User:MarkBernstein

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A project which punishes editors for defending the good names and reputations of living people from vicious internet trolls does not deserve to survive. -- NorthBySouthBaranof.


Hypertext researcher Mark Bernstein is chief scientist of Eastgate Systems, Inc. In 2014, he wrote that, "In my view, no one can honorably assist an enterprise that condones this," in response to repeated insinuations regarding the sexual history of a blameless software developer, in the course of a Wikipedia discussion orchestrated to deter women from pursuing careers in computer science [1]. The ensuing debate culminated in a much-cited series of essays on Wikipedia: “Infamous”, “Thoughtless”,“Careless“ and “Reckless”. (Essays here: http://www.markbernstein.org/Jan15/Infamous.html. Press here: http://www.markbernstein.org/Wiki.html)

Designer of Tinderbox and author of The Tinderbox Way.

Program Chair: ACM Hypertext 97 (with Cathy Marshall), ACM Hypertext 98 (with Kapser Østerbye), ACM Wikisym '08, ACM Web Science '13.

You may contact him bernstein at eastgate dot com, or see http://markbernstein.org/ .

Of Wikipedia[edit]

Alliteration for Arbcom’s ARCA[edit]

Good grief! GoldenRing, greatly aggrieved,
Grouses at my gallant jests, those galling goads
That Gawker, Guardian, and gazettes aplenty
All gave to Gamergate, and you. I admit:
I hold some strong opinions of Arbcom’s acts
Throughout this case. These I have expressed
Elsewhere quite clearly, and accurately I think;
Audiences, alerted, have predominately agreed.

Generous @Gamaliel patiently posits that
People who think me pernicious, perfidious,
And pretty much perfectly putrid would be
Glad to display my poor noggin on pikes
Or by preference at Kotaku In Action.
Anxiously, admins already anticipate
A trip to AE, where more words may be spent.
An admin convinced, we may head then to AN/I,
And wend back to Arbcom. Oh wondrous wiki!

O’er what? I have had some strong words
For your actions, and indeed some of you have had some for mine.
Jimbo writes that I caused all this stuff from the first,
And Gamaliel writes I am "widely unpopular"
Throughout Wikipedia. I think he means wildly;
He might not be wrong.

But this project’s not purely a contest for praise.
Policy prefers both firmness and speed
For protecting the blameless who’re prostitutes called,
Whose sex lives are subject to endless discussion
On the project’s talk pages.

   This Baranof did.
Off-wiki was Baranof smeared and belittled
Because these benighted he bravely defied.
He better deserved (and deserves) of you all.

Before I conclude, one brief issue I'd raise:
“Behavior” is common to children and beasts,
Not colleagues, and conflicting views, bringing heat,
Can better be handled with courteous care.
“Christian” names, to my ear, can sound rather familiar,
And I don’t recall that we’ve been introduced.
Adversaries adopt (in America) address
That’s more formal. I think Dr. Bernstein is fine.
I did attend Swarthmore: if perchance you’re a Friend
Or don’t like to use titles, my names, please, in full.




(Do you believe these jests should be consigned
To user space? Once read, I do not mind.)

GamerGate Sanctions[edit]

As the question of "righting great wrongs" has been raised, perhaps I might be indulged with an opportunity to explain the wrongs that, in my view, ought to be righted. I understand this is over length and arguably WP:FORUM or WP:SOAPBOX; I ask your patience as I have worked on wikis and wiki-like systems now for thirty years and care deeply about the future of hypertext. If this is the wrong forum; I have posted this to my home page; if that is wrong as well, I’m willing to post it at http://markBernstein.org/ or publish it elsewhere.

When my colleagues and I were first exploring open hypertext systems in the 1980s and 1990s, Ward Cunningham’s wiki was extraordinary in its vision and in its confidence that, because most people are reasonable and good, editors would and could work together to craft hypertexts that were reasonable and sound. Many were skeptical, and skeptics remain, but Wikipedia demonstrated that the open Web could accomplish much.

But can Wikipedia rein in its worst impulses and most pernicious tendencies? We have here a page describing a conspiracy in which female software developers have been systematically threatened with assault, rape, and murder, with a goal of persuading them to leave the field. Rather than dispassionate coverage, we offer an article and talk page which again and again seek out whatever smidgeon of blame or shame that can conceivably be attached to the victims. Elsewhere, we repeatedly seek "balance" by according equal weight to the allegations of criminals and their refutation by blameless victims -- victims who, in several cases, have been forced to flee their homes.

Patent BLP violations that would not have been tolerated for a moment had they been applied to a Republican politician or a popular male actor are countenanced here -- edit-warred into thousands and thousands of words of talk page text -- as part of an openly orchestrated campaign against female software developers and media critics, one that openly aims to drive women out of computing.

When I began my career, women represented nearly half of CS graduates; today, they're a fifth. The precedent we are establishing here is that any veiled rape threat might be treated in Wikipedia as a joke, and that any woman who sleeps (or might have slept) with someone who is a journalist (however amateur) is fair game and that we may discuss and publicize allegations about her exchange of sexual favors even though those allegations were always false, were always reported to be false, and are now known to us to be false. Never mind: "ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ZOE QUINN" opposite a picture of a pretty young woman apparently makes a spicier Wikipedia page.

