Has Wikipedia Been Running with the Wrong Crowd?

In response to my last post, Captain Obvious came swooping in to point out what had been hiding in plain sight. While I was focussing on the potential dangers of predators lurking in the darkest shadows of the Wikipedia community, I failed to see the very real danger right in front of me: Wikipedia itself.

Could all the free, multilingual, educational content Wikipedia provides, paired with underdeveloped judgement, put children at risk? As a former bored, judgement-impaired, pubescent boy, I knew exactly what how to find out. I searched on “Sniffing glue“. And here’s what I found:

 

Kids Huffing Glue

 

WTF? There is absolutely nothing OK about this picture. These are children. I understand that there is a problem with children huffing on the streets in certain parts of the world. It needs to be acknowledged and addressed. But I will thank you as a father for not spreading that problem around by showing smiling, relaxed, seemingly “mature” kids sticking faces in a bag and casually flipping off the photographer. If this article on such a dangerous act was incomplete without a visual aid, couldn’t you at least have looked for a picture of an adult to kick things off? Maybe a picture that reflects the incredibly destructive aspect of huffing would be more appropriate. And, while we’re at it, we should probably dig up something that doesn’t make huffing look cool to kids. Maybe this?

 

Gold Paint Adult Huffer

 

What follows amounts to a manual on huffing all kinds of extremely dangerous gases. If my son looked this up, he wouldn’t just figure out the best technique to sniff glue, he’s also be turned on to:

The Smorgasbord

Grab a bag and take your pick.

  • Gasoline
  • Kerosene
  • Propane
  • Butane
  • Toluene
  • Xylene
  • Acetone
  • Hydrofluorocarbons
  • Chlorofluorocarbons
  • Trichloroethylene
  • Alkyl Nitrites
  • Nitrous Oxide
  • Diethyl Ether
  • Enflurane
  • Methylene Chloride
  • Carbon Tetrachloride
  • Benzene

 

 

After going over this smorgasbord of inhalants, the article covers a few pro-tips for abusing them:

Inhalant users inhale vapors or aerosol propellant gases using plastic bags held over the mouth or by breathing from an open container of solvents, such as gasoline or paint thinner. Nitrous oxide gases from whipped cream aerosol cans, aerosol hairspray or non-stick frying spray are sprayed into plastic bags. When inhaling non-stick cooking spray or other aerosol products, some users may filter the aerosolized particles out with a rag. Some gases, such as propane and butane gases, are inhaled directly from the canister. Once these solvents or gases are inhaled, the extensive capillary surface of the lungs rapidly absorb the solvent or gas, and blood levels peak rapidly. The intoxication effects occur so quickly that the effects of inhalation can resemble the intensity of effects produced by intravenous injection of other psychoactive drugs.

The article wraps up its description of the whole experience by mentioning that all of these substances are at best dangerous and at worst fatal. Cross your fingers that your child look below the fold before they stick their face in a bag.

Safety concerns aside, it’s a pretty good article. For a responsible parent, it might provide some desperately needed answers to the problems created by a child’s abuse of inhalants. For an irresponsible child, it could create the problems themselves.

There’s only one thing we can be sure about. Whatever happens, Wikipedians won’t be taking responsibility for it.

I think it’s time we did.

,Wil

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Does Wikipedia Protect its Children?

It’s been said that a community is measured by how it treats its most vulnerable members. When it comes to online activities, none are more vulnerable than our children. The thought that there are thousands- if not millions- of predators lurking in the dark corners of the internet makes a parent lose sleep at night. Many parents even separate their children from the greatest educational resource known to man at all costs.

But it’s a futile effort. The internet pervades modern society. Kids are increasingly encouraged to use it at school, for example. And no site is used as an educational aid more often than Wikipedia. For summarized knowledge, sources, supplementary materials, and, all too often, plagiarism, Wikipedia is the go-to resource our children are using to do better in school.

It begs the question: how well does Wikipedia protect its Children? Let’s start with what they are reading on Wikipedia. We all know that every bit of information on Wikipedia is accessible without an account. But it will be a surprise to many of us that Wikipedia can be edited without an account. And those edits are not vetted by editors- adult or otherwise- so vandalism is a fact of life on Wikipedia. Often foul language and fouler ideas are inserted along with false “facts” on the pages of Wikipedia. Most of this vandalism is caught within a few hours, but some isn’t detected for months- or even years.

