Wikipedia:T1 and T2 debates

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Note: The T2 speedy deletion criterion below was never accepted (T2 has been allotted to a different criterion). The T1 speedy deletion criterion was repealed in February 2009. The discussion below is kept for historical reference only.

This page is intended to be a summary and distillation of the arguments that were generated in the debates over Speedy deletion criteria T1 and T2. Many of the discussions from Wikipedia talk:Criteria for speedy deletion relating to userboxes can be found on this project page's talk page and in the deletion review userbox debates. If you're looking for a missing discussion, that's probably where it is. Other debates can be found in the archives at CSD talk, and in the WP:DRV/U archives. For hard-core backlog readers, there's also material at User talk:Jimbo Wales and User talk:Cyde not to mention the talk pages of all the proposals mentioned below; Jimbo's statements are collected at WP:JOU. (Other sources?)

Sweden road sign A20.svg Please feel free to comment on this summary on the Talk page.

What is T1?[edit]

T1 is shorthand for Criterion for Speedy Deletion (CSD) of templates, number one, and the divisive and inflammatory criterion applied by the owner of the Wikipedia site, Jimmy Wales, for speedy deletion. T1 arose regarding userboxes (small boxes placed on a contributor's userpage indicating their interest or belief in something). Such boxes began with strictly project-related themes, such as "this user speaks English" or "this user is interested in mathematics", but started branching out into more playful boxes. The so-called "Userbox Wars" originated with a user who created a userbox claiming an interest in pedophilia. An administrator who found this offensive banned the user, prompting cries of abuse of administrative power and leading to the Pedophilia userbox wheel war RfAR, which led to intervention by Jimbo Wales and the de-sysopping of several administrators. In the wake of this notorious incident, on 6 February User:Sannse added the criterion T1 as "Templates that are divisive and inflammatory.", without using an edit summary or explaining it on the talk page. This was reverted out of and back into the page twice in the next hour. The first deletion noted that there was no consensus for adding it. The second restoration was by Jimbo, and also marked the first use of the talk page to discuss it. Although the community felt compelled to accept this addition by their "benevolent dictator", there was and continues to be considerable dissent over whether this rule for templates should exist, whether and how it should be modified, and how it should be interpreted.

What is T2?[edit]

T2 is shorthand for Criterion for Speedy Deletion (CSD) of templates, number two. It is currently not a part of the official CSD. It reads:

  • Templates that are designed for user pages and express viewpoints on controversial issues, personal beliefs, ideologies, or ethical convictions.

Intended to overcome some of the ambiguities in T1, it was added as a separate criterion after some people objected to broad interpretations of T1. It was removed because it lacked consensus and was seen as superfluous.

T1 and T2 debate summary[edit]

The following is a summary of the main events and arguments of the controversy surrounding userboxes during the first few months of 2006. Please edit this summary freely, but if you disagree with some point made in it, please add an argument explaining why you disagree, rather than deleting the point in question. If you can refactor and reorganize the points into a more coherent outline, please do so as well.

Events[edit]

  • T1 was edited into the form "Templates that are divisive and inflammatory." by Jimbo Wales.
  • The arbitration committee has referred to the criterion in cases such as Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Tony Sidaway.
  • The pattern of speedy deletions of userboxes under T1 in the past three months reflects a broad reading of the words.
  • The pattern for deletion of other templates under T1 reflects a narrow reading of the words.
  • Many of these T1 speedy deletions were challenged at review. Most have been endorsed; some have been rejected.
  • The broad reading interpretation was introduced to the wording of the criterion on 11 May 2006. [1] This led to significant debate over whether the reworded T1 was policy. It was proposed to split the broad reading out to T2 so that T1 could remain clearly policy, and this was done on 13 May 2006.[2] Thereafter, debate primarily focused on T2 until it was removed from the page.

