Posts Tagged ‘learning project’

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?

Wikiversity participants send an Open Letter to the WMF Board

March 31, 2010

The following letter was drafted at Wikiversity.

Open letter to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees

April 7, 2010

To: Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees
Wikimedia Foundation Inc.
149 New Montgomery Street, 3rd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

Dear Trustees,

As members of the English language Wikiversity community we direct your attention to matters of concern to the Wikiversity community. We seek a clear response to our concerns from the Board.

Mr. Wales has claimed to have full support of the Wikimedia Foundation for his recent use of his “Founder” rights at the English language Wikiversity. Our understanding is that the Board of Trustees gave Mr. Wales his “Founder” rights so that he could continue to function as a Steward. In non-emergency situations Stewards do not make unilateral decisions; they discuss matters transparently and are supposed to follow local processes and community consensus. We believe that Mr. Wales misused his “Founder” tools to intervene in a non-emergency situation. Specifically,

  1. Mr. Wales deleted Wikiversity learning project pages without following the established community process for discussing page deletion decisions. We believe he should have discussed, edited, or suggested deletion of the learning resources;
  2. Mr. Wales has imposed unwarranted blocks against editing on honest and sincere Wikiversity participants who (unlike Mr. Wales) followed community guidelines. We believe he should have discussed blocking participants with Custodians and, more specifically, made sure he would be able to explain specific reasons for his actions rather than force his actions on the community by means of uncivil name-calling (“troll”);
  3. Mr. Wales performed an unwarranted emergency desysop on a Wikiversity Bureaucrat when no emergency existed. We believe he should have calmly proposed to the community that the Bureaucrat’s tools be removed;
  4. Mr. Wales bullied the community by threatening Wikiversity with closure and called thoughtful Wikiversity participants “trolls”. We believe he should have participated in civil discussion of his specific concerns with the thoughtful and sincere participants of the Wikiversity community.

The Board should be aware that the Wikiversity pages deleted by Mr. Wales were known to Wikiversity Custodians and they constituted a thoughtful search for ways to help and improve WMF wiki projects. Please note that Mr. Wales only discussed his initial deletion of this Wikiversity learning resource on his user talk page at Wikipedia. Only after the actions of Mr. Wales were made a matter of discussion at a Wikiversity Community Review did he offer an explanation for his actions. Mr. Wales stated his belief that the deleted learning resource was not “genuine”, was “silly and juvenile”, constituted an attempt to “hijack Wikiversity” and “get back at” Wikipedia, was “pure sophistry” and all he did by deleting the learning project was “deal with trolling”. However, we ask the Board to ask: why do honest and sincere Wikiversity participants not agree with this assessment of the deleted learning resource? The project’s stated goal was to search for an “ethical breaching experiment” which was defined as: An experiment which causes no harm in its execution, whilst yielding results useful for the greater good, or which inspire positive change. If there were problems with this learning project then they could have been fixed by discussion and page editing.

Mr. Wales has repeatedly failed to respond to our concerns and questions at his Wikiversity user talk page, the Wikiversity Community Review of this matter and at the Wikiversity Colloquium community discussion page. His failure to address the concerns of the community prompted this letter to the Board.

We request that the Board of Trustees hold a public discussion where members of the Wikiversity community can discuss our concerns with the Board and have them addressed. We believe that the intervention into Wikiversity affairs by Mr. Wales was an unwelcome intrusion and interruption of on-going community processes. We believe that had community processes been followed by Mr. Wales then a mutually agreeable solution could have been found that would have addressed Mr. Wales concerns while maintaining community integrity and health. We request that the Trustees in particular clarify how and in what ways Mr. Wales was authorized to use “Founder” tools at Wikiversity. If he has special authorization from the Board, beyond Steward rights, that authorization needs to be public and clear. Without clarity in this matter, the relationship between the Board and the Wikiversity community cannot be one of mutual understanding, respect and trust. We believe that the Board should then hold a public vote in which the trustees all clearly state whether through its agent, Mr. Wales, the Board of Trustees will continue to exercise editorial control and make unilateral decisions at Wikiversity when no emergency exists.


User:JWSchmidt John Schmidt

User:Jon Awbrey Jon Awbrey

The real irony here is that many of the people expressing these concerns have spent the last half decade publicly calling for Mr. Wales to exhibit decisive leadership in fixing the BLP problem on Wikipedia — instead of doing that he has chosen to strong-arm the people who are documenting the seriousness of the problem.

User:Leighblackall Leigh Blackall

User:Hillgentleman from English and Beta Wikiversity

My deepest concern is that someone who claims to be advocating better policies for the community cannot see that he himself has time and again shown disregard for both the community and their procedures.

User:Erkan Yilmaz

User:Jtneill James Neill

I am particularly concerned by the lack of clarity in the role of ‘founder’, “Its [founder] roles in various Wikimedia projects are not yet defined”, which seems to provide significant potential for incidents such as this one.

Countrymike Brent Simpson


User:Moulton Barry Kort – These unjustified, unbecoming, and indefensible interventions into the conscientious work of serious scholars has damaged the morale and integrity of Wikiversity and has brought lamentable discredit to Mr. Wales.

Note: this letter was drafted at

The text of the letter was finalized at the end of March and a printed copy was sent to the Foundation in April. Wikiversity participants can sign the letter …. additional places where you can sign: A, B.

