Discussion:
declining numbers of EN wiki admins - The theory that making it easier to get rid of admins is a solution to the decline in their active numbers
(too old to reply)
WereSpielChequers
2010-05-30 10:36:56 UTC
Permalink
Re the theory that making it easier to get rid of admins could be a
solution to the decline in their active numbers. This is one of those
perennial theories that often sidetracks any attempt at WT:RFA to
reform the process; But has at least once failed to get consensus for
change - not least because many of its proponents seem unaware of how
easy desysopping can now be and are therefore hazy as to how much
easier they want it to be.

I like counterintuitive theories, and the idea that to get more admins
you should get rid of some of us and put the rest under greater
stress is IMHO counterintuitive. But I see the following flaws.

1 Concerns about the difficulty of desysopping admins long predate
the RFA drought that we've been in for the last couple of years.

2 It may have been true in the past that desysopping was difficult
and always traumatic for the community, but the reality of the last
few months is that whilst some desysoppings are highprofile and
dramatic, others are almost discrete and are only noticed by those who
watch Arbcom or those like me who keep an eye on the total number of
admins. I suspect that perceptions of the difficulty of desysopping
are based on the highprofile and contested cases, not the barely
noticed ones.

Any theory to explain the RFA drought needs to account for the
phenomenon of standards inflation at RFA, and explain why those
arbitrary expectations have continued to rise whilst desysopping has
if anything become easier. I've approached a number of possible
candidates in the last few months, several have declined to run either
because the standards are so arbitrary or because they don't want to
be treated the way they've seen others treated at RFA.

As for the idea that we should move to "Hi, I noticed that you
speedy-deleted some files that do not appear to meet the CSD criteria;
your SysOp staus has been removed _while we discuss it_". I've done
over 4,000 speedy deletions, and very probably there are more mistakes
amongst them that I know about, but if someone thinks I've deleted
something in error I'd expect a first approach along the lines of
"would you mind having another look at [[deleted article]], I don't
see how it was an attack page". Maybe I've made a mistake, maybe so
much has been oversighted that it no longer looks like an attack page,
maybe there are words involved that have very different meanings to a
Yank and a Brit. But a desysop first and ask questions later strategy
would in my view generate far more drama than would be justified by
the results.


WereSpielChequers
>
> IMHO, etc...
>
> The fundamental problem is the difficulty in *removing* SysOp, which *makes* it a big deal.
>
> If it really was no big deal, RfA wouldn't need to be such an ordeal; if a user is competent, reasonably experienced and no DRAMA, we should +SysOp them (AGF). If they fuck up, remove it (No big deal).
>
> We block our precious new users at the drop of a hat, but an admin has to do something pretty damned horrific to even consider removing their status, and even then it takes months.
>
> Imagine if it worked more like blocking - if an admin fucks up, remove their SysOp and have a chat about it. "Hi, I noticed that you speedy-deleted some files that do not appear to meet the CSD criteria; your SysOp staus has been removed _while we discuss it_". No big deal, the admins shouldn't mind.
>
> If that were the case, there would be no need for the depth of analysis and horrible trial that is our current RfA.
>
> Sadly, AGF is missing from RfA.
>
>
David Gerard
2010-05-30 10:43:41 UTC
Permalink
On 30 May 2010 11:36, WereSpielChequers
<***@googlemail.com> wrote:

> As for the idea that we should move to "Hi, I noticed that you
> speedy-deleted some files that do not appear to meet the CSD criteria;
> your SysOp staus has been removed _while we discuss it_". I've done
> over 4,000 speedy deletions, and very probably there are more mistakes
> amongst them that I know about, but if someone thinks I've deleted
> something in error I'd expect a first approach along the lines of
> "would you mind having another look at [[deleted article]],  I don't
> see how it was an attack page".  Maybe I've made a mistake, maybe so
> much has been oversighted that it no longer looks like an attack page,
> maybe there are words involved that have very different meanings to a
> Yank and a Brit. But a desysop first and ask questions later strategy
> would in my view generate far more drama than would be justified by
> the results.


Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought, jawdroppingly obvious -
result would be that no-one at all would go near such work in any
circumstances.

The problem with RFA has long been arbitrarily increased standards,
and in recent years the abusive nature of the gauntlet.


- d.
David Goodman
2010-05-30 17:50:58 UTC
Permalink
The reasonable people here who discuss this are not the admins about
whom there is a problem. There are many admins who make errors and
refuse to discuss them, and a few who deliberately and intentionally
ignore the restrictions of deletion policy. I have so far not even
attempted the various ways of calling them to account, because WP
process tends to sweep in the innocent along with the guilty, and the
result tends to be decided on the basis of popular vs. unpopular. If
there should be someone whom I thought was causing significant ongoing
harm, and whom i personally disliked in addition, I would still not
initiate formal process, because the conclusion is as likely to be
their vindication as their censure.

On Sun, May 30, 2010 at 6:43 AM, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> On 30 May 2010 11:36, WereSpielChequers
> <***@googlemail.com> wrote:
>
>> As for the idea that we should move to "Hi, I noticed that you
>> speedy-deleted some files that do not appear to meet the CSD criteria;
>> your SysOp staus has been removed _while we discuss it_". I've done
>> over 4,000 speedy deletions, and very probably there are more mistakes
>> amongst them that I know about, but if someone thinks I've deleted
>> something in error I'd expect a first approach along the lines of
>> "would you mind having another look at [[deleted article]],  I don't
>> see how it was an attack page".  Maybe I've made a mistake, maybe so
>> much has been oversighted that it no longer looks like an attack page,
>> maybe there are words involved that have very different meanings to a
>> Yank and a Brit. But a desysop first and ask questions later strategy
>> would in my view generate far more drama than would be justified by
>> the results.
>
>
> Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought, jawdroppingly obvious -
> result would be that no-one at all would go near such work in any
> circumstances.
>
> The problem with RFA has long been arbitrarily increased standards,
> and in recent years the abusive nature of the gauntlet.
>
>
> - d.
>
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> WikiEN-***@lists.wikimedia.org
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
>



--
David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG
Thomas Dalton
2010-05-30 17:58:30 UTC
Permalink
On 30 May 2010 11:43, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought, jawdroppingly obvious -
> result would be that no-one at all would go near such work in any
> circumstances.

Exactly. The big problem with community desysoppings is that any admin
doing their job properly will have enemies. The longer you do the job,
the more enemies you will have. Whenever you block someone, you annoy
the blockee. Whenever you delete an article, you annoy the creator.
Whenever you protect an article, you annoy the person whose version
you didn't protect on. If you let those people be in charge of the
desysopping process, we won't have any good admins left doing even
slightly controversial work (which, as I've explained, is pretty much
all admin work).
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-30 23:39:56 UTC
Permalink
At 01:58 PM 5/30/2010, Thomas Dalton wrote:
>On 30 May 2010 11:43, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought, jawdroppingly obvious -
> > result would be that no-one at all would go near such work in any
> > circumstances.
>
>Exactly. The big problem with community desysoppings is that any admin
>doing their job properly will have enemies. The longer you do the job,
>the more enemies you will have. Whenever you block someone, you annoy
>the blockee. Whenever you delete an article, you annoy the creator.
>Whenever you protect an article, you annoy the person whose version
>you didn't protect on. If you let those people be in charge of the
>desysopping process, we won't have any good admins left doing even
>slightly controversial work (which, as I've explained, is pretty much
>all admin work).

These are the arguments that have maintained the dysfunction. But:

(1) most legitimate admin work is not controversial to any degree
that would affect an admin's status in the active community, which is
what counts. Blocking an IP vandal isn't going to harm that, and it
will only help it. If the IP vandal then registers an account and
goes after the admin, sure. But, then, as to proposals that those who
supported an RfA might retract that, or cause adminiship to be
suspended pending examination, are concerned, this would be useless.
Legitimate administration is indeed like janitorial work. Can we
imagine a good janitor getting into an argument with other employees
of a school or office as to what should be thrown away? Adminship was
supposed to be "no big deal." When an administrator is asserting
personal power over an editor, something has gone awry. Police have
no power to punish, they may arrest on probable cause, but they then
step aside and let the community make decisions on sanctions or
release. A police officer who has become personally involved and
insists on pursuing an individual might well be removed or ordered to
work in other areas.

"Whenever you delete an article, you annoy the creator." Well, it
might seem that way. But admins aren't supposed to be deleting
articles in the presence of the creator's objection, unless there is
a critical issue, and, by the rules of adminstrative recusal, they
should only do this once, personally, absent true fire-alarm
emergency. It better be good! For anything further, they'd go to the
community and not use tools to gain an advantage. And I've seen
admins violate this, causing a lot of unnecessary disruption because,
indeed, the editor then gets seriously pissed off. That's as to
speedy deletion. As to regular deletion, an admin is assessing
arguments and consensus at an AfD, and, if doing this well, doesn't
delete unless there is consensus for it, or, alternatively, the
arguments are clear and evidenced. And if the creator objects, the
admin politely considers the objection, and, if the admin can't
reverse, suggests DRV and is done. Seriously done. Probably not a
good idea to even argue for deletion at the review, the admin's
reasons should have been given with the original closure. Being
reversed should be no shame.

(2) good recusal policy requires an admin to stand aside and not
pursue an individual editor. An example of how this could work was
what happened when Iridescent blocked me in 2008. It was indef, but
she wrote, "indef as in indefinite, not as in infinite," or something
like that. And then she made no attempts at all to *keep* me blocked.
She presented her reason, and that was that. It was then between me
and the community, not me and her. As a result, I had no sense of
serious opposition to or from her, and no enmity. I still think she
made a mistake, but administrators are volunteers and will make
mistakes. Am I unusual? Maybe. But if an editor is, say, blocked for
a day by an administrator who then leaves unblock template
instructions and even wishes the editor well, and does it all
politely and correctly, it's going to be very visible if this editor
then embarks on a crusade against the admin -- unless the admin truly
was involved and shouldn't have touched the block button. Sure, it
happens. And it's very visible if anyone looks! Indeed, this editor
is likely to stay blocked or to be seen as seriously biased against
the administrator and possibly as genuinely dangerous to the project.
"I was blocked by a horrible monster" is very much not a way to get
unblocked, it rarely works.

(3) "community desysopping," per se, is a really Bad Idea. It should
be and must be much easier, and community discussions tend to be very
much a popularity contest, and waste huge amounts of editor labor.
Rather, some kind of administrative recall, as an easy process that
could result in *suspension* of administrative privileges, and even
without some presumption of actual misbehavior, merely in undoing,
temporarily, what was done with the RfA, makes much more sense.
Involving those who approved the adminship in the first place, and
who supported it, seems like a possibility that could be quite
efficient and quite clearly fair. I'm not detailing a process here,
but it would presumably be appealable. Suppose you approve my
adminship and I then find it necessary to block you. Under these
conditions, I'm probably not biased! But suppose it pisses you off.
If you can convince some number of other supporters to ask for
suspension, that might be automatic. I.e., there would be, perhaps, a
consent and request, in advance, part of the original RfA, that a
bureaucrat remove privileges under stated conditions, as verified by
the bureaucrat. This removal could then be undone through some
process, which might simply be a new RfA, but without the presumption
of a supermajority being needed. Indeed, I'd think a majority for
unsuspending should be enough (really, it would be the judgment of a
neutral bureaucrat, because of the possibility of pile-on from a
faction). And beyond that, if something was awry (such that pile-on
of a faction offended that the administrator was enforcing overall
policy), the matter could go to ArbComm on request, which might look
at the behavior of all parties. I've opined that ArbComm should
effectively suspend admin privileges for any admin if they accept the
case on a showing of probable cause of abuse; it might well do this
by issuing an injunction against use of tools in some area, not by
actual removal. And, as well, the "removal" I'm suggesting by a
bureaucrat might simply start with the admin abstaining from tool use
as instructed by the "recalling" editors, according to an original
promise, and it would only become an actual request to a bureaucrat
and then actual unsetting of the bit if the promise was violated.

Note that any administrator should probably recuse from use of tools
in an area when reasonably requested by a few editors, at least
pending discussion, I get into this more below. If I recuse on such
request, say on request by some process involving those who granted
me admnisthip in the first place, I may still be able to serve the
project in almost all the ways I'd be using admin tools anyway. It's
only when an admin uses tools, consistently in some area, and having
become involved in some way, personally, that there is a problem.
Often an abusive admin in one area still does good work in another,
if they can stay away from controversial use.

Would people approve of an admin just to gain an ability to torpedo
the admin later? I doubt it. It would be too easy and too visible to
shoot down, and the situation of an admin blocking someone who had
supported the admin gaining tool access would tend to look like "It
must have been necessary!" rather than the reverse. Frivolous
interference, or interference that has the effect of harming the
project, with an administrator especially, should be a sanctionable
offense. On the other hand, making a complaint that is considered
reasonable when reviewed should not be sanctioned, and that it
sometimes is, in effect, is chilling. Personally, I was appalled when
I filed an RfAr over administrative abuse, which was effectively
confirmed by ArbComm, it really was abuse, and the sysop lost his
bit, but ArbComm allowed the case to be massively broadened into a
"Whatever Abd Ever Did That Could Look Bad" mess. If I'd done so
much, there should have been an RfC on my behavior, and then a case
if conflict remained, a separate case, where I'm the topic, not
complicated by administrative abuse.

Indeed, that sysop mentioned had been causing problems with his tool
use and general editorial behavior for years, and I saw
administrators back off from confronting it because it was so
"expensive" because of the faction (a small but active minority)
backing him. It's still going on, but it now looks more like an
end-game, because some highly privileged and connected administrators
finally figured it out and how factional support was allowing it to continue.

Calling better process "getting rid of admins' is not a fair
statement of what decent proposals would look like. The structure
should make it easy to *restrain* administrative abuse, which would
start with much less drastic process than removal, it would start
with normal dispute resolution, at least at a low level. If a dispute
over tool usage continued, the actual usage might be examined, as
usual. In addition, my view, continuing to use tools where a user,
with anything even remotely reasoanble, objects, is not a good
practice, it should only be done in emergencies. Normally, with
respect to a registered user, an admin should recuse, practically, at
the drop of a hat. When I've suggested this, it's been claimed that
this would result in vast wikilawyering, but that objection is
clearly preposterous. If I block you and you scream that I'm biased
and should recuse, I'd respond. "Of course. I regret that this has
distressed you. I'm recusing. Bye." Actually, I'd do even better than
that, I'd provide a biolerplate set of instructions on how to appeal
an unblock. Naturally, when I blocked, I should already have provided
the block reason and the important evidence, or, if I hadn't, I'd
provide that. And then drop the whole matter. Unless I thought the
project would benefit from the unblock, I wouldn't unblock. But I'd
step aside from objecting to an unblock by any other administrator.
And then, in the future, if I saw a threat to the project from this
editor, I'd go to a noticeboard like anyone else, but I'd disclose
the prior request for recusal and acknowledge the claim of bias.

There are administrators who detest recusal policy, and they've been
very explicit about it, and if ArbComm were awake, it would order
their admin privileges suspended until it assured them that they "got
it." Instead, they practically have to dismember an unfortunate
editor right in front of ArbComm for it to be noticed. As long as
they avoid that, they're cool! They object that an editor could then
avoid being blocked by requesting recusal from admin after admin.
Given that recusal doesn't unblock, and even if they get an unblock,
are they going to claim that the unblocking admin was biased? That's
going to look really, really bad. I think within three such requests
or so, they would almost certainly be looking at an indef block with
no admin willing to unblock. I.e., a defacto ban, only with minimal
fuss, and they'd have only ArbComm to appeal to, and ArbComm is now
denying even some reasonable appeals, as far as I've seen. They don't
want the hassle.

Adminship should be "no big deal," as was claimed at the beginning.
And thus it being suspended, in part or even in toto, should be "no
big deal." Rather, some administrators very much think it's a big
deal, clearly. And this "big deal" concept, enforced by them when
they vote in RfAs, keeps people from volunteering and being accepted,
far more than some idea that allegations misbehavior might result in
a relatively harmless suspension. Someone who could not accept that
probably has the wrong idea in the first place about adminship and
thinks it is of some personal advantage. It isn't. It's an
opportunity to do some boring, relatively unrewarding work. But some
think of it as an opportunity to exert more power than regular
editors. What is wrong with this picture?
Ian Woollard
2010-05-31 00:14:57 UTC
Permalink
On 31/05/2010, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> As to regular deletion, an admin is assessing
> arguments and consensus at an AfD, and, if doing this well, doesn't
> delete unless there is consensus for it, or, alternatively, the
> arguments are clear and evidenced.

Actually it's not supposed to be about consensus at AFD.

If you use consensus it's far, far too easy to stuff the vote; people
can email their friends or use socks, and in common cases it's almost
completely undetectable.

Too many AFDs I've seen, in practice, work as a straight vote; that
just doesn't work at all.

That's why it's supposed to be about who has identified the valid
policy for deletion or keeping it. You can't stuff the vote by
identifying valid policy.

--
-Ian Woollard
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 01:49:49 UTC
Permalink
At 08:14 PM 5/30/2010, Ian Woollard wrote:
>On 31/05/2010, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> > As to regular deletion, an admin is assessing
> > arguments and consensus at an AfD, and, if doing this well, doesn't
> > delete unless there is consensus for it, or, alternatively, the
> > arguments are clear and evidenced.
>
>Actually it's not supposed to be about consensus at AFD.
>
>If you use consensus it's far, far too easy to stuff the vote; people
>can email their friends or use socks, and in common cases it's almost
>completely undetectable.
>
>Too many AFDs I've seen, in practice, work as a straight vote; that
>just doesn't work at all.
>
>That's why it's supposed to be about who has identified the valid
>policy for deletion or keeping it. You can't stuff the vote by
>identifying valid policy.

Of course. Wikipedia is a bit schizophrenic about this. If it's not
consensus, why is canvassing prohibited? Surely that would simply be
soliciting better arguments, and getting a multiplicity of arguments
that arent' better would simply irritate the closing admin!

The policies and guidelines, however, supposedly represent consensus.
A good closing admin explains the application of policy, and will
then hear arguments from editors to reverse the decision, with
equanimity, and at a certain point may say, well, there is DRV if you
continue to disagree. And will then stay out of DRV, where there is a
different closing admin.

Plus you go to the deleting admin and ask for the article to be
userfied, and the admin might suggest it. "If you'd like to improve
the article so that it might meet standards, I can place a copy in
your user space. Would you like me to do that." Most, I'd say from my
experience, will do it on request, unless it's actually illegal
content. Or they will email wikitext. If a deleting admin cooperates
as possible, it defuses personalization of the decision, it's just an
opinion. You know that you've run in to an attached administrator
with a personal axe to grind if he or she refuses, saying that the
topic could never possibly be appropriate and the text is pure
garbage. Even if it's true, that would be a gratuitous insult!
Rather, a good admin might point to the relevant policies and suggest
a careful review.

And then bug out, having done the job well. *Even if he's wrong.*

A full discussion of Wikipedia practice would take a tome, that's
part of the problem.... by refusing to develop better and more
specific guidelines, Wikipedia tossed it all in the air, and nobody
really knows what to expect. That's a formula for endless conflict,
not for the flexibility that has been imagined will result.
Flexibility is a part of any good administrative system, in common
law it's called "public policy," which trumps otherwise expected
decision. But nobody is punished for violating "public policy," in
same systems, only for violations that could be anticipated
reasonably. Punishing people for doing what "they should have known"
when Wikipedia avoided documenting this is often quite unjust, and is
why modern criminal codes generally don't allow ex-post-facto laws
that punish. Wikipedia is back in the dark ages in some respects.

And developing thos cleare guidelines is largely impossible because
of the distributed decision-making structure. The Wikipedia community
painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
can find the exits, the paths to fix it. Maybe. I have some ideas,
but few want to hear about it. I'm not even bothering on-wiki any
more, which was apparently a desired result for some. Personally, I'm
grateful, it's freed up a lot of energy. And then I can edit some
random article whenever I notice something, but I'm not likely to
invest major work in a topic where I have expertise, it's too
dangerous a place to put that. I'm having much more fun elsewhere.
And I can watch the mess and sit back and say, not only "I told you
so," but, "I did everything I could to point this problem out." And I
feel that I did. I've watched the community, in a few cases, adopt as
consensus what I'd proposed to jeers and boos, there is some
satisfaction in that....
Charles Matthews
2010-05-31 06:43:28 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> The Wikipedia community
> painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
> can find the exits, the paths to fix it.
As this discussion illustrates rather well, the argument "if you want to
fix A, you'd have to start by fixing B (my pet gripe) first" is
routinely deployed, making for an infinite regress in some cases, and in
others the generation of suggestions that are rather clearly
counterproductive for fixing A, whatever they may do for B. In the real
world, if you want people to do thankless and time-consuming tasks for
you for no money, and much criticism, you have to rely on something more
than "be sure that you'll be told if we don't like you and what you do".

Charles
Marc Riddell
2010-05-31 12:42:40 UTC
Permalink
> Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>> The Wikipedia community
>> painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
>> can find the exits, the paths to fix it.

on 5/31/10 2:43 AM, Charles Matthews at ***@ntlworld.com
wrote:

> As this discussion illustrates rather well, the argument "if you want to
> fix A, you'd have to start by fixing B (my pet gripe) first" is
> routinely deployed, making for an infinite regress in some cases, and in
> others the generation of suggestions that are rather clearly
> counterproductive for fixing A, whatever they may do for B. In the real
> world, if you want people to do thankless and time-consuming tasks for
> you for no money, and much criticism, you have to rely on something more
> than "be sure that you'll be told if we don't like you and what you do".

Yes. And thank you, Charles. Once again this points out the fact that, with
the Foundation, we are dealing with a group of persons who don't have a clue
how to deal with people who they see as being out of their universe-of-one.
In fact, they appear to regard the Wikipedia Community as a necessary evil.

Marc Riddell
David Gerard
2010-05-31 15:04:36 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010 13:42, Marc Riddell <***@comcast.net> wrote:

> Yes. And thank you, Charles. Once again this points out the fact that, with
> the Foundation, we are dealing with a group of persons who don't have a clue
> how to deal with people who they see as being out of their universe-of-one.
> In fact, they appear to regard the Wikipedia Community as a necessary evil.


I urge you to go back and actually read the discussion, and you will
see that you are the only person to mention the Foundation and we're
actually talking about the Wikipedia community here. Then you will be
less likely to post responses that look like keyword-triggered
cut'n'paste.


- d.
Charles Matthews
2010-05-31 15:19:11 UTC
Permalink
David Gerard wrote:
> On 31 May 2010 13:42, Marc Riddell <***@comcast.net> wrote:
>
>
>> Yes. And thank you, Charles. Once again this points out the fact that, with
>> the Foundation, we are dealing with a group of persons who don't have a clue
>> how to deal with people who they see as being out of their universe-of-one.
>> In fact, they appear to regard the Wikipedia Community as a necessary evil.
>>
>
>
> I urge you to go back and actually read the discussion, and you will
> see that you are the only person to mention the Foundation and we're
> actually talking about the Wikipedia community here. Then you will be
> less likely to post responses that look like keyword-triggered
> cut'n'paste.
>
>
Actually, the Wikipedia community is in a sense a "necessary evil".
Without it, WP would be just another underpowered, well-meaning website.
With it, people who are not natural collaborators work together
effectively, if not without friction.

But the reply I made was contra being painted into a corner (singular
issue), and in favour of an analysis of the actual problem. I see
[[Blind men and an elephant]] is an article. I won't go further in
Marc's direction than saying that our discussions can seem sometimes
like a post-mortem to that parable, with everyone saying, "you know, I
still think I was right along". But the remedies - for a bigger picture
- have the disadvantages of requiring a great deal of investment of
time. I believe I have tried a number of those, without yet getting a
complete view of the elephant.

Charles
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 22:57:59 UTC
Permalink
At 11:19 AM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>[...] remedies - for a bigger picture
>- have the disadvantages of requiring a great deal of investment of
>time. I believe I have tried a number of those, without yet getting a
>complete view of the elephant.

Right. Sensible. There is a solution to that, which is structured
discussion and investigation. Deliberative process, where each issue
involved is examined carefully. Yes. It takes a lot of time, but with
good structure, it's a collective effort and very practical. Without
good structure, it's basically impossible. And what we get is one
effort after another, never completely examined, rejected or fought
over without ever finding true consensus, which represents, in the
end, much more "waste of time," whereas effort to find consensus,
done intelligently -- which often requires some skilled facilitation
or process assistance -- isn't wasted. It builds something that will last.

The blind men can come up with a complete description of the elephant
if they trust each other's good faith, and move around just a little
bit, so that each one gets more than one "view." It is only when they
insist that their own experience must be all-encompassing that they
fail to grasp the truth.

What do you get when you can see from more than one point of view at a time?
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 22:57:59 UTC
Permalink
At 11:19 AM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>[...] remedies - for a bigger picture
>- have the disadvantages of requiring a great deal of investment of
>time. I believe I have tried a number of those, without yet getting a
>complete view of the elephant.

Right. Sensible. There is a solution to that, which is structured
discussion and investigation. Deliberative process, where each issue
involved is examined carefully. Yes. It takes a lot of time, but with
good structure, it's a collective effort and very practical. Without
good structure, it's basically impossible. And what we get is one
effort after another, never completely examined, rejected or fought
over without ever finding true consensus, which represents, in the
end, much more "waste of time," whereas effort to find consensus,
done intelligently -- which often requires some skilled facilitation
or process assistance -- isn't wasted. It builds something that will last.

The blind men can come up with a complete description of the elephant
if they trust each other's good faith, and move around just a little
bit, so that each one gets more than one "view." It is only when they
insist that their own experience must be all-encompassing that they
fail to grasp the truth.

What do you get when you can see from more than one point of view at a time?
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 17:05:20 UTC
Permalink
At 02:43 AM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> > The Wikipedia community
> > painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
> > can find the exits, the paths to fix it.
>As this discussion illustrates rather well, the argument "if you want to
>fix A, you'd have to start by fixing B (my pet gripe) first" is
>routinely deployed, making for an infinite regress in some cases, and in
>others the generation of suggestions that are rather clearly
>counterproductive for fixing A, whatever they may do for B. In the real
>world, if you want people to do thankless and time-consuming tasks for
>you for no money, and much criticism, you have to rely on something more
>than "be sure that you'll be told if we don't like you and what you do".

Eh? Is this coherent?

Who is the "you" who wants "people" to do thankless tasks?

What is the "pet gripe" in the discussion?

What is being discussed is "declining numbers of EN wiki admins," and
how to address it. In that, surely it is appropriate and even
necessary to examine the entire administrative structure, both how
admin privileges are created and how they are removed.

So "A" here would be declining numbers. "B," then, must be the
difficulty of removal, which leads to stronger standards for
accepting admins in the first place, which leads to declining
applications and denial of some applications that might have been just fine.

There is no evidence that there are declining applications because of
fear of being criticized as an adminstrator, and the numbers of admin
removals are trivial, so Charles is expressing a fear that is
imaginary. If it were easier to gain tools and still difficult to
lose them unless you disregard guidelines and consensus, there would
be no loss of applications, there would be a gain. A large gain.

What I'm seeing here, indeed, is an illustration of the problem. The
attitude that Charles expresses is clearly part of the problem, and
Charles is suggesting no solutions but perhaps one of ridiculing and
rejecting all the suggestions for change.
Charles Matthews
2010-05-31 17:35:25 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> At 02:43 AM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>> Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
>> > The Wikipedia community
>> > painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
>> > can find the exits, the paths to fix it.
>> As this discussion illustrates rather well, the argument "if you want to
>> fix A, you'd have to start by fixing B (my pet gripe) first" is
>> routinely deployed, making for an infinite regress in some cases, and in
>> others the generation of suggestions that are rather clearly
>> counterproductive for fixing A, whatever they may do for B. In the real
>> world, if you want people to do thankless and time-consuming tasks for
>> you for no money, and much criticism, you have to rely on something more
>> than "be sure that you'll be told if we don't like you and what you do".
>
> Eh? Is this coherent?
>
> Who is the "you" who wants "people" to do thankless tasks?
>
> What is the "pet gripe" in the discussion?
>
> What is being discussed is "declining numbers of EN wiki admins," and
> how to address it. In that, surely it is appropriate and even
> necessary to examine the entire administrative structure, both how
> admin privileges are created and how they are removed.
>
> So "A" here would be declining numbers. "B," then, must be the
> difficulty of removal, which leads to stronger standards for accepting
> admins in the first place, which leads to declining applications and
> denial of some applications that might have been just fine.
>
> There is no evidence that there are declining applications because of
> fear of being criticized as an adminstrator, and the numbers of admin
> removals are trivial, so Charles is expressing a fear that is
> imaginary. If it were easier to gain tools and still difficult to lose
> them unless you disregard guidelines and consensus, there would be no
> loss of applications, there would be a gain. A large gain.
Actually, most people who don't apply as an admin just don't apply. They
don't generate "evidence" one way or another. It is a perfectly sensible
attitude for a well-adjusted Wikipedian getting on with article work not
to want to be involved in admin work. There are editors on the site who
make the lives of those who cross them miserable: and an admin has the
choice of avoiding such editors, or getting in the way of abuse. My
expressed fear is very far from "imaginary". You put your head above the
parapet, you may get shot at, precisely for acting in good faith and
according to your own judgement in awkward situations.

