Archive for the ‘Wikipedia’ Category

Growing Pains

March 19, 2011
Decline in active editors at Wikipedia

Decline in active editors at Wikipedia.

In an earlier blog post, we explored the role of Sue Gardner’s support of Jimbo Wales in his misguided disruption of the Wikiversity community. Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, recently offered some comments about the decline in the number of editors at Wikipedia (see the graph). She talked about “growing pains” and the attempt by the Wikipedia community

“to integrate the newbies while at the same time striving to preserve the ability to do its work. It does that by developing self-repair and defense mechanisms – which in our case, turned out to be things like bot- and script-supported reverts, deletions, user warnings, and complex policies.”

Sue Gardner did not mention the deeper and more systemic problems. Before 2006 new editors were welcomed to Wikipedia and given a chance to learn how to edit collaboratively. After 2006 a cadre of misguided sysops had been deployed — sysops who delete rather than discuss and block rather than edit. A good example is what happened to Moulton, a Wikimedian from academia who tried to correct a violation of Wikipedia’s policy for Biographies of Living People. For his trouble, Moulton was blocked from editing and banned from all Wikimedia wiki projects by Jimbo Wales (related blog post).

Of course, the policy-violators continue to disrupt Wikimedia wiki projects along with the abusive Wikimedia Functionaries who blocked and banned Moulton. Sue Gardner gave her full support to Jimbo’s disruptive interventions into Wikiversity community affairs. Given such sickening behavior by toxic Wikimedia officials, is there really any surprise to see a decline in the number of active editors? Is there any way for honest and conscientious Wikimedians of integrity in these dysfunctional wiki communities to protect themselves against the Barney Fife Tin Badge Syndrome that I call Wikipedia Disease?  Or is it better to abandon WMF-sponsored projects as hopelessly regressed into the Dark Ages?

Related reading: Ting Chen on declining trends in editing activity.

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Don’t do more

August 5, 2010
Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, recently blogged about Wikimedia as “a sort of social movement“. Gardner asked why it is that Wikimedians don’t do more to encourage internal solidarity and support kindness, understanding, generosity and a sense of common purpose. Interesting question.

What sort of social movement is Wikimedia? If you read the Wikimedia Foundation’s statements on Mission, Values, Vision and Bylaws you find no description of Wikimedia as a social movement. If you search the Foundation’s website you can find this quote from Wikimedia Foundation Trustee, Matt Halprin: “The Wikimedia Foundation is a critical player in the growing social movement toward greater transparency and openness.”

Gardner wrote, “Our goal is to make information easily available for people everywhere around the world – free of commercialism, free of charge, free of bias.” If you read the Wikimedia Foundation’s statements on Mission, Values, Vision and Bylaws you find no description of Wikimedia bias. If you search the Wikimedia Foundation’s website you can find this quote from Doron Weber, Director of the Sloan Foundation’s Program for Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge about Wikipedia: “…Wikipedia represents a quantum leap in collecting human knowledge from diverse sources, organizing it without commercial or other bias…..”

How does the Wikimedia Foundation measure up for transparency and what about bias in Wikipedia? Wikipedia allows anonymous editors to publish biased information about living people. For example, on March 8, 2006, an anonymous Wikipedia editor created a Wikipedia biography article about a university professor. That anonymous Wikipedia editor violated Wikipedia’s rules that are designed to keep Wikipedia free of biased biographies of living people. When a colleague of the university professor sought to correct the biased Wikipedia biography, he was blocked from editing Wikipedia and his user page was defaced and locked. Rather than follow Wikipedia policy and correct the biased biography, a gang of Wikipedians attacked and harassed the person who tried to correct the bias.

The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians, not content to simply block their fellow Wikipedian who had tried to keep Wikipedia free of bias, stalked him to his personal blog and subjected him to vile online harassment. The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians also followed Moulton to Wikiversity and harassed him there, with the stated objective of getting Moulton banned from participation at Wikiversity. The gang of policy-violating Wikipedians was successful by gaming Wikimedia Foundation Board member Jimbo Wales into violating Wikiversity policy and imposing an infinite duration block on Moulton, a block imposed against consensus and with no public discussion of the block. The decision to impose this policy-violating  block on Moulton was made by a few Wikipedians acting in secret. So much for the “transparency and openness” of the Wikimedia Foundation. Moulton, who only tried to help Wikimedia, is still subjected to continuing harassment by Wikimedia functionaries. Why are a few “special” Wikipedians and anonymous editors still allowed to force their personal biases on the world by using Wikipedia as their publishing platform? What is the ethical nature of an organization that allows anonymous editors to publish false claims about living people? Why are honest Wikimedians like Moulton harassed and driven away when they try to remove bias from Wikimedia? Should anyone take Sue Gardner seriously when she talks about the Wikimedia Foundation having a goal of being free from bias? (related blog post)

In 2010, a Wikiversity community member created a learning project aimed at finding an ethical means to improve Wikimedia projects. The Ethical Breaching Experiments learning project was deleted by Jimbo Wales, without community discussion, in violation of Wikiversity policy and against community consensus. The creator of the learning project was blocked from editing by Jimbo Wales, in violation of Wikiversity policy. In an effort to impose his misguided disruption of Wikiversity on the community, Jimbo Wales threatened Wikiversity with closure. Sue Gardner threw her support behind the misguided actions of Jimbo Wales.

Sue Gardner asked why it is that Wikimedians don’t do more to encourage internal solidarity and support kindness, understanding, generosity and a sense of common purpose. Yes, Sue, why don’t you? Why did you support Jimbo Wales in his misguided disruption of Wikiversity?