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.

,Wil

63 thoughts on “Does Wikipedia Protect its Children?

  1. Abd says:

    I wrote a lengthy comment on this at http://offwiki.org/wiki/User:Abd/Wllm_blog, including my own suggestions at the end.

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    • Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

      Nice reaction. Better than the post.

      tim

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    • wllm says:

      I’ll read this when I have time and respond here.

      ,Wil

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      • Captain Obvious says:

        Wil, to better understand Abd’s comments, google his friend Nathan Larson.

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        • Abd says:

          This comment was trolling and a feeble attempt to dox me. It might as well have been an attempt to get people to waste their time with a useless search. I know who is being referred to, and, shall we say, the connection will be obscure in the search suggested.

          Nathan Larson is a real name of a reason person who was, at one time, a highly experienced Wikipedian. If one searches diligently, one may find interactions between myself and Nathan. I did with Nathan quite the same as I have done with Wil. I confronted him on what he was doing, and at the same time, defended him against false claims. Since we established off-wiki communication, the bulk of it has been the confrontation part. I did this for about six years. He was frustrated with me many times, thinking I was telling him how bad and wrong he was.

          But I wasn’t, and, recently, he finally hit bottom. His transformation has been dramatic. Once upon a time it would not have been difficult to find his material. It’s become difficult, because, in the early stages of the transformation, he started taking down his own web sites. That wasn’t enough. He has now started taking down his entire identity, his belief in who his is, and he is doing this in a way that I know, from experience, is highly likely to be successful.

          The old Nathan, will, in a sense, die (not really, it will always be there, but no longer dominant). A new Nathan is rising, like a phoenix, from the ashes. I have the privilege of watching this from afar, applauding, along with the rest of his family.

          So, yes, the user of Google might reveal something about me, but probably not what “Captain Obvious” may have in mind. Not if one is careful. If one finds some salacious piece, taken out of context, sure, you can jump to whatever conclusions you like. Wil ought to understand Nathan, Nathan probably has ADHD, and has been highly impulsive.

          My hope is that Wil never has to fall so far, to hit bottom. Wil’s expressed positions are not nearly as far out of social boundaries as Nathan’s, at least not yet. However, neither were Nathan’s, early on.

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          • Captain Obvious says:

            On what planet would that be an attempt to “dox” you? Nathan Larson has redirected at least one of his old sites to the “International Pedophile and Child Emancipation” site. Here’s quick link for Wil to save him being sent there. That should tell him as much as he needs to know.

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          • Abd says:

            I’m responding here because it is useful to understand the nature of the trolling by an anonymous user here. I’m not anonymous, and am responsible for what I write, and so is Wil. Captain Obvious is, also, but may imagine that responsibility can be avoided by maintaining anonymity.

            “Wil, to better understand Abd’s comments, google his friend Nathan Larson.”

            CO shows a link to a captured suicide note from Larson, from a site that Larson took down, as if Larson’s views are somehow useful for understanding me. I confronted those views, over and over, for years.

            When I saw the claim of redirection to International Pedophile and Child Emancipation, I thought WTF? So I checked. Ah, I recognize the reference. The implication of this troll was that the link would go to, say, “disgusting pedophile advocacy.” However I will give the site here. Nathan did not link to the site, but to a research paper, academically published (not from the IPCE) hosted on the site. This page is safe, except that one may indeed react to the very existence of the field of study.

            https://www.ipce.info/

            The actual paper, what Nathan actually redirected to, was

            https://www.ipce.info/ipceweb/Library/mirkin_text.htm

            That paper, when published, caused a firestorm. His State Legislature voted to remove $50,000 from the University funding because of it (a tiny drop in the bucket, by the way). The University supported him. He died more than a decade later, still a professor, and I think he was the head of his department.

            Lots of people wrote that Mirkin was wrong. I’ve looked at a great deal of this criticism. It all assumes that Mirkin wrote what he did not write.

            Mirkin is a political scientist, interested in political issues, and he wrote about phases of discourse, where rejected groups emerge from the shadows and enter the political realm. Pedophilia is a Phase 1 toplc, in Mirkin’s terminology.

            In Phase 1, the broad public assumption is that anyone in the rejected group is deviant, unnatural, dangerous, sick and a threat to society, and these people have no rights. Further, anyone who discusses this, without an obligatory “Of course, they are sick ****s,” is also considered highly suspect and dangerous.

            Mirkin points out that other topics, now in Phase 2 or 3, where the discourse has become political, were, for a time, phase 1 topics. Female sexuality and homosexuality are two examples that he uses. In the end, though, all he is doing is classifying topics. The only thing he was advocating was discussion, he said that on national radio. He seemed amused by the ruckus, since it actually proved that the topic was Phase 1! However, he also showed that a Phase 1 topic can be discussed within academia. (And there are many academic papers similar to his, in some way or other, and organized campaigns to condemn them, as if science and fact are matters of popular opinion.)

            [b]Mirkin was not claiming that the topic should move to Phase 2.[/b] In some ways, at least, I’m sure it never will. However, there are edges, and society already has moved, in some places, to become more discriminating as to what is actually harmful and what is not. Age of consent laws are not, as some seem to think, fixed at 18. That is, in fact, the highest age found in common use. It can be lower even in the U.S.

            Nathan’s relationship to this issue was complicated, and beyond our scope here. However, I can say this much for sure. He is not and was not a “pedophile.” “Advocacy of pedophilia” is a more complex issue. Nathan was a strong advocate for radical libertarian views, and he took this to extremes.

