User:Technopat

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"But I have three precious things which I prize and hold fast. The first is gentleness; the second is economy; and the third is shrinking from taking precedence of others. With that gentleness I can be bold; with that economy I can be liberal; shrinking from taking precedence of others, I can become a vessel of the highest honour." – The Tao-te Ching by Lao-tzu. Chapter 67.
Translated by James Legge.[1]
Tip of the moment...
Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia

Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia is a list of insights about Wikipedia specifically targeted at people who have limited or no prior experience with the project (such as journalists, new editors, and new readers).

These explanations should not surprise experienced editors but will hopefully help the rest of the world to shape an informed opinion of our work.

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Half the harm that is done in this world
Is due to people who want to feel important.
T. S. Eliot [2]


I'm the "only" Technopat. If you are here because my username resembles that of any of the other Techno... names used here at Wikipedia, click "show" → (If not, please read on...)


In particular, you may be looking for Wikipedia:Sockpuppet investigations/Technoquat... Who has actually attacked my user page and I got some help in dealing with it.


February 2007

Dear fellow Wikipedians, Not much of interest to include here except to say that I think Wikipedia is gr8, and to thank all you folks for being out there and helping to keep it all together. It’s well worth our while, whatever its failings.

I spend roughly half my time on Wikipedia reading up on stuff that interests me and the other half proofreading, editing, fixing redlinks, assuming good faith and/or reverting edits by vandals – following their often haphazard trails takes me to articles which I wouldn't normally touch with a bargepole and/or would never normally think of visiting but which can be interesting nonetheless. And once I'm there to revert vandalism and to tweak and to do whatever needs doing, my fingertips start itching and...

I have been known to slip up in my zeal and even to put my foot in it on occasions. If I have made an edit to your work, please take it in good faith and let me know if you disagree with it. Regards, --Technopat 23:47, 17 February 2007 (UTC)

My ha'p'orth (caveat lector)

My random rants & ravings, as of September 2013. (For the majority of you out there who are post-decimalisation: "ha'p'orth"[3])

Background

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Here...

After having been an avid reader of articles on Wikipedia for several months (my first visit here was to "drupe", at the beginning of August 2004) and having been able, on several occasions, to directly benefit from content I found here and applying it in my work, I finally cottoned on to the fact that I could actually participate in helping to build this thing up. Eschewing, as directly childish, the idea of having a username, I operated as an IP for a couple of years, only copyediting, until someone, somewhere - I can't remember the exact details, but it'll come back to me one day – left me a welcome template inviting me to register. After having originally rejected the idea, it eventually grew on me and, by January 2007, I had registered with a username and was editing away like billy-ho.

... and there...

Having been invited to present myself as admin on three or four occasions (both in public and by email), a degree of commitment that didn't then, and still doesn't, appeal to me in the slightest, we now zap forward to June 2010, when I was spending much of my Wikipedia time over at the Wikipedia in Spanish (where I had registered at more or less the same time as here, again after having edited there for some time as an IP) and which I considered was in much greater need of experienced editors than Wikipedia in English.

It still is... I don't remember the mindless stats. at the time, but as of today, there are 1,435 admins at en:wiki, of whom 656 are active, whereas at es:wiki, there are 87 (of whom 81 have edited at least once since 5 March 2013), as well as some 300 rollbackers at es:wiki compared to the 4,907 here.

Just to put some perspective on this, es:wiki is the 2nd most visited Wikipedia after Wikipedia in English (as of 30 June 2013). Folks at the Wikimedia Foundation please take note: I'm sure that you have access to all sorts of mindless stats., but the higher percentages of vandalism, articles needing copyediting and references (those that actually have tags on them...) and, I'm willing to bet, the amount of relative time spent by admins arguing at the Café and blocking and/or expulsing other admins or veteran users, the result of heavy-handed lobbying, together with the relative time spent in basic maintenance tasks, including ARV, and until an outside, i.e., neutral & international, "auditing team" whose only interest is the good of the project itself, gets sent in there to sort it out, Wikipedia in Spanish will not reach its corresponding level of recognition among Spanish-speaking users of the Internet.