Jimbo's views[edit]

  • January 21 Jimbo said that it is better to change the culture one person at a time than to do a mass deletion. (WP:JOU, [3])
  • February 6 Jimbo said "don't make any crazy userboxes designed to try to trip this rule, and don't go on any sprees deleting ones that already exist." [4]
  • February 20 Jimbo expects and hopes that belief-based userboxes will be phased out. [5].
  • February 20 Jimbo stated that he has done nothing "by decree". (WP:JOU#I have done nothing)
  • May 28 Jimbo Wales said: "the issue with userboxes is that they are templates, and as such, they are categorized and easy to replicate and easy to use for campaigning and so on, and so they turn individual advocacy behavior, which is bad enough, into group campaigns. The pages which list userboxes, in the template namespace, make it seem as though putting these things on userpages is a normal and accepted community behavior, when in fact it is not." [6].

Arguments about the T1 and T2 criteria[edit]

What does T1 mean?[edit]

  • There are differences of opinion as to the meaning of T1.
    • Some commentators believe it includes any expression of a personal point of view of a political, polemical or religious nature, or putting it another way, those which categorize or otherwise divide Wikipedians into groups according to personal belief. This is referred to as the broad interpretation.
    • Some commentators believe it only applies to active advocacy and provocative templates.
    • The arbitration committee has endorsed a broad "polemical or inflammatory" version of T1 at Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Tony Sidaway. The term "polemical" comes directly from an edit by Jimbo on 21 January.
  • It has been suggested that T2 is unnecessary because it's already implied by T1. Therefore, T2 will be enforced even if it cannot muster the support needed to become a CSD.
    • One response is that, since T2 was unable to gain and hold consensus when discussed on the talk page for WP:CSD, interpretations of T1 that imply T2 are wrong. This is backed up by Wikipedia:Arbitration policy/Past decisions, which in its "Policies and practices" section includes the following statements of principle:
      1. In determination of specialized areas of policy, discussion on the talk page of the relevant project page plays a central role. It is important that sufficient interest be generated in the discussion to formulate a valid consensus.
      2. Discussions of proposed policy are sometimes inconclusive or involve only a small group of users, thus questions arise of whether a valid policy has been formulated.
      3. In instances where policy is ambiguous the solution is more discussion, not struggle through revert wars, assumption of bad faith or personal attacks.
    • The argument that T2 is to be enforced without consensus leads some users to wonder why they should bother participating in this discussion at all: if it's a done deal, despite all of the ways Wikipedia claims to go about setting policy, then the whole debate is useless.
    • In practise the broad interpretation of T1 is so often supported at review, that the T1/T2 debate may be superfluous.
    • This may well change, in either direction, now that review of userbox deletions is no longer done on a separate page.
    • Wikipedia:How to create policy has as its first guideline for creating policy "Choose policies that have sprung up organically, not imposed from the top down." In this context, the use of userboxes has sprung up organically, the attempt to eliminate them is coming not only from the top down but also organically through deletions of inappropriate userboxes over a period of some months. However, it is clear that the number of users of such userboxes is greater than the number of deleters, so the use is more representative of organic policy than the deletion.
  • It is believed by some that the admins who are most vocal about extending T1 as far as possible are not trustworthy, as they have demonstrated a clear antipathy to userboxes - and so they lean toward deletion, rather than keeping, as is the case with other deletion subjects. At least one administrator who was very active in deleting userboxes has been banned by the Arbitration Committee from taking any administrative action with respect to userboxes - see Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Guanaco, MarkSweep, et al.

Should T1 be a speedy criterion?[edit]