What follows that seems to be a non sequitur. It was not what I was
arguing at all.
>
> What I'm seeing here, indeed, is an illustration of the problem. The
> attitude that Charles expresses is clearly part of the problem, and
> Charles is suggesting no solutions but perhaps one of ridiculing and
> rejecting all the suggestions for change.
>
Ah, but this is in line: "Charles's attitude" becomes something that
must be fixed before recruiting more people to stand for adminship. I
was actually commenting on the thread, not the issue. We should examine
this sort of solution, amongst others: identify WikiProjects with few
admins relative to their activity, and suggest they should look for
candidates.

Charles
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 18:46:49 UTC
Permalink
These are issues that I've been thinking about for almost thirty
years, and with Wikipedia, intensively, for almost three years
specifically (and as to on-line process, for over twenty years). So
my comments get long. If that's a problem for you, don't read it.

At 01:35 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:

>Actually, most people who don't apply as an admin just don't apply.

With ten million registered editors and a handful of RfAs, that's obvious.

> They
>don't generate "evidence" one way or another. It is a perfectly sensible
>attitude for a well-adjusted Wikipedian getting on with article work not
>to want to be involved in admin work.

Sure. However, there is a minority who are *not* "well-adjusted" who
would seek adminship for personal power. Some of these will have
revealed this in their editing patterns, others will not. Some have
been vanished editors who returned, knowing now how to behave so as
to be approved. It's not at all difficult. And then there are others,
probably the majority of problem admins, who started out with the
best of intentions, but, quite naturally, developed their own idea of
what is best for an "encyclopedia." That idea isn't the problem, it
is when the admin starts using tools to enforce it and control others
to that *personal* end. Definitely, it's hard to tell this apart from
"enforcing" consensus. However, one difference is that genuine
consensus doesn't need personal enforcement. When an admin starts to
think of himself herself as the lone stopgap against a wave of
POV-pushing and fancruft, for example, there is a sign that it's not
consensus being enforced, but a personal view.

If the administrative community were not so ready to circle the
wagons to defend individual administrators against charges of abuse,
almost knee-jerk, just because they are administrators, and if
"sactions" on administrators could be efficiently determined that
would not toss out the baby with the bathwater, it wouldn't be such a
problem. How many times has the community effectively told an
administrator to avoid blocked a certain set of editors or using
tools in a certain area? ArbComm does it, but that's a high-level
remedy and unworkable, it should be reserved for cases where there is
a genuine split in the community.

> There are editors on the site who
>make the lives of those who cross them miserable: and an admin has the
>choice of avoiding such editors, or getting in the way of abuse.

And there are administrators who do this even more effectively. I
find it difficult to understand how an "editor" or even an
administrator on the site could make my life "miserable." An admin
can block me, and that has no power over my "life." Genuine off-wiki
harassment, sure, but often what has passed for that has been mere
criticism. To "make the life of an administrator miserable," on-wiki,
requires visible actions. Why would we assume that this would be
invisible, but the complaints against the admin would be visible?

One of the problems is that issues get linked, instead of being
resolved separately, even though separation is possible. Admin A
blocks editor B abusively. B complains, and then what is considered
is if B was violating guidelines, not whether or not the block was
abusive. If editor B was violating behavioral guidelines, B's
behavior should be examined through normal process for that, and
blocking is only a temporarily protective measure. An abusive block
is not an "incorrect" block, it is one that is done in a disruptive
way, most commonly because the admin is actually involved in a
dispute with the editor. For one side of a dispute to block the other
side is disruptive and, indeed, it creates enemies, and sometimes
causes whole factions to beging fighting. Incorrect blocks can be
easily fixed. It's abusive blocks that are the problem.

> My
>expressed fear is very far from "imaginary". You put your head above the
>parapet, you may get shot at, precisely for acting in good faith and
>according to your own judgement in awkward situations.

Sure. That's true everywhere in life. We expect administrators to
understand how to use their tools without involvement. If they fail,
they should be corrected. If they refuse to accept the correction, or
show that they don't understand it, and are therefore likely to be
disruptive in their use of tools, then the tools should be removed.
General wiki principles would make this easy, with escalation to
broader consideration when conflict persists.

One of the blatant manifestations of the problem is that there are
administrators who have openly argued against recusal policy, and who
have defended administrators who clearly violated it, and, even
worse, who have attacked editors who challenged recusal failure.
Those are administrators who are violating community consensus and
ArbComm decisions, which have many times confirmed recusal policy,
and they cannot be expected to voluntarily abstain from such
violations. Therefore their tools should be subject to suspension
until they assure the community that they will respect recusal
policy, which is *essential* for a neutral project, and neutrality is
a fundamental policy.

Some of these same administrators have also argued against neutrality
policy and against the concept and value of consensus. Again, there
is an obvious problem. These arguments and the position behind them
is a minority position on Wikipedia, and it seems that the minority
becomes smaller as a percentage with the size of the discussion
(whereas I've seen it appear as a two-thirds majority or even higher
in relatively isolated discussions). I.e., it's a position found
preferentially among an active core, and I can suspect that Wikipedia
process overall has been abusive enough that the active core has been
filtered so that *actually neutral* editors have been leaving, frustrated.

Bad administrators isn't the essence of the Wikipedia problem. Poor
process is. The adhocracy that was set up was misleading, because it
was highly efficient at generating vast amounts of content that --
sort of -- seemed to improve itself. It did improve itself, but often
not in areas where there is significant controversy in the real
world. "Neutrality" is not "majority point of view," but even to
recognise a majority point of view and to distinguish it from
neutrality can require some sympathy for minority points of view. The
only solution I see is full-blown consensus process, but most
Wikipedia editors have no real experience with that, and it's not
encouraged, because it requires a *lot* of discussion, in the real world.

I've suggested, then, that consensus be formed, tentatively,
off-wiki, through voluntary participation, and then imported on-wiki
for final confirmation that it really represents consensus (or it's
rejected, goes back for more negotiation). That is like committee
process. You'd think it might be done on-wiki, and, indeed it could,
except that there are major elements that strongly oppose the kinds
of discussion that are necessary. They can be voluminous, but key
would be that they would take place in a deliberative environment,
where actual decisions get made and are modified with the goal of
increasing consensus. This isn't mere "discussion," and merely
discussion can actually poison it. It generally takes some kind of
facilitation by someone skilled at that.

>What follows that seems to be a non sequitur. It was not what I was
>arguing at all.
> >
> > What I'm seeing here, indeed, is an illustration of the problem. The
> > attitude that Charles expresses is clearly part of the problem, and
> > Charles is suggesting no solutions but perhaps one of ridiculing and
> > rejecting all the suggestions for change.

That was a personal judgment, and the core of it was "suggesting no
solutions." If Charles is suggesting solutions, fine. What are they?
Now, I do see one below, so I was incorrect. I'll get to that.

>Ah, but this is in line: "Charles's attitude" becomes something that
>must be fixed before recruiting more people to stand for adminship.

No, Charles is just one person. And it is not the province of
Wikipedia, the Wikipedia community, nor myself, to "fix Charles's
attitude. Charles does not need to change for more people to be
recruited, unless, somehow, Charles is in charge of Wikipedia. Is he?
(He isn't claiming to be, but there can be a subtle "we" vs "they"
which arises, where "we" supposedly represents the community, in the
mind of a writer, and the writer identifies with it, and "they" is
the others, the outsiders, the interlopers, the people who don't
understand, the disruptive.

But this attitude, shared by many, is part of the problem. Whose
problem? Well, it's the community's problem and the foundation's
problem, and it's up to those who have the problem to fix it. But the
only one who can fix Charles's attitude is Charles. It cannot be
coerced, period. One of the errors that ArbComm has made is to assume
that it can modify an editor's attitude by sanctioning the editor.
And it's shocked, shocked, when it doesn't work. Only someone
seriously attached to editing Wikipedia can be coerced in that way.
I.e, the very people that, in fact, might be harming the project. The
attitude itself won't be changed, but the person will pretend
compliance in order not to be blocked, so they can continue their
"important work." It's important because they are attached.
Sometimes, of course, their attachment is merely to creating things
of beauty, and it's helpful. I'm not condemning these people!

>I
>was actually commenting on the thread, not the issue. We should examine
>this sort of solution, amongst others: identify WikiProjects with few
>admins relative to their activity, and suggest they should look for
>candidates.

That's fine, and, in fact, I agree with it. But it is only part of
the solution. Given this, I apoligize for the implication that
Charles was not suggesting solutions. On the other hand, my
observation is that many Wikiprojects are completely dead. They can't
seem to get active participants, much less people willing to stand,
under present conditions, for adminship.

I see many, many signs that the project is in serious decline. If
flagged revisions is widely adopted and used for articles, it is
possible that the encyclopedia can still be maintained with far fewer
editors active. But, then, the possibility of these editors being
biased increases.

Generally, I suggesting backing up and starting to look at the *whole
problem.* How can a neutral and complete encyclopedia be created and
maintained? We have much experience from what has come down.
Rationally, this could allow us to come up with a much better design
than came together like Topsy when Wikipedia was founded and grew.
But not if those elements who are preferentially empowered under the
present structure do what such elements always do in organizations
like Wikipedia: act to preserve their own power. That isn't simply
"power hunger," there is a genuine "good faith" belief behind much of
it, a belief that, as the most active participants, they know best.
It is a classic problem. Solutions to that problem have been my
long-term interest, as some of you may know. There are solutions, but
I've never seen them arise in a community that has become
established. They either muddle along or they collapse, but, either
way, they are routinely far less effective than they would be with
better structure. Only if a community is founded by people who
understand how to create structure that will function with genuine
consensus in the long term, have I seen it accomplished. Those people
are effectively creating something greater than their own individual opinions.

With Wikipedia, though, if the problem of efficiently finding
consensus isn't resolved, it has failed in its primary goal. It may
have an encyclopedia, all right, but it won't be neutral.

I'm completely unconvinced that the Wikipedia community is capable of
addressing the problems. I differ from many others at Wikipedia
Review, though, in that I'm willing to try, to describe the problem
and advocate solutions. I don't do that on Wikipedia any more,
because it is clearly unwelcome and the very effort leads to
sanctions. If I thought, however, that advocacy would be effective
there, I'd do it, because I don't care about sanctions at all. I just
don't want to waste my time.
Charles Matthews
2010-05-31 19:14:02 UTC
Permalink
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> At 01:35 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>
>> Actually, most people who don't apply as an admin just don't apply.
>
> With ten million registered editors and a handful of RfAs, that's
> obvious.
>
>> They
>> don't generate "evidence" one way or another. It is a perfectly sensible
>> attitude for a well-adjusted Wikipedian getting on with article work not
>> to want to be involved in admin work.
>
> Sure. However, there is a minority who are *not* "well-adjusted" who
> would seek adminship for personal power.
Yes, and the first required quality for being given such power is not to
want it. Etc. But you were the one talking about getting painted into a
corner. The problem, as I have defined it, is of negative voting. The
sheer suspicion of those who apparently want the mop-and-bucket. (And
anyway, I obviously was using "well-adjusted" in the sense of "round peg
in a round hole", not as a comment on anything else.)

Charles
David Gerard
2010-05-31 19:28:33 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010 19:46, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:

> These are issues that I've been thinking about for almost thirty
> years, and with Wikipedia, intensively, for almost three years
> specifically (and as to on-line process, for over twenty years). So
> my comments get long. If that's a problem for you, don't read it.


... Has it really not occurred to you that *you're* trying to convince
*us* of something? In which case, conciseness is likely more useful
than defiant logorrhea ... Oh, never mind.


- d.
David Lindsey
2010-05-31 21:51:02 UTC
Permalink
The key is not making it easier to remove adminship. This proposal gets us
closer to the real problem, but fails to fully perceive it as does the
common call to separate the functions of adminship.

The real solution to the current (and relatively long-standing) problems
with RfA and adminship in general is the marriage of the "technical" side of
adminship with a "political" side, which is rarely acknowledged. Successful
reform will involve separating these two aspects, rather than the more
common idea to separate some technical pieces from others. The proposal
below is a bit lenghty, but it's the product of years of thought, and I
encourage you to read it. If you don't have the time, well then, the take
away point is that we should create a distinction between those
administrators trusted to intervene in highly-controversial areas and those
not so trusted.

The technical bits of adminship are, indeed, no big deal. With a large
community of administrators and an alert body of stewards, the possible
danger of obvious abuse of the administrator privileges is nearly zero. As
an illustration, in the heat of the recent dust-up on commons, an
administrator there "went rogue" and vandalized the main page. His edits
were reverted in less than a minute:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Main_Page&action=historysubmit&diff=38894158&oldid=38894141.
Even in an absolute worst-case scenario of administrator abuse (for example,
vandalizing the main page and then deleting a large number of pages with
just less than 5,000 revisions in an attempt to lock the servers, especially
abusive shenanigans in the MediaWiki namespace, or inserting malicious code
into monobooks), the damage done would be reversed in under 10 minutes.
Given this, it is highly improbable that any vandal/banned user would
attempt to gain administrator status solely for the purpose of carrying out
some such abuse. The danger comes from a compromised account or a higly
disaffected administrator, and neither of these possibilities can be headed
off by any level of standards at RfA, however high.

Why, then, has adminship become a big deal? Because in addition to the
purely technical functions of adminship, administrators also have a
political function. Administrators are often compared to janitors, but the
metaphor is highly flawed. Janitors empty the wastebins, but they don't
decide what should go in them. Many of the functions of adminship do not
carry a significant political component: blocking obvious vandals, most
instances of speedy deletion, fixing cut and paste moves, deleting old
userpages, straightforward AfD closures, etc. are simple instances where a
trusted user is needed to perform a technical function.

On the other hand, there are cases were administrator functions become
highly charged and political - in closing controversial AfDs, blocking in
many 3RR situations, and above all, in cases where some sort of intervention
is necessary against well-established users who have engaged in some sort of
unacceptable conduct. In these cases, the role of the administrator is
fraught and ambiguous. He is faced with highly political choices about how
to judge consensus, what course of action to take, etc. It is customary for
relatively new and inexperienced administrators to stay out of these
situations and leave the decision up to an administrator who has more
experience and, for that matter, for political weight within the Wikipedia
system.

The problem, though, is that there is no formal guidance of any kind as to
who should actually make such decisions. From a policy perspective, an
administrator sysopped last week has the same standing as someone with years
of service. More importantly, a long-standing administrator with a
reputation for more questionable judgment has exactly the same standing as a
long-standing administrator with a reputation for impeccable judgement.
There is no drawn by the community, except in the various most informal way,
to separate administrators who should intervene in highly controversial
situations from those who should not.

It is intervention in the highly controversial cases that causes problems
and allegations of abuse. Our concern is, or at least should be, primarily
in who is making highly controversial administrator judgements and on what
basis, not who is carrying out F5 speedy deletions or blocking obvious
vandals. Concern over these highly controversial judgements, because there
is no line separating those administrators who engage in them from those who
do not, is what has driven steadily escalating standards at RfA. We are
less concerned that a newly-appointed admin will prematurely block a vandal
without any warnings tomorrow, than that he will, in 12 months, block a
well-established user for the wrong reasons after a heated debate at ANI.
In other words, the problem is that RfA is being asked to make a judgment
that should not be made at RfA.

What we need, then, is not a way to desysop more easily, but rather a way to
delineate highly-charged and controversial administrator actions, and the
administrators qualified to perform them, from uncontroversial administrator
actions, and the administrators qualified to perform them. I will not
presume to provide a full criteria for what separates controversial from
uncontroversial administrator actions, but I would suggest something along
the lines of the following. Controversial: Arbitration enforcement actions,
blocks of established users for any reason other than suspicion of account
compromise, close of AfDs where the consensus is not clear (this of course
becomes itself a murky distinction, but could be well enough set apart),
reversal of the actions of another administrator except when those actions
are plainly abusive. Non-controversial: All others.

As for deciding which administrators are qualified to make decisions in the
most controversial areas, I would suggest that we already have a group of
people, the bureaucrats, in whose judgement the community has expressed
particularly high confidence. I would propose that the bureaucrats become
the group who are expected to undertake the controversial administrator
actions; this would almost certainly entail some expansion of the current
bureaucrat pool, but personally I like the idea of tying the controversial
administrator actions to the ability to promote administrators - it
underlines their seriousness, and at present, the bureaucrats do not have
many functions. If, however ,the community is unwilling to combine the two
groups, another group, say "sub-bureaucrats" could be created, but I must
emphasize the importance of a bright-line distinction between those
administrators trusted to perform highly controversial tasks and those not
trusted to do so. Obviously, the ordinary administrators would still have
the technical ability to intervene in the highly controversial areas, but
doing so would obviously entail serious consequences or desysopping.

This brings up a final point: the issue of administrators with insufficient
knowledge to appropriately follow policy on, for example, speedy deletion.
I firmly believe that if we separate the political and non-political aspects
of adminship, this becomes less of an issue. While an administrator taking
the wrong course in a controversial area is akin to a janitor, who is
empowered to decide what to throw out, deciding to throw away your important
papers because he doubts their importance, the mistakes of lack of policy
knowledge and inexperience are more like a janitor who, because he doesnt'
know any better, throws away the recycling and attempts to recycle the
rubbish. The second category of mistake is more easily rectified. The old
idea, of some sort of mentoring for new administrators, does nothing about
the political aspects of adminship (making controversial decisions) which is
why it has failed in the past, but it is a perfect solution to the problem
of inexperience/ignorance. New administrators who do not have a full grasp
of the speedy deletion policy, or the blocking policy for vandals, or the
criteria for granting autoreviewer status would be encouraged, perhaps
through a formal process, to get up to speed on those areas by a more
experienced mentor. If we carry through this proposal, there is every
reason to believe that the crowd at RfA would be much more willing to
promote more candidates and the process would become much less grueling.
Our shortage of people to perform technical tasks could be easily reduced,
if not eliminated.

This proposal is not process creep or the introduction of unneeded
bureaucracy. It is also not an answer in search of a problem. There is
clear acknowledgement that we have a problem, and this solution is a
minimalist one. As I have proposed it, it simply takes advantage of an
existing process (RfB) and group of users (bureaucrats) and would require
only minimal amendments to policy, setting aside those areas of
administrator conduct that are highly controversial and requiring that only
bureaucrats act in those areas.
David Goodman
2010-05-31 22:11:15 UTC
Permalink
Administrators differ in competence, and perhaps even in
trustworthiness, but I think experience has shown that not even the
most experienced and trusted of all will always correctly interpret
the view of the community, and that nobody whomsoever can really trust
himself or be trusted by others to be free from bias. I see no reason
to think that the long-term administrators are any more likely to show
neutrality or a proper self-perception as the newer ones. If anything,
they are more likely to have an over-extensive bview of the centrality
of their own ideas. Consequently, I think there is no other basis
by which any administrator can make a decision except by consensus,
implied or express . For those who are willing to read beyond the
first paragraph:

in general I do not think it is the business of the closer to decide
between conflicting policies. Their job is to discard arguments not
based on any policy, or, sometimes, by SPAs, and then judge consensus.
The questions asked at RfAdmin are enough to identify admins who know
enough to tell what is policy and what is not, as long as things don't
get too complicated. It is not enough to identify admins who
understand all policies well enough to judge which of conflicting ones
to apply, or how to interpret them in difficult situations. A good
thing, too, or we'd have chaos, because none of us agrees for all of
that. The only people here competent to judge conflicting content
policies or how to interpret them are the interested members of the
community as a whole, acting in good faith. It is by the community's
express consensus that BLP and Copyright trump other policies if the
situation is unambiguous. But how the BLP and copyright policies are
to be interpreted and applied in any particular instance is a question
for the community, not individual administrators.

The assumption in closing is that after discarding non-arguments, the
consensus view will be the correct one, and that any neutral admin
would agree. Thus there is in theory no difference between closing per
the majority and closing per the strongest argument. But when there is
a real dispute on what argument is relevant, the closer is not to
decide between them , but close according to what most people in the
discussion say. If the closer has a strong view on the matter, he
should join the argument instead of closing, and try to affect
consensus that way. I (and almost all other admins) have closed keep
when we personally would have preferred delete, and vice-versa. .

When admins delete by Speedy, it is on the assumption that what they
are doing is so unambiguous that the community has given implied
consensus in advance. If someone challenges this is good faith, the
proper response is to simply send the article for AfD, and find out
the express consensus.

If I wanted a place where my view of proper content would prevail, I'd
start a blog or become an editor of some conventional publication.


On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 5:51 PM, David Lindsey <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> The key is not making it easier to remove adminship.  This proposal gets us
> closer to the real problem, but fails to fully perceive it as does the
> common call to separate the functions of adminship.
>
> The real solution to the current (and relatively long-standing) problems
> with RfA and adminship in general is the marriage of the "technical" side of
> adminship with a "political" side, which is rarely acknowledged.  Successful
> reform will involve separating these two aspects, rather than the more
> common idea to separate some technical pieces from others.  The proposal
> below is a bit lenghty, but it's the product of years of thought, and I
> encourage you to read it.  If you don't have the time, well then, the take
> away point is that we should create a distinction between those
> administrators trusted to intervene in highly-controversial areas and those
> not so trusted.
>
> The technical bits of adminship are, indeed, no big deal.  With a large
> community of administrators and an alert body of stewards, the possible
> danger of obvious abuse of the administrator privileges is nearly zero.  As
> an illustration, in the heat of the recent dust-up on commons, an
> administrator there "went rogue" and vandalized the main page.  His edits
> were reverted in less than a minute:
> http://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Main_Page&action=historysubmit&diff=38894158&oldid=38894141.
> Even in an absolute worst-case scenario of administrator abuse (for example,
> vandalizing the main page and then deleting a large number of pages with
> just less than 5,000 revisions in an attempt to lock the servers, especially
> abusive shenanigans in the MediaWiki namespace, or inserting malicious code
> into monobooks), the damage done would be reversed in under 10 minutes.
> Given this, it is highly improbable that any vandal/banned user would
> attempt to gain administrator status solely for the purpose of carrying out
> some such abuse.  The danger comes from a compromised account or a higly
> disaffected administrator, and neither of these possibilities can be headed
> off by any level of standards at RfA, however high.
>
> Why, then, has adminship become a big deal?  Because in addition to the
> purely technical functions of adminship, administrators also have a
> political function.  Administrators are often compared to janitors, but the
> metaphor is highly flawed.  Janitors empty the wastebins, but they don't
> decide what should go in them.  Many of the functions of adminship do not
> carry a significant political component: blocking obvious vandals, most
> instances of speedy deletion, fixing cut and paste moves, deleting old
> userpages, straightforward AfD closures, etc. are simple instances where a
> trusted user is needed to perform a technical function.
>
> On the other hand, there are cases were administrator functions become
> highly charged and political - in closing controversial AfDs, blocking in
> many 3RR situations, and above all, in cases where some sort of intervention
> is necessary against well-established users who have engaged in some sort of
> unacceptable conduct.  In these cases, the role of the administrator is
> fraught and ambiguous.  He is faced with highly political choices about how
> to judge consensus, what course of action to take, etc.  It is customary for
> relatively new and inexperienced administrators to stay out of these
> situations and leave the decision up to an administrator who has more
> experience and, for that matter, for political weight within the Wikipedia
> system.
>
> The problem, though, is that there is no formal guidance of any kind as to
> who should actually make such decisions.  From a policy perspective, an
> administrator sysopped last week has the same standing as someone with years
> of service.  More importantly, a long-standing administrator with a
> reputation for more questionable judgment has exactly the same standing as a
> long-standing administrator with a reputation for impeccable judgement.
> There is no drawn by the community, except in the various most informal way,
> to separate administrators who should intervene in highly controversial
> situations from those who should not.
>
> It is intervention in the highly controversial cases that causes problems
> and allegations of abuse.  Our concern is, or at least should be, primarily
> in who is making highly controversial administrator judgements and on what
> basis, not who is carrying out F5 speedy deletions or blocking obvious
> vandals.  Concern over these highly controversial judgements, because there
> is no line separating those administrators who engage in them from those who
> do not, is what has driven steadily escalating standards at RfA.  We are
> less concerned that a newly-appointed admin will prematurely block a vandal
> without any warnings tomorrow, than that he will, in 12 months, block a
> well-established user for the wrong reasons after a heated debate at ANI.
> In other words, the problem is that RfA is being asked to make a judgment
> that should not be made at RfA.
>
> What we need, then, is not a way to desysop more easily, but rather a way to
> delineate highly-charged and controversial administrator actions, and the
> administrators qualified to perform them, from uncontroversial administrator
> actions, and the administrators qualified to perform them.  I will not
> presume to provide a full criteria for what separates controversial from
> uncontroversial administrator actions, but I would suggest something along
> the lines of the following.  Controversial: Arbitration enforcement actions,
> blocks of established users for any reason other than suspicion of account
> compromise, close of AfDs where the consensus is not clear (this of course
> becomes itself a murky distinction, but could be well enough set apart),
> reversal of the actions of another administrator except when those actions
> are plainly abusive.  Non-controversial: All others.
>
> As for deciding which administrators are qualified to make decisions in the
> most controversial areas, I would suggest that we already have a group of
> people, the bureaucrats, in whose judgement the community has expressed
> particularly high confidence.  I would propose that the bureaucrats become
> the group who are expected to undertake the controversial administrator
> actions; this would almost certainly entail some expansion of the current
> bureaucrat pool, but personally I like the idea of tying the controversial
> administrator actions to the ability to promote administrators - it
> underlines their seriousness, and at present, the bureaucrats do not have
> many functions.  If, however ,the community is unwilling to combine the two
> groups, another group, say "sub-bureaucrats" could be created, but I must
> emphasize the importance of a bright-line distinction between those
> administrators trusted to perform highly controversial tasks and those not
> trusted to do so.  Obviously, the ordinary administrators would still have
> the technical ability to intervene in the highly controversial areas, but
> doing so would obviously entail serious consequences or desysopping.
>
> This brings up a final point: the issue of administrators with insufficient
> knowledge to appropriately follow policy on, for example, speedy deletion.
> I firmly believe that if we separate the political and non-political aspects
> of adminship, this becomes less of an issue.  While an administrator taking
> the wrong course in a controversial area is akin to a janitor, who is
> empowered to decide what to throw out, deciding to throw away your important
> papers because he doubts their importance, the mistakes of lack of policy
> knowledge and inexperience are more like a janitor who, because he doesnt'
> know any better, throws away the recycling and attempts to recycle the
> rubbish.  The second category of mistake is more easily rectified.  The old
> idea, of some sort of mentoring for new administrators, does nothing about
> the political aspects of adminship (making controversial decisions) which is
> why it has failed in the past, but it is a perfect solution to the problem
> of inexperience/ignorance.  New administrators who do not have a full grasp
> of the speedy deletion policy, or the blocking policy for vandals, or the
> criteria for granting autoreviewer status would be encouraged, perhaps
> through a formal process, to get up to speed on those areas by a more
> experienced mentor.  If we carry through this proposal, there is every
> reason to believe that the crowd at RfA would be much more willing to
> promote more candidates and the process would become much less grueling.
> Our shortage of people to perform technical tasks could be easily reduced,
> if not eliminated.
>
> This proposal is not process creep or the introduction of unneeded
> bureaucracy.  It is also not an answer in search of a problem.  There is
> clear acknowledgement that we have a problem, and this solution is a
> minimalist one.  As I have proposed it, it simply takes advantage of an
> existing process (RfB) and group of users (bureaucrats) and would require
> only minimal amendments to policy, setting aside those areas of
> administrator conduct that are highly controversial and requiring that only
> bureaucrats act in those areas.
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> WikiEN-***@lists.wikimedia.org
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
>



--
David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG
David Lindsey
2010-05-31 23:15:06 UTC
Permalink
I'm not quite sure if this responding to what I wrote or to other bits
above, but it seems in part to apply to what I said, so I will respond
accordingly. First of all, my proposal was not meant, in any sense, to
suggest supplanting consensus with the arbitrary judgement of bureaucrats.
To the contrary, it's meant to help capture consensus. The fact of the
matter is that, in contoversial matters (which are the ones where admins get
in trouble) it is difficult, by definition, to determine what the consensus
is. Bureaucrats are a group of users in whose ability to determine
consensus the community has expressed extraordinary confidence. Thus, they
are ideally placed to find the consensus in these difficult areas.