            Mirkin was right: this is a Phase 1 topic. Even discussing this topic can be quite dangerous. Wikipedia largely decided to avoid it, because [i]the discussions were always disruptive[/i].

            RationalWiki was torn apart by this issue. The site had an explicit policy to allow the expression of views, [i]no matter how odious[/i]. So when, as can be predicted for a Phase 1 topic, it was proposed to ban him, many users (the majority, initially) pointed to the policy. And then other users noisily resigned from “any site which would allow this odious [i]person[/i] to post.”

            I found the whole debate quite odd. On one side, Nathan was accused of X and Y. On the other side, it was stated that X and Y were allowed by site policy. There was only one user who asked for diffs showing X and Y. The diffs were not provided, and people continued to argue about something that had not actually happened. What [i]had[/i] happened was that Nathan wrote things that if, read reactively, could seem to mean X and Y. X and Y were not there, but supplied by imagination.

            Nathan was a troll, though I don’t think that was his conscious intention. He was a genius at coming up with things to say that were true, or at least somewhat true, but that would be read by many or even most as odious. So then he could feel that he was right and everyone else was wrong, and he’d have a basis for that in fact!

            Nathan was threatened with graphic, gross violence, threats could not be worse. He was reported to the FBI for “child porn” (waste of time, there was no child porn, but trolls don’t care about that).

            A complaint was filed with his domain host. The complaint was untrue, but the host did not take the time to investigate, they just pulled the plug, so he was down for a day or two while nameservers propagated to a new domain that doesn’t react like that. His first new host was threatened with lawsuit. I saw the correspondence. The host just laughed. Hey, make my day, sue me! I’ll countersue and your *** will be grass.” Because the content was not illegal. That, in fact, had been a big part of Nathan’s point. That host would immediately have taken down illegal content. The host was in the U.S., and no way would he want the feds coming down on him. But he was familiar with the law.

            And for pointing out that Nathan had not done X and Y, I was told, by a well-known Wikipedian, to “Go f*** your kids.” Nice people, some Wikipedians. By that time, the mods at RationalWiki realized they were bleeding users, and who really cared about this X who would Y, so they banned him, and did nothing about the gross F your kids on my Talk page, nor about the graphically described violence Nathan was threatened with. Can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen! Okay, mostly, I did.

            I did block the user who had written that to Larson, for blatant violation of site policy against threats of violence; I was promptly desysopped, and he was promptly unblocked. I was resysopped fairly quickly. I’m still a sysop there. As are most users.

            It’s a Phase 1 topic. They are like that.

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            • Captain Obvious says:

              Abd, why did you put “disgusting pedophile advocacy” in quotes like that? Those are your words not mine.

              I stated that one of Nathan Larson’s sites is redirected to the “International Pedophile and Child Emancipation” site and you confirm that it is. I stopped reading shortly after that, but I’m sure the rest is just more of your usual obfuscation.

              Like

  2. Anonymous Coward says:

    Really? A “protect the children” line? Your self-important antics have been amusing so far, but I’d watch that ballooning ego and hero complex if I were you. Have fun dealing with the usual crowd from the critic sites, I guess. You get to be moderator now! You’re marginally more important!

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  3. wllm says:

    I find it very interesting that, for as much as the Wikipediocracy folks say they care about children, this more recent post only has a handful of comments while the “Greg Kohs and Bigotry” post has 183 with more pouring it, as I write this- a 7th comment- here.

    It makes me question what these commenters’ true priorities are.

    ,Wil

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    • John Lilburne says:

      Everything that needs to be said by WO participants has already been said. You have a precise of them. There is no more criticism to be added, It is up to the WMF to actually do something for once, but they won’t until their feet are dragged into the fire. Meanwhile we’ll keep spreading teh word that it is a site full of bullies, perverts, and where inappropriate content that leaks out in unexpected places such as ‘toothbrush’, ‘human male’, ‘pearl necklace’, ‘furniture’ etc, where children are encouraged to curate the pornography, all in all that it is a very unsavoury place for your child to be.

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      • wllm says:

        That’s a message I’m trying to spread, as well.

        This is the first in a series of posts taking a critical look at exactly what needs to change for children to be able to use Wikipedia safely and with the full confidence of their parents. Like I mentioned above, I believe it will take a large effort in the form of a new kids’ version of Wikipedia. From what Wikipediocracy has shown me- all of which I’ve now verified myself, as the above links indicate- I actually believe that such a project would be easier than making Wikipedia itself safe for children.

        This is an effort that I’d gladly join. It remains to be seen if I’m the one who will have to spearhead it; obviously, I’d prefer that someone else do all that work. 🙂

        ,Wil

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        • An observer says:

          Why is it not the parent’s job to censor what their children see online? After all, they’re the ones that decide what content is inappropriate for their children. Some parents might think that sex and sexuality content should be censored while others might think that violent content has to go and others might think that coverage of certain books needs to be gone.

          Who decides what is censored? You? Wikipedia and the WMF can’t make those decisions; expecting them to cave to some parent’s demand for censorship or ratings so that those parents can justify their own lazy parenting is a ridiculous goal.

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          • John Lilburne says:

            That’s fine we just keep announcing to parents and teachers that WP is a site full of bullies and perverts, where inappropriate content leaks out in unexpected places such as ‘toothbrush’, ‘human male’, ‘pearl necklace’, ‘furniture’ etc. A place where children are encouraged to curate the pornography, and that all in all it is a very unsavoury place for a child to be.

