Wikipedia:Newbie treatment at Criteria for speedy deletion/Durova

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Report by Durova[edit]

Fergus MacTroll, sock puppet. The username was intentionally eyebrow-raising to see how a potentially problematic username account that makes encyclopedic contributions would be treated.

It's important to consider in advance exactly what one intends to do with NEWT. This isn't a scientific experiment; real time chat with other editors revealed a touch of perverse joy to seeing one's new article getting tagged for speedy--along the lines of Yes, something happened. Uneventful new article creation is relatively boring. So unless one has a plan, it can be tempting to veer toward the wrong edge of mimicking a new editor v. provocation. Once other Wikipedians begin to react the situation gains a lot more variables.

My plan was to start an account with a borderline-provocative username and write straightforward encyclopedic stub articles. All of the stubs had one to three reference sources from Google Books, none of which were given with inline citations. I imitated a new user by struggling with wikimarkup and neglecting to use edit summaries and by implementing categories poorly, also by making occasional minor typographic errors.

The account name was Fergus MacTroll, which is fairly easy to Google back to my actual username (he's the name of a fabric puppet I made for Wikiversity last year). If anyone had asked about that or asked whether this was part of the NEWT project I would have disclosed the truth.

Fergus created ten stub articles about species of Antarctic moss:

  1. Grimmia antarctici
  2. Schistidium antarctici
  3. Sarconeurum glaciale
  4. Pottia heimii
  5. Andreaea depressinervis
  6. Andreaea gainii
  7. Andreaea regularis
  8. Dicranoweisia brevipes
  9. Dicranoweisia crispula
  10. Didymodon gelidus

All articles began with a one sentence post that gave the Latin name and stated it was a species of moss and provided a general description of the species range. References were added afterward. Two of the ten stubs (first and fourth) were nominated for A7 speedy deletion by different editors less than one minute after creation.[1][2]

The official description of A7 speedy deletion criteria:

; A7. No indication of importance (individuals, animals, organisations, web content).
An article about a real person, individual animal(s), an organization (e.g. band, club, company, etc., except schools), or web content that does not indicate why its subject is important or significant. This is distinct from verifiability and reliability of sources, and is a lower standard than notability. This criterion applies only to articles about web content and to articles about people, organizations, and individual animals themselves, not to articles about their books, albums, software, or other creative works. The criterion does not apply to any article that makes any credible claim of significance or importance even if the claim is not supported by a reliable source. The criterion does apply if the claim of significance or importance given is not credible. If the claim's credibility is unclear, you can improve the article yourself, propose deletion, or list the article at articles for deletion.

"Fergus" ignored the proposals and continued developing the articles without contesting the speedies or interacting with other editors. Both A7 nominations were rejected on the basis of not meeting the criteria: the first proposal lasted 11 minutes[3] and the second lasted 3 minutes.[4] Two different Wikipedians evaluated the proposals and removed the tags, both noting in their edit summaries that A7 does not apply to moss. A third editor blanked Fergus's user talk page and replaced it with a friendly welcome, noting in the edit summary that none of Fergus's edits had been vandalism.[5] The editor who welcomed Fergus also left reminders on the talk pages of the two editors who had proposed speedy deletion.

Two other editors assisted with improving Fergus's stubs. The most impressive improvement occurred at Schistidium antarctici, which doubled the length and added inline citations as well as a taxobox.

The Fergus experiment lasted approximately one hour. Immediately after ending it I logged in as Durova, gave out five barnstars to the editors who had been helpful, and explained the experiment to them. Also on Durova I assisted the articles by adding project tags to the talk pages and making an inquiry to confirm the accuracy of the taxobox. Two of the five responded and our interactions were positive.

During followup today an additional development came to my attention. Although no one challenged the "Fergus MacTroll" username while he was active, one editor did so several hours afterward and other followed up with a modified comment. I have informed those two editors about this experiment and linked them to this report, and have provided similar messages for the two editors who nominated moss articles for speedy deletion. Any of these people are welcome to discuss or comment. One raised additional observations about WP:UAA, which may be read at the talk page of this report. In light of those comments I have notified one more editor and will be adding a sockpuppet disclosure to Fergus's user page; Fergus's user page was redlinked throughout the experiment.


Overall, the site handled this pretty well. Am a little concerned about Fergus's reception in the initial minutes when the new articles were proposed for speedy deletion. Perhaps Wikipedia should initiate a better training program for new page patrollers so that this type of article gets tagged for improvement (or at worst, prodded) rather than nominated for speedy deletion. Shereth, one of the administrators who responded, has raised additional concerns that perhaps the username policy gets enforced too vigorously on good faith new users.


If I'm not mistaken, I was one of the editors who patrolled a few of those articles, and I have to say this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. --Malleus Fatuorum 02:29, 13 November 2009 (UTC)

  • Postscript: four days later, I have rescued four of these antarctic mosses from CAT:HOAX where they had been placed by an editor suspicious of the "Fergus MacTroll" username. I have explained to the editor concerned how to check something like this in Scholar; IMO adding {{hoax}} is a sensible thing to do and should be encouraged where an article is suspected of being pseudo-scientific gobbledegook but the tagger is not able to check himself - it will bring investigation, real hoaxes will be removed, and if the article is genuine the tag is removed and no harm done. JohnCD (talk) 22:04, 14 November 2009 (UTC)
(EC - reply to Malleus) Yes, in mine too. Because of the similarity of the articles, this is one of the most interesting tests. What I take from this is that NewPage patrol is a very inconsistent place. A good editor like Malleus would recognise these as encyclopaedic articles and tag them as patrolled, but two of the ten were incorrectly tagged for speedy deletion. Of course this isn't a scientific sample, so we can't even speculate as to what proportion of articles at newpage patrol are incorrectly tagged. But I do see this not only as further evidence that the process of newpage patrol is faulty, but also that it is inconsistently faulty. ϢereSpielChequers 22:09, 14 November 2009 (UTC)