Secondly, there is often a legitimacy problem (more in user behavior related
areas than XfDs). If one administrator of no particular standing imposes a
block on someone, it appear less justified than if a user in whom the
community has expressed extra confidence does the same (though, to the
blocked user, both may well look illegitimate).

Third, and unrelatedly, I'd like to point out another advantage of what I
propose. Term limits on administrators are often proposed, but are utterly
impractical, in large part because we have over 1500 admins (not all active
of course). On the other hand, the number of people needed to help
determine consensus in particularly contentious areas is not likely to
exceed 50 or 60 people. It would be entirely practicable to term-limit a
group of this size.

On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 11:11 PM, David Goodman <***@gmail.com>wrote:
>
>> Administrators differ in competence, and perhaps even in
>> trustworthiness, but I think experience has shown that not even the
>> most experienced and trusted of all will always correctly interpret
>> the view of the community, and that nobody whomsoever can really trust
>> himself or be trusted by others to be free from bias. I see no reason
>> to think that the long-term administrators are any more likely to show
>> neutrality or a proper self-perception as the newer ones. If anything,
>> they are more likely to have an over-extensive bview of the centrality
>> of their own ideas. Consequently, I think there is no other basis
>> by which any administrator can make a decision except by consensus,
>> implied or express . For those who are willing to read beyond the
>> first paragraph:
>
>
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 23:53:08 UTC
Permalink
At 06:11 PM 5/31/2010, David Goodman wrote:
>The assumption in closing is that after discarding non-arguments, the
>consensus view will be the correct one, and that any neutral admin
>would agree. Thus there is in theory no difference between closing per
>the majority and closing per the strongest argument. But when there is
>a real dispute on what argument is relevant, the closer is not to
>decide between them , but close according to what most people in the
>discussion say. If the closer has a strong view on the matter, he
>should join the argument instead of closing, and try to affect
>consensus that way. I (and almost all other admins) have closed keep
>when we personally would have preferred delete, and vice-versa.

My argument has been similar on this. Wikitheory would suggest that
no admin should close a discussion with a result that the admin does
not agree with, so it does a little further than what David suggests.
I'd even say that an admin who, after reading the discussion and
reviewing the evidence, is neutral, *should not close.* If there is a
consensus, say, for Delete, and that represents true broader
consensus, surely there will be an admin who agrees to close.

I agree that if the admin has a strong opinion or general position
making it reasonably possible that the decision will be biased (some
people can actually discern this!) the admin should instead comment.
Generally, an admin who comments with a position should not then
return and close, I've seen this violated only a few times. With a
ban discussion actually, and it was a real problem, in my view.

And the reason for this is quite simple. The least disruptive way to
review a deletion is to ask the deleting administrator to reconsider
it. The theory suggests that the one who closes has the authority to
change the decision based on new evidence or argument. When an admin
closed on the basis of "consensus" purely, we have a closer who will
often refuse to change the decision because "the community made the
decision, not me."

But when the administrator is part of that community, and closed on
behalf of that community, the administrator represents it in changing
his mind, based on new additional evidence and argument. This can
avoid a lot of DRV discussions! I've seen it work, and I've also seen
the "not my decision" response.

The theory of the adhocracy that is Wikipedia depends on the
responsibility of the executives -- the editors and administrators
who act -- for their own decisions. No decisions are properly made by
voting, per se, most notably because there is a severe problem with
participation bias. If we wanted to use voting, we'd need quite a
different structure, which may be advisable, in fact, as a hybrid,
used where it's necessary for voting to represent true community
consensus. In an organization that is the size of Wikipedia, that
would almost certainly be some kind of elected representative body,
and there are ways to do this without actual "elections" as we know
them. Simple ways, in fact.

Short of that, we have the efficiency of ad hoc decision-making by
individual administrators, expected to self-select for initial neutrality.

I've seen closing admins change their mind and undelete based on new
evidence and argument, and a Delete voter in the AfD discussion got
upset that the admin was "defying consensus." But I"ve never seen
such a decision reversed at DRV, nor by a new AfD with a different
closer. Perhaps it's happened, but, if the admin was truly following
arguments and policy, it should be rare. Thus the disruption of
another discussion is avoided unless someone is really pissed and
pursues it, and, after a while, this can become obvious, such editors
don't last long, usually.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 23:53:08 UTC
Permalink
At 06:11 PM 5/31/2010, David Goodman wrote:
>The assumption in closing is that after discarding non-arguments, the
>consensus view will be the correct one, and that any neutral admin
>would agree. Thus there is in theory no difference between closing per
>the majority and closing per the strongest argument. But when there is
>a real dispute on what argument is relevant, the closer is not to
>decide between them , but close according to what most people in the
>discussion say. If the closer has a strong view on the matter, he
>should join the argument instead of closing, and try to affect
>consensus that way. I (and almost all other admins) have closed keep
>when we personally would have preferred delete, and vice-versa.

My argument has been similar on this. Wikitheory would suggest that
no admin should close a discussion with a result that the admin does
not agree with, so it does a little further than what David suggests.
I'd even say that an admin who, after reading the discussion and
reviewing the evidence, is neutral, *should not close.* If there is a
consensus, say, for Delete, and that represents true broader
consensus, surely there will be an admin who agrees to close.

I agree that if the admin has a strong opinion or general position
making it reasonably possible that the decision will be biased (some
people can actually discern this!) the admin should instead comment.
Generally, an admin who comments with a position should not then
return and close, I've seen this violated only a few times. With a
ban discussion actually, and it was a real problem, in my view.

And the reason for this is quite simple. The least disruptive way to
review a deletion is to ask the deleting administrator to reconsider
it. The theory suggests that the one who closes has the authority to
change the decision based on new evidence or argument. When an admin
closed on the basis of "consensus" purely, we have a closer who will
often refuse to change the decision because "the community made the
decision, not me."

But when the administrator is part of that community, and closed on
behalf of that community, the administrator represents it in changing
his mind, based on new additional evidence and argument. This can
avoid a lot of DRV discussions! I've seen it work, and I've also seen
the "not my decision" response.

The theory of the adhocracy that is Wikipedia depends on the
responsibility of the executives -- the editors and administrators
who act -- for their own decisions. No decisions are properly made by
voting, per se, most notably because there is a severe problem with
participation bias. If we wanted to use voting, we'd need quite a
different structure, which may be advisable, in fact, as a hybrid,
used where it's necessary for voting to represent true community
consensus. In an organization that is the size of Wikipedia, that
would almost certainly be some kind of elected representative body,
and there are ways to do this without actual "elections" as we know
them. Simple ways, in fact.

Short of that, we have the efficiency of ad hoc decision-making by
individual administrators, expected to self-select for initial neutrality.

I've seen closing admins change their mind and undelete based on new
evidence and argument, and a Delete voter in the AfD discussion got
upset that the admin was "defying consensus." But I"ve never seen
such a decision reversed at DRV, nor by a new AfD with a different
closer. Perhaps it's happened, but, if the admin was truly following
arguments and policy, it should be rare. Thus the disruption of
another discussion is avoided unless someone is really pissed and
pursues it, and, after a while, this can become obvious, such editors
don't last long, usually.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 23:34:26 UTC
Permalink
At 05:51 PM 5/31/2010, David Lindsey wrote:
>The key is not making it easier to remove adminship. This proposal gets us
>closer to the real problem, but fails to fully perceive it as does the
>common call to separate the functions of adminship.

Generally, Mr. Lindsey has written a cogent examination of certain
aspects of the problem. Let me reframe part of this. What is needed
is not exactly "making it easier to remove adminship," but making it
easier to regulate and restrain administrative action. His proposal
is one approach to that, dividing actions into types. I suggested
something *somewhat* similar in pointing out that bureaucrats were a
group that might be trusted to make decisions about use of admin
tools, i.e., to receive and judge, ad-hoc, complaints, and warn the
admin when it was considered there was a problem, or, in the extreme,
remove the tools.

Expanding the bureaucrat role is one fairly obvious and reasonable
solution, and it seems to work like this, with bureaucrats or
stewards, on the smaller wikis that don't have an ArbComm.

Given clear rules regarding recusal, when it's necessary, and when
it's not, and what to do if there is any reasonable possibility of an
appearance of bias, most admnistrators will quite properly restrain
themselves voluntarily.

However, I'm not necessarily exercised if a long-time user is
short-blocked, because a long-time user should understand it and see
it as no big deal. It all depends on how it's done. If a long-time
user engages in behavior that would cause a short-time user to be
blocked, what, exactly, is the problem with being blocked? If there
is a problem, if the user will go away mad, abandoning years of
effort because of one possibly bad block, there is, right there, a
sign of a serious problem, ownership of the project or of an article.
Maybe its time for that user to do something else. If it was a short
block, he or she can come back any time they want, after the block expires.

Short blocks are very different from longer blocks. Short blocks are
true police actions, equivalent to a sergeant-at-arms conducting a
disruptive member of an assembly from the room when they get too hot.
It's no big deal, and nobody is sanctioned for it, unless they truly
get violent in the process. If an admin blocks *any* user and abuses
the user in the process, without necessity, that's a problem, and
it's a problem even if the block was correct as a block.
Charles Matthews
2010-06-01 09:21:12 UTC
Permalink
David Lindsey wrote:
> What we need, then, is not a way to desysop more easily, but rather a way to
> delineate highly-charged and controversial administrator actions, and the
> administrators qualified to perform them, from uncontroversial administrator
> actions, and the administrators qualified to perform them. I will not
> presume to provide a full criteria for what separates controversial from
> uncontroversial administrator actions, but I would suggest something along
> the lines of the following. Controversial: Arbitration enforcement actions,
> blocks of established users for any reason other than suspicion of account
> compromise, close of AfDs where the consensus is not clear (this of course
> becomes itself a murky distinction, but could be well enough set apart),
> reversal of the actions of another administrator except when those actions
> are plainly abusive. Non-controversial: All others.
>
>
In other words, a two-tier system of admins. Against that, I really
think there is an area that should be thought through, just alluded to
there. The criteria for reversing another admin's actions do matter, and
it seems to me matter most.

Admin actions that can be reversed (i.e. technical use of buttons,
rather than interaction by dialogue) lack the sort of basic
classification we need: into situations of urgency and situations that
can wait; situations of key importance to the project (such as involve
harassment, for example), and those that can be treated as routine; and
into situations where consultation should be mandatory and those where a
second admin can use judgement to override. The fact that some people
might conflate those analyses illustrates the need to be more careful here.

I think this is something to untangle. We need to get to the bottom of
the community's fears about "overpowerful" admins, by talking through
and delineating what a single admin can expect to face in awkward
situations. I've never been in favour of restricting admin discretion,
which is really what is being proposed. We can't anticipate the
challenges the site will face (even though it may appear that there is
little innovation from vandals and trolls). I do think admins can be
held to account for their use of discretion. Right now it seems that a
piece of the puzzle is missing: admins don't know clearly how they stand
in relation to the actions of other admins.

Charles
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 14:32:58 UTC
Permalink
At 05:21 AM 6/1/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>I think this is something to untangle. We need to get to the bottom of
>the community's fears about "overpowerful" admins, by talking through
>and delineating what a single admin can expect to face in awkward
>situations.

Yes.

>I've never been in favour of restricting admin discretion,
>which is really what is being proposed.

It's not what I'm proposing. Discretion should be almost unlimited as
to primary action; however, there should be much better guidelines so
that admins can know what to expect. WP:IAR is a fundamental and very
important principle, but that doesn't negate that if one ignores
rules, one should be prepared to face criticism and be required to
explain why or face warning and possible suspension of privileges.

>We can't anticipate the
>challenges the site will face (even though it may appear that there is
>little innovation from vandals and trolls).

There are structural devices which can make vandalism and even
editorial review much more efficient, and there are trends in that
direction. When Wikipedia starts valuing editorial labor, and sets up
systems to make it more efficient and reliably effective, it may get
over the hump. I've suggested that it may be appropriate to start
channeling labor into what I've called "backstory," i.e.,
documentation of why an article is the way it is. Then, if a new
editor disagrees, that editor can quickly come up to speed on the
history, see all the arguments and evidence organized, and would not
be imprisoned by that, but rather might be encouraged, if some
argument there is defective, to show that, to expand the consensus
there. And then that can be taken back to the article. Articles
should not slide back and forth, that is incredibly wasteful. They
should grow, such that consensus is always that they have improved by
a change. Flagged revisions is a piece of this puzzle.

> I do think admins can be
>held to account for their use of discretion. Right now it seems that a
>piece of the puzzle is missing: admins don't know clearly how they stand
>in relation to the actions of other admins.

I developed, early on, a sense of how Wikipedia worked, and it made a
great deal of sense in terms of the organizational theory I was
familiar with. And then I discovered that only some administrators
seemed to understand it. Others believed that the structure was
something else. I saw no disruption coming from administrators who
understood the concepts that seemed obvious to me. It came from the
others. Recusal policy should be far more clear. But that's not the
first priority. The first priority is establishing consensus process
that is more efficient; the inefficiency discourages participation
and causes proposals that might actually help to go nowhere. "No consensus."

That should be a clear suggestion for "refer to committee." That's
what successful organizations do when faced with a problem where the
response is not clear. (And then committee composition and rules and
process become very important.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 14:32:58 UTC
Permalink
At 05:21 AM 6/1/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>I think this is something to untangle. We need to get to the bottom of
>the community's fears about "overpowerful" admins, by talking through
>and delineating what a single admin can expect to face in awkward
>situations.

Yes.

>I've never been in favour of restricting admin discretion,
>which is really what is being proposed.

It's not what I'm proposing. Discretion should be almost unlimited as
to primary action; however, there should be much better guidelines so
that admins can know what to expect. WP:IAR is a fundamental and very
important principle, but that doesn't negate that if one ignores
rules, one should be prepared to face criticism and be required to
explain why or face warning and possible suspension of privileges.

>We can't anticipate the
>challenges the site will face (even though it may appear that there is
>little innovation from vandals and trolls).

There are structural devices which can make vandalism and even
editorial review much more efficient, and there are trends in that
direction. When Wikipedia starts valuing editorial labor, and sets up
systems to make it more efficient and reliably effective, it may get
over the hump. I've suggested that it may be appropriate to start
channeling labor into what I've called "backstory," i.e.,
documentation of why an article is the way it is. Then, if a new
editor disagrees, that editor can quickly come up to speed on the
history, see all the arguments and evidence organized, and would not
be imprisoned by that, but rather might be encouraged, if some
argument there is defective, to show that, to expand the consensus
there. And then that can be taken back to the article. Articles
should not slide back and forth, that is incredibly wasteful. They
should grow, such that consensus is always that they have improved by
a change. Flagged revisions is a piece of this puzzle.

> I do think admins can be
>held to account for their use of discretion. Right now it seems that a
>piece of the puzzle is missing: admins don't know clearly how they stand
>in relation to the actions of other admins.

I developed, early on, a sense of how Wikipedia worked, and it made a
great deal of sense in terms of the organizational theory I was
familiar with. And then I discovered that only some administrators
seemed to understand it. Others believed that the structure was
something else. I saw no disruption coming from administrators who
understood the concepts that seemed obvious to me. It came from the
others. Recusal policy should be far more clear. But that's not the
first priority. The first priority is establishing consensus process
that is more efficient; the inefficiency discourages participation
and causes proposals that might actually help to go nowhere. "No consensus."

That should be a clear suggestion for "refer to committee." That's
what successful organizations do when faced with a problem where the
response is not clear. (And then committee composition and rules and
process become very important.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 23:34:26 UTC
Permalink
At 05:51 PM 5/31/2010, David Lindsey wrote:
>The key is not making it easier to remove adminship. This proposal gets us
>closer to the real problem, but fails to fully perceive it as does the
>common call to separate the functions of adminship.

Generally, Mr. Lindsey has written a cogent examination of certain
aspects of the problem. Let me reframe part of this. What is needed
is not exactly "making it easier to remove adminship," but making it
easier to regulate and restrain administrative action. His proposal
is one approach to that, dividing actions into types. I suggested
something *somewhat* similar in pointing out that bureaucrats were a
group that might be trusted to make decisions about use of admin
tools, i.e., to receive and judge, ad-hoc, complaints, and warn the
admin when it was considered there was a problem, or, in the extreme,
remove the tools.

Expanding the bureaucrat role is one fairly obvious and reasonable
solution, and it seems to work like this, with bureaucrats or
stewards, on the smaller wikis that don't have an ArbComm.

Given clear rules regarding recusal, when it's necessary, and when
it's not, and what to do if there is any reasonable possibility of an
appearance of bias, most admnistrators will quite properly restrain
themselves voluntarily.

However, I'm not necessarily exercised if a long-time user is
short-blocked, because a long-time user should understand it and see
it as no big deal. It all depends on how it's done. If a long-time
user engages in behavior that would cause a short-time user to be
blocked, what, exactly, is the problem with being blocked? If there
is a problem, if the user will go away mad, abandoning years of
effort because of one possibly bad block, there is, right there, a
sign of a serious problem, ownership of the project or of an article.
Maybe its time for that user to do something else. If it was a short
block, he or she can come back any time they want, after the block expires.

Short blocks are very different from longer blocks. Short blocks are
true police actions, equivalent to a sergeant-at-arms conducting a
disruptive member of an assembly from the room when they get too hot.
It's no big deal, and nobody is sanctioned for it, unless they truly
get violent in the process. If an admin blocks *any* user and abuses
the user in the process, without necessity, that's a problem, and
it's a problem even if the block was correct as a block.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 22:17:15 UTC
Permalink
At 03:28 PM 5/31/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>On 31 May 2010 19:46, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>
> > These are issues that I've been thinking about for almost thirty
> > years, and with Wikipedia, intensively, for almost three years
> > specifically (and as to on-line process, for over twenty years). So
> > my comments get long. If that's a problem for you, don't read it.
>
>
>... Has it really not occurred to you that *you're* trying to convince
>*us* of something? In which case, conciseness is likely more useful
>than defiant logorrhea ... Oh, never mind.

It's occurred to me that you'd think that and claim it. I'm not
writing for you, David. I'm writing for certain others who want to
read this, and there may still be some left. If I considered it worth
my time to write polemic, i.e, the "useful conciseness" that you seem
to want, I'd do it. I know how to do it. It simply takes about three
times as much time to cover the same topic in a third of the length.
And I don't have that time. I really don't have the time to write this....

Or to say it more clearly, even:

I don't think convincing you is a worthwhile use of my time.

You are not that important, and your influence is rapidly fading. You
were not personally the cause of Wikipedia's problems, though you
typify certain positions that are part of the problem itself. Those
positions are effectively created by the structure, or the lack of it.

You could possibly be a part of the solution, but you'd have to
drastically review and revise your own position, coming to understand
why it is that power is slipping from your grasp or the project is
becoming increasingly frustrating.

No, I'm writing to this entire list, even if it seems I responding to
a single post. I know there are some here who get what I'm saying,
and they are the ones I care about. It's even possible that I'm
writing for someone who will read this after I'm dead. I'm old
enough, after all, to see that as coming soon, and I have cancer.
Slow, to be sure, and I'm more likely to die from something else,
but.... it makes me conscious of my mortality. Do you really think I
care about what you think?

I know myself pretty well, and I'm definitely not trying to convince
you, I'm not in a relationship with you and I'm demanding nothing of
you, not even that you read this. I just write what I see, it's what
I've always done, and there have always been people who very much
didn't like it. And others who very much like it. I don't normally
write to this list, but I saw that some were really trying to grapple
with the problems, so I made some comments reflecting my experience
and ideas. They have always been unwelcome, largely, from those whose
positions are untenable when examined closely.

There have been others like me, in some way or other, who did this on
Wikipedia. If they were unable to restrain themselves, or didn't care
to, they've been blocked or banned. Wikipedia doesn't like criticism,
but the *large* consensus is that it's necessary. Unfortunatley, the
large consensus almost never is aroused, it takes something big to
get their attention.

To summarize a recent incident:

You can take away our academic freedom, we don't really care that
much about it, and those were troublesome editors anyway, but take
away our pornography, you're in trouble!

Same issue, really. But the meta RfC on removal of Jimbo's founder
flag, based on his action at Wikiversity, was stagnating at about 2:1
against it until the flap at Commons, when editors started pouring
in, and it's currently at about 4:1 for removal, last time I looked,
with huge participation.

And Jimbo resigned the intrusive tools (block and article delete)
that he'd used. In spite of his prior threat that effectively said
"I'm in charge." Don't assume my position on this! I commented,
though. I commented on the problem at Wikiversity in a few places,
and got a confirming email from Jimbo as to what I'd said about it,
and certainly no flak from him. I neither oppose consensus, nor the
needs of administrators and managers of the project. I'm trying to
assist, but, I know to expect this from long experience, there are
always people who don't want such assistance, because it serves them
that things are the way they are. If anyone actually wants
assistance, write me privately. I do know pretty much what could be
done. But I certainly can't do it alone! and I wouldn't even try,
other than putting a toe in the water and tossing a little yoghurt in
the lake to see if it's ready to take.

you never know.
Marc Riddell
2010-05-31 23:20:54 UTC
Permalink
> At 03:28 PM 5/31/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>> On 31 May 2010 19:46, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>>
>>> These are issues that I've been thinking about for almost thirty
>>> years, and with Wikipedia, intensively, for almost three years
>>> specifically (and as to on-line process, for over twenty years). So
>>> my comments get long. If that's a problem for you, don't read it.
>>
>>
>> ... Has it really not occurred to you that *you're* trying to convince
>> *us* of something? In which case, conciseness is likely more useful
>> than defiant logorrhea ... Oh, never mind.

on 5/31/10 6:17 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax at ***@lomaxdesign.com wrote:
>
> It's occurred to me that you'd think that and claim it. I'm not
> writing for you, David. I'm writing for certain others who want to
> read this, and there may still be some left. If I considered it worth
> my time to write polemic, i.e, the "useful conciseness" that you seem
> to want, I'd do it. I know how to do it. It simply takes about three
> times as much time to cover the same topic in a third of the length.
> And I don't have that time. I really don't have the time to write this....
>
> Or to say it more clearly, even:
>
> I don't think convincing you is a worthwhile use of my time.
>
> You are not that important, and your influence is rapidly fading. You
> were not personally the cause of Wikipedia's problems, though you
> typify certain positions that are part of the problem itself. Those
> positions are effectively created by the structure, or the lack of it.
>
> You could possibly be a part of the solution, but you'd have to
> drastically review and revise your own position, coming to understand
> why it is that power is slipping from your grasp or the project is
> becoming increasingly frustrating.
>
> No, I'm writing to this entire list, even if it seems I responding to
> a single post. I know there are some here who get what I'm saying,
> and they are the ones I care about. It's even possible that I'm
> writing for someone who will read this after I'm dead. I'm old
> enough, after all, to see that as coming soon, and I have cancer.
> Slow, to be sure, and I'm more likely to die from something else,
> but.... it makes me conscious of my mortality. Do you really think I
> care about what you think?
>
> I know myself pretty well, and I'm definitely not trying to convince
> you, I'm not in a relationship with you and I'm demanding nothing of
> you, not even that you read this. I just write what I see, it's what
> I've always done, and there have always been people who very much
> didn't like it. And others who very much like it. I don't normally
> write to this list, but I saw that some were really trying to grapple
> with the problems, so I made some comments reflecting my experience
> and ideas. They have always been unwelcome, largely, from those whose
> positions are untenable when examined closely.
>
> There have been others like me, in some way or other, who did this on
> Wikipedia. If they were unable to restrain themselves, or didn't care
> to, they've been blocked or banned. Wikipedia doesn't like criticism,
> but the *large* consensus is that it's necessary. Unfortunatley, the
> large consensus almost never is aroused, it takes something big to
> get their attention.
>
> To summarize a recent incident:
>
> You can take away our academic freedom, we don't really care that
> much about it, and those were troublesome editors anyway, but take
> away our pornography, you're in trouble!
>
> Same issue, really. But the meta RfC on removal of Jimbo's founder
> flag, based on his action at Wikiversity, was stagnating at about 2:1
> against it until the flap at Commons, when editors started pouring
> in, and it's currently at about 4:1 for removal, last time I looked,
> with huge participation.
>
> And Jimbo resigned the intrusive tools (block and article delete)
> that he'd used. In spite of his prior threat that effectively said
> "I'm in charge." Don't assume my position on this! I commented,
> though. I commented on the problem at Wikiversity in a few places,
> and got a confirming email from Jimbo as to what I'd said about it,
> and certainly no flak from him. I neither oppose consensus, nor the
> needs of administrators and managers of the project. I'm trying to
> assist, but, I know to expect this from long experience, there are
> always people who don't want such assistance, because it serves them
> that things are the way they are. If anyone actually wants
> assistance, write me privately. I do know pretty much what could be
> done. But I certainly can't do it alone! and I wouldn't even try,
> other than putting a toe in the water and tossing a little yoghurt in
> the lake to see if it's ready to take.
>
> you never know.

Abd,

Bravo! And thank you for your honesty - and your perception.

Marc Riddell
David Gerard
2010-05-31 23:34:40 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010 23:17, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:

> You are not that important, and your influence is rapidly fading.


No indeed I'm not, and I am most pleased that it is, because I get
annoyed a lot less. However, I hope I can tell the obvious, e.g. that
bringing interesting ideas to wikien-l is most useful for debugging
ideas - in terms of influence, you can only get consensus for changes
on the wiki itself. (Something I point out to Marc Riddell when he's
at his worst, and note his strange reluctance to actually engage
himself with the community he champions so strongly.)

So if you want your ideas to go anywhere in finite time, I would
suggest you would have to convince people on the wiki. And if you want
to run them past wikien-l first, knock yourself out, but epic novels
are likely to get a tl;dr.

You are of course under no obligation to listen to a word of this, and
I fully expect you won't change your behaviour a dot. Ah well.


- d.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 00:39:42 UTC
Permalink
At 07:34 PM 5/31/2010, you wrote:
>On 31 May 2010 23:17, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>
> > You are not that important, and your influence is rapidly fading.
>
>No indeed I'm not, and I am most pleased that it is, because I get
>annoyed a lot less. However, I hope I can tell the obvious, e.g. that
>bringing interesting ideas to wikien-l is most useful for debugging
>ideas - in terms of influence, you can only get consensus for changes
>on the wiki itself. (Something I point out to Marc Riddell when he's
>at his worst, and note his strange reluctance to actually engage
>himself with the community he champions so strongly.)
>
>So if you want your ideas to go anywhere in finite time, I would
>suggest you would have to convince people on the wiki. And if you want
>to run them past wikien-l first, knock yourself out, but epic novels
>are likely to get a tl;dr.

I'm glad that Mr. Gerard understands and accepts what's happening,
because it will make it much easier for him.

I have an obligation to share my ideas, but none to try to make
people adopt them. Inna maa al-balagh, is the Arabic, "the obligation
is only to convey." I have limited capacity, so I do what I can.

>You are of course under no obligation to listen to a word of this, and
>I fully expect you won't change your behaviour a dot. Ah well.

Lucky guess. After all, I'm an old dog. You want me to learn new
tricks? What reward are you offering? What's the advantage for me to
take the time it would take to boil down what I write? People who
don't understand the process that I go through to write seem to
imagine that I could just "write less, just the important part," not
realizing that this is *far* more time-consuming. I do it when it's
needed. To just reflect on some concepts on a mailing list, to
discuss as distinct from trying to convince, no. It's not worth it.

I've been an editor, professionally. I know how to do it. But I was being paid.

I certainly edit article content! You'll seek in vain for "walls of
text" in articles.

Part of the Wikipedia problem, in fact, is rejection of extended
discussion. My solution would be to move part of that off-wiki. In
theory, people could largely ignore Talk on-wiki, but perhaps it's
better if on-wiki Talk is given more importance (don't revert a
change if it was justified in Talk and you haven't read that!), and
that more general discussion and background therefore moves off-wiki.
On the other hand, more use could be made of subpages, collapse, and
other techniques for organizing discussion.

