Wikipedia is an awesome resource, and a symbol of the age of freedom of information in which we now live. I learn something new from Wikipedia every day and I try to contribute whenever and wherever I can, so that I can help people all over the world learn something new too. I am a teacher, and in the last five years I have taught in the UK, Spain, Thailand, Pakistan and Malaysia, and my students have come from many more countries. Wikipedia has been an incredibly useful resource for my work, as well as developing my own knowledge, and this is ultimately due to the verifiability of every article, and, of course, the users who give their valuable time to ensure that every piece of information in this encyclopedia is appropriately sourced.
Unfortunately the past two years of my four and a half year life as a Wikipedian have been less than trouble-free. Despite having never intentionally broken any of Wikipedia's rules, or doing anything to abuse Wikipedia or its users, over the past couple of years a small group of users have made a concerted effort to end my involvement with Wikipedia. As a result I have been accused of "sock puppetry" on three occasions, and two of these resulted in an indefinite block, despite there being no real basis behind any of it. All of these were undone once they were looked at by independent administrators, but in an effort to avoid future repetitions, I would like to take a few moments to explain why I believe these misunderstandings have arisen.
I run the website LoseTheGame.com, which documents "The Game", an increasingly popular, although rather abstract, mind game. The nature of The Game has led to problems and controversies on Wikipedia, for which I can identify two main reasons:
- A fundamental strategy of The Game is to refer to it in places where many people will read about it and be made aware of The Game and its rules. As such, references to The Game have occasionally been inappropriately edited into Wikipedia articles by non-established users.
- The abstract nature of The Game makes many people think of it as "pointless" or, as one high-level administrator politely described it, "complete bollocks". As such, many Wikipedia users and administrators have been heavily opposed to its inclusion on Wikipedia, despite mounting coverage in mainstream media.
Since I run this website, and I am actively involved in researching The Game's origins, a number of Wikipedia users and administrators have made some false (and in some cases rather ludicrous) accusations about me, for example:
- I am the "mastermind" behind any edits from any Wikipedia user that refer to The Game or to my website.
- I use an "army of sockpuppets" from an inexhaustible supply of IP addresses to create the illusion of support for the existence of articles about The Game and myself.
- I routinely convince journalists to mention myself and my website in mainstream media with the sole purpose of creating reliable sources for Wikipedia articles.
In the process of making such accusations, and in what I believe to be quite a serious breach of Wikipedia's rules, my personal real-life identity was "outed" several years ago by a Wikipedia administrator, who I will refer to as "Administrator X", who used an online tool to reveal my personal information. According to Wikipedia guidelines, I am supposed to neither deny nor support being the person that I have been outed to be, but since my outing, my real life identity has been openly discussed by this administrator and other users in various places on Wikipedia, including my unblock requests and SPA reviews that I describe in more detail below.
"Haywood and his meatpuppets"
Over the last few weeks, in the process of writing this account, I have been searching Wikipedia for the use of my real-life surname (Haywood), and found some rather interesting discussions about me, which have opened my eyes to the kind of things that have been said about me by Wikipedia users behind my back. Please note that in the following examples Admin X uses my real surname to describe me, which makes their disparaging comments even more personal.
One new user who showed an interest in The Game and my website was soon faced with accusations of being my "meatpuppet" and asked "do you really believe that haywood has all these friends around the world willing to do whatever he tells them?" Admin X replied "Yes. Haywood's stated goal is to promote his website by any and all means, and he encourages anyone who listens to help. Similar near-single-purpose accounts in the future will also be blocked."
Really...? I don't recall ever making that my "stated goal". In fact, I haven't had anything to do with Admin X since 2006 (see below) so I'm a little surprised that he/she knows more about my own life goals than I do myself!
Here's a selection of the other comments I've uncovered that Admin X has made about me.
- "Haywood is incredibly dangerous."
- "Haywood and his meatpuppets have wasted enough of Wikipedia's time with this tiresome campaign and the endless wikilawyering."
- "Haywood was reblocked along with the other accounts because of an obvious campaign to promote himself and his website... the evidence is indeed damning."
