User:Brews ohare

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Can the sun shine in?

A few essays resulting from experience on WP:

Consideration of these essays could greatly improve the editing environment and help WP to overcome the rancor associated with the present dysfunctional ArbCom actions. Such improvements will result when the Sun rises in the West. Unfortunately, one must ask just what is the objective of the project for various editors?

The relation of community to content is complicated, and not all those engaged in Wikipedia are interested in it as an encyclopedia. In my opinion, this relation is tenuous for many and, for them, community is defined without connection to an encyclopedia. These Wikipedians are souls unconsciously looking for group therapy in an environment without expertise in such matters. Limiting the environment of WP to knowledge creation, the heart of an encyclopedia, interferes with the untrammeled interpersonal exchanges that are the purpose of the project for these individuals.

The dominance of this orientation means no formal, systematic mechanism is entertained for improvements in the organization for building an encyclopedia. A better system isn't dreamt of! Fair Process is an alien concept. Without vision, well:

You got to have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?
Happy Talk, South Pacific

I have posted an outline of the WP administrative structure, and an outline of the WP editing environment and how dispute is handled when it arises. These articles summarizing Wikipedia's own documentation are eye-opening, and may be helpful in working with this organization.

On February 17, 2012 the article "The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia" detailed the efforts of Timothy Messer-Kruse to correct the treatment on WP of the 1886 trials related to the Haymarket riot. Messer-Kruse ran into objections based on "verifiability vs. truth" , "majority vs. minority views", "primary vs. secondary sources", and "original research", all of which proved to be handy tools to obstruct an authoritative account on WP. Timothy was wise enough to desist before being brought before ArbCom, but we are the poorer for that, having missed the opportunity for an entertaining description of what occurs there.

On September 7, 2012 Philip Roth challenged the statement from WP that of one of his books The Human Stain was based upon a particular real-life occurrence. Roth was told he was not a credible source. Wikipedia informed Roth: “I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work,” writes the Wikipedia Administrator—“but we require secondary sources.” See Philip Roth (September 7, 2012). "An open letter to Wikipedia". The New Yorker. . Some of the nonsensical exchange between editors is found here.

Roth's and Messer-Kruse's experiences are known to be common, and some readers are so alarmed by such adventures as to choose not to attempt corrections. On January 19, 2014, Francine Prose, concerning an error in her Wikipedia entry (unfortunately often repeated by readers of this entry), lamented in the New York Times Sunday book review section "Bookends" that she could not bring herself to engage in the "byzantine process apparently required to correct this mistake". She went on to discuss the role of Wikipedia and it's lamentable absence of the "saintly, underappreciated, endangered species that has so often saved me from public humiliation: fact checkers". She concludes "Could someone (not me) please correct that Wikipedia entry?".


User:Brews ohare/Quoted citations User:Brews ohare/CITEinQUOTE User:Brews ohare/WP:Citations inside quotations


Design Barnstar.png The Graphic Designer's Barnstar
Keep up the good work! Paradoctor (talk) 20:26, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

Something about me[edit]

Brews ohare: once a romantic on WP

Some figures I've contributed to WP are in the gallery above.

I am a Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering from The University of Arizona, where I taught device physics and circuit design for just under two decades. Previously, I was a research scientist for twenty-odd years at Bell Laboratories, Murray Hill, doing theoretical work in the areas of solid-state physics and device physics. I also am a Fellow of the IEEE, and a recipient of the Electron Device Society distinguished service award for work as Editor-in-chief of the journal IEEE Electron Device Letters, founded by Nobel prize winner George E. Smith. I've published a number of technical books and papers, some of which may be found at this link.

Something about Wikipedia[edit]

See also: Criticism of Wikipedia, WP is failing, Expert retention, Thoughts on WP Corruption of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is amazingly successful in producing a variety of articles that, while not authoritative, often contain a lot of interesting information the reader can use to expand their knowledge of a subject. It can be fun to contribute to WP, fun to learn from others, and fun to put together an entertaining and useful article. It also can be very exasperating if the editors contributing to an article you want to work on are not interested in these pursuits, but think of WP as on-line scrimmage, or as a mirror for preening, or as an encyclopedia intended to fit their personal criteria.

One might think that unproductive behavior on WP would be held in check by the Arbitration Committee, but so far this committee has a zero success rate in remedying systemic issues, or even in identifying them. In fact, they spend next to zero time considering critical matters. They are, however, very diligent in applying bans and blocks upon individual editors to cut down clamor, whatever its underlying cause or implications.

Such actions frequently resemble killing the messenger, that is, turning off safety alarms because they are annoying, or Three-Mile Island syndrome, that is, hearing the alarm but having no idea what to do about it.

