity you are not allowed to discuss the acts of censorship that occur and the reasons for them. I think it is healthy to talk about everything taking place in a learning community. Discussion is a great way to learn. Why can’t the Wikiversity community discuss the censorship of Wikiversity?

The history of Wikiversity provides a good case study for how to censor the content of an online learning community. Wikiversity attracts thoughtful participants who want to improve Wikimedia wiki projects, but they have been prevented from participating in their studies and discussions of existing problems. Rather than discuss and improve Wikiversity learning projects and research projects, Wikipedians  have unilaterally imposed Wikipedia’s content and editing rules on Wikiversity. This has been highly disruptive to the Wikiversity community, particularly when Wikiversity participants who have never violated a Wikiversity policy are attacked, their contributions to Wikiversity deleted, and their participation at Wikiversity even blocked by invaders from outside who can’t be bothered to participate in the wiki culture where collaborators edit pages in order to improve any perceived problems at Wikiversity.

Next. Worse than the censorship of Wikiversity content is the abusive treatment of Wikiversity participants who dare to ask questions about the failings of Wikimedia wiki projects. If you look at the top of the image on this blog post you can see mention of a block of a Wikiversity participant. In my next blog post I will discuss the abusive treatment  of honest Wikiversity participants by Wikimedian’s who think that banning honest and thoughtful Wikiversity participants is the way to build an online learning community.

Additional reading: another Wikiversity deletion discussion. Another. There are many. The struggle continues.

Part II of this series.

Active Learning at Wikiversity

March 15, 2010
Thinking = Trolling

Wikiversity Learning Project

How Wikipedia defines the scope of the Wikiversity project.

Image credits. Statue of Liberty by William Warby and Jumping Woman Sculpture by Harold W. Olsen. CC-BY-SA

Related reading.

Online learning

February 22, 2010

Jean Piaget

In my last blog post I showed Isaac Asimov’s pre-internet vision of the impact that computers might have on education. Asimov was skilled at using bricks-and-mortar learning resources such as libraries. He had a personal interest in astronomy and although he never had formal classroom education in the area of astronomy, he wrote books about astronomy, sharing with the world what he had learned during his personal exploration of astronomy topics. I suppose that Asimov imagined computers would provide a kind of super-library where vast amounts of information would be instantly available to people around the world through computer terminals.

In the Bill Moyers interview, Asimov spoke about a two-tiered educational system in which there would still be conventional bricks-and-mortar educational institutions, but individual learners would be able to use computer-based learning resources and freely explore their own personal learning interests.

World-wide use of the internet began to explode in 1993 upon availability of the Mosaic web browser. Since Asimov died in 1992, he never had a chance to see the emergence of new internet technologies that are now available to facilitate online learning. Exactly how do people use computers and the internet to pursue their learning goals?

One of the ideas mentioned by Asimov in the the Bill Moyers interview was the possibility that computers could provide a learning experience that would be similar to having a personal tutor. Is that a reasonable expectation? I’m interested in the idea that rather than a one-on-one learner-tutor  experience, learning on the internet might instead be heading towards a one-among-many kind of learning environment where people with similar learning goals come together and collaboratively help each other learn.

With the on-going explosion in growth of the internet, can we come to any conclusions about how online learning is actually taking place? I want to start trying to answer that question by looking at some published ideas from researchers who study online learning.

Seymour Papert

I’m going to start (in my next blog post) with a discussion of some of the ideas presented in Making the Transition to Ubiquitous Learning. “The reach of new media beyond classroom walls and beyond formal learning contexts challenge the boundaries of education, transforming learning from a managed activity to an ubiquitous – anywhere, anytime, with anyone – and continuous part of daily life.”

Ubiquitous Learning: An Agenda for Educational Transformation by Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (see their website)

Ubiquitous learning, ubiquitous computing, and lived experience by Bertram C. Bruce. “We feel that ubiquitous computing technologies help us solve problems, create/access knowledge, and build community.”

Ubiquitous Transformations by Caroline Haythornthwaite.   “Experts in the form of information professionals and teachers are bypassed in the expedience and convenience of retrieval and learning from the web. Peers and other learners become information sources and teachers.”

I’m particularly interested in the social dimension of online learning and the idea that the internet can facilitate the formation of communities of learners who come together and through their online activities (learning projects) pursue their learning goals and personal interests.

Images. Jean Piaget and Seymour Papert.