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            • wllm says:

              Actually, now that I re-read my “positive-spin” on John’s argument, it falls short. As I have said before- and in complete alignment with what John is saying here- any outreach encouraging children use Wikipedia in its current form is immoral and unethical. Wikimedia has to meet a high standard to engage in such activities. Porn sites don’t come to school in Sub-saharan Africa to show students how they might use an electric toothbrush as an improvised too for female masturbation. Wikipedia shouldn’t either.

              I’ll make a more extreme statement here. Wikipedia should cease all outreach to minors until they have a site that is safe for children. I directly challenge them to take this responsibility, and I suggest that there are very serious consequence for putting it off further. It’s true that parents should have the final say in what their children are exposed to, so it’s important that they aren’t exposed to electric toothbrush dildos in school. It is a least common denominator argument, but that’s what’s largely applied to what is appropriate for children’s textbooks, etc.

              ,Wil

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          • wllm says:

            I think that John has a good point here, although I would put a more positive spin on it. I think that Wikimedia has the opportunity to create a service that poses no moral or ethical issues in any outreach to children. As John points out, that is not the case for many of the current Wikimedia projects. The solution involves so many core changes to how Wikipedia is run, that it seems to be easier to cut a newly tailored, child-size suit from the raw cloth of the knowledge already captured on the English Wikipedia.

            Parents typically like to raise issues that are confusing for their children- sexuality is obviously near the top of every parent’s list- in a manner that is appropriate for both their own family and culture. Currently, most parents seem to be unaware of much of the content that they might find objectionable on Wikipedia. That simply won’t always be the case; this is not a problem that Wikimedia can ignore away.

            ,Wil

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    • Gregory Kohs says:

      Why would anyone participate in commenting on your blog, Wil, after the scatterbrained nonsense you pulled on the “Greg Kohs and Bigotry” post? You’ve proven that your platform is little more than a libel engine, so why spend quality time commenting on anything here, if you’re just likely to drown it out tomorrow with another idiotic post that offends nearly everyone’s sensibilities?

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      • wllm says:

        I don’t know. I supposed you’d have to ask everyone commenting on it, Greg.

        ,Wil

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        • Abd says:

          Greg’s comment was a generalization which seems supported by data. The existence of outliers doesn’t alter this. Greg doesn’t have to do anything.

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          • wllm says:

            He only has to do something if he needs these questions answered. Personally, I think that Greg accusing another person of running a “libel engine” is pretty hilarious, considering what goes on over at Wikipediocracy.

            Abd, do you have any conflicts-of-interest here?

            ,Wil

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          • Abd says:

            Wil, you had such good intentions, enough to pave an entire highway. Where is that highway headed?

            Conflict of interest? Isn’t that quite a rude quesetion?

            The short answer: No.

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  4. Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

    Re: Wllm: “Abd, do you have any conflicts-of-interest here?”

    Yeah, that’s right, don’t miss a chance to take a shot at him. After all, he’s been a leading critic of your domineering and unilateral behavior at Offtopic.

    Oh, wait, he’s one of the five regulars there… My bad.

    Keep on Assuming Bad Faith, that drew the traffic for your Kohs Libel, and that’s what it’s all about, right? Don’t mess with success…

    t

    Like

    • Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

      Whoops, make that four.

      >Timothy Usher is a person who has tired of this discussion and of this site. This site has no direction; there is not even general agreement on what we mean to do, much less on how we mean to do it. I suppose I’ve been discussing the kind of place to which I might be inclined to contribute. This is not that place.(no cc) Timothy Usher (talk) 21:02, 17 July 2014 (UTC)

      With apologies for the copyvio.

      t

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      • wllm says:

        Consider giving us a little more time. I play for long-term success, and there is a real need for a site like Offwiki. So far I’m happy that the site is technically chugging along, and it’s given me a bit of the reboot opportunity you mentioned before without having to re-launch. I’m pretty happy with the trajectory so far.

        ,Wil

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        • Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

          You’re just not listening and not observing what is going on. If you want to DISCUSS WP, you need a message board. Pick your favorite software. WikiMedia is nothing more than an entertaining diversion for you. You’re diverted.

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          • Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

            And I need to reiterate because you have poor comprehension of other people’s views (not just mine): Don’t do this alone. Round up half a dozen co-thinkers and DELEGATE responsibility. Step back.

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          • Abd says:

            Tim, choosing Mediawiki was actually a great choice, but not for discussion; rather for building consensus documents. However, to use Mediawiki that way, a great deal more is required than just installing the software. Offwiki is a brilliant demonstration of that. He actually got a lot of participation, but much of it was from others just as clueless as himself. There are some things there, some possible signs of hope, but … plenty that is otherwise as well. He’s got a community with very little discipline about discussion.

            I do write a lot, but there are easy devices for handling that. (Sorry, they don’t work here, they work with Mediawiki.) Timothy Usher made some comments radically off-topic for a thread, but of great general interest, perhaps. So I wrote a moderately lengthy comment, but created it as a subsection. Then I replaced the entire subsection, including the new header, with a very brief mention of it, with a link to the full section in history, so it’s one-click to read it.

            I had written about the lack of discipline in comments, among other things. While I was preparing to blank that comment, Usher responded with a short quotation on this, pulled out, with “That’s rich.” I.e., pointing to my “lack of discipline.” (Usher has made numerous complaints about wall of text from me.) When I archived the comment to history, Usher reverted it, claiming his comment needed that for context. Of course! He needed something to complain about! However, the context of his comment was still clear (this was not a matter of ordinary blanking of a comment that was necessary for context. He had already quoted, and anyone who cares can see what the original comment was.

            I warned Usher on his user page, which, in true disruptive user fashion, he blanked. And, of course, as an experienced Wikimedian, I don’t care. He started to revert war.