... and now

Just for the record, I withdrew from es:wiki in April 2013, disgusted after having witnessed over several years the flagrant misuse of their delegated "powers" to suit their own interests by a small, but powerful lobby among the admins, and the bullying they tolerate among their pet admin hopefuls, but particularly virulent over recent months, including, but unfortunately not limited to, blatant misuse of IRC:

Administrators who use Wikipedia-related IRC channels are reminded that, while these channels have legitimate purposes, discussing an issue on IRC necessarily excludes those editors who do not use IRC from the discussion (and excludes all non-administrators from the discussion [...]), and therefore, such IRC discussion is never the equivalent of on-wiki discussion or dispute resolution. Consensus about blocks or other subjects should not be formed off-wiki.
As the practice of off-wiki "block-shopping" is strongly discouraged, and that except where there is an urgent situation and no reasonable administrator could disagree with an immediate block (e.g., ongoing vandalism or serious BLP violations), the appropriate response for an administrator asked on IRC to block an editor is to refer the requester to the appropriate on-wiki noticeboard.

Wikipedians

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First of all, I want to thank all the folk out there for contributing to making Wikipedia, among many other concepts, a model of disinterested collaboration of historic dimensions. Personally, I have benefitted greatly from hours of reading interesting articles on a wide-ranging number of subjects, not only of matters that interest me directly, but also in an endless number of subjects I didn't even know I might be interested in. :)

This section must also make a special mention of all the WikiGnomes, WikiFairies and WikiElves that spend their time making all those necessary tweaks that help ensure that Wikipedia has been able to reach its current level of recognition. The very essence of Wikipedia, it's precisely due to their discretion, that their amazing contributions go unnoticed by the vast majority of readers here, but those of us who've been around here for a while know who they are, and greatly appreciate their presence. My relatively high Wikipedia profile notwithstanding, believe it or not, I am, at heart, a WikiGnome myself... it's just that I'm still some way off from reaching Lao-tzu's third premise (see above).
On the other hand, while it's clear that many of you out there are pretty sociable and participate in the exchange of barnstars, etc., please forgive me if I don't partake in such expressions of goodwill. Noblesse oblige means that I'll thank you if you see fit to award me with summat, but please be aware that I'll archive it at the earliest opportunity.

Admins

I obviously have to express my gratitude to the admins who fulfil a number of tasks without which, even though the vast majority of users edit in good faith, this project wouldn't have been able to reach its current level of credibility and top of mind awareness. That said, this should not be seen as toadying up to them. As some of them already know, I have no misgivings in confronting 'em if needs be...

Which brings me to another aspect regarding my time here at Wikipedia. As I mentioned in passing above, I have no interest whatsoever in being an admin and have turned down invitations/suggestions/requests to submit RFAs, both here and at the Wikipedia in Spanish. While I respect their work, I can see no advantage in being one myself. The basic maintenance and antivandalism stuff that I do here require no special tools other than those available to all, such as Twinkle and STiki, and the other technical stuff that admins have to do really doesn't appeal to me.

In part, this is due to a) being a firm believer in Peter's Principle. I prefer to stand out as an "ordinary" Wikipedian rather than being a run-of-the-mill admin and, b) having seen a very high proportion of burnout cases, my intention is to enjoy the time I spend here. In the words of the immortal Noël Coward, only "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun"... That said, there's no lack of occasions in which I regret not having had access to certain tools. However, in the words of the equally immortal Wilde, "I can resist everything except temptation", so it's better to keep said tools out of the reach of weak-willed folks like wot I is.

References

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Despite the corresponding Wikipedia policy (Wikipedia:Verifiability), and numerous exhortations pasted all over the place to add references to reliable sources, I never cease to be amazed by the number of editors – and I don't just mean those who arrived a moment ago and are still learning the ropes – who add stuff here without providing said refs. Outside of Wikipedia (there is a real world, or rather, real worlds, out there...), I've had numerous discussions regarding this issue with experienced wikipedians and people from academia who argue that bibliographies and external links serve the same purpose.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that, among experts, there is much agreement/consensus on certain points which don't need referencing if written for edited/peer-reviewed journals. However, as is so patently obvious here at Wikipedia, even without taking into account the numerous bad faith edits that have to be dealt with, much content is written by people on an "I've-heard" basis and Wikipedia, as an encyclopedia – not a blog or social network – cannot be based on such content.