That genuine consensus could arise with difficult topics without
massive and deep discussion, though, was a fantasy. In that kind of
deep consensus process, "tomes" can be more efficient, not less.
Skimming them might be just fine, but allowing more complete
expression is essential. It's not necessary for everyone to
participate in such deep discussion, just those who are interested.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 00:39:42 UTC
Permalink
At 07:34 PM 5/31/2010, you wrote:
>On 31 May 2010 23:17, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>
> > You are not that important, and your influence is rapidly fading.
>
>No indeed I'm not, and I am most pleased that it is, because I get
>annoyed a lot less. However, I hope I can tell the obvious, e.g. that
>bringing interesting ideas to wikien-l is most useful for debugging
>ideas - in terms of influence, you can only get consensus for changes
>on the wiki itself. (Something I point out to Marc Riddell when he's
>at his worst, and note his strange reluctance to actually engage
>himself with the community he champions so strongly.)
>
>So if you want your ideas to go anywhere in finite time, I would
>suggest you would have to convince people on the wiki. And if you want
>to run them past wikien-l first, knock yourself out, but epic novels
>are likely to get a tl;dr.

I'm glad that Mr. Gerard understands and accepts what's happening,
because it will make it much easier for him.

I have an obligation to share my ideas, but none to try to make
people adopt them. Inna maa al-balagh, is the Arabic, "the obligation
is only to convey." I have limited capacity, so I do what I can.

>You are of course under no obligation to listen to a word of this, and
>I fully expect you won't change your behaviour a dot. Ah well.

Lucky guess. After all, I'm an old dog. You want me to learn new
tricks? What reward are you offering? What's the advantage for me to
take the time it would take to boil down what I write? People who
don't understand the process that I go through to write seem to
imagine that I could just "write less, just the important part," not
realizing that this is *far* more time-consuming. I do it when it's
needed. To just reflect on some concepts on a mailing list, to
discuss as distinct from trying to convince, no. It's not worth it.

I've been an editor, professionally. I know how to do it. But I was being paid.

I certainly edit article content! You'll seek in vain for "walls of
text" in articles.

Part of the Wikipedia problem, in fact, is rejection of extended
discussion. My solution would be to move part of that off-wiki. In
theory, people could largely ignore Talk on-wiki, but perhaps it's
better if on-wiki Talk is given more importance (don't revert a
change if it was justified in Talk and you haven't read that!), and
that more general discussion and background therefore moves off-wiki.
On the other hand, more use could be made of subpages, collapse, and
other techniques for organizing discussion.

That genuine consensus could arise with difficult topics without
massive and deep discussion, though, was a fantasy. In that kind of
deep consensus process, "tomes" can be more efficient, not less.
Skimming them might be just fine, but allowing more complete
expression is essential. It's not necessary for everyone to
participate in such deep discussion, just those who are interested.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 22:17:15 UTC
Permalink
At 03:28 PM 5/31/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>On 31 May 2010 19:46, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
>
> > These are issues that I've been thinking about for almost thirty
> > years, and with Wikipedia, intensively, for almost three years
> > specifically (and as to on-line process, for over twenty years). So
> > my comments get long. If that's a problem for you, don't read it.
>
>
>... Has it really not occurred to you that *you're* trying to convince
>*us* of something? In which case, conciseness is likely more useful
>than defiant logorrhea ... Oh, never mind.

It's occurred to me that you'd think that and claim it. I'm not
writing for you, David. I'm writing for certain others who want to
read this, and there may still be some left. If I considered it worth
my time to write polemic, i.e, the "useful conciseness" that you seem
to want, I'd do it. I know how to do it. It simply takes about three
times as much time to cover the same topic in a third of the length.
And I don't have that time. I really don't have the time to write this....

Or to say it more clearly, even:

I don't think convincing you is a worthwhile use of my time.

You are not that important, and your influence is rapidly fading. You
were not personally the cause of Wikipedia's problems, though you
typify certain positions that are part of the problem itself. Those
positions are effectively created by the structure, or the lack of it.

You could possibly be a part of the solution, but you'd have to
drastically review and revise your own position, coming to understand
why it is that power is slipping from your grasp or the project is
becoming increasingly frustrating.

No, I'm writing to this entire list, even if it seems I responding to
a single post. I know there are some here who get what I'm saying,
and they are the ones I care about. It's even possible that I'm
writing for someone who will read this after I'm dead. I'm old
enough, after all, to see that as coming soon, and I have cancer.
Slow, to be sure, and I'm more likely to die from something else,
but.... it makes me conscious of my mortality. Do you really think I
care about what you think?

I know myself pretty well, and I'm definitely not trying to convince
you, I'm not in a relationship with you and I'm demanding nothing of
you, not even that you read this. I just write what I see, it's what
I've always done, and there have always been people who very much
didn't like it. And others who very much like it. I don't normally
write to this list, but I saw that some were really trying to grapple
with the problems, so I made some comments reflecting my experience
and ideas. They have always been unwelcome, largely, from those whose
positions are untenable when examined closely.

There have been others like me, in some way or other, who did this on
Wikipedia. If they were unable to restrain themselves, or didn't care
to, they've been blocked or banned. Wikipedia doesn't like criticism,
but the *large* consensus is that it's necessary. Unfortunatley, the
large consensus almost never is aroused, it takes something big to
get their attention.

To summarize a recent incident:

You can take away our academic freedom, we don't really care that
much about it, and those were troublesome editors anyway, but take
away our pornography, you're in trouble!

Same issue, really. But the meta RfC on removal of Jimbo's founder
flag, based on his action at Wikiversity, was stagnating at about 2:1
against it until the flap at Commons, when editors started pouring
in, and it's currently at about 4:1 for removal, last time I looked,
with huge participation.

And Jimbo resigned the intrusive tools (block and article delete)
that he'd used. In spite of his prior threat that effectively said
"I'm in charge." Don't assume my position on this! I commented,
though. I commented on the problem at Wikiversity in a few places,
and got a confirming email from Jimbo as to what I'd said about it,
and certainly no flak from him. I neither oppose consensus, nor the
needs of administrators and managers of the project. I'm trying to
assist, but, I know to expect this from long experience, there are
always people who don't want such assistance, because it serves them
that things are the way they are. If anyone actually wants
assistance, write me privately. I do know pretty much what could be
done. But I certainly can't do it alone! and I wouldn't even try,
other than putting a toe in the water and tossing a little yoghurt in
the lake to see if it's ready to take.

you never know.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 18:46:49 UTC
Permalink
These are issues that I've been thinking about for almost thirty
years, and with Wikipedia, intensively, for almost three years
specifically (and as to on-line process, for over twenty years). So
my comments get long. If that's a problem for you, don't read it.

At 01:35 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:

>Actually, most people who don't apply as an admin just don't apply.

With ten million registered editors and a handful of RfAs, that's obvious.

> They
>don't generate "evidence" one way or another. It is a perfectly sensible
>attitude for a well-adjusted Wikipedian getting on with article work not
>to want to be involved in admin work.

Sure. However, there is a minority who are *not* "well-adjusted" who
would seek adminship for personal power. Some of these will have
revealed this in their editing patterns, others will not. Some have
been vanished editors who returned, knowing now how to behave so as
to be approved. It's not at all difficult. And then there are others,
probably the majority of problem admins, who started out with the
best of intentions, but, quite naturally, developed their own idea of
what is best for an "encyclopedia." That idea isn't the problem, it
is when the admin starts using tools to enforce it and control others
to that *personal* end. Definitely, it's hard to tell this apart from
"enforcing" consensus. However, one difference is that genuine
consensus doesn't need personal enforcement. When an admin starts to
think of himself herself as the lone stopgap against a wave of
POV-pushing and fancruft, for example, there is a sign that it's not
consensus being enforced, but a personal view.

If the administrative community were not so ready to circle the
wagons to defend individual administrators against charges of abuse,
almost knee-jerk, just because they are administrators, and if
"sactions" on administrators could be efficiently determined that
would not toss out the baby with the bathwater, it wouldn't be such a
problem. How many times has the community effectively told an
administrator to avoid blocked a certain set of editors or using
tools in a certain area? ArbComm does it, but that's a high-level
remedy and unworkable, it should be reserved for cases where there is
a genuine split in the community.

> There are editors on the site who
>make the lives of those who cross them miserable: and an admin has the
>choice of avoiding such editors, or getting in the way of abuse.

And there are administrators who do this even more effectively. I
find it difficult to understand how an "editor" or even an
administrator on the site could make my life "miserable." An admin
can block me, and that has no power over my "life." Genuine off-wiki
harassment, sure, but often what has passed for that has been mere
criticism. To "make the life of an administrator miserable," on-wiki,
requires visible actions. Why would we assume that this would be
invisible, but the complaints against the admin would be visible?

One of the problems is that issues get linked, instead of being
resolved separately, even though separation is possible. Admin A
blocks editor B abusively. B complains, and then what is considered
is if B was violating guidelines, not whether or not the block was
abusive. If editor B was violating behavioral guidelines, B's
behavior should be examined through normal process for that, and
blocking is only a temporarily protective measure. An abusive block
is not an "incorrect" block, it is one that is done in a disruptive
way, most commonly because the admin is actually involved in a
dispute with the editor. For one side of a dispute to block the other
side is disruptive and, indeed, it creates enemies, and sometimes
causes whole factions to beging fighting. Incorrect blocks can be
easily fixed. It's abusive blocks that are the problem.

> My
>expressed fear is very far from "imaginary". You put your head above the
>parapet, you may get shot at, precisely for acting in good faith and
>according to your own judgement in awkward situations.

Sure. That's true everywhere in life. We expect administrators to
understand how to use their tools without involvement. If they fail,
they should be corrected. If they refuse to accept the correction, or
show that they don't understand it, and are therefore likely to be
disruptive in their use of tools, then the tools should be removed.
General wiki principles would make this easy, with escalation to
broader consideration when conflict persists.

One of the blatant manifestations of the problem is that there are
administrators who have openly argued against recusal policy, and who
have defended administrators who clearly violated it, and, even
worse, who have attacked editors who challenged recusal failure.
Those are administrators who are violating community consensus and
ArbComm decisions, which have many times confirmed recusal policy,
and they cannot be expected to voluntarily abstain from such
violations. Therefore their tools should be subject to suspension
until they assure the community that they will respect recusal
policy, which is *essential* for a neutral project, and neutrality is
a fundamental policy.

Some of these same administrators have also argued against neutrality
policy and against the concept and value of consensus. Again, there
is an obvious problem. These arguments and the position behind them
is a minority position on Wikipedia, and it seems that the minority
becomes smaller as a percentage with the size of the discussion
(whereas I've seen it appear as a two-thirds majority or even higher
in relatively isolated discussions). I.e., it's a position found
preferentially among an active core, and I can suspect that Wikipedia
process overall has been abusive enough that the active core has been
filtered so that *actually neutral* editors have been leaving, frustrated.

Bad administrators isn't the essence of the Wikipedia problem. Poor
process is. The adhocracy that was set up was misleading, because it
was highly efficient at generating vast amounts of content that --
sort of -- seemed to improve itself. It did improve itself, but often
not in areas where there is significant controversy in the real
world. "Neutrality" is not "majority point of view," but even to
recognise a majority point of view and to distinguish it from
neutrality can require some sympathy for minority points of view. The
only solution I see is full-blown consensus process, but most
Wikipedia editors have no real experience with that, and it's not
encouraged, because it requires a *lot* of discussion, in the real world.

I've suggested, then, that consensus be formed, tentatively,
off-wiki, through voluntary participation, and then imported on-wiki
for final confirmation that it really represents consensus (or it's
rejected, goes back for more negotiation). That is like committee
process. You'd think it might be done on-wiki, and, indeed it could,
except that there are major elements that strongly oppose the kinds
of discussion that are necessary. They can be voluminous, but key
would be that they would take place in a deliberative environment,
where actual decisions get made and are modified with the goal of
increasing consensus. This isn't mere "discussion," and merely
discussion can actually poison it. It generally takes some kind of
facilitation by someone skilled at that.

>What follows that seems to be a non sequitur. It was not what I was
>arguing at all.
> >
> > What I'm seeing here, indeed, is an illustration of the problem. The
> > attitude that Charles expresses is clearly part of the problem, and
> > Charles is suggesting no solutions but perhaps one of ridiculing and
> > rejecting all the suggestions for change.

That was a personal judgment, and the core of it was "suggesting no
solutions." If Charles is suggesting solutions, fine. What are they?
Now, I do see one below, so I was incorrect. I'll get to that.

>Ah, but this is in line: "Charles's attitude" becomes something that
>must be fixed before recruiting more people to stand for adminship.

No, Charles is just one person. And it is not the province of
Wikipedia, the Wikipedia community, nor myself, to "fix Charles's
attitude. Charles does not need to change for more people to be
recruited, unless, somehow, Charles is in charge of Wikipedia. Is he?
(He isn't claiming to be, but there can be a subtle "we" vs "they"
which arises, where "we" supposedly represents the community, in the
mind of a writer, and the writer identifies with it, and "they" is
the others, the outsiders, the interlopers, the people who don't
understand, the disruptive.

But this attitude, shared by many, is part of the problem. Whose
problem? Well, it's the community's problem and the foundation's
problem, and it's up to those who have the problem to fix it. But the
only one who can fix Charles's attitude is Charles. It cannot be
coerced, period. One of the errors that ArbComm has made is to assume
that it can modify an editor's attitude by sanctioning the editor.
And it's shocked, shocked, when it doesn't work. Only someone
seriously attached to editing Wikipedia can be coerced in that way.
I.e, the very people that, in fact, might be harming the project. The
attitude itself won't be changed, but the person will pretend
compliance in order not to be blocked, so they can continue their
"important work." It's important because they are attached.
Sometimes, of course, their attachment is merely to creating things
of beauty, and it's helpful. I'm not condemning these people!

>I
>was actually commenting on the thread, not the issue. We should examine
>this sort of solution, amongst others: identify WikiProjects with few
>admins relative to their activity, and suggest they should look for
>candidates.

That's fine, and, in fact, I agree with it. But it is only part of
the solution. Given this, I apoligize for the implication that
Charles was not suggesting solutions. On the other hand, my
observation is that many Wikiprojects are completely dead. They can't
seem to get active participants, much less people willing to stand,
under present conditions, for adminship.

I see many, many signs that the project is in serious decline. If
flagged revisions is widely adopted and used for articles, it is
possible that the encyclopedia can still be maintained with far fewer
editors active. But, then, the possibility of these editors being
biased increases.

Generally, I suggesting backing up and starting to look at the *whole
problem.* How can a neutral and complete encyclopedia be created and
maintained? We have much experience from what has come down.
Rationally, this could allow us to come up with a much better design
than came together like Topsy when Wikipedia was founded and grew.
But not if those elements who are preferentially empowered under the
present structure do what such elements always do in organizations
like Wikipedia: act to preserve their own power. That isn't simply
"power hunger," there is a genuine "good faith" belief behind much of
it, a belief that, as the most active participants, they know best.
It is a classic problem. Solutions to that problem have been my
long-term interest, as some of you may know. There are solutions, but
I've never seen them arise in a community that has become
established. They either muddle along or they collapse, but, either
way, they are routinely far less effective than they would be with
better structure. Only if a community is founded by people who
understand how to create structure that will function with genuine
consensus in the long term, have I seen it accomplished. Those people
are effectively creating something greater than their own individual opinions.

With Wikipedia, though, if the problem of efficiently finding
consensus isn't resolved, it has failed in its primary goal. It may
have an encyclopedia, all right, but it won't be neutral.

I'm completely unconvinced that the Wikipedia community is capable of
addressing the problems. I differ from many others at Wikipedia
Review, though, in that I'm willing to try, to describe the problem
and advocate solutions. I don't do that on Wikipedia any more,
because it is clearly unwelcome and the very effort leads to
sanctions. If I thought, however, that advocacy would be effective
there, I'd do it, because I don't care about sanctions at all. I just
don't want to waste my time.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 17:05:20 UTC
Permalink
At 02:43 AM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> > The Wikipedia community
> > painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
> > can find the exits, the paths to fix it.
>As this discussion illustrates rather well, the argument "if you want to
>fix A, you'd have to start by fixing B (my pet gripe) first" is
>routinely deployed, making for an infinite regress in some cases, and in
>others the generation of suggestions that are rather clearly
>counterproductive for fixing A, whatever they may do for B. In the real
>world, if you want people to do thankless and time-consuming tasks for
>you for no money, and much criticism, you have to rely on something more
>than "be sure that you'll be told if we don't like you and what you do".

Eh? Is this coherent?

Who is the "you" who wants "people" to do thankless tasks?

What is the "pet gripe" in the discussion?

What is being discussed is "declining numbers of EN wiki admins," and
how to address it. In that, surely it is appropriate and even
necessary to examine the entire administrative structure, both how
admin privileges are created and how they are removed.

So "A" here would be declining numbers. "B," then, must be the
difficulty of removal, which leads to stronger standards for
accepting admins in the first place, which leads to declining
applications and denial of some applications that might have been just fine.

There is no evidence that there are declining applications because of
fear of being criticized as an adminstrator, and the numbers of admin
removals are trivial, so Charles is expressing a fear that is
imaginary. If it were easier to gain tools and still difficult to
lose them unless you disregard guidelines and consensus, there would
be no loss of applications, there would be a gain. A large gain.

What I'm seeing here, indeed, is an illustration of the problem. The
attitude that Charles expresses is clearly part of the problem, and
Charles is suggesting no solutions but perhaps one of ridiculing and
rejecting all the suggestions for change.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 01:49:49 UTC
Permalink
At 08:14 PM 5/30/2010, Ian Woollard wrote:
>On 31/05/2010, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> > As to regular deletion, an admin is assessing
> > arguments and consensus at an AfD, and, if doing this well, doesn't
> > delete unless there is consensus for it, or, alternatively, the
> > arguments are clear and evidenced.
>
>Actually it's not supposed to be about consensus at AFD.
>
>If you use consensus it's far, far too easy to stuff the vote; people
>can email their friends or use socks, and in common cases it's almost
>completely undetectable.
>
>Too many AFDs I've seen, in practice, work as a straight vote; that
>just doesn't work at all.
>
>That's why it's supposed to be about who has identified the valid
>policy for deletion or keeping it. You can't stuff the vote by
>identifying valid policy.

Of course. Wikipedia is a bit schizophrenic about this. If it's not
consensus, why is canvassing prohibited? Surely that would simply be
soliciting better arguments, and getting a multiplicity of arguments
that arent' better would simply irritate the closing admin!

The policies and guidelines, however, supposedly represent consensus.
A good closing admin explains the application of policy, and will
then hear arguments from editors to reverse the decision, with
equanimity, and at a certain point may say, well, there is DRV if you
continue to disagree. And will then stay out of DRV, where there is a
different closing admin.

Plus you go to the deleting admin and ask for the article to be
userfied, and the admin might suggest it. "If you'd like to improve
the article so that it might meet standards, I can place a copy in
your user space. Would you like me to do that." Most, I'd say from my
experience, will do it on request, unless it's actually illegal
content. Or they will email wikitext. If a deleting admin cooperates
as possible, it defuses personalization of the decision, it's just an
opinion. You know that you've run in to an attached administrator
with a personal axe to grind if he or she refuses, saying that the
topic could never possibly be appropriate and the text is pure
garbage. Even if it's true, that would be a gratuitous insult!
Rather, a good admin might point to the relevant policies and suggest
a careful review.

And then bug out, having done the job well. *Even if he's wrong.*

A full discussion of Wikipedia practice would take a tome, that's
part of the problem.... by refusing to develop better and more
specific guidelines, Wikipedia tossed it all in the air, and nobody
really knows what to expect. That's a formula for endless conflict,
not for the flexibility that has been imagined will result.
Flexibility is a part of any good administrative system, in common
law it's called "public policy," which trumps otherwise expected
decision. But nobody is punished for violating "public policy," in
same systems, only for violations that could be anticipated
reasonably. Punishing people for doing what "they should have known"
when Wikipedia avoided documenting this is often quite unjust, and is
why modern criminal codes generally don't allow ex-post-facto laws
that punish. Wikipedia is back in the dark ages in some respects.

And developing thos cleare guidelines is largely impossible because
of the distributed decision-making structure. The Wikipedia community
painted itself into a corner, and it's entirely unclear to me if it
can find the exits, the paths to fix it. Maybe. I have some ideas,
but few want to hear about it. I'm not even bothering on-wiki any
more, which was apparently a desired result for some. Personally, I'm
grateful, it's freed up a lot of energy. And then I can edit some
random article whenever I notice something, but I'm not likely to
invest major work in a topic where I have expertise, it's too
dangerous a place to put that. I'm having much more fun elsewhere.
And I can watch the mess and sit back and say, not only "I told you
so," but, "I did everything I could to point this problem out." And I
feel that I did. I've watched the community, in a few cases, adopt as
consensus what I'd proposed to jeers and boos, there is some
satisfaction in that....
AGK
2010-05-31 14:34:39 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010, at 00:39, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
wrote:
> (1) most legitimate admin work is not controversial to any degree
> that would affect an admin's status in the active community, which is
> what counts. Blocking an IP vandal isn't going to harm that, and it
> will only help it. If the IP vandal then registers an account and
> goes after the admin, sure. But, then, as to proposals that those who
> supported an RfA might retract that, or cause adminiship to be
> suspended pending examination, are concerned, this would be useless.
> Legitimate administration is indeed like janitorial work. Can we
> imagine a good janitor getting into an argument with other employees
> of a school or office as to what should be thrown away? Adminship was
> supposed to be "no big deal." When an administrator is asserting
> personal power over an editor, something has gone awry. Police have
> no power to punish, they may arrest on probable cause, but they then
> step aside and let the community make decisions on sanctions or
> release. A police officer who has become personally involved and
> insists on pursuing an individual might well be removed or ordered to
> work in other areas.

Thomas may be referring to any administrator work that is at all not
purely technical in nature. This work usually involves policing the
conduct of established accounts (and often long-term editors) in
contentious subject areas, and will almost always cause the
administrator to gain enemies.

AGK
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 17:21:45 UTC
Permalink
At 10:34 AM 5/31/2010, AGK wrote:
>On 31 May 2010, at 00:39, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
>wrote:
> > (1) most legitimate admin work is not controversial to any degree
> > that would affect an admin's status in the active community, which is
> > what counts. Blocking an IP vandal isn't going to harm that, and it
> > will only help it. If the IP vandal then registers an account and
> > goes after the admin, sure. But, then, as to proposals that those who
> > supported an RfA might retract that, or cause adminiship to be
> > suspended pending examination, are concerned, this would be useless.
> > Legitimate administration is indeed like janitorial work. Can we
> > imagine a good janitor getting into an argument with other employees
> > of a school or office as to what should be thrown away? Adminship was
> > supposed to be "no big deal." When an administrator is asserting
> > personal power over an editor, something has gone awry. Police have
> > no power to punish, they may arrest on probable cause, but they then
> > step aside and let the community make decisions on sanctions or
> > release. A police officer who has become personally involved and
> > insists on pursuing an individual might well be removed or ordered to
> > work in other areas.
>
>Thomas may be referring to any administrator work that is at all not
>purely technical in nature. This work usually involves policing the
>conduct of established accounts (and often long-term editors) in
>contentious subject areas, and will almost always cause the
>administrator to gain enemies.

Sure. However, administrators are, indeed, police and not judges.
But, too often, they become judges and make conclusions about
sanctions. An adminstrative sanction is, by design, temporary and
reversible, and "policing" a particular user should never become a
crusade for an administrator; if it does, and if it's allowed, then
adminship has become the "big deal," giving the admin power over the user.

A police officer may arrest me, but cannot keep me in jail (the
equivalent of an indef block with opposed unblock). Administrators
who do the police work well will, in fact, not generally "gain
enemies," that will be the exception rather than the rule. But AGK is
an administrator, and if he expects that "police" work will "almost
always cause the administrator to gain enemies," I rather suspect
that some of his work is less than optimal.

If I become an enemy of an administrator if the admin blocked me with
anything like good faith, because I was engaged in bad conduct at an
article, or other inappropriate conduct, I've got a problem, and I
will surely have this problem with other administrators as well. One
of the biggest errors I've seen on the WikiMedia wikis is admins to
decline unblock requests when they also blocked the editor. They
should make sure that the reasons for the block are documented, and
then leave it alone. When they don't, they very possibly create an
editor who now thinks of them as an enemy.

Another common error is to gratuitously insult the editor as part of
the block, or to otherwise behave as if the administrator is in
charge, owns the wiki. No, an administrator is properly acting in
expectation of consensus; for admins to act otherwise creates
disruption for no good reason. Thus an admin, blocking, will always,
for an inexperienced user, point to appeal process, and will be
unfailingly polite. Or should be!

And who polices the police?

I've thought, sometimes, that there should be many more bureaucrats,
and that bureaucrats should not have the ability to block or delete
articles. But they would have the ability to, ad-hoc, remove admin
privileges. Police for the police, independent of them. Chosen for
general trustworthiness. Perhaps they would only *add* tool usage as
a restoration of what they or another bureaucrat took away, or, even,
it's possible, the whole RfA process could consist of convincing a
bureaucrat that you'd be decent as an admin. That's much closer to
the rest of the way that the wiki operates, routinely. (Bureaucrats
do this on some of the other wikis. Wikiversity has "probabionary
adminship," which is apparently easy to get, it just takes another
admin to declare and accept mentorship, and there is a discussion
just to see if there are objections.
AGK
2010-05-31 17:49:34 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010, at 18:21, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
wrote:
> But AGK is
> an administrator, and if he expects that "police" work will "almost
> always cause the administrator to gain enemies," I rather suspect
> that some of his work is less than optimal.

Irrelevant and incorrect. Shame, because I was starting to really like
your ideas.

AGK
David Gerard
2010-05-31 18:17:52 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010 18:49, AGK <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> On 31 May 2010, at 18:21, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
> wrote:

>> But AGK is
>> an administrator, and if he expects that "police" work will "almost
>> always cause the administrator to gain enemies," I rather suspect
>> that some of his work is less than optimal.

> Irrelevant and incorrect. Shame, because I was starting to really like
> your ideas.


Abd has been beaten around the head by the arbcom on several
occasions, and so has an understandably negative view of power
structures on Wikipedia in general - since it couldn't possibly be the
case that he was ever actually wrong or anything.


- d.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 22:52:02 UTC
Permalink
At 02:17 PM 5/31/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>Abd has been beaten around the head by the arbcom on several
>occasions, and so has an understandably negative view of power
>structures on Wikipedia in general - since it couldn't possibly be the
>case that he was ever actually wrong or anything.

My views of the Wikipedia power structure were expressed long before
I appeared before ArbComm. I've been a major party for two cases
only. The first was filed by Jehochman, beating me to it by maybe an
hour or two, I was ready to file. My case was about admin recusal
failure, and ArbComm confirmed it. That case was practically a
complete "victory" for my position. Later, one finding, very mild,
was interpreted as some kind of reprimand, though it was actually an
instruction to more rapidly escalate dispute resolution. So, next
time, that's exactly what I did.

The next case I filed, and was also over admin recusal failure. This
time, I was personally involved (I'd been neutral in the first case,
actually, though I later developed a point of view contrary to that
of the administrator. My POV wasn't relevant to the charge of recusal
failure.) Again, ArbComm quite confirmed the complaint.

I was very aware from the beginning that by taking on administrative
abuse, I was risking topic bans and my account. The surprise,
actually, was that it didn't happen the first time. But that case had
been so open-and-shut and uncomplicated that the "cabal" mostly
stayed away, even though they had actively participated in the
preceding RfC/JzG 3. That, right there, was a clue: the RfC was
narrowly filed, as well, simply showing article and other topic
involvement, then use of tools for blacklisting, blocking, and
deleting. But 2/3 of editors commenting supported, instead of a
confirmation of the problem, that Abd should be banned.

2/3 of editors supported a position that was blatantly against policy
and the ensuing ArbComm decision.

But with the next case, the cabal was very much aware of the danger,
and the case wasn't as clear. They knew that if they could claim that
I was a tendentious editor, dispruptive, etc., they could at least
get me topic banned. They piled in, and my originally compact
evidence spun out of control, trying to respond. At the beginning,
actually, it looked like they'd failed, the first arb to review
evidence and opine was so favorable to my position that I thought
that, again, I'd dodged the bullent. But then, quite rapidly, it
reversed, that arbitrator was basically ignored, and entirely new
proposals were made, basically reprimanding me for a series of
asserted offences, not supported or barely and inadequately supported
by evidence. ArbComm was more of a knee-jerk body than I'd
anticipated, I'd been fooled by a series of decisions where they
clearly did investigate, and carefully.

Did I do anything wrong? Of course I did! I also did stuff that was
exactly right, and exactly effective, and accomplished what many
editors and administrators thought impossible.

But my personal right to edit Wikipedia meant almost nothing to me,
and standing up for the rights of legions of editors who had been
abused, and I'd been watching it for a long time, and I believe that
this has done and contnues to do long-term damage, was much more
important. I'm just one editor, I'm nothing compared to them. Someone
like Mr. Gerard may not be capable of understanding this attitude, it
would be so foreign to how he'd think. Or is it?

Never mind, it doesn't matter.