            Now, this is what is truly rich: Usher’s position has been that users should own their content. So here I was asserting a kind of ownership, the right to refactor my comment to address possible problems with it, without harm, and he was opposing that. I thought it was a brilliant demonstration.

            This stuff is risky. Revert warring can get people upset, so I prepared for it, in various ways.

            Usher saw this, and I don’t know what he thought, but I could guess. He wasn’t going to be able to “win” this tempest in a teapot, and he’d just made himself look foolish. So he wrote the retirement message quoted on this blog, as his next (and final?) comment.

            It had become very clear, though. What Usher wants is radically inconsistent with the entire Wikimedia community. His goal is diametrically opposite to Wil’s. Usher would want to ban anonymous editing. He would want expert writing, editing, and management, and he’s not talking about a hybrid, but about demolishing the entire public-access wiki concept. No wonder the Wikipediocracy snark suggested he be invited to Offwiki. (I’d had no experience with him at all.)

            (So, as part of his immediate response to me, he attempted to “out” me. People like him are sotransparent. Really a bully, but out of his element.)

            Offwiki is a mess, and there are users who are “closing” requests that are still new and with no resolution, and no explanation, no closing signature, just the resolved template. And that, I just checked, is one of the more experienced users. Bananas.

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          • wllm says:

            Every other piece of software either requires existing users to set up an account in the message board software or is Flow. This is why I chose to evaluate Liquid Threads. But the community will be coming to a consensus on whether to move ahead with Liquid Threads or not, and, if not, I’ll come back with a proposal for integrating something like phpBB. And there is always the possibility of no forum software at all.

            ,Wil

            Like

    • Abd says:

      I would not describe Wil’s behavior as “domineering.” He does take unilateral action, and that’s not going to fly in creating a community. “Unilateral” is not exactly the problem. It is taking actions that will affect the participation of many, without having the experience to be a leader. He hasn’t paid his dues.

      I thought that might not matter, because if he consulted the community, he wouldn’t need the personal experience. He does sometimes consult, but often not at all, and when he does, he doesn’t give the process time to gather experienced comment.

      What I would have him do is to recognize his habit. It is quite obvious that it’s damaging his project. In order to move beyond it, he will need to recognize it quickly enough to interrupt his action. If I know him, he might fear that he will then simply not do it. There is another way. Initiate communication, disclose his idea, with a skilled listener or with an affected community. Commit to actions after consultation, not just by doing them.

      It could all get much easier for him.

      As I write this, a scintillating scotoma is appearing in my vision. Beautiful things, they are.

      Like

      • Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

        How many of you Offwiki peeps voted for Liquid Threads, outside of Wil.

        Answer: zero.

        Yet you all get to deal with his mess.

        Like

        • wllm says:

          Actually it was suggested by another member and for a brief period I was told that forums were the highest priority for the site. The story completely changed when you left, Tim, so I suspect that a few people thought having forums might convince you to stay. It doesn’t sound like it from what you’ve said recently.

          All the same, I kinda like Liquid Threads.

          ,Wil

          Like

          • Abd says:

            I “kinda” like it too, as I’ve begun to learn how to use it. However, it also radically restructures the project. I did an hour of research on it, reading the Mediawiki discussions. Several points you may have missed.

            It appears that Liquid threads cannot be uninstalled without losing the conversations. I think this is because they are hosted in a separate Threads namespace. There may be a way around this, but it would probably take MySQL and Mediawiki expertise.

            Wil intended it to only be used in the Sandbox, but the site default made it difficult to avoid setting up liquid threads from any Talk page post. Wil didn’t wait to understand Liquid threads. It was inevitable that many threads would be started, from how you installed it.

            In the discussions, Liquid Threads had a terrible reputation. Many hated it.

            Liquid threads is not being maintained as an extension. There is no guarantee, then, that LT will be supported in future versions of Mediawiki, so Offwiki may be stuck with software that will become obsolete.

            Bottom line, Wil radically changed site configuration without consulting the community. There would be community members with experience with Liquid Threads. There are other wikis with it installed, users could go there and check it out. If Wil knew that the community would not want it, would he have gone ahead anyway?

            Wil avoided all this “frustration,” which would require patience by doing it without announcing that, if there was no objection, he would do it in X days. I highly recommend seven days as a minimum for something like this, because many people may be on a weekly cycle of participation.

            If the users had considered Liquid Threads and collectively approved it, at least a majority, and if the arguments against it were not adequate to give pause, then if it had been done and they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t have Wil to bash.

            At least one user is refusing to use a Noticeboard talk page to discuss the page, and instead discusses the page on the page, out of a refusal to handle LT discussions. Actually, that level of usage is not bad at all. It works. But people were freaked out by the Messaging system, not realizing that they have control over it.

            So part of the problem is poor documentation. If LT had been set up as a community project, rather than as “I wanted to test it,” that problem would have been quickly addressed.

            As to needing “Forums,” of course people accustomed to endless conversation, snark, and fruitless argument would say that. Mediawiki software, indeed, is product-focused, not discussion focused. Discussion in wikis is generally focused on creating documents, with discussion of the documents being on the attached talk page. The goal of Offwiki is not discussion, it is the development of reform proposals, which will be “consensus documents.” (Consensus documents do not mean that everyone agrees with everything they contain, but a full consensus document will cover the result of negotiations, with pointers to the full discussion. Every good-faith participant will say, about such a document, “yes, that covers it.” Any standing disagreements will be neutrally documented.)

