Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Durova

When I wrote a couple weeks ago, "Durova: Why choose the lesser of two evils?" I had no idea how prophetic those comments would be. At the time, I had no real idea who Durova was; all I knew is that there were a good supply of people who disliked her, mainly at Wikipedia Review, which doesn't really say much: Wikipedia Review, like Wikipedia, is full of people who dislike other people, for reasons that span the whole gamut from perfectly reasonable to totally bizarre. How was I to know that, at the time, she had circulated a document amongst the Cabal (that is, SlimVirgin's WikiHarassment mailing list, hosted at wikia) purporting to prove that a productive editor with the amusing username of "!!" was in fact some sort of evil confidence troll (possibly sent by Wikipedia Review) to undermine the wiki by editing too well, and was preparing to indefinitely block said user in what would prove to be the most dramatic event on the English Wikipedia since Essjay's secret identity got out?

The drama is largely over now; Durova has resigned her adminship and the ArbCom is well on its way to another kneejerk ruling (including the obligatory "controversial circumstances" stain that will likely ensure that Durova will never regain adminship again). An interesting side note, I think, is the ire directed at Giano for having the temerity to be righteously indignant at Durova's flatly bizarre logic for concluding that !! was a malicious editor. Giano is only a problem when other Wikipedians are being stupid. When people aren't behaving stupid enough to set him off, he's a perfectly productive (and in fact quite good) article editor. But when he detects stupidity in progress, he turns into some sort of FrankenGiano and goes off on a rampage, tearing through the pretty paper walls the wikicommunity has set up to protect its sensibilities while trying, in his unimitable and somewhat lovable way, to protect the project he quite clearly cares about deeply. I used to strongly dislike Giano, mainly because I and others I identified with had been the target of his rage. Having watched him go off on someone who, at least this time, I agree deserved it, gives me a new respect for him, and I'm much more inclined to forgive him for the arrows he slung at me back in the day. Giano isn't perfect, and I think sometimes his indignance is misplaced, but I can't question his commitment to the project. Jimbo's threat to ban him was stupid, and reflects how badly Jimbo has lost his way on this project. But then again, Jimbo is a large part of the problem.

The problem with Wikipedia is that, for so many in the project, it's no longer about the encyclopedia. Rather, it has become about the personalities. Durova's ceaseless hunting of vile troll sockpuppets is just a symptom of this. The problem is that Wikipedia's community has defined itself not in terms of the encyclopedia it is supposedly producing, but instead of the people it venerates and the people it abhors. Durova was honored (and remains honored, as witnessed by the syrupy outpouring of commiseration on her talk page) because she was so effective at ensuring that the "wrong people" were kept out of the club, not because she actually aided the encyclopedia. While I truly do think she thinks she was acting for the best of the "project", really she was acting in the best interests of the Wikipedia Club -- and the Club doesn't really do that good a job of tracking the needs of the project.

And this is how Jimbo becomes part of the problem. Jimbo wants to be popular. This is obvious to anyone who puts much effort into watching him. He abhors conflict and wants everyone to just get along. In order to satisfy this, he draws to him people who are willing to venerate him as the club leader. Jimbo has been very active in SlimVirgin's private "wikistalking" list, which ostensibly is supposed to be a discussion about how to deal with online stalking of contributors to wiki projects, but in reality operates as an elite backchannel for deciding who is "in" and "out" of the Club. Since this forum is dominated by SlimVirgin, whose paranoia knows almost no bounds, it exhibits strong paranoid tendencies. It was this list that Durova used as her "sounding board" for her own paranoid investigations; small wonder nobody there blew the whistle. We'll probably never know if there was active encouragement of Durova or not, as it is unlikely that any of the participants in that list are going to talk about it. And, it seems, they've already established a new, even more secret list now; anybody want to bet whether Jimbo is on it?

Furthermore, it seems quite clear from what I've read (and especially private correspondence) that the information that led Durova to conclude that her identification that !! wasn't actually a Wikipedia Review deep-cover troll wasn't someone telling her that "look, your evidence doesn't support anything". Rather, it was someone going to her and telling her who !! really is. From what I've been able to gather, !! isn't this editor's first account. This is disenheartening; what it tells me is that Durova still hasn't accepted that her methods are unfounded, just that this one time her net snared a "good fish" by mistake.