ArbComm is not the cause of Wikipedia's problems, it's merely a
symptom. Fix the basic problems, and ArbComm, or its replacement,
would become far more functional. The problem is not the fault of any
member of ArbComm, nor of any editor or faction, though some do stand
in the way of reform, that's simply what's natural. I ddn't seek to
have anyone banned, even though there were -- and are -- several who
by ordinary standards, if their behavior were examined, would be,
because these people would be harmless or even useful if the
structure were functional. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the
founders of Wikipedia did not know how to put together a project that
could maintain unity and consensus when the scale became large.
That's not surprising, not many know how to do this! But there are
people who do, who have had experience with it. Few of them have
become Wikipedia editors, and Wikipedia has not sought this
expertise. Indeed, it's blocked and banned people for even suggesting
solutions.

And, from the beginning, as I became active, back in 2007, I wrote
that this was expected behavior.

I'd registered in, I think, 2005, and had other wiki experience, and
was a moderator on the W.E.L.L. in the 1980s and a moderator of
soc.religion.islam in the 90s -- still am, though inactive --, do you
think there was any controversy there? And I've handled large
meetings, an international conference, of people inclined to argue
about everything, and managed to facilitate the formation of
consensus in a few days on far more than ever happened before or
since. I know how to do it, I know what it takes. But, I aslso have
always found that when an entrenched oligarchy is favored by the
status quo, as to personal power, they will oppose any reform that
will move toward equity, because they will correctly see it as
lessening their personal power, and they will readily believe that
their personal power is essential to success of the organization. It
is a deep and persistent effect, related to the Iron Law of
Oligarchy, cf. the WP article on that. How to move beyond the damage
done by the Iron Law is a subtle problem, and few even recognize the
existence of the problem. They ascribe the problems to something
else, to "them," usually." I.e., they will think that the problem is
the oligarchy, which isn't correct. The problem is the lack of
consensus structure. Consensus does not arise both naturally and
efficiently in large-scale organizations. It does arise, sometimes,
eventually, but the process takes so long and is so difficult, that
it burns people out in the course of it. Both efficiency and
thoroughness, i.e, maximization of consensus, are necessary. And
Wikipedia seemed like a good place to test some of the ideas, one
decent and advisable step at a time. Nothing was done to be
disruptive. But from what I've written, you'll understand that it
will be taken as disruptive, quickly and readily.

I was a little surprised by the vehemence of the response, at first.
I'd expected more that it would simply be ignored until and unless it
became more of a present threat. But the active core of the editorial
community is generally very smart, in some ways. They sensed what a
danger it was, to them -- not to the community, and it changed no
policies, and did not create voting --, and turned out in droves to
attempt to delete and salt the ideas and the attempted experiment.
That puzzled Kim Bruning.... he thought it was merely a rejected
proposal.... The attempt to delete and salt had supermajority
approval, but failed. Today, my guess, it would be deleted. The
admins who would have resisted that have mostly abandoned the field.
David Goodman
2010-06-01 04:45:42 UTC
Permalink
Neither they nor anyone else knows how to do this at our scale in as
open a structure as ours. Most ideas tend to retreat towards one form
or another of centralized control over content or to division of the
project to reduce the scale. That it is possible to organize well
enough to do what we've done on our scale, is proven by the
result--an enormously useful product for the world in general. That we
could do better is probable, since the current structure is almost
entirely ad hoc, but there is no evidence as to what will work better.
Intensely democratic structures have one characteristic form of
repression of individuality, and controlled structures another. The
virtue of division is to provide smaller structures adapted to
different methods, so that individuals can find one that is tolerable,
but this loses the key excitment of working together on something
really large.

My own view is that we should treat this as an experiment, and pursue
it on its own lines as far as it takes us.

On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 6:52 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
<***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> if the
> structure were functional. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the
> founders of Wikipedia did not know how to put together a project that
> could maintain unity and consensus when the scale became large.



--
David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 14:06:49 UTC
Permalink
At 12:45 AM 6/1/2010, David Goodman wrote:
>Neither they nor anyone else knows how to do this at our scale in as
>open a structure as ours.

While I understand the opinion, how do you know that? Isn't it a tad
limiting to believe that nobody knows how to deal with our problem?
Perhaps the expertise exists, but we haven't been looking for it or
connecting with it, or, worse, rejecting it when it's suggested, out
of a *belief* that it couldn't work, but without actual experience.

The model I know that worked, and spectacularly, was Alcoholics
Anonymous. Grew rapidly. The scale became *very* large, particularly
in terms of active members, most registered accounts on Wikipedia, I
suspect, are inactive. Now, AA certainly is also different.

I merely suggest that, with AA, some specific organizational concepts
were developed, from the study of the history of organizations, and
were expressed and became solidly accepted traditions that are
actually practiced, and the result was a highly unified organization
without central control. Branfman et al call these "starfish
organizations," because you can cut them up and they re-form from the
pieces, and he distinguishes them from "spider organizations," where
if you cut off the head, the organization dies.

Most of the recent thinking in this area looks to hybrid
organizations. AA, as an example, has a central office, which is
operated by a nonprofit corporation with a board that is partly
elected by the World Service Conference and partly self-appointed.
The analogy here would be the WMF, Inc. However, to take this analogy
further, Wikipedia would be a collection of independent "meetings"
that voluntarily associate, and membership in each meeting would be
open, self-selected. The resemblance stops when people who are *not*
members of a meeting impose control over the meeting. That isn't done
with AA. Period. Yet, without any central control, people can go to
an AA meeting almost anywhere and will *mostly* find the same
consensus, but it's not an oppressive consensus (usually! AA members
are still human). Members are welcome to disagree, and express the
disagreement, and they won't be kicked out. Unless they actually
disrupt the meeting directly, and I've not heard of it. I'm not an
alcoholic, though, so I've only been to open meetings, not to closed
ones, only open to alcoholics.

>Most ideas tend to retreat towards one form
>or another of centralized control over content or to division of the
>project to reduce the scale.

My own work suggests continuing the ad hoc local organization that
does, in fact, work very well, but moving away from centralized
control imposed coercively, distributing control, perhaps to a series
of "Volumes" that are organized by topic area. But what I really
propose is that process be established for the development and
discovery of consensus with efficiency. It does require that
discussion be reduced in scale, and there are lots of traditional
ways to do that, known to work. I.e, discussion takes place in a
hierarchy of discussions. Classically, a committee system. The
committees merely collect evidence and argument, organizing it and
making recommendations, they do not control. But if they do their
work well, their reports will be adopted centrally by whatever
process exists there, or, if something was overlooked, it will be
sent back to committee for further work in the light of what happened
"higher up."

The ad hoc Wikipedia process does this, but with informality, for the
most part, and the structure that it would fit into has not been
completed. Probably the "top level" would be an elected
representative body, and for that to function to maximize consensus,
it needs to be thoroughly representative, and my work with voting
systems leads me to understand how to do that efficiently and
thoroughly. It could be amazingly simple.

From the AA analogy, this body is actually only advisory, not
exercising sovereign control. It would advise the community and the
WMF. The WMF has legal control over the servers and the name
"Wikipedia." But advice developed through consensus process is
probably more powerful than centralized control.

> That it is possible to organize well
>enough to do what we've done on our scale, is proven by the
>result--an enormously useful product for the world in general. That we
>could do better is probable, since the current structure is almost
>entirely ad hoc, but there is no evidence as to what will work better.

I would not say "no evidence," but I'll certainly acknowledge that
there is no proof. One of the problems is that the current structure
has become so entrenched and so self-preserving that experiments,
even conducted in ways that could not do damage (other than perhaps
wasting the time of those who choose to participate in them), are
crushed. WP:PRX was simply an experiment, it consisted only of a file
structure, and established no control at all, no change in policy or
guidelines. It did not establish voting, much less proxy voting as
was claimed. It would not have given power to puppet masters, most
notably because the last thing a puppet master wants to do is call
attention directly to the connection.

>Intensely democratic structures have one characteristic form of
>repression of individuality, and controlled structures another.

And then there are hybrids.

>The
>virtue of division is to provide smaller structures adapted to
>different methods, so that individuals can find one that is tolerable,
>but this loses the key excitment of working together on something
>really large.

Unless the individual structures have a voluntary coordinating superstructure.

>My own view is that we should treat this as an experiment, and pursue
>it on its own lines as far as it takes us.

Sure. But, of course, there is WP:NOT. Which sometimes might be
equivalent to WP:IS. Since, generally, Wikipedia is *also* many of
the things that it supposedly is not.


>On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 6:52 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
><***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> > if the
> > structure were functional. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the
> > founders of Wikipedia did not know how to put together a project that
> > could maintain unity and consensus when the scale became large.
>
>
>
>--
>David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG
>
>_______________________________________________
>WikiEN-l mailing list
>WikiEN-***@lists.wikimedia.org
>To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
>https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 14:06:49 UTC
Permalink
At 12:45 AM 6/1/2010, David Goodman wrote:
>Neither they nor anyone else knows how to do this at our scale in as
>open a structure as ours.

While I understand the opinion, how do you know that? Isn't it a tad
limiting to believe that nobody knows how to deal with our problem?
Perhaps the expertise exists, but we haven't been looking for it or
connecting with it, or, worse, rejecting it when it's suggested, out
of a *belief* that it couldn't work, but without actual experience.

The model I know that worked, and spectacularly, was Alcoholics
Anonymous. Grew rapidly. The scale became *very* large, particularly
in terms of active members, most registered accounts on Wikipedia, I
suspect, are inactive. Now, AA certainly is also different.

I merely suggest that, with AA, some specific organizational concepts
were developed, from the study of the history of organizations, and
were expressed and became solidly accepted traditions that are
actually practiced, and the result was a highly unified organization
without central control. Branfman et al call these "starfish
organizations," because you can cut them up and they re-form from the
pieces, and he distinguishes them from "spider organizations," where
if you cut off the head, the organization dies.

Most of the recent thinking in this area looks to hybrid
organizations. AA, as an example, has a central office, which is
operated by a nonprofit corporation with a board that is partly
elected by the World Service Conference and partly self-appointed.
The analogy here would be the WMF, Inc. However, to take this analogy
further, Wikipedia would be a collection of independent "meetings"
that voluntarily associate, and membership in each meeting would be
open, self-selected. The resemblance stops when people who are *not*
members of a meeting impose control over the meeting. That isn't done
with AA. Period. Yet, without any central control, people can go to
an AA meeting almost anywhere and will *mostly* find the same
consensus, but it's not an oppressive consensus (usually! AA members
are still human). Members are welcome to disagree, and express the
disagreement, and they won't be kicked out. Unless they actually
disrupt the meeting directly, and I've not heard of it. I'm not an
alcoholic, though, so I've only been to open meetings, not to closed
ones, only open to alcoholics.

>Most ideas tend to retreat towards one form
>or another of centralized control over content or to division of the
>project to reduce the scale.

My own work suggests continuing the ad hoc local organization that
does, in fact, work very well, but moving away from centralized
control imposed coercively, distributing control, perhaps to a series
of "Volumes" that are organized by topic area. But what I really
propose is that process be established for the development and
discovery of consensus with efficiency. It does require that
discussion be reduced in scale, and there are lots of traditional
ways to do that, known to work. I.e, discussion takes place in a
hierarchy of discussions. Classically, a committee system. The
committees merely collect evidence and argument, organizing it and
making recommendations, they do not control. But if they do their
work well, their reports will be adopted centrally by whatever
process exists there, or, if something was overlooked, it will be
sent back to committee for further work in the light of what happened
"higher up."

The ad hoc Wikipedia process does this, but with informality, for the
most part, and the structure that it would fit into has not been
completed. Probably the "top level" would be an elected
representative body, and for that to function to maximize consensus,
it needs to be thoroughly representative, and my work with voting
systems leads me to understand how to do that efficiently and
thoroughly. It could be amazingly simple.

From the AA analogy, this body is actually only advisory, not
exercising sovereign control. It would advise the community and the
WMF. The WMF has legal control over the servers and the name
"Wikipedia." But advice developed through consensus process is
probably more powerful than centralized control.

> That it is possible to organize well
>enough to do what we've done on our scale, is proven by the
>result--an enormously useful product for the world in general. That we
>could do better is probable, since the current structure is almost
>entirely ad hoc, but there is no evidence as to what will work better.

I would not say "no evidence," but I'll certainly acknowledge that
there is no proof. One of the problems is that the current structure
has become so entrenched and so self-preserving that experiments,
even conducted in ways that could not do damage (other than perhaps
wasting the time of those who choose to participate in them), are
crushed. WP:PRX was simply an experiment, it consisted only of a file
structure, and established no control at all, no change in policy or
guidelines. It did not establish voting, much less proxy voting as
was claimed. It would not have given power to puppet masters, most
notably because the last thing a puppet master wants to do is call
attention directly to the connection.

>Intensely democratic structures have one characteristic form of
>repression of individuality, and controlled structures another.

And then there are hybrids.

>The
>virtue of division is to provide smaller structures adapted to
>different methods, so that individuals can find one that is tolerable,
>but this loses the key excitment of working together on something
>really large.

Unless the individual structures have a voluntary coordinating superstructure.

>My own view is that we should treat this as an experiment, and pursue
>it on its own lines as far as it takes us.

Sure. But, of course, there is WP:NOT. Which sometimes might be
equivalent to WP:IS. Since, generally, Wikipedia is *also* many of
the things that it supposedly is not.


>On Mon, May 31, 2010 at 6:52 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
><***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> > if the
> > structure were functional. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the
> > founders of Wikipedia did not know how to put together a project that
> > could maintain unity and consensus when the scale became large.
>
>
>
>--
>David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG
>
>_______________________________________________
>WikiEN-l mailing list
>WikiEN-***@lists.wikimedia.org
>To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
>https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 22:52:02 UTC
Permalink
At 02:17 PM 5/31/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>Abd has been beaten around the head by the arbcom on several
>occasions, and so has an understandably negative view of power
>structures on Wikipedia in general - since it couldn't possibly be the
>case that he was ever actually wrong or anything.

My views of the Wikipedia power structure were expressed long before
I appeared before ArbComm. I've been a major party for two cases
only. The first was filed by Jehochman, beating me to it by maybe an
hour or two, I was ready to file. My case was about admin recusal
failure, and ArbComm confirmed it. That case was practically a
complete "victory" for my position. Later, one finding, very mild,
was interpreted as some kind of reprimand, though it was actually an
instruction to more rapidly escalate dispute resolution. So, next
time, that's exactly what I did.

The next case I filed, and was also over admin recusal failure. This
time, I was personally involved (I'd been neutral in the first case,
actually, though I later developed a point of view contrary to that
of the administrator. My POV wasn't relevant to the charge of recusal
failure.) Again, ArbComm quite confirmed the complaint.

I was very aware from the beginning that by taking on administrative
abuse, I was risking topic bans and my account. The surprise,
actually, was that it didn't happen the first time. But that case had
been so open-and-shut and uncomplicated that the "cabal" mostly
stayed away, even though they had actively participated in the
preceding RfC/JzG 3. That, right there, was a clue: the RfC was
narrowly filed, as well, simply showing article and other topic
involvement, then use of tools for blacklisting, blocking, and
deleting. But 2/3 of editors commenting supported, instead of a
confirmation of the problem, that Abd should be banned.

2/3 of editors supported a position that was blatantly against policy
and the ensuing ArbComm decision.

But with the next case, the cabal was very much aware of the danger,
and the case wasn't as clear. They knew that if they could claim that
I was a tendentious editor, dispruptive, etc., they could at least
get me topic banned. They piled in, and my originally compact
evidence spun out of control, trying to respond. At the beginning,
actually, it looked like they'd failed, the first arb to review
evidence and opine was so favorable to my position that I thought
that, again, I'd dodged the bullent. But then, quite rapidly, it
reversed, that arbitrator was basically ignored, and entirely new
proposals were made, basically reprimanding me for a series of
asserted offences, not supported or barely and inadequately supported
by evidence. ArbComm was more of a knee-jerk body than I'd
anticipated, I'd been fooled by a series of decisions where they
clearly did investigate, and carefully.

Did I do anything wrong? Of course I did! I also did stuff that was
exactly right, and exactly effective, and accomplished what many
editors and administrators thought impossible.

But my personal right to edit Wikipedia meant almost nothing to me,
and standing up for the rights of legions of editors who had been
abused, and I'd been watching it for a long time, and I believe that
this has done and contnues to do long-term damage, was much more
important. I'm just one editor, I'm nothing compared to them. Someone
like Mr. Gerard may not be capable of understanding this attitude, it
would be so foreign to how he'd think. Or is it?

Never mind, it doesn't matter.

ArbComm is not the cause of Wikipedia's problems, it's merely a
symptom. Fix the basic problems, and ArbComm, or its replacement,
would become far more functional. The problem is not the fault of any
member of ArbComm, nor of any editor or faction, though some do stand
in the way of reform, that's simply what's natural. I ddn't seek to
have anyone banned, even though there were -- and are -- several who
by ordinary standards, if their behavior were examined, would be,
because these people would be harmless or even useful if the
structure were functional. The problem, in a nutshell, is that the
founders of Wikipedia did not know how to put together a project that
could maintain unity and consensus when the scale became large.
That's not surprising, not many know how to do this! But there are
people who do, who have had experience with it. Few of them have
become Wikipedia editors, and Wikipedia has not sought this
expertise. Indeed, it's blocked and banned people for even suggesting
solutions.

And, from the beginning, as I became active, back in 2007, I wrote
that this was expected behavior.

I'd registered in, I think, 2005, and had other wiki experience, and
was a moderator on the W.E.L.L. in the 1980s and a moderator of
soc.religion.islam in the 90s -- still am, though inactive --, do you
think there was any controversy there? And I've handled large
meetings, an international conference, of people inclined to argue
about everything, and managed to facilitate the formation of
consensus in a few days on far more than ever happened before or
since. I know how to do it, I know what it takes. But, I aslso have
always found that when an entrenched oligarchy is favored by the
status quo, as to personal power, they will oppose any reform that
will move toward equity, because they will correctly see it as
lessening their personal power, and they will readily believe that
their personal power is essential to success of the organization. It
is a deep and persistent effect, related to the Iron Law of
Oligarchy, cf. the WP article on that. How to move beyond the damage
done by the Iron Law is a subtle problem, and few even recognize the
existence of the problem. They ascribe the problems to something
else, to "them," usually." I.e., they will think that the problem is
the oligarchy, which isn't correct. The problem is the lack of
consensus structure. Consensus does not arise both naturally and
efficiently in large-scale organizations. It does arise, sometimes,
eventually, but the process takes so long and is so difficult, that
it burns people out in the course of it. Both efficiency and
thoroughness, i.e, maximization of consensus, are necessary. And
Wikipedia seemed like a good place to test some of the ideas, one
decent and advisable step at a time. Nothing was done to be
disruptive. But from what I've written, you'll understand that it
will be taken as disruptive, quickly and readily.

I was a little surprised by the vehemence of the response, at first.
I'd expected more that it would simply be ignored until and unless it
became more of a present threat. But the active core of the editorial
community is generally very smart, in some ways. They sensed what a
danger it was, to them -- not to the community, and it changed no
policies, and did not create voting --, and turned out in droves to
attempt to delete and salt the ideas and the attempted experiment.
That puzzled Kim Bruning.... he thought it was merely a rejected
proposal.... The attempt to delete and salt had supermajority
approval, but failed. Today, my guess, it would be deleted. The
admins who would have resisted that have mostly abandoned the field.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 19:00:24 UTC
Permalink
At 01:49 PM 5/31/2010, AGK wrote:

>On 31 May 2010, at 18:21, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
>wrote:
> > But AGK is
> > an administrator, and if he expects that "police" work will "almost
> > always cause the administrator to gain enemies," I rather suspect
> > that some of his work is less than optimal.
>
>Irrelevant and incorrect. Shame, because I was starting to really like
>your ideas.

Interesting, AGK. Are the ideas important, or the personalities?
Here, you just demonstrated my concern even further.

I did not have in mind that you were an abusive administrator, and
I've never had occasion to review your work. It takes a lot of time,
and I've only done it when presented with an abundance of evidence,
and a simple comment like you made here wouldn't even begin to
approach what it would take to move me in that direction.

I've certainly seen you make sound judgments, and nothing abusive
comes to mind. But would I have seen it? I'm suggesting that the
position you are taking reflects the kind of expectations that would
arise from the experience of someone who doesn't understand how to
administer neutrally and with maximal effectiveness in gaining
voluntary cooperation.

The tipoff is the "almost always." This is high expectation, and it
is almost certainly not true of skilfull administrative work in the
area of behavioral policing.

AGK, I hope and assume that you were teachable. Or are you too
"experienced" to remain teachable?

Hey, I'd love to review your work and be able to say, "I was wrong,
actually, you were very skilled and did everything you could to avoid
unnecessary bad reaction and disruption, but it usually happened
anyway." Well, actually, I wouldn't love one part of it. It would
convince me that the Wikipedia basic design was impossible, doomed
from the start, if that's the way people are.

My experience elsewhere with organizations, however, leads me to
think differently. With skill, real consensus is quite possible. It
takes a lot of work, but once the work is done, it is
self-maintaining. There is no more battleground. There is a community
working together, including people who had, orginally, widely
divergent points of view, and some of who may still retain those
views, but they have learned to cooperate toward common and shared
goals with others, and they have learned that when they do this,
their own personal goals are more excellently accomplished.

Most "POV-pushers" on Wikipedia want the articles to be what they
believe is neutral. Some of them, possibly, will be unable to
recognize true neutrality, they would only be satisfied if the
article completely reflects their own point of view and denigrates
different points of view. But those are quite rare, in my experience,
and real consensus process makes such an agenda quite obvious. Most
of these will withdraw, it becomes so painfully obvious. The few that
remain and who continue to argue tenaciously for what has been almost
universally rejected, this is the group where blocking might become
necessary. It should always be considered dangerous, and the standard
I propose for neutrality is a measure, not an absolute. Neutrality is
reflected in the degree to which all editors agree that text is
neutral. If you exclude editors from that measure, you warp it, you
create the appearance of consensus by banning a position. We should
always know what the true level of consensus is with articles, and
that may require, even, consensus to be assessed by some means
off-wiki, or with some kind of restricted participation. Scibaby's
opinion about global warming should be solicited!

Wikipedia might not please everyone, but it needs to know how it's
doing. Or it has no way of assessing its own neutrality, and thus no
way of even knowing if improvements are needed.
AGK
2010-06-01 13:38:18 UTC
Permalink
On 31 May 2010 20:00, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> Interesting, AGK. Are the ideas important, or the personalities?
> Here, you just demonstrated my concern even further.

Now I understand why you are able to write at such length. Rather than
make your arguments based on facts, you run with guesswork and
assumptions. Instead of stating what my position and opinion is and
then outlining why thinking so makes me a terrible administrator, try
actually asking me a question?

I won't comment any more on your remarks against my history as a
contributor, because they are largely irrelevant to the main topic of
this thread. But needless to say, yes, the manner in which a point is
made does count; in this instance, you acting like an insufferable
jerk turns people off and makes your e-mails increasingly less
appealing to read.

Derailing meta-discussion with criticism of specific users stinks of
axe-grinding.

AGK
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 17:49:17 UTC
Permalink
At 09:38 AM 6/1/2010, AGK wrote:
>Derailing meta-discussion with criticism of specific users stinks of
>axe-grinding.

I criticized an argument with an expression of concern about how an
administrator might apply that argument. That remains within
metadiscussion. I specicifically disclaimed any criticism of actual
behavior. I have no axe to grind with AGK.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 17:49:17 UTC
Permalink
At 09:38 AM 6/1/2010, AGK wrote:
>Derailing meta-discussion with criticism of specific users stinks of
>axe-grinding.

I criticized an argument with an expression of concern about how an
administrator might apply that argument. That remains within
metadiscussion. I specicifically disclaimed any criticism of actual
behavior. I have no axe to grind with AGK.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 19:00:24 UTC
Permalink
At 01:49 PM 5/31/2010, AGK wrote:

>On 31 May 2010, at 18:21, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
>wrote:
> > But AGK is
> > an administrator, and if he expects that "police" work will "almost
> > always cause the administrator to gain enemies," I rather suspect
> > that some of his work is less than optimal.
>
>Irrelevant and incorrect. Shame, because I was starting to really like
>your ideas.

Interesting, AGK. Are the ideas important, or the personalities?
Here, you just demonstrated my concern even further.

I did not have in mind that you were an abusive administrator, and
I've never had occasion to review your work. It takes a lot of time,
and I've only done it when presented with an abundance of evidence,
and a simple comment like you made here wouldn't even begin to
approach what it would take to move me in that direction.

I've certainly seen you make sound judgments, and nothing abusive
comes to mind. But would I have seen it? I'm suggesting that the
position you are taking reflects the kind of expectations that would
arise from the experience of someone who doesn't understand how to
administer neutrally and with maximal effectiveness in gaining
voluntary cooperation.

The tipoff is the "almost always." This is high expectation, and it
is almost certainly not true of skilfull administrative work in the
area of behavioral policing.

AGK, I hope and assume that you were teachable. Or are you too
"experienced" to remain teachable?

Hey, I'd love to review your work and be able to say, "I was wrong,
actually, you were very skilled and did everything you could to avoid
unnecessary bad reaction and disruption, but it usually happened
anyway." Well, actually, I wouldn't love one part of it. It would
convince me that the Wikipedia basic design was impossible, doomed
from the start, if that's the way people are.

My experience elsewhere with organizations, however, leads me to
think differently. With skill, real consensus is quite possible. It
takes a lot of work, but once the work is done, it is
self-maintaining. There is no more battleground. There is a community
working together, including people who had, orginally, widely
divergent points of view, and some of who may still retain those
views, but they have learned to cooperate toward common and shared
goals with others, and they have learned that when they do this,
their own personal goals are more excellently accomplished.

Most "POV-pushers" on Wikipedia want the articles to be what they
believe is neutral. Some of them, possibly, will be unable to
recognize true neutrality, they would only be satisfied if the
article completely reflects their own point of view and denigrates
different points of view. But those are quite rare, in my experience,
and real consensus process makes such an agenda quite obvious. Most
of these will withdraw, it becomes so painfully obvious. The few that
remain and who continue to argue tenaciously for what has been almost
universally rejected, this is the group where blocking might become
necessary. It should always be considered dangerous, and the standard
I propose for neutrality is a measure, not an absolute. Neutrality is
reflected in the degree to which all editors agree that text is
neutral. If you exclude editors from that measure, you warp it, you
create the appearance of consensus by banning a position. We should
always know what the true level of consensus is with articles, and
that may require, even, consensus to be assessed by some means
off-wiki, or with some kind of restricted participation. Scibaby's
opinion about global warming should be solicited!

Wikipedia might not please everyone, but it needs to know how it's
doing. Or it has no way of assessing its own neutrality, and thus no
way of even knowing if improvements are needed.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 17:21:45 UTC
Permalink
At 10:34 AM 5/31/2010, AGK wrote:
>On 31 May 2010, at 00:39, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com>
>wrote:
> > (1) most legitimate admin work is not controversial to any degree
> > that would affect an admin's status in the active community, which is
> > what counts. Blocking an IP vandal isn't going to harm that, and it
> > will only help it. If the IP vandal then registers an account and
> > goes after the admin, sure. But, then, as to proposals that those who
> > supported an RfA might retract that, or cause adminiship to be
> > suspended pending examination, are concerned, this would be useless.
> > Legitimate administration is indeed like janitorial work. Can we
> > imagine a good janitor getting into an argument with other employees
> > of a school or office as to what should be thrown away? Adminship was
> > supposed to be "no big deal." When an administrator is asserting
> > personal power over an editor, something has gone awry. Police have
> > no power to punish, they may arrest on probable cause, but they then
> > step aside and let the community make decisions on sanctions or
> > release. A police officer who has become personally involved and
> > insists on pursuing an individual might well be removed or ordered to
> > work in other areas.
>
>Thomas may be referring to any administrator work that is at all not
>purely technical in nature. This work usually involves policing the
>conduct of established accounts (and often long-term editors) in
>contentious subject areas, and will almost always cause the
>administrator to gain enemies.

Sure. However, administrators are, indeed, police and not judges.
But, too often, they become judges and make conclusions about
sanctions. An adminstrative sanction is, by design, temporary and
reversible, and "policing" a particular user should never become a
crusade for an administrator; if it does, and if it's allowed, then
adminship has become the "big deal," giving the admin power over the user.

A police officer may arrest me, but cannot keep me in jail (the
equivalent of an indef block with opposed unblock). Administrators
who do the police work well will, in fact, not generally "gain
enemies," that will be the exception rather than the rule. But AGK is
an administrator, and if he expects that "police" work will "almost
always cause the administrator to gain enemies," I rather suspect
that some of his work is less than optimal.

