User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 67

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Vector?

Hey Jimbo, I left you a message quite a while ago... could you answer, please? Thanks, Zumanity. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 190.43.252.42 (talk) 22:34, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

You'll have to point me to it as I don't recall what you mean.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 04:16, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

And that's even harder to do, given the fact that the user has already changed IP. HeyMid (contributions) 09:37, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Ok, here's the link: http://community.wikia.com/wiki/User_talk:Jimbo_Wales#Vector —Preceding unsigned comment added by 200.62.157.182 (talk) 00:01, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Jaron Lanier: "Wikipedia seeks to erase point of view"--?

So, Jimbo, you (Larry, et al) apparently got together with your "bud" (according to Vanity Fair) Sean (Mark, et al) to do that..plus organize people into multiple-choice identities? (Hat tip: NYReviewOfBooks.)--Hodgson-Burnett's Secret Garden (talk) 12:44, 5 November 2010 (UTC)

Hilarious.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 19:36, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
Personally, I think a post-modern age of enlightenment driven by social networks would be neat.
Also, Jimbo, you and Sean are both wrong: neither humans nor algorithms make music. Music makes itself and the mind is merely the instrument through which it plays.   Zenwhat (talk) 20:34, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

Highlighting problematic sentences

I've noticed on Italian wiki they have shading over sentences which are unsourced/problematic. See it:Donato Manfroi. Do you think this would be a good idea as it might encourage people to source sentences needing sources and when reading the article it would highlight the information that may be questionable as part of our goal to be as accurate as possible?♦ Dr. Blofeld 21:07, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

I kind of like it, yes. It's probably worth discussing. One thing I would wonder about is whether it is actually meaningful to end users. This is the sort of thing that I think we could take to the Foundation's usability team for testing... although of course that would take some time.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 21:26, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

What I like about it is that it highlights the entire problematic sentences which have been identified more vigorously rather than just a note at the end so as the reader is reading it they know to be wary and that the whole sentence/paragraph is problematic. If the problematic sentences are identified in every article and shaded effectively it gives more coordination in my view as to what is OK and what is not in the encyclopedia and gives a somewhat bolder approach in which we acknowledge it needs improving. Sometimes tags at the top of the article or end of a paragraph do not point the reader to exactly what needs to be done . Ultimately the goal of course is for every article to be well sourced and accurate. Having parts shaded which may be undesirable to many may actually have the effect of propelling more editors to resolve the problem as they want it to look better. Its worth a trial at least in my view, although I'm not sure about pink, I'd go for a light blue personally, but pink might just have the effect of getting more editors to resolve problem and remove it... I like it and it really stood out to me when I viewed it on it wiki. i'd like to see this placed on a trial period. In my view any part of the encyclopedia which is unverified and problematic should be shaded which would be more coordinated I think and identify the text in every article which needs work.♦ Dr. Blofeld 23:03, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

I like it too. Nothing is more frustrating than a tag on a long article and then trying to find out what the tagger specifically found wrong...Pale pink (or maybe cream) is a good warning colour. I actually think it might be a good thing for casual readers to note. I think if it draws them in to actually editing and improving an article that is a great thing. Casliber (talk · contribs) 23:34, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes if you think of the pink as a pale red then you could see it as a warning color. Its a great tool I think and could be used to identify all parts of an article which need rewriting or are unsourced. I personally would much rather actual sentences and paragraphs were highlighted instructing the reader exactly what needs to be improved/sourced than great ugly general tags at the top of the article. Whether the shading would replace them or not or if they would coexist would need discussion. Of course the reader needs warning at the top that an article contains info which is unverified but as DDG says they can be quite obtrusive and downright ugly at times especially multiple templates stacked at the top.♦ Dr. Blofeld 13:08, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Cs showed me this. I also like it. Considering the subdued colors they use, the result is a good deal less obtrusive than some of our tags. This seems partly due to their relative sparse use of tagging on the article page altogether, another example we could learn from). DGG ( talk ) 01:18, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I like it in principle, but will readers understand that having most of our biographies entirely rendered on a pink background isn't just an odd stylistic choice? — Coren (talk) 14:00, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Only if it is the Pink Lady--Wehwalt (talk) 11:00, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
A bit belated, but adding my voice to the list - I like this idea. --Ser Amantio di NicolaoChe dicono a Signa?Lo dicono a Signa. 15:01, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

Excellent, I hope to see this widely implemented.♦ Dr. Blofeld 19:47, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

  • I kind of like it, but was amused to discover that you've reinvented the wheel... {{Reference necessary}} does this too, e.g. Example text lacking a source.[citation needed] It used to highlight the text before Wikipedia:Templates for deletion/Log/2009 September 18#Template:Reference necessary. Fences&Windows 00:02, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Not quite. This template relies on {{fix-span}}, which is how {{fix}} could potentially be modified in future to support multiple kinds of spanning cleanup templates, leading to just one level of template indirection between {{cn-span}} and the meta-tag. Notice that {{fact-span}} has two levels of transclusion, first to {{citation needed}} and thence to {{fix}}. The fewer levels of transclusion, the better, of course — especially as {{fix}} itself transcludes further templates. Uncle G (talk) 09:10, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Coren, I think it would be evident if only segments of an article were highlit - also, maybe if a cursor hovered over the pink-hued text for > 1 second (arbitrary time choice), then an infobox might appear with the information (say NPOV, copyedit, align with source etc.) appears (??) Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:24, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
    • PS: I think if someone could revert that temlate to when it was useful, and create a very pale pink one for NPOV and/or copyediting, that might be interesting. Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:33, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
    • See below on the HTML class. Uncle G (talk) 09:10, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
  • The hell? Why would you highlight a statement that you suspect of being wrong? Just remove it. --MZMcBride (talk) 02:42, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Tend to agree with MZMcB here. When I come across an unsourced sentence I usually delete it. If I find a [Citation needed] tag, I'll do a quick Google search and if I don't find anything in the first 10 hits, then I delete it. Matthewedwards :  Chat  05:29, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
      • Actually, you should be doing more than that, especially in the cases of articles that already cite one or more lengthy sources. It's entirely possible, especially in the cases of older articles, for statements to already have a supporting source cited, which simply isn't being spoon-fed to you with a superscripted cross-link between prose and source citation. Sometimes, not only is the source already cited, but the cross-link to it is already there, too. I've seen articles that have been hit by misguided people who've tagged sentences as needing citations when the citation — that was right there — was already linked by a cross-link — that was right there, too — at the end of the very same paragraph (or group of sentences all supported by the same sources). Uncle G (talk) 09:10, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Asking for a citation is for when one encounters statements that one thinks to be right (or at least verifiable, our proxy for the same), but for which there isn't yet a supporting source cited. Uncle G (talk) 09:10, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I like this idea, though pink is a little distracting. I'd prefer a slightly darker hue of the existing background colour. Anthony (talk) 03:12, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
  • {{cn-span}} puts the <span/> element into a class citation-needed-span. If this idea gains momentum, then we can incorporate that class into the style sheets for the various skins, and it can then be whatever colour combination is appropriate to the skin, and then indeed do things related to hovering the pointer over the text. There is no pink in the currently employed colour scheme. Uncle G (talk) 09:10, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I like this idea too, just to add another voice in support. Would be nice to include functionality in the text editor too, click and drag highlight then a drop down menu at the top (as long as we are snapping the whip over the devs and volunteer gurus =). Revcasy (talk) 12:37, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
  • This is a "cool idea", yet "{{Reference necessary}}" and all its redirects only have some 190 uses in 2 years, of which some are "this sentence" (and hence the same as a normal Cn-after-the-period), barely survived AfD, and does not seem to be increasing in usage. There are also a bunch if issues to be weighted in the balance:
    1. putting content inside templates effectively hides it from some processes, typo fixing for example, most tag dating also.
    2. the wiki-code is more complex and harder to read for all agents.
    3. there would have to be thought given to what to do with nested highlighting tags.
    4. accessibility issues - the highlighting must be clear to those with various visual impairments, without hiding the text for others and suitable for screen readers.

Rich Farmbrough, 22:41, 5 November 2010 (UTC).

Why not along the lines of {{cn(}}some text{{)}}? {{)}} would just be a </span> and {{cn(}} would be the correct <span> for whatever ails the highlighted text. Those should nest right, will not transform prose into template args, and are reasonably easy to use. (The choice of using parens () as template names is probably an artifact of my CS background, and while obvious to me may not be to everyone. Discuss.) — Coren (talk) 02:02, 6 November 2010 (UTC) Add: Bah. {{)}} is already used. But the basic principle remains. — Coren (talk) 02:04, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

I really, really ... really, really, really ... hate that text highlighted in color. I have a hard enough time with colors due to my eyesight, and reading that is just awful. But it's hard for me to sort out if/how the various proposals above will address that; if anything advances, I suggest calling in Graham87 (talk · contribs) who is vision-impaired. I'm just old :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 03:55, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

I agree, and per Jimbo above, I question "whether it is actually meaningful to end users". We tend to cater for the norm, whilst doing what we can for vision-impaired users, but in my opinion, not enough. I'm not sure we reach out enough to our readers with limited abilities, whatever they are, but having worked in the field of accesibility software, albeit briefly, I don't think that multicoloured text would be helpful to anybody; at best, it's a flag that an article may have issues, and at worst, it makes for unreadability, and I think we can find better solutions than that. There is always the option that such highlighting could be turned of in Personal Preferences, but that seems to me to be shuffling the problem under the carpet. However, it has to be said that I have little experience of the Usability Project, and if the members there are keen to assist us, we should take their advice. Rodhullandemu 04:10, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
I've been bold and changed the text-color to DarkSlateGray because SlateGray on that yellowish tan was bloody murder on my eyes. Access Deniedtalk to me 21:33, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
How about Coren's idea without read/view highlighting? Tag getting placed at the end of the disputed content. That way, editors who are interested can see exactly what's problematic by hitting edit and seeing what's inbetween the tags Coren proposes? ROBERTMFROMLI TALK/CNTRB 23:14, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Template now has a Bgcolor of #fff9f9 (a very pale yet noticeable Pink) with a slightly darker 1px wide border. I'm considering moving the [Citation Needed] link inside the span. I'm doing all this for the sake of readability. Is it still hurting anyone's eyes now?Access Deniedtalk to me 06:46, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Coloring

#fff0f0
#fff3f3
#fff6f6
#fff9f9 (current color)
#fffcfc
The darker the pink gets, it becomes more noticeable. The lighter it gets, it becomes easier on the eyes. I believe I've struck a good balance with #fff9f9 but I'm not sure what everyone else thinks. I'm also considering changing the text color to #440000 (a very dark red, near black). Next, I'll straying working on CSS's for individual skins. Access Deniedtalk to me 07:00, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Oh, and going darker than #fff0f0 would probably just scream Look at me! Me! Me! Access Deniedtalk to me 13:55, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Please KILL this proposal now. Highlighting poor text in articles will only draw attention to how bad most articles are, result in massive amounts of colored text, make Wiki look even more like MySpace, while making them unreadable for many. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:58, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't mind the fine underline of {{Reference necessary}}. It is much less distracting, does the job, and doesn't deface the article. Anthony (talk) 14:02, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Re the last comment: there is an ongoing discussion at Template talk:Citation needed#Revival of Merge Discussion which started in June 2010. The current proposal is sandboxed at {{citation needed/sandbox}} and if implemented would look like this: Frank Sinatra was a singer [citation needed]. --Redrose64 (talk) 20:16, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Even lighter colors: George W. Bush was the millionth president of the United States [citation needed]. (click edit to see the colors used) Access Deniedtalk to me 22:08, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Let's not overturn the outcome/consensus (or lack thereof) without a good reason why highlighting would be needed. :| TelCoNaSpVe :| 03:01, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── If you see a problem... Just fucking do it instead of highlighting each problematic sentence, phrase or whatever. I'd agree about highlighting all inline-article problem tags though as such inline tags are overlooked, but that's it. —Ғяіᴆaз'§Đøøм Champagne? • 9:27am • 22:27, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Wikimedia CAT

Hello Jimmy,

in order to unblock the situation of Wikimedia CAT chapter, we have clarified and simplified the proposal at m:Wikimedia CAT.

We would highly appreciate that you could take a look at it and kindly give us your opinion at Survey. If you consider so, you can also express your support.

Thanks in advance. --CàlculIntegral (talk) 07:27, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

May I have your offical comment ?

ru:Википедия:Заявки на арбитраж/Скайпочат
Brief descripition:
In Russian wikipedia was revealed the Secret Society that includes part of Administrators, Arbiters, Bureaucrats, Checkusers and so on
by decsion of arbiters two persons were punished:
the one who revealed this secret society lost his rights for participation in discussions
the one of memebers lost his flag of Bureaucrat
no one else was punished
(cf. a half a year ago when was revealed another secret society that didn't have so many Administrators as memebers they had a lot of punishment) --Idot (talk) 15:11, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

PS Now I am a candidate for Arbitres (please see ru:Википедия:Выборы арбитров/Осень 2010/Выдвижение), but for questions about this Secret Society [1] I was voluntarily blocked [2] (Idot (talk) 15:31, 10 November 2010 (UTC))
Assuming that most people here probably don't read Russian, here is the Google Translate version: [3] (also tinyurl(dot)com(slash)2ahkqfj). NW (Talk) 21:44, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

pt-wiki

Dear Mr. Jimbo,

I am an editor of the pt-wiki (User: amats), in fact, have provided more than 4 hours daily to pt-wiki and today when I opened the wiki, I saw your message asking for a financial cooperation. Unfortunately, being Brazilian and living in a very modest, I can not work, but would ask that you, briefly, his eyes returned to the pt-wiki, because we went through a serious institutional crisis and there are excellent proposals for modification of policies of structural pt-wiki, which can positively influence the global wiki, especially regarding the dissemination of power, which, at least in our wiki, is a very trying time, not bureaucrats and checkers and the risk of needing an intervention of the stewards (here and here).

I am well aware of their position with regard to freedom and you would not place himself above anyone, but I also know of your influence and insight and your opinion is very important.

If you consider this request, I put myself at your disposal in my talk page in pt-wiki to continue.

Sincerely and with much respect and awe. Amats (talk) 03:45, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Copyrights and plagiarism

Hi Jimmy, something you should probably have a look at: Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents/Plagiarism and copyright concerns on the main page‎. Includes accusations that a sitting arbitrator (who's since retired) plagiarised/copy-pasted for what had been today's featured article, Grace Sherwood. Any input? StrPby (talk) 13:41, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

The primary issue appears to be setting the precise point at which simple statement of a fact becomes plagiarism. Some appear to think that entirely different word order etc. is essential to avoid it being plagiarism, while others have felt simple statements of fact (such as "Hitler invaded Poland rapidly on thus-and-such a date" is plagiarism if any source used the same basic language. I think that plagiarism should not be asserted where the non-copyrightable fact is what has been copied, and not any original other assertions or style elements. Collect (talk) 14:08, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

  • See User:Moonriddengirl/Copyright#Is it a copyright problem or plagiarism, and what difference does it make? for one of many discussions about inferring too close a relationship between copyright and plagiarism. Uncle G (talk) 15:54, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
    • Try Plagiarism is the deliberate attempt to deceive the reader through the appropriation and representation as one's own the work and words of others. [4]. Some of the examples on WP do not involve any such "attempt to deceive" at all. Indeed, some "examples" are of the order of the hypothetical one I gave - where the statement is one of fact, and where no "borrowing" anything from the other author. Consider There are only 15 recorded witchcraft cases in the Virginia colony in the 1600s, with most ending in acquittals. which is clearly a simple statement of fact. The "Plagiarism Checker" does not assert that it is plagiarism, for example. Our problem is that WP editors can assert "plagiarism" even where no court would assert such. Let's deal primarily with extended material, not with simple statements of fact, for goodness' sake. Collect (talk) 16:47, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
  • I would like to hope you are joking, but I have seen too much genuine confusion about plagiarism to do so.
    • Original: "Records survive of 15 witchcraft cases in the Virginia colony in the 1600s, with most ending in acquittals, said Frances Pollard, [...]"
    • Plagiarised: "There are only 15 recorded witchcraft cases in the Virginia colony in the 1600s, with most ending in acquittals."
An automatic "plagiarism checker" is not a magic tool that can absolve anyone from a plagiarism charge. It doesn't define plagiarism. Taking 8 sentences out of an original sequence of 9 and rephrasing most of them slightly (not even all of them!), as happened in this edit as compared to this source, is precisely the kind of superficial operation that is meant by plagiarism. You are supposed to read a text, understand it, and then say some of the things it says with your own words, ideally removing some of the less important bits and filling in some of the details you know from elsewhere. It would still have been plagiarism if every single sentence had been rephrased thoroughly, but not even that was done. Hans Adler 17:13, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
Example of rephrasing in an original manner: "Records from Virginia colony dating from the seventeenth century tell of fifteen people accused of witchcraft, the majority of which were found not guilty."
I'm not sure that this is actually a desirable ethic. Plagiarism is not a crime, after all, and is there any reason why we, morally, should say that it is better to move around some words while using the same basic facts? Especially when the urge to rephrase can end up distorting the meaning in more technical works? I can understand the residual fear of using the text word-for-word in a copyright-blighted society, and I can see why rephrasing can be justified as a method of evading copyright claims, however overreaching. But it seems like when this is presented as plagiarism we move from a plausible and definable fear to an irrational taboo. Wnt (talk) 20:35, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
Your comment looks like a good example of the verifiability fundamentalism that currently appears to make plagiarism prosper. Encyclopedia articles are written by reading and understanding many sources, and then writing a good overview text based on the collected knowledge. They are not written by taking bits and pieces from several individual sources, polishing each a bit, and plugging them all together. Except in Wikipedia, where unfortunately this has become a common practice. But it is plagiarism. In some cases there is a natural most succinct way of putting some key fact, or a small number of such. This is typically recognisable by the fact that many independent sources use very similar formulations. But the above example is far from being such a case. Hans Adler 07:55, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
You might have a point about knowledge, and I don't just want to cobble together bits and pieces. But the criticism should apply equally well to the rephrased sentence as to the original wording. Yes, we should see rewording occur incidentally to good writing in many cases - for example, my feeling is that if there were only 15 cases, we should list them one by one; and saying "only" is the sort of value judgment we should avoid for NPOV; and we should say exactly how many led to guilty verdicts, etc. We should have multiple sources and be joining sentences together for brevity as we condense down what they all say into a single text. But if our stub article has one source and we have one sentence written verbatim from that source, or even six or seven, with the source properly cited, I don't think it should count against an editor as some high crime or misdemeanor. (Though admittedly, even in this case, I'd prefer that such a block of text, if taken verbatim, be put in quotes, even if it looks strange to do so). Wnt (talk) 08:10, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Whenever we have to build a section on a single source, and that single source is already so condensed that we can't condense it further – then we are in trouble. It's often a sign that we are missing the more detailed sources that we should really be building the article on, perhaps because they are all offline, but it can also be a sign that we are giving too much weight to an aspect of a topic. If I had found the above sentence and decided that something like the information it contains should be added to the article, I would certainly have tried to get other, corroborating (or contradictory) information. Are there any sources giving a general overview over 17th century witch trials in the colonies? How did the Virginia statistics compare to those of the others? An intelligent editor who takes their job seriously will always find additional aspects which they feel are worth mentioning, and will often replace some of the minor points from the source with them. E.g. (I am just making things up here): "Europe and some of the European colonies saw a wave of judicial witch hunts in the 17th century, sometimes even ending in a conviction. In North America the phenomenon was primarily centered in Massachusetts, but more than a dozen cases, spread over a period of 70 years, occurred in Virginia as well." (Again, no actual research went into this sentence and it's probably totally misleading.) Hans Adler 08:41, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree that more sources are desirable, and summarization is desirable; still, if someone copies and pastes two sentences into a new article and cites them to their source, even though omitting to use quotation marks, the resulting stub is still better than nothing. Wnt (talk) 09:17, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
In your example it's not better, because two copied sentences in a stub amounts to a clear copyvio and the entire stub may have to be deleted. I agree in general that a plagiarised article is still better than no article, but if we trust random editors' judgement about the line between plagiarism and copyvios we will get too many clear copyvios. Hans Adler 09:24, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

I would like to see this discussion moved into a really constructive direction. Wikipedia is currently working on the assumption that random anonymous contributors are sufficiently mature and responsible to

  • understand how copyright works
  • not intentionally break copyrights
  • know what plagiarism is
  • not intentionally plagiarise.

As the huge backlog of plagiarism investigations shows, this assumption is far from realistic, and this day proved it beyond all doubt: It started three days ago with User:Camelbinky's plagiarised Malta Test Station being discovered while it was on the main page under DYK. The resulting scrutiny led to a discovery of more plagiarised content in DYK articles. Today the DYK Brown Lady of Raynham Hall had to be pulled from the main page for similar reasons. An arbitrator was very testy while all this was going on, and today we found out why: His featured article Grace Sherwood had to be pulled because of extensive plagiarism (and in fact copyvios) from a USA Today article.

It is not realistic to expect that Wikipedia editors have a better average understanding of plagiarism than American undergraduates. See this article: Roig, Miguel (1997), "Can undergraduate students determine whether text has been plagiarized?", The Psychological Record . In fact, experience tells that a lot of editors even think it's OK to copy entire paragraphs from a non-free source into the edit window, rephrase a bit, and hit save.

This creates a situation in which some of our most talented and most conscientious editors feel under pressure to clean up after the most reckless ones. I can feel this pressure myself, although I mostly ignore it because it's no fun and I would feel abused if I spent a significant amount of time removing copyvios.

We must do something if we don't want to wake up some day to the realisation that roughly 25% of our content is copyvios, and since we can't tell for sure which, we must pull all the content immediately. I don't know if American internet law makes the WMF immune to accusations of reckless passive support of serial copyvios, but even if that's true the situation might change at some point. At the moment we are reckless, and this can't go on. In my investigations today I have learned that a serial copyright violator can repeatedly remove User:CorenSearchBot's justified templates, get the articles through DYK and on the main page – and all that with no consequences.

I guess we need very clear words from above, as in the case of BLP, to the effect that no, we don't welcome copyvios, and yes, we really mean it, and if you don't take that seriously you will be shown the door. And maybe we need some kind of copyright/plagiarism quiz that editors have to go through after a certain number of mainspace edits. Hans Adler 16:52, 31 October 2010 (UTC)

It started three days ago with User:Camelbinky's plagiarised Malta Test Station being discovered while it was on the main page under DYK. ... Hans Adler, with all the wild words flying all around Wikipedia, I just want to thank you for the most (in fact, maybe the only) accurate summary of how this evolved that I've read anywhere. People are thanking me on my talk page for being a "whistleblower", when in fact, that's not how this came about at all. Camelbinky took a DYK copyvio tagging to ANI to accuse me of falsely tagging his article, and the rest unfolded very publicly from there, including a "testy" arbitrator and an admin abusing of me and claiming I had "vandalised"-- a claim he has yet to retract or apologize for. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:44, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Around Robin Hood's barn examples of rephrasing do exemplify not good writing standards. Short factual statements are not plagiarism. "John Doe lived at 1313 Mockingbird Lane" need not be reprhased as "On Mockingbird Lane, numero 1313, dwelt and resided Mr. Doe, first name John." Collect (talk) 17:48, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand your first sentence. As to the rest: It's true, but it's not very relevant to what triggered this discussion. In each case many consecutive sentences were copied that were a lot more complicated than yours and could have been paraphrased much more freely than was done, without sounding stilted. Hans Adler 18:10, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
I give a specific example of "plagiarism" per "similar phrasing" (concerning inheritance of the Low Countries, etc.) on the discussion regarding plagiarism page. I fear you might recognize the person who could be so charged on the basis of "similar phrasing" of what seems to me to be just fact. Collect (talk) 18:26, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
Go (all the way) Around Robin Hood’s Barn: verb phrase [[1797]: To engage in an unnecessarily roundabout course of action. Dictionary of American Regional English, Vol. 4, page 608. Regard, Jon —Preceding unsigned comment added by 81.145.247.25 (talk) 20:43, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
Probably best not to assign meaning to what other editors, think and feel. That's slippery slope that begins with not assuming good faith and can end miles from any kind of reality.(olive (talk) 17:01, 31 October 2010 (UTC))
I've dealt with a case of a really straightforward case of copyvio on an article which had been included as a DYK where several sentences throughout the page were verbatim reproductions of the main copyrighted source indicated, the structure of the article followed the structure of the source, etc. That page, too, was from an experienced editor, who sometime later for apparently different reasons went "on leave" and has never returned under that name. We all make mistakes, and certainly this may have been one, particularly if the phrasing copied were, as it were, the best encyclopedic phrasing possible - I don't know the details here. I agree that we do need to send word that clear plagarism by an experienced editor who should have known better at the time they performed the action in question is unacceptable, and we should do everything in our power to indicate as much. This would also extend to newer editors who engage in the kind of obvious copying which makes it all but impossible to think that it was not intentional plagarism. Not so sure whether a single event of such by an experienced editor should be considered grounds for being shown the door, although some sort of sanction in extreme cases would be welcome. It might be reasonable to be more lenient on what might be a single, possibly inadvertent, case of copyvio, though. John Carter (talk) 17:06, 31 October 2010 (UTC)
Trusted editor: assume good faith, talk/discuss, fix article if needed, then, deal with how concerns on how articles are written staying close to sources in impersonal community wide discussion. Not... Trusted editor: No integrity suddenly, assume the worst/jump to conculsions, make example of, show the door. Which points to a collaborative community that supports its hard working editors in creating the best encyclopedia possible. And key words, highly trusted editor.(olive (talk) 17:23, 31 October 2010 (UTC))
Serious issues of plagiarism have been raised, and it is not helpful to deflect them with appeals to good faith: naturally no editors will be abused for a couple of mistakes. We need to establish whether it is ok for articles to contain significant plagiarism (answer: no), and whether editors should be stopped from repeating plagiarism (answer: yes). This is a question of ethics and reputation, not law. I do not know if "plagiarism" is mentioned in one of the policies, but it should be, and perhaps should be added to WP:5P. I don't think it is satisfactory to rely on the (ignorable) WP:Plagiarism guideline because, as indicated above, it is very hard to find and correct plagiarism, whereas it is fun and easy to use copy/paste/tweak to gain DYK or FA status. Johnuniq (talk) 01:34, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
There are two distinct issues here one is the editor or editors, the other is the content. We cannot conflate the two. When dealing with an experienced editor with a long and honorable history one does indeed assume the best of that editor. He deserves no less. We don't assume after years of service he suddenly ran amok and began to behave in a way that would harm the encyclopedia he spent years of his life working for. Its not even clear who added the content and who checked that article during the FA process. I am describing a process that should have included respect and reasoned discussion but which unfortunately may have been more dramatic than needed, There was no deflection, and drama doesn't really add anything to a discussion.(olive (talk) 02:08, 1 November 2010 (UTC))
If you're talking about Grace Sherwood, that is inaccurate. It is very clear who added that content,[5] and you only have to read the FAC to know who checked and supported it. It is equally easy to find the diff where the arb became "testy", saying the whole issue was "jaw flapping".[6][7] SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:32, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks very much for the update. On the last thread I read there was discussion about who added what since there where multiple concerns. The issue though has to do with how we treat editors. A lot of drama can be created around any given situation. That seems to be the nature of Wikipedia. Given this is an editor with a long history of great work for the encyclopedia, well, there are multiple assumptions that have been made. Why are we assuming the worst of the editor? How does that happen? Five years of hard work, one possible mistake and the five years are down the toilet, if the drama that has ensued is any indication. Wikipedia isn't about blame and showing someone the door. Its about dealing with issues so that editors become better at what they do. I worked on that article in a small way. I was not dealing with someone that was trying to pull some kind of fast one on the encyclopedia, I worked with someone who was attempting to create a strong article and when he felt he wasn't good at something he humbly asked for help. You don't put out a public request for help if you're hiding something. Multiple editors had access to that content, me included, and no one happened on the content that was close to the sources or something would have been said and the content revised. Rlevse was looking for input and was open to everything suggested. Like I said, many of us were working on that article and we all missed the problem. We all have ownership of any article we work on, and responsibility. An FA reviewer should have caught the problem, but he missed it too. As far as I'm concerned we all take responsibility for what happened, and the lesson is we all have be more careful. And I'd be testy too if I'd been facing the comments Rlevse did, darn testy.(olive (talk) 03:49, 1 November 2010 (UTC))
Plagiarism is hard to detect and is always primarily the fault of the person who commits it. If you examine Rlevse's contribution history you will see that he became increasingly agitated about the attention to copyvios in DYK, culminating in the "jaw flapping" comment at 0:47 (followed by a related fight with Roux). At 2:03 an anonymous user startedTalk:Grace Sherwood#content copied. For some reason the IP was blocked, and Rlevse tried to downplay the problem. When Malleus noted that the IP seemed to have a point, Rlevse sent Malleus an email and stopped editing for 8 hours. When he came back at 10:43 he complained that people had not noticed his switch from attack mode to damage control mode [8], and blamed Malleus for not having noticed his copyvios (most blatant: 8 consecutive sentences lifted from a consecutive passage in the source, mostly literal copying, a different source attributed in the edit). This is where the loss of his advanced privileges became inevitable, and his quick realisation of the fact is why I can continue to esteem him overall.
And I note that you completely misunderstood my long comment with the four bullets. Although I was not aware of Rlevse's retirement at the time (IIRC), I trusted Rlevse that he would draw the consequences, as he did. I wasn't asking for his head, I was trying the same that Risker is trying in the section below: Make us all look at the big picture and start doing something about the general problem. Hans Adler 07:40, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

I actually wasn't referring to you in particular at all. I'd read multiple thread and my comments were more general. I'm not going to attribute any meaning to any behaviour nor should anyone. And after five years of the kind of service this editor has given, to decide that he no longer deserves to be treated like someone who gave that kind of service, sorry, that's not right in my opinion. Every editor on this page has made errors on this encyclopedia, every one, some more serious than others. And I do not believe that an editor who has show consistent integrity over a five year period suddenly turned bad and knowingly and deliberately created articles that would harm the encyclopedia. Doesn't make any sense. Until that editor tells us what happened and why, his five years and his integrity are what I look at. Yes we are responsible for what we add to an article but an article that is being prepped for FS status, and we all knew it, well, we missed something. You imply Rlevse was hiding something and was found out so became testy. That also makes zero sense. Any of us working on that article could have easily come across the problematic text. Nothing was hidden. I'll leave this conversation alone now. I had no intention of climbing into such a discussion and I doubt Rlevse needs it.(olive (talk) 22:24, 1 November 2010 (UTC))

The problems with this editor's contributions do not appear to be limited to one article. I'm seeing plagiarism and copyvios in other recent articles of his, including Ferry Plantation House, Silver Knapsack Trail, and Lawrence E. Roberts, three out of the four I've looked at. His contributions are going to need a careful review, and it may be simpler in some cases to delete the articles so that they can be recreated fresh.   Will Beback  talk  08:21, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Well, I may as well point out that I have long known that there are also other WP:V problems in Rlevse's work. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:37, 1 November 2010 (UTC)


Generalized discussion on copyright violation, plagiarism and close paraphrasing

Turning this discussion from the specific to the general is likely to be of more benefit to the project as a whole. This entire project is supposed to be derived from other sources; it's right there in WP:5. Therefore, the only real issue here is attribution, and how we go about doing it. People need to realise that all of the text in this project is supposed to be a derivative work.

First off, actual copyright violations in the current text of the article should be edited out, either by copy editing or removal. Attribution should be made either through the edit summary or (preferred) with a notice on the talk page of the article saying "versions x to y contained material directly derived from <source>. This material is now properly attributed as of <date>." Copyvios found in the history of the article, but not present at the time of editing, should be similarly attributed. Bottom line - copyright holders do not care about historical versions, only the ones that are currently displayed; by attributing the prior text to them, we have appropriately credited their work and have met our obligations. The vast majority of historical copyvios will never be detected unless someone literally walks through the article history line by line; probably 80% of articles with more than 100 edits have at least one edit that somebody will consider a copyvio in there somewhere, and many of those will have been transformed during the course of editing to perfectly acceptable, properly attributed text.

As to plagiarism and close paraphrasing, again the key is attribution. Many statements of fact have a limited number of ways that they can be expressed, and often the published source will say it best; even if the inserting editor rewords the statement, someone else coming along later may very well improve the writing in a way that matches or nearly matches the original source - simply because that is the most appropriate, clear, concise way to state the fact. The fact that two disparate writers independently come to the same conclusion about the best way to state a fact means that there is no plagiarism or close paraphrasing; it is something that any copy editor could do unintentionally without even reading a reference source. We should not be demonizing editors for writing clearly and concisely, provided they are properly attributing their sources.

Finally, we need to recognize that there is a very significant tension between "no original research" (or no publication of de novo information or interpretation) and the requirement of verifiability, and the expectation that editors "put things in their own words". Editors have been pilloried for closely following sources even for factual information, and for rewording that same information so that it reads differently than ("is a new interpretation of") the original source. We need to find a middle ground here, where editors can be reasonably assured their work will not be attacked, or the motivation to edit will continue to diminish. Risker (talk) 04:33, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

The other immediate problem is that discussion is being carried on in at least four or five venues currently. Casliber (talk · contribs) 05:16, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Good points in general, so long as they are not interpreted as saying anything about the specific case. But we really need to do something about the balance between verifiability and plagiarism avoidance. The pendulum is currently way too far on the side of encouraging plagiarism, and too little is done to make it clear that the widespread practice of copying text from some online source into the edit text area and taking it as a basis for a passage in the article is totally wrong and not acceptable at all. Normally it comes out only if people aren't sufficiently thorough with the rephrasing (maybe because they get interrupted and forgot where they were when they return?), but the line is already crossed when an entire sentence that is not intended for literal quotation is pasted. Offenders typically try to defend themselves by saying that "only" two sentences were copied literally from the source and the others "thoroughly rewritten" (i.e. superficially wikified, plus a few other superficial changes that did not affect the order in which thoughts are presented or any other key accidental features of the original source). This must stop.
Editors don't know when they are plagiarising, or think that plagiarism is what they are expected to do. How can we change this? Hans Adler 08:07, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that plagiarism, when it falls short of genuinely illegal copyright violation, should not draw blocks or other severe sanctions, especially on the first complaint. We don't have to treat editors like criminals in such a case. It might be frowned on culturally; it might tend to look bad for Wikipedia or detract from an editor's reputation; but it's not actually in conflict with Wikipedia's core mission to get verifiable information into the article. It's not as bad as vandalism, and in my opinion it's not as bad as deletionism! It is also conceivable that a good editor could commit plagiarism accidentally - after all, when I edit articles I occasionally paste bits of source text into the edit box and delete them as I cover the points I want, and an accident is at least conceivable. N.B. I'd suggest replacing the very word "plagiarism" with "failure to clearly mark (and/or cite) quotations" Wnt (talk) 08:25, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Part of the problem is that the term plagiarism is often (and that includes the case that started this thread) used as a euphemism for copyvios. Another part of the problem is that if you create a passage by copying something from a source and rephrasing it, then you are creating a derivative version in the sense of copyright. If you are doing it thoroughly and don't save before you have finished, then the only thing that can be proved is plagiarism, but technically I think it's still a copyvio. But the editors who work in this way often make mistakes, and thus create text that looks harmless but after inspection of the page history turns out to be derived from copyrighted text and therefore a copyvio. I am categorically against advising editors to continue plagiarising, but to be more careful not to cross the line to provable copyvios. If editors stop plagiarising they will be in no danger of committing inadvertent copyvios, and it's better for the encyclopedia anyway. We are big enough already. It's time to focus on quality, which is our main problem. Hans Adler 08:50, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
We agree that mere rephrasing is a bad thing; it should follow that any policy that permits content if rephrasing is done, but not otherwise, is also a bad thing. Wnt (talk) 09:17, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Some corners of academia have a standard for plagiarism that is much stricter than what we're talking about or need. I was taught that if you're just rehashing, even entirely in your own words, what a writer is saying without giving them attribution then that's plagiarism. A fresh idea required the synthesis of two or more sources. We often don't have the luxury of two sources for every idea or fact, and we aren't writing academic term papers. We need to draw a firm line prohibiting copyright violations and outright plagiarism, but we also need to be careful that we draw it in an encyclopedia-centered way, rather than with standards that are more applicable to dissertations. This encyclopedia is its own thing.
Often we have to use a close paraphrase of a source. I've seen disputes that revolve around "that's not what the source says" in which the text gets closer and closer to the source material. That's usually a good thing, depending on the source. It's possible to inch towards plagiarism, as opposed to starting with it and then changing just enough to make it pass. Let's be careful how we proceed with policy changes with this issue, as it could disrupt a lot of carefully balanced articles.   Will Beback  talk  09:22, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Amazingly, the fallout from this, currently ranging from Wikipedia talk:Did you know through User talk:Risker#Can you explain to Wikipedia talk:Featured article candidates, as well as, of course, Wikipedia:Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents/Plagiarism and copyright concerns on the main page, has yet to hit Wikipedia talk:Plagiarism. I suspect that it's only a matter of time, though. ☺ Uncle G (talk) 11:45, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Yeah, this is where our community discussion model doesn't upscale. Even if we concentrated it in one place, it would quickly be tl;dr with people repeating the same stuff in 9 threads. I sometimes think the community needs a way of appointing a special commission to hear evidence, investigate facts, explore issues and bring recommendations.--Scott Mac 13:55, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
That has been proposed before, and actually I think we even created one once, with Jimbo's approval, at Wikipedia:Advisory Council on Project Development. Under the current circumstances, I remember once before ArbCom appointed a few individuals who had volunteered to help resolve the contentious issue of naming regarding the various "Macedonias". Maybe we could start something similar here, with individuals who are interested volunteering, and later have the ArbCom and maybe a few others review the applications and select the most qualified? John Carter (talk) 14:23, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I strongly disagree with this. I don't want ArbCom to expand from judiciary to executive and legislative roles. I am also skeptical of the premise that centralizing discussion will lead to better results. You can see centralized discussion at work in the 7924 comments to a news story on Yahoo - it doesn't work. Allowing conversations to split up in the way they do naturally here is actually a far more advanced fractal structure for discussion, which allows small groups to come to limited consenses that then pass to the other relevant forums for consideration. Wnt (talk) 23:18, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Back to Risker's original point, "Attribution should be made either through the edit summary or (preferred) with a notice on the talk page of the article saying "versions x to y contained material directly derived from source. This material is now properly attributed as of <date>." Copyvios found in the history of the article, but not present at the time of editing, should be similarly attributed. Bottom line - copyright holders do not care about historical versions, only the ones that are currently displayed; by attributing the prior text to them, we have appropriately credited their work and have met our obligations." That theory dies the moment infringement is spotted on a Books LLC compilation or any mirror that holds an old revision. Further, we cannot meet our obligations on copyright infringement through attributions - attribution is a mean to fix plagiarism issues, or problems with text copied from a free source which requires attribution. For copyright violations, the only way to meet our obligation is total removal of the material or obtaining permission to use it.
Further, copyrighted text later edited around, expanded or replaced gradually has become an unauthorized derivative work - it's like stripping parts off a stolen car and reusing them in other cars, they remain stolen goods even if used in otherwise legally obtained automobiles. MLauba (Talk) 16:48, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

First off, please go read the general disclaimer (link at the bottom of every single page on the project). Neither the WMF, nor Wikipedia, nor its community, nor its individual editors are responsible for subsequent use of any material that appears on this project. End users are responsible for conducting their own due diligence before publishing copies of the information hosted on this site. Why do you believe that the only way to correct a copyvio is to obliterate all subsequent text? Do you realise that every single article on this entire project is a derivative work? (If it isn't, then it is out of scope.)

