User talk:Jimbo Wales

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Handling bad information in "reliable" sources[edit]

Would you allow me to pick your brain on an issue that has arisen with the War in Donbass article? Recently, a site called (which has been claimed to be a "respected" news site based in Moscow) removed a section from a piece that suggested over 2,000 Russian soldiers had died fighting in Ukraine, a figure that wildly contrasts with much more modest estimates from Western experts. This was reported on by some Ukrainian outlets as the Russian government censoring an accidental leak of their long-denied involvement in that war and this was repeated in a Forbes contributor piece, prompting it to spread to numerous "reliable sources" such as The International Business Times and The Independent. Subsequently it was added as fact to the Wikipedia article on the ongoing conflict. Though it has since been modified to put it at the top of a range, Wikipedia still lends credence to the figure by including it in the article's infobox.

I feel it is crucial that here on Wikipedia we take care in how we handle this kind of information, especially as it concerns an ongoing conflict. One problem is the original source,, is highly dubious. An Associated Press correspondent in Moscow dismissed the site as fake as did Bloomberg contributor Leonid Bershidsky, who previously ran several major business news outlets in Russia. None of the "reliable sources" reporting this claim have been able to independently verify the original claims made on the site, in part because the site is not providing its alleged sources. It appears the site's design is using a readily available site template unaltered and the site does not list any contact information, staff, or address, but instead has a contact form that has been answered by a single person via e-mail claiming to be a representative of the site. No outlet appears to have found any more details about the operators of the site, including any details about the "representative" of the site., a site devoted to exposing false reporting on the conflict in Ukraine and typically biased against Russia, has done a detailed work-up declaring the site a fraud and stating the information is fake.

Despite all the above being pointed out in an ongoing discussion on the article's talk page, established editors have insisted that because the casualty figures have been reported by reliable sources they can only be removed if other reliable sources cast the same doubts on these figures. They have also declared criticism of the reliability of this information on the talk page as engaging in "original research" and thus prohibited. For me the reliability of the sources reporting it does not negate the questionable nature of the original source given that its claims have not been independently verified and thus I believe the figures should be removed. Is it your opinion that these other editors are correct and, despite the original source's dubious reliability, the mere fact that reliable sources have repeated the figures means they should be given credence in a prominent part of the article on an ongoing conflict until other reliable sources rebut the claims?--The Devil's Advocate tlk. cntrb. 21:00, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

