- 1 WMF's incompetence will be their end
- 2 Quick! Grab a shovel! An avalanche is coming!
- 3 Casting a pall and why WP:NPA is so important
- 4 And yet again the Foundation demonstrates stupidity
- 5 Consensus is a popularity contest
- 6 Spitting in the wind and irrational expectations
- 7 Everyone is a vandal (well, except administrators!)
- 8 Hmm, where have I seen this before?
- 9 Sudden revelation
WMF's incompetence will be their end
27 February 2015
I had to laugh on seeing the Signpost article "Did WMF "participate" in nefarious activity?". Several times in the last year now the WMF has stuck their heads into en.wikipedia, gotten themselves bushwhacked, and tucked tail and run behind the claim it was only "staff in their capacity as Wikimedia volunteer editors", i.e. not really the WMF <cough>. This time, it was the "Head of WMF Grants"(*), by title the person responsible for giving the grant to the Lafayette Practice, then writes an article about the neologism attempting to promote it? How many times does the WMF have to be bitten by this stuff before they learn? Employees of the WMF should be held to a code of conduct both in their paid activities for the Foundation and in their non-paid activities in that their "volunteer" actions can cause catastrophic effects to the Foundation. At a bare minimum, the WMF should prohibit their employees from editing any of the projects under its umbrella except in their capacity as employees. How long do you think the CEO of a corporation would have a job if, while on their own personal 'volunteer' time, they 'volunteered' the opinion that the company's products were bad? Do you think a press release from the company stating that the CEO's opinion was not the company's opinion would somehow make everything go away? Yet, this is precisely what the WMF is attempting to do.
But it is worse than that. The WMF pays an outside organization who then writes a glowing report about the WMF, and then the WMF boasts how great they are. Truth stranger than fiction. How do you suppose a prospective donor to the WMF will view such behavior? Do you think the donor would be more inclined or less inclined to donate? Who in their right minds would give money to the WMF knowing the WMF spends money to have other people tell them how great they are?
This event might go quietly into the night. It hasn't been picked up my major news outlets yet. But incompetence from the WMF has bitten them before and will bite them again. Eventually, it's going to blow sky high and they are going to find their fundraising efforts collapsing. People will not want to donate their money to an organization demonstrably so inept. --Hammersoft (talk) 15:13, 27 February 2015 (UTC)
* - I note that the WMF can't seem to figure out what his title his. According to Meta:User:Asaf_(WMF), it's "Head of WMF Grants and Global South Partnerships". According to this ("see the team" under "Community Engagement"), he's the "Senior Program Officer, Emerging Wikimedia Communities". According to the Signpost article (though I grant they don't seem to have a source), he's the "head of WMF Project and Event Grants"
Of note: eight hours after I initially wrote this post, Asaf changed his title and role. Interesting.
And onward the incompetent march
7 January 2016
Have a read of the second paragraph of Fallout from the Heilman removal. People are surprised about this? Really? Over and over again the WMF proves their incompetence to the point that it seems almost willful. That the WMF was completely unprepared for their own decision to remove Heilman is undeniable proof they are in over their heads and lack any ability to properly govern. In today's world, an outside, negative article about your organization has to be responded to within a few hours or the story controls you. But something that is sourced from inside the organization? The WMF could have easily been prepared for this, and indeed had weeks to prepare. Yet, they did nothing. Now the story controls them. And we're shocked?
It comes as no surprise that among the more than 200 WMF employees who responded to an internal survey, just 7% (~15 employees) felt that senior leadership at Wikimedia communicate a vision that motivates them or keeps them informed about what is happening (see bullet points). I.e., almost every employee thinks that the senior management is incompetent. If there were a democratic vote, the employees of the WMF would likely sack every senior administrator.
If one of the leaders of the WMF happens to be reading this, how can you stomach the idea that 90%+ of your employees think you're doing a horrible job? How can you sit there and just continue on as if everything is ok? --Hammersoft (talk) 15:01, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
Quick! Grab a shovel! An avalanche is coming!
