Sunday, March 14, 2010

Is the Wikimedia Foundation going to close Wikiversity?

Jimmy Wales dropped in on a Wikiversity discussion about his deletion and account blocking activities on Wikiversity recently. There were concerns about him over stretching his authority by deleting pages without following Wikiversity protocols of discussion before deletion. Typical to discussion in these large wikis, there are a lot of threads to follow, revealing some very profound examples of civil discourse (hats off to SB_Johnny), right along side some not so profound. Deletion is a very contentious issue on all the big wikis.

In that discussion Jimmy has called on Wikiversity to set up stronger policies for deterring what he sees as "trolls, breaching experiments (experiments designed to test the strength of Wiki policies), and attacks on Wikipedians". That discussion appeared to get a little heated and Jimmy dropped what appeared to be a threat:
I am currently discussing the closure of Wikiversity with the board. That is an unlikely outcome, but I mention it because I really want to press the point that the scope of Wikiversity has to be restricted to genuine OER. I think that my actions here are strongly supportive of the genuine community who want to do that, making it clear to them that they have very strong support for making it happen. Some may feel that Wikiversity should be a place for silly and juvenile experimentation. If people want to discuss such things, there is an entire Internet open to them - they should not hijack Wikiversity for these purposes.--Jimbo Wales 14:49, 13 March 2010 (UTC)
I've come into the conversation a little late, but I am shaken by Jimmy's threat. One it polarises a complex issue into two simplistic extremes, belittling the other and inflating his own; two it suggests that Jimmy and others have a clear and set idea about what Wikiversity should be; and three the now obvious possibility of Wikiversity being closed by people outside the Wikiversity volunteer base!

I have no insight into the details or even much of the background of such a thing being considered by the Board, but I sure hope it is being recorded somewhere even if it was just an idle threat from a guy getting a little frustrated and over exercising his power and influence in a debate.

Disempowering Wikiversity volunteers

If it was a simple throw away remark by Jimmy, the punch in the threat (closing Wikiversity unless they fall into line) causes my commitment to Wikiversity, indeed the Foundation to waver. More importantly however, it undermines the community building in Wikiversity if others react to the threat like I do.

Just last week I was involved in several conversations with staff at the University of Canberra about how we might engage with Wikiversity and sister projects more directly in our work. I was giving advice, assurances and pointing to examples of good and bad work. All those discussions ended very favorably towards investing resources into education and research projects using the big wikis. But a remark like this from Jimmy suggesting far from strong support for Wikiversity obviously puts a dampener on that for now.

For what its worth, I have asked Jimmy to ask the Board to give a strong reassurance of their commitment to Wikiversity before my colleagues and I continue with our investment considerations. As impotent as that will sound, It is horrible to think the Board's minds might already be made up on a closure, or on what Wikiversity WILL become... because what happens now is a slow and protracted weakening of those who remain in the way of such a move.

A conflict of interest?


I think it also has to be noted that there is a potential conflict of interest on the Wikimedia Foundation Staff and Advisory Board that might be having some influence on the WMF Board discussions that Jimmy refers to.
What is deletion in Wikiversity anyway?

All of this recent storm in a tea cup stems from a concern Jimmy (and no doubt others) have that Wikiversity is too permissive. This is an accusation I find a little rich after discovering very explicit images on Wikimedia Commons that remained for years before eventually being removed. In that instance it was another Foundation wiki compromising Wikiversity through its permissiveness, but I didn't see Jimmy in there deleting pages or calling for strong policy or else.

I'm actually a no-deletion, less policy kind-a-guy myself. Take this page on Russian Roulette (a drinking game). It was recently nominated for deletion because it was perceived to be outside the scope of Wikiversity. On the one hand you can see why.. its educational value at first was pretty low brow, but James Neill made a minor edit to bring it within acceptable boundaries, and voted not to delete it. A link to Alternatives to partying was added and so begun a teachable moment in that page. It now has the beginnings of sections on the risks and considerations of binge drinking; a quest for links to research into drinking culture, games and alcohol abuse; and another section for counseling and self help resources for people with destructive drinking habits. I mean, the potential educational value of this page is endless, imagine if it was deleted Jimmy Wales style?

But pages like Russian Roulette are politically harmless compared to a perception that Wikiversity harbours misfits out to slur Wikipedia and the top brass. The relative permissiveness on Wikiversity is seen to be the problem, not the policies and culture of the other wikis that are creating so much bad will. And there's a problem for Wikiversity developing policy in tune with the other WMF wikis. Its not a wiki encyclopedia, or even a book or any other reference material. Its a wiki (uni)versity, meaning its scope and academic freedom is potentially limitless. I think that could well be a great thing, but does the $6million Board think so, and can they take the blows they attract if this sort of of freedom is to continue?

There's something fascinatingly dark about wikis

There is some research out there about these governance issues with the wikis. All through these wikis is a dark reflection of the great political and group struggles of humanity. A simple and maybe even a little unfair a comparison would be to Animal Farm. All these individual efforts amounting to something so big that the implications become individually massive, and we start believing in a sort of revolution. But we install, permit or need a power structure that replaces that which was over thrown. At the same time all our identities become entwined in this something so big that's made of us, it stands for something well beyond our actual self. Its a recipe for another conflict and another revolution. Something I'll have to read more about before I will understand it.