If I become an enemy of an administrator if the admin blocked me with
anything like good faith, because I was engaged in bad conduct at an
article, or other inappropriate conduct, I've got a problem, and I
will surely have this problem with other administrators as well. One
of the biggest errors I've seen on the WikiMedia wikis is admins to
decline unblock requests when they also blocked the editor. They
should make sure that the reasons for the block are documented, and
then leave it alone. When they don't, they very possibly create an
editor who now thinks of them as an enemy.

Another common error is to gratuitously insult the editor as part of
the block, or to otherwise behave as if the administrator is in
charge, owns the wiki. No, an administrator is properly acting in
expectation of consensus; for admins to act otherwise creates
disruption for no good reason. Thus an admin, blocking, will always,
for an inexperienced user, point to appeal process, and will be
unfailingly polite. Or should be!

And who polices the police?

I've thought, sometimes, that there should be many more bureaucrats,
and that bureaucrats should not have the ability to block or delete
articles. But they would have the ability to, ad-hoc, remove admin
privileges. Police for the police, independent of them. Chosen for
general trustworthiness. Perhaps they would only *add* tool usage as
a restoration of what they or another bureaucrat took away, or, even,
it's possible, the whole RfA process could consist of convincing a
bureaucrat that you'd be decent as an admin. That's much closer to
the rest of the way that the wiki operates, routinely. (Bureaucrats
do this on some of the other wikis. Wikiversity has "probabionary
adminship," which is apparently easy to get, it just takes another
admin to declare and accept mentorship, and there is a discussion
just to see if there are objections.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-30 23:39:56 UTC
Permalink
At 01:58 PM 5/30/2010, Thomas Dalton wrote:
>On 30 May 2010 11:43, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought, jawdroppingly obvious -
> > result would be that no-one at all would go near such work in any
> > circumstances.
>
>Exactly. The big problem with community desysoppings is that any admin
>doing their job properly will have enemies. The longer you do the job,
>the more enemies you will have. Whenever you block someone, you annoy
>the blockee. Whenever you delete an article, you annoy the creator.
>Whenever you protect an article, you annoy the person whose version
>you didn't protect on. If you let those people be in charge of the
>desysopping process, we won't have any good admins left doing even
>slightly controversial work (which, as I've explained, is pretty much
>all admin work).

These are the arguments that have maintained the dysfunction. But:

(1) most legitimate admin work is not controversial to any degree
that would affect an admin's status in the active community, which is
what counts. Blocking an IP vandal isn't going to harm that, and it
will only help it. If the IP vandal then registers an account and
goes after the admin, sure. But, then, as to proposals that those who
supported an RfA might retract that, or cause adminiship to be
suspended pending examination, are concerned, this would be useless.
Legitimate administration is indeed like janitorial work. Can we
imagine a good janitor getting into an argument with other employees
of a school or office as to what should be thrown away? Adminship was
supposed to be "no big deal." When an administrator is asserting
personal power over an editor, something has gone awry. Police have
no power to punish, they may arrest on probable cause, but they then
step aside and let the community make decisions on sanctions or
release. A police officer who has become personally involved and
insists on pursuing an individual might well be removed or ordered to
work in other areas.

"Whenever you delete an article, you annoy the creator." Well, it
might seem that way. But admins aren't supposed to be deleting
articles in the presence of the creator's objection, unless there is
a critical issue, and, by the rules of adminstrative recusal, they
should only do this once, personally, absent true fire-alarm
emergency. It better be good! For anything further, they'd go to the
community and not use tools to gain an advantage. And I've seen
admins violate this, causing a lot of unnecessary disruption because,
indeed, the editor then gets seriously pissed off. That's as to
speedy deletion. As to regular deletion, an admin is assessing
arguments and consensus at an AfD, and, if doing this well, doesn't
delete unless there is consensus for it, or, alternatively, the
arguments are clear and evidenced. And if the creator objects, the
admin politely considers the objection, and, if the admin can't
reverse, suggests DRV and is done. Seriously done. Probably not a
good idea to even argue for deletion at the review, the admin's
reasons should have been given with the original closure. Being
reversed should be no shame.

(2) good recusal policy requires an admin to stand aside and not
pursue an individual editor. An example of how this could work was
what happened when Iridescent blocked me in 2008. It was indef, but
she wrote, "indef as in indefinite, not as in infinite," or something
like that. And then she made no attempts at all to *keep* me blocked.
She presented her reason, and that was that. It was then between me
and the community, not me and her. As a result, I had no sense of
serious opposition to or from her, and no enmity. I still think she
made a mistake, but administrators are volunteers and will make
mistakes. Am I unusual? Maybe. But if an editor is, say, blocked for
a day by an administrator who then leaves unblock template
instructions and even wishes the editor well, and does it all
politely and correctly, it's going to be very visible if this editor
then embarks on a crusade against the admin -- unless the admin truly
was involved and shouldn't have touched the block button. Sure, it
happens. And it's very visible if anyone looks! Indeed, this editor
is likely to stay blocked or to be seen as seriously biased against
the administrator and possibly as genuinely dangerous to the project.
"I was blocked by a horrible monster" is very much not a way to get
unblocked, it rarely works.

(3) "community desysopping," per se, is a really Bad Idea. It should
be and must be much easier, and community discussions tend to be very
much a popularity contest, and waste huge amounts of editor labor.
Rather, some kind of administrative recall, as an easy process that
could result in *suspension* of administrative privileges, and even
without some presumption of actual misbehavior, merely in undoing,
temporarily, what was done with the RfA, makes much more sense.
Involving those who approved the adminship in the first place, and
who supported it, seems like a possibility that could be quite
efficient and quite clearly fair. I'm not detailing a process here,
but it would presumably be appealable. Suppose you approve my
adminship and I then find it necessary to block you. Under these
conditions, I'm probably not biased! But suppose it pisses you off.
If you can convince some number of other supporters to ask for
suspension, that might be automatic. I.e., there would be, perhaps, a
consent and request, in advance, part of the original RfA, that a
bureaucrat remove privileges under stated conditions, as verified by
the bureaucrat. This removal could then be undone through some
process, which might simply be a new RfA, but without the presumption
of a supermajority being needed. Indeed, I'd think a majority for
unsuspending should be enough (really, it would be the judgment of a
neutral bureaucrat, because of the possibility of pile-on from a
faction). And beyond that, if something was awry (such that pile-on
of a faction offended that the administrator was enforcing overall
policy), the matter could go to ArbComm on request, which might look
at the behavior of all parties. I've opined that ArbComm should
effectively suspend admin privileges for any admin if they accept the
case on a showing of probable cause of abuse; it might well do this
by issuing an injunction against use of tools in some area, not by
actual removal. And, as well, the "removal" I'm suggesting by a
bureaucrat might simply start with the admin abstaining from tool use
as instructed by the "recalling" editors, according to an original
promise, and it would only become an actual request to a bureaucrat
and then actual unsetting of the bit if the promise was violated.

Note that any administrator should probably recuse from use of tools
in an area when reasonably requested by a few editors, at least
pending discussion, I get into this more below. If I recuse on such
request, say on request by some process involving those who granted
me admnisthip in the first place, I may still be able to serve the
project in almost all the ways I'd be using admin tools anyway. It's
only when an admin uses tools, consistently in some area, and having
become involved in some way, personally, that there is a problem.
Often an abusive admin in one area still does good work in another,
if they can stay away from controversial use.

Would people approve of an admin just to gain an ability to torpedo
the admin later? I doubt it. It would be too easy and too visible to
shoot down, and the situation of an admin blocking someone who had
supported the admin gaining tool access would tend to look like "It
must have been necessary!" rather than the reverse. Frivolous
interference, or interference that has the effect of harming the
project, with an administrator especially, should be a sanctionable
offense. On the other hand, making a complaint that is considered
reasonable when reviewed should not be sanctioned, and that it
sometimes is, in effect, is chilling. Personally, I was appalled when
I filed an RfAr over administrative abuse, which was effectively
confirmed by ArbComm, it really was abuse, and the sysop lost his
bit, but ArbComm allowed the case to be massively broadened into a
"Whatever Abd Ever Did That Could Look Bad" mess. If I'd done so
much, there should have been an RfC on my behavior, and then a case
if conflict remained, a separate case, where I'm the topic, not
complicated by administrative abuse.

Indeed, that sysop mentioned had been causing problems with his tool
use and general editorial behavior for years, and I saw
administrators back off from confronting it because it was so
"expensive" because of the faction (a small but active minority)
backing him. It's still going on, but it now looks more like an
end-game, because some highly privileged and connected administrators
finally figured it out and how factional support was allowing it to continue.

Calling better process "getting rid of admins' is not a fair
statement of what decent proposals would look like. The structure
should make it easy to *restrain* administrative abuse, which would
start with much less drastic process than removal, it would start
with normal dispute resolution, at least at a low level. If a dispute
over tool usage continued, the actual usage might be examined, as
usual. In addition, my view, continuing to use tools where a user,
with anything even remotely reasoanble, objects, is not a good
practice, it should only be done in emergencies. Normally, with
respect to a registered user, an admin should recuse, practically, at
the drop of a hat. When I've suggested this, it's been claimed that
this would result in vast wikilawyering, but that objection is
clearly preposterous. If I block you and you scream that I'm biased
and should recuse, I'd respond. "Of course. I regret that this has
distressed you. I'm recusing. Bye." Actually, I'd do even better than
that, I'd provide a biolerplate set of instructions on how to appeal
an unblock. Naturally, when I blocked, I should already have provided
the block reason and the important evidence, or, if I hadn't, I'd
provide that. And then drop the whole matter. Unless I thought the
project would benefit from the unblock, I wouldn't unblock. But I'd
step aside from objecting to an unblock by any other administrator.
And then, in the future, if I saw a threat to the project from this
editor, I'd go to a noticeboard like anyone else, but I'd disclose
the prior request for recusal and acknowledge the claim of bias.

There are administrators who detest recusal policy, and they've been
very explicit about it, and if ArbComm were awake, it would order
their admin privileges suspended until it assured them that they "got
it." Instead, they practically have to dismember an unfortunate
editor right in front of ArbComm for it to be noticed. As long as
they avoid that, they're cool! They object that an editor could then
avoid being blocked by requesting recusal from admin after admin.
Given that recusal doesn't unblock, and even if they get an unblock,
are they going to claim that the unblocking admin was biased? That's
going to look really, really bad. I think within three such requests
or so, they would almost certainly be looking at an indef block with
no admin willing to unblock. I.e., a defacto ban, only with minimal
fuss, and they'd have only ArbComm to appeal to, and ArbComm is now
denying even some reasonable appeals, as far as I've seen. They don't
want the hassle.

Adminship should be "no big deal," as was claimed at the beginning.
And thus it being suspended, in part or even in toto, should be "no
big deal." Rather, some administrators very much think it's a big
deal, clearly. And this "big deal" concept, enforced by them when
they vote in RfAs, keeps people from volunteering and being accepted,
far more than some idea that allegations misbehavior might result in
a relatively harmless suspension. Someone who could not accept that
probably has the wrong idea in the first place about adminship and
thinks it is of some personal advantage. It isn't. It's an
opportunity to do some boring, relatively unrewarding work. But some
think of it as an opportunity to exert more power than regular
editors. What is wrong with this picture?
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 00:22:47 UTC
Permalink
At 06:43 AM 5/30/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>On 30 May 2010 11:36, WereSpielChequers
><***@googlemail.com> wrote: > As
>for the idea that we should move to "Hi, I
>noticed that you > speedy-deleted some files
>that do not appear to meet the CSD criteria; >
>your SysOp staus has been removed _while we discuss it_".

By arguing in this way those with elevated status
have maintained it, thoguh that seems to be
falling apart. Consider the situation described.
Obviously, the one writing this is a bureaucrat,
highly privileged. If we think that there is a
bureaucrat would would casually *remove* admin
status over some simple errors, we have a problem
with that bureaucrat, and, as with anyone else,
perhaps process should be initiated!

Bureaucrats, though, would only remove status,
absent emergency, if proper process had been
followed. Certainly that notice would not be the
first notice to the admin! Or if it was, and if
removal was immediately, the admin was massively
deleting, in a way making undoing it burdensome,
and the desysop was as an emergency, and would
normally be temporary until the admin agrees to stop.

By taking proposals for efficient and easy
desysopping to ridiculous extremes, suggesting
nightmare scenarios that would be highly unlikely
to occur, many in the community have been able to
prevent the system from being improved. It's
obvious. And it demonstrates that there are
editors who have a concept of an oligarchical
core, to which they belong, with the continued
power of this core, even when it's against true
consensus, being critical to the future of the project. And that's a problem.

> I've done > over 4,000 speedy deletions, and
> very probably there are more mistakes > amongst
> them that I know about, but if someone thinks
> I've deleted > something in error I'd expect a
> first approach along the lines of > "would you
> mind having another look at [[deleted
> article]], Â I don't > see how it was an attack page".

That's right and that's quite what happens, and
the existence of speedy suspension process (much
better and much less punitive than 'speedy
desysop') would not change this at all.

> Â Maybe I've made a mistake, maybe so > much
> has been oversighted that it no longer looks
> like an attack page, > maybe there are words
> involved that have very different meanings to
> a > Yank and a Brit. But a desysop first and
> ask questions later strategy > would in my view
> generate far more drama than would be justified by > the results.

I.e., straw man. The first step in a process
might be a request to suspend usage of tools in
some area. It would never be punitive, i.e., "You
made a mistake, therefore you are no longer a
sysop." What idiot would propose that? Rather,
the legitimate concern would always be the
likelihood of repetition. When it becomes likely
that an admin will make many errors, such that
cleanup becomes more work than allowing the sysop
to continue with tools, *then* removal of tools
becomes appropriate. I would assume, instead,
that suspension requests would be handled
routinely, and normally, a reasonable suspension
request would be handled with little fuss, it
would be much more like what David describes as
what he expects. It is only if the admin contests
this and insists on personally using tools in the
area, against maintained opposition by other
editors, and, then, particularly by editors who
might be eligible to take part in some formal
process to suspend (partially, with voluntary
compliance) or remove tools (i.e., if voluntary
compliance isn't forthcoming), would there be an
issue of conflict and actual removal. And then
the (now former) admin might get that note from a
bureacrat who reviewed the process and concluded that removal was appropriate.

> Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought,
> jawdroppingly obvious - result would be that
> no-one at all would go near such work in any circumstances.

Of course. It would be even worse if we chopped
off the hand of any admin who blocks, say,
another admin or makes any other error, as we
think. But why in the world would we imagine that
an efficient and fair removal process would look like this?

Look, if I'm offered the position of volunteer
custodian at my daughter's school, but I find out
that some other volunteer made so many mistakes
that they were asked to stop, would I decline on
that basis? Losing tools is not a flogging,
indeed, it's only like a flogging if one resists
it and believes it's the end of the world if one
can no longer block editors, delete articles, and the like.

It's not even an important part of most editor's
work, but, unfortunately, it does become an
important part of some admin's work. Some have
suggested that admins should be required to
maintain good article work. I disagree, because
some people might be *better* as admins than as
article aditors. But "better" doesn't mean that
they control the articles, and, indeed, it should
mean the opposite. It would mean that they
encourage cooperation among editors, defuse
disputes, using blocks judiciously and without
inflaming and expanding disputes with them. We
allow, in the U.S., police to wear guns. But any
police officer who is firing the gun, or even
just pulling it out of its holster and pointing
it at someone, frequently, is liable to be
dismissed or worse as dangerous. Administrators
are supposed to have no special privileges as to
deletion of articles, personally, as to their own
vision of what the project should be. But some
admins do, in fact, use their tools to further
their own agenda and POV, and I took that one to
ArbComm and prevailed, and it was useless in the
end. The admin was admonished, and then, not
being desysopped, retired. And then returned and
requested return of tools. Because they were not
removed "under a cloud," technically, he was able
to get his tools back. I've seen no similar
violations from him, though, but having admin
status has allowed him to have influence in the
community that has been, on occasion, just as
damaging. Pursuing the same POV as before.

Administrators are, in fact, specially privileged
over content and behavior, and adminstrators
frequently engage in behavior that would get
another editor immediately blocked. That's part
of the problem. Jimbo, even, tried to address it,
and a huge fuss was raised, by admins who don't
want any restraint on their power, and by those who support those admins.

> The problem with RFA has long been arbitrarily
> increased standards, and in recent years the abusive nature of the gauntlet.

That's part of the problem. But it is because it
is so difficult to remove the tools that the
"gauntlet" became so abusive and the standards so
apparently increased. It was pretty stupid,
because there is no way to anticipate how an
ordinary editor will behave with the tools, or,
at least, it's extraordinarily difficult. There
is an obvious solution that, however, will be
opposed by those who have gained admission to the
privileged group, because it will dilute their
power. It's natural and instinctive as a
response, I don't necessarily blame them. We can
see this in the votes on the community desysop
proposal. (Which was, by the way, a lousy
proposal in my view, far too reliant on our
heavily dysfunctional discussion process. DGG has
it right.) It looked like the proposal was being
massively rejected, but when administrator !votes
were set aside, it was about fifty-fifty. My
guess is that a better proposal might even pass.

And the solution is to make removal much easier,
so that when it's approved in the first place,
that approval can be undone *by those who
approved it.* Under Robert's Rules, it's called
Reconsideration. And a motion to reconsider must
be made by someone who approved the motion in the
first place. That's designed to avoid frivolous
requests for reconsideration....

I'd suggest something like this: a standard
"admin recall" agreement is worked out. This
could be *very* efficient and at the same time
very unlikely to be abused; having those who
support an RfA become some kind of recall
committee is one idea. If that approving number
is smaller because it becomes easier to pass RfA,
I'd only be worried about it becoming a factional
committee planning on using the admin to further
factional goals, but this would not be the only
way for an admin to lose tools, in the first
place, but also there would be ways to avoid
that, and it's possible that a closing bureaucrat
would, for example, appoint a committee from
among those who approved and who were willing to
"monitor" the situation with the admin, at least
for a while. I won't go into more detail, but
will note that I can anticipate piles of
objections, and the problem won't be fixed until
we realize that *any proposal can generate
objections,* but some of the objections might
easily be met with features, and some are merely
imagination as with the idea that someone would
just remove tools, as an individual, as described
above, without there being some safer process.
(But, of course, any bureaucrat or other highly
privileged user can already do this, and
sometimes they do, on an emergency opinion.)

Then, perhaps a consensus develops that not only
new admins but also all admins should agree to
this process. Nobody would be punished, per se,
by refusing, but refusal would then call
attention to the admin, and the admin's actions
might be reviewed.... and I could imagine some
case filed at ArbComm requiesting the removal of
tools en masse from administrators who had not
agreed to a community consensus on recall
process. Exceptions could then, obviously be
made, but if "removal" was merely a default
suspension, overcome by agreeing to the "pledge,"
I fail to see how it would actually be harmful.
There would be no denial of the already-existing
and valuable contributions of the administrator,
only a realization by the community that
different standards may be appropriate for the
future. There might not even be an actual
removal, but an admin might be treated as if the
pledge were in effect, i.e., that process might
be followed anyway, and it would be up to a
bureaucrat whether or not to respect it, with
appeal being possible to ArbComm. The same ad hoc
process that often works with articles could work with this as well.

Expect many existing administrators to make sure
to vote against any such proposals. Part of the
problem is that the active core is top-heavy with
administrators and wannabe administrators....
However, many admins are realizing how impossible
the status quo is, so it's always a possibility
that sanity will appear and prevail.
Unfortunately, most of the admins who wake up and
realize how bad the situation has become instead
retire, they may have burned out before realizing
the problems. Others simply become abusive in frustration....
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-05-31 00:22:47 UTC
Permalink
At 06:43 AM 5/30/2010, David Gerard wrote:
>On 30 May 2010 11:36, WereSpielChequers
><***@googlemail.com> wrote: > As
>for the idea that we should move to "Hi, I
>noticed that you > speedy-deleted some files
>that do not appear to meet the CSD criteria; >
>your SysOp staus has been removed _while we discuss it_".

By arguing in this way those with elevated status
have maintained it, thoguh that seems to be
falling apart. Consider the situation described.
Obviously, the one writing this is a bureaucrat,
highly privileged. If we think that there is a
bureaucrat would would casually *remove* admin
status over some simple errors, we have a problem
with that bureaucrat, and, as with anyone else,
perhaps process should be initiated!

Bureaucrats, though, would only remove status,
absent emergency, if proper process had been
followed. Certainly that notice would not be the
first notice to the admin! Or if it was, and if
removal was immediately, the admin was massively
deleting, in a way making undoing it burdensome,
and the desysop was as an emergency, and would
normally be temporary until the admin agrees to stop.

By taking proposals for efficient and easy
desysopping to ridiculous extremes, suggesting
nightmare scenarios that would be highly unlikely
to occur, many in the community have been able to
prevent the system from being improved. It's
obvious. And it demonstrates that there are
editors who have a concept of an oligarchical
core, to which they belong, with the continued
power of this core, even when it's against true
consensus, being critical to the future of the project. And that's a problem.

> I've done > over 4,000 speedy deletions, and
> very probably there are more mistakes > amongst
> them that I know about, but if someone thinks
> I've deleted > something in error I'd expect a
> first approach along the lines of > "would you
> mind having another look at [[deleted
> article]], Â I don't > see how it was an attack page".

That's right and that's quite what happens, and
the existence of speedy suspension process (much
better and much less punitive than 'speedy
desysop') would not change this at all.

> Â Maybe I've made a mistake, maybe so > much
> has been oversighted that it no longer looks
> like an attack page, > maybe there are words
> involved that have very different meanings to
> a > Yank and a Brit. But a desysop first and
> ask questions later strategy > would in my view
> generate far more drama than would be justified by > the results.

I.e., straw man. The first step in a process
might be a request to suspend usage of tools in
some area. It would never be punitive, i.e., "You
made a mistake, therefore you are no longer a
sysop." What idiot would propose that? Rather,
the legitimate concern would always be the
likelihood of repetition. When it becomes likely
that an admin will make many errors, such that
cleanup becomes more work than allowing the sysop
to continue with tools, *then* removal of tools
becomes appropriate. I would assume, instead,
that suspension requests would be handled
routinely, and normally, a reasonable suspension
request would be handled with little fuss, it
would be much more like what David describes as
what he expects. It is only if the admin contests
this and insists on personally using tools in the
area, against maintained opposition by other
editors, and, then, particularly by editors who
might be eligible to take part in some formal
process to suspend (partially, with voluntary
compliance) or remove tools (i.e., if voluntary
compliance isn't forthcoming), would there be an
issue of conflict and actual removal. And then
the (now former) admin might get that note from a
bureacrat who reviewed the process and concluded that removal was appropriate.

> Indeed. The first - and, I would have thought,
> jawdroppingly obvious - result would be that
> no-one at all would go near such work in any circumstances.

Of course. It would be even worse if we chopped
off the hand of any admin who blocks, say,
another admin or makes any other error, as we
think. But why in the world would we imagine that
an efficient and fair removal process would look like this?

Look, if I'm offered the position of volunteer
custodian at my daughter's school, but I find out
that some other volunteer made so many mistakes
that they were asked to stop, would I decline on
that basis? Losing tools is not a flogging,
indeed, it's only like a flogging if one resists
it and believes it's the end of the world if one
can no longer block editors, delete articles, and the like.

It's not even an important part of most editor's
work, but, unfortunately, it does become an
important part of some admin's work. Some have
suggested that admins should be required to
maintain good article work. I disagree, because
some people might be *better* as admins than as
article aditors. But "better" doesn't mean that
they control the articles, and, indeed, it should
mean the opposite. It would mean that they
encourage cooperation among editors, defuse
disputes, using blocks judiciously and without
inflaming and expanding disputes with them. We
allow, in the U.S., police to wear guns. But any
police officer who is firing the gun, or even
just pulling it out of its holster and pointing
it at someone, frequently, is liable to be
dismissed or worse as dangerous. Administrators
are supposed to have no special privileges as to
deletion of articles, personally, as to their own
vision of what the project should be. But some
admins do, in fact, use their tools to further
their own agenda and POV, and I took that one to
ArbComm and prevailed, and it was useless in the
end. The admin was admonished, and then, not
being desysopped, retired. And then returned and
requested return of tools. Because they were not
removed "under a cloud," technically, he was able
to get his tools back. I've seen no similar
violations from him, though, but having admin
status has allowed him to have influence in the
community that has been, on occasion, just as
damaging. Pursuing the same POV as before.

Administrators are, in fact, specially privileged
over content and behavior, and adminstrators
frequently engage in behavior that would get
another editor immediately blocked. That's part
of the problem. Jimbo, even, tried to address it,
and a huge fuss was raised, by admins who don't
want any restraint on their power, and by those who support those admins.

> The problem with RFA has long been arbitrarily
> increased standards, and in recent years the abusive nature of the gauntlet.

That's part of the problem. But it is because it
is so difficult to remove the tools that the
"gauntlet" became so abusive and the standards so
apparently increased. It was pretty stupid,
because there is no way to anticipate how an
ordinary editor will behave with the tools, or,
at least, it's extraordinarily difficult. There
is an obvious solution that, however, will be
opposed by those who have gained admission to the
privileged group, because it will dilute their
power. It's natural and instinctive as a
response, I don't necessarily blame them. We can
see this in the votes on the community desysop
proposal. (Which was, by the way, a lousy
proposal in my view, far too reliant on our
heavily dysfunctional discussion process. DGG has
it right.) It looked like the proposal was being
massively rejected, but when administrator !votes
were set aside, it was about fifty-fifty. My
guess is that a better proposal might even pass.

And the solution is to make removal much easier,
so that when it's approved in the first place,
that approval can be undone *by those who
approved it.* Under Robert's Rules, it's called
Reconsideration. And a motion to reconsider must
be made by someone who approved the motion in the
first place. That's designed to avoid frivolous
requests for reconsideration....

I'd suggest something like this: a standard
"admin recall" agreement is worked out. This
could be *very* efficient and at the same time
very unlikely to be abused; having those who
support an RfA become some kind of recall
committee is one idea. If that approving number
is smaller because it becomes easier to pass RfA,
I'd only be worried about it becoming a factional
committee planning on using the admin to further
factional goals, but this would not be the only
way for an admin to lose tools, in the first
place, but also there would be ways to avoid
that, and it's possible that a closing bureaucrat
would, for example, appoint a committee from
among those who approved and who were willing to
"monitor" the situation with the admin, at least
for a while. I won't go into more detail, but
will note that I can anticipate piles of
objections, and the problem won't be fixed until
we realize that *any proposal can generate
objections,* but some of the objections might
easily be met with features, and some are merely
imagination as with the idea that someone would
just remove tools, as an individual, as described
above, without there being some safer process.
(But, of course, any bureaucrat or other highly
privileged user can already do this, and
sometimes they do, on an emergency opinion.)

Then, perhaps a consensus develops that not only
new admins but also all admins should agree to
this process. Nobody would be punished, per se,
by refusing, but refusal would then call
attention to the admin, and the admin's actions
might be reviewed.... and I could imagine some
case filed at ArbComm requiesting the removal of
tools en masse from administrators who had not
agreed to a community consensus on recall
process. Exceptions could then, obviously be
made, but if "removal" was merely a default
suspension, overcome by agreeing to the "pledge,"
I fail to see how it would actually be harmful.
There would be no denial of the already-existing
and valuable contributions of the administrator,
only a realization by the community that
different standards may be appropriate for the
future. There might not even be an actual
removal, but an admin might be treated as if the
pledge were in effect, i.e., that process might
be followed anyway, and it would be up to a
bureaucrat whether or not to respect it, with
appeal being possible to ArbComm. The same ad hoc
process that often works with articles could work with this as well.

Expect many existing administrators to make sure
to vote against any such proposals. Part of the
problem is that the active core is top-heavy with
administrators and wannabe administrators....
However, many admins are realizing how impossible
the status quo is, so it's always a possibility
that sanity will appear and prevail.
Unfortunately, most of the admins who wake up and
realize how bad the situation has become instead
retire, they may have burned out before realizing
the problems. Others simply become abusive in frustration....
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 13:30:17 UTC
Permalink
Again, this gets long. If allergic to Abd Thought, or to lengthy
comments, please don't read. Nobody is required to read this, it's
voluntary, and you won't hear a complaint from me if you don't read it.

Actually, the mail triggered moderation, the list is set to 20 KB
max, which is low in my experience, and it was rejected as too long.
Therefore, instead of only needing to skip one mail, you'll need to
skip two. This is part one.

