With everything I write, please understand that I apologize for the length. I am trying to be concise.
- The "Carnildo affair": User:Giano had a justifiable grievance at the prior behavior of Carnildo ("justifiable" as seen in ArbCom action), and Carnildo sought twice to regain administrative status, finally gaining it, against consensus, in September.
- In Carnildo 2, Giano and others asked Carnildo to apologize personally, not publicly, to Giano for the personal affront. Inasmuch as "personal attacks" are now being treated as justification for blocking someone, it seems reasonable to expect some apology.
- In Carnildo 2, Carnildo's only concession of any mistakes in his actions was the comment, "In hindsight, blocking Carbonite was unneccessary, as he had already left Wikipedia, and blocking Giano and El C was unwarranted, as they had not actively engaged in banning people." [He seemed unaware that Giano, not being an admin, indeed had no way of blocking anybody.] Responding to an Oppose comment that such words made a trifle of the whole thing, Carnildo confirmed that the blocks were a trife in his view: "I'd feel regret if the consequences had been more significant, but I don't see how a heated opinion and a few minutes of not being able to edit Wikipedia is worth agonizing over."
- The fundamental question a number of "Oppose" voters sought to answer in Carnildo 2 and 3 is whether or not Carnildo recognized that the "mistake" had been using block functions in a private manner, in allowing his personal vision and personal feelings overcome any regard for process, deliberation, or prior review (the blocks were indeed posted on ANI for review after the fact.) Anyone seeking an answer to that question had silence as their reply.
- In Carnildo 3, Carnildo admitted that the "hate speech" blocking was a mistake, although he did not seem to know why it was a mistake. Apparently, he had made private assurances to his own friends that he would not repeat the mistakes. Apparently, these assurances were passed privately to the bureaucrats. They, following, presumably, the precedent of WP:DRV determined that administrative status was always up to their own discretion and that the results of a public poll were never binding; that, in the absence of precedent or expression of community trust, they could substitute their own trust, based on these private assurances.
- Giano reacted with understandable anger at the decision.
- User:ALoan, User:Geogre, and User:Paul August all felt moved to protest the action overtly, and user:Bishonen withdrew from public activity on Wikipedia as well. The decision of the bureaucrats that their private understandings of private assurances from the urging of "two former ArbCom members" and "two present ArbCom members" (source is private e-mail, and so I am bound to keep its origin private) was superior to the attested trust of 70% of the voting editors of Wikipedia outraged dozens of Wikpiedians of long standing, public trust, and long time contributions. No one had been privvy to these assurances, and the bureaucrats themselves had been urged in private, where no competing or dissenting voices could be heard, to take an action that was without any analog. (Incidentally, my own "strike" was based not on any disrespect toward Giano, but rather the fact that someone who had in effect announced that his feelings were superior to the community's was going to again have the power to block people based on his personal and unreviewed and unexamined motives. I had and still have no reason to believe otherwise.)
- The following arguments about the Carnildo "affair" brought out some heated words between defenders and accusers of the bureaucrats' action.
- Giano and Tony Sidaway ended up on opposite sides of the debate, and for some essentially good reasons. Tony had, in the past, asserted a position akin to what one can find on user:Phil Sandifer's user page: his personal decisions trumped any policy or process. Giano, as only a regular editor, couldn't have agreed with that, even if he had not been insulted by Carnildo and received no recompense.
- During these arguments, Tony offered the hypothetical of his own actions if he were a bureaucrat and suggested that he would also act according to discretion.
- Giano responded that Tony would be arbitrated, and Tony blocked Giano for 3 hours to "cool down."
- The blocking bother began on WP:AN. Several administrators, including arbitrators User:Raul654 and User:Mackensen, user:Bishonen, user:JoshuaZ, and regular users, such as user:Newyorkbrad, objected to the block. There was no grounds for the block to "cool off." Giano was unblocked by User:FloNight (who got to the unblock button just before Raul654), as the only course of action commensurate with Wikipedia policy.
- Tony had not sought review before the block, although he did announce it after the fact.
- It is important to note that Tony Sidaway was not blocked for inappropriately blocking Giano. Two days after the inappropriate block, Tony returned to WP:AN and reopened the taunting with Giano by comparing Giano (and those who agreed with Giano that unitary executives are a bad idea on an encyclopedia that anyone can edit) to a festering boil and himself to a nurse with a lancet. Several users protested, and User:JoshuaZ blocked Tony for 24 hours for this statement, which was at least potentially designed to provoke Giano into saying something that would allow a block for the non-policy of WP:NPA (it is policy to not attack one another, but that policy carries no specific sanction, so violating it does not involve a block, a retort, or anything else), combined with his previous behavior in blocking when Giano did reply.