103 comments:

David Gerard said...

What is conspicuously missing from your post is details of what the objected-to material on Wikiversity was, in terms other than "but there's stuff I don't like on other Wikimedia sites too."

John Schmidt said...

"If it was a simple throw away remark by Jimmy" <-- I'd say "not simple, but predictable". It is the latest in a series of policy-violating actions by the special wikimedians who are above the need to follow community-established practices. Wikimedians who abuse their power never see it as abuse, even while they drive away honest community members and attract more abusers. Wikiversity attracts people who love to learn, explore and question. Wikimedia projects also attract other people who love to form gangs that push POV and kidney punch anyone who asks questions about the dark side of Wikimedia. Thus, there is an inevitable war between those who believe in open enquiry and discussion and those who define asking questions as "trolling". The basic problem is that Wikiversity attracts wikimedians who want to explore the problems of Wikimedia projects while other wikimedians don't want their follies to be studied.

David Gerard said...

@John - so precisely what was the objected-to material?

John Schmidt said...

"precisely what was the objected-to material" <-- Interesting question. Apparently (as I read the logs) Mr. Wales was not sure either since after he deleted the pages and blocked poor Privatemusings, Jimmy had to then give himself sysop powers so that he could read what he had just deleted.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy Wales may have a conflict of interest as well. He is one of the founders of Wikia (http://www.wikia.com/About_Us). Wikia has a research (http://research.wikia.com), an education (http://education.wikia.com), and an academia (http://academia.wikia.com) wiki.

gbaor said...

Well written Leigh! I feel very uneasy as well and share your worries what's going to happen next... We'll see...

brent said...

This debate pretty much drove me away from Wikiversity and i've never really gotten back into it since then. I disgreed with Jimbos unconditional blocking of user Moulton and the subsequent attacks on JW Schmidt by various custodians during this entire episode (which is nearly a year old now). I am an anti-deletionist as well. I completely disagree with Jimbos reading of the WV mission as being one around the developing of OERs - in the sense of OERs being about developing content - and think that WV could have been used to explore a range of possibilities around teaching and learning using a wiki environment that stretched well beyond the creation of content. Using WV to explore the political or ethical dimensions of WM projects was a perfectly valid and useful exercise and it was a shame that Jimbo didn't see it this way as well ... he could have done more good by engaging than dictating but ... perhaps its absolute power, etc.

Leigh Blackall said...

Hello everyone, thanks for your comments. @John - are you the JWSchmidt I once new in the early days of Wikiversity? Where did you go? I heard only minimal tales of a rather unfortunate and hostile conflict last year that may have lead to you leaving the community.. I haven't looked into the record (not sure I want to) but it would be nice, from my perspective, to see you back in there.. but not if that means a heavy emotional drain on you.

I too was caught up in some rather taxing battles in Wikieducator that caused me to exit that community. But I always wanted to be working in Wikiversity anyway (if you recall).

I also notice that Cormagio is no longer active in there.. nor is Brent. I hope all this isn't linked to the history of this story.. Brent suggests it is :( I recall JWSchmidt being an incredible contributor, as was Cormagio and Brent. If all this is linked, perhaps I better not get too involved in Wikiversity. I have a pretty strong aversion to deletion and while that rot doesn't go on in Wikieducator, their policy and political development troubled me. If WV has the same tendency towards group think as other wikis, and if experimentation and open ended development is vulnerable to the whims of influential WMF board members, then I might be better to keep out of it too.

gbaor said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

gbaor said...

I would not be so pessimistic... I hope everything will be sorted out and the spirit of WV remains the same.
(Note: The removed comment was the same, just corrected a typo.)

John Schmidt said...

"....are you the JWSchmidt I once..." Yes, that is me. "...you leaving the community" I prefer to describe the situation either by saying that Wikiversity suffered a hostile takeover or the community is suffering from "Wikipedia disease". In either way of looking at it, I never left the community, but I "spend" my precious wiki time in proportion to my sense of futility. I hope that some day Wikiversity becomes a place where it is not futile to try to engage in the creation of an online learning community. "it would be nice, from my perspective, to see you back in there" For the first two years of Wikiversity I had a wonderful time and the community attracted a great group of learners and explorers...I'd love to return to those days. However, Wikipedia disease set in and I was called a troll and told to fuck off and leave the project -the standard Wikimedia management methods- and life is too short to spend being hit over the head by juvenile goons who like to stroke and wave their mighty ban hammer. "heavy emotional drain" What happened to me was mild compared to the treatment given to other Wikiversity scholars. I'd say "makes me physically ill" rather than just "emotionally draining". First they came... Picture a school where unpopular students are walked on stage in the auditorium and then shot between the eyes. I've witnessed truly sickening Wikimedia atrocities and I've tried to discuss the situation with Mr. Wales, but, rather than talk and support the community, he finds it easier to delete, ban and threaten closure of Wikiversity. Given that kind of "leadership" Wikiversity is in the hands of a goon squad and it is not possible to hold an adult conversation about learning. "might be better to keep out of it" You hit the nail on the head. I'd go as far as to say that the only remaining learning project at Wikiversity is finding out if the Wikimedia foundation can actually make room for a wiki-facilitated community of scholarly learners. Sadly, so far the answer is "no".

Kaldari said...