There are three possibilities going forward from here. First, Durova leaves Wikipedia. That's a distinct possibility, but one I think unlikely. She has too much personal involvement in her status to do that. Second, she continues to do her "sleuthing", passing on her findings to others in the Club (say, JzG), who will enforce her findings for her. Really, her mistake here was in letting it be known that she was acting based on confidential information, which itself is the result of becoming drunk on power and convinced of one's own invincibility (the same mistake I made, actually). In effect, she was bragging that she had more access than Ordinary People. I sense a kindred soul here, actually. The third possibility is that she will renounce her ways and return to writing articles, as she once did quite some time ago. I deem this unlikely, but not entirely impossible. If this does happen, it'll take her several months.

A less likely possibility is that she will turn to trolling Wikipedia the way I did after I stepped down. Anybody who does not recognize that my ArbCom run last year was a giant troll, set specifically to catch Geogre, is a fool. Likewise, the adminship nomination I "allowed" a few months ago was also trolling. Wikipedia is terribly easy to troll and has become progressively easier as the exclusionary, paranoid tendencies that Jimbo has allowed to set root have threaded their way deeper into the community. All it takes is the offhand suggestion that one has sockpuppets to set people off. (Yes, I do have sockpuppets. Technically I do have about two dozen, but most of them are accounts with no or only one edit, and as I've misplaced the file that lists what their names are I can't even use them anymore.)

I had a private conversation with James Forrester yesterday. I like James; he is typically a sensible guy. Has some blind spots, but that's to be expected. The main takeaway from that conversation was to confirm that Wikipedia is basically dead to me, in any role beyond that of casual editor. The portion of Wikipedia's leadership that cares more about actual substance is too small and too powerless to have any real influence against the portion that cares mainly about personality -- and most of that portion is actively antagonistic toward me. He has also recognized, as I've known for some time, that I have the "kiss of death": I can kill almost any idea for improving Wikipedia, merely by supporting it. (I caught Newyorkbrad the other day acting on this, when he commented to me privately that I had no standing to comment on anyone else's conduct in Wikipedia. I like NYB, too, but he's very much a part of the Club mentality. He, like Jimbo, wants everyone to get along, and is far more concerned about Community than Encyclopedia, although he justifies this by claiming that a happy community is good for the encyclopedia. I remain quite unconvinced of this notion.) The problem I have with contributing to Wikipedia, as it stands today, is that the site is so not committed to quality that I feel I'm wasting my time improving articles that will just regress within a short time anyway. There's no coordinated commitment to quality, mainly because the community is more interested in playing silly power politics than it is in writing an encyclopedia, and even when there is agreement that something needs to be done, the "bikeshed problem" ensures that nothing is actually ever done.

I could work on Veropedia, but the problem there is that I don't want to make commitments of time that I can't keep. I have a job that frequently makes unexpected demands on my time, such that I can't say "Ok, I will copyedit ten articles a week for you" because then something will come up and I won't be able to. Sadly, I've already seen articles get approved onto Veropedia that were still in need of copyediting, but Wikipedia has always been short on copyeditors (Wikipedia offers even less reward to copyeditors than it does to article authors, which is why the cleanup list is so incredibly long) and Veropedia doesn't have a good pool to draw from there. If there were an easy way for me to go somewhere and push a button and have it drop an article that needed copyediting in my lap where I could either copyedit it or push "Not this one, give me another", that would help. I can't imagine this would be hard to write, but I don't have the time to write it. And, of course, nobody else will, because nobody else cares enough (and besides, it certainly won't happened because I suggested it). Lack of time is the same reason I don't return to writing articles. Writing articles is hard. It takes a lot of time to write a well-researched article, time I just don't have to spend. I suppose I could go back to doing vandalism patrol, but I find vandalism patrol so utterly boring that I'd rather leave it to the kids with attention deficit disorder; besides, it would probably just exacerbate the RSI I've had in my wrist for the past ten years.

So what does that leave? Trolling, I guess. That's kinda fun, but as I noted earlier Wikipedia is getting so easy to troll that it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Also quite boring. Such a shame to see such a noble idea dragged down by basic human frailty. If only something would come along to replace it.... and I don't mean Citizendium!