  • Speedy deletion criteria are expected to be objective: an article that a reasonable person judges as fitting or not fitting the criterion should be similarly judged by other reasonable people. T1 may reasonably be interpreted in multiple ways; some users have proposed, on this ground, to make T1 a regular deletion criterion instead. This would:
    1. require deletions on this basis to be reviewed
    2. hopefully, allow the evolution of a consensus as to what T1 ought to mean, and if 2 happens
    3. eventually allow a, presumably reworded, T1 back here once the community knows what it means.
    • Speedy deletions are still subject to review;
    • Other speedy deletion criteria are also ambiguous (A7, G4); administrators are trusted to exercise judgement even with encyclopedia content, not just trivia like userboxes.
      • However, those criteria are not producing comments like "Well, I would throw WP:AGF out the window when it comes to to the userbox debate." This indicates that at this speedy deletion criteria is causing a greater level of problems for the community than those other ambiguous speedy deletion criteria. Nor are these other criteria producing multiple policy proposals to fix the problem. Allowing a true consensus to form should produce an end to such comments.
    • The existing TfD straw polls aren't trusted by some administrators to make a reasonable decision on this subject.
      • (argue that) They should be: this is where the consensus of the community comes in, something missing from DRv.
      • If they aren't reaching a reasonable decision, then the arguments for deletion should be improved so that they are persuasive, instead of bypassing TfD. This way the TfD discussions will serve to educate the community in accordance with Jimbo's stated wishes.
  • Speedy deletion is an extreme measure, suitable only for limited situations like the following situations:
    1. Clear and significant harm would occur if the target of speedy deletion remained for the duration of the deletion discussion. (copy-vios, attack pages)
    2. Blatantly obvious violations of clearly understood policy (no assertion of notability)
    3. Re-deletion of items that have 1) already undergone a deletion discussion or have been speedy deleted and reviewed and 2) have been recreated in a way that does not address the result of that discussion.
    • T1 is endorsed by Jimbo Wales and arbcom and permits deletion of polemical and inflammatory userboxes. Jimbo Wales has indicated that in his opinion such userboxes do damage the encyclopedia.
      • Neither Jimbo nor the ArbCom has made it clear how T1 is to be interpreted.
  • The ultimate question is how to achieve success in avoiding factionalism and advocacy without alienating current and potential contributors to Wikipedia. This is why process is important. Speedy deletion is not the best way to do this because:
    1. Speedy deletion in the absence of clear criteria has been alienating contributors. See also Wikipedia:Reduce confusion by following policy.
    2. Deletion reviews at TfD provide greater opportunity to educate and change opinions than speedy deletions do because the most directly affected users have been angered less.
    3. TfD also gives a window of opportunity to implement the the German solution that Jimbo has endorsed. [7]

Does T1/T2 address the userbox problem (assuming there is one)?[edit]

  • Deletion of a userbox doesn't stop people putting exactly the same material on their userpages. The deletion of userboxes would not affect Wikipedia:User page.
    • One way to comply with Jimbo's wishes in some measure without losing self-expression would be to "subst" one's own userboxes.
      • It is clear that Jimbo's wish is that the template namespace not be used for userboxes, but the best method of achieving this is unclear.
    • If someone likes a "substed" userbox on one's page, they may copy the code. This practice is not controversial.
    • Some commentators have proposed requiring "substing" user boxes on all user pages where they are used prior to speedy deleting them unless they are being deleted under the narrow interpretation.
    • Some of the editors performing speedy deletions of userboxes are happy to peform substitutions and maintain bots for this purpoose, and the code is free to be used, unless it's in violation of some other policy. (There are admins who will fetch harmless deleted code for people who ask nicely.)
    • What about putting the template in our own space, rather than substing it? Jimbo has endorsed this idea. See [8] or WP:JOU.
      • Some admins are willing to delete anything used as a template under the template criteria, regardless of where it is found. Such deletions are normally endorsed by the community on review.
        • If we are to respect Jimbo's comments, they should not be so endorsed.

Is T1 based on Neutrality policy?[edit]

  • Template space is not user space, it is part of the encyclopedia, so WP:NPOV applies.
    • Counter: Template messages apply to both article-related namespace and non article-related namespace. No policy statement or guideline exists declaring template namespace to be exclusively part of the encyclopedia. WP:NPOV does not apply to user space, so does not apply to templates used only there.

Is T1 based on Jimbo's direct wishes?[edit]

  • Jimbo instated T1 himself as policy, and has expressed here that we have to get the userboxes out of template space.
    • Jimbo has said that the opinions he has stated on userboxes have not been made policy by fiat.
    • Nor has Jimbo expressly endorsed any mechanism for doing so, other than one-to-one discussion.

Not too sure where this argument goes...[edit]

  • The logical solution is to move the userbox to your own userpage.
    • This would destroy the idea of userboxes as grouping Wikipedians. Some users believe this is a serious mistake.
    • This would also make the user's page much more difficult to edit
      • However, nobody is forcing any editor to use a userbox. English text is easy enough to edit.