So your response to Jimbo's threat is to make your own threat? That's pretty mature. FWIW, trolling projects such as the one deleted by Jimbo have no place on Wikiversity, and are certainly not part of the charter under which Wikiversity was created.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a new wiki is needed free from conflicts of interest. More
people are leaving and need a new home.

Anonymous said...

Wikiversity may soon not be a
place for people too when
everyone has walked away.

Leigh Blackall said...

Funnily enough, JWS is free to say what he likes here, I won't delete it or block him. My respect for his work in those early days carries through to what he says today.

But they are heavy words you use JWS, and you're not the only person out there saying as much about WMF. Last night I did go through that history, and while all parties did their bit to inflame each others emotions, it was deletion and blocking that caused it all in the first place. Articles, blogging, projects that offended people politically, professionally, or even personally should have been turned into learning experiences the same way the Russian Roulette page does (though admittedly it would be more complicated). Deletion and blocking only makes matters worse, and we descend into war.

Wikimedians should be bigger than that, but I too have noticed the cultural shift in all the projects (hence my cheap reference to Animal Farm in the post). I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and not see it as a hostile takeover, but a disease in spirit, born perhaps of disingenuous efforts to understand one another, with power playing its obvious card, arrogantly over looking such things as difference in culture, principles and ethics.

Was the offer to resolve conflict via voice conference ever taken up? Did it go beyond a single meeting if so?

Anyway, what gets said through this little blog doesn't change anything. But I think the individualism of blogging is somewhat more immune to the disease afflicting the big wikis. If a learning community can grow with the complicated communication tools of a MediaWiki, then it can grow with the use of blogs and RSS readers. All we would need is a common template to use on blog sites set up as "learning projects". This would aid navigation across them. Some would be single articles, others blogs, others events, etc, all of them aggregated to a "mother of all blogs" :)

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks to Brent, who recently alerted me to this First Monday article: Identifying and Understanding the Problems of Wikipedia's peer Governance

darkcode said...

I am sorry to see your plans change for Wikiversity. Is this a temporary change? Is there any chance you may change your mind? I hope this is just a temporary setback.

I enjoyed reading your other blogs What to do! and Resist Copyright too.

Leigh Blackall said...

G'day Dark. I will not be recommending my colleagues at the University to invest time until a strong guarantee is made by WMF.

Personally I will keep in there at a very low key level.

alexanderhayes said...

It's interesting just noting the differences between what's occurring in the development of "Networked learning" across the following three spaces ; http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Networked_learning as well as; http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Networked_learning&action=history; as well as http://wikieducator.org/Networked_learning

Some living, some dead, some just waiting for a speedy deletion....

alexanderhayes said...

It's also interesting that any search engine will produce pages of reference when using three key terms:

1. Jimmy
2. Wales
3. porn

Perhaps Wikimedia is destined for differing clients perhaps ?

Anonymous said...

Leigh Blackall: What guarantee do you need from the WMF?

Leigh Blackall said...

I (we actually - as I'm sure my concerns are shared by thousands of education and academic developers like me) need a guarantee that the WMF is committed to Wikiversity and is not considering closure or merger with other projects, that it will continue to be resourced by the WMF (increased resources I would hope), and that the Board will either respect Wikiversity community policies and protocols as they are developed and managed by the WV community, and/or engage with the community in a meaningful way for the development of those policies. Especially before enacting measures that have twice caused significant damage to the community and its leadership.

Furthermore, I think WMF should take some responsibility for the creation of malcontent, and that the management of "trolls" etc is as much their responsibility as it is the Wikiversity community. When I say responsibility, I mean reflecting on Wikipedia and WMF policies and practices that generate malcontent and the subsequent management issues we face and debate.

I include this aspect, because if our University Staff were to engage with Wikiversity, I would want to ensure that they can enjoy a confidence in academic freedoms that are implied through the name "Wikiversity", and an open and transparent governance based on dialog and democratic processes.

SJ said...

Wikimedia is not going to close Wikiversity. The suggestion (what does it even mean to 'close' a project with 11 active languages and 20,000 entries? is it like taking a server offline for maintenance?) was an overreaction to a narrow issue of good behavior across Projects.

Both the Board and other Wikimedians support Wikiversity. I personally see in it the potential to be the next major Wikimedia project, if it focuses its scope and expands its community with new types of contributors. WV is certainly one of the best and most open places to discuss open educational resources online.

What confuses me is that it has not become a comprehensive resource for finding + discussing + comparing existing learning resources; but instead has focused energy on creating new resources and projects from scratch. Both have their place, but creation from scratch is at once less scalable, less verifiable, and less clearly useful (with existing resources editors can use notability filters to focus on adding and discussing materials that have already been found useful by many others).

SJ said...

@John, the problem isn't that Wikiversity attracts people who want to research Wikipedia. More careful Wikipedia research would be fantastic, and research on all manner of topics has been requested as part of the recent Wikimedia strategy work. [stronger wikiversity engagement there would be most welcome.]

The problem is that people who come to Wikiversity to "explore the problems of Wikipedia" have their own axes to grind, and their work suffers from the same issues of COI and personal bias as an editor creating her autobiography on Wikipedia. In that case, starting such an article isn't strictly against the rules, but it is strongly discouraged... similarly, if a research project is a good idea, someone without personal conflict (and related blind-spots) should be the one to develop it.

darkcode said...