There is no difference between an article that is edited to remove copyvios and one that is taken down to before the copyvio occurred and then re-edited to re-include all subsequent information with proper attribution. Meanwhile, all of the attribution to the editors who included good faith information will have been vaporized, which means that the reworked article is (at minimum) plagiarised. What you are proposing is that articles that have ever had a copyvio in them must be returned to the pre-copyvio state, and then never be permitted to have any of the subsequently included information returned to them. Removal of visible copyright violations and subsequent attribution is what is needed here, not causing the project to crash down over copyright paranoia. If you're editing properly, every single article edit you make is a derivative product that could be challenged for copyright. Risker (talk) 19:11, 1 November 2010 (UTC)

Yes, I do realize that every article is a derivative work, thanks for the patronizing. There is also a distinction between an authorized derivative work and an unauthorized one, which you seem to want to ignore. As you keep ignoring the fact that attribution is not a remedy to copyright infringement. Last but not least, you're confusing information (or facts and figures which cannot be copyrighted) with their creative expression, the way they have been written down by someone else. If you're editing properly, every article is an authorized derivative product of a free or properly licensed contribution that cannot be challenged for copyright. Not a house of cards built upon property used without permission.
Last but not least, throwing around loaded terms like copyright paranoia isn't exactly helpful. I would have expected better from a sitting arb. MLauba (Talk) 19:24, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
In all of these complex discussions, I'm left wondering how we expect our child editors to get it right; it's tough even for professionals and the arbs, but we have many children editing. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:28, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I'd like to see the policies encourage in-text attribution more. Lots of editors don't like it: "John Smith argues that x, where Paul Jones has countered that y." They argue that this is tedious to read, and that it can give a false impression that only these people makes these points, whereas they might be quite common. But it protects editors from adding inadvertent plagiarism, and it tells the reader where to look for the arguments, rather than burying the information in a footnote, which could be removed by mistake during a future copyedit. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:34, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
In response to MLauba, I'm sorry that I wrote in a way that came across as patronizing. In fact, I am fairly certain that most editors are unaware that Wikipedia is a derivative work. I do not understand why you think that putting a footnote or using quotation marks or otherwise attributing information to its original source makes an edit any more "authorized" than edits without such. Absent direct permission from the copyright holder, it's not any more authorized than one that has no attribution all. In other words, almost of our usage, whether attributed or not, is unauthorized; it falls under the aegis of fair use, whose requirement is attribution. The "creative expression" of which you speak...that's precisely one of the things that editors (particularly those working in contentious areas) routinely get in trouble with, when they are accused of misrepresenting or misinterpreting sources, which is exactly why we are seeing so much work closely paraphrasing references. SlimVirgin's example above is, sadly, precisely the sort of thing I refer to when using the expression "copyright paranoia". Risker (talk) 19:57, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
My recommending in-text attribution is copyright paranoia? No, I'm very opposed to copyright paranoia and I completely agree with you on that point. I do it because I want people to know who is saying what, because it often matters that we provide the historical context, or political context, and one way to signal that is to provide the reader in the text with an intellectual structure. It's quite standard in academia to make clear in the text who you're following. It's not connected to copyright, but to intellectual honesty, a related but separable issue. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:05, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
Fair enough, SlimVirgin; I've seen other editors give a more "CP" reason, but I can see you are coming from an entirely different perspective. It is very interesting to see how different editors wind up at the same place when trying to resolve different concerns. Risker (talk) 20:19, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not clear to me how the content of the Grace Sherwood article contained copy violations. As I understand it, the term "derivative work" in the art world for example, means a complete work with some derivation that comes out of another complete work. So a Chagall painting that is unmistakably Chagall but with some slight change that maintains the overall sense of Chagall, say another figure added, might be considered derivative. But a painting that uses the same colour as Chagall did, but which cannot be clearly identified with a Chagall painting, doesn't look like a Chagall, would not be derivative.This "Mona Lisa" is a derivative of a Michelangelo work. This Rubenspainting painting, Prometheus Bound is not, although Rubens used Michelangelo's work to inform his own painting, and the influence is felt but the work is not clearly "like" a Michelangelo An encyclopedia is meant to collect information on multiple works/sources, but no article could be considered derivative of a source, say a newspaper unless it unmistabely looks and read in total like that source... not a few lines but in total it is clearly derivative of the entire newspaper article. Total and complete seem like key words here. As an academic, using sources and quoting them is a standard practice. Paraphrasing is common...all is acceptable with attribution. None of this is considered derivative work. If I look at the Grace Sherwood article in total, I don't see a clear relationship to a source. I don't see the article as New York Times with a slight change so that the Times article is clearly the dominant factor in the entire article ... For starters that's impossible since the article itself is created on a bed of multiple sources. How could a Wikipedia article be considered derivative of multiple sources as I understand derivative. How would that look or read. Mind boggling if not impossible.
Is it possible we are using derivative in two different ways. In terms of copy vio I don't see a derivative work. I see a work with some text very close to the sources and in some cases identical to the sources. Attribution to the source is there but in many cases that the text is actually quoted is not. Derivative can also be used in an everyday sense to mean something that came from something else. So, most Wikipedia articles are definitely derivative in the everyday sense, but not in the larger copyvio sense. If we are using derivative in the copy vio sense to mean that all of our articles must contain no clear sense of the source at all... We aren't as Risker suggests going to have an encyclopedia.
Maybe I'm missing something here, and maybe someone has a better sense of this than I do.(olive (talk) 20:46, 1 November 2010 (UTC))
I think you don't have a very clear understanding of "derivative work". That's not surprising, since few people have, and even courts are struggling to define the concept. But what is certain is that reuse of small parts of a work can be and often is sufficient. If I e.g. cut apart two of my favourite movies, Twelve Angry Men and Inherit the Wind, and put the parts together as a 20 minute vignette telling a different story, that vignette is a derivative work of both of the original movies. Less abstract, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid is derivative of about 19 older movies, none of which is used in entirety, or anything close to it. --Stephan Schulz (talk) 22:02, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
The new movie you create movie is derivative because it is clearly recognizable as parts of both movies. The originals are not lost in the new movie, and I suspect that if you if you tried to "sell" the movie you'd end up in court. Many plays and movies are derivative (everyday use of the word) of other movies but the line between where a play is close enough to the original to require permission and must be attributed to use and where its not is tricky . At 19 influences, Dead man Wear Plaid probably has little that is recognizable from other movies...I think the issue has to do with an overall quality and recognizability to the source/ movie/ play /artwork rather than tracing the small parts, and that's the issue here too. Actually I'm somewhat familiar with copy vios on art work... but whether that applies here or not is another issue. Thanks for you help on this.(olive (talk) 22:46, 1 November 2010 (UTC))
I agree if I understand Slim Virgin correctly, that academic honesty means using content within some context of the larger source. This also creates a better read. The back and forth of one tiny bit of information countered by another on contentious articles often with no context may be the result of a desire to find a POV balance point but it generally doesn't help create and interesting and sometimes even understandable article.(olive (talk) 20:55, 1 November 2010 (UTC))
I think that there are times when we should say that "John Smith argues that" in the text, but only when we're describing expressions of opinion, (for example, I've come to think a version of this should nearly always be done when citing editorials about living persons). Still, inline references exist for a reason, to remove this burden, and editors who carelessly remove sources need to be persuaded not to do so - which should be easier to do with an inline reference, since its removal should be detectable by computer.
We should remember that Wikipedia once embraced and greatly benefitted by wholesale plagiarism of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, done without consent, with skimpy attribution, and only legal because the U.S. declines to enforce perpetual copyright. We know that this was less reliable than freshly written text, and eventually nearly all of it had to be purged, but frontier ethics applied. But Wikipedia still has frontiers - little stubs, poorly written articles — and there are still situations where banning mere plagiarism, as opposed to copyright violation, would actually be detrimental. Wnt (talk) 23:35, 1 November 2010 (UTC)
That's not plagiarism, that's use of public domain text with full attribution. It would have been plagiarism without the attribution, or with minor but unattributed alterations to the text. . . dave souza, talk 00:01, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

Disagreement in the very strongest possible terms with Wnt's position

I've been content to let this discussion go on here without me, but I just caught up with reading it and I wanted to express in the strongest possible terms my absolute and total rejection of Wnt's position here, completely and in total without any reservations of any kind. Plagiarism is extremely unethical and absolutely grounds for dismissal from the project. We should reject it with every fiber of our being. His remarks, particularly regarding the situation with the 1911 Britannica, suggest to me that he doesn't even know the meaning of the word, nor even the history of that aspect of Wikipedia's history. I did not want my silence here to be in any way viewed as agreement, and so I am speaking out very clearly: plagiarism is wrong and I absolutely will not tolerate it.

Nothing about my position implies that we can't take a thoughtful and reasonable approach to the definition of plagiarism, nor that we should not proceed as always with justice and compassion when there is a violation. Just as we sometimes let people come back to Wikipedia after vandalism or sockpuppeting, just as we believe in taking a positive and supportive view of human nature in other contexts, we don't need to go on any kind of draconian and silly witchhunt. But neither does that mean we should tolerate or condone destructive and unethical attitudes towards scholarship.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:12, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

I believe the second paragraph is barking up the wrong tree - blocks for copyright or plagiarism are extremely rare when compared to other causes and are normally limited to repeat offenders who refuse to get the point. What currently is a matter of contention is how far cleanup of copyvios (not plagiarism) has to go. The schools of thought here are mostly:
  1. Edit infringing text out of the live article, do nothing else
  2. Edit infringing text out of the live article, attribute the source of the copied material in an edit summary
  3. Revert to the last known non-infringing version, delete intermediary revisions where practical and start over, because every expansion upon copyvio text is an unauthorized derivative and has to go.
I'd appreciate your view on that specific area. I'll also note, for full disclosure, that the current cleanup practice at WP:CP matches the third approach above, one that I not only endorse but also pushed for (see eg. WP:Cv101). MLauba (Talk) 17:28, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
There is a guideline: WP:PLAGIARISM. I think the section "Addressing the editor involved" needs to be strengthened substantially. Anyone who edits on wikipedia ought to be assumed to know what plagiarism is and how to avoid it. If that assumption proves to be false, editing privileges ought to be suspended until the editor can show that it has become true. Nomoskedasticity (talk) 19:31, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
I'd really love if people commenting here could make an effort to understand that there's a difference between a copyvio and plagiarism. Plagiarism that isn't a copyvio at the same time can be fixed through attribution. My question was specifically aimed at dealing with the bigger problems of copyright infringement. MLauba (Talk) 21:39, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

Maybe standard conventions don't always work for an online encyclopedia. What if, in cases where the source pretty much nails it as far as phrasing goes (I'm talking about a sentence or two, not entire sections), could we possibly hyperlink the text in question directly to the source for attribution? It would at least indicate that we are aware of the copied text, and are making an effort to attribute it.The Eskimo (talk) 18:50, 2 November 2010 (UTC)

Indeed, attribution is always a good idea. Plagiarism is never the right thing to do.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 19:44, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
That's a very unrealistic scenario and a very odd proposed solution. Hans Adler 20:14, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Just trying to propose a solution to the problem rather than debating what is plagiarism. I'd rather not see a Wiki that looks like: "Journal X reported, "Thomas Jefferson was born in 17XX." Notable historian, John Doe, notes that "Jefferson was the third President of the United States." Collegiate text book publisher, Knowitall, Inc, included in the 7th edition of their recent textbook, "Jefferson was the principal author of the declaration of independence." The Eskimo (talk) 21:43, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
There's no debate on what constitutes plagiarism. Plagiarism is passing off someone's work as your own. The "debate" comes from the fact that most people confuse plagiarism with copyright infringement, the latter being the use of non-free material without permission. MLauba (Talk) 21:48, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with you in part, but I think the confusions often run deeper than that. One confusion is about copyright violation versus plagiarism - two different things (though related). Another confusion is about important stylistic matters and best practice, about which there can be reasonable disagreement, and which can be done very poorly or very well versus plagiarism. If there is attribution, there is no plagiarism, full stop. If the attribution isn't done as well as it should have been, but someone can easily find the source, and there is no passing off or pretense that the work is one's own, that's something that should be improved without question, but it is absolutely wrong to call that sort of thing plagiarism. Plagiarism is a form of lying, of pretending, of fraud upon the reader. Attribution is the opposite: it is being honest about where you got something.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:34, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
There is another element of confusion around attribution. Current consensus is that when we copy text from a public domain or otherwise reusable source and make it part of the article, it's not normally enough to cite the source as a reference. There must also be a clear hint that we have incorporated text as well as ideas. We usually use templates such as Template:1911 for that purpose. I think there is no legal requirement for this, and we could replace this practice with a general disclaimer that some of our text may be lifted from some of the free sources which it cites. But that's not how we are officially doing this at the moment, and I think that for various reasons our current practice makes sense. Hans Adler 18:15, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
In-text attribution is always a good option if you're having to paraphrase a source closely: "According to the BBC," or "The historian John Smith argued that ..." SlimVirgin talk|contribs 21:09, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Absolutely right. And notice one detail... it's perfectly ok to say "According to the BBC..." with a link (or proper description) of where the BBC said it, even if we also happen to know that journalist John Smith wrote it on behalf of the BBC. It is generally better to attribute to the exact journalist (and depending on the context, it can be extremely important to do so, for example with opinion columnists!), but it is not plagiarism to get it not quite right.
One problem I have seen is a debasing of the meaning of the term plagiarism by overusing it to the point of absurdity. When someone claims that text, fully attributed to a source that anyone can look up, is plagiarized, that's just wrong, and it obscures the very real moral problem of people trying to pass off other people's work as their own. Even in cases where the attribution is done poorly, as long as there is attribution, there is no plagiarism - just bad style or bad writing. It is the moral crime of pretending that someone else's work is your own which amounts to plagiarism.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:34, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Our guideline is fine. Plagiarized text is never acceptable anywhere, and our guideline reflects that standard. However to plagiarize may be deliberate or not, and our guideline suggests that editors who have created plagiarized text be notified and asked to fix the problem. Plagiarism is not understood by or obvious to everyone and plagiarized text can be missed for lots of reasons. It is repeated and deliberate plagiarism that is a concern in terms of editor behaviour once an editor has been made aware that what they are doing is a problem. I don't believe that an editor who has plagiarized text be "shown the door", but I do, however, believe that editors who continue to plagiarize be blocked or banned. As a professor if I have a very good student in whose work I find plagiarized text, I'd first make sure the student knows what plagiarism is, ask them why they plagiarized and based on that answer, I'd probably ask them if they'd prefer to fix the problem or take a failing grade. I have to assume there's some explanation for the text that is not obvious, because I respect the student's history. I've seen text added by an experienced editor who knows very well what plagiarized text is, but I'm 100% sure that editor did not intend to plagiarize. (And that editor almost always disagrees with me :o)). Its an easy fix to notify him and have him fix the problem and it warns him to be more careful. Plagiarism has a nasty smell attached to it, but we have to make sure we don't confuse the smell with errors made by the editor for reasons that may not be obvious. I think collaboration means we help each other, learn from each other, and use the door out for editors who don't play well with others, or deliberately harm the encyclopedia. We all make errors every day here, that's how we learn. If we want an encyclopedia where there are no mistakes made then we'd better employ professionals and forget the encyclopedia anyone can edit. Don't mean to sound preachy but I think there are simpler ways of dealing with this issue than what happened, with no disrespect or blame in any way thrown at anyone dealing with this.(olive (talk) 22:11, 2 November 2010 (UTC))
No formal action was taken in regard to Rlevse, due to his hasty departure. But if he had stayed he would have had to answer for a pattern of plagiarism that extends into at least several articles that he submitted for special attention. One instance of plagiarism by a new editor should be treated gently. Serial plagiarism by an experienced editor requires a stronger response.   Will Beback  talk  22:26, 2 November 2010 (UTC
...and conversely and editor with a long of history of service would have deserved a chance to explain. This is far from black and white and oversimplification in terms of judgement can lead to more mistakes. My comment by the way was not so much about this recent situation as it was a response to comments about the guideline although Rlevse's situation is certainly in my mind and informed my thinking. (olive (talk) 22:45, 2 November 2010 (UTC))
Rlevse was asked to explain and he replied with uncivil remarks before leaving. In most cases, editors accused of plagiarism either deny it or apologize for it, and there's no enforcement. Only the most egregious and unrepentant editors have been blocked. Although evidence of plagiarism has been presented in many ArbCom cases, I can find only two in which plagiarism was mentioned in the "principles" and none in which there was a finding that plagiarism had occurred. The ArbCom does not consider it a serious issue, judging by their decisions. I think that's regrettable.   Will Beback  talk  23:09, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Rlevse said early on in this situation, if I remember correctly, that the content was attributed so it wasn't plagiarism. He as well admitted his great strength is not the writing of articles which is why he asked for help in preparing the Grace Sherwood article for FA approval. Being accused of plagiarism when you don't believe you have plagiarized, and I don't see anywhere where he did not attribute text, would probably make any one feel a little testy. And his one testy comment is a stretch in terms of the above "uncivil remarks". The guideline clearly states that an accusation of plagiarism is a serious accusation and editors should be approached with care when plagiarism is suspected. This wasn't done so a little testiness is forgivable. As well at least one of the so called "plagiarized material" is a list and its hard to see how else that text could be written. Jimbo's comment clarifies for me at least the discrepancy I saw in the guideline, how plagiarism is generally defined-as theft, and in what has been called plagiarism in this case. I feel this has been not just badly handled, hopefully with the best of intentions, but wrong from beginning to end. While Rlevse may not be the best writer around as he admits, that he deliberately set out to steal another's work and harm the encyclopedia seems an absurd accusation.(olive (talk) 17:26, 3 November 2010 (UTC))
It's a difficult issue because Wikipedians are not professional writers, yet we insist that editors closely follow the sources but not too closely, which requires a skill in summarizing that can take a long time to develop. It's complicated further by the fact that editors often remove "John Smith argued," and citations get lost in the shuffle, and we also want to avoid quote farms. So while I'm not defending plagiarism or copyvios, looking at the context is important. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:26, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
Sure, but according to the ArbCom, there has never been a single instance of plagiarism on Wikipedia worth mentioning in a case. I don't know whether they find the allegations too difficult to prove or too unimportant to bother with. Since WP:PLAGIARISM is simply a guideline, not a policy, it may be the latter.   Will Beback  talk  23:40, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree we should be tough where it's clear it's plagiarism. But I remember you said a long time ago that the best Wikipedians were in effect stenographers. I think it's difficult to ask people to be stenographers, but not really, and without training. Add to that the various wikicups, and the DYK business of it having to be a new article or 5 x increased, and you get a pressure that really lends itself to this situation. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 23:59, 2 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't recall saying that, but if I did perhaps I was plagiarizing the words of an other editor.[9] ;) It looks like Rlevse did get caught up in the DYK/FA excitement, and cut corners to write his articles. Imagine how it must affect less scrupulous editors.   Will Beback  talk  00:51, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
It's not policy? Peculiar... Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 00:58, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
(ec) That was me plagiarizing you, in fact. :) But seriously we face issues other writers don't, because we're expected to stick so closely to the sources. Professional writers have to be able to do that, but they don't fill their working lives with it. We do. Stick close enough to the sources so you don't get shouted at; not so close that you're accused of copyright violations. And don't be adding "Smith said, Jones argued" every five minutes or people get annoyed. It's not easy! SlimVirgin talk|contribs 01:02, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
(ec) I've never really liked the whole DYK process, and this is a perfect example of what can happen when editors get out of control with it. DYKs and FA's are increasingly being required for a successful RFA, with editors who are perfectly qualified in every other area of Wikipedia being denied the mop simply because they didn't meet someone's "10 FA requirement" or "5 DYK requirement." If and Arb can become caught up in this, anyone can. Ronk01 talk 01:04, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Can we agree that plagiarism implies intent...or at least laziness? There are only so many musical notes that can be played in so many sequences, that every musical rerfain will eventually be played before. Room full of monkeys composing Shakespeare, etc. Such it is with language.The Eskimo (talk) 02:34, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

English Wikipedia did plagiarise EB1911 en-mass by not properly attributing the authors. John Vandenberg (chat) 03:27, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

The community has learned some lessons from the whole EB1911 thing. I'm glad to say that the standards are rising.   Will Beback  talk  11:15, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
That is absolutely false.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:12, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Where does this revision attribute the author? Please compare with s:1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Anbar.
Do you accept that our pages that have been built from the PD sources such as the EB1911 should have attributed the initial authors in order to have complied with the spirit (if not the letter) of the GFDL, and now with CC-BY-SA? --John Vandenberg (chat) 21:43, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Jimbo right above stated in bold :"Even in cases where the attribution is done poorly, as long as there is attribution, there is no plagiarism - just bad style or bad writing." It is a good thing that Wikipedia continues to improve in size and quality. Some who wish us ill insist that until an article is perfect, it should not exist. Since nothing is ever perfect, and this insistence is made only for us and not for example the New York Times or Encyclopedia Britannica; it is simply a "please die" request. Things could have been done better and could be done better now. Wikipedia is useful and every year more useful and that's good. Complaints are one way to generate improvement, but I fail to see how rehashing the ancient (in www years) past helps. - WAS 4.250 (talk) 22:06, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
So you agree that it is just "bad style" to make a few changes to a PD-old text and then license it as GFDL with a note to say that it incorporates text from the PD, and without mentioning who the author was. To me, that is copyfraud. I think it is important to understand the past in order to learn from it. John Vandenberg (chat) 22:27, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I doubt your legal theory holds water. (1) I think copyfraud usually doesn't arise before you actually try to restrict someone's actions. (2) The GFDL was on the entire collection, i.e. all of Wikipedia, so it wasn't incorrectly applied. (3) A clear hint was added that the material was in the public domain. (Not that that was necessary, it was just Wikipedia being nice.) Hans Adler 23:25, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
"Initial text from 1911 encyclopedia". I see nothing wrong with that version, at least not more wrong than an insufficient description of a cited source, for example. Hans Adler 22:09, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
Exactly. Attribution to a source must accomplish one thing: enable the reader to find the original text for verification and further insight. There is no need to attribute it specifically to one author, even if that would be good style. --Pgallert (talk) 23:11, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
I'll admit that I am rather confused about the definitions of plagiarism. In the conversation to which I responded, I had the impression that many people would regard the verbatim copying of two sentences from a source, followed by a proper inline reference, to be plagiarism. But from this conversation I might infer the opposite. Wnt (talk) 23:30, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
It hinges on proper attribution. Just an ordinary reference is not enough. If you put a sentence somewhere that says "Part of this text may be based on a public domain text.", that would already be enough to make it no plagiarism. Hans Adler 23:34, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
To be clear, I was thinking of two sentences from a copyrighted text, which as I understand is nowhere near a copyright violation. But the way you describe it, I almost wonder if we could simply add a line to the general disclaimer... Wnt (talk) 23:39, 3 November 2010 (UTC)
From this guidance, using two sentences in quotation marks with attribution is ok, but using them as your own words is plagiarism: even with attribution, using the two sentences with the sequence of phrases altered and some words changed is still plagiarism. Rewriting the same information in your own words, with an inline citation, is the aim. Not always very easy to achieve without causing a subtle shift in meaning, which is where it becomes difficult and a bit blurred – sometimes a few words are a generally accepted standard way to convey a piece of information, and may be acceptable on that basis, but as much as possible re-using phrases should be avoided. That's from an academic context, the aim at Wikipedia must be to attain the same standards but with so much confusion over the issue it's not going to happen overnight. . dave souza, talk 00:15, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
That guidance is from academia and therefore not entirely appropriate for our needs. If I submit a paper to a scientific journal, and it says "Part of this text is based on the 1911 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica", then it will obviously be rejected by the referee. That's why this option is not considered in the normal texts on plagiarism. Hans Adler 07:29, 4 November 2010 (UTC)

"Plagiarism" is "kidnapping." Literally. Attribution obviates any charge of kidnapping (that is, making people believe you came up with something without using references). Much of what has been called "plagiarism" here is not plagiarism - it is a strange belief that facts represent an individual thought which, even if attributed, somehow injures the person who first had the thought. This is, unfortunately, directly opposite to court rulings that simple expressions of fact can not be copyrighted. And the idea that using weird wording makes it any less plagiarism is not logical -- simple wording is best on WP, and suggesting that roundabout wording is in any way superior makes precious little sense. Our task is not to make a baroque work, but one which is as easy to read as possible. Collect (talk) 23:38, 3 November 2010 (UTC)

My understanding is that copyright is a legal requirement, plagiarism is an academic standard which in extreme cases may have copyright implications, but in general sets a more onerous standard that authors should put things in their own words as much as possible, even though this may not be a legal requirement. Simple wording is indeed best, and is best attained by working from scratch, but our needs, to avoid original thought and to work from sources, mean that we have to convey another author's meaning simply and concisely without using the same wording. See the link from my comment at 00:15, 4 November.... dave souza, talk 00:25, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
In an academic setting plagiarism has come to mean more than just attribution since what is often being looking for is original thought, most often that is based on the work of other authors. Therefore the student cannot be allowed to cite with out quotation marks or to praphrase in case the quote or paraphrase be considered the student's own thinking, rather than that of the source. This is an academic concern or a concern where what is being stolen is the "creativity" of the source. An encyclopedia is a different matter where we want to make sure there is no new or original thought. Attribution ensures credit is given to the source, while paraphrasing is frankly how much of this encyclopedia has been written. On contentious articles something that was not very very close to the source would probably be removed. What is good for the academic world is going to make writing an encyclopedia very difficult and on some kinds of articles, almost impossible. Its clear form this discussion that different editors either have varying views on what plagiarism is, don't really understand what it is, and that plagiarism has generally not been well defined for our purposes. (olive (talk) 02:09, 4 November 2010 (UTC))
People have been asking about this for years on the NOR talk page. How do we present articles that are never based on original thought, while at the same time making sure they don't amount to plagiarism, copyright violations, SYN violations, or such close paraphrasing that it almost amounts to plagiarism? It's especially difficult in contentious articles where any attempt to summarize a source can lead to objections, which is why very contentious topics often end up as quote farms. What would be very helpful is if people with real-life experience of this (academics, writers, editors) could get together and write a guideline on how to summarize without straying too close or too far. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 02:47, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
I tried to shed some light on the proper definitions, particularly of plagiarism and close paraphrasing, here. Unfortunately our guidelines and essays in this area sometimes contribute more to the problem than to the solution. Hope mine is not one of them. In a nutshell: Close paraphrasing is always plagiarism, with or without attribution. That makes the EB1911 claim somewhat relative, but the template does more than referencing; it acknowledges the possibility that entire passages might have been copied over, and that irons out the plagiarism concerns. Detailed reasoning in my essay, cheers, --Pgallert (talk) 07:23, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
Regardless of the substance in the rest of your essay, your last sentence is completely off the mark. There's less than a dozen people regularly fixing text copyvios on wikipedia, and barely another dozen working on checking contributions of editors identified as having a long history of infringement. There is in fact a massive issue with copyvios on Wikipedia and not enough people to look after it. MLauba (Talk) 09:43, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
These are good points, well stated. In a nutshell, the paraphrasing that's commonplace on Wikipedia can easily become excessively close paraphrasing, and thus a copyvio problem. My suggestion that this should be spelt out in Wikipedia:Copyright violations policy rather than relying on somewhat contradictory guidelines is set out in more detail at WP:Pacom#Is plagiarism a problem? which seems a good page for discussions to resolve this issue. . . dave souza, talk 12:22, 4 November 2010 (UTC)
@MLauba, I was also counting people who do it outside the official fora, as well as the ones reporting to WP:CV, that makes it a few hundred. They are not constantly working on it but always have it in the back of their minds. There should be more, I acknowledge that. --Pgallert (talk) 07:19, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Per WP:Plagiarism, as currently written, too-close paraphrasing of a source may be plagiarism even if the source is referenced. The idea that "as long as there is attribution, there is no plagiarism" is not reflected in the guideline. For example, in the section Wikipedia:Plagiarism#How_to_find_plagiarism, it says, It can also be useful to perform a direct comparison between cited sources and text within the article, to see if text has been plagiarized, including too-close paraphrasing of the original. Here it should be borne in mind that an occasional sentence in an article that bears a recognizable similarity to a sentence in a cited source is not generally a cause for concern. Some facts and opinions can only be expressed in so many ways, and still be the same fact, or opinion. A plagiarism concern arises when there is evidence of systematic copying of the diction of one or more sources across multiple sentences or paragraphs. In addition, if the source is not free, check to be sure that any duplicated creative expressions are marked as quotations. --JN466 12:18, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
That's correct. There is a difference between using Template:1911 and using EB 1911 in the references. If an article incorporates text from EB 1911 the former must be done, although it's not a huge problem if only the latter is done instead. (It is plagiarism, but not a big problem since it's not a copyvio.) Hans Adler 12:31, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes; the situation is more precarious where cited non-free sources are closely paraphrased, as in Rlevse's case. --JN466 12:54, 5 November 2010 (UTC)
What I'm getting from this discussion is that many here feel that there are two different types of "attribution" on Wikipedia, which I'll dub "text attribution" and "fact attribution". The only standardized usage of the former that I know of is the 1911 template. Personally, I don't think that we have to recognize the difference between them, given that plagiarism is not a legal concept, and usually concerns composition of original writing, whereas this is an encyclopedia that prohibits original research. But if we do recognize the difference, should we create tools to formalize it? For example, we might request MediaWiki to create <att> and </att> tags that work just like <ref> tags, but come up in, say, green rather than blue, and automatically insert a preamble and display mouseover text saying that content was used word for word from the indicated source. (Of course, this could be implemented almost as well with a template)
JN, I don't think that we should distinguish between free and non-free sources where "plagiarism" is considered. An edit is no less a copyright violation if we put it in quotation marks or use blockquote tags, and as far as I know there's no principle regarding plagiarism that says that sources expired to the public domain don't count as much. Wnt (talk) 10:15, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
The 1911 template is the only one you know because it's the most widespread. But we have an entire category for similar templates: Category:Attribution templates. I just noticed that many of them are miscategorised, though, and are really just citation templates. Apparently someone unfamiliar with the citation/attribution distinction has been ignoring the category description. Hans Adler 10:26, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
Wnt, you are right, as far as plagiarism is concerned, it does not matter if the source is free or non-free. However, if the cited source is non-free, plagiarism will usually also be a copyvio, making the matter more serious. As far as quotation marks are concerned, clearly marking a short quotation as such, using quotation marks or blockquote tags, does make a difference in terms of copyright law (see e.g. [10] and many others like it, as well as Wikipedia:Copyrights#Non-free_materials_and_special_requirements). --JN466 14:40, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

Was what Rlevse did a copyright violation or not? And if it wasn't, why should it matter?

Jimbo said above that "Even in cases where the attribution is done poorly, as long as there is attribution, there is no plagiarism – just bad style or bad writing." We are setting a higher standard in WP:Plagarism, saying that close paraphrasing with attribution is plagiarism. This is a standard for academia, where people are supposed to do original research, and it may simply be unrealistic for this project. If even an arbitrator, bureaucrat, admin, checkuser and long-term editor like Rlevse can fall foul of our plagiarism guideline (though not necessarily our copyright policy), what realistic chance do we have that occasional contributors, including children writing here about their favourite computer games, will comply with it? There is an argument to be made that we should concentrate on compliance with copyright law, and that we should accept that something that would be defined as plagiarism in academia is widespread in this project and will never be eradicated, given WP:NOR policy.