Arguments regarding recent deletions[edit]

Should the deletions be carried out as Speedies or TfDs?[edit]

  • Speedy is for non-controversial deletions. If there is active debate on the merits of an issue, speedy is inappropriate. Settle issues in the appropriate space, then once there is true consensus bring the results to WP:CSD.
  • For some cases, it is conceivable that a TfD is preferable over a DRv for deletion of a userbox.
    • For borderline cases, the TfD process is faster than a speedy deletion, a deletion review, and then a TfD process.
    • Having a divisive template discussed for a TfD, it is argued, is less harmful than a vitriolic deletion review, in which the majority of users are not able to comment on the content, and commenting on the speedy process does not appear to be taken seriously.
    • Most template deletions are not reviewed. They disappear unlamented. Those that are challenged tend to be endorsed. evidence? Very few deletions of userboxes go through speedy, DRV, then TfD.
      • The effect of the ensuing mess for those which either survive the process, or are stalled mid process by premature or controversial full-term closings has not been formally explored, although the difference between 5 days on TfD and between 10-25 days on the speedy, DRV, TfD circuit seems to suggest that the project would benefit without this particular "enhancement".
    • TfD has proven chronically unable to delete even quite inflammatory userboxes.
      • The reason TfD exists is because the outcome is not a foregone conclusion. If TfD proves "unable" to delete something, that is strong evidence that it should not be deleted.
  • It is argued that deletion review contains pretty much a walled garden of participants, so practices and consensus forming in that area will not necessarily reflect the consensus of the wider wikipedia community.
    • Many deletion reviews of userboxes have attracted far more participants than take part in the average deletion discussion of an article. So where is this walled garden?
    • There is no reason to suppose that the generality of editors are opposed to the deletion of unencyclopedic, useless, and inflammatory content. At what point is it appropriate to have such intensive review of the deletion of unencyclopedic, unwikipedian and decidedly disapproved content?
      • Who defines "useless" and "inflammatory" in this context? Anyone can find nearly anything inflammatory if he tries hard enough. Is this a reason to delete everything until we don't have a Wikipedia left, or is it a reason to accept that some people have thin skins and are better ignored?
  • Speedy deletion gives users no chance to subst their userboxes.

Should the deletions continue while discussion is occuring?[edit]

  • Some editors feel there should be a moratorium on CSD intended for userboxes until after a userbox policy is in place. Then the CSD can be based on the userbox policy. Until then, they argue CSDs could be interpreted as an attempt to circumvent the formation of a userbox policy.
    • But the above argument is a little far-fetched. Wikipedia does not in practice ring-fence an issue simply because there is no all-encompassing policy. And the T1 policy in itself is well established and, it has been established by repeated review, supports the deletions.
      • Is it common for Wikipedians on one side of an issue to prejudge the outcome by acting as though the issue has been decided? If so, and the outcome is decided the other way, are the prejudged actions reversed?
  • T1 remained a CSD because it was believed that Jimbo had made it policy by fiat in his 6 February edit.
    • Jimbo said on 20 February that there had been no decrees by him.
    • The administrative community is in control of the deletion of userboxes on the "divisive and inflammatory" grounds, and seems to support a broad interpretation.
      • The wider community does not seem to, as evidenced by the polls on various proposed policies.

Are the deletions in line with Jimbo's wishes?[edit]