As Jimmy Wales put it (my bold text):

There seems to be a terrible bias among some editors that some sort of random speculative "I heard it somewhere" pseudo information is to be tagged with a "needs a cite" tag. Wrong. It should be removed, aggressively, unless it can be sourced. This is true of all information, but it is particularly true of negative information about living persons.[4]

And paraphrasing an admin (who gave me permission to use the cite): "An article may or may not include a bibliography or external links, but references are not open to discussion, for a very simple reason: you contribute what you know of a subject, and tomorrow some wise guy comes along and changes it all, introducing falsehoods into the text."

I realise that this may not be an issue for the folk from academia who spend much of their time, in collaboration with other like-minded editors, perfecting articles on subjects they know about, but for those of us who move around Wikipedia fighting vandalism, there's a great difference between being able to revert that ever-so-subtle bad faith edit – having had access to the referenced source – and having to AGF and simply leave it there, certain that the user, who has already made half a dozen such edits in quick succession has scored yet again. All because the original text cannot be easily verified...

If Wikipedia is ever to overcome the lingering perception, especially among academia, that it is not reliable, it really needs to ensure full compliance with its own policies...

Once again, Jimmy Wales hits it on the head: "I really want to encourage a much stronger culture which says: it is better to have no information, than to have information like this, with no sources. Any editor who removes such things, and refuses to allow it back without an actual and appropriate source, should be the recipient of a barnstar."[5]

Tagging

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It's clear-cut. Either an article is perfect (!) or it ain't. If it ain't, fix it… or, if circumstances don't permit, slap a tag on it so that a) other editors can fix it or, b) innocent readers – who do not yet understand how Wikipedia works and/or are blissfully unaware of the humongous amount of maintenance work required to ensure that stuff here is readable – see that someone is aware of the problem and simply haven't had time to fix it.

As I mention elsewhere, one of the banes of Wikipedia is the self-righteous editor, the type who likes to lecture others and point his/her finger at them, forgetting the wonderful English saying “when you point your finger at someone, don't forget there are three more pointing back at you”.

One of the pet hates of these editors seems to be tagging, that is, placing tags on pages that need improving. Other than that they felt mortally offended when someone, at some stage, tagged an article created by them, and they've let the rancour set in, I just don't see why they get their knickers in such a twist when seeing a template that performs a specified function… A totally different matter is when someone comes along and slaps an unnecessary tag on an article, but that comes under the heading of disruptive editing, and the corresponding steps should be taken.

One of the typical wise-guy comments these self-righteous editors come out with is “Why don't you fix the problem yourself instead of slapping a big ugly tag on it”. AGF and leaving aside that in the time it takes 'em to hound the editor and leave their mark they could probably also have fixed the problem themselves, much tag-slapping activity is probably most often related to patrolling new pages and/or chasing a vandal.

For those of you who are more or less new to Wikipedia, I'll explain the latter process first, ‘cos it’s easier to understand. Checking out your own watchlist, Recent changes or some other register of edits, you're likely to come across vandal edits. Hopefully, many will simply be isolated cases, one-off jobs by someone who reckons s/he's cool. Unfortunately, some vandals will have made a series of edits in rapid succession and one often has to visit several pages in a row and make quick reversions, which is when, in passing, one also notices other issues on that page that need attending. Some dilemma! Does one stay at the page and try to clean up some minor point or does one head off to clean up – often involving some major nastiness – after that pesky vandal? Solution: slap a tag on it and tally-ho!