            I think I did recommend this solution, but it’s not too late: a parallel implementation of the same BBS software as is used by Wikipediocracy. I’d bet Wil could get some experienced WPO mods to help with that, if he’d led them.

            The big argument for this: Offwiki would be using software and interface familiar to Wikpiedians and the Forum would use software familiar to Wikipediocrats and Wikipiedia Reviewers. Those are large communities. There would be some crossover administration, I’d assume. It might be considered required to identify between the wiki and the forum, the same user names should be in both places.

            Wil, you are not utilizing the resources of the extended community. You are busy alienating much of the community with impulsive action. Do you intend to continue that?

            Like

            • wllm says:

              I did a lot of work evaluating solutions. I know that LT stores it’s threads in a separate MySQL table. I’m sure I can create a script that translates them in to nested wikitext, and I had always planned to translate them to Flow when the community felt Flow was ready for primetime. I know that LT is an officially unmaintained project, but it is more mature than Flow, and there was some consensus around LT over Flow. I couldn’t find an easy sandbox to test LT like I did for Flow, so I installed it for testing and told everyone that in the announcement.

              I’m learning a lot. I’ve been really happy to do it, because this community will stress test any community leader. Remember, this isn’t my first time leading a community, and the Zend Framework community is far larger than this one. But they also weren’t so critical. Abd, remember that you managed to alienate most of the community within hours of your being granted adminship. It’s not easy holding a community that, by the nature of the website itself, are all critics. 🙂 I set up the website, I pay for the servers, and I get bashed, as you put it. All the same, the experience is worth every investment I’ve made + some.

              ,Wil

              Like

        • wllm says:

          Like I’ve said before, I installed Liquid Threads to evaluate. It wasn’t supposed to be used outside of the Sandbox, but it has practically no configuration options to enforce such a policy. I did try it for a blog post, and it seems to have worked tolerably well there.

          ,Wil

          Like

  5. Captain Obvious says:

    I just read some of the discussion on Offwiki. Abd states The WMF does globally lock accounts where there is evidence presented privately to it of pedophilia or pedophilia advocacy, though there is no clear policy on this globally.. This is quite simply false. I suggest you contact the WMF legal team and ask them to comment.

    Abd also states “One more point, “child protection” is a euphemism for “pedophilia” or “advocacy of pedophilia,” which is a Mirkin phase 1 topic.” I believe that Abd has made a leap in logic that is unfounded. “Child protection” is not a euphemism for those things, it incorporates concerns about those things. The danger that pedophiles might use Wikipedia to connect with children is probably very low. Wikipedia is not very attractive to children and it is not easy to identify which editors are children, but there is a risk that Wikipedia may be used in that way. Bullying by other editors and inadvertent exposure of personal information are greater risks for child editors.

    Abd is partially correct in that what is really a prohibition against advocacy of pedophilia on English Wikipedia has been included in a policy about protecting children. That is not accidental. Although this policy was instituted by the WMF, they lack the courage to simply say so in clear terms. Although they will claim that it is a policy affecting all WMF projects, the policy on Meta which would govern this is still marked “proposed”.

    If you want to be taken seriously on this issue, ask Sue Gardner and the WMF legal team why there is no global “child protection” policy. Ask them why the Meta child protection policy is still just “proposed” four years after it was created. Ask them how an editor can be banned on one WMF project for pedophilia advocacy yet continue to edit other projects. Ask them to tell you the process that ArbCom follows if an editor is reported to be advocating pedophila and the process that the WMF follows if a report is made to the legal team. Good luck!

    Like

    • Captain Obvious says:

      By strange coincidence, the last person to edit the “proposed” child protection policy on Meta was Abd’s aforementioned friend Nathan Larson (known there as Leucosticte). 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Abd says:

        Yes, the last user to edit the meta proposed policy was Leucosticte. He changed the shortcut shown from PEDO to CP. Above, I’d written that CP was a “euphemism” for Pedophilia. Confirmation.

        The meta page CP would have been a redirect to Child protection. But that page was deleted May 24, by Sj, who happens to be a WMF Trustee. The shortcut, however, is still shown as CP, redlinked. Why was the redir deleted? PEDO started life as a redirect to Pedophilia. That would make sense, right? But Pedophilia was moved to Child protection in 2012. Leucosticte apparently noticed the weirdness and created a new redirect, CP. So … there can be many redirects. Why was this deleted? There was no deletion reason. Maybe I’ll ask Sj. I’ve noticed him doing weird things before.

        Why is it still proposed? Because the community has not gotten its act together to create a policy. Nobody has had the moxie to change the page from proposed to policy. The WMF operates on the legal theory that they don’t control content, the community does.

        Who is the person banned for pedophilia advocacy on one project and allowed to edit others? I’m aware of none. Not saying there is none, just I haven’t seen it.

        Like

        • Captain Obvious says:

          There are several editors with Arbcom blocks for advocacy of pedophilia who are free to edit on other WMF projects. The WMF does not lock the accounts of editors blocked by Arbcom for pedophilia advocacy, so why wouldn’t they be able to edit other WMF projects?

          Like

    • wllm says:

      Well, there’s no point in asking Sue Gardner anymore. 🙂 I can tell you that Lila has never lacked the courage to do anything. One only has to hear the story of her coming to America to understand that this woman has no fear and is determined as all hell.

      I believe that the WMF is in transition. The new leadership really groks the issues at hand in protecting children. I would never suggest letting off the pressure on WMF to address this problem, although I suggest that everyone should have hope that the new leadership does not have a record of putting off action indefinitely.