  1. Do you have an admin sockpuppet?

  2. Supposing I did, what would you do about it?

  3. I think I'll decline to answer whether any of my socks is an admin yet. It's certainly possible. :)

  4. Oh, come on Kelly, just give us a "yes" or "no". Imagine the fun and "sleuthing" that would erupt on WP if you respond in the affirmative ... ;)

  5. Prepare for checkuserification.

    No doubt it will occur as the result of a "coincidence" finding of your other socks.

    10 bux says its FloNight who does it, she's such a SlimVirgin syncophant.

  6. How would you react if Wikipedia banned you like they did with Karmafist?

  7. Banning me is of no consequence. They won't find all my sockpuppets, and I can always create new ones whenever I want. And it would make them look freaking stupid to ban me, as I have committed no crime that any reasonable person would recognize. Or is lese majeste now a crime in Wikiland?

  8. "And it would make them look freaking stupid to ban me, as I have committed no crime that any reasonable person would recognize."

    It's not as if that's ever stopped them before.

  9. Jimbo wants to be popular.

    Bingo Kelly.

    I can't tell you how much it makes me want to vomit every time i see Jimbo making one of is postings drenched in tacky displays of self-righteousness and contrived magnanimosity. I don't think he cares about anyone but himself. For example, I know of one instance where an editor was being harassed by another user on that user's page. Just horrible, horrible stuff. I know that Jimbo was made personally aware of it - and that he didn't lift a finger. Yet other times, when it suits his social engineering agenda, he comes out swingin the banhammer or acting all righteous - oh why can't we all love each other or stop trolling me, Antichrist - bullshit. Utterly transparent. In the above mentioned case, Jimbo should know that he won't be forgotten, ever.

    Jimbo's key, that which allows him to jetset and saunter across the world stage, spending all his millions in self-righteous glory, is to be the Sole Founder and godking of this project which we are building for him, and the only way he can maintain that status is through social manipulation and other manifestations of power. So you see, it's perfectly fine to be an idiot at wikipedia, as long as you bend over for Jimbo. However, it is not ok to be a great editor and stand up for what's right, or to expect merit based leadership, or to ask for accountability when one of Jimbo's little chickipoos makes a boo boo.

    The reason Jimbo operates this way is that he doesn't actually have that much to offer the project anymore: not judgment (Essjay, Kelly Martin arbitrator appointments), not money raising skills (compare us to mozilla), and I doubt he could write a featured article to save his life (although he could sure get a lackey to do it for him). Jimbo doesn't create, he buys things and hires people. And heaven have mercy on anyone who says he's not the Sole Founder of Wikipedia.

    So just remember, Jimbo is completely predictable - he'll prop up his own worthless idiots and take down the project's jewels (Giano) to keep himself on top, and he'll do it while thumping his chest in self-righteousness the whole time. That's our current leadership, and it is reflected in the ultimate product. Let's hope Jimbo can improve his pitiful end game.

  10. Is User:Pyrzqxgl one of your sockpuppets?

  11. I don't understand your defense of Giano. He's been acting like a huge jerk during this whole debate and just making the entire mess worse. I agree that what Durova did was bad, but Giano stepped over the line a dozen times in his crusade.

  12. Likewise, the adminship nomination I "allowed" a few months ago was also trolling.

    Does that mean that you used Danny and Riana, or were they in on the trolling?

  13. I love you Kelly Martin. Really, I do.

    I guess that makes me ineligible for adminship, but the only reason I would want it is to know I'm "established" enough not to be banned by a paranoid or angry socialite who decided I had crossed them.

  14. Kelly, as I mentioned in a previous post, your humor really has improved lately. The description of Giano's reaction to stupidity is a jewel. Keep up the good work. And if you're taking any happy pills, please continue to do so.

  15. And now for something completely different. My RSI has improved no end since I began using a convertible tablet PC / laptop. It's not as fast or as accurate as typing, but it's quite adequate for eposts, blog entries, and comments (like this one). Just switching to it every once in a while takes a good bit of the strain off my wrist, which makes a whole world of difference. Just thought I'd mention it.

  16. Durova managed to dive into a huge pile of shit and come out stinking of roses. This probably speaks well of her. I for one am more concerned about the pile of shit.

