My work for Wikipedia
I created this account on 1 August 2006, and made my first edit on 11 August 2006. I created the account because one day I tried to edit at the local library, but found the IP was blocked because of vandalism. I think I had previously made a few edits anonymously, but I don't remember anything about those edits.
I started making very small edits, mostly minor corrections when I noticed errors in articles. This has continued to be a significant part of my editing, but I have sometimes made more substantial edits to articles. I have created a few new articles, but this has never been a major part of my editing. As time passed I gradually found that problems I found led me into other areas, including reverting vandalism, discussions on policy and administrative issues. Eventually there came a time when vandalism fighting was the main focus of my work. I was then asked by an administrator who had seen my anti-vandalism work to consider becoming an administrator myself, so that I could deal directly with vandals, instead of reporting them for someone else to follow up. I became an administrator on 21 June 2010.
I try hard to be welcoming to good faith new users, believing it is worth the effort of trying to explain why a contribution is unacceptable, rather than simply throwing a link to a guideline. Unfortunately I do not always succeed in making new users feel welcome, but I get enough thanks to know that I often do succeed. When dealing with new users I am a very strong believer in avoiding the use of opaque acronyms. Yes, it takes longer to type "[[WP:COI|conflict of interest]]" than "[[WP:COI]]", or "[[WP:BIO|the notability guideline for people]]" than "[[WP:BIO]]", but if the purpose is to help the editor, not simply to dismiss them, it is worth the effort.
Wikipedia gets an enormous amount of use. This is not only because there is a lot of stuff here, but also because on the whole most of it is of a fairly good quality. Wikipedia would not have the amount of success it has unless most of its material was of a reasonably high quality. Unfortunately, in an encyclopaedia which anyone can edit, a lot of the editing is not of a good quality. Wikipedia's success therefore depends to a great extent on a large number of volunteers who give up a considerable amount of their own time to clean things up, improve the quality of what is there, and remove what is not so good. Some Wikipedians choose not to spend time on that, but to concentrate only on writing new content. That is absolutely fine, but sometimes those who make that choice disparage and vilify the work of others who make a different choice, and that is not absolutely fine. Writing content and cleaning up what is there are both essential and constructive parts of building the encyclopaedia. Some people make balanced contributions to both areas, others choose to concentrate on one area or the other. Whichever choice we make we can all respect others who contribute in different ways.
Me in real life
My name is not James, nor Watson, nor do I have the middle initial "B". Why JamesBWatson then? No special reason. When I first registered on Wikipedia I intended to use my real name, or a version of it if someone else had already taken it. However, in those days the account registration form included a recommendation to first read the username policy, which in those days included a fairly seriously worded warning that using your real name on Wikipedia might not be a good idea, and, doubtful about it, I picked the first fictitious name I thought of. In one of the Sherlock Holmes stories Dr Watson is referred to as "James" (though elsewhere his name is given as "John"). I don't remember where the B came from, but I think it may have been a reference to an old friend whose name really is James (but not Watson). It mildly amuses me when Wikipedians address me, in a friendly manner as "James" or, more rarely, refer to me contemptuously as "Watson". However, feel free to do either or both of these: I am quite happy with it. I now regret having chosen that username, because it gives the impression of being a real name, so I feel I am deceiving people, albeit unintentionally, whereas if I had chosen an obviously fictitious name, such as "Mountain Jumper", nobody would think it was my real name, so there would be no deception. I have considered changing my username, but I have been so active under this one that changing might cause unnecessary confusion.
I am a graduate mathematician, and I taught mathematics for many years. Some of my editing has been in mathematical articles. However, this is a fairly small proportion of my total work on Wikipedia.
Other accounts I have an alternative account at User:JamesAWatson. It was set up with the intention that it could be used only in insecure environments, such as public computers, where access to an admin account might be problematic. At present I have not used it for that purpose, though I may do so at some time in the future. I have very occasionally used it for testing purposes and the like. My main use of it, in fact, is to see how things look to a non-admin editor using the default interface for Wikipedia, which I don't use, as I find it awkward. Sometimes it is helpful to know how things look to most users, so as to be able to explain to an inexperienced user how to do something or other. I also created an account JBW test account, which I have used only rarely, to see how blocks look to blocked editors, so that I can be in a better position to advise them when there is a need to refer to the messages that are displayed to blocked users. I also created the account User:JamesCWatson when I had forgotten the password to User:JamesAWatson, but I have now recovered that password, so I have no currently foreseeable reason to use User:JamesCWatson. I created an account at JamesBWatson2, which became blocked because it appeared to "impersonate another Wikipedia user". I had intended to post messages stating that it was an alternative account of mine, but made the mistake of not doing so immediately on creating the account. I intended the use of a username similar to my usual one as an indication that it was an alternative account of mine, but with hindsight I can see that I should have explicitly said so immediately. User:JamesBWatson3 exists for the purpose of making large numbers of related edits, such as mass reverts of sockpuppet edits, in order to prevent huge numbers of automatic edits swamping the user history of my main account, which would be likely to make it difficult for editors to find more significant edits in the history.