      Frankly, I found Sue’s response to this issue transparent only in that she was putting it off until she left. You’re right that it takes courage to stand up for children. And we may not have had an instance of clear cut child predation onwiki, but this is one case where one is simply far too many.

      I put great- not just appropriate- child protection at the top of my priority list of reforms the WMF can directly put in to effect. At some point, they will have to say, “look, we own the wikipedia.org domain, and we are doing this because we care as much about children as any parent. If you don’t like it, lump it.”

      Abd has some on-point observations about hysteria behind child protection, but I hasten to mention that, as a father and grandfather, he would want any organization that runs a site and performs extensive outreach to young students like those in his family to protect children. Anything less is immoral and unethical, IMO.

      ,Wil

      Like

      • Captain Obvious says:

        If Sue Gardner has finally left the building then the clock has started on Lila’s actions. Perhaps you can ask her why there is no WMF-wide child protection policy? Please let us know what her reply is.

        I don’t think you should make any assumptions about what Abd wants or expects for his children and grandchildren. The only safe assumption about Abd is that he will continue to produce eye-glazing walls of bafflegab and misdirection for as long as anyone will let him.

        Like

        • wllm says:

          The clock has definitely starting ticking for Lila. I made sure that the current state of child protection policy was etched in internet stone before she officially took the reigns on 6/1 by asking for all relevant policy on wikimedia-l. It comes up short, to say the least.

          As far as asking Lila about anything having to do with Wikipedia, it ain’t gonna happen. Both Lila and I are much more comfortable keeping Wikipedia out of our private lives. As is, she can check in on my opinions (which, AFAICT, don’t carry more weight than any other person’s) by reading this site or Offiwiki. I can just Google news on her or look at wikimedia-l. FWIW, I haven’t done either; and I don’t have any reason to believe that Lila has been seeking out my opinion.

          Weird? Hardly to be believed? Yes, those terms apply to my relationship with Lila. But I’ve noticed that it’s pretty common among our friends. At some point (it happened when I took on the Zend Framework project while Lila became CPO at Sugar), one begins to see exactly how well connected- and therefore “small”- Silicon Vally is. The way that many people counterbalance this and avoid becoming some sort of SV family is by strictly avoiding all professional talk at home. We have friends who have one person working R&D at Apple, while the other works at Google X. They simply don’t talk shop at home under any circumstances. That’s what it’s been like at our home for years.

          ,Wil

          Like

          • Captain Obvious says:

            So you want to lead a community based around WMF projects, but you won’t ask the executive director of the WMF about anything. I’m not sure how well that’s gonna work out. People were used to asking Sue Gardner questions and getting no reply, but at least the questions were asked and people saw them.

            Is there anything stopping you from asking the WMF legal team about child protection?

            Like

            • Tim Davenport /// Carrite /// Randy from Boise says:

              There is clearly room for a “third” discussion forum splitting the difference between WP and WPO. Wil has proven himself a poor person to LEAD it, both temperamentally and in terms of potential conflict of interest.

              The painful thing is that the venue is needed right away, since Flow is coming down the pike like a 20,000 tanker truck full of liquified porcine excrement…

              t

              Like

            • wllm says:

              Any member of our community can ask the WMF and the ED about these issues. Tim is wrong on one point; I don’t have a conflict of interests here. Both the WMF and I want to protect children. I choose not to speak to WMF employees because it was making Lila’s job harder. As I’ve mentioned before, various WMF staffers made sure she was briefed on my every comma, and, in case you happen to be a WMF employee and you’re reading this, Lila doesn’t like her time wasted. Anyone, from WMF staffers to Offwikipedians are likely to get far more traction by bring issues to her attention.

              FWIW, I will be re-engaging the WMF. There are some particularly apolitical staffers who I’ve gotten to know as individuals with common interests to my own. When I have a bit more time, everyone will be able to see how the WMF can be constructively engaged by someone who has been a controversial figure.

              ,Wil

              Like

        • wllm says:

          “bafflegab”? Nice word. 🙂

          But the fact is that Abd has very insightful things to say. That’s why, when he banned from any forum, it seems to be done with great reluctance. Abd and I share a connection through ADHD. While I think that he could ask questions more and listen instead of typing in some cases, I believe that his mind can be changed and that it is a mind worth getting to know. In particular, Abd provides an important check on my own actions. He’s not always right, but he hits the mark far more often than others, about my motivations and intentions. Others will speak of impulsivity, which may be true, while Abd is speaking of solutions. Of course, I can see why others may not find his commentary as useful. But it should be taken in to mind that we ADHDers are not necessarily reliable hitters. When we catch some of the ball, however, we tend to knock it out of the park. We require patience and tolerance, and we can return ten-fold the investment that others put in to us.

          We also tend to have very flexible ways of thinking well in to adulthood, which, for some reason, Abd chooses not to put front and center. I know for a fact that Abd can be responsive to criticism, but like most other people he will assume oppositional behavior if confronted. FWIW, ADHDers also tend to respond poorly to confrontation; they have lived a life full of people telling them they are wrong when they know they are simply different. I recommend talking through problems with us and letting our own minds do the rest. We are, above all, very passionate folks.

          ,Wil

          Like

          • Captain Obvious says:

            I’m not really concerned with what causes Abd to do what he does. I am concerned with Abd’s tendency to make false statements as if they were known facts and his tendency to minimize evidence which does not support his viewpoint.

            What should concern you about Abd is that his walls of text actually discourage participation from reasonable people. A moot point, since you seem to have come to this particular discussion with a “solution” already decided. Abd is a smart fellow, but not as smart as he seems to think he is and certainly not so smart that he should be allowed to dominate all discussions with his self-indulgent longwindedness.