Here is Rlevse's source. Here is Rlevse's edit. Now, was this a clear, deliberate and/or actionable copyright violation? If so, fair enough. But if it wasn't, is it worth the human cost to the project to insist on the enforcement of plagiarism standards that are designed for original research, i.e. a completely different context than the one we have here, where we are not expected to do original research? (I've made the same point at WT:Plagiarism.) --JN466 15:38, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

In my view, we have to be very careful not to mix up several related concepts, as follows:
  1. Copyright violation - Copyright violation is really a red herring in discussions of plagiarism, because it is not the same thing. You can have a copyright violation without plagiarism, and you can have plagiarism without copyright violation. An example of the former would be to cut and paste an entire entry from a copyrighted encyclopedia, with clear attribution. An example of the latter would be to cut and paste an entire entry from a public domain source, without any attribution at all. I think one reason people keep bringing up copyright violation is that as an empirical matter, routine copyright enforcement involves finding cases that are also actually plagiarism.
  2. Plagiarism - defined by Oxford American Dictionary as "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own". The key elements here are passing off and failure to attribute.
  3. Weak attribution or poor paraphrasing with good attribution - an example of weak attribution would be to quote an essay by a particular author in a book of essays by only naming the book and page number and not naming the particular author. An example of poor paraphrasing would be to very very lightly rewrite a long passage from an essay, with attribution.
All of these things are things we should reject for Wikipedia. All of them are bad. But they are also different things. It is no apology for bad writing of any kind to point out that it is not plagiarism as long as you attribute. My view of the project is that we should adhere to very high standards, and that means more than just not plagiarizing.
The example you cite is certainly a bad edit, a disappointing edit. There are many obvious ways to improve it. Shifting to quotation for much of it would help a lot. Clearer attribution in the text of particular facts drawn from the USA Today (Associated Press, actualy) piece would help a lot. "USA Today wrote about the case, and explained that..." would be a nice start.
But what the edit does not exhibit is a failure to attribute. There is no passing off. That is not much consolation, but it does mean that it is reckless and unfair to claim otherwise.
So to answer your question, I would say that it is fair and important for us to hold ourselves to very high standards. But it is also important that we are precise with our meanings, and say things in the right way, rather than using loose and hurtful claims of plagiarism, which suggest something not in evidence here: an attempt to pass off ideas, an attempt to deceive. There's a perfectly valid attribution. There's also excessive paraphrasing.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:51, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

We must make clear that there is a difference between sourcing and attribution. Sourcing implies "this information came from" and attribution states "this text was written by". Sourcing says "the research is not my own" and ought to be the default position of any Wikipedia article (WP:NOR)- attribution says "the text was not written by me" and (unless the text comes from another GFDL source) ought to be rare on wikipedia. There ought seldom to be any confusion between the two. Making sure that we attribute any text taken from other sources really does need to be explicit by quotation marking, because the default assumption is that the person who's name is in the edit history is the creator of the text. Merely indicating a source isn't "weak attribution", it just isn't attribution at all. Because the default assumption is that sources are accrediting facts, not text.--Scott Mac 17:21, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

That is a reasonable position and a good way to put the difference. My point is that not every instance of error in this area is an instance of 'plagiarism'. (I would argue that merely indicating a source is "weak attribution" rather than "no attribution at all", but that splitting hairs with respect to what ought to be done (i.e. do it the right way), which we agree on completely.)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 18:33, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
I think we've obviously operating with a different understanding of plagiarism, and, with respect, I don't think the difference is splitting hairs. An error in this area is most certainly 'plagiarism'. Of course, it may be not deliberate, it may be accidental or careless - but it is still plagiarism. I can't even guarantee I've not made errors here myself - but that doesn't change what plagiarism is. (And, of course, there is a grey area as to how close my writing needs to be to the source before it is plagiarism - is merely using the order of ideas or order of words?.) But if I am using another's words, then the duty is on me to attribute, and to do so in an unambiguous way. There is no way that merely sourcing is a discharging of this - not in any way shape or form - because Wikipedia (in common with most others) uses sourcing to mean something else entirely. I know of no context where sourcing would imply an attribution of the associated text directly to the source, without quotation marks. Is there any other field of writing where that is the case? Is there any reason for a reader to assume that a sourcing being given may imply that the form of words (as opposed to the ideas they express) are directly lifted from the source? With respect, this is not really a credible plea in mitigation.--Scott Mac 18:59, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
(ec) I wouldn't want to see any increase in the use of quotation marks on Wikipedia, because they're already overused. The problem with the edit highlighted above was that it did not cite its source in the footnote. It cited a different source, [11] not the one the text had been taken from. [12] I assume this was an error as footnotes were moved around during an edit, which happens a lot. The way to deal with this is to use in-text attribution, which can be used with or without quotation marks (direct speech or indirect speech). "According to the Associated Press, Virginia never had a witch craze ..." or "John Smith speaking to USA Today said that Virginia never had a witch craze..." That clearly signals that what follows the attribution may be a quote or very close paraphrasing, without relegating the source to a footnote that can easily be moved by mistake. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:09, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not arguing for an increase in the use of quotation marks. I'm saying we shouldn't be plagiarising. If we stay clear of borrowing other people's words, then we don't need the quotation marks. The examples you give are not quite equivalent, because they attribute research or, indeed, opinion rather than text. ""According to the Associated Press, Virginia never had a witch craze", is correct not because the statement without it would be plagiarism (it would not be, I think - there's no original expression in "Virginian did not have a witch craze" ), but that without it "Virginia never had a witch craze" would be POV. Sure, when you use such it may indicate close paraphrasing too - but that's not the point. The type of attribution you are using here ought to be used where the information is original to the source, or reflects the source's own conclusions - and not to justify paraphrasing for its own sake. If we said "According to the Oxford Dictionary of English History, the battle of Hastings was fought between the Anglo-Saxon King Harold and the Norman interloper William, in 1066" - not only would we look absurd, but it would be a piss poor excuse if for lifting "battle of Hastings was fought between the Anglo-Saxon King Harold and the Norman interloper William, in 1066" from the source. If you must lift text that closely (and it should certainly be avoided) then quotation marks are required. If you want to avoid quotation mark - don't quote other people.--Scott Mac 19:27, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
It is unfortunate that even after these events, efforts are being made to weaken the WP:Plagiarism policy requiring that quotes be explicity set off as such. If anything the requirement for explicitly denoting quotes should be strengthened. Kablammo (talk) 19:40, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

I find it difficult to impossible to believe that Rlevse did any of the edits in question knowingly and or maliciously or even because he was lazy. He clearly stated that he isn't a very good writer...most people aren't. No doubt referencing and writing expectations on Wikipedia have risen a lot...some of the earliest U.S. National Park articles written here consisted of mostly copy paste directly from U.S. Government web sources...they were attributed and these were public domain sources, but is was hardly original research....and do we even want "original research"?--MONGO 19:28, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm happy to assume good faith and not attribute malice or deliberate fraud to Rlevse, for which there is absolutely no evidence. But plagiarism is always unacceptable. It may be that once upon a time Wikipedia didn't get that. But plagiarism isn't unacceptable because it breaches some wikipedia policy, plagiarism is unacceptable because it is wrong. If wikipedia was once more tolerant of it, then Wikipedia was wrong. I don't want to persecute Rlevse - give the guy a break. However, in saying "he didn't mean to" we can't afford to give the impression that we can take a soft line on this. Wikipedia is a project in writing, any project in writing needs to take a very hard line against this, in order to get the message across, precisely because a lot of good people will do it without realising it is wrong. It is because it is an easy error to make, we need to shout loudly "Do not do this" "Do not even nearly do this"--Scott Mac 19:39, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
(ec) Scott, we shouldn't be adding quotation marks without saying in the text whom we're quoting; like this, for example—the battle of Hastings "was fought between the Anglo-Saxon King Harold and the Norman interloper William ..." (plus citation in a footnote). We see that a lot on WP, but it's not something we should encourage. But you're right that adding "according to the Oxford Dictionary of History" is inappropriate too, because it's not only according to them, just as using the Associated Press as a source for the history of witchcraft allegations in the United States was inappropriate.
This is why it's difficult to discuss plagiarism and copyright out of context of other editorial decisions. We want editors to use the right sources in the right way, and plagiarism and copyright issues are just one of the ways in which things can go wrong. The danger here is in offering advice to alleviate that one problem that inadvertently leads to poor editing of another kind. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 19:41, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
An example of unintended consquences would be changes to quoted text, which is not set off by quotation marks, by a later editor who does not appreciate that the text was an exact quote. Or perhaps: According to USA Today . . . followed by several verbatim sentences followed by a cite at the end of the paragraph.
We need a bright line here. Kablammo (talk) 19:53, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
If it's important that the source's exact words be used and not changed, then quotation marks are appropriate. But we see them wildly overused on Wikipedia, because people are scared to paraphrase (or sometimes too lazy to do it). Sometimes they're scared because it's a contentious issue; sometimes because they don't understand the NOR policy and worry about straying too far from the source.
The bottom line is that people often don't know how to summarize. When I was at primary school, and well into secondary, we had a class called "Comprehension," where we read a text then had to write an essay that summarized it, without straying too far, and without copying it. Those are skills that I think are not taught now, because I notice younger Wikipedians constantly having problems with this, and having to restort to adding quotation marks for perfectly ordinary turns of phrase. So it would be incredibly helpful if we could set up a page on "how to summarize." I'm not sure how to go about that myself, but I'm going to ask a few Wikipedians for some input. SlimVirgin talk|contribs 20:22, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree, on both counts. The inexperience of editors is one reason why I suggest quote marks be required. A "how to summarize" page would be very helpful. Such a page could contain examples of the process, perhaps by several experienced editors independently summarizing the same source material, whose work would be critiqued by both a good writer and a copyright specialist. Kablammo (talk) 20:58, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I guess what I am wondering is, What benefit does it bring the project, and the reader, if we tell our editors: "Respect copyright, AND ON TOP OF THAT, do not plagiarise your sources." Note that I am NOT talking about public-domain sources here: I am talking about copyrighted sources. If an editor who is not a great writer closely paraphrases a single salient paragraph from a 300-page book, which is properly cited in an inline reference, this is unlikely to rise to the level of copyright infringement. Yet we are telling the editor that what she is doing is not okay: that she has plagiarised the source. So, to avoid this, the editor will try to re-write the paragraph, changing its structure, replacing idiomatic expressions with less idiomatic ones, placing quotation marks around non-original phrases like "in the 14th or 15th century" because they are 6 words long, and she can't think of another way of saying that and is afraid of being dragged to AN/I, and so forth. What we have in the end is poor prose, and a poorer experience for our reader. Now, what is the point of doing that, if the close paraphrase would not have raised a copyright concern? What are we gaining? What is the reader gaining?
  • I propose that we should give editors clear, professionally informed guidance on how to avoid copyright infringement. We can even provide training on how to achieve original writing. But we should not sanction an editor who has not committed a copyright violation because we feel that they have failed to meet an academic standard of plagiarism. It is unrealistic, given our contributor base, which includes minors and people who can't spell. Have I expressed myself clearly? --JN466 22:26, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Closely paraphrasing an entire paragraph is at least a borderline copyvio, depending on the details and depending on the judge. The unnatural behaviour you are describing is obviously not what we want. What we need is editors who are able to read and understand an entire paragraph, and then write about it in their own words. That's a very basic ability that we can expect from everybody who is trying to write an encyclopedia. This technique also leads very naturally to added value, because the editor will usually have read other sources as well and will take their information into account as well, ideally crediting them where appropriate. Regarding editors who can't properly rephrase a paragraph, there are still some other things they can do, but if they don't stick to them it's a problem and they may have to be shown the door if they can't pick it up from others. Recently WP:COMPETENCE has been becoming a bit more popular as a block reason, and that's a good trend overall. Hans Adler 22:46, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
      • The problem is that a source which simply describes events – e.g. a fatal accident – in the sequence in which they occurred can be well-nigh impossible to summarise without "plagiarising" it. --JN466 23:36, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
        • I have never been in that situation, I believe, but it sounds reasonable. In that case the method I described would still be correct. It's result would be something that is indistinguishable from a close paraphrase based on objective criteria, but was created differently. That's fine, although I admit there is a potential of unnecessary disputes that might alienate users who have done the right thing. On the other hand permitting plagiarism in general would have other undesirable consequences, so it's a matter of balancing trade-offs. Hans Adler 23:54, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Facts stated in simple language are basically not copyrightable. Asking that editors use wording around Robin Hood's barn in order to make the simple fact into something ornate is not reasonably called for, and is entirely impracticable to police. Academic papers generally require the use of facts to draw conclusions (what else is the purpose of an academic paper?) so the standard for them (that is, not allowing the presentation of conclusions as one's own work) is not the issue on WP where we are expressly forbidden to draw conclusions. Thus that standard is improperly applied on WP. We are not producing dissertations (I hope) but simply stating facts as facts, and opinions as cited opinions. Neither of which should qualify as "plagiarism". Collect (talk) 22:37, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
A trend to block users because of their competence levels is not viable on a encyclopedia where editors are people of all ages and education levels and on an encyclopedia anyone at all can edit. Then what exactly is competence and who judges it? If we want an encyclopedia where editors are "competent" we had better hire experts to write articles. But then, editors competent in one area may not competent to write in another. Blocks for a lack of competence is a bag of snakes and a pandora's box rolled into one impossible to enforce and given the kind of encyclopedia this is, unfair unit. My opinion of course. (olive (talk) 23:22, 6 November 2010 (UTC))
A competence block would be appropriate, for example, when an editor who only speaks Portuguese, say, insists on editing the English Wikipedia using an automatic translation system and insists on continuing after warnings from Portuguese speaking editors. And if an editor persists in editing only by plagiarism and copyvios even after explanations and warnings, they may also have to be stopped from contributing. It makes no sense to keep competent editors such as Moonriddengirl occupied with cleaning up after other people who can't write, but try it anyway on marginally notable subjects that are already overrepresented in Wikipedia, when these competent editors would rather write encyclopedic articles themselves. I see reasonable(!) compentence blocks as a good sign because they put our goal in the centre. Hans Adler 23:34, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

The English Wikipedia generally has an obsession with its own policies and guidelines and a tendency to lose sight of the goal of writing an encyclopedia. Many editors pick out from our rules what they like, and interpret it in a fundamentalist way. I think our current rule set has two major defects:

  1. It is dispute-oriented rather than use-oriented. I.e. it is organised so that you can find ammunition against your opponent rather easily, but when a specific question arises while editing it doesn't really help to find the solution.
  2. Rules that should really define what the desired/permitted range of content/behaviour/... on a scale is are split up into a rule describing what's forbidden at one and, and another that describes what's forbidden at the other end. As both rules are subject to WP:CREEP, we end up with increasingly contradictory rules that reduce the permitted range until it is empty.

I think the situation at the German Wikipedia is slightly better in this respect. They have many of the same defects in their rule set, but at least they have a relatively well organised core set of guidelines, sorted as follows: Core policies (NOT, NPOV, NOR, COPY, BLP, WQT), Articles (N, Writing better articles, V, CITE, Files, Spelling, TALK), Rules for specific topics, Site organisation (Article titles, Disambiguation, Categories, Lists), Linking, Formatting. Note, for example, that there is no direct equivalent of MOS but a central (and prominently linked) manual WP:Writing better articles that lists the most important criteria and links to more specific guidelines where appropriate. Due to this organisation it's easier to understand how the guidelines play together, and to notice any contradictions between the text or proposed interpretation of a guideline and another guideline. This may be one of the reasons why they have much less wikilawyering.

IMO most of our policies should be rewritten into use-oriented guidelines, with top-down presentation, with potentially contradictory policies or guidelines presented as subpages of a single one that describes the balance between them. E.g. there could be a single guideline on reusing other people's text, possibly with subpages on copyvios, plagiarism, and how to handle copying inside Wikipedia. Hans Adler 23:34, 6 November 2010 (UTC)

Amen, Hans. We have too many policies telling people what not to do, and too few tutorials outlining best practices. --JN466 23:39, 6 November 2010 (UTC)
  • There is a useful article here by Irving Hexham that argues that plagiarism standards for textbooks and encyclopedia articles need to be quite different from those that apply in other academic contexts. It is not appropriate for us to work with definitions of plagiarism that were conceived for a different context than the one we are working in, i.e. for contexts demanding original writing vs. contexts like ours, where the task is summarising existing knowledge, and there is no pretense at presenting original research:
  • "5. Discussion and caution: In judging that an author plagiarizes great care must be taken to ensure that careless mistakes, printing errors, inexperience, and even editorial changes made by a press are not used as accusations against an innocent person. Further, it is necessary to recognize "common usage" and the nature of the writing itself. For example many basic textbooks contain passages that come very close to plagiarism. So too do dictionaries and encyclopedia articles. In most of these cases the charge of plagiarism would be unjust because there are a limited number of way in which basic information can be conveyed in introductory textbooks and very short articles that require the author to comment on well known issues and events like the outbreak of the French Revolution, or the conversion of St. Augustine, or the philosophical definition of justice. Further, in the case of some textbooks, dictionaries, newspaper articles and similar types of work both space and the demands of editors do not allow the full acknowledgment of sources or the use of academic style references. It should also be noted that many more popular short pieces, like oral lectures, are produced from old notes and memory. Professors often don't know from where they got a particular definition or description of a well-known figure or event. As long as such writing deals with things that are essentially public domain, even though at times specific wordings may be very similar indeed, this is not plagiarism because it does not involve deliberate fraud. For example, it is almost impossible to describe the origins of something like the Watergate Affair in 300 words without using almost identical words to anyone else that attempts to describe the same event. The intent of the writer should [be] the key issue in recognizing plagiarism. For example in the early years of this century the best-selling German author, Karl May (1842-1912) was accused of plagiarism because his adventure stories contained descriptions of landscapes and urban settings which were clearly culled from travel books. May did not deny this. He simply argued that to judge his works as plagiarized because he borrowed geographic descriptions in which to set his stories was to totally misunderstand the function of the storyteller. Someone spinning a yarn may borrow freely if they reuse the original material in such a way that the final product is not dependent on what has been borrowed to create the setting. It therefore seems necessary to distinguish between academic and other types of writing and to ask what is the reader led to believe an author is doing. If a book or thesis contains academic footnotes, is written in an academic style, and is presented as a work of original scholarship, then it must be judged as such and measured against the accepted rules for citation found in sources such as The Chicago Manual of Style."
  • What we are doing is not "presented as a work of original scholarship"; quite the contrary. There may well be people who see things different from Hexham, but if we want to consider how plagiarism applies to us, we should look at sources that address our specific context. --JN466 14:38, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Part of the problem here is that "plagiarism" means different things to different people in different contexts. In an academic context, passing off other's ideas or analyses as one's own is a serious offense. However, we are writing a tertiary source, where even presenting original ideas or original analyses is contrary to WP:NOR and WP:SYN. In that respect no editor on Wikipedia is passing off ideas or analyses as their own: they are (or should be) basing what they write on reliable sources.

So plagiarism means something different in the context of an encyclopedia. It is certainly a discouragement to copy-paste from sources, even from those in the public domain. In the copyrighted case, a close paraphrase may be a copyvio, but even if it isn't, a close paraphrase without attribution is only appropriate for factual material which cannot be phrased in other ways.

In this context,though, plagiarism per se is not a serious offense, but a normal and very common human failing. It is simply something to be fixed.

However, when an editor presents an article "for credit" (e.g. by nominating it as FAC), s/he is declaring to some extent (in the nomination) that this is original work. It is from this point of view that I understand Rlevse's retirement, as I would have done the same in such a position. That is personal integrity. Geometry guy 23:53, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Agreed; plagiarism should not become a stick to beat editors with. Given what we are doing here, it's not a valid stick; copyright violation is arguably a more valid one. Perhaps further discussion is best held at WT:Plagiarism. As an aside, User:Rlevse is a blue link again. --JN466 02:22, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
As an aside, this discussion references an Rlevse edit that is now credited to User:Vanishedxxxxxx. Anyone following this discussion can find such vanished edits rather rapidly by many different means [I'm not suggesting to remove the link], and so far as I know the same serial number applies to every edit. Also, there are some edits where the signature was not removed.[13] And it seems like someone is liable to post a comment to the Vanishedxxxxxx talk page sooner or later, only to run into trouble about "outing". Is the vanishing mechanism supposed to be so ineffective? Wnt (talk) 23:25, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Can you explain me something?

There is something I simply can't get out of this discussion -I guess it's a cultural issue. If we copy verbatim content from a public domain source, or from one which has a compatible license which doesn't require attribution (say, CC-SA), why should we be worried about that? Doesn't it kinda defeats the purpose of free content, if we can't reuse it? I compare the situation to that of computer code -copying GPL computer code, as far as I know, does not require attribution, and in fact people copy it without problems, as long as they comply with the licence. To have free content around that we can use but refusing to touch it seems nonsensical to me. Wikipedia is not about merit, so comparisons with plagiarism in academia make no sense. --Cyclopiatalk 01:20, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

The GPL doesn't let you remove the copyright notice, so it has some attribution requirements. The interesting thing in free software is that some licenses require you to give attribution, and others forbid it. The logic behind forbidding it is that if someone modifies software in a way that breaks it or makes it do something you wouldn't agree with or want to support, you might not want your name associated with that. This is the spirit of the BSD "advertising clause". It's not as much a legal concept here in the US, but the concept of "moral rights" gives the creator the power to control what's done with a work once it's released, in some cases, allowing them to withdraw a work from a market entirely.
Anyway to answer your question, I don't think anyone would call the copying of something that freely released "plagiarism". Public domain work is likewise intended to be freely copied. Gigs (talk) 18:53, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Linking to Wikipedia.org from my site

I have started a new website for toys, and I thought it would be cool to trade links. I see you do not have any advertising on wikipedia.org, so I assume trading is out of the question. I am still interested in linking to wikipedia.org however, for the cool content. Since my site is a new toy retail site, I would like to have a blog section, and throw in some links to your cool Bakugan articles, Star Wars article, etc... Is this acceptable? I just type four, uh, tildes? I hope thats all I do, LOL. Jeb0674 (talk) 23:45, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Sure, it is always fine to link to Wikipedia. And, if you follow the license, you can even modify and reuse the content on your own site.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 02:34, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

The integrity of Wikipedia

Wikipedia can do no greater harm to a contributor than to falsely harm their reputation, and to that end you can't do it any better than a bogus arbitration ruling. You would figure that four previous attempts at a topic ban within a few months would mean that there was no substance to repeated allegations. It was time to "close the books" and all the arbitrators had to do to achieve that goal was live up to their word and examine the one way stream of harassment which I had pointed out so many times previously. Had they addressed this issue with a simple informal warning to the harasser I would have been satisfied that finally something had been done. Harassment was so obvious that several allied participants even went so far as to become apologists of that person's behaviour. Instead, two arbitrators personally filled a fifth request. In doing so my issues of harassment got knocked off the table and were never acted upon.

In the 5th topic ban request two arbitrators controlled every aspect of the TBR from start to finish. The two arbitrators voted for, and lobbied for the very request they created. The ongoing one-way stream of harassment became, "two editors in conflict". The ban's success required the premise that I was guilty of continued misconduct. This assumption of guilt allowed a judgment to happen without specific evidence, or that a real case of misconduct was ever made. The two arbitrators ignored every request for evidence and every direct question I asked of them. The only condition required for action was my proclamation of innocence. Either I had to admit that I was guilty of "mutual misconduct" with the harasser and receive a lesser "remedy", or.. if I stated I was innocent I'd receive a year long topic ban. After asking them for specific evidence for the second time the topic ban was enacted. Arbitrators did not prove misconduct, instead they demonstrated that they had success on their first attempt where others had repeatedly failed. In my opinion this sort of manipulation of process widely goes against worldwide accepted standards of justice. "No crime, no punishment" `` "Nullum crimen, nulla poena sine praevia lege poenali".

On the flip side of the coin arbitrators closed my formal complaint of harassment by stating that obvious harassment happening withing their Arbitration sanction events was not, "actionable". Granted, it was filed after a judgment but they had all missed many blatant examples of harassment throughout their process. They had a responsibility of care which they didn't fulfill. Even so, had the arbitrator actually kept his word and closely examined evidence presented within their very own TBR, they would have seen that harassment continued to happen in real time, and that it was flowing in one direction only. This harassment occurred over all 5 topic attempts at a topic ban.

It has been a year now and I have complied with Wikipedia's "remedy".

  • The fact is that every notion of misconduct and every piece of evidence within the arbitrator led request had been meticulously refuted. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_54#Proof:_topic_ban_without_specific_evidence_or_real_justification
  • The fact is that arbitrators moved the goal posts to finally enact a topic ban.
  • The fact is that these arbitrators chose not to respond to any direct questions within their request and yet stood idly by as every single topic ban request was marred with constant harassment.
  • The fact is that wikipedia has harmed my reputation groundlessly yet no one has yet apologized for any of the many wrongs done to me.

If the arbitrators refuse to be accountable for their actions, Mr. Wales the buck stops at your desk. I'd appreciate a remedy to restore my reputation and also demonstrate the integrity of wikipedia. If I am to believe in wikipedia as a project I must believe it is just and cares for it's contributors. Anything you could do would be appreciated, could you please comment on the issues raised in this post.

Thank you,

--scuro (talk) 11:23, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

I am happy to look into your case. Please provide me with concise diffs for the most important things you want me to see. Please be NPOV about it - show me your worst behavior, things you regret the most. If you prefer to conduct this by email, that's fine with me as well.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 15:43, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Thank you for your earnest concern and interest, it is appreciated. I believe that you can access my e-mail, if so you can send me an e-mail I will respond. Otherwise, if I know where to get your address I will e-mail you. --scuro (talk) 16:51, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Mr. Wales, I thought the idea of communicating by e-mail to be a very good idea because it will be the most expedient way of getting at the points you need to be concerned about. Did the process leading up to the topic ban seriously lack integrity, and was a bogus topic ban put into place? I am very willing to cooperate and answer direct questions. BUT, I don't know how to contact you personally, did I miss your e-mail,?--scuro (talk) 23:44, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Mr Scuro, enough of the games please. During the topic ban voting, you said this; I am getting somewhere with LG. A meeting of the minds could solve this. and For instance I have to say that I am impressed with LIteraturegeek's willingness to continue talking and seeking solutions. This is a positive event and I really hope she continues. and this post, I do want to tell you that I did truly feel that you were sympathetic and wanted to find common ground me. That was appreciated, thank you! :-) If you want to continue with this after the topic ban I'd be willing to do that. :-) I was the nice guy apparently, now I am the bad guy, ugh!
Now how exactly does that square with now labeling me as a "harasser"? You do also remember that ArbCom offered you a voluntary long break/topic ban but you turned it down? You never explained that to Jimbo. Hmmm, a lil more honesty and transparency and less games would help. It is this type of behaviour that led to the ArbCom and the topic ban. Something tells me you are being a lil, oh how should I put it, economical with the truth with Jimbo. I thinks that it would be best if any discussion occurs it should be in public.
Who is the problem editor and who is doing the harassing? Who won't let things drop? Who is holding grudges? Early on in the ArbCom case you were smearing Doc James as being ownership on ADHD articles left right and center. Now all your anger seems directed to me. Would you mind explaining why? The only thing I did wrong was give barnstars to people involved in the case, which in hinesite I can see that would have annoyed you at the time and if so I apologise, I guess I did that because emotions were running high and I was grateful that the case was over. I apologise for doing that. However, if it the barnstar thing is why you are smearing me as being a "harasser", you need to get over it as it was over a year ago. Or is it just a case of sour grapes that ArbCom voted not to topic ban me but voted to topic ban you? If this is the bee in your bonet, I don't deserve this smearing. You need to get over the arbcom case! It would be nice if you could apologise or even just acknowledge what you did wrong but you never have done that, which is part of the problem, you do nothing wrong and everyone else is the problem.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 08:52, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

(outdent) Hi Jimbo, I am sorry that you are getting dragged into this. On the case page I and many other editors documented problems with scuro. I would suggest that you read the evidence page for the ADHD ArbCom case to get an accurate picture of the ADHD drama. I will give you some additional information as background and in response to scuro's claims above. I also tried to tell ArbCom on the evidence page that scuro was manipulative and often plays the "victim role" and when I made that allegation, I made it because I believe it to be true. During scuro's mentorship, scuro instead of using the mentorship for its intended role he used it to claim harassment and cited Jesus Christ,[14] as if to imply he was Christian and telling the truth that all his opponents are liars and harassers. I took offense to this misuse of mentorship and in my view religion to attack other editors and lost my cool on the talk page of the mentorship. This led to a proposed topic ban on me as well but did not pass because I volunteered to take a long break from the topic area and due to it being an isolated incident on the ADHD topic area. Scuro made an earnest attempt to label his opponents as promoting fringe theories even though we were citing high quality recent reviews of the medical literature while he was of the viewpoint there is no controversy with ADHD (and in particular how to treat it) outside of scientology and compared his fellow wikipedians to scientologists. Ironically scuro was pushing fringe theories using scientology magazines and such like to attribute a grandiose scientology conspiracy and dismissed dominant views in the medical literature as being fringe. The real victims of character assassination are not scuro but rather people scuro persistently attacked. I view this as a continuing of the same behaviour. The real story is the community got fed up with scuro and some editors stood up to him. I really don't enjoy having to bring all of this up again and would rather it was water under the bridge. I am not saying that I am the perfect editor either by the way, I have on other topic areas lost my cool on a couple of occasions during stressful editing which I regret but I am saying that scuro is being inaccurate in what he is telling you Jimbo and all you Jimbo have to do is to read the ADHD evidence page. Scuro give it a rest, this has gone on long enough, you cannot win as the truth will always win over inaccuracies.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 00:36, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

The edits that Scuro was attempting to remove have stood the test of time as they still remain on the ADHD page. Hopefully what was going on previously does not recur.Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 07:56, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

(outdent) Jimbo I have been thinking about this a bit more and I must say I am really really disappointed that you are giving these claims any credibility. I am the one being harassed, by scuro. Please do investigate this matter but when you find out that scuro is manipulating you as part of a battleground mentality let your decision be that scuro lets this drop and you pass a motion banning him from ever discussing the case or people involved in it. I could even ask you to ban him from the encyclopedia, but believe it or not I have no malice towards scuro as a person, I just want him to well basically go away from me, leave me and other editors alone. He has no right to repeatedly smear people as harassers and other derogatory name calling and certainly Jimbo with respect you should not be fueling it by allowing yourself to be manipulated into believing that he "may be a victim of harassment" and inviting him to smear editors in private who did nothing wrong other than submit evidence of problem behaviour during an arbcom case. Thank you for listening.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 09:23, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Moral support for Literaturegeek and Doc James. The combination of scientology and quack science is why I stayed well away from any serious editing of the ADHD article, when that article is within my realm of editing knowledge, but I must speak up when disruptive editors are again allowed to make life miserable for productive editors. Maybe it's in the WikiWater to allow this to happen; it certainly has to me at least three times. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 20:36, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Hello SG,
I have no current interest in the ADHD page nor do I plan to edit it in the future under current conditions. My last edit on that page was August 12th. 2009 and the last time I edited with any consistency was the early fall of 2008. How is that, "when disruptive editors are again allowed to make life miserable for productive editors". Do a little math and check which party by far has had the most sanction events filled against them. If you actually took the time then you might understand making, "life miserable".
I wanted to tell you that I did follow your progress with the autism page. I admired your immense effort to create a quality Autism article. I'm sure those who were working against your goal made it very personal and bad mouthed you. I bet at the time you had wished that those who attacked you and your position would do so rationally and with facts.
But lets talk about how I was disruptive. If people CONSTANTLY call you names, put words in your mouth, edit war your contributions off the page, and bad mouth you...are you to be silent forever? How about if these same people initiate and partake in sanction event after sanction event after you? After the second and third topic ban request went down the toilet the arbitrators wanted to close the books. I insisted that the arbitrator live up to his word and finally investigate my complaints about harassment. Instead of keeping his word, the arbitrator created a TBR against me and it passed easily.
The topic ban was bogus, there is no direct evidence and every single point the arbitrators made was refuted. That is the ONLY issue we should be discussing right now. In their topic ban the arbitrators never responded to any direct questions or wanted any sort of communication and understanding. I am innocent. I am left wondering if wikipedia allows a tribal groupthink to trump everything? What I wouldn't give for one person in a position of power to rationally look at the EVIDENCE presented. User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 54#Proof: topic ban without specific evidence or real justification --scuro (talk) 01:06, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Actually, fact is that one of those who attacked me on those articles did it via e-mail to Jimbo, later claimed he sided with them (which I can't deny or verify, since I wasn't privy), so I'm not particularly fond of your approach here. Unless you have something private to disclose, like your real life name or some other sensitive data, I don't favor people who plead their case via e-mail, away from the scrutiny of the other parties. YMMV. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:11, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
If this could be done any other way in a civil and rational manner I would do it. Take a look how I was immediately attacked and badmouthed by name above. If that doesn't convince you read this pruned version of how I lost my mentor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Scuro/Mentorship --scuro (talk) 01:23, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
SG, this thread is a total mess of off tangent points flying around helter-skelter. The ONLY issue that should have ever been under consideration is the bogus topic ban. I happen to think I have made an INCREDIBLY good case that Wikipeida got this one wrong. Now SG, you wanted all of this to be public. Yet...this is only a thread, imagine what would happen if you had used a process with a wider scope and gravitas. It would be another disaster. Once again we have a strong case for harassment here. This thread is exactly like every arbitration led event I ever have been in. In the arbitration led events I should have asked: who the heck is in charge?...is there anyone monitoring what is being said?
The issue of the bogus topic ban has been lost in this mess and this certainly wasn't my doing. It is time. Wikipedia show some integrity. Bogus topic bans shouldn't be something wikipedia spins off without REAL consideration, nor should this examination of wrongdoing be lost in the shuffle. --scuro (talk) 00:27, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I admitted to losing my cool in my first post here to Jimbo and you. I used emotional wording like social engineering in reference to you manipulating to a degree of success the community that you were a "victim"; I at the time struck those comments out and admit that comment was wrong of me. However, tell Sandy what the mentorship was for and what it was used to do for context. It was to help you with sourcing issues as you rarely provided references for article content but rather soap boxed on talk pages. You instead used the mentorship purely as a battleground by claiming victimhood, claiming other editors were lying and harassing you and then brought Jesus into it as if to make it look like you were telling the truth and were innocent and pure. The mentor appeared to start believing you and yes that was the final straw, after a stressful ArbCom, the remedy for you turned into a remedy against your opponents and I made a post in anger at the situation. Can you admit that you misused the mentorship? Or is it all other people's fault?--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 02:05, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Sandy can't answer your questions as she did not edit ADHD. The ADHD dispute was not a content dispute, although you had most edit warring diffs in evidence for ArbCom and were put on a revert restriction but of course you are innocent and OTHER PEOPLE were edit warring and controlling content. Can you admit that you used to be an edit warrior? It really would make my day for you to admit to doing something,,, anything wrong, however small. The trigger for the proposed topic ban was you comparing Doc James and I to scientologists, in response to Doc James asking you why you did not want to get WikiMed Project involved.[15] Where was the provocation from Doc James that triggered that comment? Several other examples of casting asperations, incivilty, name calling given in ArbCom ADHD evidence page. You should tell Sandy how it all started between you and I. I added some secondary sources to the article. When you saw this, the first day of meeting me I might add, you deleted my contributions, I reverted ONE time and you sent me an edit warring warning that I would be blocked if I reverted again. I interpreted this as an attempt to intimidate me away from the page. I as well as others decided NOT to be intimidated away from the page and remained in the area; I had no idea it would reach the level of ArbCom. You picked fights with people over a period of years but THIS time several people stood their ground and you lost battles that you and you alone started. Nobody forced you to label people as scientologists, nobody forced you to playing the victim role, nobody forced you to blame everyone for your own problems. You are responsible for these flaws in your behaviour and thus you are responsible for the resulting ArbCom. Really scuro you got a taste of your own medicine after force feeding it to people who went anywhere near ADHD articles and people gave you a taste of your own medicine, although the taste was just people telling the truth of what you were doing. And that is it, you don't like the truth so you smear people and deny everything. I can admit to things I have done wrong, as I did in an above comment. If you could do the same we could end up shaking hands. If you had done that dispute resolution would have occurred and ArbCom and topic bans would have never needed to happen.--Literaturegeek | T@1k? 01:51, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

pornographic pictures on wikipedia.de again (article of the day)

Dear Sir,

did you see this: de:Futanari#Darstellungsvarianten und Randbereiche der Definition ? It's the article of the day. Yours sincerly --Allemanischer (talk) 07:21, 12 November 2010 (UTC) (you've got the same message on your disc in wikipedia.de but i'm not shure, if you can read it quick enough to act)

Lulz. Is there really that much to write about dickgirls, to the point where it becomes a featured article? Tarc (talk) 18:40, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Money

I see you are appealing for funds once more. I have a suggestion. It is now possible to 'like' any Wikipedia page on Facebook - anything, one can 'like' the River Amazon as much as one can 'like' The Beatles. People do. Why not? The river Amazon is likeable enough. But I digress. Could you not ask/charge Facebook for the smallest of donations when a Wiki page is suggested for 'liking' on Facebook? Facebook has loads of money after all and the biggest number of users on any website ever. If Wikipedia just got ten cents or even one cent for every Wikipedia page 'liked' on Facebook it would soon add up with some 3.4 million pages - or whatever it is now - on Wikipedia. Just an idea. Regards SmokeyTheCat 18:14, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

I like the idea, but doesn't that sound like advertising for Facebook? Would be highly controversial, I think.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 20:31, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Things that you could really help us by doing

I've wanted to mention this for some time. I think that there are two major things that you, Jimbo Wales, can do for us that would really help. I hope that you're doing the first already.

  • Encourage developers to give the pending changes mechanism some means for reviewers to reject a pending change. I'm not going to expand upon this one. It's been discussed at length already.
  • Get the Foundation to provide us, the pseudonymous volunteers on a Foundation wiki, with some means for escalating a problem with an ISP's customer to the ISP. Yes, there needs to be filtering. Yes, this cannot be for just any old problem. The cases that I'm thinking of are things like the one that I encountered recently, where a Virgin Media customer was persistently abusing Wikipedia for things that I discovered, upon checking, were explicitly and entirely against that ISP's terms and conditions of service to its customers. I'm sure that if you took a poll, lack of identifiable means for referring people who violate their own ISP's terms and conditions back to those ISPs would be a popular complaint amongst people who have to deal with such things. It's not necessarily the case that ISPs are unwilling to handle such problems. It's the case that they need to see such complaints come from the people who own and run the WWW servers that are being mis-used, not from random pseudonymous people named "Uncle G" et al., whom they find don't actually own or run the relevant things, and who well could be examples of that Internet curse — pseudonymous people with axes to grind — for all that they know. We don't have a clear and identifiable mechanism for getting serious and persistent problems to the level of the people who identifiably have grounds for complaint to an ISP about server mis-use, making such a complaint. Yes, this is something not limited to the English Wikipedia.

Uncle G (talk) 18:45, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

On your item one, it has been my primary feedback for them for the implementation, because I think it was the key thing that made the feature confusing and, even when I did understand it, needlessly hard to use. When I'm being asked, for a given change, if it is good or not, there are two obvious answers: yep, it is good, or nope, it is not good. The UI needs to reflect that.
The second one is harder, but I agree with you - a system for escalation of abuse complaints with ISP's sounds valuable to me for multiple reasons. First, often times, volunteers take this into their own hands, which can be fine but which necessarily means that we aren't always consistent with how we do it. Second, often times, volunteers throw their hands up in despair because it seems to hard to get anything done. I think something like what you are talking about would need to pass through legal - since complaining to someone's ISP may have legal ramifications in some cases - and so I think it has to wait until after the new GC is hired.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 18:54, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
  • @Uncle G. Reject button is already done, just not yet deployed. Was mentioned on the foundation blog and in the Signpost. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 20:30, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Thank you. Good news. I see that I only have to wait four days to see what it looks like, too. There's instant gratification for you. Uncle G (talk) 20:59, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Changing the world

Thank you for not letting your dreams go by the waist side Mr.Wales and staff!If people can work together for the greater good on Wikipedia its fair to say thats everyone that's involed are proactively changing the world!!Enlightenment for the modern day world.Sir Louis V Francis III75.94.207.61 (talk) 00:38, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Hey, nice pic

Jimbo, I don't normally dispense compliments on portrait photos, but I must say that the pic of you in the banner is very effective. The campaign looks very well framed. Nice. Tony (talk) 04:47, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

And lovely interview

Saw it on CNBC right now! Must be the one you gave when you went to India perhaps. I especially liked your answer to the question on whether you considered it a disadvantage that now the 'Wiki' term is shared by others. I also appreciated your openness to addressing concerns with respect to the relative unease of editing that new users experience on Wikipedia. On another front, was wondering whether you'll be open to, whenever you get free time, give your votes on RfA candidates? It'll be nice of you... Sincere regards. Wifione ....... Leave a message 08:48, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

I don't think that's the best idea, an opinion from Jimbo could persuade a number of inexperienced voters to swing the same way. The hands-off approach is working well in that area Jebus989 12:28, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Jebus, but I certainly hope that Jimbo will continue to help keep the comments focused on how the RfA process can be improved. What is also needed is more newly appointed admins, who like yourself Wifione, stick around at RfA and help to make it a nicer place whichever way they !vote.--Kudpung (talk) 13:27, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
First to Wifione, thanks so much for your kind remarks about the interview. I'm not sure I know which one it was - India was super busy for me. :)
I agree with both Jebus989 and Kudpung that I should stay out of particular votes and focus instead on "constitutional" arrangements. Just so everyone knows, I'm letting the RfA discussion up above play out, and then I intend to go through and summarize it in an NPOV fashion as best I can, to begin a rough catalog of views about RfA. My goal will simply be to try to find some areas of broad agreement about how some things might be improved, if I can find them. I hope to facilitate discussion and try to guide us toward improvement, rather than to directly decide anything.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 01:56, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your responses sir. Sincere regards. (Kudpung, Jebus, thanks for your responses too. Best). Wifione ....... Leave a message 10:19, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Latvian politicians

Hi. I've stumbled upon over 2000 images of current Latvian politicians in flickr and have arranged for them to be uploaded by a bot here. However, help is needed to categorize and sort them. If anybody knowledgeable on this front watching this page could help this would be great..♦ Dr. Blofeld 12:23, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

I suggest that you contact the editors at Wikipedia:WikiProject Latvia.
Wavelength (talk) 21:05, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
You can also contact the editors at Wikipedia:WikiProject Images and Media, and the editors at Wikipedia:WikiProject Politics.
Wavelength (talk) 01:12, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

"We can keep it growing – spreading knowledge everywhere, and inviting participation from everyone."