The other typical case is when patrolling new pages. Many editors patrol new pages from the “front”, i.e., the most-recently created pages. However, there's a pretty humongous backlog of articles that were created up to a month ago which, if they don't get revised in time, simply slip into the mainstream encyclopaedia without having been subject to that minimum review which is so desirable. In other words, it's a race against time to try and ensure that as many pages as possible get at least a quick going-over. The most seriously deficient pages will need more work done on 'em, but others can be accepted into the fold with nothing more than a simple tag which sends 'em off into categories that other editors check out. Reason for which, once again, I'd like to invite y'all to revise new pages from the back.

Edit counts

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Like all mindless stats., these things do need to be taken with a pinch of salt. I'm not particularly fazed by those who make a big deal 'bout their edit count, but on the off-chance that relative newcomers to Wikipedia are reading this, I'd just like to point out that while there are great "intelligent routing tools" out there, like WP:STiki, that allow us to revert up to around 18 bad edits a minute (which means actually reviewing, and accepting as good, many more edits in that same space of time), those of us who get a kick out of copy-editing know that we can easily spend half an hour going over a particularly badly written article with a fine-tooth comb and only have one edit to show for it. Other factors involved in edit counts include article creation (one edit, regardless of length), creating a wikitable (one edit, regardless of complexity), a reply in an edit war (regardless of complexity and political correctness), and so on. Moreover, the number of bytes that appear for each edit when reviewing an article's history page, i.e., plus or minus figures, do not necessarily reflect the actual effort made in improving an article.

And, of course, New page patrolling ain't the way to go if you want to pump up your edit count... but someone has to do it :)

Length of articles

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One of the greatest benefits of reading stuff on wikis is the flexibility offered by all those blue links (not to mention the importance of redlinks, which help detect major gaps that need filling).

I know how easy it is to forget that Internet, or to be more precise, the World Wide Web – which is what has really changed our lifestyles :) – has only been around since 1992. There's not much literature out there yet regarding optimum use of web pages (except possibly in the case of W3C-WAI) and the effect of reading on a screen as opposed to the printed page, but what little I have had access to clearly points to the need for shorter paragraphs, and fewer of them.[citation needed] I take that to mean that articles should be short enough to read in screen-sized chunks, without the need for too much scrolling, and with multiple links to other, related main articles. A lengthy article does not necessarily mean more – or better – information. I'm a great "believer" in creating sub-articles to de-clutter main articles. A good example is The Louvre and Louvre Palace which, together with other, ancillary articles, complement each other perfectly.

This need to rationalise article size has recently taken on an added twist in that many people I know are accessing Wikipedia from a variety of handheld devices. Bite-sized snippets is where it's at...

Vandalism

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Although I really wish I could spend more quality time sharing my wide-ranging knowledge in many areas ☺ – duly accompanied by the references from reliable and independent sources – and even create more articles, much of my time here at Wikipedia is unfortunately taken up reverting mere vandalism.

I have a surprisingly high capacity for assuming good faith, e.g., with those one-off edits that say "hello" and which are basically tests, or those in which folks tell the world how much they love someone or the latest teen pop idol, and a slightly lower tolerance level for the "poo, fart & pee" childishness that abounds. For such relatively harmless vandalism I'll normally follow the formalities of Level 1 warning, etc.

However, I have zero tolerance for sexist and racist comments (and insults in general) – this is an encyclopaedia, not the back streets of the dodgy neighbourhood I grew up in – and my first warning for obvious and malign vandalism of that kind, for which no assumption of good faith is required, will always be an "only" warning. I'm well aware that there is a school of thought that considers "boys will be boys" and that vandals can be "converted" if treated kindly (as I mention elsewhere, I'm "proud" to have done so on more than one occasion, and at least one of those editors went on to become an admin). However, my experience tells me that most vandals' attempts to beat the system are more effectively dealt with if nipped in the bud within seconds. Precisely one of the strengths of Wikipedia – that anyone can edit here – is also one of its weaknesses. One thing is that the information it contains is open to discussion and another is that it has been vandalised.