- "You should know better than to post anything Jonty-related. Do it again and you'll get another (likely lasting) indef block."
And when an anonymous IP with no other contributions mysteriously appeared to support Admin X's assertions and posted some disparaging remarks about me, including "I bet he uses this page for his resume/CV! WP is being used for his own self-serving interest, Mr Haywood's business interests.", instead of admonishing the user for making personally attacking remarks as one would expect an administrator to do, Admin X in fact told him, "I 100% agree".
As you will see below, where I explain my history on Wikipedia in more detail, I have done nothing that warrants such comments, and I must say I find it somewhat amusing how such paranoia has developed within this group of Wikipedia users and administrators regarding my "spamming campaigns" and "parades of new accounts", especially considering my minimal involvement with Wikipedia over the last few years. None of them seem to be able to accept what is now a clear truth, The Game, and my website to a lesser extent, are both now popular and covered by mainstream media in many countries, and as a result many people, people completely unaffiliated with me, think it is appropriate that they are covered by Wikipedia. Instead, they choose to assume with apparent certainty that as The Game is "complete bollocks" and I am an "assiduous self promoter", anyone who mentions myself or The Game on Wikipedia in anything other than a negative way immediately warrants indefinite blocking. I had no idea that I had become quite such an inflammatory topic!
One user added an image of a note about The Game, to illustrate a strategy discussed in that article's sources. Admin X immediately accused him of vandalism and threatened to block him, describing his edit as "nothing more than a stealth way to introduce the "you lose" crap on the article." Another user tried to discuss a variation of The Game on the talk page. Admin X accused him of "playing games", blocked him and removed his contributions to the talk page. Later, a Wikipedia administrator tried to add another relevant image, an individual holding a card saying "You just lost The Game". Admin X described his contribution as "a subversive attempt to play a game." Fortunately for the person who added it, at this point more independent users were aware of the discussion, and overwhelming consensus was reached that the image was indeed suitable and relevant. Admin X felt that he/she should have the last word by voicing his/her valuable opinion on the outcome: "Given that it's easily one of the most useless articles on Wikipedia, it's not worth my time to argue about it any further; i.e., I don't care one way or the other if there's a photo."
The Infamous Perennial Requests
To further understand just how opposed some high-level Wikipedia administrators are to an article covering The Game on Wikipedia, consider the case of the infamous "Perennial Requests" page. In 2007, the high-level administrator who described The Game as "complete bollocks" (see above), created a page, known as Perennial Requests. Its purpose was to list any subject matter which so many people have tried to create articles about that administrators could decline article creation without allowing for any discussion. Rather than seeing such wide support as an indication that these articles may be worthy of inclusion, or at least that discussion of any new evidence or sources may be warranted, this administrator added a new mechanic to Wikipedia that completely undermined the founding pillars of Wikipedia policy.
What is less well known, is that this page was created directly due to the number of requests for an article about The Game (see here). Fortunately, Perennial Requests no longer exists and an informative and well-sourced article about The Game has been created. And as if this tale doesn't have enough facets already, I have also discovered that the user who created the existing article about The Game, an article that appears to have received overwhelming support when he wrote it, has since been blocked indefinitely. Blocked indefinitely for being a suspected sockpuppet of another user, another user who, in turn, was blocked indefinitely for being a suspected sockpuppet of... wait for it... me! Hmmm. And, on top of all that, both these users were blocked by... guess who... none other than Admin X.
The administrator who created the Perennial Requests page has now retired, but he did have this to say about me (again bear in mind that he's using my real-life name) when a user tried to add a radio interview about The Game in 2008:
"Is there no end to Haywood's self-promotion on Wikipedia?"
And in 2009 when another user tried to add a link to my website to the article about The Game:
"Jonty Haywood is an assiduous self-promoter and the site was spammed everywhere in his attempts to lead the charge for a Wikipedia article on the non-existent "game"."
For those of you interested in what I have done to deserve all this flattery, please read on.