Dear Mr Jimbo,

I am very grateful for the wikipedia project. However I am concerned for the banning of authors who were making good-faith edits. Spreading knowledge means spreading ALL knowledge and not just the viewpoint of the average American. Please make sure that authors who give valuable information in an encyclopedic manner are not banned as "troublemakers" because their information is contrary to popular opinions or believes. For instance, authors questioning the official version of the attacks on 11-9-2001 are frequently banned, even if their behaviour is polite, constructive and valuable. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 194.102.121.157 (talk) 19:53, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Wikia Failure

Hello Mr. Wales, I have a problem. Lately, Wikia (only Wikia) as a whole has been loading extremely slowly, more often than not crashing while loading. I went to your talk page because the Wikia slowdown has prevented me from contacting Wikia Central. Please reply ASAP. --190.162.99.251 (talk) 22:03, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Please post on Jimbo's talk page on Wikia. Thanks! Perseus!Talk to me 22:05, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
Wikia recently got a new skin. I assume the user is using an older browser that is not work with this skin. Please add which specific browser (and version) you are using, that will be helpful to the tech team of wikia.com I presume. The user can also contact them via email, using community@wikia.com —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 22:17, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

How do you get videos to work?

Ok, I appologize for posting here. I did go to FAQ and ask questions: 'Videos don't work', 'How do you get the videos to work', or 'Can't view videos'. None of the answers answered my questions. I peeked around a lot of the suggestions and didn't see anything useful. I LOVE Wikipedia and if I had money I would donate, but I don't. I read stuff on it ALL the time about hundreds of types of articles. I have never been able to get any of the videos on Wikipedia to work for me. I have also never been able to get any of the music samples to work for me. I am practically computer illiterate. I do have many players on my computer so that I can view all sorts of videos from a myriad of websites and have no problems, but I can't view them on Wikipedia. The animations always seem to work, such as geological animations that I have viewed. Can someone give me an easy answer? It even asked me to run 'add-ons or activex' (sorry can't spell it) and I clicked 'OK' and it STILL did not work. I am not interested in editing anything on a page or inserting a video. I am just a Wikipedia user trying to get some help. So what's up?? Thanks, VictoriaMylittlezach (talk) 00:43, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

No problem about posting here, although Jimbo may not be an expert on video formats. In my experience, we support a range of compatible formats, but whether you can view them does depend on you having the codecs installed on your computer. I'd suggest you ask at this discussion, explain which videos you cannot see, and report any error messages you get. Rodhullandemu 00:53, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Thank you. I will check that out. Mylittlezach (talk) 02:16, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Ever gotten this before?

Just be flattered :P /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 04:11, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Jimbo does kind of look like him. I wonder if that means that Wikipedia is a massive MI-6 conspiracy... :)Ronk01 talk 06:06, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia

Some people say Wikipedia doesn't have accurate information and that it shouldn't be used for projects because it's info is not true as said by some people. Do you believe this? WAYNEOLAJUWON 01:28, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

  • We have a general disclaimer. Of course not everything on here is true. We don't claim to be, and the general opinion is that WP is a good starting point for research, but definitely never to be trusted by itself. We trust the sources, and if they're wrong, so are we. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 03:12, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Exactly. On Uncyclopedia, there is a joke on the Wikipedia page which says Wikipedia. Odds are it's bigger than yours![citation needed] The Merchant of Uncyc (talk) 18:38, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
      • The key to using Wikipedia for a project is to use the numbered references in the Wikipedia article directly. That way you don't have to cite Wikipedia, but can directly cite the place where we got the information — a second-hand account always being better than a third-hand account. I should mention that I don't know whether in the modern classroom it could be regarded as "plagiarism" (a term with no legal definition) to write up a paper based completely on a large list of references from a Wikipedia article without crediting the article for providing the references. If a Wikipedia article must be cited, you should use the History tab to select the most current version (ending in something like "?oldid=396175308") for a URL citation rather than just the article name, because the content could change. (N.B. Do we have a help file that says these things already, and works out any odd issues? If not we should) Wnt (talk) 19:15, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

How do you feel about essays that go against your Wikipedia policies?

  • Since you created the policies concerning anyone can create a page, and it'll be improved upon later, no need to be perfect right away, I'm curious how you feel about people having essays in mainspace which tells people to ignore what that and just delete anything they consider junk? Wikipedia:Delete_the_junk Doesn't that go against Wikipedia's founding and still standing principles? Seems to contradict a lot of standing policies. Dream Focus 11:01, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
I actually agree with that essay completely.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:18, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Pruning article revisions may be a better example... Wnt (talk) 19:08, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia essay about you. Have you seen this?

Daughter?

Mr. Wales, perhaps you could shed some light on this matter? --George2001hi 20:19, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

fund raising

Just thinking of the nature of giving money, the psychology of it, a lot of religious organizations will send out direct mail campaigns with suggested donations listed like this: $5 $10 $15 $20 Other. Rather than $100 $50 $25, etc. which is what Wikipedia has when you click on the ad. There's a psychology to the smaller amounts in that it says to the guy with very little cash, "We won't think you're cheap if you don't send in the minimum $20 which is what we prefer because of the cost of processing your credit card and Paypal fees." Maybe if not the $5, then add $10. The "Other" box might seem to be asking for over $100, rather than indicating a small amount is welcome, too. Those small amounts remind me of the saying, "If you mind the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves." :) Malke 2010 (talk) 19:45, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

During the testing phase (the most extensive ever, this year) the fund-raising team tested a variety of alternatives, including ordering from high to low and low to high. The live configuration was based on the best performance.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 20:29, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Did the smaller amounts not test well, or is it too expensive to process them?Malke 2010 (talk) 21:38, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Didn't test well, as I understand it. During the testing, a very nice guy wrote to me and suggested that we should ask for more (than the test that was running that day), and then Zack at the Wikimedia Foundation wrote me a long email in response to my query about the testing, explaining that he did test higher amounts and lower amounts. It's really an empirical matter, in my opinion, with some psychological reasoning to explain the effects. Ask people for too much, and they feel their donation doesn't matter. Ask people for too little, and they'll give less than they would be willing to give, if only you asked.
I'm happy that we have had more actual serious testing this year, as compared to previous years. I'm confident that the performance is going to be great.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 00:01, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
(Better late than never with this comment, I suppose): For those interested in the testing that was done this year, all the results are publicly available: here. Thanks for the nice comments, everyone. Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 11:48, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Sounds impressive. And I like the ads running this year. Much better than the plain banner last year.Malke 2010 (talk) 01:41, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Speaking of fundraising, since we are beginning to finally move along with it, I would like to point your attention to the Wikipedia trading card game that a few of us are putting together. Do you think that we are headed in the right direction with this? Hi878 isn't home. (Can I take a message?) 01:48, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Seems fun! The one bit of random and possibly not-very-helpful advice that comes to my mind is to keep in mind that a game that we (insiders, Wikipedians) would find hilarious and fun, due to having lots of inside jokes, might not be so great for the general public.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 04:24, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
I've got to say that this year's campaign and layout is so much better than other years. Much classier. Last year's had some awfully pushy slogans in it..♦ Dr. Blofeld 12:31, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
We're trying to keep the inside jokes to a minimum, but occasionally, there are some that are so perfect that we had to use them. The card designing phase is definitely the most fun. Hi878 isn't home. (Can I take a message?) 16:25, 14 November 2010 (UTC)
Might as well take this opportunity to butt in here...in designing the trading card game, we've found it appropriate to use variants of the Wikipedia logo and wordmark (if Wikia's image server isn't down like it's been all day, you can see some already-designed cards and the reverse face of the cards)...how do we go about getting an "okay" on the use of Wikimedia images and derivations thereof? I'd hate to see several hundred cards designed and then have to change the layout, so it'd be good to find out now if it'll be an issue. Bob the Wikipedian (talkcontribs) 02:39, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
Better ask the Foundation, not me. :-) Zack, probably, but please let him be until after the fund raiser, I assume he's on nearly 24x7 duty for that...--Jimbo Wales (talk) 02:41, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for the redirect Face-smile.svg; once the fundraiser ends, where do I find this Zack person? Bob the Wikipedian (talkcontribs) 04:21, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
And also, Mr. Wales, I have a question. Is there any quote from you that you would like to see on your card? Also, any particular picture? I figured I should ask you, since you no doubt won't want to see something that you hate on your card, when it is a rather important card that will be in every deck. :) ~~ Hi878 (Come shout at me!) 05:58, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
Oh, I suppose my "Imagine a world..." quote would be lovely. Either version would be fine - my original one or the committee-rewritten "official" one which serves as the Foundation vision statement. (But I prefer the original. :-) )--Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:53, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

I would of loved to be able to donate $10, I use wikipedia often and am just starting to contribute. Just being on a fixed income makes it hard atm. I'll try and scrape together the $25 and donate, after seeing that Jimmy Wales actually reads and responds to this section makes me all warm and fuzzy, and encourages me even more. Most CEO's wouldn't bother. Keep up the fantastic work! 220.101.4.140 (talk) 15:42, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

praise from an expert (not me)

Thought you might be interested (I already sent this info in an email, but apparently that was the wrong forum) that I got into a (civilized) content dispute concerning the article docudrama. I contacted an expert, published film historian David Bordwell to see if he could cite any sources to settle the dispute. He couldn't think of any sources concerning the matter, but he did end his email by saying "Let me also say how much I appreciate Wikipedia, which seems to me an extraordinary contribution to--no kidding--the progress of human civilization!" Just thought you should know that the experts are paying attention -- and apparently are impressed! Minaker (talk) 22:42, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

P.S. The irony is that although Mr. Bordwell is an established expert on cinema, and his response included a rather straight-forward definition that would have settled the dispute, I could not cite his email, since it is a clear violation of Wikipedia's reliability standards concerning accessability! But since Mr. Bordwell disagreed with my definition of "docudrama" at least I could go to the talk page and admit I was wrong. Minaker (talk) 22:42, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Request for input

Hi. Would you please take a look at Commons:Commons:Deletion_requests/Template:PD-German_stamps_and_all_it_tags_2? Thanks!   — Jeff G.  ツ 05:39, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Wikipedia making money. Would it be such a bad thing?

What if there was a way for Wikipedia to turn around a profit without compromising its neutrality so it wouldn't have to rely on donations from users. Would that be such a bad thing? I'm not talking about going down the Facebook or Google route but a way Wikipedia could make a lot of money. Enough so it would never have to worry about server costs ever again. Tcla75 (talk) 11:07, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

The Devil is in the details about "not compromising its neutrality." I would wager WP has turned down advertising linkage offers a few times already. Collect (talk) 11:12, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

I agree blanket advertising like Google use would be damaging to the site but there other ways it could make a lot of money. Tcla75 (talk) 11:17, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

we're not here to "make money". Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 12:58, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
If Wikipedia became a for-profit operation, how would it replace the large number of volunteers that keep the project running on a day-to-day basis? Providing free labor for a non-profit with a worthy goal can be justified as either a noble act or charity. Providing the same free labor so someone else can make money off of your efforts is just a bad deal. --Allen3 talk 13:53, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
For many "making money" is a dirty concept, but I think Tcla75's idea is to find some way to generate income to cover expenses. I, personally, dont have a problem with this, but I think WP would lose a lot of editors. I suspect at some point in time, WP will have to do something like what PBS does with "enhanced sponsorships" which really are commercials. I would rather see this than have WP disappear because it was no longer viable. I find the fundraising banner annoying as well (especially as someone who enters the site to edit sometimes several times a day), but even PBS still has its annoying fundraisers (one but not the most important reason why I avoid it and NPR.) Thelmadatter (talk) 14:00, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree. Wikipedia's business model has always mystified me.ScottyBerg (talk) 14:37, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
It has been discussed a few times before, including during the strategy program strategy:Proposal:No_Advertising. Aside from the neutrality issues, and the demotivation of volunteers, there is also the issue that the current system works well and gets all the money we need in a short annual campaign. Whilst any divide between an advertising funded and advertising free Wiki would probably be won by the free one, as it would get the large share of volunteers, and Google and others would probably give it a higher rating rather than boost a competitor to them in the advertising market. ϢereSpielChequers 15:10, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Guidance re BLP issues

Hi Jimmy. I would very much appreciate your opinion regarding an article Werner_Erhard_vs._Columbia_Broadcasting_System which I recently proposed for deletion, and the wider issues that are implied.

I had thought that there was little doubt about the fact that the article was a clear example of a coatrack since only a small proportion of it refers directly to its ostensible subject and most of it is dedicated to propagating defamatory allegations aired in the television program that precipitated the courtcase. Clearly the consensus of voters on the deletion proposal is not aligned with my view of the matter.

This seems to me to be a flagrant attempt to circumvent the policies that preclude the use of Wikipedia to circulate damaging unverifiable accusations against Living Persons.

What do you think? regards DaveApter (talk) 16:39, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

One problem is that the primary exposition of the case in this article relegates the retractions from the daughters to being a bit of an afterthought. Where retractions occur, they ought to be substantially and prominently mentioned. Even the "most evil person in the world" (hypothetical example) is entitled to be fairly treated in any article falling under [WP:BLP]] which this one certainly falls under. Frankly, the article is too long by a factor of five at least. Collect (talk) 16:55, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
DaveApter, while I agree with you completely on the principles that you site, and I think that there are a number of WP:COATRACK articles that deserve attention, I am not sure that I would agree with a deletion here.
At least at the moment, the subsequent retraction of allegations by the daughters is prominently mentioned in the introduction, which is a good thing, although likely not good enough. And I suspect there is subtle bias throughout.
Let me give one example, which I have not researched, but which I bet I am right about if we dig more deeply.
We learn in the article that the case was against CBS and "approximately 20 other defendants". We are later told that "A lawyer for the San Jose Mercury News characterized Erhard's lawsuit as frivolous." What we aren't told, but which I bet is true, is that the San Jose Mercury News was a defendant, and that their lawyer was speaking in particular of the case as applied to them. (And he may well have been right: it's one thing to sue someone who published a defamatory news show about you, and another thing to sue newspapers who merely reported on the controversy. I don't know if that was the situation here, but I'm betting that I'm not far off the mark.)
So we are left with the perception that an independent legal expert at a reputable newspaper characterized the lawsuit as frivolous, when in fact what we probably have is a defendant in the lawsuit characterizing the aspect of the lawsuit that applied to them as frivolous. This hardly merits mention, really, since defendants in lawsuits are very prone to saying such things. But if mentioned, it should be noted that this was not an independent legal commentator, but a lawyer acting as advocate.
As to the length of the article, I am not so sure that I agree with Collect. It seems responsible to have a full and lengthy article if we are going to have one at all: it gives space to explore why the case is of historic interest, what the aftermath was, etc.
I haven't checked the history, but I am guessing that we are also facing some issues with WP:RECENT with respect to the BoingBoing/Wikileaks angle. I'm not sure that in 25 years time, this recent news blip will be of any particular importance to the story at all. And certainly not important to the degree that we currently cover the case.
Overall, then, my opinion is that this is not a great article, but could be an ok article to have. We absolutely should take into account the principles that you have raised, and work to be sure that the article is not a WP:COATRACK. One of the best ways to do that is to more fully explore the retractions of the daughters, and to minimize coverage of details that will tend to mislead the reader (the SJ Mercury News bit, perhaps).--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:14, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Thanks very much for your attention and thoughful comments. DaveApter (talk) 20:13, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Jimbo, the Boing Boing angle has more fundamental problems than WP:RECENT. It is in fact, 100% unrelated to the current scope of the article, which covers only the 20 year old law suit. The lawsuit and the Boing Boing controversy are both related to the 60 Minutes episode, but not to each other. It has been suggested on the talk page to either 1) remove this and other unrelated materials or 2) rename the article so that it is about the 60 Minutes episode and therefore has the appropriate scope. For some very odd reason neither proposal seem to be getting any traction with the article creator and several of his supporters. I should note that if the wider controversies surrounding the episode were commonly known by the name of the lawsuit we wouldn't have this problem, but that does not appear to be true at all. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 12:29, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Update - This issue seems to be resolving itself nicely. See Talk:Werner_Erhard_vs._Columbia_Broadcasting_System#Lead_2. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 14:50, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
  • As originally created, the article looked like this. According to Wikisource, the San Jose Mercury was not a defendant, but John Hubner, a prominent reporter of theirs who is mentioned in the article, was. There is a related ANI thread as well. --JN466 03:26, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Wondering if you would be interested in expressing an opinion on an essay

Hi Jimbo. Just wondering if you have an opinion on this essay: WP:HARDCORE. Herostratus (talk) 17:43, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

I just glanced at it. I generally like it although I would change a few things.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:53, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Thank you, I know you're very busy. Specific (or general) suggestions for changes would be welcome if you have the time and interest. Herostratus (talk) 18:53, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
FYI someone nominated it for deletion today. (Later edit: Which now I see Jimbo knows already since he commented at the MfD.) Neutron (talk) 19:28, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

The "Random article" button isn't random enough

Maybe this could be posted elsewhere, but I'm lazy.

Could you modify the "random article" thing on the sidebar or is there a bot or script out there which does something like this?

The random articles aren't really random, because of bot-owners flooding Wikipedia with ripped data. Stuff that can be ripped is over-exaggerated: like geographical locations, athletes' names & competitions, school names, authors' names and book names, musicians' names and album names, company names, galactic formations, and pretty much anything that could be found in an online compendium. This is frustrating because the random article button could actually be really neat for finding obscure bits of useful or interesting knowledge or articles that could be fixed, but instead it's flooded with stubs generated by bots ripping compendiums. Try it yourself and see. Get a stopwatch handy, then start clicking the "random article" and count how much time (or how many pages) you have to go through until you find something interesting. In the distant past, the random article button did not generate results like this. 96.255.178.76 (talk) 23:04, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure what you mean. I seem to get perfectly normal articles when using the "Random article" button. All of them could be considered "obscure bits of useful or interesting knowledge" by somebody. Besides, it is called "Random article", not "Random article that you will find interesting". It might be a better idea to read the articles linked on the main page if you are looking for something more substantial. I'm not sure what you are asking for is feasible. Perhaps you could be more specific about the kinds of results you are expecting. You say that "[the articles] aren't really random", but what you described as your results is exactly what you would expect from a random sampling of such a large body of articles. Jrobinjapan (talk) 09:45, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
I just tried this and the first article I got was Przyborowice, Lubusz Voivodeship, edited in its entirety by User:Kotbot, User:The Anomebot2, User:AnomieBOT, and User:Xenobot. But after that I got four others that were not bot-made. Wnt (talk) 11:04, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
I clicked on the button ten times and found five meaningful topic articles with paragraphs of text and images, neatly layed out, four of these lack sources but the content seems verifiable. Also three short articles about small towns in Asia all with encyclopedic layouts (more or less any permanent gathering of human habitation such as a village or hamlet is taken as notable on en.WP and there are a great many of them in the world), a helpful looking disambiguation page and a sourced stub about a notable, convicted UK criminal whose crime was portrayed in a film. The outcome looked utterly random me: Richard Katz, The Estate Agents, Chibi_City, Borghese_Collection, Valle_dei_Templi, Berkley Bridge, Behram_Zülaloğlu, Flowering plant, Patrick Mahon, Qeshlaq_Khas. Gwen Gale (talk) 11:16, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Patrick Mahon should likely be a redirect, I'll fix that. Handy thing, that random button. Gwen Gale (talk) 11:19, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
  • If anything we are seeing the opposite phenomenon, as though the number of articles is still slowly growing it is not growing as fast as the database is growing - so the average amount of bytes per article is increasing. As for whether the average article is more or less interesting, it would be an interesting if difficult and necessarily subjective area for someone to research. One theory is that all the really interesting stuff is likely to already be here and all we are doing now is adding new subjects and filling in gaps, an alternative hypothesis is that we still have much to write about areas that were of little interest to the first generation of wikipedians. A third is that the average notability of our articles is likely to rise as New page patrol is filtering out most of the new stuff of marginal notability and the ongoing process of culling old non-notable articles may well outweigh the creation of new non-notable ones. ϢereSpielChequers 12:11, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Falsely named

After I complained of the abusive behaviour of another editor, I was falsely named by a checkuser and indefinitely blocked, and my edits to a talk page were subsequently deleted. This is a problem. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.41.31.42 (talk) 23:45, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

This doesn't show up in your edit history, and to get anywhere, I think you'd have to provide more detail, including which account is CU-blocked, at the very least. Rodhullandemu 23:49, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Oh you're not going to trick me like that again. I previouisly pointed out this mistake to a checkuser and their response was delete my message and block my ISP network. Like I said if checkusers are doing this then Wikipedia has a serious problem. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.41.31.42 (talk) 23:53, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, we're not psychic and without relevant information can do nothing for you. Take it up with the checkuser; otherwise, this is a fruitless conversation. Rodhullandemu 23:59, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Fine, the user I think is a Rogue Checkuser is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:MuZemike —Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.41.120.103 (talk) 00:38, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Sorry for not AGFing here, but how many innocent IPs do we know who understand what CheckUser is? That in itself coupled with the immediate "omg abuse" cry doesn't elicit much faith. Strange Passerby (talkcontribs) 00:51, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Likewise, complaints are more likely to be acted upon if they are made in good faith, and this vagueness doesn't appear to exhibit that. There's always an appeal to the unblock mailing list or arbcom, but we really can't walk around in the dark here. Rodhullandemu 01:13, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

This is indefinitely blocked user Iranian86Footballer (talk · contribs). He has tried to return after using Blackbackground (talk · contribs) to attack other editors. Revert-block-ignore. I'm trying to refrain from blocking the current /16 range he hopped to as it's a rather busy one.MuZemike 01:58, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

If you think I am Iranian86Footballer then you are wrong. If you don't think I'm Iranian86Footballer but you're using it as an excuse to block me anyway because I complained about another user then that is a very bad way to do business. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.41.181.246 (talk) 03:06, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

And I resent being accused of attacking other editors. I have done no such thing. User:Headbomb tried to dismiss the issues I raised on a talk page by saying "not our problem" and then told me "not to fuck with presentation". It is not an attack to point out how unconstructive Headbomb's comments are.

I was willing to believe that this block was simply mistaken, but now having looked at Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Iranian86Footballer, I can no longer assume good faith on MuZemike's part. After looking at that investigations page it is clear that MuZemike cannot possibly believe his accusation against me, which just leaves malice. MuZemike has clearly gone rogue and Wikipedia needs to do something about him. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 94.197.81.12 (talk) 08:02, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
I've also looked at my talk page and found this message: "Well, you are Iranian86Footballer, so the accusation is not false"
This is insane. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 94.197.81.12 (talk) 08:07, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
I know there is an off-Wiki campaign against MuZemike, someone emailed the ArbCom clerks mailing list promoting it. Dougweller (talk) 15:20, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

"The Science Behind Wikipedia’s Jimmy Appeal"

You may be interested in The Science Behind Wikipedia’s Jimmy Appeal.
Wavelength (talk) 18:46, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Some WikiLove

Seems to be to much hostility and seriousness on your user page, just thought I would send you a smile to help lighten the tone. Kind regards ZooPro 07:03, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Thanks!--Jimbo Wales (talk) 08:37, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
No worries mate. ZooPro 08:59, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Invitation to edit, update

Hi. Recently, our mental health articles were assailed by a large number of newly registered editoirs, adding good-faith content, poorly: clumsy expression and imprecise citation. After a week or so, all but two were blocked, Check user tracked them down to a university, so I rang and spoke to the teacher who set the assignment. He has pointed the students to the template:invitation to edit/tutorial, which is targeted at editing health-related articles.

You asked how we plan on measuring success. This looks a bit like a field trial for the effectiveness of the tutorial. The blocks get lifted Sunday night. I'll let you know if there's a discernable difference between their pre- and post-tutorial efforts.

This teacher believes it is part of his job now, to introduce his students to Wikipedia editing. Face-smile.svg Anthony (talk) 15:23, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

hi!

thought you might find this interesting: Analyzing the Creative Editing Behavior of Wikipedia Editors Through Dynamic Social Network Analysis 89.216.196.129 (talk) 15:28, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Ombudsman Commission unwilling to communicate with me

I was informed roughly five months ago that the Ombuds Commission was investigating a complaint against me. Since that time, I have made several email requests (both to Lar, the Ombud who initially contacted me, and to the Commission mailing list), and one on-wiki request ([16]) for further information.

Lar has told me a few times that I have "no need to be concerned", but the Commmission has refused to tell me anything about why I was being investigated in the first place, what complaints were made against me (even in the most general terms) that fall within their remit, or when they intend to finally and formally close the matter. By email (on 27 July to Lar, and on 10 September to the Ombuds mailing list) I asked them to complete and endorse – as the Commission – a fill-in-the-blanks four-sentence statement along the lines of

Over roughly the same period of time (though starting well before I was made aware of any Ombuds investigation), I have openly criticized Lar's conduct in matters related to the climate change arbitration, so I can see how responding to messages from me would be a low priority for him; it's only human nature. Nevertheless, the complete lack of response from the Commission as a whole seems a disturbing neglect of their responsibilities. If they are unable to close (what I can only imagine is) a completely spurious complaint in a timely manner, how are they able to respond to genuine issues? After several months of being brushed off and ignored, I'm afraid that this talk page is my only recourse. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:25, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

I don't really have anything to do with the Ombuds Commission. I don't have in role in their appointment, policies, etc. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about it very much. "The commission already has disposed of this. There is nothing actionable and you have no need to be concerned," said Lar. I have no idea what it was all about, but it sounds like it was nothing. It sounds like someone whined to them, they looked into it, found nothing. If you don't even know what it was about at all, that's probably because it was just completely silly or something. If they didn't ever tell you what it was about, well, there can be good reasons for that (usually, drama reduction).
If there is a page somewhere (again, I don't really have anything to do with the Ombuds, so I don't even know where to look) that somehow looks bad for you, as if there is some kind of ongoing investigation, that's a different matter. But if there was never any kind of formal "case", I don't see any reason for a formal statement of the kind you are asking. Someone whined, nothing came of it. Another day on the wiki. :) --Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:50, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
I would still like to know why the Ombuds Commission is unable or unwilling to issue a formal finding to that effect. Lar has promised such for months, and repeatedly failed to follow through; he has also confirmed that he cannot speak officially on behalf of the Commission. If this is a simple "Someone whined and nothing came of it", why can't I get the Ombuds to say so on the record? Either the Commission is actually still holding on to something that Lar doesn't want to tell me about, or Lar and the rest of the Commission are unable to prepare and endorse a simple statement declaring that I committed no wrongdoing.
In retrospect, I also find it very troubling that (given the interactions Lar and I have had before and since the beginning of the Ombuds investigation, and given the outcome of the climate change arbitration) Lar has not taken it upon himself to recuse from considering this issue. If the Ombuds were dealing with a spurious complaint, then m:Ombudsman commission#Neutrality would seem to suggest that best (and by far preferred) practice is to avoid investigating complaints on one's own Wikipedia (my emphasis added):
As a general guideline, it is best that ombudsmen avoid conflicts of interest as much as possible, particularly by avoiding routine use of CheckUser access and not processing complaints on the projects on which they are very active editors.
While there is no hard and fast rule, I am having trouble seeing why this guidance was not followed in my case. I suppose I find the whole matter disappointing, more than anything. The Ombuds are supposed to be responsive and responsible, and my sole experience with them has been the opposite. While I appreciate that you, Jimbo, have no official role in their appointment and policies, it would be disingenuous for us both to assume that you (or for that matter, your talk page) can have no influence over the way that they do business. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 16:13, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
Lar didn't discussed this complaint - he has notified us about it and took care about the following communication. It is usual - for example it would be much easier to let Carkuni to answer on a question from ja.wiki even through other member has make a decision on it. Simply because of his language skills. --DR (talk) 11:29, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
I am sorry that the committee has not seen fit to give you an answer that exactly matches your desired form letter format. But this matter was asked and answered long ago, as far as I am concerned, and should be considered done and dusted, as you have been told multiple times. I asked the committee as a whole to make a statement to you, and I copied you on my note doing so (which you forgot to mention). I will repeat, there is nothing to the allegations in my view, and the silence from the rest of the committee would seem to endorse that. What I find dismaying is that you continue to raise this over and over and that you seem to be trying to spin the way it's went for political advantage. It may just be that you are not going to get an answer in the exact format you want. It does happen from time to time that we don't get exactly the answer we want on this project. It's happened to me many times, in fact. I eventually get over it. ++Lar: t/c 16:45, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
If I may chime in -- and I'm not known as a habitual supporter of Lar -- a body such as the Ombudsman Commission needs to protect the privacy of their sources, otherwise nobody will want to file a complaint for fear of retaliation. I completely understand why they would say nothing further about this matter other than It's resolved, forget it. We may not be worried that you'd retaliate, but how would future complainants feel if they saw confidences not being protected? Jehochman Talk 17:00, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
I am still waiting for the Ombuds to issue even a plain statement – on behalf of the Commission, not merely the opinion of one of its members – that they have closed their investigation and found no wrongdoing. I do not know why they are unwilling or unable to do so, even after Lar has repeatedly stated that such a statement was forthcoming. Obviously I recognize the need to respect the privacy and confidentiality of all Wikipedia editors; I have only reluctantly brought this matter on-wiki because off-wiki communications have for months failed to resolve the issue. If Lar wants me to 'get over it', it's very simple — he can get the Commission to communicate with me. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:09, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
And if they won't? What do you want me to do then? You've sent mail. I've sent mail. I sent more today. I suspect you are not going to get your form letter sent to you the way you want it worded. That's what I think you need to get over... silence from the other members ought to be taken as absolution in this case. Sure, a formal statement might be nice, and some public nudging might bring it forth, or might not... but your tone in this matter is not helpful as to me anyway it seems to place all the blame on me which, frankly, is BS. ++Lar: t/c 18:52, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
To be clear, I don't believe that you're the only one who has fallen down on the job here; the rest of the Commission members have been completely silent, and as far as I know have left you as the only member to even respond to any inquiry I've made over the last five months. On the other hand, you were the one who chose not to recuse yourself at any point, despite the guidance provided to Ombuds discouraging their involvement in cases on their home Wikipedias. You were the member of the Commission who decided to email me and tell me that I was being investigated in the first place. You were the one who chose to act as my point of contact with the Commission. And while you are just one of the members of the Commission, there are only five Ombuds — it is neither unreasonable nor unexpected that I might expect you to be able to engage with a very small number of your colleagues. (Do the Ombuds truly not respond to email from other members of the Commission? If not, isn't this a serious issue that should be immediately addressed by the Foundation?)
In July, you told me that you thought my proposed wording was a reasonable close for the case. In August, you told me that it was lax not to have driven the matter to a conclusion. In September, you acknowledged that you were remiss in failing to seek a formal closure of the investigation, but to my knowledge no member of the Commission ever took further action. That's why we're here now — neither you nor any other Ombud has made any effort to resolve this issue with me. I send an email, I get a polite reply saying that the Commission will get on it, and then nothing. No follow up. I'm cut out of the loop. If the Commission had privacy concerns or simply wanted to explicitly say that certain things were out of bounds for discussion (even in a private email to me), that would be something reasonable that I could work with and probably accept. But I'm just filed and forgotten. I don't know if you realize that it's not fun for a regular Wikipedia editor to know he's being investigated by the Ombuds; accused (however groundlessly) of serious wrongdoing; talked about on their mailing list. The Ombuds deal with the Foundation, with the Board, with Wikipedia's legal counsel. That's heavy stuff. Yes, my tone is definitely shading towards the irate — I've been getting the brushoff from an important and influential investigative body for months. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 03:16, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
If Lar already told you that the complaint had no basis, I don't understand why you feel that you require further responses. However, you raise in passing a valid issue, which is that Ombudsmen need to recuse from cases involving their home wikis. If that's voluntary at the moment, it needs to be made mandatory. ScottyBerg (talk) 14:11, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Well if the complaint had no basis, and the committee has found nothing actionable, isn't it time for an official "that's all folks, case closed" to be posted/e-mailed or however it is done here? I mean I know this is all volunteer effort and such, but really, how long can it take to actually issue a finding in a case that everyone is saying is closed? Tarc (talk) 19:20, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, some kind of form letter response, speaking in generalities, would be helpful. But it seemed to me that he basically got his answer anyway. I must confess that I didn't know that there was an Ombudsmen commission, and that its members were appointed and not elected, so that there is no accountability to the community. ScottyBerg (talk) 19:30, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
My chief concern is that I got a comment from one member of the Commission, who when asked confirmed that he was not empowered to make binding statements on behalf of the entire body. It's like an Arbitrator saying "We haven't officially closed your case, but I'm sure there's nothing to worry about; we took care of everything on our private mailing list." I'm amenable to reasonable compromises about the amount of information that I receive, in the interest of protecting confidentiality (though I do wonder exactly how much protection a vexatious complainant deserves — Lar identified the complainant but not the nature of the allegations against me when he informed me that I was being investigated).
What is – or should be – completely unacceptable is that the Commission has so far refused to make any formal statement of closure. Until this thread started, I had been told off-wiki for months that my request was reasonable and that a response should be forthcoming. This sudden "get over it" from an Ombudsman is inconsistent with everything else that I had been told up to now. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 00:10, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Reasonable requests don't always get answered satisfactorily. Have you tried asking other members directly? ++Lar: t/c 00:21, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
As an Ombudsperson, do you feel that "reasonable requests don't always get answered satisfactorily" is an acceptable or appropriate standard of performance for the Ombudsman Commission? Doesn't the notion of an important committee of Wikimedia functionaries blowing people off bother you? Have you tried contacting your colleagues, to try to find out why they aren't able to respond to questions on the Ombuds mailing list? TenOfAllTrades(talk) 02:42, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
It's not an ideal situation, no. Whether you've been blown off or not is a matter of perspective, though, and not everyone shares your perspective. Several other folk seem to be saying you've been answered already. ++Lar: t/c 06:14, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
If the situation has changed and you can now say that you are speaking on behalf of the Commission – and inform me that the case is closed and I was found by the Commission that I was not to have committed any wrongdoing – I will accept that. (Though there remain disturbing failures with the communications practices of the Commission.) Is that what you are saying? TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:48, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
The case is closed and it was found by the Commission that you was not to have committed any wrongdoing. --DR (talk) 11:29, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but I must ask one last question. To be absolutely clear, the above statement is an official statement on behalf of (and endorsed by) the Ombuds Commission, and not just a comment from one of its members? TenOfAllTrades(talk) 14:11, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, it is an official statement. On behalf of Ombudsman Commission, DR (talk) 15:45, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
Thank you. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 16:03, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Re: Why are non-free images not allowed in the user page???

Hi, Jimbo. I have been wondering why are the non-free images not allowed in the user page? Who created the policy? I am really sure that there are lots of great images that are non-free and I want it in my user page. Is it because of copyright problems with the specific license? For example, screenshots from Orbiter Space Flight Simulator are non-free, and I'm an Orbiter user, and I wanted the Orbiter screenshots in my user page to signify that I am an Orbiter user. They look nice when I put it on my user page. Previously, I've got two Orbiter screenshots deleted (removed) by User:Hammersoft from my user page. Can you discuss about this policy in greater detail and why non-free images are not allowed in the user page? I would appreciate that. Thanks. ->Challisrussia (talk) 02:34, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

you could start by digging yourself through United States Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107. That's the applicable law. Nutshell for your specific case: if the page is not about what's on the pic, you can't use the pic. You might be an Orbiter user, but you are not the Orbiter. Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 02:42, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
In general terms, this resolution by the Wikimedia Foundation is the basis on which the English Wikipedia non-free policy rests. Franamax (talk) 02:57, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Red Herring alert. The U.S. Copyright act of 1976 does not prevent the use of non-free images. For example, it is well-known that fair use allows the use of short clips or stills from a video, without obtaining any permissions. WP:NFCC specifically states that it is creating a policy which is more strict than is legally necessary.Wjhonson (talk) 21:32, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Importantly, because our mission here is Free content. In the capital F sense of the word. Gigs (talk) 04:07, 19 November 2010 (UTC)

Appreal picture

Dear Jimbo!