While the "poo, fart & pee" type makes up most of the vandalism – it never ceases to amaze me how boringly predictable the vast majority of vandals are – the bane of Wikipedia are really the trolls, flamers, etc., and all the others who think they're smarter than anyone else. Some of them, not many, are indeed smarter than the rest of us. But so what? Again, it never c. to amaze me that there are people out there who are prepared to waste their time and mental energy destructively. Sadly, I have no doubt that most of whom are editors and even admins who have been blocked at some stage and are able to return using a different IP, intent on doing as much damage as possible.

In the highly unlikely event that a vandal will have read this far, if you have, and you do get a kick out of destroying the work of others, maybe you need to ask yourself just what you really are getting out of it. Is that brief moment of whatever it is – euphoria at having put one over the rest of us? – really worth it? Talk about cheap thrills! I'm sure that the initial surge of dopamine goes sour when your subconscience, or whatever, kicks in and makes you feel like a jerk, which is what you really are. And you know it.

As for detecting long-term vandalism at Wikipedia, my record so far has been discovering a vandal edit that had remained undetected for nearly five years.

For editors with a bone to pick,…

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I’m a pretty reasonable sort of chap, and am even willing, under certain circumstances, to accept that you may be right and/or that I may be wrong. I do, however, draw the line at insults and attacks on political, religious, cultural, ethnic or other groups, and, as I mentioned in the section on vandalism above, have zero tolerance for such behaviour.

Civility is basic here at Wikipedia. While disagreement with other editors is Normal, Natural, and even Necessary, it is no excuse for being rude. This includes, needless to say, insults, but also accusations of censorship, bias or being sockpuppets. Please read No personal attacks for further details..

Wikipedia has several mechanisms in place for dealing with conflict, including, but not limited to, the Three revert rule and Administrators' noticeboard/Incidents. However, if you find yourself in conflict with another editor, the first option should always be to discuss your differences on the article talk page, where other editors can also join in and help reach consensus.

One final rant

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Many users – a majority? – spend their time here at Wikipedia creating, or contributing to, pages on subjects they know summat about and staying out of trouble. Others, above all the wikignomes, wikifairies and wikielves (see Wikipedians above), spend much time tweaking and perfecting those articles to ensure that this encyclopedia can enjoy a certain amount of - growing – credibility, even if their work goes largely unnoticed. And then there's a smaller group of users who, like myself, also choose to keep watch over recent changes and to fight against vandalism.

This latter task is, by its very nature, conflictive, at least. And the cause of misunderstanding, at best. And, unfortunately, editors who make good faith edits may, occasionally, get caught up in the crossfire, and find their edits reverted by mistake. Vandalism at Wikipedia is much more complex – and widespread – than casual onlookers might, at first, perceive. I'm proud of having "helped" several vandals "reform" and become constructive editors – and in one case, an admin. But few things are more tiresome than having to deal with self-righteous editors who tear their hair when someone points out that their edit does not comply with Wikipedia policies, and stubbornly insist on dragging the issue out to the nth degree.

So, what am I getting at with the above? Simply that I fully understand those of you who prefer to keep that low profile, probably based on having already burnt yer fingers trying to be reasonable when dealing with others over the Internet. However, if you don't already have your work cut out keeping an eye on your watchlist, and you're not especially fazed about logging in and finding the message indicator that replaced the "Orange Bar of Doom" warning you that there might be unpleasant messages on your talk page and you reckon you can cope with trolling and self-righteousness, I'd like to invite you to spend some time over at Recent changes. Good luck!

And as I mentioned above regarding edit counts, if you prefer to keep that low profile and you ain't worried about your edit count, you could always patrol new pages, where there's a huge backlog of essential work...

References

  1. ^ "The Tao-te Ching" The Internet Classics Archive. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  2. ^ Manning, George and Kent Curtis (2003) The Art of Leadership, p. 126. McGraw-Hill International At Google Books. Retrieved 4 September 2013.
  3. ^ "ha'p'orth" The Collins English Dictionary. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  4. ^ Wales, Jimmy. "Zero information is preferred to misleading or false information", 16 May 2006
  5. ^ Wales, Jimmy. "Insist on sources", 19 July 2006