Wikipedia talk:Requests for investigation/Archives/2002/01

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Ambox warning yellow.svg This is a discussion archive created in 2002, though the comments contained may not have been posted on this date. Please do not post any new comments on this page. See current discussion, or the archives index.

To user:Greg Lindahl: A disagreement about capitalization is not what the VANDALISM IN PROGRESS page is for. Vicki Rosenzweig, Saturday, June 8, 2002

Wikipedia as a community has limited feedback forums; if you have a more clever idea how to discuss this, please suggest it, but this was the best one I could think of. GregLindahl

What are you doing,

If we are going to move Christian Mythology to The stories of Christianity, fairness dictates that we must move Greek mythology to The stories of the Greek religion, and so on.

I agree with one suggestion: could you log in under a name so we don't have to type the full IP address? ;) --KA

Sure -- SJK

But some of the stories in these sections are cultural rather than religious, and cannot be described as associated with the group's religion, these stories should be distinguished. (On a side note I think it is also important that we distinguish between the stories of the ancient Greek religion and any stories the modern Greek Orthodox religion has.) -- SimonP

Well, the same thing could be said about some of the stories of the Bible, that they are cultural rather than religion. As to the distinction between Greek Orthodox religion and Greek religion, I think thats a fair criticism -- maybe we should rename it to The stories of the ancient Greek religion to avoid confusion. But the thing I don't like is Ed Poor labelling all my changes as vandalism, and seeking to undo them all, without even discussing them first. -- SJK

What can (or will) this page do?

Inevitably I suspect someone will complain that this page will only encourage trolls. However this page has now existed for several days, and I quite like it. It's attention getting, and will quickly recruit a number of people to stem the damage.

Even the most diehard troll will give up fairly quickly when their vandalism gets erased by the combined effort of 30+ people.

Actually, I'm the person who orignally objected to your naughty person list, and I started this page. :) If everyone starts using this page, I suspect most vandalism will have a total existance time of about 30 seconds. --Stephen Gilbert

Actually I think they both work - this page won't catch the "insidious" miscreants, the ones who edit only occasionally to try and promote a particlar viewpoint. My page is not realy useful for large-scale vandalism.

Agreed. --Stephen Gilbert

Automatic procedures

There is also opposite scenario available:

Even the most diehard wikipedians will give up fairly quickly when a single perlscript will start vandaling. --Taw

OK - Taw, I agree that this page does not solve that problem. So what do we do then? - MMGB

Give short-term-IP-ban (like 30 minutes) rights to enough people, so that at least one of them is usually on wikipedia. Or rights of turning wikipedia into War Mode for a short time (this will also work against distributed vandalism attack).

During war mode all changes would be enqueued onto War Mode/Proposed Changes Queue and could be accepted only by selected users.

Of course this shouldn't be done unless somebody really attacks us with a perl script. Too much paranoia isn't really good. --Taw

I like Taw's idea of a short-term-IP-ban facility. There should probably be some restriction to prevent a person using it more than once in any 24-hour period (say), just in case someone decided to misuse it. I was intending to write an anti-vandalism perl script, but never got around to doing it. The idea would be that as soon as a vandal is spotted, the script could be run to undo all his vandalism. --Zundark, 2001 Dec 2

Sounds excellent - who's got the coding chops to pull it off? (BTW this discussion about the Short-term ban facility SHOULD be moved to Meta) - MMGB

Because we're changing software anyway, such thing should be coded into PHPWiki. Try contacting Magnus Manske. --Taw

PHPWiki, I believe, is the name of a different PHP-based Wiki script. This script doesn't really have any name other than "Wikipedia PHP script" or "Magnus Manske's PHP script". --TheCunctator


Move this to and then we'd be talking. If my blatherings shouldn't fill up the Recent Changes page, neither should this. It belongs in a separate namespace from the main encyclopedia (thus if not meta, then at least a subpage under Wikipedia. The ALL CAPS TITLE is a little much, too. --TheCunctator

I disagree - the purpose of this page is to catch everyone's attention. Hence it belongs on Recent Changes (where we spend a lot more time than on Meta), and needs the ALL CAPS, to stand out. - MMGB

You're missing the point, C. The page isn't commentary, it's a utility to bring attention to a sustained vandalism attack. The ALL CAPS TITLE fits perfectly with this purpose, and if I could, I'd make the title red too. ;-) --Stephen Gilbert

Stephen, I'm not missing the point. Meta is for pages about Wikipedia. It's what meta means. (I know that some people are restricting it to "unofficial" meta-pages.) This is a meta-page.