I was just going through the history and I noticed someone who shall not be named (suffice to say they were banned reasonbly quickly) made a seemingly valid complaint about the ungraceful previous appeal campaign picture of yourself, but they worded in a somewhat juvinile tone.

As such, it appears you have changed or one of your direct people have removed that picture and changed the banner at the top.

Was this due to the concerns expressed by that particular editor? If so, despite the reasons why he was banned, it appears he has done the campaign a bit of a favour.

Thoughts, comments? Chongleewang (talk) 16:03, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

I don't really know what you are talking about. But I don't think that had anything to do with anything. :) I am not responsible for choosing the banners; the staff is changing them and doing testing.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:22, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Thankyou for the advice

Thankyou for posting advice about not putting words into people's mouths. I appreciate it. I accused Headbomb of saying certain things, but what he actually said was somewhat different. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 2.97.27.21 (talk) 20:46, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

Jim Wales

Jim, you're a beautiful man ! L. 90.29.218.230 (talk) 22:34, 18 November 2010 (UTC)

rfc/u

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Jimbo_Wales_2 Noloop (talk) 03:27, 19 November 2010 (UTC)

No. You may express your displeasure, without personal attacks, in appropriate venues (here would be okay, given the nature of your complaint) but do not misuse the project to make your point. — Coren (talk) 04:00, 19 November 2010 (UTC)

Adminship and RfA

Questions

There is a long discussion up above, but rather than extending that long thread (I am hoping it will be archived soon), I want to start a new thread here. User:WereSpielChequers/RFA by month is the cornerstone of this particular discussion; please try to stay on topic and very philosophical, rather than getting into specific debates about specific incidents at RfA (though of course examples might be needed).

1. Should we actively seek to recruit more candidates to RfA? In 2007 there were 920, in 2009 there were only 355 - despite site traffic having increased substantially. Presumably, candidates respond more or less rationally to incentives... it being harder to pass RfA meant that only more-qualified candidates applied in the first place.

Empirical questions around which we need understanding would include: what actual reasons do actual people give (i.e. not speculation) for not applying in the first place?

2. Should we actively seek to change the standards for passing RfA, to make it easier again? I think it clear that many active admins today, the cohort created as admins in 2005-2007, would not pass RfA today.

Empirical questions around which we need understanding would include: what actual reasons are there for the increased level of scrutiny, and are we scrutinizing for the right things?

3. In order to make it more comfortable to create more admins, should we make it easier to lose the admin bit in case things don't work out well? Currently, making it to adminship is not unlike making it into the House of Lords in the UK - pretty hard to get kicked out. There are some good reasons for this: we want admins to have the ability to withstand a certain amount of populist pressure, so that we can preserve a culture with diversity of viewpoint and active debate around key issues.

There are multiple ways to go about this: one concern people have raised is that ArbCom, being elected by the admin community for the most part (everyone can vote, but admin votes are easily the swing vote), may not have the political independence to take tough decisions against popular admins who have not been behaving well. I am not sure I share that concern, but it is an empirical question.

Empirical questions around which we need understanding would include: how have voluntary admin recall processes tended to work out in practice? Do ArbCom members, present and past, feel politically empowered to take action against popular admins who need discipline?

4. What is the right number of admins, anyway? Or, more in line with the big picture philosophical questions about which I am seeking to encourage more discussion: what are the right metrics for determining whether we have enough admins?

I have a feeling this is going to be a long-ish discussion. Please do try, therefore, to stay directly on-topic as much as we can. :)--Jimbo Wales (talk) 13:04, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Responses 1

Yes, YES, YES! to point 3. Any easier and less antagonistic method of desysopping admins will create a less adversarial process in confering the flags; rather than stopping all but the most overly qualified editors, all editors in good standing are then legible - since removing the bit once it is realised the applicant was not up to standard is much easier. Ultimately, we can then return to the basis of approving admin applications on the basis of whether they are deserving to be trusted with the tools (i.e. use them in good faith). Absolutely number 3!! LessHeard vanU (talk) 13:15, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
To create candidates, WP needs to automatically assess their stats (number of articles created, vandalism fighting edits, number of contributions, quality of said contributions, etc), then a process of verification should be established by current administrators and if the candidate pass, let them know they're being considered for adminship, even a badge of "Admin nominee" could be created and let the user decide if he wants the mop (some won't because they don't have the time, but will be proud and glad they were considered). Final discussion where anyone can give their opinion should be the last step, where they can be as vicious as some people say vox populi is at the moment. The problem is that usernames without the requirements go to RfA, only to be told they shouldn't even there in the first place, providing an environment where people are allowed to be uncivil and get negativity from their daily lives out of their system. Currently, only usernames with social skills have the ability to pass RfA, since they will be even co-nominated by friends they make and win by popularity vote when others join the bandwagon, not necessarily because of their skills as an administrator (wich include more than social skills and some vandalism fighting). --John KB (talk) 13:36, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
This is interesting-- thinking aloud. It has good elements, but I suspect it would go the way of Kirill's proposal (whose name I can never remember, but led to his resignation). Would it be criticized as "insiders promoting insiders"? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:51, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
You mean the way it's criticized right now? --John KB (talk) 16:05, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Found: Wikipedia:Advisory Council on Project Development. My current criticism is not "insiders promoting insiders"; it's inexperienced editors who don't know policy promoting same with little scrutiny. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:24, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
That's RfA. Administrators are supposed to know policy. Do they? --John KB (talk) 16:37, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Just a quick comment in regard to 4. I've started collecting data along those lines, with a paper in mind - the main question there is whether or not the trend WereSpielChequers identified is reflected in response times. There's a "gut feeling" that times are getting longer, but this is difficult to quantify (I'm trying a longitudinal study, but there's a lot of data to work through). That said, it is going to be difficult to answer even with data, as there's a balance to be met: more admins may result in faster response times, but if either the decision quality drops or if it creates a higher incidence of wheel-warring and other admin-related disputes the value will be curtailed. - Bilby (talk) 13:18, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
1. No. Recruiting in recent instances has shown poor screening by the recruitee, and I seriously dispute that "only more-qualified candidates applied in the first place". Actual reason for not applying in the first place: the admin corp has fallen into such ill repute, because of the double standard at ANI, that many editors don't want to be part of that club, and experienced knowledgeable editors who have been 'round the block know they will have made enough enemies that they won't pass.

2. Making it easier would be moving in the wrong direction, considering community-wide concern about current admin abuse of tools and the double standard at ANI. Hopefully, scrutinizing of the right things is increasing, as more and more problems have surfaced, and the increased level of scrutiny is directly correlated with ongoing admin abuse, tolerated throughout the Wiki and at ANI.

3. ABSOLUTELY, yes. We need a desysopping procedure, short of ArbCom. This issue is complicated by the fact that many parts of the community feel that ArbCom tolerates admin abuse, is out of touch with content creation issues, and coddles disruptive editors. Editors are constantly exhorted to use WP:DR, start an RFC, but after doing so, are told the RFC is "petty" in spite of clear abuse of admin tools. Dispute resolution is broken when it comes to dealing with admin abuse-- the admin's friends will pile on, the admin's enemies will too, and the affected party's detractors will as well. RFC doesn't work, and we have no procedure that effectively deals with admin abuse.

4. I don't know, but abusive admin action causes more disruption than the vandals they're whacking.

On a more general point, it is incorrect to believe from WSC's stats that declining numbers are only a problem at RFA; it is Wiki-wide, also evidenced in all content review processes. And many editors give up precisely because of admin abuse and double standards, so addressing number 3 might help address the Wiki-wide problem. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:21, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

PS, I make many typos in all of my posts: anyone who sees one anywhere is authorized by me to correct it-- I don't have time, and I often can't even see them. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:26, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

RfA success rates:

  • 2004 — 63/302 = 20.9% of RfA's were unsuccessful
  • 2005 — 213/600 = 35.5% of RfA's were unsuccessful
  • 2006 — 543/896 = 60.6% of RfA's were unsuccessful
  • 2007 — 512/920 = 55.7% of RfA's were unsuccessful
  • 2008 — 392/593 = 66.1% of RfA's were unsuccessful
  • 2009 — 234/355 = 65.9% of RfA's were unsuccessful
  • 2010 (to end of October) — 139/209 = 66.5% of RfA's were unsuccessful

So, basically, the number of RfA's per year has fallen from its 2006/7 peak by over 70%, whilst the situation remains that 2 in every 3 RfA's remains unsuccessful. So, is RfA broken? Yes. Should we recruit more people to stand? Been tried for the last two years, but for that the present situation would be worse. The biggest problem, as I see it, is that desysoping is way too hard. ArbCom won't act except on egregious cases, and making a case to ArbCom is slightly more fun than passing a kidney stone – which means that cases of generally poor admin conduct result in absolutely nothing being done. No de-adminship proposal will pass because the admin corps oppose the accountability that comes with it (if you don't believe me, read the last one); the most common argument against it is that it would be gamed which just argues that the proces needs to be well designed, not that such a process is not needed. The question is, will anything change in a leadership sense to force the change that is needed, or will this just degenerate into another talk-fest? EdChem (talk) 13:29, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

EdChem, I think there are sufficient avenues for policy change. I do not agree that, in general, the admin corps take the view that you think. There are legitimate concerns about processes that can be gamed, or provide for intense drama. And there are very legitimate reasons to want to be sure that admins can take unpopular actions. And, despite the views of a small minority, there is very little evidence that "admin abuse" is a huge problem, or even a mid-sized problem. (I think no one will disagree that sometimes it happens, and sometimes it goes unpunished, and that this is not a good thing.) I am thinking along the lines of a very lightweight process, mandatory for all (so that admins who are brave enough to wade into the most political difficult situations don't end up calling up for recall all the time), and which provides for significant protection for admins. I am thinking of something like "Upon the 1st anniversary as an admin, subject to a reconfirmation vote, 50%+1 majority required to remain as admin." The idea of doing it only after a year is to provide strong short-term protection, to prevent random recall actions when we are feeling in a "lynch mob" mood. Also, I am thinking at the moment of a one-time thing, i.e. a probationary year as an admin, and then you're an admin just as things are in place today. If political opposition to this seems too high, then it could be grandfathered in as a part of the new-admin RfA process. The point here would be to make it easier, over time, to remove people who don't work out as admins in a low-drama way, in order to make it possible to accept more people, which in turn would make it more attractive for potential candidates to get through.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:03, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Again, it is incorrect to draw conclusions based on these stats in isolation; standards have increased across the Project, and articles that passed FAC in past years would not pass today. People are drawing faulty conclusions from stats. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:32, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think people are drawing wrong conclusions at all. Of course these stats can't be viewed in isolation; I don't think anyone is doing so.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:03, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
As I said, "in isolation". People should realize these trends are Wiki-wide, not just at RFA. Admins passed in past years when standards were lax-- same can be said of articles that passed FAC in past years, same for GA, etc. Just as many old FAs or GAs are out of compliance with current standards, some admins passed in the earlier days of the Project are too. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:20, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
You have a valid point. My point is that I think everyone is taking that into account. It is a well-known fact. I don't think people are drawing wrong conclusions nor looking at any of this in isolation.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 14:23, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Jimbo, following on from your request at my talk page, some links. The discussion earlier this year was at WP:CDA and WT:CDA and related pages. The data on the !votes are summarised here and it is worth noting that "Among the supports, approximately 19% (31/167) were from admins. Amongst opposes, 55% (106/190) were admins" (quoting from this discussion). Looking at the numbers in a different way, opposition from admins ran at about 106/(106+31) = 77.4%; amongst non-admins, opposition ran at about 84/(136+84) = 38.2%.

I concur with you that there are "legitimate concerns about processes that can be gamed, or provide for intense drama" and that "there are very legitimate reasons to want to be sure that admins can take unpopular actions". Despite the views some hold of me, I am neither ignorant nor foolish. However, I take issues of principle over pragmatism very seriously. As a matter of principle, accountability is crucial for a functioning community and I believe there is insufficient accountability of the admin corps to the community. Consequently, I favour a community de-sysoping mechanism of some sort. I recognise that many have legiitimate concerns over gaming, but I strongly disagree that concerns over gaming is a valid basis for opposing any mechanism being established. To me, there should be a two-stage decision process: (1) should a community-based desysop mechanism be established? (2) having decided to establish one, what should it be? The arguments about gaming are being used to frustrate a "yes" to the first question, in effect elevating pragmatism over principle. I believe that some admins are doing this out of self-interest, and that most are acting in the earnest belief that they are doing what is best for the 'pedia; however, I disagree with them because the argument that something is hard to do is really not a good reason not to try.

You also wrote that "despite the views of a small minority, there is very little evidence that "admin abuse" is a huge problem, or even a mid-sized problem". Here, I'm afraid, we disagree. I think there is regular admin abuse, but that most of it is fairly low-level. It is, however, having a corrosive effect on the credibility of the admin corps as a whole, and damaging governance here in a way that is only getting worse. One need not spend long watching WP:ANI to see admins closing ranks to protect and excuse actions of admins that would draw a strong response if that same action was taken by a "regular" editor. Admin and ArbCom actions at times do strongly communicate that WP:NOBIGDEAL should be marked as historical, whether those messages are intended or not. Thid place does have governance problems. Now, it is also true that admins (and ArbCom) are regularly criticised unfairly, and some of that small minority (as you put it) are pursuing an ideological crusade that generates a lot of unnecessary heat in the process of highlighting some genuine issues. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water, but the water does need changing from time to time. I am one editor, one who only has 3000 or so edits, so my departure certainly would make no difference to this place, but I have certainly considered leaving at times and admin behaviour has been a factor in my thoughts. EdChem (talk) 21:04, 7 November 2010 (UTC) (NB: Post written about 6 h ago, but internet connection lost while writing...  :( EdChem (talk) 21:04, 7 November 2010 (UTC))

Hi Ed, I'm sorry that you've had bad experiences with one or more admins and that it has made you consider leaving. But please remember there are currently 783 active admins, which is easily enough for some people to be aware of admins who they think do a good job, and at the same time for there to be an unknown number of bad admins, but also for the reverse to be true. As for whether there should be a community based method to desysop or otherwise censure admins, we the community elect Arbcom, we as individuals can raise grievances with the editor concerned and if that doesn't work we can then escalate matters. I believe that if people have a legitimate gripe and the admins concerned don't respond appropriately to complaints, then we have a reasonably fair and effective system. If we include those who resigned controversially, or failed a reconfirmation, there are currently 85 former admins at Wikipedia:Former_administrators who would need an RFA to get the bit back. So some of us consider that we already have a community based desysopping system in place. If you've tried to address a situation under that system and found the process unsatisfactory then I'd like to suggest you either suggest how the system could change, or in the forthcoming election vote for Arbs who you think would run it better. But if you are aware of people who you consider to be bad admins, and neither you nor others have tried to address things under the current system, what reassurance can you give people like myself who broadly support the current system that replacing it with a new system would address the problem of people not using the available system? ϢereSpielChequers 21:53, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Here's a wacky idea ("wacky" is often politely phrased as "thinking outside the box" hmmm): how about giving admins limited access to the sysop bit, so that they can appoint new admins unless their appointment is challenged, in which case, we get an RfA. This would at least save bureaucracy in cases where an RfA would snow, and might help make consensus appointments in the sense that no one strongly objects. Such a model was suggested to me by the GA process, in which articles can be listed as GA by an individual editor, but if their judgement is unsound or contested, the article will also likely be delisted! Geometry guy 22:13, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

I wouldn't want many admins I know to have that ability, and almost everyone who might receive the bit this way would be challenged by someone going in, and have a cloud over their adminship depending on who gave them the bit. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:32, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Even if it were only very temporarily? Bad appointments might even draw attention to bad admins. An appointment under a cloud would likely be challenged. I agree that it is a wacky idea, but we need to be inventive here to inspire even better ideas. Geometry guy 23:09, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
OK, so bad appointments draw attention to bad admins, more editors and articles are damaged in the interim, and we're right back here-- how to deal with the bad admins, only more of them? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:22, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I think this would work, but it would need to be the crats appointing admins, not admins appointing admins. If such appointed admins were on say a 6 month appointment and at the end they could choose between RFA and giving up the bit then I think this would be workable. ϢereSpielChequers 23:36, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I will ask the problem I often ask when similar proposals re made: What is the problem that we seek to solve by this? I very cautiously agree with Sandy that this is very likely a bad ida, but I'd like know: why?--Wehwalt (talk) 00:13, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
This meshes well with the probationary period/apprenticeship idea stemming from Wikiversity, discussed below. If, rather than just handing out bits like candy, an admin were forced to take on an apprentice, it might work. That apprentice would have admin tools, but could use them only in limited fashion - obvious blocks from AIV reports, for example, and clear consensus deletions. Every action would be subject to oversight by the mentor. After 1 month (or whatever), the apprentice may go to RFA with their mentor's nomination, strengthened because the mentor had a close working-on-admin-things relationship with the apprentice, and there is a track record of admin actions on which to base an RFA decision. This might also mitigate the worry over what the candidate will do as an admin - we know, because we can tell from the record. There's some appeal to the idea, honestly - and it would certainly turn admin coaching on its head! UltraExactZZ Said ~ Did 19:12, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
We could call them "padawan learners", which would be cool. But I still don't see the need.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:35, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Responses 2

The mantra "desysopping is way to hard" isn't actually convincing. Firstly, while everyone agrees there are bad admins who should be desysopped, no one would agree who they are - except the ones so obvious that arbcom does desysop. No one has ever pointed to any case where there's a consensus that the system failed - and even if they did, one (or ten) swallow doeth not a summer make. OTOH the cost to creating a system is high. What we'd have is lots of attempts to desysop, many instituted for revenge or political reasons, wasting time and getting no consensus to desysop in the end. (If anything were obvious enough to get a consensus to desysop it would have to be so bad that arbcom would have desysopped anyway. Plus, and this needs considered, an atmosphere of "let's impeach admins for failures" may well serve to deter people from wanting the mop. Second, compulsory recall proposals are perennial and always fail. As long as you need a consensus for a change, there will be none here. If you want a solution, you need to look elsewhere.

The narrower point that the community will not take a chance on a borderline admin candidate, because it can't change its mind later, is well-founded. So, focus on that. Allow crats to promote borderline candidates (60%+) on a "provisional basis." That type of scrutiny means that the process is focused narrowly on the problem itself, rather than being getting caught up in a recall process for 1,000 admins which has major implications (and as much as some like it, isn't going to happen). All you need to say is that "provisional promotions" must be reconfirmed 2-3 months later - and during the "provisional period" a failing candidate may be desysopped on the say-so of any two crats or arbs. The candidate can always appeal to the community by filing a fresh RFA. There's nuances on this type of idea, but it is clearly workable and doesn't get bogged down on the separate and contentions question of recall. --Scott Mac 14:38, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

  • My own opinion, on point 3, is that despite my opposition to the recent proposals, I agree in principle. Anyone who thinks AbrCom is unwilling to desysop hasn't been paying attention; but we can't do it over a he said she said, or over random claims. There needs to be a simpler and easier process that allows the community to address consistently poor admins (the current processes pretty much only allow an ArbCom case in really egregious incidents as Sandy notes above).

    The problem is, any such process must be fair, and resistant to gaming. The best framework, IMO, would be simple: have a process (RfC-like?) the result of which, at its conclusion, is brought to arbcom who can then make a simple three-way ruling: "no issue", "must return to RfA", "looses bit". Have a sane enough quorum to prevent kneejerks and the number of such cases can be easily managed. — Coren (talk) 14:45, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

    • I've no problem with that suggestion for its own sake. However, I'm not that confident that it will move a whole lot of RFA voters to vote differently, plus its a long and humiliating process to sack a admin who is doing his best, but just isn't up to it. In short it is a jump into the dark with no clear gains for RFA. My suggestion above is more focused on the problem and will certainly make a difference to RFA passes.--Scott Mac 14:51, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
      • Well, the perception that it's impossible to get rid of a bad admin at least should be eased by a clear and simple process. I think that people will be less hesitant to support a candidate they would otherwise have been ambivalent about if they feel that an erroneous promotion can be reversed. But I don't think that a failed "provisional" sysop would be any less humiliating. Your own proposal has merit for one class of problem (borderline cases at promotion), but doesn't address the issue of existing admins whose behavior has been consistently poor which — as far as I can tell — is what moves a number of editors to be extraordinarily demanding at RfA. — Coren (talk) 14:58, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
        • I think my proposal might end up with a lot of people voting "support on a provisional basis", knowing they can then wait a couple of months and re-assess based on the evidence of performance. I suspect the desysopping of a provisional admin would seldom happen - it's the fact that there's a reconfirmation later that would enable people to take a chance. Again, I'd simply say that a more general "easy desysop" is perennially debated and never gets consensus - granted it might change voting habits. But the might and the fact it isn't going to happen means you should look for a more focused solution or nothing will actually change.--Scott Mac 15:06, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Not being familiar with any past proposals, I think a proces not unlike RfA is the best option, with an added threshold to prevent abuse: 1) An editor nominates an admin for desysopping. 2) Three admins must validate the nomination by checking if the nomination has merit. 3) Once validated, actual discussion ensues with all editors participating. 4) A steward evaluates the discussion and removes the bit when appropriate. EdokterTalk 15:04, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
    • We have that process already. If there are concerns about an admin, an WP:RFC can be started. Upon conclusion a request for desysop can be filed with ArbCom, if that's where the evidence and opinions lead to. Jehochman Talk 14:52, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
      • In theory, yes. But right now, it always is (a) poorly focused RfCs (we need a focused alternative) and (b) leads to full cases rather than a simple "close by motion". Both are simple to implement, but need community support. — Coren (talk) 14:58, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
        • I also have a test case up now, to see if DR works. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:54, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Scott Mac's idea to have provisional appointments for RfA candidates with only moderately good levels of support is excellent.
Such provisional appointments would, for example, help to recruit administrators with experience of working on controversial topics. Such candidates attract oppose votes from points of view they have challenged in the past, which does not necessarily mean they will make bad administrators. Further, if they are overly involved or partisan, this is likely to become apparent relatively quickly.
I see this primarily as a method to increase numbers of RfA candidates and admins (it would have no effect on accountability in the longer term). It would also give bureaucrats more flexibility to exercise their judgment in interpreting support percentages in the 60-75% range. Geometry guy 18:55, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Responses 3

  1. Should we actively recruit more candidates for RFA? Yes, but not in my view until we have fixed RFA. Persuading people to subject themselves to the current hazing ceremony is ethically dubious and while I will support people who I think would make good admins, I for one am not currently recruiting them. I'm not even sure I'd be willing to nominate someone who volunteered for it.
  2. Should we change the standards to make RFA easier to pass? Some standards are worth challenging and reviewing, particularly to see if there is any evidence that they differentiate between good and bad admins. But I don't think we should be simply lowering them generally. I fear that RFA is probably easier to game than it was at times in the past. I would like to see RFA more civil and more focussed on what the candidate has done, as I suspect that the over emphasis on the question section is distracting attention from the candidates' recent edits. More importantly we should discuss what the standards should be outside of individual RFAs, real life recruitment panels don't debate whether the job requires proficiency in foo while they are interviewing a candidate, they discuss what they are looking for in advance and put at least the minimum criteria in the job ad.
  3. In principle I like the suggestion of probationary adminship for the first year, but when I last looked through past desysoppings the problems seemed to emerge after multiple years, with longterm admins losing touch with the community norms. I think that a better solution to that would be some sort of ongoing training or refreshers for tools that particular admins use rarely. But while I'm not convinced that the probationary system solution would screen out many problematic admins, I'd support it if it might address people's concerns about the deadminning process even though I think those concerns illfounded. Incidentally the House of Lords comparison is interesting, if only because the real as opposed to perceived rate of desyopping of admins has been orders of magnitude greater than the frequency of sacking or suspending members of the House of Lords. I think that Arbcom's record in desysopping is wildly underrated by those who want to replace rather than reform them, and I'd suggest that a discussion on what actual changes Arbom could make would be far more productive than yet another attempt to create a community deadminship system. Not least because I don't see how you can square the circle of creating a system that couldn't be gamed from offsite but didn't result in people continuing as admins against the expressed will of a majority of participating wikipedians, other than by electing or randomly picking a panel to handle such incidents.
  4. The mop has many useful features, and I think that we should be aiming to have all longterm, experienced, civil, clueful editors become admins if they are willing to take on the role. With a stable or even a slowly declining editor community the number of admins should I believe be rising as those who remain become generally more experienced. But actually we have a fast dwindling cadre of active admins, with all the penalties that brings, including I fear admins effectively gaining some perceived status simply from their scarcity value; and we risk admins becoming a caste apart as they find more of their wikitime taken up by admin stuff and less by normal editing. If current trends continue then eventually we won't have enough admins to always be sure we have admins at AIV etc, I don't know whether we will hit that next year or in three or four years, but the trend is clear, has been consistent for two and a half years and is deeply problematic. I'd prefer we fix RFA before we discover the hard way what our minimum number of active admins is. ϢereSpielChequers 16:54, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

These are great questions. Thoughts:

  1. A more numerous and varied admin corps would be useful. As for why people won't apply in the first place—as Sandy said, there is a class of editors who have been around long enough to have made enemies in their (quality) content work and won't pass an RfA under the present system, requiring 75 or 80 percent support. It's one of the reasons why I wouldn't apply; having worked on Scientology and cult topics, and taken stands on contentious BLP and "censorship" issues, I would expect a prohibitive number of opposes on that basis.
  2. I agree that many of the present admins wouldn't pass if they launched an RfA today, with current support requirements. It's unsatisfactory to have sitting admins who might perhaps garner 60% support, while new candidates with a similar support ratio are disqualified. Making it easier for editors to become admins, by lowering the number/percentage of supports needed to a simple two-thirds majority, would help address this imbalance.
    I'd also like us to factor in candidates' content work. I was so sorry to see this RfA fail (useful comments by closing crat) – a knowledgeable, intelligent and conscientious content editor who I am sure would have been an asset as an admin. If a candidate has written GAs or FAs, or has consistently made solid input to processes like GA, FAC and FAR, we should add 5–10% to the support vote. It would gradually increase the number of admins who do quality content work, and increase editors' motivation to do and mature through such work—both good things.
  3. I'm in favour of making it easier to lose the bit, especially if we make it easier to get it. If we truly believe that "adminship isn't a big deal", then it shouldn't be a big deal to lose it. All admins should be subject to a biennial reconfirmation vote (that is, if they are up for doing the job for another two years), based exclusively on the quality of their admin actions over the previous two-year period, and requiring 50%+ support to pass. For new admins, the first reconfirmation could be after 6–12 months, so that misjudgments can be corrected within a reasonable time. If an admin fails reconfirmation, they can re-apply after a year or 6 months. Every successful system of governance has limited terms of office, with built-in accountability and transparency. Society learned these lessons the hard way, and we ignore them at our peril. I believe that accountability to the community will have a positive effect on admin performance, making admins more circumspect and conscientious.
  4. I don't know the ideal number of admins, but at any rate, we don't seem to have enough for some tasks. We all know there are backlogs, and it is often always the same regulars that take care of specific tasks. --JN466 18:04, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
If "[a]ll admins [are] subject to a biennial reconfirmation vote", they will be less likely to make the hard calls, knowing they won't be reconfirmed. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:45, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that is part of growing a culture that rewards admins who act with integrity and circumspection. It's a system that works perfectly well in wider society – no one would argue that democratically elected politicians are hamstrung by the requirement of submitting to another election at the end of their term – and it works perfectly well with the arbitration committee. I'll grant you that admins would be less likely to stick their necks out towards the end of their terms – just like politicians do the hard stuff at the beginning of their terms, and lower taxes at the end of them – but tenures for life simply do not have a good track record in human history. --JN466 00:11, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
But this isn't the real world, not even close. (Added: for starters, in the real world, you have to be 18 to vote, for good reason, but that isn't possible to implement on Wiki. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:36, 8 November 2010 (UTC)) Again, the FAC example: pride in your work. If someone else's FA is crap, it makes your FA worth less. The kind of pride attached to writing an FA is not evident in the admin corp; they don't police their own, they don't make sure policy is upheld when another admin is involved, there is a double standard at ANI where admins are rarely held accountable. Hence, the calls for stronger desysopping processes or better standards at RFA. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:39, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
So you feel that limited admin terms, combined with the present arbcom desysopping process, would still be too weak or cumbersome, and that the real problem is that RfA picks the wrong people? Do you think giving more weight to content work at RfA would help?
I agree with you that double standards at ANI are sometimes painfully obvious. I guess that is human. We should not forget that WP:AN/I and WP:AE are really only a small part of what admins do, overall. A lot of admin jobs are tedious gnoming tasks. I am struck by the fact that ANI is popping up in a lot of complaints about admins; there are few complaints about admins' vandal-fighting or copyright work. --JN466 01:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think term limits would be a mistake, for reasons I've given elsewhere on this page. I think we need a separate Arb process to examine admin misuse of tools, hopefully speedier than the full cases we see now, which often involve other issues. I think RFA picks the wrong people, but that overfocus on content creation is not the way to go-- some editors specialize in other areas, and if they are proven trustworthy, it doesn't bother me that they haven't created top content. The problem at RFA is that candidates were evidencing knowledge of the Project, policy and writing via DYKs, which showed only, in many cases, that they could plagiarize non-reliable sources quicker than the average bear. We need the gnomes as well as the top content people, but we need for RFA to scrutinize them adequately to make sure they have evidenced that they can be trusted with *all* the tools, and we need to be able to get rid of the bad apples faster and easier, without so much burden placed on those who do write content, as they are the ones most often affected by the bad apples. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:32, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Jayen, not true at all... there are plenty of people who would argue that one of the biggest mistakes we've made was to put judge on ballots. See the Iowa results where the judges who voted for Gay Marraige were all ousted.---Balloonman NO! I'm Spartacus! 17:04, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm delighted that we are discussing these issues.

  1. Recruit more? It seems to me that people who are suited to do this will know whether or not they want to do this, but it's reasonable to ask whether the RfA system should be made more attractive.
  2. Easier RfA standards? It seems to me that, ultimately, the community needs to be able to determine whether or not a candidate has our trust. If that results in high standards, so be it. I think we should continue to examine ways to have administrators who are empowered only in specific areas, even though no proposal to date has gained traction. My suggestion for an empirical question: How frequently do those who oppose or !vote neutral at RfA say explicitly that they would have supported if a better de-sysop procedure existed?
  3. Easier procedure for de-sysoping? Not surprisingly (given my experiences with WP:CDA), I have a lot of opinions about this!
    • Jimbo, a big part of the reason why these questions showed up on your talk is that you are so closely associated with the "no big deal" formulation. It seems to me that administrators have the abilities to (1) block users, and (2) delete pages, and these abilities most definitely are big deals, because of the impact they can have on other members of the community. If we determine that a user can be trusted with these powers, that's a big deal. On the other hand, administrators should not use that fact to swagger around as if they know more than the rest of us with respect to editing in general. Most of them, by far, don't do that, but a few do. That's where the tension is located.
    • You noted above, as have many others, that some administrators who passed in the early years of RfA would have a hard time passing now. We often assume that this means that the standards now have become too difficult, but there is no empirical evidence for that conclusion. It seems logical, unless one considers the community to have become irrational, that experience has shown that the standards used to be too low.
    • For that reason, there are limitations to the usefulness of having a one-year review of new administrators. It won't do anything about administrators from before, where, in fact, the issue may be (in a few instances) more relevant.
    • As a comment to all and sundry, anyone proposing a new procedure needs to read, carefully, Wikipedia:Community de-adminship/RfC, as well as TenOfAllTrades' essay Wikipedia:De-adminship proposal checklist. Ignore that at your own risk!
    • Part of what I took away from CDA is that there is a very serious concern among a lot of very thoughtful Wikipedians, administrators and non-administrators alike, that it would be unacceptable to expose administrators to a procedure that is too easily swayed by popular passions. For that reason, I think some of the talk here has been a bit too hard on ArbCom. My opinion has evolved to the belief that any recall procedure actually needs to be decided by ArbCom, who can determine when a complaint is without merit, and not by a community poll. And I believe that ArbCom is up to the task. The unsolved problem, instead, is how to get proposals for desysoping in front of ArbCom, how to give the Committee a useful take on community sentiment, and how to make it manageable for concerned editors to get the case heard without feeling that they will be pilloried for raising the case. Perhaps we need to figure out a better variation on RfC/U, designed for this purpose.
  4. Right number of admins? I don't know, but being able to accomplish all the needed work, with some redundancy, seems like the proper ends.

Thanks. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:13, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Responses 4

Jimbo....

  • 1...The most common reason I have heard why people don't want to be admins is because they don't want to do admin duties. The community seems to want admin candidates to already have a nearly complete understanding of admin chores and to have been actively engaged in admin related tasks for some time...something many admin candidates haven't done because they don't understand these areas yet or simply aren't that interested in them. I found most admin chores to be tedious and boring.
  • 2...It should be easier to become an admin...there absolutely needs to be 5 more or less written in stone questions on every Rfa...ALL other questions should be on the Rfa talkpage...these mainpaged questions should ask only questions that pertain directly to admin chores. Rfa's should disallow lengthy battlegrounds on the main Rfa page...that should be relegated to the Rfa talkpage. But with standards rising, expectations increasing and potential candidates seeing the gauntlet of questions, under the belt punches and snide commentary, it's not surprising to me that fewer potentials are showing up for their shallacing...for many of these potentials, the scrutiny isn't worth the reward.
  • 3...Arbcom has had a history of allowing greater latitude for seasoned editors and admins than less "powerful" and or newer editors....this is not a surprise and I agree with your sentiments. There have been a few admins who have lost their bit via an arbcom case for less than persuasive reasons...however, in the vast majority of cases, most admins defrocked by arbcom deserved it, myself included.
  • 4...Unless we are backlogged on admin chores not being addressed, then we currently have a sufficient number of admins. The only time to do more recruiting is if the current number of admins are overwhelmed by the backlogs.
  • Thoughts: I'm not sure were recruiting enough new and qualified editors...we have made the website user-friendly only to those that have been around long enough/are around often enough to keep abreast of the changes. Articles are template loaded (I'm very guilty of this) and the editing text looks like Martian to newbies lost in a myriad of template/infobox/reference embedded links...new editors try to add refs but get yelled at or have their changes reverted because they didn't understand our citation templates...some longer established editors don't want to help newbies and dread "cleaning up" after them, even though most of the newbies are doing the best they can.--MONGO 23:28, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I disagree with Mongo on points 1 and 2. Re, "The most common reason I have heard why people don't want to be admins is because they don't want to do admin duties", I hear exactly the opposite. Even editors who mostly contribute content say they could make use of the tools if they had them, for example, instead of having to go to AIV for routine vandal whacking, but they don't want to be part of the admin corp because of concerns about poor site governance and abuse, and they aren't interested in running the gauntlet at RFA when they feel the overall system is broken and they would rather stay in their comfortable article writing corners. On 2., if there were only five set-in-stone questions, the reward culture adherents would just learn to answer those questions, and if the give-and-take, free-for-all at RFA is reduced, we will screen out less bad candidates. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 02:48, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I strongly agree woht point 2. Most of the questions are irrelevant or irreverent. It has gotten out of hand. Sven Manguard Talk 16:53, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I strongly disagree with Sandy here. Sure many people would find having the tools EASY, but also many people know that the tediousness, required policy knowledge and drama around admin tasks is just not something with which they want to spent time. It has nothing to do with a "corruptness", governance or anything like that, which is holding people back. It's the simple fact that being an admin is NOT fun. For that reason, I'm an admin that focusses on 4 things, MediaWiki namespace, protected templates, javascript/css and some image cleanup. I chose not to be involved in other areas, and explicitly even mentioned/requested it in my RfA, and I got trough without trouble in 2009. I do not WANT to whack a vandal, delete articles, do dispute resolution or what not. It's not my thing and I hate it and I think that actually goes for many. Everyone wants to have a gun and pepperspray, but few people want to actually be a cop, social worker, concierge, shrink, kindergarten teacher and judge at the same time (which really is a better summary than "admin") and be accountable for it as well. It's as simple as that.
Wikipedia from its early days has largely been a Laissez-faire type of community. I see a lot of indications from editors that think this should change, on all levels of the userscale (give whacko's less room to make their points, kick out admins who make an occasional mistake). Such is fine, we can become a more stricter community, but such a thing by definition will be a very slow process, much slower than anyone of those people will ever appreciate. Status quo is usually a strong position for a reason. Being more strict will mean throwing many people out of the community, be it fair or not. It will include mistakes and more room for misunderstandings (people just can't protest them anymore). It might make a nicer community that will be more "friendly" again for newcomers, but it will also cost us a lot of the traditional freedom and openness that we have. It will downgrade WP:IAR to the backseat and people will still be pissed off (this time because we are too strict). I'm not saying I have the answer, but to say that we have a lack of admins simply because (summarized) "admins are perceived as a corrupt bunch by editors" is an oversimplification of the problems. Wikipedia is an Internet website, with all the social problems of any website that is open to all. I have seen the same problems in usenet groups, mailingslists and forum boards. There is no easy solution, except creating your own fortress, ruling it with an iron fist and throwing out everyone you don't like. We are open and openness is inherently flawed and beautiful in that way. —TheDJ (talkcontribs) 00:43, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Well, I'm watching John Lennon in preparation for the possible TFA on the 30th anniversary of his death, and I had to take 13 minutes to file a 3RR report today (maybe I'm dumber and slower than the average bear), so I can see why even if you rarely use the tools, it would be nice for more competent people to have them ... and that's what I hear from lots of people ... even if they weren't regular vandal whackers, they could be more productive if they had the tools, but they just don't want to go there. Of course, my sample has selection bias, as does everyone's :) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:50, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
A modest proposal by Jclemens...