This is a potential problem in many cases. We witnessed a similar problem (albeit on a much more inconsequential article) in connection to the Ashley Madison hack. Just because the New York time repeats information from an unreliable source, does not make the original information any more reliable. Numerous editors spent much time banging their heads against the brick wall of RELIABLE SOURCE. Nyth63 21:41, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
I think we have to report what the reliable sources say. If you think the Independent is a reliable source, we have to trust that they had enough confidence in the numbers to print them. Now if V.V. Putin says that Russian casualties in Ukraine are zero, because there are no Russian troops in Ukraine, I don't think we should take Putin as a reliable source, but if reliable sources want to report those numbers, then we could use them. Or if there are other reliable sources with different estimates and we think these are the mainstream estimates then we should print those estimate. But having an editor simply say, "I don't like those estimates, we have to remove them." is just nonsense.
One passge that struck me in the Independent was
"This webpage will presumably be claimed to have been forged," suggests Nixey, who is an expert on the conflict, "as has been the case with dog tags, passports, satellite imagery, prisoners confessing and other evidence seen. They argue it is Western propaganda."
Sound like a fairly good prediction to me. Smallbones(smalltalk) 05:02, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
@Smallbones: There is no obligation that we "have to" include or report what a reliable source says. We should double check, triangulate on what is verifiable, and possibly disregard what an RS says in favor of accuracy. We recently had a situation at the Murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward page where the venerable Washington Post reported that the father of the gunman, "at one point was a dean at San Francisco State University," according to a neighbor of the shooter.[1] A Google search indicated this was not true. Instead what I found was that Vester Flanagan Sr. was with the director of operations at the City College of San Francisco, and not a dean at SFSU. That erroneous info was left out of the WP entry. A reliable source is necessary but not sufficient - the RS is just one part of a critical set of conditions that need to be met before facts are included in an article. -- Fuzheado | Talk 05:25, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Worth remembering is that no source is 100% reliable, and that the reliability of every assertion we add to the encyclopedia needs to be assessed in context, using our restrained and informed editorial judgment. I have cited articles in the New York Times hundreds of times, but would never cite one of their articles written by Jayson Blair or anything about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Judith Miller. Journalism in 2015 is rife with problems that obligate us to be cautious and conservative. Not "conservative" politically but in the old fashioned sense of being very, very careful about the reliability of sources we use about contentious claims. No one contests the sad news that Oliver Sacks has died but there are far more controversial assertions that require the highest quality sourcing. Newspapers commonly considered "reliable" all too often, these days, regurgitate "click bait" content from far less reliable sources. That reposting, as opposed to independent reporting, does not transfer reliability to a dubious source. Cullen328 Let's discuss it 05:48, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
I agree with everyone who is advocating for what I would call "editorial judgment" - holistically taking into account all available sources of information and making a reasoned judgment. I do not agree with the view that we simply write down what is in reliable sources, removing all judgment or opinion from the process - that's a naive and simplistic approach which would lead to us slavishly repeating errors. I sometimes think we still have a bit of a hangover from the days when "verifiability, not truth" was an oft-repeated mantra.
Now, it has to be said that encouraging thoughtful editorial judgment does not endorse us simply making up whatever we like, or excluding reliable sources just based on not liking what they say. Often there will be cases where editors can constructively disagree about what to do about conflicting reliable sources. Fuzheado's example is a good one, mainly because it's not filled with emotional peril. I would say that in that case, the proper resolution could be either to leave the information out completely (as he says we did) or to put in the correct information (from the primary source) despite it conflicting with the Washington Post. In that latter case, perhaps a footnote could note the discrepancy for future editors to ponder in case this bit of information does become more important someday.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 07:50, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
I think in this particular instance there is some confusion over the correct status of the sources being discussed. The OP, TDA, is claiming that the site has a reputation for being unreliable. His argument is that because the site is unreliable it cannot be considered to be an RS, and we must therefore treat anything it reports with an appropriate amount of skepticism, even if normally reliable secondary sources such as Forbes magazine repeated the story, and normally reliable tertiary sources such as The Independent repeated and reported on the original Forbes piece, as well as adding their own secondary source reporting of the actual primary source material on the site.
However, to my way of thinking, the site isn't the primary source in this sourcing chain. The putting up and taking down of the so-called "censored story" that had been "accidentally leaked" is simply an event that is being reported, just like a serious auto accident might be reported by a local newspaper. The primary sources of this story are the Ukrainian media outlets that claimed to have cached the posting and tearing down of this "censored piece" and which then made the decision to report this event to the rest of the world as a case of Russian censorship trying to cover up its involvement in the Dombass war. In which case, the reliability of the site is as irrelevant here as the reliability of the Ford Fiesta involved in the auto accident reported by the local newspaper. Surely what matters in this instance is the reliability of the Ukrainian outlets that created the story being reported down the line by the secondary and tertiary sources. Because these outlets were not just passively reporting on the event as first hand eye-witnesses, they were also editorializing the event into something it possibly wasn't (i.e., a botched case of Russian leakage and subsequent censorship).