  17. These secret mailing lists could totally swing the ArbCom elections to preferred insider candidates.

  18. !! is not alone. Some time ago I was blocked as a result of "evidence" which was submitted to the Arbitration Committee in secret. Durova sure has quite the imagination

    If I cannot resolve this amicably with the committee by the end of this week I too will be contacting the press. How ironic that Giano was blocked for his conscientious objections -- if he did not stand up for what he believed in, all of this would have been brushed under the rug, no doubt there are others out there who do not know enough to speak up for themselves.


    (P.S. I just send an email to kel@redbeet.com and I have the feeling that person will be very confused.)

  19. Great, there's a mature response. When something you don't like happens, then go troll the Wikipedia community.

    I swear Kelly, you are one of the reasons I left. You don't do anything productive, you cause lots of damage and controversy and make it difficult to contribute.

    It's sad that people like you can "contribute" (oh the irony!).

    It sucks that Wikipedia has turned out the way it has. But... time to move on to different things.

  20. Hi, basically I agree all you said Kelly.

    i was involved with wikipedia.it and i found the same problmes there. Apparently it worth nothing to have good will and make a lot of contributes in ns0, if you are not so aware to 'sell you' well, then you'll end badly. There is a lot of hipocrites and cowards, just capables to 'use the buttons' and ban the 'troublemaker' even if he is provocked, mobbized and so on. Finally, after called 'ignorant' one of my typicall trolls, i was banned infinite by some of his 'friends'. In wiki.en the same stuff happened. There is something better 'professionality', but not even ARBCOM is trustable. Mind you, i was banned for an year just because i asked apologies to guys like Bzuk and BillCJ to have rollbacked a bit too often my contributites because i write in bad english and so on. I asked for a bit of humbleness to them, and the answer was, guess, they proposed to ban me for a year and ARBCOM accepted. They simply did not consider the work i made to improve wiki articles in some fields of my competence, but considered 'rightful' the actions made by simple editors that acted shamelessy as my personal censors (while others collaborated with me and did a good job to make better articles). In sum, now i am banned x 1 year without any complain, apology or critic asked to my 'enemies'. I protested in my talk page x this sentence, obvious an admin 'casually' saw it just to block my talk too, even it was clear i was no longer interested to use it. In sum, they lost a good will contributor, autor of around 1 MB contributes in few months to gain what?

    That's my mind: wikipedia is run by idiots and-or hipocrits, and his agenda is more and more similar to fascism. No protests in wiki.oz wonderful and good world. That's i rate really a idiot 'world'. I would be tempted to troll wikipedia, but i would not dowm my mind so low.

    They actually punished themselves with their action, i am free to contribute thanks to them, next year i'll see how to do with this situation. take care.

  21. The problem I've always had with Wikipedia, as an outsider who's tried to get into editting a few times, is the insane Wikilawyering and politics. I'm a writer by trade and I can go in and clean up an entire article, only to have it reverted with a comment containing initials to some policies that don't even appear to apply.

    Then you've got idiotic admins running through and steam-rolling articles for non-notability, despite the fact that they have 53,000+ hits on google. Add to that the edit wars where an obviously politicking admin comes in to settle something in the frequent editor's favor, over the better editor and you end up with one huge fucking mess that isn't even worth bothering.

    Wikipedia seems to reward people who change commas around far more than they do people that fix grammar, do intelligent research or anything of that matter. Hours of work can be overturned in a minute by some asshat who mostly does one second edits. Admins side with said asshat because he does so much work, regardless of its actual utility.

    I just can't wait for a quality fork to pop up.

  22. I've been around the Wiki a number of times and gathered all the information. Forgive me for sounding uncivil, but your contributions over the past year suggests that you're not a troll, per se. It's more likely that you were trying to prove your point by disrupting Wikipedia to do so, in violation of WP:POINT.

    Am I right? :D Whatever, Wikipedia is the weirdest site on the planet.

  23. I am on record as considering "WP:POINT" to be fundamentally bankrupt policy, so, yes, I am certainly not opposed to disrupting Wikipedia in order to make a point, and have done so on many occasions. I imagine I will continue to do so until either Wikipedia ceases to exist, or it grows up. I'm betting on the former.

  24. Wikipedia was horribly ill conceived. Go to YouTube today and you can choose your language. You can choose between UK English, US English, various forms of Chinese; and they'll surely have more variations as time goes on. Such as AU English, ZA English, BR Portuguese, and so on. Now look at Wikipedia. 'EN' - and that's it. Talk about stupid. And about proving the theorem idiots never realise they're stupid.