@SJ. People writing on subjects in which they have a conflict of interest is suppose to be permissible on Wikiversity. COIs in an ideal world are suppose to be disclosed.

People are not always aware of their own conflicts of interest though.

John Schmidt said...

SJ said...(above) "someone without personal conflict (and related blind-spots) should be the one to develop it". <-- This is reasonable thinking. Does it work in the real world? Case 1: Moulton tried to fix a bogus BLP at Wikipedia and was banned for his trouble. He came to Wikiversity and I learned about how his situation. As an objective outsider to the conflict I researched the original BLP violation that he tried to fix and why Wikipedians banned him rather than fix the bogus BLP. For my trouble I was attacked by Wikipedians, lies were published about me (such as saying I facilitated disruption and that I was a disgruntled Wikipedia hater) and I was subjected to an emergency desysop procedure where no emergency existed. An attempt was made to delete my research project. The problem was not the Wikiversity participant "with an ax to grind", the only problem was policy violators at Wikipedia who did not want their actions examined. Case 2. In the current situation, a research project was largely inactive and waiting for additional "objective" participants. The project should be undeleted and allowed to develop. Is that going to happen? No. Wikiversity is threatened with termination because someone dared to begin a research project. The problem is Wikipedians who do not want the problems of Wikipedia to be studied. The problem is abusive Wikimedians who cannot be bothered to follow the rules and click "edit".... they prefer to delete and block.... yes, that will attract more Wikiversity participants.

James Neill said...

Great post and excellent discussion, thanks for kicking it off Leigh. For me:
1. Wiki is life, i.e., just as messy.
2. So far I like wiki - I have and am learning a lot through it. There do seem to be bungles and fights along the way, though, and many of my favourite fellow Wikiversity editors over the past two years since I joined are no longer active contributors due to conflicts usually involving deletion, blocking, (mis)communication and power.
3. I also like Leigh's suggested blogging / aggregation networked learning model. Maybe a separate post, Leigh?
4. For me, the blend of on-Wikiversity conversation and off-wiki commentary (backchannel) about has been quite rich - so who knows where it might lead? A problem can be an opportunity.

Jon Awbrey said...

The current conflict between the Dicktator and the Wiki-Proletariat at Wikiversity is only the latest flare-up of a debacle that goes back a couple of years.

A bit of background and current discussion can be found by and by on this and other threads at The Wikipedia Review.

Gregory Kohs said...

I hope that I may take this opportunity to note how those who are opposed to Jimmy Wales' self-injected authoritarianism on Wikiversity are speaking in thoughtful, developed ways; while most of those who support Jimmy Wales' recent imperial activity are responding to the blog post with what strike me as whiny, "learn to deal with it" sorts of pith that are not holding up well against the more detailed arguments.

In the meantime, I was also a victim of Jimmy Wales in this Wikiversity fiasco. I made the mistake of forwarding my opinion that his actions were out of process, and for that, I was rewarded an indefinite block by Jimbo.

He gave the pithy and juvenile reason as "Cross-wiki issues", but I offered a more detailed and reasonable rebuttal, I think:

http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/User_talk:Thekohser#.22Cross-wiki_issues.22_is_not_a_blockable_offense.2C_is_it.3F

Here's hoping a few of you will read it, and stick around for the next few days to see how Jimmy's resolve will dissipate, he will go away, and then some brave Wikiversity admin will unblock me, and though I will do nothing outlandish once freed, there will be great wailing and gnashing of teeth from the likes of Jimmy Wales, David Gerard, Guy Chapman, and the other henchmen.

Moulton said...

This is not the first time Wales has come barging in to Wikiversity to override the community there, nor is it his first time to threaten to shut the project down if his directives were not obeyed.

As you can discover by by looking up his previous actions there, Wales did something similar two summers ago, when PrivateMusings, JWSchmidt, SB_Johnny, Greg Kohs, WAS 4.250, and I (along with a few others) constructed a workshop on the subject of Managerial Ethics. As JWSchmidt outlined above, this work included a review of some notorious and egregious breaches of managerial ethics in Wikipedia, notably including cases involving biographies of living persons.

One of the ironies of this latest kerfuffle is that Wales has inadvertently initiated a breaching experiment of his own, by breaching the established norms of community self-governance in Wikiversity. In doing so, Wales has disrupted the work of conscientious scholars and rattled the sensibilities of the Custodial staff, one of whom has already turned in his tools in the wake of this breach. Something similar happened the last time, with a number of departures of those who had become disillusioned by these out-of-process power plays.

Kelly Martin said...

The interesting point here is that Jimmy Wales is exerting his personal authority (which has not been well-defined with respect to Wikiversity before now) to suppress any attempt at the use of Wikimedia's resources toward a critical analysis of governance within Wikimedia. Wikimedia and the various Wikimedia-supported projects are, of course, very interesting organizations, for many reasons, and it is very reasonable to expect them to be the topic of critical analysis by educators and researchers. Jimmy's evident hostility to such analysis speaks more to his own personality deficits than anything else; it is obvious that he is personally uncomfortable with such review and is willing to exercise his authority suppress any such research.