See: Wikipedia:Jimbo on Userboxes

  • Some editors believe a small number of admins who are arguing from Jimbo's authority nevertheless ignore his desire not to go on a spree of userbox deletion, thus only choosing those portions of his beliefs they find support their cause.
    • Jimbo hasn't stopped anyone deleting them.
    • There have been no mass userbox deletions since early January.
      • There were a large number of userbox TfDs in May, initiated by a small group of admins, and many of them were speedily deleted under T1 or T2. See Wikipedia:Deletion review/Userbox debates/Archived#Archived discussions for an archive of the approximately 90 distinct userboxes that were brought before WP:DRV/U in May. Other deletions reviews of userboxes were done at WP:DRV. Assuming the above argument that the majority of userbox deletions go unreviewed is valid, an unknown larger number of templates were deleted, so the total userbox deletions in May would exceeds 180, or six per day. (what other links would be helpful here?)
    • Jimbo has amply expressed his wish that contentious userboxes should not remain in template space.
      • He's said he wants this to happen by consensus rather than by administrative action.
        • Reading his statements in chronological order, it appears he has shifted from that position to a "harder line" indicated in the most recent comments cited.
          • In both of the most recent comments, he endorsed moving them to user space as templates. Deletion and moving are different.

Alternatives to T1/T2[edit]

Arguments as to the value of userboxes[edit]

Are Userboxes a Social Networking Problem?[edit]

  • The "Wikipedia is not MySpace" argument holds that Wikipedia resources are to be used for encyclopedia building, and not for social networking, which seems to be a purpose of user categories and shared boxes. A relevant policy is Wikipedia is not a free host, blog, webspace provider or social networking site.
    • The most specific relevant guideline is Wikipedia:User page. If the user page guideline somehow does not properly address the MyPage issue, then the user page guideline should be changed. It should clearly state both unacceptable and acceptable types of content that may appear on the page. Any mechanisms for placing information on or about a user page, such as userboxes and user categories, also should be subject to this guideline. If any restrictions are placed on these mechanisms, they should be no broader than necessary to implement the policy. This is because no policy should unnecessarily preclude the use of existing tools to support the broad aim of encyclopedic collaboration in the name of enforcing sanctions against specific and identifiable policy violations.
    • A response is that userboxes aren't used for social networking, but for other, encyclopedic purposes. See "Disclosure of bias" argument
    • The userboxes that have been deleted have been the "POV" ones, not MySpace-type ones such as Template:User boyfriend-wish and Template:user HipHop.
    • Many users, especially new users, don't see how this is relevant to userboxes.
    • It is argued that userpages that confuse Wikipedia with Myspace or livejournal almost never have any userboxes on them. (See Angr's comment at 09:29, 21 May 2006 (UTC).)
    • Some users find this argument highly offensive (particularly the term "myspacer" applied to userbox supporters), carrying connotations of immaturity and inability to say anything of substance.
    • It may well be counterproductive for Wikipedia, which depends on massive volunteer labor, to make an issue of such matters. The appearance of picayune officiousness would also be a degradation of Wikipedia culture.
    • Wikipedia is a social phenomenon including both administrators, who seek to manage the project, supported by an overwhelming, in numerical terms, group of casual editors who each do their part practically to help improve Wikipedia quality. By enforcing policies which the vast majority of casual users do not see the need for, the management group appear to some to be losing the goal of improving wikipedia quality by mutual collaboration.
    • Almost every significant POV related dispute generates multiple article-worthy topics. Users tend to edit articles in areas that interest them. Expression of a POV on any significant matter will therefore be related to to Wikipedia, and is likely to be relevant to the user's editing on Wikipedia.
    • Users are not supposed to have substantial unrelated content on their user-pages (see WP:USER, the bold text under the heading "What can I not have on my user page?"). A userbox is about the minimum possible content on any topic, and thus is a good means of avoiding substantial unrelated content.

"Culture of partisanship" vs "Disclosure of bias"[edit]

