Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Wiki update

Amazed by the childish vindictiveness of the Wikipedia vandal administrator, I decided to try to make things better. I applied to become an administrator myself, and was laughed out of town -- due largely to my inexperience. I also filed a complaint against the vandal admin.

It turns out that within the all-volunteer Wikipedia community, there is a process to remove the administrator status of a user. At my request, one of the volunteers who helps other users looked into the issue. I think it's important to recognize that these people are all volunteers. They sit in their socks an gym pants in front of computers just like you and I. They have jobs, maybe even pets. It's not the United Nations. I'm grateful to the people who create the encyclopedia and the community.

After he looked into the case, the helper posted this to the vandal admin :

brainhell has posted a request for AMA assistance concerning why he was blocked by you. It does appear that you then recognized that you were stressed and have taken a Wiki-break. Okay. I would suggest that, when you return, you reread WP:BITE and WP:CIVIL. You did bite the newcomer, quite hard. I have not researched the details of the speedy-deletion of his stub. However, what I do see is that he was making a genuine, although poorly worded and petulant, request for advice. The next time that something similar happens, I have a few suggestions. First, rather than blocking an unfamiliar user for a personal attack, caution him to read WP:NPA and WP:CIVIL. Second, if he persists, post a request on WP:ANI or WP:PAIN rather than blocking him yourself. Using your admin power when you are an involved party is seen as misuse of power. (I am not saying that it was misuse of power, but that it is seen that way.) Third, if you block an unfamiliar user for similar behavior and he has no previous block history, it should be a 24-hour block.
Also, when you do come back, please post a second apology on his talk page. I hope that this clears things up.

To me, the helper said:

I see that [VandalAdmin] has taken acknowledged excessive stress and has taken a break. It would appear that he realizes that he lost his temper. I have posted a message to his talk page asking him to re-read a few Wikipedia policies.
If you really want me to go ahead and request to have him de-adminned, there is a procedure, and I can help you do that. I think that would be a mistake on our part that would be comparable to his mistake in losing his temper. Please let me know what you want to do.

I replied:

Thanks. I see that [VandalAdmin's] user page now says only "Vacation time..." and displays a stress meter. His user talk page says "Wikistress is building. I, therefore, have left the building for a brief time." I see no acknowledgment that he realizes that he lost his temper. This is your inference. But even were that true, and despite his apology to me, and his promise not to delete my posts (without addressing what he'll do to the posts of others), he has shown himself temperamentally unsuited to administrate. It's quite likely to happen again. I respect your view that "I think that would be a mistake on our part that would be comparable to his mistake in losing his temper." However, I disagree. This administrator is a hazard to the Wikipedia community and I request that you go ahead and request to have him de-adminned, according to the procedure.

Later that day, I received an email from the vandal admin:

Thank you so much for the continued attack. I thought we were over our misunderstanding. I see I was wrong. I'm saving you the trouble of pursuing this matter any further. 20,000 edits and six featured articles...and one guy comes along and completely ruins the experience. Have fun since I am quitting Wikipedia.

I posted the email to my talk page and the helper's talk page, opining:

Nonetheless, I think the user should be de-adminned. Whether he chooses to continue be involved is up to him. I would welcome him, as long as he's no longer an admin.

I know he's supposed to be an adult, but during this whole episode he has seemed like a child. Now he's "quitting." After he "quits," and if his admin status is still intact, he'll change his mind again, and come back. To beat up on more new users.

I know that it's a volunteer effort, and no one gets paid (or fired). But perhaps because it is voluntary, and because Wiki is defining a new paradigm that will shape the future, I feel that it is important not to carry forward retrogressive dynamics of the past.

There's been nothing but silence from the helper since then, so I figured the helper was thinking: "Hayzoo! This angry troll killed one of our most dedicated administrators, and now he wants me to desecrate the corpse?! I'm not going to do that. I'm going to ignore anything the troll says from now on!" That's his right, but in that case, I thought that we might hear the angry little feet of the vandal admin tiptoeing back to abuse more newbies.

The tiptoes grew suddenly very loud. On 2/12/06, I found out that I was 'indefinitely' blocked from editing Wikipedia. The vandal admin left a note saying so.