The obvious conclusion is that, given the rules of engagement that Jimmy has decided to impose on Wikiversity's affiliation with Wikimedia, Wikiversity has no real choice but to disassociate itself from the Wikimedia Foundation. I would encourage them to do so as quickly as possible, or, alternatively, to move all their work to facilities provided by some other organization that does not impose such onerous restrictions upon their academic freedom.

Somey said...

The demand to "focus more on OER development" is really just a code-term meaning "don't question the bosses." The unfortunate fact is, the English Wikipedia is an OER - in fact, it's the most extensive OER in the world, and its governance structure (what little there is of it) is highly idiosyncratic and far from transparent, despite the public nature of its deliberations. The so-called "breaching experiments" that led to Jimbo's recent outburst of meddling were, in fact, a proposal for response/reliability testing, something the English Wikipedia doesn't do of its own volition, even though such testing should really be integral to its operations.

By working with this material on Wikiversity, the people involved in the research would have been able to avoid accusations of trying to conduct an "external attack," and the WMF would have been able to demonstrate their having made a good-faith effort to improve the general understanding of the English Wikipedia's inner workings. But this is largely immaterial - the real reason for the threat to close Wikiversity over this incident was that the people who maintain and control the English Wikipedia know that no matter how fair the proposed testing regime is, the results of any such testing will make the English Wikipedia look irresponsible and unethical.

At the same time, I believe it's widely accepted that websites, even those that are treated in some countries as "charities," aren't supposed to be in the business of criticizing themselves. If all efforts to demonstrate the English Wikipedia's systemic weaknesses are to be considered by the WMF as a form of "hacking," then so be it. The impact of Wikipedia on education and scholarship is already too great to allow cultish internal reactionarism to suppress the public's general understanding of it.

Moulton said...

@David Gerard...

There is a cached page of the deleted page available from Yahoo Search:

Cached copy of Wikimedia Ethics:Ethical Breaching Experiments

darkcode said...

@Moulton: The cached copy in question predates any attempt to fix the problem. The temporarily undeleted period probably didn't last long enough for a more up to date cache to exist.

Moulton said...

Do you happen to know if subsequent versions were substantially more problematic than the version captured by Yahoo Search? That version seemed pretty unproblematic to me. Certainly not alarming enough to warrant Jimbo's dramatic intervention.

darkcode said...

@Moulton: I have no idea if it was thought to be more problematic. The name was changed to "The ethics of breaching experiments" as was suggested in the review, and the introductory text clarified. Privatemusings had voiced support for the changes before it was deleted again.

David Gerard said...

@Leigh - Cato late of Wikiquote may be just the sort of person you need for this, as other commenters would doubtless agree.

Kelly Martin said...

@Leigh Indeed, I think you should definitively listen to the advice of Wikimedia spokesman David Gerard when he suggests that you engage Cato. Cato is, as David is well aware, one of the many faces of a well-known Internet prankster who established dozens of identities on multiple Wikimedia projects for what appears to have been his own amusement.

With friends like David Gerard, the Wikimedia Foundation is in absolutely no need of enemies.

David Gerard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

David Gerard said...

@Kelly - I hardly think it's appropriate to a serious post to bring a personal disagreement here and casually brand someone a "well-known Internet prankster." After all, people have said similar things - "prankster," "troll" - about Moulton (who created the project whose deletion started this controversy), about contributors to the present discussion such as Jon Awbrey, Greg Kohs, "Somey" (who I'm a big fan of and have strongly defended against charges of "trolling" on other sites) and even about yourself. (As for "well-known," a quick Internet search turned up nothing I could see concerning Cato, who is in real life a highly respectable citizen.) Surely you can speak more constructively and in a manner that addresses the present problem.

Moulton said...

@David Gerard, @Darkcode...

There is a more recent copy of the deleted page (as found in and extracted from the Wikimedia Data Dump) here...

Ethical Breaching Experiments

Kelly Martin said...

@David: Perhaps you should try limiting your search next time to Wikimedia's own sites:

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/Poetlister_and_Cato

darkcode said...

@Moulton: As can be seen here The most recent version before deletion started off with:

Why do people execute breaching experiments? How do they do it? On this page we discuss, analyze, explore, and study why and how people execute breaching experiments

The revision you have shows that it is not the most updated.

Jon Awbrey said...

I remember visiting Wikiversity for a couple of weeks in 2008 because a few people had talked me into thinking that it might be a place that respected academic values. No sooner did I get there than a horde of MetaWikiMedia Marauders like Mike Lifeguard descended from "On High" to harass and threaten me with "blacklisting", making the absurd claim that the perfectly ordinary web vita I put on my "About Jon Awbrey" page was some kind of cross-wiki self-promotional spam because it had a few links on it. Apparently, putting a link-rich vita on your user page is no longer a problem. Nice to know.

darkcode said...

@Moulton it seems MyWikiBiz as the most updated revision available here

Moulton said...

@Darkcode...

Yes, thank you. It seems the versions re-posted at MyWikiBiz are the most up-to-date revisions of the two deleted pages.

Having read them, there are two questions which now come to my mind, as I review those two pages.

First, what appropriate measures are the responsible managers of WMF-sponsored projects currently taking to objectively evaluate, diagnose, and improve their defenses against possible breaches?