            Like

            • wllm says:

              I don’t think it’s just the long-windedness that other users are objecting to, and, yes, it is important to me that everyone has a good experience at Offwiki. I’m trying to go through all the posts now to figure out the way forward.

              ,Wil

              Like

              • Captain Obvious says:

                The discussion about this issue on Offwiki seems to be moribund. It is a pity that you could not attract enough contributors to get a decent discussion going.

                Like

              • Abd says:

                Offwiki is addressing issues stalled on Wikipedia, many of them. It might take Offwiki a year to get going. (Wil is a tad optimistic! Constitution in two weeks! But if he needs that optimism to get going, great. I’m telling him he does not need to be unrealistic to be optimistic. He’ll get it.)

                Wil is highly resistant to nay-sayers, and the Wikipedia community is full of them. Mostly, the “community” has had two responses to innovators. Ban them, or frustrate them so intensely that they simply go away. The community structure guaranteed that very rapidly, Wikipedia would become highly conservative. Which is ironic, eh?

                Like

              • Abd says:

                My work on Offwiki is, first and foremost, to build structure that will make it a safe place for contributors, that will allow it, long-term, to move toward consensus maximization. That’s essential for the declared mission. The “Wikipedia community,” or more accurately, a majority of the active, can be expected to oppose this, many weakly, some tooth and claw. That’s fine. I won’t stop, if Wil doesn’t stop.

                The tooth and claw part is already happening. A cobra shows up and tangles with a mongoose, and the “community” says, why are you always fighting! Be nice! Look, mongoose, you are driving away cobras. Keep that up, you might be blocked! And mongoose says, “No problem. You want to deal with cobras, your choice. Just notice that other users are mysteriously disappearing. If cobra and I are “getting into a fight,” please form a protective circle around it, so nobody else gets hurt.”

                There is nothing wrong with cobra and mongoose fighting, it’s in their nature. But mongoose does not threaten other users. Cobras do.

                Like

              • wllm says:

                Abd is a very important person to me. Once again, he sees- or, at the very least, says- what others don’t. Abd knows that my ability to bear the brunt of criticism and endeavor to learn from it is what just might set Offwiki apart from other efforts to focus constructive criticism of Wikipedia.

                It hardly matters if it’s an ADHD thing or some other personal connection. Abd understands that I haven’t even started to reach out to Offwiki’s target audience. We would like Wikipediocrats to participate, but the site wasn’t built for you and won’t change because any group of Wikipediocrats says it must. The site was built for the legions of Wikipedians who haven’t made their voices heard yet. The issues that Offwiki has seen in the past few weeks have given us the chance to iron out the kinks for them. Very soon we’ll see whether Offwiki can be successful when offered to those for whom it was built.

                ,Wil

                Like

            • Abd says:

              CO might be correct as to blog posts. Long posts discourage some others from participating, but so do many short posts of low cogence. This is not correct on a wiki with an awake and functional community, and with a prolix user who is cooperative. I’ve been demonstrating how to handle prolixity. So far, the only Offwiki user who has noticed this is a user who revert warred against a solution while complaining about the problem.

              Underneath this, it’s become obvious to me (including from researching the history of that user). The status quo empowers this user, enables him to pursue his personal agenda, delays the recognition of it. And his agenda is far from neutrality. It states one thing and does the opposite.

              I am smarter than I think I am. So is everyone. So? If I’m stuck in reactivity, I’m dumber — far dumber — than anyone who is not stuck, unless they are almost literally brain-dead.

              Notice the paradox: “tendency to make false statements as if they were known facts.” Is that a known fact? How is it determined that a statement is “false”? Statements are always multivalent, they can be interpreted in many ways. One may pick interpretations that appear false, and one can pick ones that appear true. So which ones are picked by CO?

              As to cherry-picking or coloring evidence, every human being does this. It’s unavoidable. What is possible, however, is to calm the reactive mind so that it can consider all evidence. What is possible is to develop consensus reports that cover all evidence. This is where Wikiversity experience comes in. Wikiversity is neutral through inclusion, Wikipedia through exclusion. Wikipedia excludes “POV,” very often. It imagines that there is something called “NPOV.”

              Wikiversity could be used to resolve every content conflict on Wikipedia. I’m not sure that it’s ready for the traffic. Offwiki could pioneer procedures that would allow Wikiversity to remain functional if the traffic rose.

              However, NPOV is really journalistic or academic overall practice. It includes POV. It does not condemn opinion, but it identifies and attributes it.

              Like

              • Captain Obvious says:

                What utter bullshit. If you have such a philosophical view of what constitutes true and false statements you should spend your time meditating in a darkened room, not bloviating on the internet.

                You said “The WMF does globally lock accounts where there is evidence presented privately to it of pedophilia or pedophilia advocacy”. This is a false statement. It is false because the WMF does not do that. Accounts are usually locked if they have uploaded suspected child porn. Accounts blocked on English Wikipedia for pedophilia advocacy are not locked. You have been involved in many discussions on the blocking of pedophilia advocates, so I am surprised you do not know this.

                Like

      • Abd says:

        There is an intrinsic conflict between “uncensored” and standards for what children can be exposed to. The world is changing. The only way that I can protect my daughters against exposure to sexual material is to prevent them from accessing the internet. Yet the internet is the future. Indeed, as well, sexuality is their future. I hope!

        What I know is that “modern” social standards vis a vis children and sexuality are not culturally universal. Personally, I’m quite uncomfortable about the exposure of my almost 13-year-old to even R-rated material. However, she’s moving out into the world. She has a smart phone. She now goes downtown alone, on her bicycle.