I understand why you used the ALL CAPS TITLE, but I think that you should be more polite to people who don't care about this; meta was created so that people who don't want to see discussion on the Recent Changes page don't have to; similarly, the VANDALISM IN PROGRESS announcement, whether you consider it "commentary" or "utility", shouldn't be so obtrusive.

Note: I'm not complaining about the idea; I just think it doesn't have to be so loud to work; and if it doesn't have to be, then it shouldn't be. Please don't tell me that I'm missing the point. --TheCunctator

It's not meant to be an insult, but I'm afraid I still think you're missing the point as far as the meta site is concerned. The meta site is for extended discussion and commentary about Wikipedia, not for all pages that aren't encyclopedia articles. If it were for all non-article pages, all the Talk pages, personal pages, utility pages, FAQs, writing guides, help pages, announcement pages and policy pages would be over at
Regarding this page specifically, I'm more than willing to change the name to be less obtrusive and/or move it to a subpage of Wikipedia utilities (or even delete the thing altogether), if that's what the rest of the community wants. However, I would argue that making the warning less obtrusive defeats the purpose of the utility; it is supposed to be obvious. Furthermore, it is meant to be used only once during a sustained vandalism attack, and such attacks are quite rare, so it won't be filling up Recent Changes. Finally, I think that it's safe to assume that if anyone finds the all caps title to be harmful or rude, they'll drop by the Talk page and say so. --Stephen Gilbert

Stephen - you have my total support. If this thing was not so completely "in your face" I'd probably miss it and not be able to respond in time. - MMGB

I did drop by the Talk page and say so. I believe you meant to write "anyone else". My argument is simply this: does this page need the extra obviousness to be effective? I'm not sure that it does. Manning has argued that he does need that obviousness. This is simply the discussion I wish to encourage. I'm not attempting to denigrate your work. --TheCunctator

"I think that you should be more polite to people who don't care about this": I assumed this meant that you were speaking for others, not yourself. I stand corrected. However, I remain unclear as to what you personally think, as you have mentioned three alternative options:

  1. move the page to the meta site
  2. move it to a subpage off of Wikipedia (or perhaps Wikipedia utilities)
  3. simply make it less obtrusive by de-capitalizing the title but leave the page in the main space.

Which one are you recommending?

I've already presented my arguments for leaving it as is, and Manning supports them. Let's see if anyone else cares enough to chime in. (BTW, I'm not insulted in the slightest. I am just mildly surprised at this type of objection; I thought they would run more along the lines of "this page is useless" or "it'll encourage vandals". Guess I'm not clairvoyant.) --Stephen Gilbert

Boy, do I wish I were clairvoyant. Sure would save me a lot of grief. Pity, that. (So, thanks for being willing to trust that I'm trying to communicate seriously with you.) Re the alternative options: What I personally would like is rooted in my attitude that problems, in the vast majority of cases, will "magically" disappear as long as we don't worry about them. In other words, except for certain very specific hypothetical scenarios, I believe that this can all be handled ad hoc, without any long term mobilization or institutionalized action. That's based on my attitude that very few people are intrinsically malicious--they just want to do something that amuses/interests them, and I think that building Wikipedia can be that kind of amusing/interesting thing. So my long-term attitude is that though there may be acts of "vandalism", there are no "vandals", just misguided contributors.

I know that's a little much, but so are calling silly kids vandals. Noone's knocking over gravestones. I don't take any short term problems seriously, and I don't think the rest of us should either.

But I know this requires a lot of faith, and rose-tinted glasses, so I certainly don't expect everyone to jump on the ahimsa bandwagon.