My thoughts on adminiship are influenced by Iridescent: The way to keep your perspective as an administrator is to keep being an editor. She took a year or so off, hung up the bit and all. Of course, there's no way for an administrator in good standing to “hang up the bit” permanently: it's always there for the asking, such that Iridescent was never on equal footing with non-administrators—not only could she not repudiate the right to ask for the bit back without an RfA, she cannot be expected to disavow the friendship and/or respect of those who respect her choice. Yet, somehow she continued along, building the encyclopedia, and as she had resigned the bit absent any “good reason” to, returned from her self-enforced sabbatical and is once again an administrator in good standing.

Administrators who are content creators should remain content-creators, because the administrative tasks are dreadful, and doing administration work to the exclusion of all other encyclopedia-building cannot help but pervert the perspective of administrators—the Mugabe syndrome, as others have opined above.

To this end, I think we should decrease the emphasis on administration-related task history for administrator candidates, and increase the emphasis on content creation, both in the RfA process, as well as any reconfirmation process we may enact. If we don't want a set of mandarins, which I do not, we need to have administrators who keep up their content creation, which many currently do not.

Thus, if we're going to have a de-admin process, I think it should be a periodic, rather than pitchfork-initiated process. Looking at the sum total of an admin's contributions—content creation, administrative tool use, dispute resolution, activity, and the like—should that admin retain the bit? Periodic, universal review could be accreditation-like: based on the outcome of the review, an administrator could be (for example) demoted, retained for review in six months, a year, or two years. Accompanying this administrator review would be comments on the administrator's conduct, strengths, and weaknesses, offered with the ostensible goal of improving the administrator's job performance.

Probably too much work to actually succeed, but I like it better than anything else I've seen here so far. Jclemens (talk) 00:01, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

So, unless I'm mistaken, if the recall process puts the most emphasis on content creation while being an admin, admins who don't do much or any content creation should be demoted for actually using the tools that they applied for more than they created content? Exactly how many administrators would that affect? 100? 200? Would we be left with a vast shortage of admins, those of which are so caught up in content creation that they aren't all that active in using the tools? The Thing T/C 14:39, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
If the goal is to have more admins, yes. I want to maintain a set of working content-creator admins, who are elected and retained from within the corps of content creators, not a professional corps of mandarins who serve like sheepdogs, corralling the sheep (content creators) through threats while contributing no content themselves. If you don't see anything wrong with that, then I agree, my proposal won't further that end. Jclemens (talk) 17:38, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I was under the impression that your proposal would do away with admins who don't contribute any content... like certain specialist admins, anti-vandal admins, etc... but it seems I was mistaken. If I read your last post right, non-content creating admins who don't bother the content creators at all, who just stay in their own area are just fine with having the tools, correct? The sock that should not be (talk) 17:46, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that's a more positive way of viewing it, yes. This is an encyclopedia we're making here, and the acme of admin success should be "Does this administrator contribute to encyclopedia-building and improvement?" If an admin is fighting vandals (good) but occasionally driving off good-faith new users (bad), then they need counsel to improve--unless they're so egregiously bad that they're a net-negative to the project. Jclemens (talk) 02:31, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I'll make my answers easy:
    • 1 = Yes. I recruited many people to run for adminship back in 07 and 08, many of whom still are active today. I stopped trying over a year ago because RfA continued to get more and more malicious. Some have given that as their reason, while others just did not have a need for the tools. This leads to...
    • 2 = Absolutely, Yes. RfA should be relatively easy and harmless to pass, not the gauntlet of hell it is now. To go back to if we're searching for the right things, here's a common trend I notice. User joins Wikipedia, reverts vandalism for a few months, does a great job of it. User applies for RfA, so they can block instead of having to report all the time. These used to get through fine, now none of them pass because they don't write articles. They now either turn to writing to gain the tools or leave the sight completely, leaving fewer and fewer vandalism reverters; that's why more seems to slip through nowadays.
    • 3 = Absolutely, yes as well Conversely, it should be easy enough to remove the tools when they're being abused; I know I didn't exactly make any friends with some of my desysops. Members of Arbcom cannot be afraid to desysop, especially when they're the only way to do it. I think Arbcom has gotten better in doing this, with the caveat that the admin has to actually get the case opened against them. That process, however, is an entirely different story.
    • 4 = I'm not sure. I don't think it's that we're short or big on admins, but rather the types of admins. Image and other copyright-esque problems tend to have much greater backlogs then say, CSD. This means we have to find image admins that would deal with these issues. Problem is that they don't often write articles, which goes back to my other point. Wizardman Operation Big Bear 00:43, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I should think that I would be more of a liability to the project as a content editor than I am as an admin - at best I am a fair copy editor, and while the aim is for more and better sysops I think we already are oversubscribed with not-even-mediocre content providers. LessHeard vanU (talk) 14:11, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Term Limits

You asked for a philosophical approach, so here it is... I'm expecting pitchforks, nonetheless. Q3: It is clear that in any stratified group of human beings where some have rights which others don't have, it always comes to the point where the Mugabe-syndrome kicks in. The man was arguably Africa's most respected and successful leader, but morphed into a despot over time, having lost touch with the ideals that once guided him. As wikipedia is approaching its 10th anniversary, it was foreseeable that such tendencies will surface here as well; whether that is already the case or we're merely seeing isolated incidents is for others to decide. Currently, the only way to counter these tendencies is by punitive de-sysopping, accompanied by humiliation, bandwagons, and dirty laundry. The only fair and unemotional method is term-limits; that way, great administrators can leave "in honor." Furthermore, elections and appointments to the post can be handled as "if s/he's unfit, the worst we'll have to live with is X years" as opposed to "all we can do now is sit and wait until so-and-so drops dead." This question will have to be dealt with sooner or later; there won't be any use in a wikipedia that's dominated by 80-year-olds who dream about good ole 2001, and on the internet, the equivalent of 80 years is probably much shorter. When this project was started, nobody thought about this because nobody even thought we'd see this thing running for 10 years. If the situation remains as it is, a (methaphorical) 20-year-old will have to wait until a 90-year-old congressman dies; by that time, the 20-year-old will himself be 60. Alright. Go get the pitchforks. Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 22:01, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

No, because if an abusive admin's "term" is about to expire, they might become more abusive and grudgeful as the term-end approaches (yes, we do have abusive and grudge-holding admins, and yes, I do think they would go out with a flame if they knew they were about to lose the bit). SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:29, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Interesting. I was expecting all sorts of pitchforks, but not this one... ah well... like I said, I expected to be shouted down, just like anyone else will be picthforked. The bottom line is that nothing will change. Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 22:37, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
That raises the important question, then, of why there hasn't been movement towards bringing those administrators before ArbCom? I mean, I'm not about to claim that all admins are of equal temperance, but "abusive and grudge-holding" is certainly something I'd want to look at. — Coren (talk) 22:41, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Well, I think I'm in a position to answer that :) When I was targetted by an admin, years ago, I knew fersure that if I went to the arbs, I'd lose; he had too many powerful friends, I was a nobody, and his abuse was tolerated by the community. I worked my arse off for more than a year, built whatever "reputation" I have, waited while he abused again and again until enough others saw it, and then had to sit out a four-month case, with evidence that took me three weeks to prepare. WHAT regular editor wants to go through that or has the time? Most-- many-- just leave in disgust and feel powerless. The admin was desysopped, but the process took too long and way too much of my time, which I could have been using for something else. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:06, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Reading Coren's question and Sandy's reply gave me an "aha moment". Having come to Wikipedia much more recently than Sandy did, I too found myself targeted by an abusive and grudge-holding admin (in my case, because I advocated some content edits that contradicted that person's POV). I found myself being accused, preposterously, of being a sock, but only via snide and threatening remarks, never through process such as SPI. I felt much as Sandy had felt, that if I went through dispute resolution, I would, as a new editor, have been beaten up. I privately e-mailed ArbCom and two Arbs very kindly put warnings on the admin's talk page, but the admin effectively ignored them and continued to persecute me. Similarly to Sandy, I have concentrated on doing good editing work, and by now, the person in question simply leaves me alone most of the time. Coren asks why such cases, that the Committee would in fact want to look at, do not get in front of the Committee. I suggested above that this is exactly the problem as I see it. CDA was obviously the wrong answer, and I'm still not sure what the right answer is, but perhaps some sort of improvement on RfC/U, designed for this purpose, is what we need. --Tryptofish (talk) 16:50, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Another factor is that admins are loathe to judge other admins (hence, the double standard at ANI), and that is something I'm somewhat sympathetic to (except that it goes WAAAY too far). It's not helpful when people second-guess me at FAC, so I can understand somewhat the reluctance to judge another admin without a full airing of the case, which ANI is not equipped to provide (because of the peanut gallery aspect there). Why not set up a separate arb forum or committee specifically to look at misuse of admin tools, that could be handled more expeditiously, outside of the huge cases they are usually attached to? Right now, we only have RFC, and 1) few weigh in except those that are already involved, 2) grudge-holders and axe-grinders weigh in on both sides, and 3) many people weighing in don't even read the evidence-- they just opine based on "friendship". They don't have what FAC has-- the knowledge that the result of your work will go on display on the mainpage for "the whole world" to see, so you'd better get it right. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:19, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Because we have appointed very few admins in the last 30 months the vast majority of our active admins would be caught by term limits even as short as three years, so any term limit proposal has to confront the issue of how you implement it without running low on admins. Even if you allow people to stand for additional terms, you face the problem that many simply won't bother or wouldn't be appointed because they use the tools rarely - yet the sum total tool use of the infrequent users of the tools is very valuable to the pedia. If even a couple of hundred admins apply again how do physically handle that many RFAs in one hit? You also have to address the alternative explanation for the Mugabe syndrome, "power corrupts and absolute power is even more fun" - in that theory the fewer the admins the more likely they are to take on airs, so increasing their numbers would reduce the problem whilst reducing them by introducing term limits would increase it. Then there is the practical issue of institutional memory, our experienced longterm admins include people with all sorts of specialisms and a huge amount of knowledge of various longterm vandals and other problems, discarding that or even a large proportion of that would not be good for the pedia. Lastly there is a philosophical issue, some of us still hold to the idea that admins should be part of the community, a large number of editors most of whom are primarily doing non-admin stuff, with the admin workload widely shared. If you want admins to be a small if temporary caste of users with relatively little time spent doing non-admin stuff, then those of us who have an opposing vision for the pedia will with respect oppose this suggestion. ϢereSpielChequers 23:22, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Now that's not a pitchfork, you have a point; I didn't necessarily suggest this to be retroactive -- what's done is done. I was trying to address the point for the future. I believe this would make electing admins easier. I know that people right now are loathe to let anyone with the slightest doubt to trustworthiness have the tools, and understandably so; I wouldn't want to elect God, either. However it may be, the problems your graphs point out is indeed there, and I share your concerns; no-one has found any way around this yet, esp. as this whole project grows. So I predict that within the next decade, you will indeed get to the point of a small elite-caste, regardless of term-limits... unless people are willing to simply take the risk and say "what the heck, just give'em the tools, and we'll see." As long as every diff of the past years is examined, you will find (my guess) maybe 2 or three "extra-laundry-bleach-clean" people who will in turn become the caste nobody wants. Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 23:31, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I gotta disagree with that two or three extra clean notion: I have a long record of nomming candidates who sail through with high support ratios, are "clean" because they are knowledgeable and diligent editors of integrity and character, and behave well as admins. Good editors are out there, in droves; I could name a couple dozen with litle effort. They just don't want to be part of a corrupt club. If we get rid of the bad apples easier, more good apples will join up. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:52, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, We've discussed term limits at least once on WT:RFA so I just assumed that like previous suggestions you meant to include all existing admins, my bad. I'll concede that only introducing term limits for our trickle of new admins would be workable, but I think it would be very unfair, and those who want to use this to dispose of some existing admins won't be to keen on it either. So yes I agree this could work and therefore would be better than no change, but I think there are better potential reforms to RFA. ϢereSpielChequers 00:05, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I believe we have under 1,000 active admins at the moment. If every one of these had to be reconfirmed after expiry of a 2-year or 3-year term, this would imply about one admin reconfirmation RfA a day. That is more RfAs than the community has to deal with at present, but perhaps not an unmanageable number. The process could be staggered to begin with, beginning with the "oldest" admins, to avoid overwhelming the system, and reconfirmation RfAs could be left open for a longer time period (say, three weeks rather than the present week). With a three-week duration, you'd always have around 20 active reconfirmation RfAs showing in the RfA analysis table, and there'd be plenty of time to see if a valuable admin is on orange. --JN466 23:40, 7 November 2010 (UTC)
I find this discussion a bit odd. On the one hand, people are saying there are not enough admins, and propose building an highway to replace the strait and narrow gate that admin candidates must pass through. On the other, there is a proposal to force all admins to submit to reconfirmation, which would lose us a fair percentage of admins, what percentage is open to question. Perhaps we should decide what the problem is before tossing out solutions.--Wehwalt (talk) 01:10, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think it's because there are two different problems: not enough admins for routine admin tasks, and too many bad apples doing harm at the same time. The problem is, if we push through more admins for routine admin work, they can do damage in other ways, because they get (and can apply) all the tools, even if they don't know how to apply all of them. I rather imagine the RFA watchers are unhappy with the increased scrutiny and lower pass rates, and that problem will be solved by finding a way to desysop the bad apples. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:17, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Question: to what degree has careerism affected admins? My feeling is that because Wikipedia has become quite prominent, it is easy to picture that admin status could be something people might use to sell themselves; and much more so for ArbCom. The problem is, this would create a situation where Wikipedia disparages editors with a conflict of interest, yet is governed by those who have one. I would suggest that this may account for the continual push to increase the powers of ArbCom at the expense of the community and also the chronic shortage of admins, as both increase the prominence of the existing officeholders. Wnt (talk) 01:28, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I will admit that when (not often) I mention to people I am an admin on WP, they are impressed well beyond what the status deserves. It isn't very good as a pick up line for girls, though ...--Wehwalt (talk) 01:36, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
{{ec} I have no problem with "the prominence of the existing officeholders" considering 1) the number of children we have to supervise nowadays on Wiki, and 2) the seriousness of some of the issues the arbs have to deal with, often with the utmost of discretion and real world cnsequences. Both admins and arbs should be highly respected offices; when that respect is lost, arbs resign, but admins keep doing damage. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 01:41, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I don't think you should overstate this; in the real world, I've been to places for research purposes, saying "I am writing an article for Wikipedia", and been met with blank looks. So I don't think that's much of an argument. Within WP, however, as a power structure goes, from editor to admin is a big jump, and to my mind, in terms of practical visibility, the jump to bureaucrat is in visibility terms somewhat less, simply because crats do not generally get involved in contentious issues. To steward is even less visible, because few editors even know what they do, let alone encounter their work, valuable though it is. And that leaves ArbCom, somewhat erroneously regarded as the "Supreme Court" of Wikipedia, and although it's an analogy, it's not a great one. Suppose that ArbCom decided on its mailing list to desysop and ban an admin, and announced that on WP:AN, without giving reasons beyond "per private evidence received off-Wiki". I doubt that the community would accept that, and AFAIK, the only times (if any) where this has happened has been supported by ex-post facto evidence. I'm tired now. Rodhullandemu 01:45, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I think this is an excellent idea that will indirectly lead to big improvements in the whole system via community feedback. Suppose we have a system where there is a term limit of one year and then you have to wait 6 months before being allowed to be a candidate at RFA again. Everything else is initially kept the same. Then, some years later, many of the RFA candidates will be old Admins, allowing the community to select those former Admins with a good record.

What is then likely to happen is that the community will be reticent to accept first time RFA candidates, because they can't be judged in the same straightforward way as old Admins. But since we have to appoint new Admins as well, a new system will arise. E.g. you can imagine that first time RFA candidates will be given a shorter term limit of, say, 3 months after which they can immediately be an RFA candidate. That second RFA process will then be perceived to be the real RFA process where the RFA candidate is judged on his/her record as an Admin. Count Iblis (talk) 02:10, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

We will lose admins through vindictiveness of !voters. We will lose others who went through Hell Week once and do not choose to do it again. Many of those will be admins we should not lose.--Wehwalt (talk) 02:28, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Apathy as well. I probably wouldn't bother attempting to regain the tools if a time limit were slapped on them. I didn't actively seek them the first time, and wouldn't actively seek them a second. But then in my case, that would lead only to the occasional increase in workload at WP:RFPP and WP:AIV. Resolute 03:31, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Neither would I, frankly. I didn't seek the tools either, I ran because I was asked to run, and was met with seven days of nastiness, comtempt, and attempts to settle the score. I'm proud of being an admin, but as I barely use the tools (mostly in my article work and a troll now and then), I doubt I'd bother to undergo the sort of comments that just took place at AN/I.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:36, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Hmm. I was lucky. It was a far less demanding process in 2007. And I'm definitely the same. I think if I was asked to run again, my entire statement would be "I write articles. Blocking trolls and protecting pages is useful. If that is good enough, great. If not, I've got work to do." Resolute 03:50, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
True. But if we cared about being retained in a new vote, for sure we could not have taken an unpopular position in the block discussion on Giano. For sure a vote loser, I bet.--Wehwalt (talk)
Yeah, made a few enemies with long memories there, didn't we? And that, of course, is the danger of sticking one's nose into the drama pit. I have a lot of respect for the admins who are able to tolerate the level of abuse they receive for dealing with the controversial cases. Resolute 04:07, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that the RFA process as it exists leads to these sorts of problems, precisely because the process is not based on relevant facts (people cannot be judged on their previous record as there exists no such record). If almost all the candidates are former Admins, then this situation will change. Since we have about 1000 Admins, you can't have an RFA process as we have today, anyway. What can work is automatic renewal after 6 months since the term has expired, unless an RFA process is requested by a number of editors exceeding a certain threshold. There is no way all Admins can be subjected to this process, so the community has to be selective which former Admins are going to be discussed. There would thus be a "safety in numbers" for most Admins against frivolous proceedings. Count Iblis (talk) 04:03, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
"Since we have about 1000 Admins, you can't have an RFA process as we have today, anyway." It's feasible mathematically. If you start one reconfirmation RfA a day, you'll be through the entire admin list in less than three years. Assuming a 3-year term, that's all that is needed. I can see the logic in what you propose, but on the other hand, if it's a routine thing that every admin has to go through, it may attract a lot less drama than the process you propose. --JN466 05:27, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
That would still be at least seven simultaneous reconfirmation RfA's every day for the rest of time, unless you're assuming that most of the admins will fail the reconfirmation RfA and therefore not run for a re-re-confirmation three years later. Soap 13:07, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

The original stated premise was that a wonderful admin could "morph into a despot over time, having lost touch with the ideals that once guided him". One way to avoid that is to avoid granting admins the absolute power that can corrupt absolutely. At present, WP administrators have way more power than WP needs them to have. For example, bans and blocks could be reserved for very specific violations like 3RR or violations of WP:Civil. Gray-area cases that presently occupy a huge amount of time and lead to very controversial decisions could be placed off limits, or limited in number by requiring such situations to meet very clear criteria. With a clearer and more circumscribed authority, admins would find it harder to become despots. Moreover, the attraction for psychopaths prone to the Mugabe-syndrome to become admins would be gone. Brews ohare (talk) 18:22, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Actually, you have cited two rather problematical areas. There are admins who do not believe in blocks for incivility, and who act on that belief on a cowboy admin basis. And I think we saw last night how long Giano's 3RR block lasted--he was unblocked by an admin who then hastened to Giano's talk page and said " Giano, you know that I admire you as an editor and as a supporter of the Wikipedia principle" (diff here).--Wehwalt (talk) 19:43, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I strongly believe instituting terms for adminship is one of the best things we could do for WP. It would logically make it much more likely that lowering the bar to adminship would be possible, either just through encouraging the community, or possibly through deciding to lower the required support needed to pass. It would also help to change some of the culture, which currently often views admins as an elite. It would tend to reduce the pressure on good admins that sometimes leads to burnout, and limit the damage caused by bad ones.

I think this proposal is at its best when it is kept simple, though. People seem to often want to fiddle with forcing a downtime, but I see no logical reason why this would have any significant benefits. The best part of this proposal is that, unlike jury proposals or many of the other fixes I've seen proposed, it is a very simple proposal that would not complicating the process much more than it already is, and should remain that way.

The community could test this out by encouraging admins to voluntarily set a term when going through RFA, and, at the end of that term, resigning as an admin or requesting a new RFA. Unlike the voluntary recall, it would take away some of the ambiguity when an admin claims the editors requesting the recall are not "in good standing" or whatever the arbitrary requirement might be. Yes, there would be no teeth if an admin failed to step down as claimed, but I think it would be a useful way to get editors to consider it. Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 21:57, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Choices have consequences, and the price of term limits is a much smaller admin cadre. The fewer admins you have the more burnout you risk, and the fewer admins the more of an elite some will perceive them to be. If you want to support the term limit proposal you need to make a case for admins becoming a much smaller more elite group with collectively less experience and on average rather less Wiki time to spend on content building and other non-admin activities. Some of us think that's a very high price to pay for an as yet unspecified benefit. ϢereSpielChequers 23:10, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
You seem to be assuming that this proposal would reduce the number of admins without actually supporting that conclusion. I don't believe that this proposal would do so, if reasonably implemented. The logic is: if adminship is by definition temporary, not permanent, editors will be more likely to lower the bar to entry, giving us more successful RFAs, not fewer. Good admins could continue to renew their terms, while bad ones could fail, and burnt-out ones could just not re-run, allowing them resign their sysop status with less drama.Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 23:46, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Honestly, the arguments both that term limits would "lower the bar" at RFA and would lead to more candidates are both very big assumptions. Certainly no smaller than the assumption that term limits would reduce the number of administrators. Resolute 23:52, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps, but I did give my logic in this case, rather than just stating an assumption without explaining where it came from. I've already stated that I would like to see this tested out, either in practice through voluntary terms or through polling. Would they be willing to either change their practices or allow bureaucrats to lower the standards if terms were implemented? I don't know, but I believe they just might. Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 16:23, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't see how lowering the bar actually helps though. There are two schools of thought about why RFA needs an overhaul: either we need to compensate for losing admins faster than new ones are promoted, or the admins we have now are a largely corrupt body that exists to serve itself. Lowering the bar might help the first, but wont help the second. Additionally, lowering the bar wont change the culture at RFA where a candidate is now asked to stand against the wall and hope 100 people firing rifles at them all miss. All you do is tell someone with ten bullet wounds instead of five they pass. Its no wonder not many people care to go through that these days. Resolute 00:05, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I strongly disagree on your latter conclusion. I believe corruption, and the perception of corruption, would be greatly reduced by instituting terms, because corrupt admins would have to face the community again, at which time they would most likely fail a later RFA. Severe cases could be addressed by Arbcom still, but the low-level abuse some admins get away with for years could finally be put in check.
"Lowering the bar" doesn't necessarily mean letting people with known issues in, it refers to the rather large number of edits expected from RFA candidates these days. It recognizes that we probably would let in some bad candidates, but that is already happening anyway. Just like letting in admins that turn out to be bad will be unavoidable, the RFA process will probably always be a bit contentious, as it requires looking at an editor's history in order to determing suitability. Personally, I think fewer are running because fewer are willing/able to put in the number of edits over the period of time being looked for. Drop that 3,000-5,000 edit expectation by 1/3 to 1/2, and more editors are likely to give it a shot. However, I think the community will be unwilling to drop those expectations until they know that mistakes made by not looking at such a large number of edits will not be permanent. Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 21:29, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I definitely do not like the idea of reconfirmation RFAs on a predetermined schedule. This would likely have a chilling effect on many admins, resulting in greater backlogs, the opposite of what we want to achieve. I was very disheartened by the failure last year to come up with a more sensible community based de-adminship process. It was going along all right at first,but we wound up with a morass of something like 15 different proposals and it turned into a typical wiki-mess where it was impossible to say that any particular course of action had consensus behind it. I definitely do believe we should be looking at this problem from the other end. Many, many users have indicate that they would find it easier to support candidates if there was some way they could reverse the promotion later without going to ArbCom and letting the matter stew for three or four months first. I know this seems like an invitation for a repeat of that disaster, but maybe we should try again. This time, we would modify one proposal until it was something we could live with, instead of having a dozen separate proposals. The main idea would be that this is only for long term problematic admins, and that other forms of DR such a user RFC must be pursued first, similar to a community ban of those sad users who are good at content work and terrible at working together. We give them every chance in the world to see the error of their ways and acknowledge the input and criticisms of their fellow editors, our admins deserve no less. (no that last remark was not sarcasm) Beeblebrox (talk) 02:41, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
If one were to follow this sort of community ban-like process, how then would you deal with the issue of a "mob with pitchforks" that was raised by the opponents of CDA? In theory, there is no reason why such a "mob" could not show up for an RfC and a ban discussion. On the other hand, if there were some sort of RfC first as you suggest, is it really the case that ArbCom would be incapable of being more prompt than just stewing for three to four months? --Tryptofish (talk) 17:11, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
At a user RFC, the underlying concerns must be certified by two users in good standing who have knowledge of the case within 48 hours of it being filed. What I proposed before was something similar but slightly more stringent in a de-adminning process, along with a brief grace period after the filing where the admin has the opportunity to simply give up the tools voluntarily with the understanding that they are doing so "under a cloud" and would have to run at RFA again to get them back. ArbCom is willing to quickly desysop admins who have committed bright-line offenses, but for everything else they take forever. I share your concerns about mobs and voting blocs, and I dread the possibility of going through this again only to fail yet again, but this is a persistent issue that just won't go away. If we can pick one thing and fix it, we will have proved that the system can be fixed. The first step is always the hardest, once we the ball rolling more reforms will probably follow. Beeblebrox (talk) 21:34, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Between term limits and a recall procedure it should be obvious which one is more likely to result in more sysop removals: term limits. Term limits are automatic; recall procedures aren't. The mob with pitchforks description is colorful, but a recall process isn't going to end up destroying the admin corp. Lambanog (talk) 03:15, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Comments from Fetchcomms

I have only skimmed the above (tl;dr), but here are my two thoughts:

  • The issue is not RfA, it's some, frankly, rude annoying careless unthoughtful disrespectful disruptive dramacausing dramaloving users who go around making themselves look stupid and making RfA the horrible place it's become. It's become just plain fun to pick at people, respond to every snarky comment with an even snarkier one, and stir up arguments. If we made a nice, standard RfA process, that gave less vague requirements to be met, i.e. questions to assess the candidate's knowledge of basic policies, and simply removed all irrelevant comments that appeared, we might have a nicer RfA.
  • What I'm talking about here are two sets of people: people who oppose a candidate for things like "userpage is too myspacey", "signature is too annoying", "per above", "English not perfect enough", "I will not be elaborating on my rationale" etc., and people who badger others, yell at others, say things like "user has absolutely no idea what he/she is doing", "user is too immature", etc. Obviously, none of these comments are totally "wrong", but there is a place for them, and RfA is not the place to openly criticize users for petty things or attack them.
  • Also, we should not be making our standards lower. If someone doesn't know all the basic policies and does not have a track record of demonstrating this knowledge, they shouldn't be an admin. (There is the question of "specialty admins" or "semi-admin" rights, but the latter has been not reached consensus multiple times this year, and the former does not have any clear standard on how that will work.) I'm concerned about the users who make RfA a bad place, and although I think it's usually true that, if you cannot survive a week of RfA, adminship probably isn't your thing, we cannot let people make ridiculous comments and attack others openly.
  • A desysop/temporary adminship/adminship "expiration" procedure are all things to consider. I am neither endorsing or opposing any of these ideas, but we need a clear set of rules for these things and a new RfC or two will not hurt. Desysopping is a concern to many who comment at RfA, and some have opposed candidates due to their temporary admin status. Commons uses a system to desysop inactive admins, and some people want something similar. A community-wide assessment of these options, and others, is not really that bad of a thing.

Final remark: I don't think there will be consensus for a fundamental change to RfA, and I think we should be realistic: what do admins do, and why do people want to become one? It's helpful often to see deleted pages and stuff, yes, but maintenance isn't fun for everyone, and we really need to consider what we expect of admins—I have high expectations. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 03:48, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

So RFA is not the place to openly criticize users for petty things or attack them, but Jimbo's talk page is? Townlake (talk) 04:15, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Since when did I attack a specific user here? /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 16:48, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
1) You didn't use the term "specific" in the statement I quoted. 2) It's rather obvious that based on the oppose stuff you quoted, I'm a target of your list of insults above. Townlake (talk) 16:56, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't recall you making any such comments. I don't usually remember users, just comments. If you did make such comments, maybe you should act differently. My point is that RfA is not the problem, users making irrelevant comments are the problem. I'm not singling any specific user out and I'm sorry if you've said any such comments. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 02:41, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
So just to be clear, you're sorry about my comments, but not the insults you posted above? That's odd. Townlake (talk) 03:20, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
I wasn't insulting you in particular. But maybe you do need to reevaluate your comments. At any rate, this banter is not helping the RfA problem. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 04:10, 14 November 2010 (UTC)

Would reducing the number of admins be a good thing?

Actually if the number of admins were greatly reduced it would be a good thing, and if that is a consequence of term limits, so be it. Fewer admins would mean the remaining admins would have to deal with quick and clear-cut cases, and leave the murky undecidable feuds alone, to continue on talk pages where those involved can negotiate their own rules of engagement and yak until infinity if they can't resolve matters. In the meantime the main article can be locked up until a settlement is agreed between the afflicted parties, who know full well because the admins are busy that a kangaroo court cannot be gerrymandered to provide some lopsided decision, so instead some kind of negotiated settlement is necessary. Brews ohare (talk) 06:22, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

That's such a bad idea. All that means is that victory goes to those that speak the loudest, in greater numbers for a longer period of time. And not to those with the most rational, reasonable arguments. We'd have a Lord of the Flies Wiki...bad idea. RxS (talk) 18:10, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
We've had a "Lord of the Flies Wiki" for years. I pointed this out more than a year before James Gleickcite did:

Anyone can edit an article, anonymously, hit and run. From the very beginning that has been Wikipedia's greatest strength and its greatest weakness. The result is often what you'd expect from reading “Lord of the Flies.″

Cheers, Jack Merridew 09:25, 15 November 2010 (UTC)
Aren't admins "Lords" of the Flies? ? ? Where does the notion arise that Admins make the "most rationale, reasonable decisions"? Not from examination of WP. Brews ohare (talk) 20:20, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I have to agree, and I also agree with the point someone made that arbcom is very reluctant to desysop or even sanction misbehaving admins. I'm not sure about term limits. Requiring sysops to get community endorsement every couple of years may be a better idea. The problem is that admins may lose the trust of the community and there's not a damn thing you can do about it under the current system, as a practical matter. ScottyBerg (talk) 21:02, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Community re-endorsement and terms are nearly the same proposal ("term limits" has consistently been a misnomer when discussing changes to adminship). I prefer "terms" over "reconfirmation" or "re-endorsement" because the language specifically sets up the expectation that it is not a permanent appointment. Sχeptomaniacχαιρετε 22:19, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
No, they aren't 99% of admin actions (and for that matter admins themselves) are uncontroversial. What you are proposing is turning every talk page into it's own little island...with any set of bullies that come along calling the tune. There's this meme that's grown that the admins on this site are running wild over regular editors. There may be some admin calls that aren't rational but they are in the tiny minority, but it's certainly a better situation than letting editors with POV's run talk pages. Bad idea, and it's never going to happen. Not really worth talking about really...RxS (talk) 23:47, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
RsX: As an admin yourself, you may have to recuse yourself, or at least be willing to see that others may have a different view. If you like, diffs can be provided of poor decisions, unending disputes and so forth. The alternative universe in which admins confine themselves to clear-cut cases and let Talk page editors figure things out themselves (with supervision of very clear guidelines like WP:Civil, for instance, and restriction of main article changes to those agreed upon by the Talk page editors) simply hasn't been tried. It is a normal suspicion of those in command that without them everything will go to hell, and maybe sometimes it does. But probably not often, and probably a lot less often once the culture gets reoriented. Just think of an environment where everybody loved admins because they never got into murky decisions where they have neither a clue what's happening nor the time & energy to find out. Brews ohare (talk) 00:09, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
If an admin has to recuse themselves from a discussion about administrators, than a person with your history must also recuse themself. After all, one could easily believe you are acting with a grudge, no? Resolute 00:34, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, that is an easily held belief, though incorrect. Brews ohare (talk) 03:26, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
So it would then be a failure to WP:AGF to insist that anybody recuse themselves from a discussion because of a perceived bias? Resolute 03:39, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
The de facto situation at present is that disputes are settled by a majority claiming the minority is disruptive and finding a weak-kneed hair-triggered admin to side with them and ban or block the opposition. That is "reasoned and rational" eh what? Brews ohare (talk) 00:15, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Citation needed. Resolute 00:34, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
No kidding, this is just more of the four legs good, two legs bad meme going on here. The "de facto" situation is that (as I pointed out) the vast majority of admin actions are uncontroversial. The fact that you can provide evidence of bad actions by admins and meaningless disputes is irelevant since no one claims otherwise. The suggestion that admins shouldn't take part in conversations about admins is just plain silly. The alternative universe you describe hasn't been tried because it's a bad idea. There are too many editors and potential editors that will (and have, over and over through the years) try to wiki-lawyer their way around rules like wp:civil, wp:npov etc and bully other editors into walking away from a dispute. Sometimes (not always) someone has to step in, and it doesn't always have to be admins. But many times it is an admin that performs that function and to suggest that they be prevented from doing so is all kinds of fail. RxS (talk) 05:33, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
The vast majority of admin actions are deletions, and though admin actions have an imperfect correlation to admin time, if you want to redesign our processes to need far fewer admins then Pure Wiki deletion is probably the best place to start. I'm not convinced it would work, and even if it did it isn't my preferred response to the situation. But only deleting G10s and other things we legally have to delete should in theory allow us to run Wikipedia with far fewer admins. Replacing our policies on civility and perhaps even personal attacks by a sticks and stones policy would also cut our need for admins, again this isn't my preferred solution to the RFA problem, and I'm not sure if I'd still want to be involved in the Wikipedia that emerged. But there are wikis out there that are run radically differently, so if some people want fewer and fewer admins then by all means lets talk through the implications and the options. ϢereSpielChequers 14:55, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
How many admins are needed depends upon what they have to do. Routine tasks based upon clear-cut guidelines don't take much time. For example, it is clear when the 3RR rule has been broken. On the other hand, a lot of admin time is taken up deciding whether a violation of muddy sanctions has occurred. So fewer administrators would be OK if less time was spent on ambiguously worded restrictions with unclear consequences, and the rules were very clear. In contrast, many admins actually endorse muddy wording because they like the latitude. That view should be discouraged because it leads to month-long hearings and decisions that cannot be easily defended (and so no defense is attempted, leading to hard feelings). The bad feelings lead to more actions brought. The wasted time means more admins are necessary. Brews ohare (talk) 19:24, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Well if ArbCom enforced their own rulings instead of leaving it to the few admins who can tolerate AE work, that would free up a lot of admin time. However, I don't think reducing the number of admins is the way to go. If anything, we need more cue gasps of horror from the audience. We have less than 800 admins classed as "active" by the criteria that they've made an edit in the last 30 days. The number of those who frequently make logged actions, however, is much lower Disclaimer: I am one of those admins, I logged nearly 200 actions yesterday. This means that decisions are being made by an ever smaller number of people. I feel that diluting admins' "power" would be much healthier for the wiki in the long term and, in the short term, would mean that the more urgent requests (AIV, RfPP and CSD in particular) can be handled quicker. The emerging two-tier system is the fault of RfA, not of incumbent administrators. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 19:45, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
"In contrast, many admins actually endorse muddy wording because they like the latitude." - Do you have evidence of this, or do you simply prefer to cast aspersions, Brews? Resolute 23:28, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
A lot of users who are subject to ArbCom sanctions or other restrictions don't like the phrase "broadly construed" because it makes it harder for them to end-run the decisions and pretend they didn't know they were doing so. That is of course exactly why it used in topic bans, to get the users to leave the entire topic area alone, but there are a few users who, despite being obviously intelligent and educated, pretend they can't understand what that means. More or less admins isn't going to change that particular problem. Beeblebrox (talk) 02:49, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 5

(I have no idea what numbering/header system is being used at this point. If you do, refactor the header as you like.) Honestly, I don't see the problem as being "too hard to desysop", or anything of the sort. The issue I see is the conduct of the voters (! intentionally excluded, for all intents and purposes, RfA is a vote at this point) at the RfA discussions. When I stood for RfA the first time, it failed, but the concerns brought up were well founded. I addressed them and went through again, and passed something like 96-2. Now, it doesn't seem it's possible to pass RfA at all. If you spend too much time on content, too little time on content, do the wrong kind of content editing (read "anything but writing FAs"), fight vandals too much, fight vandals too little, participate in deletion processes too much, participate in deletion processes too little, participate in project space too much, participate in project space too little, have too few Portal Talk edits...you get the idea, and aside perhaps from the last one, all of those seem to be reasons to oppose. I know I wouldn't pass now—gnoming and vandal fighting doesn't count anymore. Some people might jump for joy that I wouldn't pass, on the other hand. I imagine that's true of all of us.