The helper who was looking into my request for assistance no longer seemed to exist in the Wikipedia system.

So I sent this email to info-en@wikimedia.org:


I need help, because I am blocked. I can't leave any edits on talk pages to resolve the issue. So I send this email.

I am user Brainhell.

I was in a dispute with [VandalAdmin] (feel free to review the history -- it's all spelled out on my user talk page which he has erased, leaving only this message:

"That comment on your user page regarding hobbies, cars and political leanings on other user pages did it for me. I refuse to be taunted by you any further. You are off this site for good. I tried to help you; you chose to rub my nose in my error and have continued to do so. The Wikimedia Foundation is aware of the situation. If you have any further questions, talk to them."

My user page now says:

"This user has been blocked indefinitely from editing Wikipedia, per ruling of administrators, Jimbo Wales and/or the Arbitration Committee. See block log."

In the earlier dispute, I made a request for assistance, and [Helper] was helping me. Now, when I check, [Helper] no longer seems to exist.

I'd like to work this out and continue to pursue whatever avenues are open to me under Wikipedia culture.


Here is the text of my user page, which is marked, "preserved as evidence of his abuse and personal attacks:"

brainhell is a Wikipedia contributor.

According the "What Wikipedia is not" page: "Wikipedians have their own user pages, but they are used for information relevant to working on the encyclopedia." Further: "The focus of User pages should not be social networking but rather providing a foundation for effective collaboration." So I'll not post information here about my political leanings, cars, or hobbies. That's in my blog [1].

I believe that administrators and users should adhere to the procedure on what to do if an article is perceived to be an advertisement or other spam: "List on Wikipedia:Articles for deletion (WP:AFD)."

If you're considering a speedy deletion, keep in mind that the guidelines say: "Note that some Wikipedians create articles in multiple saves. Try to avoid deleting a page too soon after its initial creation, as the author may be working on it."

In browsing through the pages devoted to Wikipedia culture and expectations, I have gained a sense of what is meant by "attack." In Wiki-land an "attack" is commentary of any kind about someone else as a person, or their motives, during a disagreement. The way Wikipedia solves the "flame" problem so common on the internet is by having a rule that no one is supposed to comment about anyone else's motives or person during a dispute -- at all. This I know: Commentary within the Wikipedia system should never be directed at a person or their motivation. I can abide by that expectation.

If I were an administrator, I would be conscious of the fact that new users may not be aware of the Wikipedia definition of "attack," and would attempt to gently educate them if they commented on someone else.

Pursuant to the There Is No Cabal principle, it's important not to taunt new users into rule violations for the purpose of disciplining them.

The next morning, I read the reply by a volunteer who answered the email:

I have reviewed this situation and determined that the block appears to have been unjustified. I have removed the block. While I think you could have handled yourself better than you did, I did not see anything in your conduct that merited a block at all, let alone the blocks you received.

Indeed I was able to edit pages. I wondered how long it would be before VandalAdmin blocked me again. When I tried to go to his page, Wikipedia claimed that it doesn't exist. If the vandal admin is gone, then good riddance. But I suspect he'll be back, and get up to his old tricks.

On the user talk page of the admin who removed the 'indefinite' block is this comment from the vandal admin:

Brainhell unblock
I cannot believe this. Take a look at this guy's user page and at his notes to [Helper]. If he stays, I go. It's as simple as that. - [VandalAdmin] 06:35, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

The one who removed the 'indefinite' block wrote:

I'm sorry you feel that way. 06:57, 13 February 2006 (UTC

He replied:

Yes, I do. Please not that I have deleted my pages. I only came back to see whether or not my talk page has remained deleted; apparently it has not. No matter.

On the page of another admin, he posted:

this Brainhell's entire user page is a personal attack. I blocked him over a 3RR and the guy went absolutely nuts. I listed my hobbies, my cars and (at one time) my political affiliations. If this is the kind of user we want here, you don't want me. That's it. - 06:38, 13 February 2006 (UTC)

Left grip is 24 pounds (24, 24, 19), right grip is 75 pounds (65, 75, 69).

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