In fact, in the case of this particular story, the past unreliability of the web site possibly adds to the credibility of the "censorship of inappropriately posted info." slant to this story rather than detracts from it as TDA claims. Because its past unreliability plays right into the hands of the Ukrainian outlets that are the true sources of this particular story. At no point has TDA considered the true origins of this story and how reliable the true primary sources are that sit at the top of the primary-secondary-tertiary source chain. Is it possible that the primary sources were motivated in some way to doctor the cached images (including the casualty numbers) they reproduced in reporting this event for a political aim of their own? In other words, do they have a possible COI regarding this story and how they reported it? The answer, since they are Ukrainian, is unfortunately yes. I'm not claiming they did; like everyone else I have no idea what went on since I wasn't there, so I am completely reliant on my sources. Thus I, like every other reader and potential Wikipedia editor, need to apply healthy skepticism to ALL of the sources involved in this story and not just tacitly assume that some or all of them are correct, particularly the primary ones.
Mention has been made, in the earlier comments above, how respected western newspapers such as the New York Times sometimes "regurgitate 'click bait' content from far less reliable sources" thus raising doubts regarding the trustworthiness of the secondary and tertiary sources involved in reporting this story, and TDA commenced his OP by questioning the reliability of the web site. Yet he doesn't question the potential COI of any of the Ukrainian outlet sources for this story; he also appears to tacitly accept without question the analysis of events as reported by the Ukrainian blog site which also clearly has a vested interest in putting an anti-Russian spin on this story; and he lumps the normally very reliable British newspaper The Independent alongside the normally very flaky IBT when he questions the reliability of both of these media sources by ironically referring to them as "reliable sources" in quotes. All of these actions are questionable IMO if TDA wishes to approach the information content of this story from an NPOV perspective. The first step to achieving NPOV is not to have preconceived ideas about the reliability of your sources (e.g., western and Ukrainian sources OK, but Russian sources dubious) especially in a war situation where propaganda and counter-propaganda is likely to be used by both sides. Identifying conflicts of interest regarding the trustworthiness of sources and properly identifying the true source of a story are also both essential to pursuing an NPOV approach. And all of this before you have even written a word. — not really here discuss 12:24, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
That is some neat mental ju jitsu! "Your history of being unreliable means that we should think that you are reliable now!" With that type of approach, the Weekly World News becomes our Bible!-- TRPoD aka The Red Pen of Doom 17:19, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Wow. I think the only person performing any "mental ju jitsu" here is yourself in your desperate attempt to put words I blatantly never said into my mouth, and to derive a conclusion I clearly never intended from the points made in my comment. One of the biggest banes of trying to do anything on Wikipedia is having to deal with editors with abysmally poor comprehension or no critical reasoning skills, and your posted remark is typical of such editors. My comment was merely a corollary to the last portion of Jimbo's statement: "It has to be said that encouraging thoughtful editorial judgment does not endorse us simply making up whatever we like, or excluding reliable sources just based on not liking what they say." I actually agree very strongly with the general issue that TDA addressed in his OP. However, the way he has supported his argument here by reference to what occurred in the War in Donbass article is somewhat flawed, and I tried to address those weaknesses in his presentation, particularly the possible perception that others may have that the only reason he thinks these numbers should be excluded from the article due to the questionability of the source(s) is because he doesn't like what they say.
A webpage that no longer exists or is universally inaccessible is NOT a primary source of anything, any more than a manuscript that no longer exists is a primary source for whatever it contained - such as the Gettysburg Address. Thus the site isn't a primary source for anything regarding the Russian deaths and casualty numbers that eventually worked their way into the Wikipedia article because no Wikipedia editor working on that article has ever seen it. In fact, no western journalist appears to have seen what was posted for only a short while on that Russian web site. Since it isn't any type of source (primary, secondary or tertiary) for those dubious numbers the question of how reliable it is becomes a total irrelevance, and all the words TDA wrote in his OP to establish its unreliability were completely wasted. The primary source(s) of the dubious data are the Ukrainian media outlets that subsequently started publishing what was described in both of the example tertiary source reports (which TDA linked into his OP) as a section of the deleted Russian article that had been "archived" (see the IBT article TDA linked) or "webcached by the Ukrainian journal Novy Region (New Region)" (see The Independent article TDA linked).
Consequently, the actual primary source for these numbers is a site such as Novy Region which published what it claims was a webcached copy of the information that was posted then quickly deleted. This site (or possibly another Ukrainian media outlet) is also the source of the speculative idea that these numbers were very real and the reason for the article containing them being quickly removed was due to Russian censorship coming from on high as these numbers would have completely undermined Putin's repeated stance to the outside world that Russian troops are playing no active part in the civil war fighting in Dombass. However, that is just speculation and the material could have been either mistakenly or intentionally false (which is also why it was quickly removed) or it could have been completely true but was removed quickly for one of many possible valid reasons other than the one of censorship claimed by the Ukrainian media outlets. As I pointed out in my previous comment, there is also the possibility that the Ukrainian media outlets doctored or even fabricated the webcached data in order to create a piece of propaganda that was damaging to Russia; since they exist in a country that is at war that is a very real possibility here. The web blog site provides yet another explanation for what really went on in this situation, which is also speculation, despite that speculation being logically very convincing.