17 November 2014
Wikipedia is in decline. As a result, a whole slew of management processes that were developed when Wikipedia was growing are now going in decline, dormant, unattended to, etc. Recently, there's been a number of proposals to close/abolish such processes. WP:Administrators open to recall, User conduct RFCs, Requests for adminship, and even ArbCom have come to discussion (and in most cases, voting) for abolishing. Only the user conduct RfCs seems likely to pass. The mentality here is to defend the existing processes at all costs. They are heavily entrenched. The abstract problem here is the defenders of these processes are forever looking backwards to how things were and did work. They no longer work that way, and are inexorably fading into the past. What is needed is a new vision for what the management processes will look like five years from now, and start building towards that vision. I guarantee you the processes we use then will not look anything like what we have now. The defenders of these decaying management processes are attempting to stop an avalanche with a snow shovel. --Hammersoft (talk) 17:25, 17 November 2014 (UTC)
30 October 2014
I know, and very likely those of you reading this know, that the no personal attacks policy is largely ignored on this project. People get away with some incredible attacks upon people without so much as a warning. Even if there is a warning, it's not even a slap on the wrist. Some editors can go for years with over the top personal attacks and never draw a block or even serious consideration of blocking. The culture of abuse has become ensconced within the project.
We say that administrators "are expected to lead by example and to behave in a respectful, civil manner in their interactions with others." This is policy. But does it mean anything? I argue that it doesn't. Some administrator conduct is appalling. Yes, there are good admins. But far too many abuse the very policy that governs their behavior. Today, I was accused of lying by an administrator and bureaucrat. Will anything happen to that person? It's doubtful that he'll even be warned. The claim of lying is wholly inaccurate. Regardless, casting an insult such as this in such a cavalier fashion is wrong. Whether he thought it true at the moment he said it or not is irrelevant. There is never justification for attacking anyone, least of all from an administrator and bureaucrat who is expected to lead by example in his conduct.
In reading the attack upon me I found myself angered. My character is important to me. I do not lie, cheat or intentionally misrepresent anything on or off Wikipedia. Some of my friends have said this is one of the things they value most about me. With this attack upon me, I found myself less willing to contribute to a discussion I was involved in. It cast a pall upon the scene for me. Now, I've been here a long time, and I know better than to let such insults stand in the way of appropriate editing. However, the fact that even I was affected by the cavalier insults of someone who should know better shows the absolute pall that administrators cast upon the project when they act in such improper ways. Imagine the effect it has on editors who have not been here for an extended period when a person entrusted with such positions accuses them of lying.
Editor retention is a hot button topic right now. We jump through lots of hoops trying to welcome new editors, recognize editors who are doing good things and more. Yet, when it comes to administrator abuse of editors we do...virtually nothing. These administrators are expected to be our finest, yet we allow such misbehavior to go on. What should happen (but won't) is that any administrator who violates the WP:NPA policy should be placed on some form of probation, under a policy of near zero tolerance. This will never happen though. The situation we have now is very much like how police misbehavior is handled; we see a police car briefly turn on their lights so they can get through a red light, and then continue on after the light at regular speeds, obviously not responding to an emergency. What happens? Nothing. Yet if we, the common miscreant editor dare do something like that we'll get a ticket. I argue that the WP:NPA policy needs to be applied very stringently towards administrators. The adherence to WP:NPA starts from the top, not from the bottom. --Hammersoft (talk) 15:14, 30 October 2014 (UTC)
And yet again the Foundation demonstrates stupidity
6 October 2011
Yesterday, the Wikipedia servers reported this to me: "Sorry! This site is experiencing technical difficulties." The irony of it was almost funny. I was thinking to myself, 'I'm supposed to be surprised'?
Recently the would-be saviors of our programming soul decided to disable the namespace select feature when you are looking at a given editor's contributions. This is a heavily used feature for a broad variety of reasons, not least of which is vandal fighting. There was apparently no significant prior discussion of this change. It was applied, though not fielded, in May of 2011. See . When it was fielded, a hailstorm of complaints were raised. See bug report and Village Pump discussion. There does not appear to be anyone who isn't a MediaWiki developer who is supporting this change. Now, this is a problem, but it's not the core problem.
