Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-08-20/BJAODN

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Bad Jokes, Deletion Nonsense, and an arbitration case

By Ral315, 20 August, 2007

This week, the Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense pages, chronicling vandalism and deleted content found to be humorous by some, were deleted, and restored just over nine hours later, leading to a lengthy discussion on the administrators' noticeboard, a deletion review, a miscellany for deletion listing, and an arbitration case.

History

Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense, more commonly known as BJAODN, is one of Wikipedia's older meta-pages, with edits as early as November 2001, and perhaps earlier. The page was created by Bryce Harrington (user page), with the comment, "We need a page where bad jokes and other deleted nonsense can rest in peace. So, here it is! [I'm half tempted to suggest keeping the jokes inline with the pages, as they must sorta give the encyclopedia some lively color. But I do know it'd just get carried away and turn into an encyclopedia of silliness, so look forward to frequent updates of this page.  ;-) ]"

The page and its subpages have also been the subject of some controversy, with 6 deletion nominations and 3 deletion reviews to date. BJAODN was first nominated for deletion in March 2004, citing copyright concerns: Because BJAODN's content is usually copied-and-pasted from the articles where the text was added, with little-to-no attribution for individual authors, it is alleged to violate the terms of the GFDL. This nomination, made by a role account, was not taken seriously and the pages were kept. A second, less serious nomination in March 2007, also made by a role account, was speedily kept.

One week later, ^demon nominated the page for deletion, citing the GFDL concerns, repetitive humor, and most importantly, BLP concerns. However, the nomination was withdrawn; ^demon believed that the nomination was unlikely to be treated seriously as the nomination was made on March 31, just prior to April Fools' Day.

On May 29, most of the subpages of BJAODN were deleted by Jeffrey O. Gustafson due to GFDL concerns. An MFD discussion opened on May 31 for the deletion of all of BJAODN; that MFD was withdrawn while a deletion review opened the same day was closed early, endorsing deletion. Two days later, the subpages were undeleted by The Cunctator, and re-deleted by Jeffrey O. Gustafson; afterward, an additional deletion review was closed by Xoloz: "BJAODN should continue to exist, but it must be absolutely free of GFDL violations."

Deleted, restored, debated, arbitrated

On Tuesday, August 14, Alkivar speedily deleted the BJAODN page and subpages and explained his rationale on the administrators' noticeboard:

After several months since the last time this was broached, and with little progress made, I have deleted BJAODN and its various subpages. Per WP:DENY, its mere presence promotes slander, copyright violation, spamming, and just plain old vandalism. As Jeffrey O. Gustafson brought up it is also a violation of GFDL. Since Jeff's initial deletion there has been little to no progress in attributing edits copied to BJAODN. As such it is time for this content to go.

Responses varied; many supported the deletions, others opposed the deletions, and some believed that the pages might be worth deleting but not without community discussion. Later that day, Georgewilliamherbert restored the main BJAODN page and many of its subpages. Xaosflux restored the rest of the subpages about 10 hours later, "to keep consistency in this matter", by ensuring that all, and not some, of the pages were undeleted while the DRV was ongoing.

After Georgewilliamherbert's restorations, a MFD nomination was opened. This MFD was closed soon afterward by Jeffrey O. Gustafson, directing discussion to the concurrent deletion review; this deletion review overturned the deletions, and relisted the pages again on MFD. The latest MFD nomination concluded with a decision to "basically delete" BJAODN, with the page being tagged as historical and renamed "Silly Things", with most of the subpages being deleted, with a few selected Bad Jokes and Other Deleted Nonsense-related pages remaining intact, at the discretion of other editors who may wish to nominate these for deletion in their own time.

After all the subpages were restored, and while the deletion review was ongoing, a request for arbitration was filed by Thatcher131, an uninvolved party who felt that Georgewilliamherbert's actions constituted wheel-warring:

There has been a growing disregard by admins for each others' actions, leading to minor wheel wars over various minor issues, and several other admins have commended Georgewilliamherbert for his action. It seems that the community of administrators will not take admonishments to avoid wheel-warring seriously until some admins get spanked. I will not be popular for suggesting this, but I suggest desyopping Georgewilliamherbert for 10 days for wheel-warring. Any temporary desysopping of Alkivar should be of a shorter duration as single instances of bad judgements are generally not punished. Admins need to have respect for each other's actions and consult before unilaterally overturning each other's actions, unless it is an emergency. I am not confident that the community of administrators will take the Committee's warnings about wheel-warring seriously unless there are definite consequences for overturning another admin on a non-emergency basis.

In Georgewilliamherbert's statement, he explained his thoughts on wheel-warring, and on his and Alkivar's actions:

Wheel warring requires two or more admins to use admin-specific functions in repeated conflicting actions. There has been no repeated use of admin functions. One operation was performed (delete) on a set of articles, and then one operation was performed (undelete) on a large subset of those. There have been no repeat deletes or repeat undeletes by anyone as of last I looked. Suggesting that responding to an admittedly highly controversial WP:BOLD admin action with an admin rollback constitutes wheel warring seems to me to be a misinterpretation of longstanding policy. Admins are allowed and encouraged to use their initiative (the longstanding BOLD policy), however that's coupled with a "...until someone pushes back..." caveat. I believed Alkivar went too far (once) and reverted (once).

It has been proposed in the DRV that this issue is too controversial for normal community process to come to a proper conclusion on what is to be done with the BJAODN pages, specifically referring to disagreements about what we can or must do about the GFDL issues with credit and edit histories. If so, it may be necessary for Arbcom (or higher authority such as Jimmy, the Board, etc) to review the situation and make a decision on what to do about it.

I believe that Alkivar and his supporters feel that this was too controversial and required admin-level initiative to simply impose a solution. I disagree - this is too controversial to simply impose an admin-level imposed solution. If we cannot come to a workable consensus on DRV or MFD or wherever it ends up, then I support using WP's processes and higher authority to answer the questions.

But trying to simply impose a BOLD solution to something of this magnitude, literally in the dark of the night, was very badly the wrong way to do this. It needed to be undone. It may well be true that either process or higher authority will decide to re-do the deletions, but a legitimate decision on this issue cannot come from any one admin's personal actions.

The request was accepted unanimously on August 18 with arbitrator Mackensen recusing himself from the case. The case is currently in the evidence phase.


Also this week: BJAODN arbitration

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