Most acts of vandalism are perpetrated anonymously with so called IP edits. So can parents at least trust logged in users to take act responsibly towards their children? We should start with how much Wikipedia knows about their editors. The answer might surprise you: practically nothing. In fact, it is one of the few major internet sites that doesn’t require email verification to establish an account. That’s right parents, your children can create an account using their own name or an alias, and they are off to the races. You’d be hard pressed to find a more permissive site in the top 100- or even top 1000- most frequented online destinations. According to itself, Wikipedia running a very competitive #6 in the global race for the most online traffic.

Surely we can rely on Wikipedia to have established solid child protection policies against potential predators on their site, you must be thinking. Guess again. The official child protection policy arguably says more about protecting editors accused of impropriety with minors than children themselves. A committee of volunteers called ArbCom, whose members often don’t consider themselves qualified for such a task, take on triage for all reports of questionable conduct towards children. There word “parent” doesn’t even occur in this document, much less any commitment to notify authorities or parents if ArbCom finds that there is a reasonable accusation of impropriety. The worst consequences for a predator is an indefinite block from Wikipedia, which means that now the editor must go through the hassle of establishing another completely unverified account to continue preying on children at Wikipedia. It is interesting to note that this is the same consequence that any editor who brings up such accusations publicly will face. And, as a side note, this wouldn’t even be policy, had founder Jimmy Wales not unilaterally marked it so. This controversial action rocked the Wikipedia community.

Don’t get me wrong; accusations of child predation carry a heavy stigma, and editors’ reputations must be protected, but I believe this should be left to the authorities who are qualified to handle such claims discreetly. Even this wouldn’t suffice to make educational outreach to minors ethically or morally, and possibly legally acceptable. I believe that it will require nothing less than a new project aimed towards minors that uses Wikipedia as a source for vetted information. Such a project should require much more information from editors who have any interactions with potential minors. Anything less would amount to putting the most vulnerable- and beloved- members of our society in jeopardy.

As Wikipedians, we can, should, and must do better. Join me and other concerned Wikipedians at:

Offwiki

,Wil

Greg Kohs and Bigotry

When I first created a petition supporting Greg Kohs’ right to attend WikiConference USA 2014, I did my research. I wanted to make 100% sure that I was not supporting someone who could plausibly present a threat to other attendees. What I found was a few incidents of overheated rhetoric and one thing that troubled me greatly. Greg Kohs had used homophobic hate speech to refer to a member of the Wikipedia community. It was a disgusting comment that won’t be repeated on my blog, but if you’d like to know more about it feel free to email me privately. I will send you the relevant links. It’s really not difficult to substantiate; I simply don’t care to drag this man through Greg’s bullshit again.

I’ll admit I had a hard time getting past that. But I decided that, in the extreme echo chamber that Wikipediocracy sometimes becomes, rhetoric might heat up so much that Greg’s anger could get the best of him. I told him that I didn’t believe that he was a bigot, but that another instance of hate speech would prove me wrong.

I was wrong. In the past day, he made light of that same incident referring to the same homosexual man by making an identical remark- only swapping his name out with a masculine pronoun. Here’s the final private email I will ever send to Greg Kohs:

Greg, I told you very clearly that if I ever saw any incidence of bigotry from you going forward, I’d be calling you on it. The first obvious incidence happened when you referred to a gay man by boldfacing “fae got”. Now you’ve made light of the same comment by boldfacing “he got” in a new thread, referring to the same man:

http://wikipediocracy.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=104188#p104188

Making light of hate speech is a clear-cut case of bigotry in my book. You disgust me. I still support the right of all non-threatening people to attend Wikipedia conferences, but I no longer support your right. Bigotry has no place in the Wikipedia community.

Best to you and yours. Please don’t contact me by private email again.

Someone as self-righteous as Greg- and by that I mean big- ought to realize how hurtful such words can be. How ’bout them apples, Greg? Does that give you the warm fuzzies?

I should have practiced zero tolerance in this case. My sincerest apologies to anyone who may have been affected by Greg’s bigotry.

,Wil

PS: Vigilant, why wait 24 hours? I’m not going to take this down, so do whatever it is you’re going to do. And, Vigilant, I’ve got something that no one else seems to have on you: an IP as captured by WordPress in every comment. I wasn’t sure if it was worth anything, but then you mentioned that you couldn’t post to my blog because you were blocked. So I looked it up. Used over several days at different times during the day. It’s not a name yet, and it may never be. To be clear, I have no dirt on you besides what you’ve put online yourself under the pseudonym Vigilant, and I wouldn’t really waste my time looking it all up. But lots of people would really like to know more about the person who has spent some much of his/her time finding out about them. Choose wisely, my friend.