The core problem this particular debacle highlights is the organizational immaturity demonstrated by the Wikimedia Foundation. They are responsible for the MediaWiki software development. They are also responsible for this project. The developers are well intended. But, to allow them to field software that has not undergone any sort of non-developer oversight and review is mind bogglingly stupid. Any mature software development company knows not to have its developers conduct usability testing, validation, marketing, and public relations, not to mention documentation, and deployment. Yet, this is precisely the organizational structure the Wikimedia Foundation has demonstrated. They've allowed for an organizational structure where the developers have a direct, unchecked path to releasing software, directly impacting the projects the Wikimedia Foundation hosts. They also appear to be following the highly amateurish code and fix software development model.
The Wikimedia Foundation is a US$10m company with 75 employees. Apparently not one of them has ever thought "Gosh, maybe somebody should take a look at releases the developers are pushing before going live?". There is absolutely no excuse for the abject organizational failure demonstrated here by the Wikimedia Foundation. I wish I could say this is isolated, but it isn't. --Hammersoft (talk) 13:58, 6 October 2011 (UTC)
Consensus is a popularity contest
27 September 2011
There was an interesting article this week in The Signpost titled "How social ties influence admin votes". Substantial research was done, analyzing more than a million interactions between pairs of users and any effect such pairings had on outcomes of RfAs. The short of it is this; RfA is a popularity contest. OMG!?! WTF!?! NWIH!!! Gee, are you surprised?
If you think this is isolated to RfA, stop taking your qualudes. The drama boards (read; the various noticeboards) are ripe with the stinking stench of clique dominated popularity influenced agreement. It doesn't take months of research to reach this conclusion. You see an issue that a friend of yours is involved in, you're more likely to take your friend's side in a debate. There's a multitude of reasons for this behavior. There is an 'in' crowd at the drama boards. Just a peek under that cloak of nicety is a harsh reality; 3/4ths of all edits to WP:AN/I are made by just 10% of the editors there.
The result of this is a mass contradiction in Wikipedia. We're established on the highly egalitarian ground that all editors in good standing are equal. Yet, the drama boards are anything but equal. It's like all the worst nightmares from our teenage years. Don't belong to the 'in' crowd? You're screwed.
That isn't what our purpose is here. Those of you reading, I encourage you to stand on your own. Don't lockstep with someone else just because they're your 'friend'. Do the right thing, and stand up for what is right. What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular. You can aspire to a higher purpose here. --Hammersoft (talk) 14:09, 27 September 2011 (UTC)
Spitting in the wind and irrational expectations
12 April 2011
This week's Signpost contained an article on editor retention. This was based in part of A resolution passed by the Foundation. I read both of these and couldn't help but find myself laughing so hard my ribs hurt. The abject lack of situational awareness expressed by the Board is so stunning as to defy imagination.
Every single organization that has ever existed in the world has experienced an organizational life cycle in one form or another. To think that Wikimedia is somehow immune to this is to think the stock investors of the 90s thinking the old investing rules no longer applied were geniuses of their time. Yet, that is exactly what the Board seems to believe. They acknowledge there's a steady decline in editing, and then make fixing this problem their "top priority". Wikipedia has been in existence for 10 years. To think that we can somehow reverse the trend of editing to an (implied) earlier time is ludicrous.
Wikipedia has a body of editors. That population has changed over time. However, the general knowledge base of available editors has produced an unbalanced resource. Some areas have excellent coverage. Some have very little and/or inaccurate coverage. Some areas have experienced explosive growth. Others experience growth at glacial speeds. That is the nature of the population that volunteers its time and efforts to the project. That's what the open model has created. You can't change that anymore than you can change over what horizon the sun will rise tomorrow.
Wikipedia has been in existence for 10+ years. We now have 3.6 million articles. We are more comprehensive than any encyclopedia in history. Creating new content is becoming increasingly more difficult. There's less and less to create, especially in areas where we already have good coverage. To steal a phrase from the oil industry, we are past peak editing (oil). No amount of wringing blood from rocks will reverse that trend. With less and less to do for our average population, it should come as no surprise that editing behavior is changing. Yet, the Board seems to be so concerned about this change in editing that 'fixing it' has now become a top priority.