At 03:14 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> > At 01:35 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
> >
> >> Actually, most people who don't apply as an admin just don't apply.
> >
> > With ten million registered editors and a handful of RfAs, that's
> > obvious.
> >
> >> They
> >> don't generate "evidence" one way or another. It is a perfectly sensible
> >> attitude for a well-adjusted Wikipedian getting on with article work not
> >> to want to be involved in admin work.
> >
> > Sure. However, there is a minority who are *not* "well-adjusted" who
> > would seek adminship for personal power.

>Yes, and the first required quality for being given such power is not to
>want it. Etc. But you were the one talking about getting painted into a
>corner.

Sure. "You were the one" implies some argument being applied to one
side and not the other. What was that?

Barging ahead anwyay, I'd say that anyone sane would not want to be a
Wikipedia editor unless (1) they have some axe to grind, or (2) they
are neutral and simply want to help an obviously desirable cause.
However, when people become highly involved, they naturally develop
attachments, which is how it comes to be that even a quite neutral
editor can become an abusive administrator, and this will be quite
invisbile, for many, when they don't have the tools. The more boring
grunt work you do, the more natural it is to think you own the
project. After all, if not for you....

I remember reviewing the contributions of an administrator, known to
all of us here, because of some suspicion that an sock puppeteer was
really, from the beginning, a bad-hand account of someone, and this
admin was a possible suspect. What I saw, reviewing edit timing, was
thousands upon thousands of edits, for hours upon hours, a few edits
a minute, doing repetitive tasks. The admin was running a tool that
assisted him by feeding him proposed edits, so what he was doing, for
many hours, was a few button pushes a minute to accept the edits. I
was both in awe (at the dedicated work) and in wonder at how this
could be done without losing one's sanity....

In fact, it might have been better if that work had been replaced by
fully automated bot work, with processes and procedures for reviewing
it and fixing problems. If he could do that for hours on end without
error, probably a bot could as well, with only a little error,
perhaps. But, of course, for quite good reasons, most fully automated
bot editing has been prohibited. That's changing, to be sure, there
is now, for example, a spambot that reverts IP additions of spam web
sites, an intermediate position to blacklisting that allows possibly
useful but often abused sites to be used by registered editors, and
edits by the IPs become "suggested edits" easy to review if anyone is
willing. And the IP could actually ask any registered user to do it,
or register and get autoconfirmed....

Overall, editorial efficiency has been seriously neglected, because
editorial labor was not valued. Admin labor has been valued somewhat,
and some of the disparity between the real rights of administrators
and those of ordinary editors comes out of assumptions about this.

So, Charles agrees that wanting power is a disqualification, and I
agree. (You might look at RfA/Abd 2, where I addressed this, I didn't
want to be an admin, I was merely responding to a suggestion that I
help clean up the place, and I was quite clear that anything that I
wanted to do, personally, wouldn't be helped by being an admin, I'd
just be tempted to use the tools while involved. I'm pretty sure that
I'd not have aroused serious controversy over the use of admin tools,
but, of course, those who later were offended by me as an editor seem
to have assumed that I'd simply have blocked anyone who disagreed
with me. That would have been really silly!)

But if it's a disqualification at the beginning, then, we must see,
it should remain a disqualification. If an administrator is
personally attached to being an administrator, it's a problem. Which
then exposes the contradiction of the picture being presented:
supposedly people would not apply to be administrators, or perhaps
would quit, if they saw that allegedly abusive administrators would
lose their tools. The fact is that when controversy arises over tool
use, the best administrators back up and back off, and hardly ever
get taken to ArbComm, because they don't allow themselves to be the
focus of the controversy. Rather, say, they blocked an editor, and
the editor is complaining about bias. If the admin backs off and
doesn't touch that editor again, but limits activity to presentation
(at the beginning!) of the evidence behind the block, letting and
encouraging independent review of that, the dispute becomes a dispute
between the editor and the community, or it is resolved. A good
administrator might even go out of his way to later do a favor for that editor.

But if the administrator starts to think of the community as divided
into warring factions, with himself on one side and the editor on the
other, and the admin *must* act or "they" will win, neutrality has
been lost. As soon as you think you are personally the bulwark
against "them," you have some kind of belief that consensus is the
other way, or is at least not going to back you up by taking your place.

There is a kind of war going on, but we are each called upon only to
take a position actively, maybe *once.* I'll revert a change to an
article, with explanation, almost never more than once. As an admin I
might block someone once, almost never more than that. If I were to
see some problem beyond that, I'd almost certainly go to a
noticeboard like any other editor. In an emergency, sure, but then I
*really* need to go to that noticeboard, note that I've previously
blocked and might be biased, and asking for review. One of the worst
abuses I've seen of the abuse of an administrator was a desysopping
where an admin made an unwise block, that he should have left for the
judgment of someone else. But he had immediately gone to a
noticeboard to ask for review! Effectively, he was punished for an
error. That's abusive, and only if he did this again and again should
desysopping have been on the table. All that was needed was to tell
him that he shouldn't have blocked, and ask him to agree not to do
it, or something like it, again. But, politics! Sometimes there is
mob screaming for blood, wanting someone to *suffer* for this mistake.

As to the dispute involved, between the blocking admin and the editor
blocked, I was on the other side. As hinted, I believe the block was
an error. So? The issue should always be, is this going to be
repeated? Even if one finds that the admin did it before, that's not
enough to establish that the admin would repeat it after being
troutslapped for it. And even troutslapping should be done with
assumption of good faith and gentleness. "Just don't do it again!"
That is, if we want to operate a volunteer project and retain wide
participation.

(continued in Part 2, following.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 13:31:19 UTC
Permalink
(continuation from Part 1, preceding.)

I never sought the desysopping of JzG, as an example, and didn't
argue for it for WMC. I argued for *suspension* until the admin
assured ArbComm that he would not repeat the use of tools while
involved. JzG's actions had been egregious, and still ArbComm was
unwilling to ask for assurances. Behind this, I'm sure, was an
impression that JzG would have considered it an insult. But it should
be routine. Indeed, ArbComm bans editors all the time when it could
simply ask for *voluntary assurances.* And even more are community
banned under a similar failure. Voluntary compliance, negotiated with
respect, is far less likely to build up sustained resentments, than
bullying and blocking.

These are all really obvious principles, but it's been amazing to see
what oppositino they aroused when they were brought up before
ArbComm. ArbComm remained silent on them, and on what was said in
response. ArbComm mostly functions as a passive body, but then it
does something different and becomes very active. It depends on whose
ox is being gored.

> The problem, as I have defined it, is of negative voting. The
>sheer suspicion of those who apparently want the mop-and-bucket. (And
>anyway, I obviously was using "well-adjusted" in the sense of "round peg
>in a round hole", not as a comment on anything else.)

If it's easy to revoke, it would obviously be easier to grant.
Indeed, the supermajority standard is a problem. You propose that an
administrator might avoid being "shot at" if the admin avoids
controversial areas. So, to become an admin, avoid controversial
areas! But, then, we don't know how the admin will behave when
involved in controversy.

The same arguments that are applied to, say, required reconfirmation
of administrators, should apply to granting adminship in the first
place. If an editor has tacked difficulties, the issue should be how
the editor did it, not how many people were offended. If the editor
needlessly inflamed the topic, that's a problem, for sure, and could
betray that there could be problems as an administrator. But if the
editor calmed the conflict, with only a few die-hards then resenting
the intervention or involvement, it should be a positive mark. There
is no substitute for actually examining the record, if the record matters.

In fact, it shouldn't matter much, and here is why: adminship should
routinely be granted based on an agreed-upon mentorship, with an
active administrator. I'd suggest, in fact, that any admin who
approves of the adminship would be allowed to do what a mentor could
do, but an agreed-upon mentor would be taking on the responsibility.
So if anyone has a complaint about the admin's actions, they have
someone to go to for review, without going to a noticeboard and some
possible flame war there. They can even do it privately, by email.
That's how WP DR structure is supposed to work, it's supposed to
start small. I've been amazed to see how few understand this!

Given administrative supervision, with any supervising admin being
able to go directly to a bureaucrat or steward and request removal of
the tools, if necessary, there is no reason to disapprove of almost
anyone, and a discussion would only take place to the extent that it
would be an opportunity to express objections. The closing bureaucrat
might, indeed, review those, but numbers would not matter. What would
matter would be (1) no sign of *likely* abuse, and (2) the presence
of effective supervision.

At Wikiversity, this is apparently done, though I don't know all the
details. There is then, after a time on probation, a "full adminship"
discussion. (There is no difference in the tool settings between the
two, an admin on probation has full tools, the only difference is a
responsible mentor.) But with a more detailed structure, there might
not be the need for "full adminship." I'd say that every
administrator should have a "recall committee," a set of editors who
are both trusted by the admin and by the community to correct the
admin if he or she veers off-course. Only when this process fails,
perhaps because of too-close alignment of the admin and the recall
committee, would it be necessary to escalate to broader discussions.
Ultimately, we should go back and set this up for existing
administrators. This should, in reality, only be a problem for
administrators who believe that they should have no supervision at
all. That's a problem in itself. And I'm leaving the details of how
such a committee would be formed, and how admins who have become part
of it are replaced as they vanish, as many do, to a later discussion
and, of course, ultimately, to the community if it ever starts to go
here. I'm just proposing ideas to show that there might be some
possible solution, and with no pretense that my ideas are the last
word. I really do believe in the power of informed consensus, and the
only kind of consensus that I have a problem with is when it is
inadequately informed and is (quite likely as a linked condition) too
narrow, with too few participants. But fully informed consensus that
is real consensus with only a relatively small number is unlikely to
be reversed by broader discussion.

This is why thorough discussion at the lowest possible level, seeing
true consensus, is actually efficient, and only seems otherwise to
someone who doesn't know how to (1) maximize its effeciency by using
the debate to create a FAQ so that the same issues don't get debated
over and over and over, and/or (2) doesn't want to discuss, but also
doesn't trust what will happen if he or she stands aside and, say,
simply raises the issue in Talk and then lets go or also raises it on
a WikiProject. Instead, what tends to happen is that someone who
isn't willing to actually discuss goes to a noticeboard and claims
that an opposing editor is being "tendentious." It works, too often!
Noticeboards aren't supposed to resolve content issues, at least not
AN and AN/I, and admins are not supposed to resolve content disputes
with the use of tools, but you cannot judge tendentiousness and
distinguish it from, say, an expert patiently explaining an issue
over and over and then perhaps becoming angry at meeting ignorant
insistance for an editor or two, accompanied by revert warring by
them. The expert is, of course, very likely an SPA, and is actually,
often, COI, and so is easily seen as someone to be excluded. And thus
one more expert joins the ranks of blocked or banned experts, I've
seen it happen many times. Sometimes it gets fixed, but often not.
And that damage accumulates, unless admins take an active role in
actually resolving disputes instead of judging them. The power of
judgment is not a police power! Discretion is, but that's distinct.

Good police officers, when they encounter people fighting or about to
fight, will separate them and normally only arrest someone if there
has been injury, or the person resists separation and won't stop. If
it's neighborhood police, they may sometimes help people to resolve
their dispute, not by judging it, but by pointing to resources and by
perhaps saying some kind words to both sides, encouraging them to
work out the problem.

And the rest of this is about personal history, and is an aside.

On Wikipedia, I was able to to this a few times, it was quite
successful, and it avoided one or both of the parties from being
blocked, they were headed for that, and they turned into cooperating
editors. And this is the work that was directly prohibited by ArbComm
in my MYOB ban. I was never able to figure out the sense of this ban,
because there were no allegations of improper behavior related to
it.... I think that the reality was that many simply wanted me to
shut up. But they didn't make that clear, and what they did was
something different that turned out to be quite unclear. It was
eventually made clear enough that I simply stopped editing Wikipedia,
for the most part, but the later "clear" interpretation was very
different from the original sanction.

And ArbComm's last reponse wasn't really an interpretation, it was
more in the nature of advice that I should stop doing anything
controversial, whether or not it was covered by the ban, and ArbComm
only began, haltingly, to address the fact that I was being hauled
before Arbitration Enforcement, again and again, by the same editors,
two of them parties to the original arbitration, for stuff that
wasn't actually found to be a ban violation when ArbComm was asked,
and without any showing at all of *actual harm.* I'd made comments,
for example, that either were or became the consensus in a poll, and
supposedly I was allowed to comment in polls. ArbComm, however, and
many editors and administrators, tend to assume that if there are a
number of editors and administrators yelling at one editor, that one
editor *must* be doing something wrong. It's an assumption that is
often efficient, it's probably right more often than not, but when it
fails, there goes any ability to benefit from a whistleblower. And so
serious problems can continue for years.... as they did in the cases
where I was involved. I was confronting what I called a "cabal," by
which I meant exactly what Lar has been asserting recently about the
same general group of editors, a "mutually-involved faction." I made
my meaning clear, but, somehow, some arbitrators actually asserted
that I *really* meant something else, and then I was sanctioned for
not backing up what I didn't mean and did not assert.... go figure!
And all this was considered so hot that all the Evidence and the
Workship was blanked. Mostly the Evidence that I put up was just edit
histories showing involvement in a field. Almost none of it showed
actually reprehensible conduct, because I wasn't attempting to get
anyone sanctioned, and only WMC confronted for long-term use of tools
while involved. But I had to explain, I believed, why there were a
dozen editors filling up the RfAr with Abd did this and Abd did that,
which was actually irrelevant to the filed case, but the "mutual
involvement" showed why these editors would care so much. They were
not neutral. And then, of course, if I tried to respond to evidence
presented against me, my responses became voluminous. ArbComm, quite
simply, had not, and probably still has not, developed methods to
deal efficiently with factional conflict. I was, I believe, standing
up for community consensus (and that's becoming apparent as more
people become aware of what had been happening), but when the
community is mostly not paying attention in a field, someone who does
that can seem to be an isolated pov-pusher or tendentious in other
ways, if faced with a faction. I had beeen quite careful. I didn't
drag people to noticeboards, I simply discussed edits in Talk, and
was being successful in shifting article consensus, being opposed by
revert warring from about only one editor, for the most part. (In the
last incident, I had 0RR, he had 3 and then self-reverted, added a
pile of blatantly POV material to the lede, then went to RfPP and
requested protection because of edit warring, when he was the
principal edit warrior. And succeeded. And that's what had just
happened when I was banned by WMC. For? He didn't say! Positions that
went to mediation, of mine, were confirmed. In spite of serious
opposition from the same set of editors, whitelistings I requested
were granted. I wasn't getting anyone blocked or banned, and wasn't
asking for it, but they sure wanted me out of there! And that, alone,
should have been a clue. But it takes time and effort to understand
these complex situations, it's much easier to make a quick judgment,
decide whom to ban, and be done with it. But that tendency, then,
preserves conflict and prevents genuine consensus from forming.

I personally don't care, the Wikipedia articles, even on subjects
very dear to me, aren't that important, and Wikipedia is not a safe
place to put content that requires work to create. I'm actually
grateful to be rid of any idea that I have a responsibility to edit.
(I'm not banned or blocked anywhere, by the way, just en.wiki topic
banned on Cold fusion, where I've become an expert and COI, I'm
actually in business selling research materials, and there is this
weird MYOB ban in place, which was allowing a few editors to
constantly harass me by claiming I was "commenting on disputes" even
if I didn't make any comments at all, but just an ordinary edit that
reflected apparent consensus... and anything that could be
wikilawyered into a ban violation was, so... given that there was no
initiative to address the real source of the disruption (once upon a
time there would have been, but those editors had all disappeared), I
just stopped editing entirely.

I was much more interested in Wikipedia process and the principles of
consensus and neutrality, and how to facilitate them, toward the goal
of the overall project. Until that goal becomes more important than
whatever it is that occupies the active core, I don't see much hope.
People like Lar and others do see some of the problem, but they,
sooner or later, burn out and leave. I had, at one point, three
arbitrators who did understand, for the most part, my goals. But, of
course, they always recused, and one rather promptly resigned. My
original MYOB ban provided for a mentor to allow me to participate in
discussion. Fritzpoll had volunteered to be my mentor, during the
case. Denied as not needed since there was no mentorship requirement.
But, in fact, there was! Then, later, Fritzpoll ran for and was
elected to ArbComm. Because the issue of mentorship had come up,
because it was mentioned in the ban, he again volunteered, privately,
to ArbComm. It was denied, he was told that arbitrators could not be
mentors. That was odd, since he and two other arbitrators were
already recusing when anything involving me came up! This was the
reality: there were many who simply wanted me, as I wrote before, me
to shut up. Many arbitrators. A majority? Maybe. But would that
majority have insisted on it if it became obvious what was going on?

My organizational theory says, no, not likely. But as long as this
kind of motive could take cover under some other seemingly reasonable
excuse, it would be maintained. Arbitrators have always been
administrators and are, quite understandably, uncomfortable with an
editor who has been a primary party in two ArbComm cases and which
have resulted in censure or desysopping. It's instinctive, protect-our-own.

I was disappointed that the arbitrators who recused (a total of
three, I think) didn't then present arguments and evidence. I know
what they knew. I know more about the situation that I'm not
disclosing, because of personal confidences revealed to me that I
don't have permission to reveal. My general position on ArbComm is
that necessary support structure has not been created, so arbitrators
are faced with a much more difficult task than is necessary. They
don't have time to do the research necessary to uncover what evidence
is good and what isn't. So decisions tend to become matters of quick
impressions, and that's a setup for bad decisions, and I've seen some
doozies. Not involving me.
Risker
2010-06-01 13:57:15 UTC
Permalink
Procedural note to moderators: Perhaps it is time to consider a length
limit on posting?

Risker
Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
2010-06-01 14:45:33 UTC
Permalink
Risker wrote:
> Procedural note to moderators: Perhaps it is time to consider a length
> limit on posting?
>
While I understand where you are coming from, it bears noting
that some people would like a limit of length both on the short
and the long side, and you would in the eyes of some, fail on the
short side of the limit -- as I do often too, not being too particular
either way. Not passing judgement long or short, but just
noting that both are annoying, even I admit to have rarely done
both...

...And I suspect I will do both again. Do note that the current
person in charge of the staff serving the foundation, very specifically
commended a very long post by Gregory Maxwell that in her view
nicely summarised the situation on commons -- albeit that post was
at the foundation-l.

I don't actually agree with Sue on that particular summary being
all that insightful. (Sorry Greg!) But a lengthy summary did in
fact please Sue in that particular instance. So making the moderators
bar posts like the one by Greg, I think serves no one.


Yours,

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
David Gerard
2010-06-01 14:58:32 UTC
Permalink
On 1 June 2010 15:45, Jussi-Ville Heiskanen <***@gmail.com> wrote:

> I don't actually agree with Sue on that particular summary being
> all that insightful. (Sorry Greg!) But a lengthy summary did in
> fact please Sue in that particular instance. So making the moderators
> bar posts like the one by Greg, I think serves no one.


The 20KB limit on wikien-l used to be a 10KB limit. Deliberately
working around it is antisocial at the least; I would ask that
contributors not do this, and instead take the time to rewrite more
concisely when they get a bounce due to length. The writing will also
undoubtedly improve.


- d.
Carcharoth
2010-06-01 15:17:52 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 2:57 PM, Risker <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> Procedural note to moderators:  Perhaps it is time to consider a length
> limit on posting?

I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
there.

Carcharoth
AGK
2010-06-01 16:47:50 UTC
Permalink
On 1 June 2010 16:17, Carcharoth <***@googlemail.com> wrote:
> I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
> They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
> nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
> there.

Now you know how we feel with your posts, Carch :).

(I'm kidding, ofc. Your input is most valuable in part because it's so
detailed.)

AGK
Carcharoth
2010-06-01 19:10:21 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 5:47 PM, AGK <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> On 1 June 2010 16:17, Carcharoth <***@googlemail.com> wrote:
>> I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
>> They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
>> nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
>> there.
>
> Now you know how we feel with your posts, Carch :).
>
> (I'm kidding, ofc. Your input is most valuable in part because it's so
> detailed.)

I wish I could say I didn't have your comment in the back of my mind
when I posted on-wiki a few minutes ago, but I did and the comments
were slightly longer than usual... :-P

Carcharoth
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 18:02:55 UTC
Permalink
At 11:17 AM 6/1/2010, Carcharoth wrote:
>On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 2:57 PM, Risker <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Procedural note to moderators: Perhaps it is time to consider a length
> > limit on posting?
>
>I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
>They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
>nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
>there.

That's what I do with long posts that don't grab me. Some people like
long posts, some don't. Some of those who don't want to prevent those
who like them from receiving them. It is a very old story.

I skip *lots* of posts. But I have no opinion that there is
necessarily something wrong with them. Obviously. If the writer
wanted to reach me, then the effort failed. But the post wasn't sent
personally to me, if it were, I'd be much more inclined to read it.

Now, what I do which could be a problem is to respond to an
individual, thus luring the individual into reading it, but I'm
actually exploring a much larger topic. Perhaps if I'm going to write
something that might be taken as an attack, I should make it brief
and separate it from the larger commentary -- or not send it at all.
Carcharoth
2010-06-01 19:08:49 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 7:02 PM, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> At 11:17 AM 6/1/2010, Carcharoth wrote:
>>On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 2:57 PM, Risker <***@gmail.com> wrote:
>> > Procedural note to moderators:  Perhaps it is time to consider a length
>> > limit on posting?
>>
>>I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
>>They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
>>nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
>>there.
>
> That's what I do with long posts that don't grab me. Some people like
> long posts, some don't. Some of those who don't want to prevent those
> who like them from receiving them. It is a very old story.

Actually, what we have here now is thread drift. We are way off topic,
so anything discussing mailing list etiquette (or even discussing Abd
if anyone wants to do that) should be started in a new thread, and
this thread should go back to discussing, er, let's see:

"declining numbers of EN wiki admins - The theory that making it
easier to get rid of admins is a solution to the decline in their
active numbers"

But maybe with a shorter title?

Carcharoth
quiddity
2010-06-02 19:46:19 UTC
Permalink
On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 8:17 AM, Carcharoth <***@googlemail.com> wrote:
> I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
> They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
> nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
> there.
>

"I apologize that this letter is so long. I did not have the time to
make it short." - Blaise Pascal

I agree.
Abd, please take the time to make your thoughts more readily parsable.
Don't force your readers to work so hard in order to find your point.
[[tl;dr]] is generally an odious dismissal, but it really does apply here.



> and this thread should go back to discussing, er, let's see:
> "declining numbers of EN wiki admins

Well, I've never applied (after 5 years of daily editing), primarily
because I'm already busy on-wiki, and the tasks I'm interested in
don't require blocking or protecting anything. I'd occasionally find
it useful to be able to edit protected pages, or view deleted content,
but there are {{editprotected}} templates and request pages that can
handle my sporadic needs.

Secondly, these comments from a few months ago have been stuck in my head:

On Wed, Dec 9, 2009 at 6:53 PM, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> 2009/12/10 Mike Pruden <***@yahoo.com>:
>
>> Personally, I found unloading my watchlist liberating, and I would hope that more would do the same. There's always that steady stream of vandal-fighters to stomp out any clear vandalism that pops up. It's hard to explain, but I think it's a good exercise in assuming good faith that others will make constructive edits in efforts to improve pages.
>
>
> I gave up using my watchlist in late 2004. Haven't missed it.
>

So /That's/ why we're so busy, and feel so alone sometimes!! :P
The busy policy talkpages, really (really) need regular input from the
old guard.
Watch[list]ful vigilance, is the still the best way to understand, and
influence, the undercurrents of consensus, afaik.

There's more, but I need more coffee now, and less stress in general. HTH.

Quiddity
David Gerard
2010-06-02 20:27:22 UTC
Permalink
On 2 June 2010 20:46, quiddity <***@gmail.com> wrote:

> So /That's/ why we're so busy, and feel so alone sometimes!! :P
> The busy policy talkpages, really (really) need regular input from the
> old guard.
> Watch[list]ful vigilance, is the still the best way to understand, and
> influence, the undercurrents of consensus, afaik.


I've mostly had my fill of the same stupidities over and over. I am
pretty much unknown to the current centres of drama - those who've
leveled up to admin but are still in their first 18 months - and I
quite like it. I have no particular powers on en:wp and no-one knows
or cares who I am except old-timers and the ones who watch TV in the
UK. (And I've done almost no press this year because WMUK handle
pretty much all of it.) Content, it's fun!


> There's more, but I need more coffee now, and less stress in general. HTH.


+1


- d.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-03 15:10:47 UTC
Permalink
Original subject: Re: [WikiEN-l] declining numbers of EN wiki admins
- The theory that making it easier to get rid of admins is a solution
to the decline in their active numbers

At 03:46 PM 6/2/2010, quiddity wrote:

>Abd, please take the time to make your thoughts more readily parsable.
>Don't force your readers to work so hard in order to find your point.
>[[tl;dr]] is generally an odious dismissal, but it really does apply here.

Thanks, quiddity.

Some find my boiled-down "thoughts" even more difficult to read. If
the uncondensed material, which contains the redundancy that
sometimes allows the unclear to become clear, is hard to "parse,"
it's quite likely that one or more of a number of different conditions obtain.

1. There are held assumptions interfering.

2. It takes time to approach some of the concepts. I've seen it take
a year of exposure before the meanings start to appear to even a very
bright reader.

3. The reader is impatient or needs an overview in which to place
each statement, instead of simply reading without demanding immediate
understanding. (That can describe me, sometimes, by the way. And one
of the easiest fixes to my TL comments is to make them a little
longer by prefixing them with a summary. I always create a summary on
request, and others have done this for me. Actually boiling it down
without making it unintelligible is very time-consuming, typically
I'm already spending too much time writing!)

4. It's not polemic, but some readers want to know what the "point"
is. I.e, what conclusion is being pushed? Trying to figure this out
can be frustrating because I'm not generally pushing a point but
simply considering an issue. Or, another way to put this, it is a
literal point of view, that is, a view from my position, that is
being expressed, not pushed.

5. The reader has a strong position which appears to be contradicted by me.

6. The reader doesn't have time and/or adequate interest. This is the
real tl;dr, and it's fully legitimate.

There are different learning styles, and only some people are capable
of learning from someone like me. That is not blameworthy, and is
only a problem when these people try to prevent *others* from
learning from me, for there are many who can and do.

Now, as to the question I posed: What do you get when you can see
things from two different points of view at the same time?

Some thing that this is weak, that it produces vacillation, lack of
clarity, etc.

But what you actually and literally get is depth perception.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-03 15:10:47 UTC
Permalink
Original subject: Re: [WikiEN-l] declining numbers of EN wiki admins
- The theory that making it easier to get rid of admins is a solution
to the decline in their active numbers

At 03:46 PM 6/2/2010, quiddity wrote:

>Abd, please take the time to make your thoughts more readily parsable.
>Don't force your readers to work so hard in order to find your point.
>[[tl;dr]] is generally an odious dismissal, but it really does apply here.

Thanks, quiddity.

Some find my boiled-down "thoughts" even more difficult to read. If
the uncondensed material, which contains the redundancy that
sometimes allows the unclear to become clear, is hard to "parse,"
it's quite likely that one or more of a number of different conditions obtain.

1. There are held assumptions interfering.

2. It takes time to approach some of the concepts. I've seen it take
a year of exposure before the meanings start to appear to even a very
bright reader.

3. The reader is impatient or needs an overview in which to place
each statement, instead of simply reading without demanding immediate
understanding. (That can describe me, sometimes, by the way. And one
of the easiest fixes to my TL comments is to make them a little
longer by prefixing them with a summary. I always create a summary on
request, and others have done this for me. Actually boiling it down
without making it unintelligible is very time-consuming, typically
I'm already spending too much time writing!)

4. It's not polemic, but some readers want to know what the "point"
is. I.e, what conclusion is being pushed? Trying to figure this out
can be frustrating because I'm not generally pushing a point but
simply considering an issue. Or, another way to put this, it is a
literal point of view, that is, a view from my position, that is
being expressed, not pushed.

5. The reader has a strong position which appears to be contradicted by me.

6. The reader doesn't have time and/or adequate interest. This is the
real tl;dr, and it's fully legitimate.

There are different learning styles, and only some people are capable
of learning from someone like me. That is not blameworthy, and is
only a problem when these people try to prevent *others* from
learning from me, for there are many who can and do.

Now, as to the question I posed: What do you get when you can see
things from two different points of view at the same time?

Some thing that this is weak, that it produces vacillation, lack of
clarity, etc.

But what you actually and literally get is depth perception.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 18:02:55 UTC
Permalink
At 11:17 AM 6/1/2010, Carcharoth wrote:
>On Tue, Jun 1, 2010 at 2:57 PM, Risker <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Procedural note to moderators: Perhaps it is time to consider a length
> > limit on posting?
>
>I'm not a moderator, but I've just been skipping those long posts.
>They are annoying, but I may one day read those posts if I have
>nothing better to do, and sometimes there is something interesting in
>there.