The bottom line here is that if Wikipedia wants to be taken seriously as an encyclopedia it should not be reproducing speculation in its articles, even if that same speculation has been published in a number of respected and normally reliable secondary and tertiary sources such Forbes and The Independent. If it is felt that including the speculation still has some educational and informative merit - along the same principles that presenting information about minority viewpoints and fringe theories can also be justified as being better included rather than being completely omitted - then it still needs to be clearly identified and footnoted as being speculative information and why. Including this information as the upper limit on the estimated number of deaths and casualties among the insurgents most certainly does not meet that "clear tagging of speculation" requirement and TDA is quite right to complain about that. — not really here discuss 07:45, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Short of Wikimedia creating peer reviewed journals on political topics like this so that we can use really reliable sources, little can be done. Wikipedia does have good policies that can filter out some fraction of garbage, but if the sources are too contaminated we'll suffer from the garbage in ---> garbage out effect. Count Iblis (talk) 15:12, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Why should we include material from a source such as the Independent? It's obvious that we have to have some limits on what we accept as a reliable source. The key is that they have a reputation for fact checking and for "getting it right." I believe that the Independent does have such a reputation, so if they present 2,000 as an estimate of deaths of the Russian military in Ukraine then it is acceptable for Wikipedia to do so as well. No, we are not required to do so, but according to WP:NPOV we should if it is one of several widely accepted POVs. Given the Russian military's obvious presence in a fairly hot shooting war, and given a fairly wide acceptance of numbers such as 400-500 as a lower bound, the 2,000 figure seems acceptable as an estimate of the upper bound of a range (as it was presented on Wikipedia).
But why shouldn't we question whether the Independent in this case is reliable? To a small extent, I think we can - if equally reliable sources question the number, then I think we don't need to include it. I haven't seen any such questioning from an equally reliable source. We don't need to include it if it sounds total unreasonable and nobody else seems to accept it, but I don't think this applies in this case. What we can't do is put ourselves in the journalist's shoes and say "what would I report if I had the information that he has?" Wikipedia editors are not professional journalists hired by reliable sources. To ask yourself how would you report this information at least borders on WP:OR. The reliable source has gained it's reputation because it knows how to do fact-checking and how to write up the information. A Wikipedia editor should not try to put himself in that place. Also reliable sources often have additional facts, based on additional checking that back up the story, but are not included in the write up. We have no way to evaluate this material.
Didn't debunk this article? Actually, I don't think of StopFake as a reliable source - having never heard of it before. And their article is presented as the opinion of a single author, not of the website itself. "This article represents personal opinions of the author."
Shouldn't we accept the estimates given by Russian sources? Sure, if they presented these estimates, especially if the Russian government presented official figures. But Russian sources do not present any such estimates, it is illegal (since May) for them to do so. In short any such estimates are censored. The Russian government refuses to provide official figures. In this case the Russian government is at fault if the estimates are one-sided, and we cannot considered censored sources as reliable.
So stick with what the reliable sources say please.
BTW I have never edited the War in Donbass article, but it did bring back unpleasant memories of the Assassination of Boris Nemtsov. If you remember back to February he was shot and killed the day before a big anti-war-in-Ukraine protest, after reporting that he was afraid that President Putin would order his death, and Nemtsov was investigating Russian troop strength in Ukraine. BBC Reuters
There is clearly an information war going on as well as a hot shooting war between Russia and Ukraine. It is very important that we evaluate what is a reliable source and what is not. It's very important that we not remove reliable sources simply because somebody "doesn't like it." It would be Pollyannaish for us to believe that the information war cannot spill over to Wikipedia. Smallbones(smalltalk) 16:22, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
It's very important that we not remove reliable sources simply because somebody "doesn't like it." — This is unfortunately happening and it is happening en masse. - [2]. Wikipeda does in fact work for a lot of topics, just not these politically sensitive topics. I think the same applies to the "respected western newspapers". The Assassination of Oles Buzina is a good example of whitewashing (You've probably never heard of him). - [3], [4] -- Tobby72 (talk) 20:26, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
I agree in general with Jimbo's statement. As a general rule, the policy requiring multiple sources for extraordinary claims should suffice. If a columnist or reporter lacks objectivity, such as Robert Fisk of The Independent, that too is a reason to omit. Figureofnine (talkcontribs) 19:42, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Actually claims of Russian casualties in Ukraine are not all that extraordinary. They are involved in a shooting war in Ukraine - so soldiers do get killed. A Financial Times blogger reported an estimate of 4,000 as of last year [5]. The Telegraph reports 120 Russian military deaths in a single attack [6].
What is extraordinary is claiming that Robert Fisk is not objective. Our article states "Fisk holds more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent and has been voted British International Journalist of the Year award seven times."
Smallbones(smalltalk) 01:25, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Another factor apart from the veracity of the reported facts is the editorial choice in what to write about. Who decides what is news? If we assume for argument's sake that there are reliable sources that get the facts rights, then there is still the problem that these sources may decide to write only about certain aspects of some topic. What is written must have some appeal to the public, why else would people buy newspapers? This has the effect of skewing news reports toward popular perceptions. Especially the prospect of danger will create its own news stories, that's why the WMD issue w.r.t. Iraq dominated the news. Also, the same can be said about Iran's nuclear program, this was always construed in the Western press as a potential weapons program, it only ever entered the news that way. For Iranians this is not their reality, which explains the decades long standoff. But here in the West the Iranian claim that their program is only for peaceful purposes is/was never considered seriously, it only got mentioned in a small footnote saying that the Iranians claim that "their program is only for peaceful purposes" if at all. That's like covering a crime story from only the perspective of the prosecutor, and then saying that the defendant claims he didn't commit the crime. It may all be 100% factually correct, but it may totally misrepresent the story. Count Iblis (talk) 02:44, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