A brief(ish) history of my involvement on Wikipedia
The early days
When I first discovered Wikipedia in early 2006 I had information on a variety of topics on my website and thought I could contribute by adding external links to some relevant Wikipedia articles that were lacking in supporting information. As a new editor, I did not realise that this was against policy and was genuinely trying to improve these articles. To better understand why I made such edits, one must bear in mind that in early 2006 Wikipedia was still a relatively new resource, and most of its articles did not follow the strict guidelines that they follow today regarding verifiability, notability and the suitability of external links. The pages I edited already had numerous external links that would be deemed inappropriate by today's standards, and the majority of each article's content was not sourced by any reliable sources. I added information in the same style as I saw other users had been doing, adding any external links that contained related information, and any relevent personal knowledge, without referencing it to reliable sources.
Enter User X. This is where Admin X first got involved and is apparently the reason he/she hates me and The Game so much. User X, who later became Admin X, quickly reverted my edits and accused me of spamming. Once I realised that what I was doing was against Wikipedia policy, I never added another inappropriate link again. It was a handful of edits made over a period of two weeks, and I was never blocked or reprimanded in any way. As we have seen and will see more of, Admin X has repeatedly referred to that handful of edits, made across a two week period in early 2006, describing them in completely exaggerated and misleading ways such as "a spamming campaign" and even "a long history of using Wikipedia for attempted hoaxes and self-promotion". Other lies include telling people that my original account was "blocked for heavy spamming" (no, it was blocked by him in 2008 after the account had been inactive for over 2 years, for supposedly being a sockpuppet of this new account, Kernow) and in 2009 he described me as "a serial self-promoter who's been blocked". I am at a loss to explain this attitude, but I do know that this ultimately led to both my account blocks over two years after the handful of edits he apparently took such offense to.
First block & accusation of sockpuppetry
After losing the password for my original account in March 2006, I made this account (Kernow) and used it to make occasional contributions to Wikipedia covering a number of topics. I didn't edit the article about The Game at all (although I did offer my opinions in the various deletion debates that took place surrounding that article) and nobody had any problems with my edits. In 2008 I took a long break from editing Wikipedia, but, on 14th September 2008, after I hadn't edited Wikipedia for over six months, a user removed an image I had uploaded years before. A matter of hours later, Admin X, who I had not heard from, or even thought about for years, blocked me indefinitely for "abusing multiple accounts" and being a "sockpuppet" of my old account. I filed an unblock request explaining that I had created this Kernow account over 2 years prior to this block, after losing the password to my original account, and had never used the original account since creating the new one. Admin X immediately got involved to ensure I wasn't unblocked and, to my surprise, my request was swiftly declined by another administrator, because, apparently, I had been "promoting the same web sites that the other accounts did". However, after those few edits by my old account in February 2006, for which I was warned (not blocked) and then stopped, I had never added a single link to my website (or any external links to any other websites).
Following normal Wikipedia procedure I emailed the declining administrator to explain my situation in more detail. Although at that time I was unaware of it, I have since found this discussion between the declining administrator and Admin X. Admin X, after indefinitely blocking me for no reason at all, uses my real first name to accuse me of "deception" and being "at it again" when all I have tried to do is get unblocked. Even more intriguingly, the administrator who declined my request admits to receiving my email but chose not to reply because he/she "didn't care". Although I suppose that given that in this very discussion this administrator had just been awarded a "barnstar" by another admin for a conversation with another user in which he/she "toyed with him for quite a while" to "get a kick out of it", I shouldn't be particularly surprised.
Unaware of these administrators conspiring against me, and after not receiving a reply to my email for over two weeks, I filed another unblock request. Over a month after my initial block, independent administrators got involved and described my block as a misunderstanding, and after I was asked to agree not to edit in any way that violated the Conflict of Interest guidelines, I was eventually unblocked. When Admin X showed up yet again to try and keep me blocked, an uninvolved administrator reviewing the block told him "back off. You are personally involved in this area" as he apparently still held a grudge against me for the handful of my edits he had to undo back in 2006 when I was new to Wikipedia and its policies.