That's what I do with long posts that don't grab me. Some people like
long posts, some don't. Some of those who don't want to prevent those
who like them from receiving them. It is a very old story.

I skip *lots* of posts. But I have no opinion that there is
necessarily something wrong with them. Obviously. If the writer
wanted to reach me, then the effort failed. But the post wasn't sent
personally to me, if it were, I'd be much more inclined to read it.

Now, what I do which could be a problem is to respond to an
individual, thus luring the individual into reading it, but I'm
actually exploring a much larger topic. Perhaps if I'm going to write
something that might be taken as an attack, I should make it brief
and separate it from the larger commentary -- or not send it at all.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 17:51:58 UTC
Permalink
At 09:57 AM 6/1/2010, Risker wrote:
>Procedural note to moderators: Perhaps it is time to consider a length
>limit on posting?

There is a 20K limit. That's lower than usual, my experience. I think
it's silly, since it is easier to ignore one 30K post than to ignore
two 15 K posts. But, hey, I have well over twenty years experience
with this, and there will always be people who want others to
self-censor so they don't have to bother. Nobody is obligated to read
any post (except *maybe* a moderator, and that can be reserved for complaints.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 17:51:58 UTC
Permalink
At 09:57 AM 6/1/2010, Risker wrote:
>Procedural note to moderators: Perhaps it is time to consider a length
>limit on posting?

There is a 20K limit. That's lower than usual, my experience. I think
it's silly, since it is easier to ignore one 30K post than to ignore
two 15 K posts. But, hey, I have well over twenty years experience
with this, and there will always be people who want others to
self-censor so they don't have to bother. Nobody is obligated to read
any post (except *maybe* a moderator, and that can be reserved for complaints.)
AGK
2010-06-01 14:01:27 UTC
Permalink
On 1 June 2010 14:30, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> Therefore, instead of only needing to skip one mail, you'll need to
> skip two. This is part one.

Abd, have you ever considered opening a blog? :)

You could write the lengthy version of your comments on various topics
in a post there, and post a summary comment here on WikiEN-l (with a
link to the concurrent blog post)? Just a thought.

AGK
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 17:53:17 UTC
Permalink
At 10:01 AM 6/1/2010, you wrote:
>On 1 June 2010 14:30, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> > Therefore, instead of only needing to skip one mail, you'll need to
> > skip two. This is part one.
>
>Abd, have you ever considered opening a blog? :)
>
>You could write the lengthy version of your comments on various topics
>in a post there, and post a summary comment here on WikiEN-l (with a
>link to the concurrent blog post)? Just a thought.

Sure. Now, tell me why I should go to this trouble? Absolutely, if my
goal were polemic, it would be an effective way to proceed. That's not my goal.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 17:53:17 UTC
Permalink
At 10:01 AM 6/1/2010, you wrote:
>On 1 June 2010 14:30, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> > Therefore, instead of only needing to skip one mail, you'll need to
> > skip two. This is part one.
>
>Abd, have you ever considered opening a blog? :)
>
>You could write the lengthy version of your comments on various topics
>in a post there, and post a summary comment here on WikiEN-l (with a
>link to the concurrent blog post)? Just a thought.

Sure. Now, tell me why I should go to this trouble? Absolutely, if my
goal were polemic, it would be an effective way to proceed. That's not my goal.
Steve Summit
2010-06-03 15:28:43 UTC
Permalink
Abd wrote:
> [400+ words that I didn't read all of and so won't bother to quote]

As a grave sufferer of logorrhea myself, it's tempting to write
several hundred words here myself, but I'll settle for fifty.

It doesn't matter how you justify a too-long screed; if its
length prevents people from reading it (and it will), your
message is lost. It's as simple as that.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-03 15:48:28 UTC
Permalink
At 11:28 AM 6/3/2010, Steve Summit wrote:
>It doesn't matter how you justify a too-long screed; if its
>length prevents people from reading it (and it will), your
>message is lost. It's as simple as that.

Problems with this concept:

Length will not prevent all from reading it. Rather, those will read
it who are interested. Others won't. The message is not lost, it's in
the archive, and, in any case, I know for a fact that some read the
long posts, and appreciate them. Some comment on list, a few. Others
take the trouble of thanking me by email. So, you can blame them!

"Screed" implies an emotional state on the part of the writer. It's a
snap judgment, if you don't read the piece. And this is one of the
"assumptions" I wrote about that can interfere with understanding.

Basically, length will indeed prevent some from reading, but these
are not my target audience, except for a few. (I.e., there are some
who don't read simply because they don't have time.)

Underneath all this is a presumption that I have time to write more
condensed material. I don't, generally. When I do have the time, and
have a point to make, i.e., some message I consider necessary to
communicate effectively to a broad audience, I do it.

So, practically speaking, the choice is between writing what I write,
or not writing at all, not between writing longer or shorter pieces.
Amory Meltzer
2010-06-03 20:04:56 UTC
Permalink
If everyone spent all day at their computers, and read each email
individually as they came in, that would be fine - each one is okay by
itself.

But people work, and people eat, sleep, and do many other things that
prevent them from waiting for a mailing list. I may care about the
issue, but reading emails on just one topic (a topic that, in spite of
all of its merit, really can't compare to whether or not I put
mozzarella or cheddar on my burger) becomes a lot less likely when it
requires a lot of work to read them.

~A



On Thu, Jun 3, 2010 at 11:48, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:
> At 11:28 AM 6/3/2010, Steve Summit wrote:
>>It doesn't matter how you justify a too-long screed; if its
>>length prevents people from reading it (and it will), your
>>message is lost.  It's as simple as that.
>
> Problems with this concept:
>
> Length will not prevent all from reading it. Rather, those will read
> it who are interested. Others won't. The message is not lost, it's in
> the archive, and, in any case, I know for a fact that some read the
> long posts, and appreciate them. Some comment on list, a few. Others
> take the trouble of thanking me by email. So, you can blame them!
>
> "Screed" implies an emotional state on the part of the writer. It's a
> snap judgment, if you don't read the piece. And this is one of the
> "assumptions" I wrote about that can interfere with understanding.
>
> Basically, length will indeed prevent some from reading, but these
> are not my target audience, except for a few. (I.e., there are some
> who don't read simply because they don't have time.)
>
> Underneath all this is a presumption that I have time to write more
> condensed material. I don't, generally. When I do have the time, and
> have a point to make, i.e., some message I consider necessary to
> communicate effectively to a broad audience, I do it.
>
> So, practically speaking, the choice is between writing what I write,
> or not writing at all, not between writing longer or shorter pieces.
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> WikiEN-***@lists.wikimedia.org
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
>
David Gerard
2010-06-03 21:01:51 UTC
Permalink
On 3 June 2010 16:48, Abd ul-Rahman Lomax <***@lomaxdesign.com> wrote:

> Underneath all this is a presumption that I have time to write more
> condensed material. I don't, generally. When I do have the time, and
> have a point to make, i.e., some message I consider necessary to
> communicate effectively to a broad audience, I do it.


So you'd rather waste lots of other people's time than spend your own
on your presumably important messages?

Suggestion (not directive): If you're really not writing stuff to be
read right now, a blog would be a better place for it. Also, more
people would take the time to read it - Wikimedia-focused opinion
blogs get a lot of attention. A precis here and a link would be fine.


- d.
AGK
2010-06-03 21:06:46 UTC
Permalink
On 3 June 2010 22:01, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
> If you're really not writing stuff to be
> read right now, a blog would be a better place for it.

I suggested that a few days ago but Abd shot the idea down. I enjoy
long blog posts because I can access them at my leisure; lengthy
mailing list posts, on the other hand, I cannot avoid at least
glancing at (unless I've set my client to hide the thread in question,
which I shouldn't have to do).

Not saying this to try to prod him into stop posting here, but as a
genuine statement: I happen to enjoy Abd's commentary /when I have the
time to read it/. I'd happily read his blog regularly (especially if,
as I suggested, he linked to it in his WikiEN-l posts where relevant).

AGK
David Gerard
2010-06-03 21:14:16 UTC
Permalink
On 3 June 2010 22:06, AGK <***@gmail.com> wrote:

> Not saying this to try to prod him into stop posting here, but as a
> genuine statement: I happen to enjoy Abd's commentary /when I have the
> time to read it/. I'd happily read his blog regularly (especially if,
> as I suggested, he linked to it in his WikiEN-l posts where relevant).


Posting to both is fine too. Abd, start a Wikimedia blog and it *will*
get readers.


- d.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-04 17:48:31 UTC
Permalink
At 05:06 PM 6/3/2010, AGK wrote:
>On 3 June 2010 22:01, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
>Not saying this to try to prod him into stop posting here, but as a
>genuine statement: I happen to enjoy Abd's commentary /when I have the
>time to read it/. I'd happily read his blog regularly (especially if,
>as I suggested, he linked to it in his WikiEN-l posts where relevant).

Okay, alright already, now I have to do it. Thanks. Busy right now,
but coming soon.... I've been asked to do this for something like
fifteen years.... (not necessarily a blog, at first, but perhaps a
mailing list.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-04 17:48:31 UTC
Permalink
At 05:06 PM 6/3/2010, AGK wrote:
>On 3 June 2010 22:01, David Gerard <***@gmail.com> wrote:
>Not saying this to try to prod him into stop posting here, but as a
>genuine statement: I happen to enjoy Abd's commentary /when I have the
>time to read it/. I'd happily read his blog regularly (especially if,
>as I suggested, he linked to it in his WikiEN-l posts where relevant).

Okay, alright already, now I have to do it. Thanks. Busy right now,
but coming soon.... I've been asked to do this for something like
fifteen years.... (not necessarily a blog, at first, but perhaps a
mailing list.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-03 15:48:28 UTC
Permalink
At 11:28 AM 6/3/2010, Steve Summit wrote:
>It doesn't matter how you justify a too-long screed; if its
>length prevents people from reading it (and it will), your
>message is lost. It's as simple as that.

Problems with this concept:

Length will not prevent all from reading it. Rather, those will read
it who are interested. Others won't. The message is not lost, it's in
the archive, and, in any case, I know for a fact that some read the
long posts, and appreciate them. Some comment on list, a few. Others
take the trouble of thanking me by email. So, you can blame them!

"Screed" implies an emotional state on the part of the writer. It's a
snap judgment, if you don't read the piece. And this is one of the
"assumptions" I wrote about that can interfere with understanding.

Basically, length will indeed prevent some from reading, but these
are not my target audience, except for a few. (I.e., there are some
who don't read simply because they don't have time.)

Underneath all this is a presumption that I have time to write more
condensed material. I don't, generally. When I do have the time, and
have a point to make, i.e., some message I consider necessary to
communicate effectively to a broad audience, I do it.

So, practically speaking, the choice is between writing what I write,
or not writing at all, not between writing longer or shorter pieces.
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 13:30:17 UTC
Permalink
Again, this gets long. If allergic to Abd Thought, or to lengthy
comments, please don't read. Nobody is required to read this, it's
voluntary, and you won't hear a complaint from me if you don't read it.

Actually, the mail triggered moderation, the list is set to 20 KB
max, which is low in my experience, and it was rejected as too long.
Therefore, instead of only needing to skip one mail, you'll need to
skip two. This is part one.

At 03:14 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
>Abd ul-Rahman Lomax wrote:
> > At 01:35 PM 5/31/2010, Charles Matthews wrote:
> >
> >> Actually, most people who don't apply as an admin just don't apply.
> >
> > With ten million registered editors and a handful of RfAs, that's
> > obvious.
> >
> >> They
> >> don't generate "evidence" one way or another. It is a perfectly sensible
> >> attitude for a well-adjusted Wikipedian getting on with article work not
> >> to want to be involved in admin work.
> >
> > Sure. However, there is a minority who are *not* "well-adjusted" who
> > would seek adminship for personal power.

>Yes, and the first required quality for being given such power is not to
>want it. Etc. But you were the one talking about getting painted into a
>corner.

Sure. "You were the one" implies some argument being applied to one
side and not the other. What was that?

Barging ahead anwyay, I'd say that anyone sane would not want to be a
Wikipedia editor unless (1) they have some axe to grind, or (2) they
are neutral and simply want to help an obviously desirable cause.
However, when people become highly involved, they naturally develop
attachments, which is how it comes to be that even a quite neutral
editor can become an abusive administrator, and this will be quite
invisbile, for many, when they don't have the tools. The more boring
grunt work you do, the more natural it is to think you own the
project. After all, if not for you....

I remember reviewing the contributions of an administrator, known to
all of us here, because of some suspicion that an sock puppeteer was
really, from the beginning, a bad-hand account of someone, and this
admin was a possible suspect. What I saw, reviewing edit timing, was
thousands upon thousands of edits, for hours upon hours, a few edits
a minute, doing repetitive tasks. The admin was running a tool that
assisted him by feeding him proposed edits, so what he was doing, for
many hours, was a few button pushes a minute to accept the edits. I
was both in awe (at the dedicated work) and in wonder at how this
could be done without losing one's sanity....

In fact, it might have been better if that work had been replaced by
fully automated bot work, with processes and procedures for reviewing
it and fixing problems. If he could do that for hours on end without
error, probably a bot could as well, with only a little error,
perhaps. But, of course, for quite good reasons, most fully automated
bot editing has been prohibited. That's changing, to be sure, there
is now, for example, a spambot that reverts IP additions of spam web
sites, an intermediate position to blacklisting that allows possibly
useful but often abused sites to be used by registered editors, and
edits by the IPs become "suggested edits" easy to review if anyone is
willing. And the IP could actually ask any registered user to do it,
or register and get autoconfirmed....

Overall, editorial efficiency has been seriously neglected, because
editorial labor was not valued. Admin labor has been valued somewhat,
and some of the disparity between the real rights of administrators
and those of ordinary editors comes out of assumptions about this.

So, Charles agrees that wanting power is a disqualification, and I
agree. (You might look at RfA/Abd 2, where I addressed this, I didn't
want to be an admin, I was merely responding to a suggestion that I
help clean up the place, and I was quite clear that anything that I
wanted to do, personally, wouldn't be helped by being an admin, I'd
just be tempted to use the tools while involved. I'm pretty sure that
I'd not have aroused serious controversy over the use of admin tools,
but, of course, those who later were offended by me as an editor seem
to have assumed that I'd simply have blocked anyone who disagreed
with me. That would have been really silly!)

But if it's a disqualification at the beginning, then, we must see,
it should remain a disqualification. If an administrator is
personally attached to being an administrator, it's a problem. Which
then exposes the contradiction of the picture being presented:
supposedly people would not apply to be administrators, or perhaps
would quit, if they saw that allegedly abusive administrators would
lose their tools. The fact is that when controversy arises over tool
use, the best administrators back up and back off, and hardly ever
get taken to ArbComm, because they don't allow themselves to be the
focus of the controversy. Rather, say, they blocked an editor, and
the editor is complaining about bias. If the admin backs off and
doesn't touch that editor again, but limits activity to presentation
(at the beginning!) of the evidence behind the block, letting and
encouraging independent review of that, the dispute becomes a dispute
between the editor and the community, or it is resolved. A good
administrator might even go out of his way to later do a favor for that editor.

But if the administrator starts to think of the community as divided
into warring factions, with himself on one side and the editor on the
other, and the admin *must* act or "they" will win, neutrality has
been lost. As soon as you think you are personally the bulwark
against "them," you have some kind of belief that consensus is the
other way, or is at least not going to back you up by taking your place.

There is a kind of war going on, but we are each called upon only to
take a position actively, maybe *once.* I'll revert a change to an
article, with explanation, almost never more than once. As an admin I
might block someone once, almost never more than that. If I were to
see some problem beyond that, I'd almost certainly go to a
noticeboard like any other editor. In an emergency, sure, but then I
*really* need to go to that noticeboard, note that I've previously
blocked and might be biased, and asking for review. One of the worst
abuses I've seen of the abuse of an administrator was a desysopping
where an admin made an unwise block, that he should have left for the
judgment of someone else. But he had immediately gone to a
noticeboard to ask for review! Effectively, he was punished for an
error. That's abusive, and only if he did this again and again should
desysopping have been on the table. All that was needed was to tell
him that he shouldn't have blocked, and ask him to agree not to do
it, or something like it, again. But, politics! Sometimes there is
mob screaming for blood, wanting someone to *suffer* for this mistake.

As to the dispute involved, between the blocking admin and the editor
blocked, I was on the other side. As hinted, I believe the block was
an error. So? The issue should always be, is this going to be
repeated? Even if one finds that the admin did it before, that's not
enough to establish that the admin would repeat it after being
troutslapped for it. And even troutslapping should be done with
assumption of good faith and gentleness. "Just don't do it again!"
That is, if we want to operate a volunteer project and retain wide
participation.

(continued in Part 2, following.)
Abd ul-Rahman Lomax
2010-06-01 13:31:19 UTC
Permalink
(continuation from Part 1, preceding.)

I never sought the desysopping of JzG, as an example, and didn't
argue for it for WMC. I argued for *suspension* until the admin
assured ArbComm that he would not repeat the use of tools while
involved. JzG's actions had been egregious, and still ArbComm was
unwilling to ask for assurances. Behind this, I'm sure, was an
impression that JzG would have considered it an insult. But it should
be routine. Indeed, ArbComm bans editors all the time when it could
simply ask for *voluntary assurances.* And even more are community
banned under a similar failure. Voluntary compliance, negotiated with
respect, is far less likely to build up sustained resentments, than
bullying and blocking.

These are all really obvious principles, but it's been amazing to see
what oppositino they aroused when they were brought up before
ArbComm. ArbComm remained silent on them, and on what was said in
response. ArbComm mostly functions as a passive body, but then it
does something different and becomes very active. It depends on whose
ox is being gored.

> The problem, as I have defined it, is of negative voting. The
>sheer suspicion of those who apparently want the mop-and-bucket. (And
>anyway, I obviously was using "well-adjusted" in the sense of "round peg
>in a round hole", not as a comment on anything else.)

If it's easy to revoke, it would obviously be easier to grant.
Indeed, the supermajority standard is a problem. You propose that an
administrator might avoid being "shot at" if the admin avoids
controversial areas. So, to become an admin, avoid controversial
areas! But, then, we don't know how the admin will behave when
involved in controversy.

The same arguments that are applied to, say, required reconfirmation
of administrators, should apply to granting adminship in the first
place. If an editor has tacked difficulties, the issue should be how
the editor did it, not how many people were offended. If the editor
needlessly inflamed the topic, that's a problem, for sure, and could
betray that there could be problems as an administrator. But if the
editor calmed the conflict, with only a few die-hards then resenting
the intervention or involvement, it should be a positive mark. There
is no substitute for actually examining the record, if the record matters.

In fact, it shouldn't matter much, and here is why: adminship should
routinely be granted based on an agreed-upon mentorship, with an
active administrator. I'd suggest, in fact, that any admin who
approves of the adminship would be allowed to do what a mentor could
do, but an agreed-upon mentor would be taking on the responsibility.
So if anyone has a complaint about the admin's actions, they have
someone to go to for review, without going to a noticeboard and some
possible flame war there. They can even do it privately, by email.
That's how WP DR structure is supposed to work, it's supposed to
start small. I've been amazed to see how few understand this!

Given administrative supervision, with any supervising admin being
able to go directly to a bureaucrat or steward and request removal of
the tools, if necessary, there is no reason to disapprove of almost
anyone, and a discussion would only take place to the extent that it
would be an opportunity to express objections. The closing bureaucrat
might, indeed, review those, but numbers would not matter. What would
matter would be (1) no sign of *likely* abuse, and (2) the presence
of effective supervision.

At Wikiversity, this is apparently done, though I don't know all the
details. There is then, after a time on probation, a "full adminship"
discussion. (There is no difference in the tool settings between the
two, an admin on probation has full tools, the only difference is a
responsible mentor.) But with a more detailed structure, there might
not be the need for "full adminship." I'd say that every
administrator should have a "recall committee," a set of editors who
are both trusted by the admin and by the community to correct the
admin if he or she veers off-course. Only when this process fails,
perhaps because of too-close alignment of the admin and the recall
committee, would it be necessary to escalate to broader discussions.
Ultimately, we should go back and set this up for existing
administrators. This should, in reality, only be a problem for
administrators who believe that they should have no supervision at
all. That's a problem in itself. And I'm leaving the details of how
such a committee would be formed, and how admins who have become part
of it are replaced as they vanish, as many do, to a later discussion
and, of course, ultimately, to the community if it ever starts to go
here. I'm just proposing ideas to show that there might be some
possible solution, and with no pretense that my ideas are the last
word. I really do believe in the power of informed consensus, and the
only kind of consensus that I have a problem with is when it is
inadequately informed and is (quite likely as a linked condition) too
narrow, with too few participants. But fully informed consensus that
is real consensus with only a relatively small number is unlikely to
be reversed by broader discussion.

This is why thorough discussion at the lowest possible level, seeing
true consensus, is actually efficient, and only seems otherwise to
someone who doesn't know how to (1) maximize its effeciency by using
the debate to create a FAQ so that the same issues don't get debated
over and over and over, and/or (2) doesn't want to discuss, but also
doesn't trust what will happen if he or she stands aside and, say,
simply raises the issue in Talk and then lets go or also raises it on
a WikiProject. Instead, what tends to happen is that someone who
isn't willing to actually discuss goes to a noticeboard and claims
that an opposing editor is being "tendentious." It works, too often!
Noticeboards aren't supposed to resolve content issues, at least not
AN and AN/I, and admins are not supposed to resolve content disputes
with the use of tools, but you cannot judge tendentiousness and
distinguish it from, say, an expert patiently explaining an issue
over and over and then perhaps becoming angry at meeting ignorant
insistance for an editor or two, accompanied by revert warring by
them. The expert is, of course, very likely an SPA, and is actually,
often, COI, and so is easily seen as someone to be excluded. And thus
one more expert joins the ranks of blocked or banned experts, I've
seen it happen many times. Sometimes it gets fixed, but often not.
And that damage accumulates, unless admins take an active role in
actually resolving disputes instead of judging them. The power of
judgment is not a police power! Discretion is, but that's distinct.

Good police officers, when they encounter people fighting or about to
fight, will separate them and normally only arrest someone if there
has been injury, or the person resists separation and won't stop. If
it's neighborhood police, they may sometimes help people to resolve
their dispute, not by judging it, but by pointing to resources and by
perhaps saying some kind words to both sides, encouraging them to
work out the problem.

And the rest of this is about personal history, and is an aside.

On Wikipedia, I was able to to this a few times, it was quite
successful, and it avoided one or both of the parties from being
blocked, they were headed for that, and they turned into cooperating
editors. And this is the work that was directly prohibited by ArbComm
in my MYOB ban. I was never able to figure out the sense of this ban,
because there were no allegations of improper behavior related to
it.... I think that the reality was that many simply wanted me to
shut up. But they didn't make that clear, and what they did was
something different that turned out to be quite unclear. It was
eventually made clear enough that I simply stopped editing Wikipedia,
for the most part, but the later "clear" interpretation was very
different from the original sanction.

And ArbComm's last reponse wasn't really an interpretation, it was
more in the nature of advice that I should stop doing anything
controversial, whether or not it was covered by the ban, and ArbComm
only began, haltingly, to address the fact that I was being hauled
before Arbitration Enforcement, again and again, by the same editors,
two of them parties to the original arbitration, for stuff that
wasn't actually found to be a ban violation when ArbComm was asked,
and without any showing at all of *actual harm.* I'd made comments,
for example, that either were or became the consensus in a poll, and
supposedly I was allowed to comment in polls. ArbComm, however, and
many editors and administrators, tend to assume that if there are a
number of editors and administrators yelling at one editor, that one
editor *must* be doing something wrong. It's an assumption that is
often efficient, it's probably right more often than not, but when it
fails, there goes any ability to benefit from a whistleblower. And so
serious problems can continue for years.... as they did in the cases
where I was involved. I was confronting what I called a "cabal," by
which I meant exactly what Lar has been asserting recently about the
same general group of editors, a "mutually-involved faction." I made
my meaning clear, but, somehow, some arbitrators actually asserted
that I *really* meant something else, and then I was sanctioned for
not backing up what I didn't mean and did not assert.... go figure!
And all this was considered so hot that all the Evidence and the
Workship was blanked. Mostly the Evidence that I put up was just edit
histories showing involvement in a field. Almost none of it showed
actually reprehensible conduct, because I wasn't attempting to get
anyone sanctioned, and only WMC confronted for long-term use of tools
while involved. But I had to explain, I believed, why there were a
dozen editors filling up the RfAr with Abd did this and Abd did that,
which was actually irrelevant to the filed case, but the "mutual
involvement" showed why these editors would care so much. They were
not neutral. And then, of course, if I tried to respond to evidence
presented against me, my responses became voluminous. ArbComm, quite
simply, had not, and probably still has not, developed methods to
deal efficiently with factional conflict. I was, I believe, standing
up for community consensus (and that's becoming apparent as more
people become aware of what had been happening), but when the
community is mostly not paying attention in a field, someone who does
that can seem to be an isolated pov-pusher or tendentious in other
ways, if faced with a faction. I had beeen quite careful. I didn't
drag people to noticeboards, I simply discussed edits in Talk, and
was being successful in shifting article consensus, being opposed by
revert warring from about only one editor, for the most part. (In the
last incident, I had 0RR, he had 3 and then self-reverted, added a
pile of blatantly POV material to the lede, then went to RfPP and
requested protection because of edit warring, when he was the
principal edit warrior. And succeeded. And that's what had just
happened when I was banned by WMC. For? He didn't say! Positions that
went to mediation, of mine, were confirmed. In spite of serious
opposition from the same set of editors, whitelistings I requested
were granted. I wasn't getting anyone blocked or banned, and wasn't
asking for it, but they sure wanted me out of there! And that, alone,
should have been a clue. But it takes time and effort to understand
these complex situations, it's much easier to make a quick judgment,
decide whom to ban, and be done with it. But that tendency, then,
preserves conflict and prevents genuine consensus from forming.

I personally don't care, the Wikipedia articles, even on subjects
very dear to me, aren't that important, and Wikipedia is not a safe
place to put content that requires work to create. I'm actually
grateful to be rid of any idea that I have a responsibility to edit.
(I'm not banned or blocked anywhere, by the way, just en.wiki topic
banned on Cold fusion, where I've become an expert and COI, I'm
actually in business selling research materials, and there is this
weird MYOB ban in place, which was allowing a few editors to
constantly harass me by claiming I was "commenting on disputes" even
if I didn't make any comments at all, but just an ordinary edit that
reflected apparent consensus... and anything that could be
wikilawyered into a ban violation was, so... given that there was no
initiative to address the real source of the disruption (once upon a
time there would have been, but those editors had all disappeared), I
just stopped editing entirely.

I was much more interested in Wikipedia process and the principles of
consensus and neutrality, and how to facilitate them, toward the goal
of the overall project. Until that goal becomes more important than
whatever it is that occupies the active core, I don't see much hope.
People like Lar and others do see some of the problem, but they,
sooner or later, burn out and leave. I had, at one point, three
arbitrators who did understand, for the most part, my goals. But, of
course, they always recused, and one rather promptly resigned. My
original MYOB ban provided for a mentor to allow me to participate in
discussion. Fritzpoll had volunteered to be my mentor, during the
case. Denied as not needed since there was no mentorship requirement.
But, in fact, there was! Then, later, Fritzpoll ran for and was
elected to ArbComm. Because the issue of mentorship had come up,
because it was mentioned in the ban, he again volunteered, privately,
to ArbComm. It was denied, he was told that arbitrators could not be
mentors. That was odd, since he and two other arbitrators were
already recusing when anything involving me came up! This was the
reality: there were many who simply wanted me, as I wrote before, me
to shut up. Many arbitrators. A majority? Maybe. But would that
majority have insisted on it if it became obvious what was going on?

My organizational theory says, no, not likely. But as long as this
kind of motive could take cover under some other seemingly reasonable
excuse, it would be maintained. Arbitrators have always been
administrators and are, quite understandably, uncomfortable with an
editor who has been a primary party in two ArbComm cases and which
have resulted in censure or desysopping. It's instinctive, protect-our-own.

I was disappointed that the arbitrators who recused (a total of
three, I think) didn't then present arguments and evidence. I know
what they knew. I know more about the situation that I'm not
disclosing, because of personal confidences revealed to me that I
don't have permission to reveal. My general position on ArbComm is
that necessary support structure has not been created, so arbitrators
are faced with a much more difficult task than is necessary. They
don't have time to do the research necessary to uncover what evidence
is good and what isn't. So decisions tend to become matters of quick
impressions, and that's a setup for bad decisions, and I've seen some
doozies. Not involving me.
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