Not saying it is all wrong, a lot of it is fairly obvious, but some of it
is, or appears to be, somewhat biased. Could use a bit of copyediting in
places. Also, does not seem to say anything new.
From: reybueno1--- via Wikimedia-l [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: 11 December 2022 19:05
Subject: [Wikimedia-l] Long Reddit post laying out inner workings of English
This just up in /r/trueunpopularopinion and YCombinator:
Quoted below because it was explicitly released under public domain:
You all have heard by now that Elon Musk said that Wikipedia has a "left
wing bias" when the article about Twitter Files had been suggested for
deletion. This has been received with mixed responses from liberals and
conservatives alike; the former dismissing it as "an attack on free
knowledge" and the latter cheering the move as "against censorship" and
vindication of their beliefs that Big Tech is biased against them.
True, Wikipedia is supposedly editable by anyone around the world and I had
been an on and off editor there for years mostly doing small-ish edits like
fixing typos and reverting obvious vandalism. This is done while on IP as
opposed to using accounts because I would rather that some edits (i.e.
sensitive topics like religious and political areas) not tied to my name and
identity. However, reality is far from the preferred sugar-coated
description of Wikipedia, particularly its editing community.
The editing community in overall is best described as a slightly
hierarchical and militaristic "do everything right" structure, traditionally
associated with Dell and recently Foxconn and now-defunct Theranos.
Exceptions apply in quieter and outlier areas such as local geography and
space, usually the top entry points for new users wanting to try their first
hand. There are higher tolerance of good-faith mistakes such as
point-of-view problems and using unreliable resources, which are usually
explained in detail on how to correct by them rather than a mere warning
template or even an abrupt block.
Ultimately those sub-communities which can be said as populated by
exopedians, have relatively little to no power over the wider and core
communities, mostly dominated by metapedians. A third group called
mesopedians often alternates between these inner and outer workings.
Communities can have shared topical interest which are grouped by
WikiProject, an example being WikiProject Science
I spend a lot of time casually browsing through edit wars (can be so lame at
times) like a fly on the wall, along with meta venues of Wikipedia such as
Articles for Deletion, Centralized discussion Neutral Point of View
Noticeboard, Biographical of Living Persons Noticeboard, Conflict of
Interest Noticeboard, Administrator's Noticeboard Incidents, Sockpuppet
investigations, Arbitration Committee noticeboard which is the "supreme
court" in Wikipedia community for serious behavioral and conduct disputes.
Therefore I can sum up how the editing community really functions, although
not really as extensive as you might expect because I am not a
"Wikipedioholic" with respect to inner workings.
Deletionism and inclusionism
This has been very perennial and core reasons for just about any disputes on
Wikipedia ever D Deletionists treat Wikipedia as another "regular
encyclopedia" where information has to be limited once it become very much
to be covered; like cutting out junk, while inclusionists treats Wikipedia
as a comprehensive encyclopedia not bound by papers and thus can afford to
cover as much information as it can take; one man's junk could be another
man's treasure. Personally I support the latter and often the conflict
between two editing ideologies leads to factionalism, where attempts to
understand mutual feelings and perspectives are inadequate or even none at
There are no absolute standards of what defines "encyclopedic knowledge" and
"notability". Inclusionism posits that almost everything could become
valuable and encyclopedic in the future, even if they're aren't today. An
example I can think of is events, figures and stories from World War II.
Deletionism has been closely related to "academic standard kicks" and rely
on the premise that Wikipedia has to be of high standard and concise. There
are people who deem an addition of something as useful, and there are those
who think it's "trivia" or "crufty" something that is nominally
if not prohibited by Wikipedia's documentation (see this in particular,
although sometimes exceptions are applied through the spirit of "Ignoring
all rules for sake of improvement", which are frequent at entertainment and
On pages, notability debates around a person subject and otherwise are
frequently the main point of discussion in Articles for Deletion threads,
where articles deemed not substantial enough (such as very few sources) are
suggested for deletion. Usually they will run for a week but they can be
quickly closed if there are too many votes in favor of "keep",
so on, the AFD nomination is withdrawn by the initiator, or that the
nomination is found to have been done in bad faith (such as to "censor"
articles from public view for questionable motives like ideology, paid
editing or so).
Here I believe that deletionists are seen far more harshly by inclusionists,
than the vice versa. The chief reason is to add something, you have to
navigate through the user experience unfriendly editing interfaces (although
somewhat improved in recent years) all the while having to scroll through
the internet to find sources and references to add. When you found some you
have to go through an extra hoop to assess whether they are reliable or not,
before finally transcribing the information through your own words which has
to stick to the neutral point of view (NPOV) policy; paraphrasing that are
so close are not allowed because, copyright. Non-English speaking editors
would often find the latter very difficult.
In contrast, as per an old adage, destroying something is easier than
building something, deletions are comparatively easier than addition. This
could be the reason why deletionism currently maintains dominance over the
whole site as I see it, since in order to become an established an esteemed
editor, one has to garner a high amount of edits which are not reverted.
Thus, many editors like to gain these "scores" by deleting "unuseful
information" from passages up to entire articles by interpreting the
documentations and rules strictly, the latter through processes such as
Articles for Deletion and if confident enough, Proposed Deletion that
doesn't require discussion. Simply speaking, it's a feature not a bug and
aren't necessarily beholden to any political ideology; a liberal is as
equally likely as a conservative to become a hated deletionist.
Even though every edit changes are recorded and displayed through page
histories which you can see for any given articles by clicking "View
History" at the top, the bone of contention remains particularly when page
deletions results in the redaction of these histories from public view. This
will be explained further later.