Second block and accusation of sockpuppetry
Over the next two months I made a few edits about Thai politics and towns near my home in Cornwall, UK, and then for over a month during the New Year period I took another break from editing Wikipedia. I came back in late January 2009 to find myself, once more, blocked indefinitely for "abusing multiple accounts". This time, a user whom I will refer to as "User M", had accused myself and three other users of being sockpuppets of each other. Once again, I had been blocked in my absence, and yet again the grudge-holding Admin X was involved, descibing the other users as a "parade of new accounts with an inexplicable interest in Haywood related articles". Given that as of now, dozens of users (both experienced and inexperienced alike), including some administrators, have "taken an interest" in such things, I think that Admin X's view that any interest in such topics is "inexplicable" is driven solely by an unwillingness to accept that users were genuinely interested in topics against which he/she has such a personal hatred.
Anyway, let's take a closer look at User M, who filed this SPA, and within minutes was fully supported by Admin X. Here are but a few excerpts from User M's 2009 talk page archive: (Contains explicit language, you have been warned!)
- "Stop acting fucking dumb."
- "Just fuck off you lying hypocritical cunt."
And last but not least...
- "You absolute fucking idiots. If you think I am the one who needs blocking, even after you are pointed to the cracker-jack shite Tfz comes out with about Ireland, then fuck you. The eventual second arbitration case about POV Ireland editors that is sure to be coming this year will be entirely on your ignorant heads. He is beyond retarded with his opinions on Wiki, and of course he wants it to be hidden, anybody with half a brain would spot that, but no, you choose to enable him like the fucktard that he is with this shite. HIAB's involvement here should also be transparent to anyone with half a brain, but I doubt you total twats have it in you to connect the dots."
In fact, this user has apparently had 16 blocks to his name so far for incivility, disruption, edit warring and vulgarity, including a block that was for a time indefinite. And yet, as far as Admin X was concerned, this user was an exemplar of integrity when it came to his derogatory comments and opinions about myself.
The other users were eventually unblocked based on lack of evidence, but my account was left blocked indefinitely as I had not been present during the discussion. So again I had to file an unblock request, but again, and although I should probably have learned not to be surprised by these things, I was even more surprised than before to find that my unblock was not immediately granted. Admin X showed up, saying "Personally, given his long history of sock and meatpuppetry to promote himself and his site, I don't think an unblock is warranted under any terms." I was asked to agree again to exactly the same terms as before (not to edit the article about myself, Jonty Haywood, or The Game (mind game) in a way that violates the Conflict of Interest guidelines) even though I had never edited these articles before. I agreed (again) and was eventually unblocked.
Third accusation of sockpuppetry
Some time later I was accused of being a sockpuppet again, this time because a new user had mentioned my website in an edit to the sandbox. An admin saw this addition and immediately raised an SSP against me. Fortunately I was able to contact the administrator who unblocked me during my second block, who closed this due to lack of any evidence at all, although the other accused user remains to this day tagged as a suspected sock puppet of myself.
I have posted this summary of my history on Wikipedia for four main reasons:
Firstly, I am hoping that I will not be blocked or accused of abusing multiple accounts again simply because some users with an obvious personal issue towards me, my website or the topic my site covers, decide that anyone who takes an interest in these matters must be involved in some devious campaign orchestrated by me. Myself and two of my website creations have been the subject of significant media coverage in several countries. One of these sites, LoseTheGame.com, receives several thousand visits a day, and from time to time, people have and will take an interest, totally of their own accord. There's nothing I can do about that, and I'm not sure that there's anything I should do either, as the edits by users so far have apparently only been problematic for those few grudge-bearing users. Due to the actions of these users and administrators, my account (and real life name) have both been heavily tarnished on Wikipedia; a look at my block log or some of these users' comments about me will make other users believe me to be a vandal or spammer if they are not made aware of the full story - the 3rd SSP is a perfect example of this having already happened.. This is possibly exactly the effect that these users wanted to have. So, just incase anyone has come here as a result of those things in order to file yet more SSPs or blocks against me, I will repeat here what I said in 2009 when I was blocked for the second time:
- I don't know who those accounts are but I'd like to know what you mean by the "same sort of edits". There seems to be this ongoing presumption that I have been involved in spamming my website and trying to write articles about myself and such. Looking at my editing history, I don't know where this presumption has come from. As I have already explained, 3 years ago when I was a very new editor, as Jonty303, I had information on my website about various topics (not just The Game), and I added external links to those pages to the relevant articles on Wikipedia. This wasn't an attempt to spam, but I know now those ELs weren't suitable for Wikipedia. I was warned about it and I stopped, and I was never blocked for this, it was just a handful of edits. Then I lost Jonty303's password when my computer got wiped. I made the account Kernow to continue editing. Since then (early 2006) I haven't added a single link to my site to Wikipedia nor have I edited anything to do with myself. I don't think I even edited The Game article since creating Kernow but I did take part in the mammoth deletion debates that surrounded that article for ages in AFD/DRV and its talk page. Nobody had a problem with that at the time, that I remember. I've never had anything to do with the Jonty Haywood article. In fact I've only made a small number of edits since it was created, sadly I really haven't had much time to devote to Wikipedia at all lately (travelling a lot). I honestly am totally indifferent to whether Wikipedia has an article about me, so long as it doesn't say anything untrue that might affect my work or travels. As for what articles I'd like to edit in future, well, I answered this last time too. As I say I don't have a huge amount of time at the moment but I'm interested in biology, genetics/evolution, teaching and travelling, and I anticipate contributing whenever I come across a topic to which I can make a useful contribution.
- Anyway, I think the cause of the problem here is this. The aim of The Game that my website documents is to spread it everywhere, and my website has had national media coverage, gets thousands of new visitors per day, and is very high on the Google ranks. Now I'm not trying to "big up" my site to you, what I'm trying to get across is that the combination of these makes it quite likely that given how popular Wikipedia is, occasionally a visitor to my site will edit Wikipedia and try to add stuff from my site either to the game article or the article about me.
Secondly, after looking through some of the discussions I have mentioned above, I get the impression that a small group of users and administrators have managed to make it perfectly appropriate to indefinitely block someone for showing any interest in The Game or related topics, simply because they don't like The Game and have some problem with me personally (don't we have a policy for that called WP:IDONTLIKEIT?). This is a terrible situation to be in, and goes against some of the fundamental principles of Wikipedia. They have effectively created a highly exaggerated, if not entirely fabricated account of events surrounding myself and The Game on Wikipedia. They then refer to this as "evidence" in order to deal very harshly with anyone showing interest in this topic that they clearly have a personal hatred of. There is no assumption of good faith, and their actions are clearly inappropriate, especially for those who are administrators. If I was to wish for one outcome of all of the above, it would be for neutral administrators to be made aware that these users, but in particular Admin X and User M, have an inexplicable personal hatred of The Game and myself. As such it is their edits regarding these articles that are influenced by a "conflict of interest", and they should agree to avoid getting involved in these topics in any way that expresses such a conflict of interest, which is the exact same standard to which I have agreed to and to which I hold myself to this day.
Thirdly, this summary is a warning to innocent users interested in The Game, myself or my website. The Game has a long and contentious history on Wikipedia, going back many years and involving important administrators, as can be seen by the 2007 creation of the Perennial Requests mechanic with the purpose of silencing users interested in The Game once and for all. Tread with care. Not everyone on Wikipedia will assume good faith about your edits, in fact, they may assume you to be somehow affiliated with me and block you without warning, as has happened to other innocent users in the past. What may seem to you to be a totally innocent, well-intentioned, policy-compliant contribution to the encyclopedia could get you dished out an indefinite block.
Finally, my story is a reminder that, for the most part, justice does prevail. Even with this small group of users and administrators holding grudges and doing their best to stomp on anyone or anything related to myself or topics I'm involved in, their efforts have ultimately come to nothing. I would especially like to make clear my appreciation for those honourable administrators who have maintained neutrality while reviewing my blocks and SPAs. They did not take sides or allow personal feelings and opinions to influence their decisions, which I am sure is a standard to which nobody would disagree that all administrators, and in an ideal world all Wikipedia users, should behave. You have my genuine and sincere thanks. If it was not for your actions I would not be able to contribute to Wikipedia today.
If you'd like to discuss anything further with me please head over to my talk page.
PS I just lost The Game and so did you ;)