PPS: Well, I take that back, Vigilant. Apparently a lot of people know a whole lot more about you than either you or I realized. I’ve heard from several already. Establishing your identity doesn’t seem to be as far-fetched as I once suspected. Looks like your doxxing days may very well be behind you, my friend. In fact, it might just be the case that Wikipediocracy’s doxxing days are in the rear-view mirror. I mean, how would anyone know if someone there weren’t just acting as your sock or meat puppet in the next doxxing incident? Alternatively, you can just tell us who you are and have at anyone you please. ;)

,Wil

Not of the Wikipediocracy body. . .

Hey friends, this one’s a quick post with a few quick updates. Some of the folks at Wikipediocracy don’t seem to be too happy about offwiki.org. Who could blame them? For years they have cornered the market on offwiki suggestions for how to improve onwiki behavior. And now here comes this new site- offwiki.org- that challenges them to practice what they preach. In fact, it’s a bit more than a challenge. I think it’s about time a lot of Wikipediocrats put the fuck up or shut the fuck up. Cause knowing such smart people are wasting their lives making snarky comments in an echo chamber in one of the more dismal corners of the web is just depressing.

Now, I believe that Wikiopediocrats have had some very useful criticism over the years that should be considered for onwiki reforms. But many of these solutions are unproven. There isn’t going to be much of a chance to convince other Wikipedians to give them a shot until they seen them working well in another wiki community, first. And that’s what offwiki.org is all about. Sure, Wikipediocracy can try some of these solutions on their own domain, but a lot of influential Wikipedians will never take part in anything sponsored by Wikipediocracy because of the persistent personal attacks. That’s exactly why we started offwiki.org. It is a true safe-space where anyone can discuss improvements to Wikipedia without worrying about being attacked.

In the end, it’s a deciding moment. Either you want to see Wikipedia prosper or you want to see it die in a fire. If you’re in the former camp, I suggest you check out onwiki reform effort or offwiki.org. If you’re in the latter camp, I suggest you do something more interesting and fulfilling with your life than talking shit about other people online. In either case, there are completely new worlds to explore. So, choose wisely.

,Wil

offwiki.org is online.now

A few weeks ago, I got very real with some Wikipediocrats on my talk page:

Now I’m asking you, why don’t you stop whining for once and show people you can actually do better? On-wiki or off-, Obi-Wan certainly isn’t the first to question your self-righteous assertions on how to build an online encyclopedia better than Wikipedia. I, for one, have been wondering for a while now.

Let me be the first to point out that Obi-Wan gave them more credit than I have in the quote above. I’m not paraphrasing Obi-Wan, as much as using the assertion that the doxxing and negativity mask the insight of their ideas as a jumping point for a ridiculously inflammatory stunt designed to taunt any dedicated Wikipediocrat within sight.

 

I’m talking Evel-Knievel ridiculous.evel

 

But my little stunt didn’t come off as planned. First off, not enough Wikipediocrats got annoyed. Secondly, and more relevantly, the challenge backfired; it began to taunt me. Every comment I proofread would be read back to me in a high-pitched, nasally voice coming from somewhere in the back of my head. With unbearable hypocrisy I implied that no Wikipediocrat had ever done anything to improve Wikipedia while I somehow had. It’s plain to see how wrong I am. Many Wikipediocrats work tirelessly- and, in most cases, thanklessly- to improve Wikipedia with insightful criticism. In fact, when Wikipedia misses abuses in its own system, Wikipediocracy picks up the slack. To bring it all back home, the Wikipediocrats have done a lot to improve Wikipedia, and they have done it so well that there isn’t much more I can do on this front; the Wikipediocrats have cornered the Wikipedia criticism market.

 

Meanwhile, other problems were nagging me. For example, I had compiled this excellent list of solutions  from a thread on Wikipediocracy and added them to my talk page so that Wikipedians of all stripes could comment on them. There were some great discussions, yet the many of the same people who made the suggestions in the first place were- rightly or wrongly- blocked or banned from Wikipedia. Also, a lot of the suggestions dealt with governance issues and simply couldn’t be tried on-wiki in the current wikipolitical atmosphere.

 

Most of you probably see where this is going, but I needed it all spelled out for me. There is a vast dialectical no man’s land that neither Wikipedia nor Wikipediocracy can fill. In fact, they have created it through mutual hostilities. This is what I can contribute! A neutral zone in Wiki War II. It clearly needs to be demilitarized. Sharp tongues should be checked at the door. And it needed to be a safe place: no bullying,  doxxing, talking shit, or ganging up on other members. If you have the impression that I’m just talking about Wikipediocracy here, guess again. I’d say if they do a lot more of it per capita, at least they do it openly.