So, let's "treat new editors with kindness", "increase community awareness" that editing is down, and let's get "more friendly and collaborative". This will be as effective a solution to the question of "how do we colonize Mars?" as coming up with a new recipe for cherry pie. Another apt analogy; Microsoft, circa 2002 (ten years after 3.1 launch), pondering why sales of Windows 3.1 are down and what they can do to reverse the trend. Somewhere in this stupidity there's an xkcd just begging to be written.
The appalling lack of situational awareness expressed by the Board is absolutely shocking, and speaks to a serious business immaturity on the part of the members of the board. On the plus side, no matter how their incompetence, they have no effect on a volunteer population they have no control over. Perhaps in the future the board will be comprised of individuals capable of recognizing what stage of organizational life we are in, identifying the strengths available to more mature organizations and similarly recognizing weaknesses, and respond in a professional manner in accordance with our mission. That mission contains far greater a challenge than just "collect and develop educational content". --Hammersoft (talk) 19:43, 12 April 2011 (UTC)
April 2015 update
Fast forward four years, and we find the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) is still focused on how to retain editors as a means to save Wikipedia. One definition of insanity often quoted is attempting the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. They've been trying this for four years now, with no appreciable effect on the decline of the Wikipedia editor base. In the Time article cited in today's Signpost, the WMF's strategy for saving Wikipedia apparently still relies on editor retention. To quote, "To fight back, Tretikov is focusing the Foundation’s limited resources on how readers and editors use the site. She prioritized efforts to gather data on what users like and don’t [like]". WMF, wake up! How editors use the site was sufficient to create the world's largest encyclopedia, even in iterations of the software from ten years ago. There is no insufficiency now, despite increase in mobile usage, that is causing the catastrophic decline in editorship.
As I noted four years ago, the absolute lack of situational understanding being exhibited by the WMF is nothing short of astonishing. Nothing has changed. Any faith that anyone possesses with regards to the WMF and the future of this project has got to be undermined at this point. The project is a 1000 car train barreling ahead at ludicrous speed towards a mile high cliff. All the WMF can do is wonder what color the wheels of the engine should be, hoping that changing the color might slow down the train.
Understand, the bulk of the money the WMF relies upon is donations. There is no trust guaranteeing future income streams to sustain the project indefinitely. Somebody has to pay to keep the lights on. When (not if, when) the project drops off the radar of editors (and it is already doing so) the donation income stream is going to begin an inexorable shrinking. Since the WMF lacks the organizational maturity to understand the strategic threats facing them, they are as prepared to deal with these threats as a chicken with an umbrella in a tornado.
The WMF, if it is to survive, absolutely must undergo an utter transformation in everything it does. This had to happen four years ago. To date, it still hasn't happened. The time is coming, possibly very soon, when it is simply going to be too late. Many other front line Internet companies have undergone such transformations. They've redefined themselves, embraced innovation that astonished the world, did things people said couldn't be done. They went literally from garages to corporate headquarters. We did that years ago, but have now lost that ability to grasp basic concepts of innovation, strategy and meaning. There has to be a passionately driven vision of where we are going to be five, ten years from now. Yet, such vision is absolutely missing. Instead, we're wondering if we'll get increased editorship based on interface 'improvements'.
WMF, Wikipedia is dying. The blood is on your hands. If you can't understand this, step aside. Let people who can grasp our situation takeover administration of the project and save this train wreck before it is too late. --Hammersoft (talk) 18:07, 17 April 2015 (UTC)
Everyone is a vandal (well, except administrators!)
16 September 2010
Recently, there's been a debate about protecting "high risk" templates preemptively (see debate). I read that and couldn't help but think what in hell is Wikipedia coming to?
"Welcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit (*)." * - offer not valid to non-administrators. That's what the main page should say. We've developed a class system here. Administrators have been trusted with access to certain tools. That policy doesn't say administrators are trusted editors. Yet, that's exactly what has happened. More than 8,000 templates are now fully protected. ~1700 articles are fully protected.
What's worse is the insidious notion that we must preemptively protect lest the unwashed masses cause damage to Wikipedia's credibility. So we must protect the project by preemptively protecting "high risk" templates? Why not preemptively protect featured articles? Oh wait, we've tried that before. Why not preemptively protect the top 1000 most visited articles on the project? The same rationale would apply there. Those are the most visible components of Wikipedia. Shouldn't we protect them?