I think that ultimately, the times at which RfA was reasonable were the ones at which all participants, support and oppose alike, were willing to actually evaluate the candidate as a whole, not based on the few wrong calls we all inevitably make at some point. I think there are two steps to fixing that: firstly, having a "voters' guide" to RfA, explaining that votes should be made on an overall understanding and evaluation of the candidate's edits, not based upon issues such as a few interactions with them, what (or where) their edit count is, what type of content editing they do, or whether or not they use automated tools (unless they use them inappropriately), and secondly, if need be, allowing closing crats to discount entirely any votes which do not fit these. Ultimately, the only question we really need to ask when looking at a candidate is "If we let this person block people and delete pages, will they use these abilities in an abusive manner not consistent with community expectations?" To answer that question, there's really no substitute for a good random sampling of someone's edits, preferably to several different namespaces. "Voters" who have clearly done this should carry far more weight than others. Seraphimblade Talk to me 23:54, 7 November 2010 (UTC)

Yes, the problem is the voters (I've had some things to say about them at WT:RFA), but in the direction of passing ill-prepared candidates over valid opposes that should be given more weight to offset the Myspace support. RFA *is* a vote, unlike FAC, where one well-placed oppose can stop 20 driveby Myspace supports. But this doom-and-gloom scenario about RFA is also wrong--there are good candidates out there in droves, they aren't picked over when they are nommed, and the problem is that it's hard to get them to submit to those colorful sigs. Samples off the top of my head:

And those are just a few from memory. Obviously, I won't put up samples of those that have passed when (IMO) they were ill-qualified and serious oppose rationale was provided, but good candidates pass easily. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:11, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

We already have Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in adminship discussions - is that the sort of voters guide you were thinking of? ϢereSpielChequers 00:16, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I doubt if a voter's guide would do much good. It would not be read.--Wehwalt (talk) 00:23, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Egg-zactly. Again, using the FAC example, we have WP:WIAFA, but it doesn't matter if nominators or reviewers don't read it, because the delegates have discretion and a well-placed oppose can overrule all the drive-by supports you want. Yet the 'crats have no discretion to weigh the validity of opposes or supports at RFA. It's a vote, and every vote is equal, even if there is no reasoning to the Supports. Honestly, I'd like to see a 'crat with balls fail an 75% candidate with the sound reasoning that opposes were serious and supports were driveby. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 00:33, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, but the problem there is, you would have a crat substituting his judgment for the community's, because generally under the circumstances you posit, many of the supposes will say "I read oppose #18, and I can't imagine what the editor who posted it was smoking." Or words to that effect. Or perhaps "I find the opposes unconvincing". --Wehwalt (talk) 00:38, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Then perhaps we should consider a radical overhaul of the RFA process. Instead of voting yea or nay, have the voters rank the candidate by key areas that we expect in an admin - i.e.: content contribution, use of policy, civility, etc. Candidates that end up with a certain score pass. Those that don't pass would then have a scorecard showing what the community wishes them to work on. Resolute 03:39, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think we could get broad consensus on the statement that RfA has shown remarkable resistance to improvement.--Wehwalt (talk) 03:41, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Indeed. You might as well just pound against the immovable object. And I loathe the options I see to force change. Resolute 03:47, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Further beaurocracy isn't needed; what is needed (and is happening lately) is for more knowledgeable editors to pay attention to RFA, so we don't have inexperienced, immature users passing same. I think it's working now, since some light has been shown on this particular dark corner. If experienced editors don't scrutinize RFA candidates carefully, inexperienced RFA voters will pass candidates who plagiarize non-reliable sources at DYK, and use those DYKs to evidence their ability to write and their knowledge of the Project and policy. Supporters aren't required to evidence they understand Wiki policy; Opposers are. Which goes back to the problem that RFA *is* a vote, and 'crats have no discretion to interpret those votes. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:18, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Eyeglasses or no, hindsight is 20/20. To quote Theodore Roosevelt, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better."--Wehwalt (talk) 19:39, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Crats already have discretion, usually this is within the 70-80% range though there have been results outside that. I'm tempted to support broadening that discretion, but I wonder if perhaps we should first get a community based decision as to what sort of RFA arguments crats can give greater or lesser weight to. ϢereSpielChequers 22:44, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 6

Where does the impression come from that there is an upper caste at WP? Why does it seem to be difficult to desysop? Because all bodies that could be involved in changing the admin bit are exclusively populated by admins. Bureaucrats are admins. ArbCom consists of admins. Every checkuser and oversighter is admin (I believe). Jimbo, you are admin. That makes it look as if the admin bit is the most valuable of them all.

ArbCom should maybe consist of an adequate proportion of admins, certainly they should form a minority there. Bureaucrats and stewards shouldn't be admins at all, if elected / promoted their adminship should be dormant. That would also discourage hat collection. --Pgallert (talk) 07:14, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

It would be rather difficult for crats and ArbCom members to do their job without being an admin.--Wehwalt (talk) 10:03, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I am certainly lacking insight into those roles, but why would they need to be admins? For crats I cannot see any reason (aren't they "just" promoting and renaming accounts?), and Arbcom members could ask for support if they need CU or suppress revisions. There could be a few "Arbcom clerks" that would need to be admin to do the enforcement. Deciding Applying and at the same time enforcing "law" is not good style, anyway. --Pgallert (talk) 06:32, 9 November 2010 (UTC) refactored 06:36, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
There is an upper caste at WP (NOBIGDEAL is bunk), and in some cases, those in that "upper caste" have deserved it. If admins who misuse tools could be desysopped, the respect accorded to those in the admin class could be restored. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:05, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think your opinion on respect is naive, but it certainly is a popularly held one. The question I have is who determines what constitutes the "misuse of tools"? Resolute 15:49, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
The fact that there is such an upper caste isn't a result them being admins. It's that their more entrenched in the community, simply because they've been here longer. The "newest" member of arbcom has been on Wikipedia since early 2007, for example. DC TC 17:33, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
This is a big point that I don't think people are addressing enough: users who've been around longer know how to "get things done"; admin or not, all other things being equal, the longer an editor has been around and the more they have contributed the more respect they are accorded. The admin bit is not a separate and unconnected issue. Jclemens (talk) 17:41, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
One proposal last year (one of the election RFCs, as I recall) called for an arbcom with a mandatory number of non-admins, both for perspective and to give non-admins a voice in decisions involving admins. The logistics were flawed - how many checkusers are non-admins? - but the idea was sound, if you accept the premise that the goals and perspectives of admins and non-admins are incompatible, and that admins are likely to rule in favor of other admins specifically because they are admins. The trick then would be finding non-admins (and not former admins, either) who are trusted and accepted by the community enough to get elected. Many of the non-admins who are trusted have declined to run for RFA, whether to focus on content creation or to avoid drama - they'd likely eschew a seat on the arbcom for the same reasons. UltraExactZZ Said ~ Did 18:18, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't accept that the goals of admins and non-admins are incompatible or even particularly divergent. If they were we would see various debates such as pending changes and the BLP RFCs splitting on admin non admin lines. Nor am I convinced that Admins generally discriminate in favour of each other, though I accept the possibility that it might happen and urge those who observe it to complain, if necessary all the way to Arbcom, as if there were examples of this it would be troubling. As for the idea of reserving places on Arbcom for non-admins, If someone is sufficiently trusted and accepted by the community to become an Arb, why would they not also be trusted enough to be an admin? ϢereSpielChequers 18:36, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Were. There is no thin orange line. I would call upon those who say there is to name names and cite cases. I suspect the greater problem is cliqueism, which is not unique to administrators.--Wehwalt (talk) 19:36, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Amen to that. Some of you may be aware that I recently made a rather difficult administrative decision that I knew would make me the target of a particular cliques anger. They mostly were not admins, but damn, they were (and still are) relentless, and have no qualms about ganging up on somebody. By the way, being an oversighter is not a special privilege, it is work. Work that is almost completely invisible on-wiki. Work that for the most part nobody ever thanks you for doing. Work that you are actually not allowed to discuss on wiki. You learn all this personal information just so you can erase it and forget you ever knew it. And yet it is reviewed more thoroughly and stringently than any other type of work on Wikipedia. I'm not trying to whine about it, I'm happy to do it and I knew there was little to no recognition involved in it beforehand, I'm just saying it is not some elite clique of uber-admins, it's just a little job we do that has slightly more stringent entrance requirements than adminship, or even ArbCom. Beeblebrox (talk) 02:57, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 6a - jnr and snr admins

Admins need certain tools to do certain tasks, but they also have been given great power. Why should a single admin be given the power to ban indefinitely, why should one admins handle AE clarification cases when they may not know and may not take the possibly huge amount of time to look closely at a case. Its doubtful that abuse of admin tools occurs over technical matters but more probably in matters that deal with other editors. I wonder about layers of tasks and categories of admins. to deal with them. New admins would be able to handle only the most objective tasks, with time, say a year, more subjective tasks. Tasks could be labelled simply as 1, beginning level, and upwards becoming more complex and more subjective in scope. Indef banns, AE, AE clarifications would require more than one admin., possibly three, of more the upper level admins. Its much harder to abuse power, to be working in consort with someone behind the scenes, if you are one of several. Thisalso takes the weight of responsibility off the individual editor and places it on the shoulders of several. If new admins have a year to season themselves, this also make its possible for the RfA process to allow more admins. Possibly there could be 2 RfA's one fast, easy prelim RfA, and after a year, a secondary one looking closely at the year's work and the creation of upper level admins with more power. To summarize below( with a bit added) (olive (talk) 21:16, 8 November 2010 (UTC))

Admins two levels:

  • Make more admins making the process fast and easy
  • These admins have technical tools but are in a probation period for upper level work, ie more subjective, complex tasks.
  • Label tasks level 1, beginner, level 2 advanced... (or something like that)
  • 2nd RfA after one year... more scrutiny harder to pass.
  • Tasks with large impact on editors, 3 admins.

Arbitrators 2 levels

  • Beginning for simpler cases as predetermined by clerks
  • Sr arbitrators as we have now, for complex cases

Response 7 (outside perspective)

I think it would be worthwhile to try to break up the task of being an admin into smaller pieces that are more manageable. My thought is that people who don't feel ready (or aren't ready) to devote themselves to being an admin could still be authorized to do one particular function: to edit protected articles, to close deletions, to block vandals, etc. Even if the software doesn't allow such fine-grained privileges, you might give someone adminship subject to a narrow "remit", as I'd term it, which says what things he's allowed to do with the privileges. A person could then go back to RfA to expand the remit, eventually reaching an unlimited remit if that is what he really wants. I think that this would (1) increase the number of candidates, because fewer competences are needed; (2) lower the standards correspondingly, and allow for the option of increasing RfA throughput by setting up different RfA's for admins requesting different types of limited remits; (3) make it much easier to lose the admin bit, because it would be clear when an admin is acting out of the remit stated in his RfA, and not many warnings would need to be given, and also because existing full admins could potentially receive a medium punishment of being subjected to a remit, just as some editors are subject to a topic ban; (4) the optimum number of admins should be much larger; but in some conversations has been limited by the prospect that illegal or damaging material could be read by those with access to deleted revisions; but many of the limited-remit admins described above might not even need to be granted access to these in order to perform more limited roles; and it is questionable whether the content in question is really that bad, or if it is, whether its permanent persistence is really a stable situation anyway. Wnt (talk) 11:02, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

Perhaps more precise, the three main admin components, deletion, protection and blocking could be unbundled. RfAs for these three different functions can have different thresholds as protection for instance is less of a touchy issue than blocking. Adding a second function could be made every six months from there and subjected to an "RfA lite" where the candidate states what he needs the additional bit for, less questions asked, and just three days for the community to express major concerns. Gives a delay of at least one year before all three functions are active.
Contrary to what was said higher, I also don't see a fundamental reason why the crats need admin bits in the first place, and those could be unbundled as well. MLauba (Talk) 12:26, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
No. Misuse of tools occurs at every level, and damages the encyclopedia and good faith editors. No one should be using any tool unless they have demonstrated integrity, trust and knowledge via RFA. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 13:03, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
You apparently misunderstand. I'm advocating a full RfA for the first bit requested, and only RfA lite for admins requesting a second bit. The vetting for the first step remains the same, but I've found that in the past, unbundling proposals have always been opposed by the fear that nobody in their right mind would stand for three full RfAs. If someone was trusted with the deletion button, has demonstrated responsible use, confirmed the community's trust, and have not suddenly engaged in the kind of behaviour or interactions that would have been a reason to fail the full RfA for the first tool, I think that a shortened review for the second one will represent a decent compromise. MLauba (Talk) 13:53, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
ah, I see-- thanks for the clarification. My concern was that some recent misuse of the tools has been characterized as "petty", when it was far from that, and had an effect beyond the original misuse. OK, so understanding your proposal leads back to my original concern-- since part of the problem has been lack of scrutiny at RFA, how will we get more scrutiny if there are more RFAs, unless someone has some discretion to evaluate the validity of Supports and Opposes? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 14:03, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I think the de-bundling as I see it would produce two effects: improve the quality of the vetting at RfA by focusing on what the candidate claims to want to do, but also provide additional checks if they need more tools. In terms of pass rates, I see unbundling lowering the bar for the least controversial bit (protecting), keeping it level for deletion, and raising it for blocking, in order to match the potential for disruption misuse each of these has. In an ideal world, I'd see a protection-only admin requiring only 60% support while a blocker requires 80% (but the numbers here is only my personal take). But the other advantage is this. In today's RfA, candidates make all kind of commitments and promises. If they fail to uphold them the moment the mop is handed to them, currently that means the community is a sucker - and unless they're being sufficiently abusive that an RFC + ArbCom desysops them, the story is over. With debundling, if you start out with protection only and 6 months later submit to an RfA lite, it gives the community another check point to see whether the admin has lived up to his promises.
Heck, in terms of implementation, as we currently have no shortage of admins who already have the block button, we could even envision that blocking will only be granted as a second tool, never a first one, and instruct the community to look at dispute resolution skills.
Today's RfA's problem is that scrutiny is as wide as what the three core tools provide for. With unbundling, a NPP can get protection tools even if he's not really a great content creator. But to get deletion you'd have to demonstrate that you understand what it takes, both in terms of policies but also sweat of the brow, to write content. And for blocking, that you're even tempered enough to handle the school kiddie vandal differently from the established editor who has a really bad day.
Last but not least, unbundling is of course not something I propose instead of any community desysop process, but one supplemental element. It wouldn't necessarily guarantee that any new candidates gets more scrutiny at RfA, but I'd claim that it gets better scrutiny, first by homing in on what the candidate intends to do with his first tool, and second through additional checks if he requires more tools down the line. MLauba (Talk) 15:56, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
OK, where does WP:REVDEL fall in your scheme? And, often, when I go to the editor page of some previously unknown editor, to post about rather large mistakes they've made, I find they have some of the recently unbundled tools, that some believe were handed out as "baubles" by some admins who may not know enough about basic Wiki policy to be handing out those baubles, and which they've evidenced they probably shouldn't be using; how will your proposal to unbundle address the reward culture aspect? SandyGeorgia (Talk) 16:07, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
For WP:REVDEL, I don't know whether that's a separate right from deletion or not, and I haven't really given it too much thought yet. Regarding the baubles aspect, I'll be honest, beyond the aspect that you don't get any admin tools without at least one full RfA and thus at least one vetting, there is undoubtedly a risk with unbundling for people who treat wikipedia like a game and additional rights as a way to raise their personal score, to reinforce that sentiment. Yet at the same time, for second and third tool, you would at least get those additional RfA-lites as check points, and worst case scenario, force a new one-tool-admin to stay on his best behaviour for another semester at least. It may not be the best way to combat the reward mentality, it may even foster it on some people, but I'd venture that it might also help screen those people better, and beyond that, provide another semester for them to mature and grow out of it. MLauba (Talk) 16:44, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
My (unfortunate) tour through DYK showed me that unbundling so far may not have been a good thing, specifically wrt Reviewer and Autoreviewer, since many editors who don't even have a cursory knowledge of reliable sources have those tools. I found numerous DYKs that were not based on reliable sources, and one article that was actually on the main page that did not meet notability and is now deleted per (its third) AFD. We are giving unbundled tools to users, as baubles, who have no idea how to use them, and that results in article deterioration. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 17:16, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I don't think PC is a good comparison, because it's new, controversial, experimental, and many find it confusing to use. I can't even remember asking for the reviewer status I was given.User_talk:Wnt#You_are_now_a_Reviewer It wasn't nearly an RfA Lite, but just a two-month (...) experiment. Wnt (talk) 21:17, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I broadly agree. Specifically certain tools should be flagged for users (much as "auto-reviewer" currently is, as an example). Perhaps specific "vandal blocking" would be a simple one to implement - with the understanding that erroneous blocks would be quickly reversed (a vandal fighter has no real call to issue edit war or civility blocks). Another flag would be for "certified XfD closers" with the ability to delete articles (again, this is not critical if they err - as any admin can undelete the articles). Anyone abusing the tools would readily have them removed by consensus at AN/I, I would think. Collect (talk) 15:29, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

  • I would have agreed, were it not for the fact that it would reinforce the MMORPG malady by creating more hats to collect. "Sure, the blue vandal fighter set is nice, but if you want to start raiding you need some epics like revdel or checkuser!" — Coren (talk) 17:08, 8 November 2010 (UTC) (And yes, I am aware of the delicious irony of an Arb making that comment — I got most every bit except 'crat) (effing shammies keep rolling on 'crat and it's off-spec!) — Coren (talk) 17:10, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
  • I like the idea of unbundling the block button, at least for blocking IPs and accounts that have not yet been autoconfirmed. We've had RFAs where people have been very clear that they don't want vandalfighters to become admins and make decisions about deletion until they've created content. I think that allowing vandal fighters to make an RFA style application for just the block button would work, and there are a several editors with thousands of AIV reports who could usefully and uncontroversially be given this. I don't like the idea of further unbundling than that, not least because of the old adage that that "to a man with a hammer every problem is a nail". Some problems need the tools to be used in combination, and sometimes you have a choice as to the best tool to use. ϢereSpielChequers 17:32, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I should just clarify that my proposal was to define the "remits" as tasks rather than tools, and accepted that specialized admins would likely end up with access to some software features that they shouldn't use at all, and others they should use only rarely, since the software (at present) wasn't written with these specific roles in mind. Wnt (talk) 16:21, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
This makes a certain amount of sense to me I think. The standards in an RFA could be lowered a bit because the editor wouldn't be getting the full set of tools up front. Then, 3 months later it'd be an easy "anyone object?" process to give them the full set. They'd have 3 months (or however long it is) to show compentance/good judgement. Unless I've misunderstood the drift here...RxS (talk) 05:48, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
CSD is rarely significantly backlogged, and the reason is that much of it is just deleted on the practice that "it was nom'd CSD therefore it goes". When I have tired to do CSD I have tried to edit articles that were wrongly nom'ed and 9 times out of 10 they are gone. Rich Farmbrough, 15:36, 10 November 2010 (UTC).

Response 8 (lessons from Wikiversity)

While Wikiversity as a whole has had a somewhat spotty record, one of the things adopted early on was to try an alternative to RFA (since the RFA process was already getting a bit too rough in 2006 when WV was started). The approach we took was to use a "mentorship" system, where a current admin could adopt a user and help them learn the tools for a month, and only after that month the person was put up for "election". The idea was to allow someone to establish a bit of a track record as an admin, thus changing the tone of the discussion from election to confirmation.

We never really formalized it as much as we should have (and hence the system is somewhat broken and in limbo now), but it had potential to make the process more collegial.

To do it right, the localsettings would need to be tweaked to make a new usergroup of "probationary admins" that the 'crats could both grant and revoke during the mentorship period, and probably have more 'crats around to serve as the mentors. If nothing else, the probationary admins would probably take a big load off of CSD and other backlogs. --SB_Johnny | talk 13:55, 8 November 2010 (UTC)

I like this idea, however there are a few tweaks I would add in. First, the admin in training would not be allowed to block users for more than 48 hours, longer blocks would have to be done by the mentor. Second, the admin in training would have to be willing to be mentored by admin, they can't go shopping for someone who they think will be easier to work under or more prestigious of a name to attach themselves to. Third, users cannot canvass for people to mentor them. If there is one or two admins that the user has worked with for a period of time (such as the recent VernoWhitney/Moonriddengirl combo) I would not be opposed to the user asking the admin, with the understanding that the admin is under no obligation. However if a user were to go to ten or fifteen admins, that would be an issue. Finally, because mentoring requires careful oversight, I would ask each admin only have one admin in training at a time. Sven Manguard Talk 16:52, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
Agreed that some fairly tight ground rules would be appropriate. --SB_Johnny | talk 19:02, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not enthusiastic about this idea, particularly. For one thing, how would we know if they approached admins when so much around here happens via back channels such as email and IRC?--Wehwalt (talk) 19:29, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
No doubt there would be a lot of that going on, but there's very little to be done about it (and it certainly goes on already for new admins), and it's not necessarily evil. Good coaching needs a bit of back channel discussion anyway, even in "real life". --SB_Johnny | talk 19:02, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
At the eventual RfA after the internship, one of the questions would be "Who did you ask to be a mentor and why? List all people you asked, including those that turned you down." The user would have to answer, and if he left a bunch of people out, those people would bring it up on the RfA, and the community would likely respond negitively. We would have to trust that the admins were being truthful (or have them present proof), but this solved the anti-canvassing requirement. Sven Manguard Talk 23:56, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 9

There is no administrator shortage, which makes the answers to 1 and 2 "no" and the rest of this discussion moot. A declining number of administrators + occasional backlogs on some tasks does not necessarily = an admin shortage. The work that's central to the project is still getting done, and good candidates continue to pass RFA. Townlake (talk) 04:24, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

I think Townlake is spot on when he says: "good candidates continue to pass RFA." It's been pointed out somewhere above that around 2/3 of Rfa's fail. Well, it's been that way for three years... it's not like the bar is constantly being moved higher and lower. We all have different personal standards for what we look for(and don't look for) in an Rfa candidate, but collectively the community has been remarkably consistent when you consider the past three years have been at 66.1, 65.9, and 66.5% failure rates. Is the bar too high? A quick check of this year's failed Rfa's suggests that at least half of the failures would have failed even if we moved the bar way down. So we have 1/3 who wouldn't make it under any reasonable standard and 1/3 who are "slam dunk" obvious successful candidates. So what do we do about the middle third? One of the attributes an admin should have is understanding the community, yet a large number of those who are unsuccessful Rfa nominees seem to misread what the community looks for in an Rfa candidate. That isn't to say that they aren't valuable members of the community- they are very valuable, but the community has spoken and the expectations should be pretty clear to anyone who has seen any 10 Rfa's. I'm probably considered one of the "jerks" who opposes candidates for lack of content creation, but I do actually feel bad for candidates (especially younger ones) who obviously thought they had a good chance when they were nowhere close to where they had to be. I do a lot of editor reviews... it really sucks telling an editor to spend the next six months working on certain things before applying and then having that editor ignore that advice by self-noming themselves the following week and seeing them get WP:SNOWed. VictorianMutant(Talk) 07:50, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
The bar has risen dramatically and in multiple ways, you only have to look at a few of the RFAs from years gone by and compare them to today to see that the pass rate is totally misleading. Nowadays potential candidates who've done their research know not to run until they've been here at least year and done at least 4,000 edits. Many of our currently active admins passed when the bar was far lower at least in terms of tenure and editcountitis, some date from the days when candidates could expect all their edits to be reviewed by the !voters. Comparing the overall pass rate today with earlier years is misleading as most potential candidates wait longer or simply don't run. Good candidates do sometimes still pass RFA, but in very small numbers and much later in their Wiki careers than the admins who were appointed in earlier years.
As for the admin shortage, there is a steady decline in numbers of active admins, but the workload is stable (as measured in gaps between ten million edits). If this continues indefinitely our unknown amount of spare capacity in admins will erode until there is a clear shortage. The issue is whether we take corrective action now when the trend is clear but the problem is not urgent, or we wait until some tipping point and then appoint a large batch of poorly scrutinised admins. I'd prefer that we take the former course, but I'm beginning to suspect that we will eventually wind up doing the latter. ϢereSpielChequers
I don't think it's a bad idea that people have to "wait" longer to become an admin. Those who have to work harder to get the tools are less likely to abuse them. Maybe the bar being raised was in part a reaction to this list. Yeah, I know how easy it used to be to become an admin... 1,000 edits and a pulse was good enough for the mop, but it created a lot of abuse. VictorianMutant(Talk) 17:36, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
That list is indeed interesting. Looks like we have lost 26 admins this year, with six involuntary desysops. How many have we promoted? Certainly more than 26. Of course this list doesn't cover admins who simply stop editing, but there is really nothing to be done about that, everybody burns out eventually. Beeblebrox (talk) 21:45, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
We've promoted 71 so far this year (including one so far this month). But we currently have 79 fewer active admins than we started the year with. So our typical 7 per month promotion rate is about half what we need to stabilise numbers. ϢereSpielChequers 16:22, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
The argument that too many admins have needed to be desyopped and we should be more picky is in one sense the opposite of the argument that Admins are invulnerable and never get sanctioned. But this opposite perspective is worth much more discussion because it is grounded in reality, half a dozen admins desyopped this year, approximately 1% of active admins per annum getting desyopped, this is a high rate of desyopping. Taking the customary analogy with a driving licence or the rarer analogy with a professional qualification, something is clearly wrong, few priests careers end in them being defrocked, very few Doctors or lawyers are struck off, but at current rates of desyopping a very significant minority of admins will eventually be desyopped. I've looked at quite a few old cases and I'm not convinced that Arbcom or Jimbo before it have been overly harsh, which leaves the possibilities that our recruitment method is flawed, our ongoing training is inadequate or that there is something in the nature of the role that makes people less cautious about keeping the mop than they would be about a real life appointment. When I looked into past desyoppings one of the things I noticed was a tendency for the rate of desyopping to go up with tenure, admins with three or four years tenure being more likely to be desysopped than newer admins, I also noticed that most were rather more qualified when they went through RFA than the thousand edits myth. I've just gone through a dozen desyoppings from before my time, and also looked at their preceding RFAs, and what struck me was that none were obvious minors, nor in the main were the RFAs close. The conclusion I draw from that isn't that RFA is flawed and not screening out poor candidates, I think if it were we'd see a pattern of new admins desyopped in what some propose to make their probationary period, nor do I think that lowering the pass mark would let in candidates who were unusually likely to be desyopped as many of those who were ultimately desysopped had very few or no opposes. I think that our near total lack of ongoing admin training is having the inevitable consequence of admins drifting away from the zone of acceptable admin behaviour, and that this is exacerbated both by the high rate of change on this site, and by some contradictions and ambiguities inherent in our policies and purpose. Another conclusion I draw from past desysoppings is that we should be less concerned about immature juvenile admins, as to be frank it is adults like me that are more likely to end up needing to be desysopped. ϢereSpielChequers 14:26, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree, continuing training might be beneficial. To continue the analogy, many professionals have continuing education requirements, so why not admins? Ronk01 talk 16:10, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 10

Eliminate administrators. Spin out all of the rights individually. There's no reason to bundle them. People can apply for them as they need them and this will enable the WP:NOBIGDEAL ideal to actually take hold as it did for, WP:ROLLBACK and IP-block exemptions. We should have "protectors", "page deleters", "blockers", "vandalism excluders", "interface designers", "automovers", "unwatchers", "permission granters", "username moguls". The idea for a "researcher" would also be appropriate here (someone who can view deleted edits).

ScienceApologist (talk) 15:48, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

This is much what I intended in #7, but I don't agree that administrators would be eliminated entirely. For example, there are still people who would be trusted to close AN/I and AfD discussions, to undelete articles, and so on, which are positions requiring a certain amount of trust. I think a more practical goal is to create a gradual continuum between the editor and the full admin (technically, to catalyze production of admins by stabilizing a transition state). Wnt (talk) 16:38, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Non-admin closes happen already on AfD for keeps. People with "delete" powers would just be the class of users who would be able to close "delete". For AN/I, users with the powers needed would be the ones empowered to close. This would have the advantage of keeping the discussions more focused. "I want an blocker to consider blocking User:X" is a lot better than, "Look at this situation: would an administrator please DO something?". The "continuum" is a good idea: many users will ask to get more and more permissions to do more and more complicated maneuvers. But the "full admin" status should be eliminated as unnecessary creepiness. ScienceApologist (talk) 18:12, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
Surely this is a great idea for bull sessions late at night, but has so little chance of passage it is barely worth the discussing.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:39, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
This plan can be done incrementally. Just start unbundling the user rights one at a time. Then, at the end of the day, when the administrator no longer has any rights just get rid of the administrator status. We can start by making all administrators "ROLLBACKERS" and removing that right from the admin package, for example. ScienceApologist (talk) 22:52, 9 November 2010 (UTC)
  • You lost me at "there's no reason to bundle them." There most certainly is. For example, fighting spammers requires the ability to delete things, to view deleted contribs, to block, and to protect. That's almost the entire toolbox for one of the most common areas of admin work. Beeblebrox (talk) 03:01, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
    • It's not true that one cannot fight spammers without having all those tools and is a little insulting to users who don't have special user rights who are doing this now (I count myself as one of those users.) Certainly, we should have people who have all those tools, but it isn't necessary that every person who needs to be able to delete pages also needs to be able to protect pages or vice versa. Spinning out the rights won't mean that people will be prevented from getting all the rights, only that it will be easier to get more help. If someone wants to close AfDs, why do they need to be able to block people? If someone just wants to be able to move over redirects why do they need to be able to protect articles? ScienceApologist (talk) 16:32, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Closing AFDs, again, can require multiple admin tools. Being able to see deleted edits to the page, and being able to salt the page go hand in hand with closing AFDs. If I am not mistaken the Foundation has made it abundantly clear that they will not grant the ability to see deleted contribs to non-admins. This is a vital admin ability that I for one use constantly. Anyone who is able to block needs it, anyone who is able to delete certainly needs it, and with RevDel being so common now it's important for anyone who does protections. And of course create-protection and deletion are intimately linked. Under this idea a user who could delete but not protect would have to go find a "protector" and ask them to take their word for it that the page needs to be protected. That makes things more complicated, not less. I'm not trying to be condescending, but the fact is that the admin toolset often works as a unit, many of the tools are useless without the others. Beeblebrox (talk) 21:59, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Wikipedia:User_access_levels#Researcher. Users who are not administrators have to go find administrators at many different noticeboards as it is anyway. I don't see why it's a big deal to apply for multiple tools at once or have some people who are good to get all of them but some who shouldn't get, for example, the blocker tool. If we spin-out tools, they will be less of a big deal. As people realize they need them, they'll apply for them and probably get them with less drama than current RfA processes. ScienceApologist (talk) 01:52, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
I think that the software considerations actually distract from the issue. You could have different admins who perform different functions. That doesn't mean that they're not admins, but only that they have a narrower area of expertise. If you wanted, you might be able to rule them out from using one or more tools by software, or someone could watch over a log of what everyone in the group is doing to make sure they are sticking to this narrower role, or you could just wait for complaints, which would be easier to act on when someone hasn't been qualified to do something at all. I think it's misleading to call the proposal "no admins" unless you also mean no deletions, no blocks, no protected articles, because people doing such things are always "admins" from the point of view of whoever is affected. Wnt (talk) 19:23, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────The point is that bundling the tools isn't necessary. The question as to when a user is an admin would be purely a scholastic one. Some users treat me as the kind of "admin" you are describing because I have been here long enough even though I don't have the tools. That sort of "administrator" is very different than the sort we have currently. ScienceApologist (talk) 18:09, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 11

Some responses with a few of the comments made above, in no particular order (full disclosure: I am an admin, if nobody has noticed):

  • There already is technically a permission for "permission granters" – they're called Bureaucrats; IMO I don't see why they should not be handing out the other permissions like rollback, reviewer, etc., but we'll leave it at that.
  • Also, this does not guarantee that there will not be any sense of elitism in the blocker ranks, or the deleter ranks, or whichever "rank" you consider. Not to mention, you're going to create a further "caste system" than what we currently have (or is perceived) that would further alienate and shut out the regular editors out there who have no permissions.
  • I mean, not to say "unbundling" of absolutely everything is a terrible idea; it looks good on paper, but I would not say the same in practice.
  • I think one of the reasons why RFA is so hard and grueling is because how the community has made it; this is ultimately the result of the lack of hard-and-fast rules, which has allowed RFA to evolve into the "gauntlet" it is today.
  • Term limits is not a bad idea, and perhaps admins should "re-certify", say, every year or so. My issue is that those admins whose times are "running out" who happen to run into the center of a major controversy would likely get shafted (the same happens all the time in politics, like most notably with Jimmy Carter).
  • I have always supported the notion of removing bits from users who are inactive, from admins and all above advanced permissions, if they are not being used for a period of time, say, 1 year or so. That will ensure that we have a current group of users with those bits who are caught up with today's norms and not stuck in several years ago.
  • Finally, we have just as many people who demand authority as those who are totally against any notion of it.

MuZemike 23:18, 9 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 12

1. No. No need. Moving on.

2. There is one very simple way to ensure that RfA improves. Mandate that every voter provide diffs. You want to oppose? Show examples of bad behavior, or point out what you dislike in X's counter. You want to support? Link to something positive, or point out what you like in X's counter. You don't have diffs? Stay in neutral until you find them. This ends the arbitrary stuff, the voting with a smiley face, the support per above, ect. You want to argue with someone's vote? You know exactly what their argument is, and oh, you have to argue with diffs too. Sure, it's going to be painful, and reduce the number of votes, but we should want quality votes, not just quantity.

3. No. Unless you're listening to a tiny but vocal minority, there are not enough bad apples to warrant opening this pandora's box.