  • The "Culture of partisanship" argument. Userboxes are harmful because they reinforce a culture of partisanship as opposed to a culture of neutrality. Jimbo has indicated that it is one of his principal worries that partisanship will be seen as a good, officially sanctioned, way to be a Wikipedian if partisan userboxes remain in template space. What it means to be a Wikipedian is to be dedicated to creating the ultimate encyclopedia, completely free, completely comprehensive, completely neutral. We want Wikipedia to be authoritative, reliable, and not in any particular group's pocket. Any special interest group would love to be able to dictate what Wikipedia says, and to dictate "truth" from their particular POV. One of our main tasks as Wikipedians is to guard against that, because we must remain firmly above partisanship in any form. A good Wikipedian carries that ideal around, and at least while they're working on Wikipedia, holds accuracy and NPOV as higher ideals than whatever politial agenda they might otherwise align themselves with.
    • A common response to this argument is the Disclosure of Bias argument, see below.
    • Others argue that it is far from obvious that belief expressing userboxes create or reinforce a culture of partisanship.
    • Some have argued that this way of handling of the issue surrounding "what it is to be a wikipedian" as opposed to a statement of what actions are expected by editors on articles, could affect the critical mass of grassroots editors wanting to follow his goals and keep a general respect for the project alive. A restrictive (ie. lack of outside identity) environment, which may work in management theory for small populations, may not work for large very diverse populations.
    • While partisanship is not officially sanctioned, partisan statements in plain English or in userboxes are still tolerated, though strongly deprecated, on user pages (see Wikipedia:User page).
  • The "Disclosure of bias" argument. Some have argued that userboxes are useful for open disclosure of bias. Disclosure of bias by editors may help to reduce the risk of articles failing to take a neutral point of view. While the ideal Wikipedia editor is able to write in an unbiased manner, it's simply not possible over the long term. This is not to disparage anyone's efforts, or those of the whole project, as it's obvious that blatant POV-ness gets stamped out under a thousand edits. It is, however, a recognition of the simple fact that people's biases do leak into their writings to a greater or lesser degree. One need look no farther than the mainstream media to see that. If someone is willing not only to agree to write in an NPOV manner, but lay their biases out on the table for all to see so that others can hold them to that agreement, it makes their participation that much stronger and that much more likely to be unbiased - for the inevitable result of POV writing is that someone will catch it and edit it out, and if it's blatantly in favor of someone's declared biases, it's that much more likely to get caught and fixed, and knowing that will make people pay extra attention to being NPOV.
    • The problem isn't disclosing potential bias; it is that userboxes are a bad way to do it. They give the impression of bumper-stickery activism. Very few people are creating and using boxen for the purpose of disclosing potential bias, in that spirit. People are having fun waving colorful flags around, and they're pushing Wikipedia culture in a more flag-wavey direction, which is not what you have in mind when you talk about disclosing potential bias. This is not about someone trying to keep honest, dedicated editors from disclosing potential bias. This is about trying not to give the impression that Wikipedia exists in any degree for the purpose of facilitating club-housing. That impression is an actual problem.
      • When a specific class of behaviors is inappropriate it should be addressed directly. If "flag waving" is a problem, then we should be discussing a proposed policy somewhere along the lines of, "Wikipedia is not flag waving." The policy should address what in article space is acceptable (e.g. characterizations of flag waving pertinent to a specific topic) and what is unacceptable (e.g., an exhibition of flag waving). The policy also should address what is acceptable and unacceptable in user space. Any userboxes, regardless of whether they are templates, then should comply with this user space policy on flag waving.
    • A response is that bias can be disclosed far more effectively and accurately using English sentences.
      • A counter to this response is that the recognition provided by short clear statements is more productive to someone seeking a general view of someone, compared to a longer intext description which may not be as recognisable. Graphical presentations (userboxes) are easier to spot quickly than a piece of prose. While the prose can be far more specific, the graphical presentation is far more effective at making the issue visible. This quick recognition and processing makes userboxes an effective and powerful communication tool.
        • Some see this as reinforcing a culture of partisanship. Images have power that words do not contain: When you see corporate logos everywhere, it's a consumer culture; when you see sacred iconography everywhere, it's a religious culture; when you see ideological slogans everywhere, it's a partisan culture; when you see membership badges everywhere, it's a cliquish culture.
          • This problem could be partially ameliorated by developing a best practice of putting userboxes at the head of text passages with prose elaborations instead of in a large grouping of userboxes.

Vote stacking[edit]

Examples

The following are examples of vote-stacking, with analysis of how each vote-stacking was carried out, and what role was played by userboxes and/or user categories. Please feel free to present more examples, or to contribute to the analysis.