 

Short story long, I needed to start a wiki. So I did:

 

offwiki-title-icon

 

Any body can participate on offwiki.org as long as they follow a few simple rules. It’s an experiment in wiki governance. It welcomes content that has been created with alternative methods to Wikipedia’s, but it isn’t a fork, and it doesn’t aspire to be a Wikipedia alternative. It’s just a place to talk about stuff and try out some of it. If you’d like to join the party, we’re (right now that’s the royal we) holding a constitutional convention to define a fair and just system of governance to add to a Constitution. We call these people “flounders”. Are you interested in being a flounder, too?

 

Hope to see all of you there.

,Wil

 

 

 

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Wikipediocracy’s List of Demands

Every time I witness the almost reflexive reaction of some Wikipedians when the word “Wikipediocracy” comes up in polite conversation, I’m left in disbelief. To some, we might as well be talking about a full-fledged terrorist organization. I checked; they’re not. Despite all the doxxing, shit talking, personal attacks, and scandalizing they do over there, the guys and gals on Wikipediocracy are pretty fucking smart, and they spend much more time than a lot of Wikipedians might realize actually talking about ways to improve Wikipedia. In fact, some of the worst perps provide some of the most productive comments if asked. Early on in my Wikipediocracy days, I created a new thread and asked a very simple question: What would you do if you were emperor of Wikipedia for a day? That thread was several pages long by the time I left. Initially, I promised to send the list to Lila after I had collated and cleaned it up a bit. Alas, it was a promise I felt I could no longer keep around the 857th time someone told me how freaked out everyone was that I might be providing some special channel to Lila. Sorry, Wikipediocrats, my eardrums just couldn’t take it anymore. What these concerned Wikipedians haven’t realized is that Lila doesn’t pay attention to me all that often. In fact, she never bothered to read anything I put online until she started getting briefed on every comma I would post to Wikipediocracy by WMF staff. So, who knows? Maybe she’ll get briefed on this list, too. As you go through these solutions, please keep in mind that I do not necessarily support solutions on this list; they are suggestions from one or more Wikipediocrats that I have collected, hoping that more Wikipedians will see what Wikipediocracy is all about when they are in the zone constructive-criticism-wise.

Policy

  • Comprehensive Child Protection Policy across all projects with no volunteer triage
  • Comprehensive Harassment Policy across all projects with no volunteer triage
  • Acceptable Content Policy for Commons
  • Policy-streamlining task force, whose mission is to eliminate redundancy, bloat, size, and quantity of policy, including, but not limited to, policyish essays such as “WP:DUCK.” “WP:ROPE,” “WP:DICK,” “WP:DIVA,” “WP:DENSE,” etc. to create one Standard Guidelines document.

Content

  • Article accuracy above all else
  • Article quality, including pertinence, clarity, concision, comprehensiveness, and style, along with appropriate success metrics
  • Call out articles on a company or organization that have been edited by principals, employees, or agents of that organization with a potential Conflict Of Interest
  • Acknowledge the amount of adult material on Wikimedia projects and comply with all applicable laws and rulings for the jurisdictions under which it is collected and distributed
  • Establish a workflow to ensure that content problems are promptly addressed
  • Address article ownership by the WikiProjects
  • Redesign the main page with more relevant content and a more engaging design
  • Prepublication review of all article submissions by at least one other editor
  • Articles that attain Featured Article and Good Article status should be vetted by experts and kept in a “stable” state with a badge or banner calling them out, backport critical updates if necessary, creating a reference version alongside an unstable, possibly more up-to-date version
  • Quality control initiatives in cooperation with academic institutions
  • Reduce systemic bias for developed nations and dedicate more effort, funds, and awareness to developing nations
  • Consider new sister projects of Wikipedia that are appropriate for children and/or optimized for accuracy
  • Establish editorial boards with the authority to resolve content-related disputes
  • Opt-in, or even opt-out, search filter on Commons for potentially offensive or age-inappropriate material
  • Guaranteed reliability and quality of medical articles as a public safety measure, along with a prominent disclaimer

Governance

  • Annual or biennial election of all advanced permissions, including but not limited to admin, project admin, bureaucrat, checkuser, and steward
  • Admin tools more easily granted and taken away
  • Eliminate “founder” status
  • Allow for content editors of a given category to petition for independent administration
  • Whistleblower complaints process with anonymity protection for the whistleblower and no intervention by admins
  • Amnesty for all blocked editors, except for those blocked threatening violence or raising child-protection concerns
  • Make checkuser logs publicly searchable by target, checkuser, and mandatory policy-backed rationale
  • Every block automatically forwarded for appeal via random selection of any three admins, who are to review the evidence at hand, including violated policy, relevant diffs, and an explanation for the block with no interference from the blocking admin