- The block was because Tony was interrupting conversation, preventing discussion, and apparently harassing users he disagreed with, and he was using his administrator's powers to do so. In other words, Tony was antagonizing another user whom he intended to block as soon as he responded. That qualified, for five or so of us, myself included (I offered to block), to block Tony to prevent disruption.
- The Boor War: After Tony Sidaway was blocked for 24 hours, user:James F and user:Kelly Martin came to AN, having participated in no part of the previous exchange (or, honestly, any exchange on WP:AN). James F said that all of those discussing Tony's inappropriate blocks were "idiots." Kelly Martin, however, went a step further. She said that those opposing Tony "had been noticed" and told Geogre his "behavior" was "being examined quite closely."
- James F's language was inappropriate and boorish and could only have acted to aggravate matters, which is what it did, but Kelly's language drew my particular concern.
- Kelly seemed to be violating the trust of arbitrator-l, as well as speaking for ArbCom or the Foundation itself. The arbitrator's mailing list is private, and "emeritus" (not the best term for the position, in her case) users have access to it. To tell all the other administrators (who are equal in rank with her, of course, if there were ranks) that they were being watched looks like an overt attempt at intimidation as well as a violation of the privacy of the contents of the mailing list.
- I learned later that, indeed, the entire situation was under review on that mailing list, although not in such a one-sided manner as she implied. Nor was James's assessment of his universal opinion accurate. Therefore, it appears that this revelation was a breach of security.
- This Rfar was lodged by user:InkSplotch, an unconcerned party, and its purpose was and remains vague. Is this about Giano's action? Is it about Tony Sidaway's? Is it about the hamfisted way that James Forrester tried to deal with his friend's blocking? Is it the violation of mailing list priviledges by Kelly? Is it other misdeeds by Kelly?
There are two sets of offenses against policy that can be arbitrated, in my view.
- Tony Sidaway's improper use of blocking. Tony's blocking of Ghirlandajo(see the rejected Ghirlandajo RFAR) and Giano were against policy.
- Tony Sidaway's seemingly intentional baiting of Giano was also a breach of civility, and may have been designed to allow a block.
- Tony Sidaway's misuse of WP:NPA was astonishing. While he blocked Giano (and others) for anger, he used profanity copiously to express his own anger. It is fine to not block for NPA, as I do, or, more iffy, to block consistently for NPA, but to block when it's the other guy is a violation of even the misinterpretation of the policy.
- However, I believe that administrators acted injunctively with a 24 hour block for these offenses.
- Kelly Martin's attempts to buffalo the community represented policy violations.
- If Kelly was not actually repeating words from the private mailing list, she was clearly attempting to seem as if she were, and either one is a violation of the trust of privacy. Whether she was accurate in the representation of the mailing list or not, she was alledging to be telling administrators that a powerful group had noted their actions, that a secret discussion area was now focused on the insects questioning Tony.
- It is possible that Kelly intended to refer to the "administrator's IRC channel" (which is not for all administrators, of course), but, since such a thing is not Wikipedia and has no official status with Wikipedia, the much more natural assumption would be, given her appearance with James Forrester, that it was the arbitrator's listserv.
- Kelly was involving herself against the judgment of a community of administrators (as was James Forrester) to frustrate the carrying out of a licit block and forestall arbitration or conflict mediation with Tony Sidaway.
There are many of these that have been committed in off-wiki fora. The "#wikipedia-en-admins" IRC channel has been rife with denigration, plotting, and illicit actions. Evidence of these cannot be presented here, and therefore it is up to the arbitrators to either know the subject matter or not, but, for those who do, it establishes mens rea -- the mindset of the crime. The above-named individuals showed not a willingness, but an actual desire, to stop all "process" and to act on individual desires. Those who requested that they follow the rules were derided and placed into an enemies list.
My own view is that this has become an omnibus Rfar, which reduces its potential effectiveness in imposing remedies. However, if I can lay out a particular ideology and issue that underpins all of the abuses, all of the bad behavior, by each of the parties, I should very much like to highlight one feature: secret communication and lobbying in secret to act against policy.