Consider, I beg you, how Wikipedia might appear the day after one of these female software developers is raped or murdered, as reporters from every major newspaper and from every major university pore through our talk pages for insight. Consider, for that matter, how we will appear when these discussions are critiqued by gender theory scholars, as our continuing unjust sniping at DiGRA (a small game studies conference) assures they will be. The remaining shreds of our reputation now depend upon the restraint of the least patient and most extreme adherent of Gamergate. (If the impossibility of a static image depicting rape strikes you as an argument within the boundaries of polite discussion, I believe your local university will have several experts willing to tell you otherwise you.)

Today, Wikipedia is an important resource but its reputation is tenuous. Students are told not to cite it and never to trust it. Scholars can no longer claim Wikipedia as professional service. Everyone uses Wikipedia but no one admits it. If Wikipedia is known as a place where rape apologism and prurient speculation will be rehashed and expanded and examined over and over in the hopes of a more dramatic section heading -- if Wikipedia cannot moderate these impulses, then Wikipedia will not be merely a secret resource: it will be a shame.

In the end, I spent a long night imagining a meeting with an imaginary, angry Zoe Quinn who asked: "How can you work with such people? How can you support them?" I cannot. I cannot support or countenance this, nor should you, dear reader, lend your time and energy to this noble but failed endeavour.

AfD for Jews and Communism[edit]

This page has its origin with Jewish Bolshevism, which discusses the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that Communism is a Jewish plot aimed at world domination. That page is expressly limited to discussion of the conspiracy theory; Jews and Communism seeks to offer evidence that the conspiracy theory is in fact true. This page offers a pastiche of statistics, anecdotes, and cherry-picked sources to show that people with Jewish ancestry were involved in various aspects of Communism, with special attention to the secret police and (in previous versions) the execution of the Russian Tsar. It frequently goes out of its way to emphasize connections between people of Jewish ancestry and finance. Parts of the article and its sources appear to derive from an article [2] by a notorious holocaust denier [3].

The page is a mixture of WP:OR and WP:SYNTH in support of a WP:ATTACK on an ethnic group through a WP:FRINGE theory. To present the color of neutrality, occasional disclaimers are sprinkled to remind the reader that not all Jews supported Communism, and that Jews were sometimes persecuted by Communists; thus a WP:FRINGE theory finds its way into Wikipedia by acknowledging that not everyone believes the theory to be completely true. The information offered here can more effectively be presented (where warranted) in more natural contexts; if the religion of Karl Marx’s grandparents is notable, for example, it might be discussed in his biography rather than here. The tone of the page, and of its supporters on the talk page and elsewhere, is deeply disturbing and the page threatens to deeply embarrass the project. MarkBernstein (talk) 15:31, 14 May 2014 (UTC)

Created on 27 February 2014 [4], Jews and Communism has been a magnet for controversy and edit wars. It has already been at AN/I twice [5][6], and was the subject of an 8000-word discussion on Jimbo’s talk page [7]. A previous AfD [8] was closed without consensus. Directly relevant precedents include the deletions of Jews and Hollywood [9] and Jews and Money [10]. Some (apparently) reliable sources can always be found for any conspiracy theory, but Wikipedia should not host pages of evidence for Antisemitic canards. MarkBernstein (talk) 14:49, 9 May 2014 (UTC)

Commentary at AN: The chill wind blowing through our dusty, deserted corridors[edit]

Can Wikipedia resist concerted efforts to contaminate it with lies, hate, and deception? In the time from February through May 2014, it signally failed to do so. The virulent anti-Semitism of the original article should have been evident to all, and much of it persists to this day despite the efforts of literally dozens of editors and the investment of hundreds of hours. The attention of administrators, and indeed of Wikimedia board members, should have been focused by the original AfD, the Jimbo discussion, the two long, long threads at AN/I, and plenty of direct correspondence.

This was not an obscure or difficult issue requiring expertise, some dispute about mathematical series or the best name for some forgotten Balkan outpost. The article was filled with evident canards -- and it linked to a fairly extensive Wikipedia article filling in the historical background on the smear! We have the whole cast: the ugly Jews, the Jews in banking and finance, the secretive Jews, the Jewish traitors. We argue that all sorts of people were really Jews because their ancestors were Jewish. And on the talk page, as here, we have the repeated dismissal of opposition because, after all, it's just those Jews again coming to WP:VOTE, and everyone knows how they stick together.

Wikipedia is in serious trouble. It is hemorrhaging editors. Its reputation is already low, and scandals like this page diminish it. Worse, it seems clear that Wikipedia cannot and will not resist serious efforts by a small team of concerted editors who, as was the case here, can easily override policy and consensus by pretending to adhere to the forms. I've used Wikis since Ward’s Wiki was new; I've been keynote at WikiSym and I've been program chair; I’ve written wikis. Never -- not even during the great wiki mind wipe of 1999 -- have I so completely doubted the efficacy of the WikiWay. The conclusion seems inescapable that Wikipedians have lost the ability to distinguish routine contention from opposition to racist and anti-semitic distortion; if we cannot do that (and I see scant evidence that we can), the wind will blow through the empty corridors of Wikipedia?

Could it happen? If you think not, think again. Events like Jews and Communism bring Wikipedia into disrepute. If Wikipedia becomes sufficiently disreputable, an engineer at Google can press a button and, overnight, Wikipedia could go back to Page Rank 3, taking our traffic. If Wikipedia becomes sufficiently disreputable, donations will dry up. If Wikipedia becomes sufficiently disreputable, the remaining editors will be even more dominated by the hacks and the charlatans, the zealots for obscure movements, the gamified WikiLawyers looking for one more scalp and one more barnstar. This can still be fixed, but it can not be fixed by kicking the can down the road and nodding sagely that, if the anti-semites were regrettable, some of their opponents were sometimes intemperate.