"Reliable" sources being wrong[edit]

Here's another scenario I've come across before. The source of the reports in the reliable sources has one fact wrong, and the author or connected person contacts us (through OTRS or other channels) to tell us that there is a mistake, and all our sources are actually wrong. What should we do then? Mdann52 (talk) 21:06, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

In general, we should have deep respect for the subjects of articles and take such concerns very seriously. Again I think it is about examining, in a holistic way, all of the evidence. There are many factors to consider, such as: (1) if the detail is pretty trivial or meaningless in the subject's life, chances are they are just trying to be helpful, to us and to the world, by setting straight some minor point - whereas if the detail is a major point of their biography, their desired edit may be more contentious (2) if our sourcing is already pretty thin, and the sourcing for what they want us to say is even lower, then often we should simply remove the information until such time as we get better evidence (3) often times we should reflect on the quality of the sourcing not just for factuality, but also for salaciousness, and consider whether some story about someone that's been covered in tabloids extensively, but only getting a brief mention in more serious press, is actually encyclopedic (4) sometimes, a very thoughtful and kind further inquiry will result in someone who is initially simply insisting the sources are wrong learning enough about how we operate to realize that there actually is a source which they can either send to OTRS if it is of a more private nature (documentation of date of birth is the kind of thing I have in mind) or just give us the link (if we had overlooked an accurate source somehow).
My overall point is that there have been very unfortunate cases - far too many that I have heard about personally from people who find us frustrating - where we have not been as respectful as we should be, and we have not been as responsive as we should be. Here's the thing - I think cases were BLP subjects are simply POV pushing or trying to con us are actually pretty rare. They do happen, of course, but when we hear of a new problem, our first instinct should be: respect. Assume good faith. All those classic Wikipedia values that have served us so well over the years.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 22:57, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
In short - Wikipedia has been abused by a handful of editors who seize upon (a person) as someone to have every snippet of derogatory innuendo placed in their biographies on the basis that if it were actually a libel, the person would sue, so by not suing they 'prove the editor was correct' in insisting on the derogatory material. Wikipedia has a Catch-22 reputation, alas. We should strongly encourage the careful writing of biographies, which we have allowed to get out of hand too often in the past. Collect (talk) 23:10, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Collect and Jimbo. Rubbish computer 23:22, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

"My comment was merely a corollary to the last portion of Jimbo's statement: "It has to be said that encouraging thoughtful editorial judgment does not endorse us simply making up whatever we like, or excluding reliable sources just based on not liking what they say."

A while ago, but not out of memory, there was a controversy over "verifiability, not truth", raising the question of what to do if something is verifiable, but we don't think it's true. There, Jimbo thought that just because something comes from a reliable source doesn't mean that we must include it. I think there's a conflict between that and what Jimbo's saying here; he's basically reversing his stance on "verifiability, not truth". Either "reliable source" trumps "I don't think it's true", or it doesn't. Ken Arromdee (talk) 18:26, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Jimbo has consistently said that we should evaluate the sources, or as he puts it, "we are not transcription monkeys". I think that is absolutely right. (talk) 18:38, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
What good does it do to evaluate the sources if you're not allowed to exclude them "based on not liking what they say"? Any disagreement with a source can be characterized as "not liking what they say". Ken Arromdee (talk) 21:07, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

A few years have passed...[edit]