        Is she curious about sex? Not particularly, AFAIK. But I wouldn’t necessarily know. I might know, it seems she is quite open with me. What she is interested in is somewhat precocious, or not. She’s interested in beauty, in style, in self-expression. She is developing high skill in those areas. That’s pre- or proto-sexual.

        My grandchildren? That’s up to their parents. It must be up to their parents, not to me.

        Wikipedia has never been “child-friendly.” It does not do, AFAIK, “outreach to young students.” It does outreach to older students. The Wikipedia culture is, as it is, socially toxic for children. The youngest editor I personally know is blocked on simple.wiki (not anywhere else). I am much more concerned about risk to children from the social toxicity than I am about “predators.” I don’t want my daughter to be eaten by a bear, but I don’t forbid her to go outside. There are bears around here, I’ve seen one or two in ten years.

        No, I teach her about bears! Especially about very tempting, terminally cute bear cubs!

        Wikipedia is like a vast library that happens to be next door. The library, however, is, by design, uncensored. Content is not segregated. One may find information about homosexuality all kinds of sexuality in this library. Now, do I allow my child to go there? That is, do I restrict the freedom of my child? I do not consider the answer to this question obvious. That library is the planet. Do I allow my child to go there? When?

        The Wikipedia compromise will probably be some kind of tagging, with, perhaps, a Mediawiki option that will make articles in certain categories invisible, not presented to a user in a “protected category.” Legally, if the site collects age information, it is then subject to COPPA, which, then, means, for very practical reasons, no users under 13. So the protected category must be voluntary, and must not be “age indicative.” The user, then, must be able to bypass it.

        Others may certainly disagree with me, may believe that “child protection” is more important than anything else. My opinion is that these, as parents, will harm their children. That is, were I inclined to such judgments, I’d say it was “immoral and unethical.” I’m not so inclined. They are just parents, who care about their children and who might err in the direction of overprotection, as others might err in a different direction.

        But the “think of the children!” position — when it’s extreme and not balanced — is a Mirkin Phase 1 position. It is forbidden to challenge it. Only “pedophile activists” would even think of challenging it. Ban them! They have no rights! They are Evil!”

        I just asked my daughter about this issue. Her comments were clear and balanced. Do we ever think about asking the children?

        Like

        • wllm says:

          This is a very intellectually honest answer. But Abd’s form of parenting does not work equally well in all families and cultural contexts. In particular, in most- if not all- modern societies it is primarily the parents’ prerogative how they approach the very foreign and confusing issue of sexuality with their children. I believe that, as the world’s go-to reference for the sum of all human knowledge, Wikipedia could still leave these decisions up to the parents.

          ,Wil

          Like

        • John Lilburne says:

          This is not a question on uncensored and you well know that. If a child were to read an age appropriate book on sexuality with pictures or whatever then there is no problem. The issue is as Abd knows full well, that WP articles on sexuality are extremely poor. They focus mainly on the fetish and tend to describe it as a normal sexual activity. The likelihood of Abd or Wil giving their respective partners a facial is remote, and contrary to WP’s assertion that anal sex is not uncommon amongst hetrosexual couples I doubt that either know many couples in their respective circles where pegging is a bedroom activity.

          Like

          • Captain Obvious says:

            I think I would have gone with scrotal inflation” instead of pegging.

            The point is that Wikipedia presents all sexual practices as equivalent. Practices which are rarely encountered outside of psychological cases studies are just as valid as those taught in sex ed courses or those promoted in porn videos. The tiny community of men who inject saline into their scrotum is able to create and maintain an article on Wikipedia. With pictures. And a link to Commons where Category:Scrotal inflation currently has 47 images.

            If Abd’s daughter decided to look at Wikipedia’s entry on scrotum, she would also find a link in the “see also” section to “Scrotal infusion”, which is just a redirect to “Scrotal inflation”. Because this rare, dangerous and bizarre practice is obviously what she needs to see to fully understand the function of a scrotum.

            Like

            • wllm says:

              CO has a very important point here. Some content on Wikipedia is downright dangerous for people who haven’t developed good judgement, including almost all children. Check out this lovely one:

              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glue_sniffing

              Unbe-fucking-lievable. The children pictured next to the lede look like they can’t be over 10 years old. The article then goes in to what amounts to a manual on how to get high off common- and extremely dangerous- household products. I know this is totally irrational, but the kids’ middle fingers seem to add insult to injury. Almost as if the article author is saying “Fuck you, dad. We’re going to show your kid how to risk his life getting high in the most dangerous of ways, and you’ve got no choice in the matter.” I didn’t do most of these things when I was young because I didn’t know about them. While I believe that this content should be recorded and possibly hosted on an adult-orient encyclopedia, there is simply nothing OK about inviting children to a page like this.

              Next blog post, here I come.

              ,Wil

              Like

              • Captain Obvious says:

                You looked up “glue sniffing” and you were surprised that it lists common things that people abuse? Wait, let me guess – is your solution to this a kid-friendly wiki?

                Like

              • wllm says:

                I don’t really have all the answers here. I’m just saying that we should start taking responsibility for keeping children safe on Wikipedia, because we’re the only party that can ensure that the use of our encyclopedia by children is done responsibly.

                We all seem to agree that this isn’t necessary for adults. Like I said, the value of that article depends entirely on who is looking at it.

                ,Wil

                Like

  6. […] response to my last post, Captain Obvious came swooping in to point out what had been hiding in plain sight. While I was […]

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  7. google.cn says:

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    Like

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