Related reading: timeline of events and links to related resources, including copies of the deleted pages.

First Response from the WMF Board

Great moments in online learning. Part III.

March 27, 2010
Witch burning

Witch burning

Participation at wiki websites is a great learning experience. Participants in a  wiki community can “learn by doing” and participate in an online society (MMORPG) where some get to play the role of god, Pope, sycophantic acolyte, witch hunter, abusive policeman, propagandist, scapegoat, troll, witch, gadfly, etc. There are awards for actors in the film industry and there should be awards for actors in the wikisphere.

Online communities need tools that allow participants to clean up vandalism. Wikipedia is famous for abusive sysops who misuse their sysop tools and who are incivil, perform out of process deletions of non-vandalism content and impose bad blocks. Playing a supporting role, some Wikipedians display great talent in leading witch hunts against innocent wiki participants. After a witch hunt, an abusive sysop can then move in and eliminate the identified witches.

Nominations are now open for the annual Heinrich Kramer award. This award will honor the Wikiversity participant who has done the most to promote witch hunting and mob behavior at Wikiversity.

Thinking = Trolling

Dangerous Learning at Wikiversity (click image to enlarge).

To open the nominations, we can start with 2010 and look with great admiration and pride upon the recent efforts of Wikiversity participant RTG. In a drama that is stranger than fiction, RTG and Privatemusings played the role of star-crossed wiki participants. In a strange twist of fate, Privatemusings started the ethical breaching experiments learning project exactly one year after RTG first edited at Wikiversity.

In what might be called “the calm before the storm”, RTG did not participate at Wikiversity for more than a year leading up to his return on March 12, 2010. RTG was responding to this Colloquium post by Privatemusings.  RTG’s Colloquium post was graced with the edit summary: “bunch of nutjobs”. This is the type of civil discourse that Wikiversity has come to expect from Wikipedians who start participating at Wikiversity.

In an ironic twist for the deletionist/inclusionist dynamic, RTG once left a note for Jimmy Wales in which RTG expressed surprise that the Wikipedia article about astrosociology had been deleted. That Wikipedia article was created on 28 June, 2004 and was deleted on 26 October, 2008, possibly to make room for more notable topics such as Alvin Purple Rides Again.

More irony.  RTG once commented on Jimbo’s page that it would be nice to have a Wikimedia project to support debates. When Wikiversity was started, the project proposal suggested that Wikiversity could have “debate clubs” as a way of supporting “learning through collaboration and discussion”. The first comment on RTG’s Wikipedia user talk page included an interesting subjective evaluation of RTG as a partner in community discussion and mention was made of “appeal to authority“.

Star-crossed editors. RTG and Privatemusings have both shown an interest in the issue of censorship at Wikipedia (examples: “a picture which is obviously part of an artists protrayal of maliciousness towards a small girl“, “personality rights issues“).

In a way, the Wikiversity project was created as a place where people like RTG and Privatemusings can work together to explore their shared interests. Given their shared interests in wiki censorship, we might have imagined the development of an interesting collaboration upon RTG becoming aware of the ethical breaching experiments learning project. In a great moment for online learning, RTG lit a fire under Jimbo and Privatemusings’ learning project was deleted and Private Musings was blocked from editing (without an attempt by Jimbo to discuss the project). RTG characterized the “ethical breaching experiments” learning project as being “a project designed to attack Wikimedia” and congratulated Jimbo for deleting it. RTG expressed the view that “ethical breaching experiment” meant breaching ethics, which is exactly backwards. In the firestorm of false accusations, the project was deleted again after being placed under a new name: The Ethics of Breaching Experiments.


Part of any good Wikimedia witch hunt is the ritual of blocking a wiki participant who has violated no policy (blocked without warning or discussion) so that the creator of a deleted page cannot be present at community discussion of the deletion of the content they created.

Also typical of the Wikimedia witch hunt is encouragement of the persecution of witches (often identified by the label “troll”) by authorities (example). During a Wikimedia witch hunt, nobody need bother reading the deleted content and discussing its merits as a resource for the wiki project. It is enough if some authority called the creator of the content “troll” and the content “disruptive”. This is the level of discourse that characterizes “Wikipedia Disease” and its infection of the Wikiversity project.

Privatemusings’ ethical breaching experiments learning project was improperly deleted without prior community discussion. This deleted page should have been reviewed and discussed by the Wikiversity community so that community members could decide if the page was actually outside of the scope of Wikiversity. Definition from the deleted page: “ethical breaching experiment: An experiment which causes no harm in its execution”. The stated purpose of the deleted learning resource was to explore how ethical (this means hat the experiments were to be ethical) experiments “might be designed and executed to best inform policy and practice on WMF projects”. It is not clear to me how this search for an ethical experiment fails to fall within the scope of Wikiversity. The page was obviously a harmless Wikiversity learning project, designed to find ways to help WMF wiki projects like Wikipedia.

Thus, I nominate RTG for the 2010 Heinrich Kramer award. His support for the out-of-process deletion of a Wikiversity learning resource should be studied by all learners at Wikiversity. Maybe RTG and Privatemusings can some day have a civilized debate about the merits of the deleted project. These wiki editors have much to teach us.

Additional Heinrich Kramer award nominations are welcome for 2010 and earlier years.

Note: best supporting actor nominations are also welcome in this category:

related reading

image credits

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.