Second, if WP:POINT is a generic and and governing rule of thumb here, what are the acceptable, appropriate, and effective methods of exposing, diagnosing, and correcting a misconception or delusional belief held by one or more empowered Wikipedians who are employing ill-advised practices which are counter-productive to the larger mission of the enterprise?

darkcode said...

@Moulton:

With time knowledge changes. My question is what to do when you cannot trust both the minority and the majority with the task of maintaining and managing human knowledge?

If you look at governance around the world perhaps you can understand how the minority deciding what knowledge to allow, what knowledge to censor, what the truth is, etc. is just as much a problem as knowledge managed by the majority.

Some (potential) examples:

* Intelligent Design in public schools.
* China's and Kora's Internet Censorship.
* Internet filtering by Universities.
* Ban on Reverse Engineering.
* Intellectual Property
* A crime to own or use a computer.
* Communism
* Democracy

Jon Awbrey said...

The Common Sense Point (CS:POINT) is this — any enterprise that fobs an insufficiently-tested product off on the Public may expect the Public to exercise its right to test that product itself, moreover, to demand appropriate revisions, recalls, or removals from the Public Space. This includes social-technical systems of the sort we see in Wikipedia.

Moulton said...

@Darkcode...

Although I realize I'm in the distinct minority on this issue, I favor the Scientific Method as the best practice for managing the sum of all human knowledge.

Moulton said...

Two years on from the first round of this long-running conflict, John Schmidt has published his two-part analysis of the issues, then and now:

Great moments in online learning. Part I.

Great moments in online learning. Part II.

Moulton said...

Jimbo has left the situation at WV in a precariously unstable detente. He's given SB_Johnny his sysop tools back on the proviso that SBJ doesn't actually use them to conscientiously remedy the injustices and breaches of policy that Jimbo brazenly injected into WV's established methods of self-governance.

I recommend that the WV Community undertake a WP-style Spammish Inquisition into Jimbo's shameful misbehavior and then summarily block him for "having no interest in writing a learning project."

Anonymous said...

Every year Wikipedians have fun with an April Fool's Day Hoax. If hoaxes damage Wikipedia why is this allowed?

Moulton said...

In the Wikipedia MMPORG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game), the rules are used as weapons. If you want to kibosh someone, you find whatever random rule they happen to be violating, and clobber them with it. If you can't find a suitable rule violation, you just make something up, like calling them a "troll" or asserting they "have no interest in writing an encyclopedia" and block them on that basis.

Moulton said...

I believe the Wikiversity community should follow Google's lead and move WV's operations "off shore" to get out from under Jimbo's oppressive thumb.

Peter Rawsthorne said...

An amazing discussion. With many good points about Wikis, Abuse of Power, Community building (or lack thereof) and what's potentially next. I honestly believe this all goes back to the inherent flaw within both WikiVersity and WikiEducator. I see they have both leaned to closely to the traditional University and Educator model they so want to break free. I believe they really want to be a core component of the Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or Learning2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) yet they are both constrained by their traditional roots and traditional leadership styles. They model the traditional models too closely, though they deeply desire not too. I believe they have been a necessary step to connectivist learning, online communities of practice and the next iteration of PLE. All these projects based upon (or closely tied too) the Wikimedia Foundation became legacy applications and institutions the day after they went live... their continued survival is based on further aligning themselves with traditional approaches and institutions for their innovation horizon has passed. Be grateful for their existence and the ground they have broken. Continue to be critical of them, yet encourage them to see their flaws... they will be stronger for it. If you see yourself as innovators, move on. These wikis are now legacy applications and knowledge bases deeply entrenched in maintenance mode. Ah, such interesting case studies they are...

Moulton said...

SB_Johnny has resigned.

Leigh Blackall said...

SBJ's resignation in Wikiversity closes this second episode of heavy handed disruption from Jimmy. Last time it was JWS. Who will be next.. I guess it will all happen again in another year. He doesn't appear to be reflecting publicly on his handling of this matter.

Its disappointing to see very little acknowledgment from Jimmy and others from the Board. Not even a comment here, and I received no replies to my questions in the discussion page of Wikiversity. Credit to Sam though, he had a go for a while. I think DarkLama's premature move of discussion threads to other pages may have broken the discussion on those threads too..

That paper on First Monday, that I linked to in an earlier comment , calls for a return to the Inclusionist (non deletion) principles of the Wikipedia et al. But, ultimately, I think we all know Peter is right. The big wikis have become an institution in their own right, fraught with new dogmatism and rather inappropriate and insensitive power structures. They've lost those early values that many of us were attracted to in the first place. Replaced by a strange pragmatism for a different type of user. A tragedy, and all too soon, but its obviously not the first revolution to suffer this fate.

Moulton said...

As I read Jimbo's agenda, he is urging his crew to declare an all out War on Trolls, thereby turning WMF-sponsored projects into a First-Person Shooter Game.

I suppose it begs the question of how to define and recognize a troll, but there does exist a NY Times Sunday Magazine article on the subject, Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us.

darkcode said...

Discussions can grow to infinite length with no means for the individual to control how much to show. Thats another part of the wiki model that is broken.

Next time I may give the newspaper approach a try. The first sentence or so than cut off the rest with a "read more..." link.

Moulton said...

Discussions that persist without end might be modeled as a soap opera full of intrigue and hidden agendas, as a political battle among warring factions, or as a liminal social drama.

These are all examples of character-driven drama that burbles along without ever reaching consensus or resolution.