A few years have passed.... Count Iblis (talk) 15:05, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Can you provide more details? I'm afraid I'm not sure what this is about.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:04, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
We had this user Linas around here, who made good contributions to math articles and was active on the Ref Desk. But he had a problem with staying civil in case of disputes. While this was not anywhere near the level of the notorious problem editors that we've seen here over the years, he did end up getting booted out of here. While I'm not saying that uncivil behavior should be tolerated more, I do think that in the escalation between the notorious problem editors and those who want to take strong measures against them (but fail to do so because the supporters of the notorious problem editors prevent a consensus for that), editors like Linas who are less invested in Wikipedia who don't have many editors who will vouch for them, end up leaving.
So, I think we need to rethink this whole civility issue more, there are obviously two sides to it. If I behave in an uncivil way, I create a bad atmosphere and I may chase away other editors. On the other hand, applying zero tolerance rules inconsistently where the worst offenders typically end up staying with a minor slaps on the wrists while lesser offenders in some cases end up getting kicked out, is not a good system. It's similar to how in the US poor people who make mistakes end up getting very long prison sentences while richer people who can afford better lawyers will often end up getting a far better deal. This undermines the system, you end up with bad results, the crime rate in the US is worse than in most other Western countries. Count Iblis (talk) 18:16, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Has Linas asked to be unblocked? AndyTheGrump (talk) 19:34, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I think he asks once every year. We have to keep in mind here that not everyone is the typical regular who can't stay away from Wikipedia for more than a day. We are used a lot more with dealing with the latter type of editors, our policies have evolved to dealing with them. So, they'll tend to beg for mercy while editors like User:Linas, User:Likebox etc. may just do other things, come back 3 years later ask for unblocking, be denied again because the haven't been begging hard enough, forget about it, come back 5 years later again etc. etc. Count Iblis (talk) 20:30, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Do you have any evidence that he asks every year? As far as I can tell he filed three unblock requests immediately after being blocked in 2012, which were declined because they were full of personal attacks (the same problem that led to the block), and has not filed an unblock request since then. His talk page is open for editing, so nothing prevents him. And nothing prevents you from asking what his attitude is, rather than making assumptions. Looie496 (talk) 02:29, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
The whole "Indefinite blocking/ban" is manifestly unfair. Once put in place, it is impossible for a minority editor to over turn it. I'm coming up to three years since I was "indefinitely topic banned" with no evidence at all. And no evidence has been provided when I have appealed unsuccessfully. The fact the I have been "indefinitely topic banned" is a life sentence. MOMENTO (talk) 08:42, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Your topic ban will last until the community is satisfied that you are no longer likely to be disruptive. The original ban was started here: [7], and the ban has been reset numerous times because you repeatedly proved that you cannot edit neutrally and peacefully in this area. However, an indefinite topic ban only means one without set expiration - it is only a life ban if the editor in question cannot fix the problem that led to its imposition. If you are saying that either you do not recognise the problem or that you can't or won't fix it, then yes, the ban will effectively be for life. Guy (Help!) 09:55, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Yes Guy, we all know the harassment started under the reign of Will Beback but, in fact this "indefinite topic ban" was instigated on Nov 15 201 by The Blade of the Northern Lights after I had made hundreds a good edits on Prem Rawat articles and who has never provided any evidence for the ban. As Sandstein noted "In the message with which they imposed the ban, The Blade of the Northern Light did not link to evidence of misconduct by Momento that would justify the ban". And since I cannot edit the Rawat articles I can never prove that I can edit it "neutrally and peacefully". So you see, my indefinite topic ban is a life sentence because of people like you.MOMENTO (talk) 02:12, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
This does raise the question of some sort of WP:AMNESTY. I have thought, and still believe, that we have lost many good editors for reasons, which do not make sense, and in some cases taken pains to irritate them into actions that decrease our likelihood of raising their indef. blocks. Not to mention breaking our own procedure, knowingly or unknowingly - when in these matters we should be particularly punctilious.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 22:50, 1 September 2015 (UTC).
Absolutely Rich. Wikipedia's "Indefinite Block/Ban" is as pernicious as "Mandatory Sentencing". An opportunity for the majority to persecute the minority. It doesn't improve society or the persecuted but it makes the majority feel strong and powerful.MOMENTO (talk) 02:55, 2 September 2015 (UTC)


WikSearch (at "is an experimental interface for finding Wikipedia articles".
Wavelength (talk) 19:23, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Nicely done. AndyTheGrump (talk) 19:30, 31 August 2015 (UTC)
Thank you Wavelength: this appears useful and much faster and more thorough than using articles such as Outline of the United States, or categories, to do so. Rubbish computer 23:18, 31 August 2015 (UTC)

Is supply side trickle down any more reputable than homeopathy?[edit]

Hi Jimbo,

I've been thinking a lot about what you said, and while I sincerely and deeply appreciate you taking a firm stand against misogyny, I wonder if you can imagine how your words ring hollow when so many more women are harmed by supply side trickle down economics. Do you have any evidence that supply side economics are more reputable than homeopathy? Because it is my considered opinion that, firstly, they are identically reputable, and secondly, that your refusal to repudiate supply side economics damages far more women in far more pernicious ways. I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to say the same things about supply side trickle down as you have said about homeopathy.[8] EllenCT (talk) 06:39, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