BLP

  • Opt-out BLP Policy for people of marginal notability
  • End anonymous editing on and add pending changes to certain sensitive articles like BLPs and commercial enterprises

Chapters

  • Comprehensive review of chapter grant program and mission
  • Define the purpose of chapters, establish reasonable governance to facilitate that purpose, and limit each chapters’ activities to that fill that purpose

WMF

  • Biennial election of WMF Board of Trustees
  • Discontinue the Wikipedian-in-Residence program
  • WMF employees hired with arbitration experience to replace AN/ANI/ARBCOM and other drama boards, who can also police the admins
  • Raise average pay for employees at Wikimedia HQ to SF Bay averages or above to attract top-notch talent
  • Programs of outreach to active editors who are not active in governance to make them aware of decisions they can help decide in community-wide votes
  • Programs to build trust with the larger community
  • Hire staff at the WMF who have credentials and experience in information science, knowledge management, machine-based text recognition and content recognition
  • Review priorities of all current and future engineering projects in collaboration with the community, along with potential features going forward
  • Be honest about financial status during fundraising

Alternatively, Just Fork It

  • A Wikipedia 2.0 fork administered by an international academic umbrella organisation that gradually takes on real editorial responsibility for the content

Again, I do not necessarily support all of these demands. More accurately, these are less demands than suggestions. Good suggestions on the whole, as far as I’m concerned. And I hope that after you’ve seen the brighter side of Wikipediocracy- and you’re one of the 3 Wikipedians who isn’t already lurking, if not posting there- to take a closer look at the site. That said, there is a threatening aspect to these solutions. It’s no secret that Wikipediocracy can inflict great harm on the project. Of the last 100 controversies, I think that Wikipediocracy and/or Wikipedia Review have been responsible for researching and publicizing about 100 of them. So, I’d say it’s less of a threat than a statement of the obvious: if Wikipedia doesn’t start addressing its biggest issues with some solutions like those above, the folks at Wikipediocracy will continue to publicize Wikipedia face plants that result from continually punting on them. Ultimately, we should address these issues because it’s the right thing to do. But if we can’t motivate ourselves to address them any other way, we should remember that Wikipediocracy has given us all fair warning with many precedents of what will happen if their demands are not met.

,Wil

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Shameless Self-promotion

I canceled my subscription to the wikimedia-l mailing list after a bad experience which I fear may have gotten a little personal. Just search for “A personal note” in the archives. Keep in mind, my circumstances are somewhat unique, so YMMV. In fact, a lot of very useful and interesting things are said on that list, and many of the subscribers have said they’d like to focus on those going forward. If you haven’t subscribed yet and would like to know more about how Wikipedia works, you should check it out. Just be very careful what you say. Some topics are taboo with a capital “T”, in boldface, underscored, and linked to the article for Shut the Fuck Up.

Every few days, someone sends me a link to something in the archives they think I should read. To be honest, I usually don’t. But a few days ago someone sent me a link with the subject “Un-fucking-believable. You have to read this!”. Like I’m not going to click that. . . so here’s what I found on the other side of the link: “Why Wil’s actions in multiple forums are a matter of significant concern“. The subject line had it right. It is completely un-fucking-believable. Sure, it’s well written. It’s also well researched with 9 citations in the footnotes. And more facts are true than not, although the numbers are now out-of-date. It may be the first essay anyone has dedicated entirely to me. Nonetheless, I take great offense. My shameless self-promotion was all but entirely overlooked. In fact, it is only comes up once in the entire dissertation- and hyphenetically at that!

This level of influence is, to my eyes, clearly a function of his connection to Lila. Not exclusively — he has of course demonstrated a knack for presenting himself in a way that attracts attention — but his connection to her is a vital ingredient in his success.

I don’t just have “a knack for presenting myself,” I have a well organized, full-scale self-marketing campaign built around the “wllm” brand. I’ll have you know that I have worked my ass off building this brand for more than 15 years, and that it gets no mention in this detailed breakdown of my influence is an affront on my self-centeredness! I challenge you to find successes paramount to the following in establishing brand unification and pushing the boundaries of product placement:

  • You are probably reading this on wllm.com.
  • You can email me at wllm@wllm.com.
  • My twitter handle is @wllm.
  • My Wikipedia user is Wllm.
  • I have wllm registered on freenode in case I ever use IRC again.
  • You can call me 408-384-WLLM. That is my real number; feel free to call me whenever.
  • I have created my own logo, which I use ubiquitously across all targeted social networks. You might have noticed that it looks like a sound wave to reflect my interest in music. It is also my magnum opus of subliminal brand awareness; if you look more carefully, you’ll notice that it also spells “wllm”.