Our culture is full of character-driven drama, much of it tedious and banal. Wikiculture is one of the more prominent hosts to such drama, oft times running to a Post-Modern Theater of the Absurd.

h said...

Peter Rawsthorne

the problem may not necessarily be wikiversity modelling traditional institution (it wasn't supposed to be; it just happened to start like that)

but that its appearance looks too much like wikipedia.

darkcode said...

Hopefully A summarization along with where the full text can be found reduces confusion.

Moulton said...

Not sure how long this link will go anywhere, but for the moment at least, there is yet another discussion underway on the Wikimedia Meta site:

http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Wikiversity/Problems

Moulton said...

Juan de Vojnikov has now called for removal of "Founder Rights" from Jimbo...

Founder/Proposal to Remove Rights

Juan asserts that Wales behaves like an elephant in a china shop, that he doesn't respect ethical guidelines, and that he disrupted and discredited Wikiversity.

alexanderhayes said...

Where did the page on 'uberveillance' disappear to ?

Perhaps people were beginning to feel a bit too sous-veilled - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surveillance#Countersurveillance.2C_inverse_surveillance.2C_sousveillance

Leigh Blackall said...

Hi Teemu, will do. Yes I do trust Sam (SJ). But what he said is only said here. As far as I know, nothing countering Jimmy's threat has been officially relayed from the Board. But I think something should be done about Jimmy making idle threats like this, and exerting power that disrupts the en.wikiversity the way it has, twice - which ultimately disrupts the mission in the end.

Teemu Leinonen said...

@Leigh: “But what he said is only said here”

Isn’t this blog exactly the right place to say it? Wasn’t the closing Wikiversity the main point of your post?

I feel so stupid. :-)

darkcode said...

@Teemu Leinonen: Jimmy threaten closure on wiki. I assume Leigh Blackall would like some reassurances made on wiki that closure isn't going to happen since that is where the threat originated.

I wonder if Jimmy should be in trouble for violating Wikipedia:No legal threats

Gregory Kohs said...

@darkcode: Violating "no legal threats" is about #18 on a mile-long list of things Jimbo Wales should be in trouble for.

James Neill said...

@Gregory Kohs What would you list as #1 to #17?

Gregory Kohs said...

@James:
Stop trolling, troll.

Moulton said...

Of all the character flaws and peccadilloes that one might be tempted to list, I daresay the unifying theme would be hypocrisy.

James Neill said...

I generally try to avoid (esp. on wiki) taking a dispositional perspective of others. I am more interested in edits per se - on their own merit. So, I've been puzzling about how Jimmy seems to view others as having seemingly fixed character traits e.g., "trolls"?

If a child graffitis the house - is it the child's fault? Or the parents? Or the family dynamic? Or can it be a collaborative journey of discovery?

Gregory Kohs said...

@James Neill:
To get a good understanding of the relationship between Jimmy Wales and his "trolls", then you should watch the interaction between Dr. Evil and his son, Scott Evil.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK8mneO8yvU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ON1b6zY_vOg

Seriously, it's about as accurate a depiction of the characteristics of Jimmy Wales and anyone he decides is a "troll". Poor Scott.

Moulton said...

I've been puzzling about how Jimmy seems to view others as having seemingly fixed character traits e.g., "trolls".

Indeed. The term is conveniently vague and subjective to begin with, so pretty much any interlocutor can be dismissed as a meddlesome troll.

Gregory Kohs said...

Yes, there's "troll", and there's also "idiot" -- even when talking to a consulting programmer and winner of an EFF Pioneer Award for efforts in fighting censorware:

Seth, you're an idiot

Jimbo has two takes on people. You're either someone he's determined he can manipulate to serve him in some way, or you're a troll. Often, it's a linear process over time to get from Type 1 to Type 2.

Moulton said...

Jimbo has two takes on people. You're either someone he's determined he can manipulate to serve him in some way, or you're a troll. Often, it's a linear process over time to get from Type 1 to Type 2.

In my case, I can document the process, which took all of 6 hours.

Moulton said...

And the war goes on...

Passionate about Learning said...

Power is in the hands of the founders of all these wikis. I am not surprised by Jimmy Wales' authoritative comments. Many people who start something have a hard time letting go to allow others to move things. They may say they are for collaboration, but in fact, those close to them, know the truth. It's all about having the power to control others. The only way to go is to start a team wiki where the team has the freedom to follow and let others lead.

Gregory Kohs said...

I'm the founder of a wiki (MyWikiBiz.com, currently about 60,000 pages, 2,500 registered editors), and I will be perfectly happy to relinquish all control of it for the low, low price of a $100,000 buy-out offer. Google, are you listening?

Moulton said...

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to speak of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and clipping Jimbo's wings."

Jon Awbrey said...

There is no royal road to knowledge, and no place for imperial privilege in a community dedicated to academic discourse, freedom, and values. Mr. Wales continues to comport himself in a discourteous and disruptive manner that interferes with both the calling of teaching and the desire to learn.

JonAwbrey 17:56, 26 March 2010 (UTC)

Moulton said...

There was an astonishing revelation in the story that broke on Saturday night.

It turns out that there was indeed some alarmingly inappropriate content in the pages of the project that Jimbo deleted. But the alarmingly inappropriate content had been planted there by none other than RTG, the whistle-blowing cop who ran to Jimbo's WP talk page to sound the alarm.