4. Undefinable. Is everything getting done? Yes. We have enough. No? Go rouse some of them to get working.

Sven Manguard Talk 00:12, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

  • The idea of a provisional stage of adminship has some merit, but perhaps it should be an optional part of RfA, whereby "Provisional Support" is a fourth voting option. If the "Support" alone is strong enough, make them an admin. If "Support" plus "Provisional Support" is enough, make them a provisional admin, and revisit in a year. Introducing it in this way would make the change less disruptive, and would let the community decide whether it wants it to be part of the process. I would hope that some of the current failed RfAs would be upgraded to provisional under this proposal, but few of the current successes would be downgraded.
  • If we're going to have terms for admins, then perhaps we should reverse the burden of proof, and say that you need overwhelming opposition to lose the bit. Again, this would make the change less disruptive, and reduce the chance of losing admins rapidly. (I am opposed to term limits for admins, but I'm not sure that anyone really means to propose that.)
  • I am strongly opposed to unbundling and partial admins. When I see disruption in Wikipedia, I have many tools at my disposal, e.g. editing, reversion, rollback, warning, protection, deletion, and blocking. I use them all as appropriate. If I had fewer tools, I'd face a continual temptation to act with those I had. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
  • It's my view that the key to reducing the perception (or prevalence) of admin corruption is to change the etiquette related to wheel-warring. Currently, there is a strong taboo against undoing another admin's administrative action. I propose that we remove that stigma entirely. Any admin should feel empowered to boldly reverse another admin's administrative actions as if reversing their own actions, but it should be forbidden for the original admin to reinstate the action. This has been my unilateral policy for about three years but no-one has ever exploited it. For example, if Admin A blocks User X, then Admin B should feel free to shorten the block. Admin B's decision may be criticized on its merits, but there is no breach of etiquette and nobody is being a "cowboy". Admin A cannot reblock User X (for the same disruption), but Admin C may feel free to do so. Each successive reversal becomes less likely and the process will stabilize quickly. Controversial decisions are therefore opened up to the community of admins. Borderline disruptive users are given a little more rope. I would also add a guideline for admins that they should avoid ever blocking the same established user twice. If it's the right thing to do, then someone else will do it. Bovlb (talk) 05:40, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
We already have "once an administrative action has been reverted, it should not be restored without consensus". So admin B is already free to revise or reverse Admin A's decision, and the onus is on admin A to talk rather than simply revert back. ϢereSpielChequers 15:10, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, you're quite right. We do have that, and the language there is much stronger than that in the preceding section, "Administrators may disagree, but except for clear and obvious mistakes, administrative actions should not be reversed without good cause, careful thought and (if likely to be objected) usually some kind of courtesy discussion." However, from reading at AN/I, it's my sense that reversals are rare, long-delayed, and hotly debated on etiquette terms (search the archives for "cowboy admin"), whereas re-reversals are less contentious and seldom lead to ArbCom. (cf. "Wheel warring usually results in an immediate Request for Arbitration.") I haven't gathered hard data on this. My intention is largely to make practice conform more closely to policy, but also to shift policy a little by lowering the bar for simple reversal. I don't think we have anything strongly related to my "avoid blocking the same established user twice" guideline. Bovlb (talk) 18:28, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I'm not aware of many of my admin actions being reversed, nor have I often reversed other admins, but what experience I have had of that has been almost entirely positive. I suspect that though the incidents that get to ANI are a tiny proportion of what is going on, they probably skew people's perception of the situation. ϢereSpielChequers 16:53, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
A better way to put it might be that I'm trying to reduce the sense of ownership of administrative decisions. A lot of the drama that I observe seems to come from people becoming emotionally invested in their decisions. In an ideal world, we'd be able to treat our own past decisions and those of others equally, but that's not the world we live in. Given that, it's better if someone else can easily step in for us and provide the necessary objectivity. Bovlb (talk) 19:50, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I'd agree with that to some extent. I certainly think that admins should be much less territorial over their actions than many currently are. There is a taboo attached to reversing admin actions and it's my opinion that the current situation relies far too much on the judgement of a single admin. I personally am not at all territorial about my actions. I trust that my fellow admins made their actions for a reason and took into account that I believed I had a good reason for making the initial action. Real wheel-warring (combative reversal of actions) is very disruptive, but comparatively rare. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 20:23, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

I agree with Sven's #2 (and disagree with his #3). There are two distinct problems: the need for a more expeditious way to deal with admins who misuse tools (I suggest an expedited ArbCom committee process), and the need to lower the reward-seeking behavior of ill-prepared editors who appear at RFA, sometimes evidencing that they shouldn't even be editing, much lessing gaining admin tools. RFA is a vote, but in all the worst ways: Oppposers must provide solid reasons and diffs (which is what makes it "hell week", as they must dig up "dirt"), while Supporters only need sign, and often their signing amounts to nothing more than endorsing "I know this person on IRC, Facebook, MySpace, signed his guestbook, and ILIKEHIM. Supporters in no way have to justify their vote or evidence any knowledge of policy or the candidate. They only have to sign on-- a popularity contest. And Beaurocrats apparently (at least I'm told) weigh opposes, discount some, but not supports. This whole setup is distinctly the opposite of FAC: it has to demonstrated that an article meets criteria before it can be promoted, and one valid oppose will stop 20 driveby supports. Empower the 'crats to interpret supports and opposes and weight them according to diffs and logic supplied, exactly as at FAC, and we may at least promote less ill-prepared candidates, and lower the "hell" portion of the week, by placing less burden on Opposers to dig up dirt, more burden on Supporters to demonstrate why the candidate would make a good admin, by digging up "good" evidence. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:15, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

I think RfA is too difficult as it is. Many good candidates fail because thousands of edits are worthless if they haven't written at least a GA while more than one content editor with no admin-related experience has got through RfA. To reform RfA, we need to look not at the supporters, but at the opposers, whose !votes carry thrice the weight (thus cancelling out a good portion of the supports from inexperienced editors who think that voting in RfA is a way to make a name for themselves). We need admins who have a broad range of experience, both in the mainspace and the project space (and yes, even in portal talk!) rather than placing too high a value on certain aspects and not enough on others. We may criticise editors for only whacking vandals or CSD tagging, but the fact is, that's what admins do! HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 22:55, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I've been following RFA closely for several weeks now, and haven't seen anyone fail without good reason, certainly not for failure to write a GA (that is a meme that is propogated by some who don't pass), and if content contributors are passed without past evidence of vandal whacking, it's because they have ample experience during article building with vandals and know policy-- something one learns when actually building the encyclopedia (and gaining the trust of the many editors they work with in the process). I did see one very iffy pass with pile-on support, that concerns me, and one fail (Ling.Nut) of an excellent and knowledgeable content contributor, but he engaged the Quid pro quo trivia problem only days before his RFA, and others can't be expected to know his character and know he wouldn't behave that way with the tools. So, all in all, I disagree with your analysis of what's happening at RFA. If any opposer's vote carries "thrice the weight", maybe there's a good reason for that-- like writing an Oppose rationale that makes sense. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:06, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Addressing the "small but vocal minority" statement above: here's a case currently listed at ANI, and here is that user's talk page. Who speaks up for the responsible children on Wiki (to wit, we do have some of those) who have warnings slapped on their talk pages by admins for making absolutely correct edits, since when do they need consensus for making correct edits that improve Wiki, and why haven't those warning templates been removed? Who speaks for all the editors and IPs whose legitimate edits are reverted by vandal whackers who have no idea of Wiki policies? How can we make reasonable statements about how "small" this "minority" is, when they have no voice? Sorry, but for those of us who do have a voice, the responsible thing to do is speak up and help address these issues. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 12:09, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Good thing they still make those old fashioned wooden soap boxes, Sandy. The question is, it seems to me your concerns are very much in the eye of the beholder. You see "pile on support", others see "sailed through RfA because of his qualifications". Obviously there were two schools of thought regarding Ling.Nut, and given the sheer numbers of editors who voted, it is hard to be that dismissive. And as for adding material that "improves the article" without consensus, that way lies helplessness to do anything about it as everyone adds trivia to FAs. After all, improving the article, that's hardly an objective standard. How do you distinguish the (often worthy) things you want to do from the (often unworthy) things randoms want to do?--Wehwalt (talk) 12:55, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Who was dismissive about Ling.Nut? He tangled on an article talk a few days before RFA, many editors weighed in, he takes his lumps at RFA. And the issue here is not FAs-- it's a child with no voice being slapped with warning templates by admins for correct edits. Let's stay on topic, pls. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 12:58, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
I realize that's become one of your new lines, Sandy, but on that matter, overdramatics such as "a child with no voice" seem not to the point.--Wehwalt (talk) 15:19, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 13

I dont necessarily think that we need to start chopping admin rights but I think there are some things we could/should do to clean up the list so to speak.

  1. I think that if an admin leaaves for a while (maybe 6 months or a year) then they lose the admin privelage and haev to reaplly. So much changes in WP at such a rate its easy to fall behind with policy changes and I have seen some bad decisions based on this kind of action
  2. I agree there should be levels of adminship and perhaps powers should be limited between them (maybe a 3 step adminship would be in order).
  3. I think the process for becoming an admin needs to change and become easier. The current process is exhausting and leaves many with a bad feeling
  4. I realize unbundling the Admin toolbox is a contentious debate at best but I think that some of the individual tasks an admin does (or abilities they possess) should be broken out by item so non-admins who have been around for a while can apply and get them individually without going through the whole admin process. Some have already been done but other remain. One that comes to mind is being able to edit a protected article. I am not an admin (nor do I particularly want to be one, no offense) but I have been around for several years and have over 140, 000 edits. It seems to me I have earned the trust to edit these types of articles.
  5. I would also say that term limits could be a good idea as long as they didnt have to run the gauntlet and resubmit a whole new admin request. Maybe an expedited process. --Kumioko (talk) 17:58, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I also wanted to follow up and ask...Does the current number of admins respond accurately and efficiently to questions, concerns and problems? My opinion is most of the time yes, but it also seems to matter more the venue in which the concern is addressed. It seems that problems brought to the Village pump and a couple of others are responded too much faster than say comments made to an article/Category/Template talk pages. I do agree with Jimbo's assessment though that its next to impossible to haev the admin bit removed and Admins are typically above reproach, which might need to change some. --Kumioko (talk) 19:37, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 14

  • 1) We should ideally make RfA easier to pass before we have another recruitment drive; otherwise we'll risk discouraging more editors.
  • 2) Yes, ideally by lowering the passing range from 70- 80% to 45% - 55%. We should maybe leave the level of scrutiny up to the community, even if a persuasive case for going easier on candidates gains acceptance, attitudes could swiftly change back.
  • 3) I like the mandatory 1 year confirmation idea for new admins, though dont see it as essential. As suggested above an ad-hoc community de-sysop process would be a drama ridden time sync and make admins who care about retaining the bit less likely to make unpopular but useful decisions.
  • 4) We should aim to have enough admins so the outstanding workload is kept to a minimum so none of our dedicated sysops feel under pressure to spend more time doing admin work than they'd choose to in an ideal world. And so theres sufficient editors with the tools to always quickly and patiently respond to requests for assistance, including the difficult ones involving editors that are hard to communicate with. Probably we should aim to have at least 3000 active. FeydHuxtable (talk) 15:01, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 15 and why I haven't stood

Administrators are trusted members of the community, are expected to follow Wikipedia policies, and are expected to pursue their duties to the best of their abilities. Occasional mistakes are entirely compatible with administrator status; administrators are not expected to be perfect. -A Statement of Principle from several ArbCom rulings.

I happen to be one of those who believes that administrator status is "no big deal". Yes, administrator *actions* and *abilities* are a big deal, but my being one or not being one is no big deal; there's plenty for me to do either way. Unfortunately, while occasional mistakes are compatible with administrator status, they are unfortunately *not* compatible with administrator-Candidate status. Mistakes, and God-forbid *recent* mistakes are enough to sink an RfA with little further consideration of a candidate's qualifications.

Just this week I mistakenly reverted an IP user (twice!) who changed a year in an article from 1980 to 1981 with no edit summary. That sort of subtle edit, I have found, is often vandalism, so I reverted. The IP left a rather miffed note on my talk page, so I looked deeper into it, and found the IP was right. I bring all this up because, were I to stand for Adminship today, I would likely garner several Opposes due to this genuine mistake for Biting the IP. The rest of my 3+ years of contributions would likely be given less weight due to the recentness of this one event. The best case would be a "come back in 6 months and try again" oppose.

While admin status is no big deal, it is still disheartening for a genuine good-faith contributor who has volunteered much free time to the project, and who is essentially volunteering to start really getting his hands dirty and suffering the associated slings and arrows, to be told by the community that he is not trusted due to an event or two that is officially "entirely compatible with administrator status".

So what's the solution? I don't know... The voluntary recall process only works for admins with integrity, and by definition a recall process should be unnecessary for those. Term limits or mandatory re-confirmation votes will add extra overhead and bureaucracy to the process, and will result in admins not undertaking work in the difficult areas to avoid negative votes on their re-confirmation.

Like much of the US Judiciary, admins need to be lifetime appointments to remove pressure from coordinated special-interest groups. For example, 2 recent very contentious ArbCom cases, Scientology and Climate change, could easily generate a voting block on either side to derail a confirmation for an admin who opposed them, even if said admin was stellar in every aspect of policy throughout their tenure.

What we need is an easy way to remove a problematic admin that is immune from special-interest groups' "revenge votes", but is not so complex as to require a 3 month arbitration. So far the ArbCom sub-committee seems the most reasonable proposal I've heard.

Thanks for your time, and apologies for the length. ArakunemTalk 15:33, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Hits the nail on the head; you can screw up as much as you like once you are an admin, but never ever make a single minor mistake before you are one, else you'll never be one. Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 03:37, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 16 --- out of retirement comment

My thoughts are similar to those of scott's above. About a year ago, I made the proposal to have Coaching with tools, wherein admins would be able to actually coach others who would be granted the tools. Those people being mentored would be under the direct responsibility of the coach---eg if the coachee blew it, it was expected that the coach would step in. It would also be expected that the coach would monitor the coachees actions/edits to ensure they were in compliance.

I do believe it has become too hard to become an admin, but that stems from the corrolarly that it is too hard to remove the bit. I think we need to affect changes on both those fronts---make easier to remove the bit from those who need it to go away and make it easier for people to get (and get it back). Part of the problem right now is that it is too hard to take it away and when threatened with removing the bit people dig their heels in because they know how hard it is to get it back. Being an admin has become a big deal as a result, if we want to restore parity between admins/non-admins, then we need to make the chasm smaller. Make it easier to give and to take.---Balloonman NO! I'm Spartacus! 17:20, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

New Arbcom Subcommittee

I believe it was mentioned above, but got lost in the other discussions. But there should be an arbcom subcommittee dedicated to finding abusive admins. It would be similar to the audit subcomittee, in that half the members would come from the community at-large, except they'd need to be non-admins because there seems to be a general feeling that admins don't police their own with enough vigilance. The subcommittee would ideally take complaints and then look for long-term patterns of abuse, and recommend cases to the whole committee. DC TC 20:17, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

An excellent idea, though there should be some admins on the committee because it's difficult for a non-admin to understand what it's Really Like™ being a Cabal member admin on a day-to-day basis. This would also hopefully speed up the process of desysopping admins who consistently fail to adhere to the standard expected of them. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 20:26, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Barring a major upset in this year's elections, all arbcom members will be admins. But it should be half admin/half non. DC TC 20:28, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Well the admin bit is pretty much a prerequisite for the tasks that arbs need to fulfil, but they tend not to get involved in day-to-day "admin stuff" once they take their virtual seats, which is why I suggested that some "regular" admins be involved in the decision-making of the subcommittee. HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 20:35, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Endorse proposal. Additional accountability is an excellent idea, and bringing non-admins into the equation will provide an additional layer of legitimacy since some people (including some admins) don't seem to get the idea that admins are just regular editors with a few extra buttons. You do need an admin however, and probably a bureaucrat as well, in order to utilize some functions that a Admin-monitoring subcommittee would have to need to access. N419BH 20:40, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I to would endorse this, but would suggest that the non-admin members be experienced in dispute resolution is some way (ie work with MEDCAB). Additionally, we would have to look at how we want to select the members of the committee, especially the non-admins, since many of the non-admins who've been here long enough to understand the process simply don't want to be involved in the kind of drama that being on such a committee would entail. But yes, the non-admins are vital to the legitimacy of any such system. In terms of a lack of proper tools, if certain tools were unbundled for members only, that might solve the problem. Ronk01 talk 20:50, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
If that is its sole purpose, then suggest calling it the Wikipedia Un-Adminly Activities Committees (WUAC). (WP:STAR CHAMBER) Seems to fit.--Wehwalt (talk) 20:52, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Very high probability that this would turn into an admin + admin flunky group telling the masses "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."--Cube lurker (talk) 20:52, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Either that or they would be viewed as the "Rat squad" in much the same way as internal affairs is viewed by the police garnering no respect from the general population or the admin community. It could be a great thing... or not. --Kumioko (talk) 21:00, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
It would actually be a joy to watch the admin haters running for office and give them a version of Hell Week ...--Wehwalt (talk) 21:04, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Exactly why de-adminship should be in the hands of the community as a whole and not a group politicaly correct enough to pass through an election campaign.--Cube lurker (talk) 21:19, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with you that there needs to be a community process, but Dick Cheney has a better shot at being the next US President than a community based desysopping method being implemented. Plus, having an arbcomm subcommittee and a community based method aren't mutually exclusive. DC TC 21:26, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I know there's a big difference between "should be" and "likely to be". However a sub-committe with the wrong people on it would just lul the community into a false sense of security.--Cube lurker (talk) 21:31, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Following Montesquieu et al, we should not heap more and more onto ArbCom, but have separation of powers. That means we should find another institution. One model might be the Plebeian Tribune. A cynic might think that the split between the senatorial admins and the normal editing plebs is reflected on Wikipedia anyways ;-). We could elect people for a limited time, give them admin tools and access to ArbCom communication, but with the clear understanding that they loose all these tools after 1 year (unless reelected) and then cannot regain them, any way, for another 2 years. Tribunes can veto ArbCom decisions and defrock admins.--Stephan Schulz (talk) 21:06, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
It would be a very popular position, anyway!--Wehwalt (talk) 21:11, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
  • Just a random comment, but the non-admin members would almost definitely need to be given admin tools in order to serve (reviewing deleted edits would be a necessity). They wouldn't be allowed to use the tools though, except as needed for subcommittee duties. DC TC 21:14, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
  • There is no need for this subcommittee as Arbcom already does a reasonably good job with the cases that are put before them. If people want change they should either make clear why people would be more willing to use this route than the full Arbcom, or what circumstances they think should lead to desysopping that wouldn't do so today. ϢereSpielChequers 15:34, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Sting Accounts

Sting operations in which editors are given new accounts, simulating (mildly) disruptive editors should be used to test the integrity of the administrative system. Count Iblis (talk) 21:35, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

Didn't hat kind of backfire with WP:NEWT with admins creating alternative accounts to create articles that were borderline CSD cases and then giving a bollocking to any editor who dared slap a CSD tag on it. What exactly would it test, anyway? Don't we have enough trolls and vandals etc running amok without experienced editors trying to provoke admins into blocking them under another identity? HJ Mitchell | Penny for your thoughts? 21:51, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
NEWT was intended to be existing editors using new accounts to create articles that didn't merit deletion, one reason why it became controversial was that at least a couple of the articles were somewhat borderline; deliberating simulating disruptive editors would IMHO be guaranteed to end in tears. Also it is somewhat easier to look at a random bunch of blocked users to see if the cases were handled correctly than it is to see if a bunch of deleted articles were handled correctly; There's simply no need to create extra fake disruptive accounts, we already have plenty of genuine ones to look at. ϢereSpielChequers 22:27, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that you don't want to simulate disruptive editors. However, what can be useful is for some Admin or ArbCom member to edit using the account of an editor who is part of some dispute (with the agreement of that editor). In many disputes you can see problematic behavior on both sides and each side can have said to have provoked something on the other side. However, sometimes this is just an excuse and there is actually is only one side who is provoking things and causing trouble.
E.g. in the climate change case, it would have been helpful if William had temporarily handed over his account to ArbCom who would then make edits suggested by William but they would play nice as far as interacting with other editors. They could then more clearly see if there is real bating going on, what the level of harassment really is, etc. etc. Count Iblis (talk) 23:17, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
But all those edits are publicly viewable, so there are other already allowed ways to monitor such editing. If we had an allegation that editors to a particular topic or with a particular userbox were being sent harassing emails then I could see a case for creating some fake newbie accounts as the best way to see what emails turned up and who sent them. But I really don't see what we gain by breaking rules about sharing accounts or having a good hand bad hand account. ϢereSpielChequers 13:06, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Because a "sting account" has no special off-wiki powers, why not just pay special attention to ordinary new accounts? In particular, I think the accounts of people who come to Wikipedia to revise their own articles or those of events in which they've been involved could use some attention - I think that they often get a hostile, bureaucratic response that gets them angry and can quickly lead to blocks and bans that seem really unfair. Not uncommonly they end up on this page, feeling they have no other recourse. In general it seems like new users run into a thousand prosecutors and no defense attorneys. I think that a group of WikiDefenders would do far more to rein in admin abuse than any amount of "sockpuppetry in a good cause". Wnt (talk) 18:59, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
Count, thank you for making it clear to us that this is yet another attempt to deify WMC and not a real proposal to improve Wikipedia. Jimbo asked us to keep this conversation philosophical, but you seem hell-bent on being WMCs apologist and advocate in every possible forum. Beeblebrox (talk) 21:18, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
This has nothing per se to do with William. I only used William as an example. You may be referring to this discussion. But also in that discussion, the issue is not "William worship", rather a serious issue regarding maintainance of Wikipedia articles (which is also discussed on my talk page right now). On the notification page, I also used Cla68 as an example, but you seemed to have conveniently misssed that.
Also, this can work both ways, it is an investigative tool. If William himself is the cause of problems because he harrasses people and ceasing to do that improves things, then that will also be immediately clear to an Arbitrator who temporarily edits using his account. Count Iblis (talk) 04:18, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
You are aware that giving someone else control of your account is a very bad thing, right? Not just in Wikipedia terms, but on the internet in general. This is something we should NEVER encourage. Resolute 04:20, 13 November 2010 (UTC)
Honestly, anyone who operates a "sting" acount should have both the sock and their primary account blocked. We've got enough people running around breaking WP:POINT without encouraging others to do it deliberately. Resolute 21:35, 11 November 2010 (UTC)

Question

Question: Why should discussions about things like this be taken at Jimbo's talk page? In which way is he related to en.wiki changes? Shouldn't discussions like this be brought to the village pump? HeyMid (contributions) 21:22, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

He initiated it here. DC TC 21:27, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
What do you mean? Do you mean that Brews ohare initiated it here, so this is being discussed here? HeyMid (contributions) 21:29, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
To clarify Jimbo started the thread with #Adminship_and_RfA. I guess it just got broken up into it's own heading. DC TC 21:31, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
Will the good folks here please try to read the whole page and refrain from adding to the length if they haven't? I proposed an ArbCom subcommittee to handle expedited desysopping cases, apart from the huge cases they are usually attached to, well up on the page. (I think the idea of involving non-admins is a non-starter-- this is already an Arb function-- we just need to speed it up.) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 21:58, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
No one responded to it, so it was necessary to start a subsection. DC TC 22:04, 10 November 2010 (UTC)
I was just about to make the same point. This is an entirely inappropriate venue for this discussion (even though it's listed on WP:CENT). WT:RFA would have been the obvious venue, and there are many other locations that would have been more suitable than this talk page. The purpose of the User talk: namespace is to talk directly to the user whose page it is, NOT for general discussion. Quite why Jimbo is starting threads on his own talk page, let alone large community discussions like this one, I don't understand. Such discussions should be taken to the correct forums, which are emphatically NOT Jimbo's talk page. (For the record, I'm not sufficiently familiar with RFA to feel qualified to offer an opinion on changes to the system. I was just interested to see what was being said.). Modest Genius talk 21:34, 11 November 2010 (UTC)
I agree with Modest Genius; I find it quite unsettling that Jimbo start discussions with 'the community' on his own talk page rather than venturing into Wikipedia: space. I have refused to participate in discussion because it has been held here, and not at a community forum where we have norms for developing consensus and deciding outcomes. I've been watching only because I half expect Jimbo to overhaul RFA by fiat as a result of this discussion. IMO that will end well. The other alternative is that this discussion is a lot of hot air. John Vandenberg (chat) 00:08, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Hot air is the 3-1 favorite on Bodog. Interestingly, end adminship all-together is at 50-1, compared to meaningful change at RFA/common-sense desysopping procedures at 200-1 each. DC TC 01:16, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
No, they shouldn't. There is no reason to shuffle about the venue. A discussion is a discussion is a discussion. Protonk (talk) 01:25, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
This looks distinctly like an RFC to me; what Jimbo intends to do with all the responses is unknown, but I'll hazard a guess and assume that he is going to take them on board and .. start an RFC. John Vandenberg (chat) 02:16, 12 November 2010 (UTC)
Jimbo didn't initiate it. He called the ragged thread that preceded it to order, and in which I had aleady been criticised for suggest that the discussion might have been better located at WT:RfA. Anyway, I'm glad he's chimed in, because we now have some semblance of a structured, intelligent discussion, and there is now a ray of hope that an RfC (or two) might be launched in the not too distant future.--Kudpung (talk) 04:07, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 17

(Just as a data point, a proposal was made recently to lower the RfA assumed-passing percentage by 10%. It failed, with a headcount of 24-3 against, which I don't think you get a percentage like that for any proposal short of suggesting that we invade Albania. A lot of the opposition was indeed based the fact that we don't have admin recall.)

Making it easier to recall administrators scares me, because it's a major change, and it could result even fewer administrators. But I think that that, given an effective recall procedure, we would have that:

  • Only a few administrators would actually be recalled.
  • And I think the existence of recall would make it easier for admin candidates to win confirmation.
  • And this would also lead to more candidates.
  • And it would also increase support for other RfA reforms making it easer to pass RfA.
  • So I think that overall it would increase the supply of admins.
  • And as an added bonus, it would put the fear of God into admins, which I genuinely believe would decrease instances of bad admin behavior, to the extent that there is any.
  • And as an extra added bonus, it would make a lot of editors feel safer (from potential admin abuse).

But that also you might have:

  • More bytes spent on arguing over recalls == less bytes spent on articles.
  • Potential admins declining RfA on the grounds that that they don't want to be subject to constant recall petitions or even recall RfA's. (And some current admins would resign over this also.)
  • Good admins being in fact annoyed by recall petitions and threats of recall petitions.
  • Admins behaving timidly because of fear of recall.
  • The possibility of good admins being desysopped.

So I don't know. And neither does anybody else. We can just guess. But a couple of deciding factors for me are 1) in a certain sense, the admins "rule" over the community at the page level, and as a general principle we ought to be able to choose and oust our own rulers, and 2) my own experience.

I was the subject of a successful admin recall, and, keeping in mind that we were breaking new ground, it went fairly well. In my case, there was no question of abuse of admin tools; it was, to simplify, a matter of my general deportment. So I couldn't have been taken to ArbCom. And yet, people don't want want to be "ruled" (so to speak) by a fuckhat. (I'm not saying that I am a fuckhat, but it's apparently arguable.) And why should they? Some people felt that there was something somehow unfair about this, but I'm sure not one of them.

And so this: there is a community admin recall procedure. I know that there is, because I just wrote it. It's not a proposal, it's a how-to, and one could use it right now, tonight, to recall an admin if one wants to. Whether it would actually work I don't know, but it might. It includes a couple of choke points (as is proper) and I don't know if would get past those. There's only one way to find out, I guess, and as Barney says "When you try something new, you grow on the inside". It's here. I'm not likely to use it, as I have no need to and I have enough problems anyway, but anyone else can if they want to. Herostratus (talk) 06:06, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

I should preface my comments by saying that I'm not specifically referring to Herostratus' case because I have limited knowledge of the situation, though I think there is something to be said about an admin actually going through with a recall request But this is the sort of example of things that need to be policed. Admin abuse isn't simply just abuse of the tools (which more often than not seem to get caught, particularly if the offending steps on another admins toes), it's things like incivility and other breaches of policy. These generally go unnoticed, and even if they are caught, there is no punishment. DC TC 12:57, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 18

How bad is the admin backlog ? In other words, is there a real need for more admins and so for applications - if so I am sure that there are many out there who could be persuaded to stand.

How much time would an admin be expected to work on admin tasks each week/month ? Is it the case that the admins are actually doing admin work or is there a significant percentage that have the bit but are not doing admin tasks.

Many editors appear to be reluctant to stand due to the RfA process yet to me it seems it is no different than any other selection and election procedure. In general I see elections in the public eye tending to focus on things which might not actually prevent a candidate from doing a good job and perhaps this is the case in RfAs. Having said that it seems that there may be a problem where editors are elected for mainly vandal fighting rather than housekeeping or editing processes. That may be a problem more endemic to Wiki than just the RfA process where it appears to me that there is less recognition for working on prose, plagiarism and copyvio and more for having reverted a lot of spam and vandalism.

Chaosdruid (talk) 18:06, 12 November 2010 (UTC)

I'm not sure that anyone is claiming that we currently have a bad backlog of admin work other than merges and some areas that few seem keen to help in. The divide seems to be between those who think RFA is broken because of the declining number of active admins and assert that if the numbers continue to fall by 1% a month we will eventually have an admin shortage, and that AIV is already sometimes clogged, with vandals able to continue sprees for sometime until an admin gets round to blocking them. Those who don't think RFA is broken point to the fact that most of the time we still have enough admins to handle the deletion, blocking, userrights requests and protection processes and assert that we don't have a problem at the moment.
I'm not sure anyone has tried to measure what time a typical admin spends on admin actions per month. Our definition of an active admin is 30 edits in the lasst 60 days, which could include people who scarcely ever use the tools and people who retired 7 weeks ago and haven't edit since. It also includes hundreds of active editors who are admins but only rarely use the admin tools. So we have an unknown amount of spare capacity of admins doing non admin things, but as admins are volunteers the more we pressurise them to concentrate on admin work the more likely they are to get burnout and leave, or to become detached from the general editing community.
The RFA process doesn't value work on "prose, plagiarism and copyvio" problems less than vandalfighting, actually it is very much the reverse, we've recently seen dedicated vandalfighters rejected at RFA for not having contributed to the pedia whilst our most recent successful RFA was for a specialist in dealing with copyvio problems. ϢereSpielChequers 09:16, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Summary

Can someone please summarize the discussion? It's getting severely TLDR. ResMar 14:45, 13 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 19, proposal

We need a new class of userrights similar to non-admin rollback. See the extremely long thread on WP:ANI, where a sockpuppeter is currently getting all the attention they want while a massive rangeblock is being considered because there aren't enough admins to block all the IPs as they come up. This class will have two rights: the ability to semi-protect an article (not a userpage, talk page, or anything else) and the ability to block IPs and non-autoconfirmed users. These blocks and protections will be automatically set at 24 hours. Additionally, actions performed using this userright will be automatically logged at an appropriate location where they can be reviewed by the community at large. Use of these tools will be governed by a specific set of rules. For blocks, the user must be given four warnings and only blocked after failing to heed the final warning. For page protection, more than one account/IP must be targeting the page. Edits must be blatant vandalism; the use of the tool for any other reason is unacceptable. Any violations will be taken to ANI. Obtaining the tool will be done in the same manner as obtaining Rollback. This solves the problem of waiting around for admins to protect pages or block users (WP:RPP and WP:AIV often go unchecked by admins for an hour or more) and also resolves the problem of not having enough admins by taking the burden of performing one of the most common tasks off of them. This has already been done with rollback and it is time to do it with protection and blocking. N419BH 08:49, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 20, proposal

Purpose:

  1. To facilitate the removal of underperforming admins without making community de-adminship a popularity contest.
  2. To create more meaningful scrutiny of administrative actions.
  3. To create a meaningful mentorship regime for admins.
  4. To end the ritual hazing at RfA.

Suggestion:

  1. Create a new usergroup, "Commissioner", with the technical power both to promote and demote admins.
  2. Commissioners are elected via a RFB-like process, perhaps for a fixed term.
  3. Their mandate is to see that Wikipedia has a sufficient number of admins to perform the necessary tasks and keep backlogs under control; to coach, support and supervise our admin corps; and to scrutinise administrative actions and administrator conduct. They're expected to be supportive of admins who do necessary but unpopular things.
  4. Commissioners appoint admins exactly as they see fit. They can also summarily demote admins exactly as they see fit, although they might prefer to refer some cases to Arbcom. Admins are no longer directly elected. It's the commissioners who're answerable to the community, not the admins themselves.

Hope this helps—S Marshall T/C 22:38, 15 November 2010 (UTC)

Again (going back to my response above to a couple other users proposing this), isn't that the inherent role of bureaucrats for that, to add/remove userrights? –MuZemike 02:02, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
'crats on the en wiki do not remove rights.76.199.72.181 (talk) 03:44, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, at the moment, 'crats grant the sysop user right. But this proposal would be a very dramatic change to the current role of the 'crat! Our existing 'crats didn't ask for a commissioner role, may not be comfortable with doing it, and don't have a mandate from the community to do it.—S Marshall T/C 12:10, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 21

Perhaps not the first time I've raised this, but I've never really heard a specific argument against it, so here goes.

Keep RFA the way it is, but as soon as the "vote" goes over (say) 50% and stays there for a week, the user is made an adminstrator but (and here's the difference) their RFA page is kept open, so people are welcome to add their votes, remove their votes or change their votes. As soon as the "vote" goes under (say) 50% and stays there for a week, or if the user ever changes their mind about wanting to be an adminstrator, they are automatically made not an adminstrator.

In this way, adminstrators are "elected" and truly maintained by consensus. The vetting that goes on can be reduced since it's so much easier for voters to just change their mind later. Due to the built-in week (or whatever) long hystersis, pitchfork waving crowds have time to cool down, and block-voters have time to be counterweighted by the community.

Lightweight, pretty-much stress-free, makes adminship avaialable to many more editors without any real risk, no more "gameable" than current RFA and in keeping with the "no big deal" ethos. 78.245.228.100 (talk) 16:33, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

Probably one of the worst ideas; keeping people by "the mood of the day" and having a sysop-desysop-sysop spree? How do think anyone will be willing do take any potentially controversial decision when they know all those opposed to it will flock to their desysop-page while all those uninvolved won't even notice? Choyoołʼįįhí:Seb az86556 > haneʼ 10:09, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Administration by poll numbers? I think not.--Wehwalt (talk) 12:56, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Agree with Seb, this is far too gameable. Any system we implement has to pass the test of how easily it can be gamed by the various trolling groups out there. This would be very easy for one of the bad sites to game by watching for admins dropping close to 50%, going on a wiki break or worse admitting they were about to sit exams etc. Also I'm not comfortable with lowering the threshold to 50% as some of the candidates who get between 50 and 70% are not really ready or suitable. ϢereSpielChequers 12:58, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
How can there be a spree? The built-in hysteresis prevents rapid change. How is this gameable? Block voters can easily block vote at RFA right now - and they only need to be a block long enough for RFA. How is this administration by "poll numbers"? It seems more like "administration by continuous evaluation of concensus".
For me, the nice part is that a candidate who goes on a break, or takes exams or whatever might very well suddenly lose a bit of the communities confidence - which would quite correctly be reflected by them not being an administrator. When they come back, or finish their exams, and become more active, maybe the community will suddenly gain a bit of confidence - which will quite correctly be reflected by them being an adminstrator.
That 50% was just a number (beauraucrats make the actual call, of course), although I rather suspect that since maintaining 50% of the entire community's confidence is harder than gathering 70% of the subset who frequent RFA (plus as many of your friends as possible) a lower "bar" might turn out to be a good choice.
78.245.228.100 (talk) 15:11, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

"Some of the candidates who get between 50 and 70% are not really ready or suitable". That means some are, some aren't right? Wouldn't you like to maybe give them a chance, knowing that if you change your mind later, then that will be immediately reflected as part of the consensus? Or perhaps be a bit happier not giving them a chance knowing that if you change your mind, then that will be immediately reflected as part of the consensus, too?

78.245.228.100 (talk) 15:26, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

Response 22

I'll repeat the proposal I've made before. Get rid of the whole RFA process, and create an Admin Committee of 10-15 members, elected in the same way that ArbCom is, with full responsibility for giving and removing ops. Looie496 (talk) 18:20, 16 November 2010 (UTC)

  • This strongly resembles proposal #20.—S Marshall T/C 23:09, 16 November 2010 (UTC)
    • Indeed it does. Looie496 (talk) 01:17, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
      • I read this as different in that 20 would empower a commissioner to set or remove sysop flags whilst this would have a committee. The advantage of empowering individuals is that if an admin account was compromised the first person who could deflag the account would do so. The advantage of a committee is that before appointing an admin there would be a discussion and any editor would presumably still have the opportunity to say "I don't object to this user returning as they seem to be behaving themselves now, but per this and that they are clearly the same person as desysopped user ***** and not IMHO suitable admin material". I think that some combination of the two would be workable, but I believe we need to resolve the sort of community and admins we want and set the remit of the committee before we first elect the committee, otherwise by default the election itself would be where we decide such things. Part of the problem at RFA is that we have visions for the pedia as disparate as "to dilute any perceived elitism, and make most efficient use of volunteer time we need as many admins as possible" and "the fewer admins we have the easier it is to keep tabs on them"; I suspect we also have differences of opinion about the desysopping of admins with some people thinking that blocks and troutings are appropriate responses to some admin mistakes and others seeming to want to desysop any admin in whom an imperfection can be successfully proven. Perhaps a first step towards either 20 or 21 would be to have an RFC on the criteria we would want used to decide on whether a candidate is or is no longer suitable for adminship. Wikipedia:Arguments to avoid in adminship discussions and Wikipedia:Guide_to_requests_for_adminship#What_RfA_contributors_look_for_and_hope_to_see are two of several overlapping statements we have on this. Also I think I would prefer that we simply empower the crats to do this rather than create an entirely new body. ϢereSpielChequers 12:45, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
I thought about this one a little and I think this sounds like a great idea. No more long RFA process, knowmore nuisance questions, assumptions and inuendo. Maybe have some criteria (time in WP, maybe a certain number of edits in multiple namespaces, no vandalism, etc) not sure and maybe some standard questions about how they would handle common situations (but even that is sorta pointless really because they can just copy the statements of one that passed previously). The problem I see with this is finding a dozen or so active admins that would be willing to do it for 6 months at a time or so. --Kumioko (talk) 16:49, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
  • (In response to Werespielchequers, but placed here to keep the chronology) — I'd expect commissioners to act like administrators who're considering a block or unblock request. They'd be able to do it individually if the situation demanded but would generally form a consensus before doing so. Their discussions would either take place on-wiki or on a private mailing list depending on the sensitivity of the material. In short, it's a hybrid between a committee and individual authority.

    It would be up to the commissioners to agree on detailed rules of procedure and to vary them from time to time as necessary; all the community would give them is a mandate and some general terms of reference. I would expect their custom and practice to evolve into a more formal procedure over time.

    I'm anxious not to hand our existing crats a poisoned chalice. If the community agrees that RFA is broken and this is the best alternative suggestion, then I would want the commissioners to be people who'd actually volunteered for the job we're asking them to do, and also I think each of them should have a community mandate to do it. It strikes me as a very different role to crat.—S Marshall T/C 17:30, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

If they get both to decide the criteria and also to evaluate people against it then yes it is a totally different role, and not a measure that I'd be comfortable with us introducing. If the community sets the criteria for admins and the crats are entrusted to evaluate people against that criteria, then I would be happy to see it trialled and the existing crats empowered to do this. ϢereSpielChequers 15:54, 18 November 2010 (UTC)
The community would set the criteria indirectly, by voting for committee members whose criteria they like. I don't think there is any viable way for the community to set the criteria directly other than by directly evaluating admin candidates. Looie496 (talk) 16:42, 19 November 2010 (UTC)
In such a system, how would the committee handle requests for removing administrator status from administrators who have already been appointed, in the past, by the existing RfA process, and how would these controversial cases be resolved when there are sharp differences of opinion? Also, given all the complaints about ArbCom being too slow to deal with anything other than bright-line matters, would another committee really be able to act any more promptly, and to do so without losing community trust? --Tryptofish (talk) 00:14, 20 November 2010 (UTC)
Answering those three questions in the order asked: (1) it depends on the circumstances—the commissioners would have a discussion and make a decision; (2) it depends on the circumstances—the commissioners would have a discussion and make a decision; and (3) it depends who we elect as commissioners.—S Marshall T/C 00:42, 20 November 2010 (UTC)

Another question

Ok, so what we've got here are a lot of ideas, proposals, counter proposals, etc. What is the process for determining whether any particular ideas have community support? (Notice that last word there is not "consensus", which really means unanimity, but you may substitute it in if you wish.) And who is going to initiate that process. (Not it.) Neutron (talk) 02:09, 17 November 2010 (UTC)

It seems to me that someone needs to go through the list of ideas and look for the ones that are recurring. There are some odeas that are the same in almost all of the 22 responses and I think thats a good start. --Kumioko (talk) 16:43, 17 November 2010 (UTC)
Yes, someone does. But it would seem that for this gargantuan task, a good someone is hard to find. Or maybe this is something that has a better chance of being tackled after the ArbCom election. Neutron (talk) 22:45, 18 November 2010 (UTC)