Finally, I submit this picture of my license plate: 

Image

 

The dot was added by cutting a perfect circle out of dark blue reflection tape to match the letters. You’ll notice that no detail is overlooked when it comes to the “wllm” brand.

I expect a sincere and full apology for this blatant disregard for my utterly shameless self-promotion.

Good day, sir.

,Wil

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It’s Been Fun, Wikipediocracy.

So, I’m going to take my own advice from the last past and wake up; get up off the barstool it looks like I was perched on all night; wipe the slobber I left on the bar off with my sleeve; tip my hat to the barkeep to let him know I’m much obliged; say so long to the lowlifes who aren’t still passed out on the floor; and face the impossibly bright daylight beyond the saloon doors with one hell of a hangover. As I walk out, I realize that there’s nothing in there for me that I haven’t already experienced; now it’s time to see the rest of the world. Folks, I’m going cold turkey.

Actually, fuck this analogy; it was already getting old halfway through the first post. The spoiler: I’m not posting to Wikipediocracy anymore. My username has been retired. I’ve said my farewells. It was fun while it lasted. And, it’s not for the reasons that I’ve read in the 20-volume set of advice that has been dropped off at my door courtesy of the Wikipedia community. I still think the Wikipediocracy folk have useful things to say. I still don’t think it’s anybody’s business where I spend my time on- or offline. And I still think that my private life is between me, my partner, and anyone we decide to invite in to it. That’s pretty standard practice, last I checked.

Make no mistake, I listened/read all the advice, but my convictions led me down a different path. Now that path is taking a sharp turn around another conviction of mine. I’ve got better things to do than hang out with beer buddies all day talking shit. Don’t get me wrong; I met some really great folks at Wikipediocracy who have become true friends. I’ve met others who I’m just getting to know and hope will become friends. Of course, those that are interested in getting to know me and think they can see beyond the company I keep at home are always welcome to contact me. You know where I am. Otherwise, I’m not leaving much behind besides an occasional laugh and a load of bullshit.

I know a lot of you are wondering what took me so long. I wasn’t exactly warmly welcomed at Wikipediocracy in the first place. In fact, I was put at the butt end of a steady stream of put downs, admonitions, and unflattering speculation before I even posted there, and, although nice things have been said by pretty much every active member there at one time or another, the stream has never run dry since. That’s the nature of the place and, I guess, mine. In any case, none of it offended me- actually I thought it was pretty hilarious as long as I was the victim- and they brought a lot of relevant issues to my attention backed up with strong secondary sources that were greatly appreciated. Wikipediocrats, I’ve learned a lot from you, and I will be posting more about that soon.

I learned a few other things, too. Like how lame it is to get in to other people’s RL for no good reason, whether folks at Wikipediocracy, Wikipedia, or sesamestreet.org do it. They did convince me that there are sometimes good reasons, but, whether you argue that it doesn’t compromise people’s safety or not (and sometimes it definitely has), you do it to make people uncomfortable. I also learned that people can make themselves look like cowardly asshats with petty, snarky, mean-spirited comments that they thoughtlessly type in to the ether without even bothering to address anyone directly. And if I hear that tired excuse of “They do it, so it’s ok if we do it” one more time, I’m going to vomit myself inside-out.

But there was one thing about Wikipediocracy that made me feel much more comfortable participating there than in forums like wikimedia-l: they couldn’t truly insult me because they didn’t really know anything about me and they never asked me to shut up. And then they did.

Speculations on my motivations have never died down there or on-wiki. I’d like people to know more about me and my motivations. To that end, I’ve mentioned something on both my talk page and today on Wikipediocracy that dramatically affects my life and my personality: I have severe ADHD. If you think you understand it, compare notes with an up-to-date description of the disorder. It’s nothing like what most people think they understand. One thing that seems to be left out of every soccer mom’s and dad’s expertise is that it causes a lot of suffering. But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are some excellent consolation prizes. There is a very high correlation between ADHD and creativity, for example.

Almost without a thought, I mentioned my ADHD at Wikipediocracy with a short explanation of how it affects motivations. I felt I was among friends, after all. I was then diagnosed by another member of having something called Special Snowflake Syndrome. Hmmm. I thought only depression and anxiety were the common co-morbidities, but this person seemed to know better. At that point, another person stepped in with some insight on how the ADHD brain works different from a more typical brain; I knew immediately he was an ADHDer. He understood. I confirmed later that he is. We had a few wildly off-topic exchanges; I said we should take it elsewhere, he had answers to a few more posts. Whatev’s. People go off topic there all the time, and at most a moderator cleans it up later.