The common element in this is, I think, that private associations, whether those associations are the people who write academic articles, those people who are on ArbCom (or think they are), those people who are bureaucrats, or those people who spend time on the administrator's IRC channel (and say things like, "Who is this Texas Android person? If there is any way to ban him, I want him gone" or "If they don't have diffs, fuck 'em!" or "Major process wonk" or "ArbCom is your mother, whether you know it or not") have allowed themselves to be blinded to the larger group, the project of Wikipedia. Because we are now so large and so crowded and with such diversity of content, we naturally form like-minded circles and get frustrated when our vision of what is undoubtedly true cannot be communicated.
Phil Sandifer's user page announces that he will not read policy or pay attention to it, because it gets in the way of doing what he knows to be correct. Kelly and Tony have acted out that philosophy, but anyone who acts that out is saying that his or her private understanding needs no consultation and that his or her efforts seek no compromise or cooperation. Both Kelly and Tony have put the philosophy into action. The egoism involved has been exaggerated by private communication. First, the two users and others engaged in impropriety on an IRC channel, including revealing sensitive information (the same information that supposedly makes it impossible for an "emeritus" arbitrator to lose access to the mailing list), and the purpose of the channel seemed to be to cooperate in clearing obstacles for the superusers to act without the hindrance of "process wonks." Additionally, both have intimated that there was a secret forum for judging and evaluating other users. That forum may have been the IRC clubhouse, but, in the case of Kelly, it was often intimated that a secret avenue to power was open to her. Even in her own statement about giving up her rights, she insisted that "thousands look to" her every day for "opinions." That statement surpasses hyperbole. It again claims that she has a cache of power and importance that will allow her to swiftly mow down those in her way (if she were not so magnanimous).
What is critical, I think, is that any group that allows its friends and friendship to carve out a private discussion area, or which believes that it must communicate in private, or which sets up "invitation only" discussion areas is a group that is setting up an echo chamber. If such discussions are about private matters, then they are fine. If they are about site-wide issues, then the voices of the entire site are necessary. May Gmaxwell and Mindspillage talk to each other? Of course they may. They may not plot, nor use their association to suggest that they have extra special powers. My belief is that the bureaucrats who decided on "discretion" were flat wrong. One can use discretion on the deletion of an article, because WP:DRV exists to hash out community consensus, and because the action can be easily reversed. However, a small group cannot act on "discretion" about a position that is defined as "a person trusted by the community." A person can act on personal judgment if the issue can be reviewed and reversed, if the question is a single item, but blocking established users should never be a personal decision, whether that person is Carnildo, Fred Bauder, Tony Sidaway, or me. The greater the effect, the greater the need for review before hand and the more improper it is to silence the voices of others. The damage of losing a new account is worrying, but the damage in losing a long-time contributor is horrifying. The risk of losing an administrator (such as Paul August, Filiocht, ALoan, or, I hope, myself) should be unimaginable, because each step up is an investment of time, trust, and oversight. To allow Tony Sidaway to unilaterally block Giano for disagreement, or for a group on an invisible IRC channel to collude to plan for getting rid of Giano, is an atrocious offense. For Kelly Martin to decide that her own view of the editing patterns of another user are such that revealing personal information is justified is unspeakable. All of these bad actions, I think, come from isolation, from not listening to the voices of the site.
I do not think that IRC channels do much good, but invitation-only channels are asking for clubhouses. That their contents cannot be reported in arbitration is a loophole that allows for the most pernicious collusion. I do not think that the arbitrator's mailing list should be entirely invisible, as it is a false dichotomy to suppose that complete invisibility and complete access are the only options. A redacted summary would be possible. However, if it is to remain as it is now, then it must be policed so that it never carries content about things that are not already arbitration cases. If the site were assured that that was the policy, then no one could be bluffed or confused by the next "Kelly's" statements into believing that "mother" is coming to punish the lowly administrators for acting according to their collective judgment. I do not believe that Kelly Martin should ever be permitted to feign speaking for the Foundation with other users. She can refer people to appropriate pages, of course, and forward communiques, of course, but to be the mouthpiece for the Foundation is not her job in any sense. Tony Sidaway's actions as a clerk have been, so far as I am aware, entirely clean. I have heard (as a person perceived to be on the "other side" from him) of complaints, but none of them have ever held up under investigation. But his actions as an administrator have been frequently unilateral and too often against policy.
View by Geogre 11:52, 29 September 2006 (UTC)