  1. Example 1 At the time the user in this example left talk page messages on 14 userpages (all the edits of May 25, 2005 under the "Example 1" link), nine of the 14 users contacted had the "UDUIW" userbox (substed - it was deleted on February 19) on their page (or on a subpage), one had a non-userbox form of the UDUIW logo, and all 14 (either via their userpage or a subpage) were in the category Category:Users in Defense of Userboxes and Individuality on Wikipedia (UDUIW) which was included with the box. Strong circumstantial evidence indicates that the user category (not the user box) was used for vote-stacking. The fact that this is a userbox/category about userboxes either amplifies or cancels its effect as an example, depending on your perspective.
  2. Example 2 The user in this example engaged in vote-stacking on two occasions. On November 28, 2005 (or early in the morning on the 29th UTC), 10 users were notified of a deletion discussion, the first nine of whom were in Category:Pro-Life Wikipedians. On December 15, 2005 the same user notified 22 Wikipedians of a deletion discussion with a message beginning, "Hi, I see that you are listed as a Pro-Life Wikipedian," and 24 more with an otherwise identical message beginning, "Hi, I see that you are listed as a Roman Catholic Wikipedian". It appears categories were probably used, although not all users contacted had their userpages in the relevant categories at the time.
  3. Example 3 In the third example, the userbox/category receiving notice of the discussion was exactly those in the category proposed for deletion. Civility indicates that these people should have been notified about the deletion, preferably by the nominator - who then blocked someone else for taking care of his failure. The text of one of the two communications was "Category:Dyslexic Wikipedians which you have included on your user page has been proposed for deletion you can comment at Wikipedia:Categories for deletion#Category:Wikipedians by mental condition. --posting user's name removed (talk) 16:43, 15 May 2006 (UTC)" This is also about the special case of a userbox/user category.
  4. In the TfD discussion starting on May 20, it was stated that {{User:CharonX/Userboxes/User christian}} had been used for vote-stacking and the evidence was to be found at Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Jason Gastrich. This is not in the Arbitration Committee's findings of fact - that user did vote-stack, but they used primarily off-Wikipedia means to do so. There is no reference in the evidence page Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Jason Gastrich/Evidence to {{User:CharonX/Userboxes/User christian}}. This example is false on the evidence presented to date.
  5. Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/User:Fredil Yupigo/CAUBXD discusses a template that was not in template space, but was a serious risk for use as a vote-stacking tool. Since transclusion itself is used by many admins to define what is a template, criteria for deletion of templates would have been relevant. (The "If it walks like a template..." criterion.) This template was an issue in May 2006.
How bad is vote stacking?
  • One possible solution is that Wikipedia is not a democracy. As long as closing admins are aware of vote stacking, presumably they could correct for this in the final call. This is the practical response to vote-stacking; already policy in the extreme case of meat-puppetry.
    • A response to this solution is that vote-stacking remains harmful - it reinforces the idea of deletion discussions as votes instead of discussions.
      • However, discounting such voices will discourage vote-stacking.
        • Experience shows that discounting such votes provokes the vote-stackers, who expect their show of numbers to have paid off, to become indignant and bring the deletion to DRV, or cause some other disruption - such is the temper of a mob, which is why we don't like to raise them. Block voting encourages groupthink.
      • It can be argued that the above response is an attempt to have it both ways: while votes don't count, nevertheless they do count when one side wishes to use them to make a point. Which is it? Do they count, or not?
        • They do not "count", but they can, and do, disrupt.
  • We have a guideline against vote-stacking, Wikipedia:Spam#Internal spamming with strong support. "Don't attempt to sway consensus by encouraging participation in a discussion by people that you already know have a certain point of view."
Do userboxes lead to vote-stacking?
  • The examples above indicate that stacking is done by category, not by box, per se. Boxen are just eye-catching marks of category membership.
  • Most userboxes are not useful for vote-stacking; most efforts at votestacking take place without userboxes.
    • So, not only is votestacking not effective if Wikipedia is not a democracy, but userboxes are not the culprit even if it is effective, and wiping them out will not prevent people from searching user pages to find supporters. Why, then, are userboxes seen as the problem?
      • Userboxes could both facilitate the search for individuals that care and facilitate identifying whether or not they are likely supporters. The harder and slower a method of vote-stacking is, the less likely it is to be used.
      • If someone has a better answer to this question, please include it.
Is removing userboxes the right way to address vote-stacking?
  • It is argued that deleting userboxes will not correct vote-stacking as long as user pages are trivially searchable.
    • Nevertheless vote-stacking is made extremely easy by widespread transclusion of userboxes and use of categories in userboxes.
      • If it is easy but not happening, it is not relevant. If user categories are the problem, get a policy or guideline in place for prohibits factional user categories and prohibits categories in userboxes, don't delete userboxes.
  • If users are spamming in order to solicit votes, that in itself is abuse that can be dealt with under the existing policies. The "Address the behavior, not the technology" argument.
Two vote-stacking scenarios