That out of the way, within the current structure, I recommend:

  1. Either moving the page to meta or to a subpage, probably meta, since long-term either action is mostly equivalent (both Wikipedia and meta will represent namespaces)
  2. Decapitalizing the page.

Totally IMHO stuff: More outre proposals would be something like making this a subpage of Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense, like Bad jokes and other deleted nonsense/Spam, etc. Some people like being called vandals or criminals; very few like being called spammers. I'm not convinced that decriminalization is usually a good idea in the real world, but in Wikipedia, I think it is nearly always a good idea. I think the only "criminal" action (other than somehow causing real-world, non-IP infringement harm via these pages, say by releasing someone's medical records) would be doing something like doing an admin-delete without notice or explanation, or writing a script to do mass deletes/overwrites/flooding. I.e. anything that's done by a person, which can be reversed, can be dealt with by other people. But there are good arguments against this, mainly in the realm of the "this will mean we spend all our time coddling annoying babies." I'm not sure what the proper response is, but I suspect it would be less time than one might think--and that if we set this up as an avowed principle, we'd attract people who enjoy "coddling". --TheCunctator

Minimize or Full Records

Moved from the main page:

Some vandals enjoy the satisfaction of seeing lots of comments about their work in Recent changes. Hence to minimise the fuss, just enter the letters "VR" as a comment, and choose "minor edit". This informs the other editors that a page has been repaired, but keeps the fanfare to a minimum.

I'm uncomfortable with making assertions about what other people's intentions or desires are; and "minimizing the fuss" often leads to unintentional suppression of useful information. I think it might be a better idea to keep this on meta; then it won't clutter up the main Wikipedia, but it will make sure that everyone's actions are clearly defined and accountable.

I believe that accountability is more important than worrying about whether idjots get satisfaction out of hearing their name in print. If we don't treat them like outlaws, they won't have anything to fight against. Branding juvies as "vandals" will just encourage them. (Of course, this is just one side...) --TheCunctator

I then promptly restored the deleted text, as Cunctator seems to have missed the point of the guideline - it is to provide a simple, understated method for editors to fix vandalised pages and notify others they have done so, and thus not trip over each other trying to figure out which pages have or have not been repaired. The simple code of "VR" is discrete, while still serving its purpose. MMGB

You not only restored the deleted text, but also deleted some of my additions. If you disagree with them, unless you feel that they must be removed immediately to protect Wikipedia, I would appreciate it if you expressed your disagreement here. Please stop making ad hominem attacks ("Cunctator seems to have missed the point of the guideline"). I have not impugned your talents for comprehension; rather, you seem very intelligent, though short with me. --TheCunctator

Actually there was no disagreement, that was simply a lack of diligence - I failed to check to see if there were any other changes. My apologies.

Re the meta discussion - I do think that the discussion about the 30 second ban, and the discussion about whether this page is the BEST solution for a recognised dilemma, does certainly belong over at meta. - MMGB

I imagine someone has already said this above, but what's wrong with simply saying, in the "summary" line when you're fixing some eedjit's vandalism, "[IP number or handle] is vandalizing"? That's what we've been doing and as far as I can tell, it's worked pretty well.

Also, if you insist on keeping this page, ferchrissakes can we get rid of the all caps? This is a respectable establishment! :-) :-) --LMS

I don't insist on keeping it; it's just an experiment to see if it is useful. Using the summary field may not always work as most people have their preferences set so that the summary fields get knocked off Recent Changes when someone else makes another change.
That two people against the caps. You realize that this puts you in agreement with Cunc, right? B^) Anyone else? ;-) --Stephen Gilbert
I don't think there would be any point to the page if it's not in capitals, as it wouldn't stand out. But the talk page shouldn't really be in capitals. --Zundark, 2001 Dec 11
I agree with LMS & Cunctator -- Mathijs
I disagree with LMS & Cunctator, and think that it should be allcaps. The purpose is to catch wikipedians attention when its needed. If it doesn't catch their attention, then the page has no purpose. --arcade
(Somebody's using a browser that adds spaces whenever editing a Wikipedia article...this is a chronic problem for some relatively uncommon browser, I forget which. Maybe Opera.) Just saying "so-and-so is vandalizing" has always, so far, proven to be quite effective in allowing us to track and remove vandalism (and in the case of repeat offenders, temporarily ban the vandal's IP address. Given that, having this page, let alone this page with the title in all caps, is unnecessary. --LMS

In support of Larry, I have to point out that a Recent Changes full of removed vandalism by ... is pretty hard to miss.