The irony is that RTG had planted a proposal for the very breaching experiment that he then carried out, namely to manipulate Jimbo into deleting the project.

It's all very bizarre.

What's unknown at this point is what Jimbo knew (or later learned) about RTG's duplicity.

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks for keeping us updated on the drama Moulton. Do you have a link to the new revelation?

Moulton said...

Again, it's distributed over multiple locations.

In addition to the primary thread on Wikipedia Review, there are new discussions on Wikiversity that grew from (as yet unreleased) disclosures on IRC. See also R.T.G's disclosures on Meta.

Jon Awbrey said...

There's is some kind of subpaging-transcluding mania — Code of Obscurity? — affecting some of the janitorial staff at Wikiversity that is constantly interrupreting the integrity of the discussions and making them almost impossible to follow.

Coincidence? Probably not …

Moulton said...

Just a small revelation to the story today. After RTG sounded the alarm on Jimbo's WP talk page, Guy Chapman (User:JzG) picked up on it and anonymously added his own snarky, silly contribution to the project pages on WV, whereupon Jimbo criticized SBJ about WV not being a serious project.

Moulton said...

John Schmidt has now compiled a useful timeline of this drama.

Moulton said...

Some of the participants at Wikiversity are now working on an Open Letter to the WMF Board of Trustees, raising the unresolved issues to their attention and seeking their response.

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Moulton said...

Raul654 has filed a petition proposing that the Foundation close Wikiversity.

Jon Awbrey said...

… and my name was mentioned in it!

Moulton said...

Somey, the senior moderator on Wikipedia Review, has just published an editorial presenting his summary and analysis of the story.

Wikiversity: When Breaching Experiments Attack

Leigh Blackall said...

Thanks again Moulton, I thought it was a pretty good summary. I don't agree with its conclusion though, "I suspect Wikiversity will be one of the first casualties of a phenomenon we’re already seeing a glimmer of, that of Maintenance-Fail.", the drama that this all revolves around is about deletionism. The idea of breaching experiments can and likely do go on everywhere on the Internet.. actually, I see it every time someone runs a workshop on a wiki, "select all - delete - lets see how long it takes to be corrected... see! wikis are great!".

So it concerns me that commentators will read through this drama and conclude the problem to be systemic. Its not. Its simply a few people - in this case one, operating on a deletionist principle.

Its funny really, take away the branding (top left logo) and the standardised layout, and you might be able to imagine Wikiversity as being more like the Internet generally.. a wide collection of pages and sites of all sorts of stuff. Some of it 'good', lots of it 'bad', all of it interesting to at least someone. But that little logo causes "2 legs good" mentality, and so - deletionism.

Jon Awbrey said...

As a general rule, in my experience, talking about del-ism vs. inc-ism is the mark of a very noobish observer of Wikiputian Politick. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this, but I just can't see how.

The only real rule in Wikiputia is "What We Wanna" (WWW) — that applies to WWW Bee In vs. WWW Bee Out as much as anything else — and the only real determinant of the ever-e-phemeral outcome is Whose We Wins for the nonce.

Moulton said...

I agree that there is a revolving drama that burbles along, much like an interminable character-driven soap opera.

But I don't agree that the focal point of the revolving drama is deletionism vs. inclusionism.

To my mind, the focal point of the revolving drama is drama itself.

Moulton said...

Wikiversitan, Sj, who is also on the WMF Board, writes, "He [Jimbo] was not acting as an agent of the Board nor was there any 'Board authorization of an intervention'."

Moulton said...

John Schmidt has now published an analysis of the discrepancy between Jimbo's claim of WMF Board support and Sj's remarks that Jimbo "was not acting as an agent of the Board nor was there any 'Board authorization of an intervention'."

First Response from the WMF Board by John Schmidt.

Schmidt's analysis suggests this is not the first time Jimbo has dissembled on the issue of whether he was acting on authority granted by the WMF Board.

Moulton said...

Wales has since admitted that he did not poll the members of the WMF Board before taking action. He still maintains that he "sought, and obtained, the full backing and support of the Wikimedia Foundation" but that backing appears to be little more than a green light from Sue Gardner.

Leigh Blackall said...

What become of the evidence that Wales was drawn into a hoax? That it wass a set up? A breaching experiment within a breaching experiment - if you will?

Moulton said...

The evidence is still there, as summarized in Somey's editorial on Wikipedia Review. As far as I know, nothing of substance has been done with the evidence beyond publishing it.

As you know, there are discussion threads about it on Wikiversity, on Meta, on Wikipedia Review, and on a handful of personal blogs (including this one).

To the best of my knowledge, neither Jimbo Wales nor Sue Gardner have acknowledged or admitted that Jimbo was bamboozled by User:RTG.

In the most recent remarks of Jimbo Wales on Wikiversity, he writes, "SJ is right that I didn't seek - nor should I have, nor will I ever in similar cases - a vote of the board before taking right action in defense of Wikiversity."

So it sounds to me that Jimbo still believes what he did was "right action in defense of Wikiversity."

Leigh Blackall said...

Hu! The troll word getting used in Wikieducator too..

James Neill said...

An update of recent parallel developments on Wiki Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2010-05-10/Commons_deletions