Br'er Rabbit meets the tar baby; an encounter with enforcement.

So a participant on WP must be prepared to live with this environment. You will have periods of fun, learning, success, and satisfaction, counter-weighted by other periods of distress and dismay and, more unfortunately, nausea. These last will be reduced if you simply refuse to participate in arbitration ‘hearings’, beyond a stating an initial position. These actions are about shutting down noise, so the less noise you make, the better. They also are tar babies, and residual attacks and arbitration follow you 'round like gnats in the Quebec woods. Even expired sanctions can be revisited years later as a backdoor means to haul Administrators into a situation that otherwise could never be brought forward.

Here is my succinct summary of the situation:

Involving ArbCom is like asking a three-year old hurrying to the bathroom to discuss Aristotle. Illumination is much less likely than getting pissed on.

Another analogy to ArbCom at work:

You visit the doctor because you cut your left hand: the doctor amputates your right arm and voilà you can't cut yourself again. By the way, the cut causing the visit isn't examined, nevermind treated!

So, smile. If you can't tolerate WP's blind and abusive administration, depart. If you stay, you must work within a severely compromised and dictatorial system that is for sure a rule of men, not laws, where salus populi is not a concept.

“it is increasingly difficult to enjoy contributing to Wikipedia unless you are part of the site's inner core of editors.”

Quoting Ed H Chi: Augmented Social Cognition Research

“"In general, the biggest problem I have with the editors [that is, administrators] is their attitude," he says. "They say: 'We're not going to explain how we make decisions, we basically talk amongst ourselves.'”

Quoting Aaron Swartz

In sum, unless one ingratiates oneself with the command, you're in for it. This situation is not improving, nor does it appear to be reversible.

Experience on WP[edit]

Some of the illustrations I've added are above. They show my interests are in circuits, devices, and physics. I've also originated several articles that remain in their initial state so far: Envelope (waves), Length measurement, p-n junction, Field effect (semiconductor), Pole splitting, Return ratio, Signal-flow graph, Nullor, Ampere's force law, Bivector; and completely rewritten Step response, Current mirror, Active load, Free space, Widlar current source, Space archaeology and Value judgment and Idée fixe (psychology). The Wikipedia editing and posting environment is really nice to work with. Finding out how things work is not so easy, and editors help here a lot. I've had some run-ins with editors, some constructive and civilized, and I am most happy to acknowledge the editing assistance of User:Rogerbrent. I'm also happy to report a happy collaboration with User:Sbyrnes321 on the article Faraday's law of induction, which proved to be a rather unique example of cooperative evolution.

This romantic epoch ended in late October 2009 with my banning from WP at the behest of a number of disgruntled editors aided by an ArbCom proceeding I thought was misguided, ill-informed, and arbitrary. I stepped into a hornets' nest and the ArbCom beekeepers figured my foot was the problem, not the hornets. Amputation followed. Attempts to discuss guidelines for avoidance of such brouhaha's in future led to broader restrictions, indicating further the limited benevolence and acuity of WP administrators. Initially I thought this proceeding was a shockingly inept exception, but in fact it was entirely ordinary, apart from the unimpeded violations of WP:Civil, a bit unusual, and the acceptance of unvarnished slander, which usually takes the milder form of acceptance of say-so with cavalier disregard for evidence.


The mode of administration of WP is identified as at variance with all lessons learned in the history of governance.

A major goal of ArbCom has become respect for ArbCom, regardless. They follow Kant:

“nothing can have a value other than that determined for it by the law. The law-making, which determines all value, must for this reason have a dignity, that is, unconditional and incomparable worth.”[1]
It's the ducks, eh?

but turn this idea upside down, to request respect for the lawmakers, rather than for the law making. From the administration viewpoint, command requires respect, not the commands.

Clamor usually is silenced expediently, which means shut down of the minority regardless of majority misbehavior, and regardless of WP policies and guidelines. That way impacts the fewest editors and garners easy support. Here is my succinct summary:

If gunshots are too noisy, it's not the hunters, it's the ducks. No ducks, no noise.

WP administration at work.

As a rule, sanctions and remedies are proposed that are deliberately vague. Ostensibly, that is done to allow adjustment of remedies so the punishment will fit the crime. In practice though, it takes the Humpty Dumpty form:

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.

The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.

The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master that’s all.

In short, the actual wording of a remedy or sanction is not only meaningless, but deceptive. (I am taking Humpty Dumpty out of context: he was a mathematician, and of course he could define his words as he wished inside of his axiomatic constructions. But that is not the WP environment.)

Enforce the rules; focus on the play; it's not about you.