I don't write about economics. I don't speak about economics. My opinions about economics are irrelevant to Wikipedia. I hope that not many people are taken in by your rather strange and poorly supported misrepresentations about the state of the academic literature in economics. But, other than this brief response to you repeatedly asking me to make a public statement about it, I repeat: I don't write about economics. I don't speak about economics. My opinions about economics are irrelevant to Wikipedia.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 16:56, 1 September 2015 (UTC) [Addendum: It occurs to me that I don't recall ever publicly endorsing or opposing "supply side economics". So this makes it even odder for me to be asked to comment about it now.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 17:10, 1 September 2015 (UTC)]
Not for nothing is economics called "The dismal science". Strangely though, there is a Nobel Prize for economics, but not mathematics. Economic Sciences was not on Nobel's original list, and was added in 1968.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 07:25, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
The Nobel in Economics isn't a Nobel Prize proper, but the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. It's a Nobel Prize with an asterisk. (The economists got a "Nobel Prize" the way they usually accomplish things—by having bankers buy them their preferred version of reality. Subsequently, the Board of the Nobel Foundation decided that this sort of nonsense wasn't a good development, and that going forward they won't allow anyone else to buy endow new awards. Mathematicians got left out in the cold because the bankers had more money.) TenOfAllTrades(talk) 15:17, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
But then the economists started hiring mathematicians, so it worked out for everyone in the end. I mean, for everyone except people whose savings were linked to mortgage-backed securities... MastCell Talk 18:16, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
Ellen, I advise you to take a more "strict constructionist" approach to misogyny. If you label as misogyny things that most people would view as completely unrelated, you are likely to be dismissed as a crank. Looie496 (talk) 13:37, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
That's quite a restrained comment. Some might say, "misogyny", "homeopathy", "supply-side economics", WTF? DeCausa (talk) 14:11, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
"Because it is my considered opinion that, firstly, they are identically reputable" From reading the talk page for supply side economics I suspect your opinion can be safely ignored. Only in death does duty end (talk) 15:54, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I see you recently also tried to claim the Economist was not a reliable source. Suspicions confirmed. Only in death does duty end (talk) 15:58, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
  • If I was a college professor of economics, I'd find out what each student valued the most and demand they give me half of it, then ask them how they feel about the situation. Actor Bill Murray once said the best way to teach kids about economics is to eat 30% of their ice creme. Just sayin.--MONGO 17:31, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
    • That would indeed be educational—epsecially if, in return for giving up 30% of their ice cream, the children received roads, public transportation, schools, libraries, police and fire services, free education, parks, medical care, the world's largest military, and the opportunity—if they're wealthy enough—to hire an accountant who will find a loophole to let them have all those things without giving up any ice cream. MastCell Talk 18:33, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
      • Hence, why in my class I'd take 50% away from my students, so that would add those other things, like that school tax, gas tax, property tax, bus fare, cable and cell phone tax, sales tax, etc. to cover these things that were allegedly covered by the 30%. If I taught in Denmark my students would get the 70% lesson instead....but hey, they get to keep 30% so they can then have their once a week banana split truly split.--MONGO 18:46, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
        • But Denmark is among the world's most prosperous, most democratic, and happiest nations, despite their high tax rate. It's enough to make you think that maybe supply-side economics is a dangerously misguided form of ignorance, much like homeopathy or misogyny. Maybe Ellen was onto something after all. Repent, Jimbo!!!! MastCell Talk 19:51, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
          • Happier that they have a higher suicide rate than the U.S.? Maybe if the U.S. had the same business and personal investment freedoms as enjoyed by the Scandinavia countries then those higher taxes could work in the U.S. Northern Europe is socialist only insofar as their welfare state apparatus...Their business and personal investment climate is far more capitalist than almost anywhere else excepting perhaps Switzerland while the U.S. has amongst the worst corporate taxes anywhere.--MONGO 21:29, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
            • I don't think your facts are correct. First of all, the US has a higher suicide rate than Denmark (12.1 vs. 8.8 per 100,000 people). Secondly, while the US does have among the highest statutory corporate tax rates in the developed world, the effective corporate tax rate is highly variable and much lower, as a result of the numerous deductions and write-offs in our tax code. In fact, the largest and most profitable US companies (such as General Electric) tend to pay no corporate income tax at all, as they have the resources to lobby for and exploit these loopholes. MastCell Talk 23:43, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
  • I am reminded of the old joke: if you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. Of course that's no longer true, since the gurus very often seem to start from one and work back form there. Guy (Help!) 18:31, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Re: Denmark. Homogeneous societies all seem happier than heterogeneous ones. Economics is not specifically the key ingredient. ([9] inter alia) Iceland was still "happy" during economic disaster. Bhutan in 2006 was listed as "very happy" under an absolute monarch. Collect (talk) 22:11, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

New paid editing scandal - How many more will there be until we take serious action?[edit]

In case folks missed it, see

One thing that is particularly notable here is the repeated use of the term "extortion" e.g. "charging prices of roughly $30 a month for what amounts to a protection and extortion racket" in Fusion.

What is described certainly strikes me as extortion or racketeering but I don't think anybody directly involved in the banning of the socks has used either term yet.