This time things went down a little differently, tho. Some of the people there weren’t just uninterested in this information, but uncomfortable with it. That’s not uncommon; a lot of people don’t like talking about emotions, for example. But they started demanding that nobody talk about it. Meanwhile, others are throwing around opinions about something that has caused me and the other ADHDer great suffering and that they know fuck all about. I suggest they at least look up the affect of severe ADHD on happiness in childhood. But, as far as I could tell, they didn’t give two shits about me, the other guy, or anyone who wasn’t themselves. One guy I’ve never had any interactions with expressed the general sentiment well: “You seem to be a really nice guy. . . but who cares?” Ah. Good question. I care.

And I care enough about my own state of mind to stay out of environments like this. I’m not offended, and I’m not angry. There’s no one there that I dislike. I simply choose not to be around people who can’t or won’t empathize. I’ve got better things to do with my time.

,Wil

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Why Wikipedia?

You could consider this post a sequel of sorts to my first. I’m quickly moving along to the next big question that more and more people are asking me: Why Wikipedia? Well, I’ve sworn not to say what I said in the introduction of my first post ever again, but if you guessed that had something to do with it, you’re right on. Yet, strangely enough, the biggest incentive to get involved in Wikipedia has become the biggest disincentive to continue. Many Wikipediocrats discouraged me from the beginning; now many Wikipedians have joined their call!

In my first post, I likened Wikipediocracy to a rowdy saloon in the Wild West. I broke it out as a two-dimensional caricature that might lend a mildly interesting narrative to the otherwise familiar story of Wikipediocracy. Then my friend tim, who is one of those prized “very active editors” on Wikpedia and a (highly prized by me) polite voice of moderation on Wikipediocracy, added a whole nother dimension to it. And it blew. my. mind. He liked the Wikipedia project to the town church, and some of the more political Wikipedians to occasionally catty, sometimes self-righteous, and always gossipy members of the congregation. That really got me thinking. This would be a much more profound, tho perhaps less colorful, analogy than a trite description of the town saloon full of all those disreputable types.

As we once again take ourselves back to these tougher times, we notice that religion counts for a lot more here. Most of the townsfolk in our community are true believers, and they do what good deeds they can through the church that rises from the very center of the town. They come to worship here, usually setting aside a good part of their weekends so they can really focus on being among the best of the faithful. When the collection plate came around, they drop a few coins in it. But they don’t have time to stand in the churchyard gossiping after service; they prefer to spend their only day off reading through the good book to learn how they might make their good deeds even better.

The thing is, most of these townsfolk keep quiet and reverent in the pews during service. They keep their heads down in humility as they walk down the street. During the week, they are spending their time behind an aging, albeit reliable plow trying to pull nourishment out of the reluctant earth to feed others in their community and beyond. They have no time city-slicker politics. And they sure as hell aren’t going to spend their precious time talking trash in the rowdy saloon. Most importantly, these townsfolk tend not to speak unless spoken to first.

Now, most of the people reading this can probably imagine where they fit in to this growing- and some might say, well overgrown- analogy. It’s a bit harder for me, tho. I’m new in town. And the first thing I did was set my soapbox down, stepped up right in front of city hall, and started yelling. I’d like to say folks pay attention to me because I have something worth listening to, but I realize that most of them are just curious about the guy who has taken up tenancy in the mayor’s mansion. Maybe I could fill the role of the itinerant revivalist preacher, banging on the good book, screaming verses of the lord’s prayer like “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” at the top of my voice, and calling everyone to question the establishment behind their faith. But I’m probably more similar to a snake oil salesman- as one Wikipediocrat has already suggested- selling a miracle cure for all of the community’s various ailments. I can say this: if there’s anything I would prescribe to this particular community as a miracle cure, it would be empathy. And I’m not selling it, I’m giving it away. Let’s take a quick gander how that scene might play out. Just a second, gotta set my soapbox down here. All right, stepping up. . . and. . .

Come one, and come all!!! Gather round!! The end to all your ailments is here! It is simple, and it costs you nothing! I call it Empathy. Guaranteed to work for men, women, and almost anything in between, or your money back!! All’s you have to do is rub some on your ego where it hurts; step out of the saloon, open the doors to the church, or put down your gavels to see what is beyond that courthouse; shake the hand of a stranger on the sidewalk; and see what they have to say!! For best results, think about where they’re coming from, and where they’re trying to go! Then share some of your Empathy with them!!

,Wil

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Why Wikipediocracy?

I’m the partner of Lila Tretikov, the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation. This isn’t how I’d prefer to kick off any post- much less a major reboot of my blog- but it seems to be the most relevant thing about me to most Wikipedians. If you’re wondering what I mean by “partner”, it’s simple: we’re not legally married in the State of California. We have a family, a house, and a life together, so it’s a bit more than a boyfriend thing. BTW, my name is Wil.