The real meaning of a remedy is that you are on notice that any action you undertake can be brought before ArbCom, regardless of its nature, and claimed to be a violation. (In fact, one's mere presence in a hearing might be viewed as a disruption because you are "taking up the administrators' time", or as the police chief says in Casablanca, you're one of the "usual suspects"!) You yourself cannot predict on any basis whether any particular sanction will be deemed to have been violated, nor what reprisals will be enacted.

In fact, when a case is brought to ArbCom, or an appeal is made, one should be aware that ArbCom has no responsibility to address the actual case or appeal brought, but will take the opportunity to act according to their whim upon their personal perception of whatever they choose to consider, and the hearing on these extraneous matters will be primarily between ArbCom members with no obligation to explore beyond their prejudices. Here's a quote: “ArbCom retains jurisdiction over the cases it hears. This may not always be clear, but anyone who fails to resolve matters at the community level and comes to ArbCom is running the risk of not getting the case or result they wanted. We define the scope of the case and the possible remedies, and have wide latitude to impose what we see fit.” This understatement should be taken very seriously as a straightforward declaration that any expectation of due process is delusional, and ArbCom will do whatever they want, unconstrained by any consideration whatsoever, WP welfare and guidelines included.

One basic problem with arbitration on WP is that the issues are unnecessarily complex. A baseball umpire just watches that rules are observed; an umpire doesn't critique the game; an umpire isn't an expert player or coach. Unfortunately, as things now work, instead of refereeing with clear, general guidelines, administrators are forcing compliance with piecemeal, case-by-case invented rules of expedience, nothing better. They are in 'way over their heads, making decisions 'way beyond their competence. Originating in folie des grandeurs and chutzpah, administrators adjudicate where they haven't a clue. They expect respect for themselves despite their indifference to the very goals empowering them. The resulting interminable, muddy actions; unfortunately backed by blind, stubborn, stupid support for dismal decisions; corrodes what remains of a collaborative atmosphere on WP.


What happened to WP in 2006-2007?[edit]

Percentage of Wikipedians sticking around long enough to make more than one edit a year (red line), compared to number making 5+ edits/month. (blue line)
New articles/day on English WP. Average drop is 135/year (Data from Wikimedia.)
Requests by contributors for formal arbitration by year. (Data from English Wikipedia.)
Number of newly registered contributors per month on English WP over its lifetime. Average drop in monthly enrollment is 515/year (Data from Wikimedia.)
Average number of blocks/day each month in 2012. Data from English Wikipedia.
Number of Wikipedians applying for Administrator privileges on English Wikipedia. (Data from Wikipedia.)
As the figures to the right indicate, the period of rapid growth for WP is over, with the number of new articles and of new accounts exhibiting a sudden U-turn in rate of growth. The number of applicants for Adminship shows an even more dramatic loss of interest. It is unclear just what happened in 2006-2007 to cause the slowdown in activity.
A Wikimedia statistical report has posed this question. See the figure at left and discussion of this figure in "Editor trends study/ Results". Wikimedia. May 11, 2011. 
In discussing the figure at left, the report suggests there may be a connection between the rapid drop in the percentage of Wikipedians making at least one edit a year after joining (red line), and the rapid upsurge in active editors that occurred in the same 2006-2007 time frame (blue line). One might conjecture this transition indicates a change in climate at WP. The graph shows that many new Wikipedians lost interest in continuing with WP, possibly because they faced an upsurge in activists. Discouragement of new contributors, whatever its cause, made it impossible to maintain the growth rate of WP.
The bottom figure on the right shows an upsurge in the number of Admin applicants during the 2006-2007 transitional phase. The vast majority of today's Admins were added in 2005-2007: 1,148 of them. I suspect that this rapid recruitment also affected the character of Administration in this time frame.
The transition of 2006-2007 has resulted in a persistent drop in deliberative activity. On the left is shown that the number of formal cases for arbitration where evidence is assessed has fallen to about 12/year as reliance upon discussion of adjudication has been replaced by simpler means such as ANI proceedings or blocks by individual Administrators on their own recognizance. The lower figure on the left shows an average of 350 blocks per day, which hugely dwarfs the solitary formal case of 1 per month in the figure above.
These statistics suggest to me a movement with time toward more peremptory treatment of administrative duties. Such a development is hardly surprising when Administrators serve for life without means of recall (except ArbCom actions, which rarely occur) and where rulings are emphatically differentiated from "legal proceedings". The insularity of WP's formal organization and the extreme independence of its rulings from WP policies, guidelines, and even from facts, are documented clearly in WP's own description of its organization and its administrative methodology.
The English Wikipedia decline. The number of active editors in the English Wikipedia is plotted over time. From Wikimedia.