(Most of the vandalism on these pages that I can see was very minor. Are there any egregious examples I missed? --LMS)

He deleted almost all of San Francisco Peninsula. Besides, there is no practical difference between major and minor vandalism - it still means someone has to spend time reverting it.

I would consider such a deletion major, not minor.

Suppose someone is just experimenting with the wiki for the first time and, in a spirit of playfulness, just changes a few links the way this person did on the San Francisco page. I totally agree with you that (1) that's very annoying and (2) we shouldn't have to revert such idiocy. I wouldn't ban the person's IP number, though, not just on the basis of that. I'd keep a very close watch, though, and if I saw a pattern (as there definitely seems to be in this case), I'd reluctantly ban the person. --LMS


Is there any way that this article could become a little more "juried". Much of what is enterred seems to be only one person's opinion of what vandalism is. Often it refers to newbie errors, or is a response to what someone else considers valuable. I consider the long entry for the value of pi to useless but not vandalism. An occasional troll is not vandalism unless it involves obstinacy; it's sometimes helpful for puting a subject on the table. In my view vandalism is persistant and malicious. A format along the following lines for each allegation might be useful:

What is being done
Why it is vandalism
  • To summarize why I feel that is a vandal (it has also used My view of vandalism is anything that undermines the credibility of the wikipedia. It started with the "Penis Bird" 'joke' including references to it in other pages. Then it moved to dumping old Household cyclopedia articles which tell ways to make break, how to make fertilizer, etc with methods that are long out of date. It then started inserting "Our savior", "Our lord", "Our Christ" references into gospel articles. It then started the whole scientology/Xenu thing (with an apparent agenda). It then started extending inifinite sequences of numbers to multiple lines (like about 20). It even 'translated' Bruno's comment on Talk:Artificial intelligence into french. Any one of the above could be considered a 'joke'. But each individual one added useless (in the form it was put in), outdated, and even potentially damaging information. It has not responded directly to why it does such things even though it obviously sees such questions. In my mind, these actions undermine the credibility and efforts of the serious folks who try to build Wikipedia. When I see a good portion of activity is spent in trying to fix this kind of thing, I (rightly or wrongly) imagine the snickers of a rather immature individual as he leads us all on a wild goose chase. Rgamble
    • In addition to the above, has now chosen to replace the entire "Sexism" article with the entire "Diatribe against the fundamental Sexism of our society" from (Naturally, it was immediately reverted - LDC and I hit it at almost the same moment. :) This is part of a larger pattern of behavior that has lasted a couple of weeks now, starting with dumps of articles from the "Household Cyclopedia" (see Wikipedia utilities/Pages needing attention, "Pages with outdated material"). The incidents described by Rgamble above, more dumps of useless material from (Herotodus and Caesar inserted as modern "history" articles), and now the replacement of a factual article with a labeled Diatribe to me add up to a pattern of malicious (or invincibly ignorant) behavior that calls for an IP ban. -- April
      • Agreed. Well, I guess it's time to try out the old IP ban function... If it doesn't work, drop a note in wikipedia:Bug reports. (Jimbo can unban an address manually in the database, if need be.) Brion VIBBER
    • I've certainly got no problem banning vandals (I bumped the "CARROTS" guy on Friday), but this particular one does bring up the interesting case of dynamic IPs. If you do bump him, record exactly which IP you blocked, so we can check that it is temporary (since it's dynamic, it will belong to someone else tomorrow). --LDC

Moved 24 vs Axel discussion to meta, since it has nothing to do with VANDALISM IN PROGRESS.