While we’re doing introductions, we might as well say hello to the elephant in the room. A lot of people are upset that I’ve been posting on Wikipediocracy. And I can see why. Visting Wikipediocracy is kinda like walking in to a Wild West saloon. There are some outlaws that have been banned or indef blocked from various projects sitting at the bar. Whether they’ve been served justice or not, they can’t go back to their former lives in more “civilized” parts. They’re talking shit about the people they don’t take a liking to or have some unsettled business with, and a bigger group of settlers- about twice the number of outlaws, to be precise- who have headed out West because they like the freedom of the open plains. They’re listening and putting in a few words of their own. Some of those settlers have even taken another name to get a fresh start in the new territories full of opportunity. There are a couple of idiots sitting at a table in the corner gambling with their eyebrows. Sometimes it gets so rowdy, the bartender/moderator speaks up and says “now I don’t want no trouble.” I hear that occasionally people have been kicked through those shutter-like doors to the curb of the dusty road. It occurs to us that we’ve always wondered what is up with those shutter doors. Why bother putting them up in the first place if they aren’t going to keep anything in or out? Is it just for the dramatic effect of a small creaky noise? It then occurs to us that this analogy has already gotten old, so we stop now.

Now back to what all of you seem to care about. Why am I participating on Wikipediocracy and WTF was I thinking when I started there before Wikipedia itself? Am I a total asshole or something? The answer is yes. I am something. Something complex like all people, and, like all people, worth learning more about.

So, (That’s right, I’m from the SV. And I represent!) technically speaking, I have. 7 years ago. But that’s a total cop out. I didn’t really engage in any meaningful way back then, and my edits would be considered blatant COI’s now. And there’s no denying it: I got back in the game because of Lila’s appointment. This time around, there were some very good reasons for me to get involved with another site about Wikipedia out of the gate, however, and stay involved. Here are a few of them, ordered by how much I give a damn.

#1: The peeps at Wikipediocracy helped me with a personal matter that is nearest and dearest to my heart. I won’t get in to specifics here, because it’s about as personal as it gets. Suffice it to say, I had to drop everything for a few days to take care of it, and I have a debt of gratitude to those Wikipediocrats who cared enough to help me and my family.

#2: I believe everyone deserves to be heard. And I will seek out opinions wherever they are voiced, because I think it’s obvious that we don’t all feel comfortable saying everything in every forum. I’ve heard from many Wikipedians who are scared shitless to voice dissent on the wikimedia-l list, as just one example.

#3: I want to establish my own identity in the community from the get go. Lila typically seeks the mainstream opinion first and works within it to affect change, and I seek the voices that are having a harder time getting heard to make them louder; it’s one of the many things that makes us very different people. Get used to it, because that’s not about to change.

#4: I figure this will probably be passed around to discredit me in various forums, so allow me to package it up in a convenient, concise, and completely damning quote for those that might find it useful: “I just plain like the people on Wikipediocracy. I already consider some of them friends.” Now for the stuff that probably won’t be quoted- I’ll go a bit more freeform here. I don’t like everything that is said there, to be sure. And just because I frequent a site doesn’t mean I agree with everything that everyone posts on it- Wikipedia included. In fact, I think that almost all of the personal stuff on Wikipediocracy is bullshit, and I don’t take heed- even if I waste a couple seconds of my time accidentally reading it. But when these folks get constructive, I think they are on-point and very eloquent. They provide ample evidence in the form of links- mostly on-wiki- which I personally appreciate, as I look for secondary sources before believing anything. Moreover, they are all interesting and funny people. I’ve had some good times there. Sorry. . . we’re back in to the guilt-by-association gold. Allow me to make that a little more quotable: “I’ve had some good times on Wikipediocracy, the go-to site for criticizing Wikipedia.” Here’s another quote for you: “I- that is, Wil Sinclair- had a less-than-fun experience on wikimedia-l.”

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot more involved on-wiki. I’ve taken some very good advice from some very good people and found forums full of those contributors who are, like me, not big fans of politics. Rather, they’re heads-down making Wikipedia better day-by-day and edit-by-edit. I’ve been having some fascinating conversations with other contributors about how we can all work together on the bigger issues. I’m really happy I’ve found the fun part of Wikipedia, and hopefully people have started to forget that I’m anything other than myself: a total n00b. Come visit me on my talk page. Or, if you’d like to talk to me in a different setting, you can mail me at wllm@wllm.com, set up a Skype session, or catch me on Wikipediocracy.

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