Wikipedia came out of nothingness because of the bold idea that the masses could be trusted to create a great work. The idea was ridiculed, scoffed at, thrown in the dirt as a sociological oddity. It couldn't create something good, right? We of course know the answer to that. Yet now, we turn against that very bold notion and so no, the masses CAN'T be trusted. They can cause grave harm, damage our reputation, vandalize too many things at once. They just can't be trusted anymore.
Enter the age of trench mentality in Wikipedia. Now that the project is becoming 'mature', the defense of what has been created becomes more important to the entrenched oligarchy than the very bold notion on which it was founded.
My userpage once noted "This user is not an administrator and is therefore probably trying to disrupt the project, or is at least grossly incompetent." How prophetic. The entrenched mentality is now that this is true. I am not an administrator, therefore I am not to be trusted. Welcome to the new
Wikipedia Wikistatic, the project that once embraced the masses and now despises them. --Hammersoft (talk) 16:01, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Observations from February 2015
I was working today on removing flags from infoboxes in compliance with WP:INFOBOXFLAG and ran across a number of things that were semi-protected or fully protected. Here's a list:
- Los Angeles; 16th largest metro area in the world, with information about the area constantly in flux. Yet, it's protected so that only autoconfirmed users can edit it. Why?
- Azad Kashmir; An area of Pakistan with a population over four million. It has been protected so only autoconfirmed users can edit it...for over four years due to a vandal. I think the vandal won.
- Brazil; only autoconfirmed editors...for 3.5 years. Why???
- File:Flag of India.svg; fully protected. Only administrators can edit it because it's a much used file. I, along with every other editor on the project who hasn't passed RfA, can't edit it because we can't be trusted.
- London. Again, only autoconfirmed editors. 15% of the first 500 edits to this article were non-vandal IP editors. Can't trust them though, can we?
- Kosovo, again autoconfirmed only. Long protection log, I grant. But, protection isn't necessary when we can apply pending changes.
- Kashmir, and again autoconfirmed only. Like Azad Kashmir above, the vandals won.
- Karachi, protected for a year.
- Mumbai, permanent autoconfirmed only.
- Milk, autoconfirmed only since 2008. Milk? Really? You have to protect milk???
- Mahatma Gandhi, permanent autoconfirmed only, since 2007.
When did we learn to hate our unregistered editors so much? In 2004, there was a poll to determine if we should disable edits by unregistered editors. Result? it achieved 13% support. 13%. Yet today, this is precisely what we do; we've disabled editing of significant elements of the project to unregistered editors. 29% of our edits come from unregistered editors. This is insidious. --Hammersoft (talk) 17:44, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Hmm, where have I seen this before?
10 August 2010
Flying across the viral nets today is the story of the
Wikipedia editor Flight attendant who exited Wikipedia JetBlue in rather dramatic fashion. He must have been taking tips from WP:AN/I, and the other drama boards. --Hammersoft (talk) 13:08, 10 August 2010 (UTC)
1 July 2010
For all you Hammersoft watchers :)
I've just had a sudden revelation. According to the edit count on "my preferences", I've just crossed 16,000 edits today. Of course, I felt it as it was happening. I felt uplifted, enlightened, a break in the clouds appeared and a ray of sunshine shone down upon me and the voices of wikiangels on high spoke to me, blessing me with the everlasting fruit of cluefullness. I was such a newb when I only had 15,999 edits.
According to this pathetic demonstration of idiocy, I am now a "Most Complete Tutnum", whatever the hell that is. Still, I haven't demoted myself to an administrator, reviewer, rollbacker, autopatroller, edit filter manager, accountcreator, or any other 'level'. Therefore, it's highly likely I'm out to kill the project, in need of a life, stomping on other people's work, lacking common courtesy, trolling userboxes, a disturbed individual, and a cretin (all of these things have been said of me recently). I'm sure I'll be magically cured of all of these things once I become a Tutnum of the Encyclopedia.
Talk hard, and rise up and stab at them with your plastic sporks, --Hammersoft (talk) 15:07, 1 July 2010 (UTC)