The following are two scenarios, one involving userboxes, the other not.

  1. With transclusion and/or categorisation active
    • Discussion about an issue is started by Editor A
    • Editor B contributes opposing view on issue
    • Editor B finds supporters
      • Editor B uses whatlinkshere on userbox to find users of same viewpoint
      • Editor B uses Category:Wikipedians... to find other users of same viewpoint
    • Editor B posts messages on said user talk pages
    • Editor B is banned by ArbCom
  2. Without either of transclusion or categorisation active (irrespective of userboxes on page or not)
    • Discussion about an issue is started by Editor A
    • Editor B contributes opposing view on issue
    • Editor B finds supporters
      • Editor B uses whatlinkshere on page relating to issue followed by analysis of verbose message on user page and/or talk page to determine likely viewpoint on subject
      • Editor B uses a Google search for "said topic site:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User*" to find user pages with entries relating to topic
    • Editor B posts messages on said user talk pages
    • Editor B is banned by ArbCom
Some contend that since the two causal paths above do not distinguish between the presence and absence of user boxes on user pages, therefore, it must be assumed that removing userboxes is not a silver bullet for solving vote stacking.

Personal expression[edit]

  • Some have objected that deleting userboxes stifles personal expression, that the userbox opposition would have all user pages be bland and homogenous.
    • One response is that userboxes are not necessary for personal expression: as evidence, there exist many very expressive and creative userpages with no userboxes.
      • A reply would be that a deep knowledge of HTML should not be a restrictive factor on ones creativity.
    • Another response is that most pages with userboxes are simply that: a jumble of colored boxes carrying juvenile "bumper sticker"-style slogans.
      • A reply would be that generalisations about motives are not helpful. And conversely to the NPOV view, they show a very specific POV against user creativity. Not all Wikipedia editors have the POV that presentation does not affect ones interpretation of a situation.

Potential consequences for Wikipedia[edit]

Userboxes are easy to implement, and effective because of their visual appeal. As a result, userboxes have more potential to change the very nature of Wikipedia than mere text information.

Potential risks[edit]

Risk 1
  • Dividing Wikipedians by political and/or religious views may, in time, flow through to AfD and even RfA and other significant elements on Wikipedia if it is not actively discouraged now.
    • See this RfA edit to see how this might start: [9]
      • Some contend that the preceding example is clearly a joke; others disagree.
      • Others see this as a joke but also as pushing the boundary a small step towards Wikipedia having politcal camps - people supporting their friends even when they believe them to be wrong.
Risk 2
  • Allowing frivolous user boxes means that new users will view Wikipedia as a free social network.
  • Allowing userboxes expressing points of view on politics, religion, etc, mislead new users into believing that such activity is condoned or even encouraged.
  • With current exponential growth, new users are becoming the majority, so fundamental Wikipedia principles may come into severe conflict with the majority view in future. This has implications for the decision-making process.

Potential benefits[edit]

Benefit 1
  • Neutral userboxes, along with associated "What links here" and Categories help identify users with specified skills and interests. This supports collaboration and community building of the online community writing the encyclopedia. Such uses as babel boxes are not controversial.
Benefit 2
  • With exponential growth, new users will soon be the majority. Neutral userboxes which inform the reader only of expertise enhance the impression that we are here solely to build an encyclopaedia.
    • Having said that, Wikipedia recognises the value of community, as a means to an end.