I'm sure there will be more soon. Smallbones(smalltalk) 18:22, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Well, what can we do? This will always happen, unfortunately, this is just a side of Wikipedia. Maybe if we were more friendly to users with COI's and had a proper introductions shown to people as soon as they registered, then maybe disclosure would be more common. Of course, many people don't get how Wikipedia works, so unfortunately, even the above cannot combat the issue. Mdann52 (talk) 18:32, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
We could certainly publicize our rules better, let businesses know that their advertising and other forms of advocacy are not welcome. But just throwing up your hands and saying "what can we do?" strikes me as giving up the ship, saying we don't have rules against advertising, just write anything you want folks without any supervision or oversight. The people running the scams described certainly knew of our rules and went to great lengths to avoid detection. Being more friendly to extortionists doesn't impress me as a workable option. Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:18, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
The fact these rackets do, and will continue to do, shows that whatever rules we give etc., we can't really stop them completely, just stem the tide. The being friendly refers to the users who feel the need to go to these groups to get the article, mainly because we don't offer enough support or advice. I believe I was unclear, I apologise. Mdann52 (talk) 19:28, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
(EC)Sorry that I mistook your meaning and jumped down your throat. "What can we do" about business and people who don't know our rules is a serious question and deserves a serious answer. Off the top of my head, we could do the following:
  • If you see one of those ads, articles or posts on the internet that purports to explain how you can gt your own page on Wikipedia, challenge it. Explain our rules as simply and directly as possible.
  • Participate at WP:COIN. Every little bit helps, and you will become more aware of what the particular problems are.
  • Help out at AfD. With some real money at stake, (presumed) paid editors can be very difficult to deal with at AfD. But if it becomes clear that their ads and other paid advocacy will be deleted, there will be fewer ads created in the future.
  • Clean up WP:AfC - Articles for Creation was used in the recent scam as a place to find customers and suckers. 1st we need a warning there that paid advocacy is not acceptable, and that scammers may attempt to contact businesses trying to get free ads.
  • Individual editors could contact businesses and others that they believe are advertising on Wikipedia, but I'd say unless you know them or have had some kind of contact with them previously, don't do it. It is best left to the communications and legal departments at the WMF. If you do contact such folks, please make sure that you explicitly state that you are not a paid editor soliciting business. Otherwise it would look very much like some actions used in the current scam.
  • Let the folks at ArbCom, ANI, and the WMF know that you you want them to take serious action on this.
more later. Smallbones(smalltalk) 22:00, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I'm very wary of the language that Fuion uses "protection and extortion racket". If they mean "give us $30 a month or we will vandalise your article" then that is the correct language to use. Otherwise there are moral objections to what they are doing only if
  1. it's snake oil - the articles will be protected sufficiently by the volunteer community
  2. it's an unreasonably high price, and they can go nowhere else for the same product
There maybe ToS issues. But of all the CoI issues on Wikipedia, paid protection against vandalism is probably the least.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 21:35, 1 September 2015 (UTC).
At the very least, it is fraud. They cannot protect an article on WP. That would imply ownership of the article, as well as violating NPOV. The protection promised is not against vandalism, it is protection against enforcement of our rules.. Smallbones(smalltalk) 22:05, 1 September 2015 (UTC)
I haven't seen their T's and C's - maybe by "protection" is meant the same thing as a bullet-proof vest being "protection". You can still be shot when wearing one, and injured, but that doesn't mean it's not protection.
In this case we have deleted 254 articles, regardless of out policies, which shows that nothing can guarantee "protection", even being well written, notable and NPOV. (Which of course, not all of them were.)
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 23:16, 1 September 2015 (UTC).
See also The Independent, PC World, Ars Technica, Wired, Vice, Le Temps, Komsomolskaya Pravda, Die Zeit. (stealing a list from Brianhe)
The Independent has the best article, tracking down individuals and businesses who were scammed. It makes it quite clear that the word extortion applies.
Rich Farmbrough - with all due respect, I hope that you will not be an apologist for extortionists. Smallbones(smalltalk) 00:56, 2 September 2015 (UTC)
I'm not. I simply think that it is dangerous to make the news, and at the same time cite it as supporting one's interpretation of events. "In some cases, the requests for money amounted to blackmail, Wikipedia told The Independent." So the Independent is ignorant becasue "Wikipedia" did not tell them anything - either an editor told them, or the WMF told them. (I would like to know which and who.) If "our" view is that their actions are criminal, we should refer the matter to the police. If we believe they have commuted a tort we should decide if we (the WMF or some other group or entity) wish to sue. To say that they have been blackmailing, extorting or shaking down the subjects really requires detailed knowledge of the wording of their emails and other documents that I at least simply don't have.
On the other hand it is clear that they have violated the Terms of Service, and I would in principle be happy to see reasonable legal action taken against them on this basis.
All the best: Rich Farmbrough, 03:21, 2 September 2015 (UTC).
Out of habit, I've got some secondary coverage of this:
The latter of the two does nothing but regurgitate content from the WMF blog. --Rubbish computer 21:55, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

""give us $30 a month or we will vandalise your article" " Sounds like something SPECTRE would do, only the price would naturally be $1 million not $30 ;-)♦ Dr. Blofeld 06:08, 2 September 2015 (UTC)


Hello! You're a founder of Wikipedia, right? Thank you.--Humanlog (talk) 19:51, 1 September 2015 (UTC)


This is interesting. It seems the WMF has relented with regard to Flow and has finally decided to take a more collaborative approach with the community. Of course, what form this work will take will be important and there is no indication how it will work out. However, the fact that, even if fully a year after the Media Viewer debacle, the WMF has decided not to force a massive breaking software change on the communities, is something to be welcomed. BethNaught (talk) 22:36, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

"relented" is nonsense. Hostility like this is really distortionary.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 23:59, 1 September 2015 (UTC)