Some historical contexts that can be think of regarding the current
prominence of deletionism are the excessive amount of Pokemon pages during
or before 2007 which had alienated some readers and editors alike because
search engines back then are not quite as adequate as today in terms of
finding precise information. Another is that child predators like Nathan
Larson used to sneak in as inclusionists to warp Wikipedia to fit their
agenda all the time, which are indelibly horrendous to all of us here and
those back then. Think of the poisoning of the well and the fruits from a
poisonous tree. Furthermore there are also large portion of userbases from
tech companies like Intel and those from the academic world (maybe instead
of GLAMs, short for galleries, libraries, archives and museums) that gained
top positions such as administrators, bringing along their work culture and
so-called "academic standards kick" respectively. To be absolutely fair, I
find that there are instances where del
etionism is right enough, specifically the removal of copyright violation
and libel materials on biographical pages of any living persons.
Regardless of whether a page is deleted or not, they remain available in
Wikipedia's servers and accessible to administrators or higher only.
Eventually, what defines as "encyclopedic knowledge" are vulnerable to
systemic biases as well. Different from some Musk's thoughts about it, users
who are white, male, US/UK/CA/EU/AU/NZ, middle or old aged, and English
speaker tend to have the greatest advantage above the rest in the editing
community. With this in mind, a prominent musical artist in Zambia may be
treated as too small-bore enough for a page on Wikipedia by an editor in
Canada. Shopping malls in the US are less likely to be deleted than those in
Vietnam. Such a bias doesn't go one way; the hypothetical artist in Zambia
would be "unimportant" to someone in Peru.
This is the top causes of animosity between editors and also why many
editors chose to quit or rather fell from grace. You will always hate that
kid who like to ruin your LEGO structure every time you have assembled the
Neutral point of view
Different from mere deletions and additions, this normally means that how to
present a given information in a way to the readers ideally so that no
disproportionate biases towards or against something are left in their
impressions. You see arguments and conflicts concerning such a lot in
political articles, historical articles and geography topics of areas under
dispute from two or more nations. Say that a political figure is engaged in
activities that are remotely linked to extremism. Side A would argue that
the figure is therefore an extremist and it should be made prominent on that
page and any other linked pages, but Side B wants to tone it down by writing
it something like "Political figure was engaged in activities which were
sometimes reported by some as extremist" and limit it to a mere mention on a
single page. Another is a nation should be said as a "partially recognized
state" because some UN members don't recognize it as such and instead as
part of a bigger country, with
others expressing views that simply having an effective sovereignty for its
own and different from another nations would be enough to be deemed as a
It can come into play on cases involving "fringe theories" as well, like
Bigfoots, UFOs and medical treatments, although Wikipedia indeed has a
preference of giving prominence to mainstream views in these cases,
something I don't find a problem with and is quite different from regular
Venues for resolution in this case are Neutral Point of View noticeboard,
along with Request for Comment. The latter entails a process where a notice
is put up in a centralized noticeboard all the while a pool of
experienced/established editors receive notifications to comment, provide
insights and make suggestions on a given issue. A month is usually on how
these discussions are up and running unless there is a need of extension
because of reasons such as unbroken deadlock.
Along with deletionism and inclusionism, this is a major cause of editors
"going naughty" and getting blocked/banned/kicked out, whether for right or
The most important part of this post in my honest opinion. I'll start this
section by writing about edit war. Usually when you change something in
Wikipedia and it was undone/reverted by somebody else, then you have only
two tries before you get reported to the edit-war noticeboard if you're
stubborn enough not to go to the article's talk page ("Talk" in the top
left) for discussion, either by the person undoing your edits or by a third
party. In the meantime you get notifications on your personal talk pages
("Talk" on the top right) inviting you for such discussion and if lucky
enough, the Wikipedia Teahouse for further help by some kind-hearted
editors, increasingly a rarity these days. In some quieter or outer areas
where as said before are slightly lenient, you may get up to approx. five
chances counting your original edit before getting referred to the admins.
The tries count are reset after 24 hours but can be retained further just as
a guard against "gaming the rules". Clearer cut vandalism (like putting
gibberish such as "LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL" at any pages) usually gets reported to a
separate noticeboard for administrators to intervene, although first time
vandals regularly get warnings on their talk pages beforehand. When a report
is there and if found guilty of edit-warring, administrators would either
give ultimatums to the users in question or block their accounts for a day.
They could escalate to multiple days, weeks and up to indefinite
(practically infinite) period should the behavior continues beyond that. The
same goes for vandalism, although they are dealt more harshly with many
prompt indefinite blocks (indeffs) for "vandalism-only accounts".
Regular editors can be in danger of falling from grace too either by
themselves or by others. Because Wikipedia is commonly seen by so many as
the biggest comprehensive encyclopedia in the world, sometimes equated to
history itself, many vested interests, feelings and sentiments have been
invested on the website.
Those who are nationalists or otherwise fanatics of any imaginable notions
found themselves having incentives to make Wikipedia to support their
narratives both as an end itself or rather just means for other ends such as
"proving that they're great in the long annals of great history". The same
applies to run off the mill "promotional editing" by corporations and
individuals, along with those made by their supporters or fans. On the
opposite many people find it extremely attractive to twist it to denigrate
any ideologies, corporations, people, and just about anything they
personally oppose. For instance, they can make an article and fill it with
disparaging information against them, which is called an "attack page".
I find that there are kernels of truth in the commonly-held viewpoint that
"Wikipedia is a placeholder of information" and that "Wikipedia is
A MIT report described how judges' behavior are increasingly influenced by
Wikipedia articles, while there are initiatives by space missions such as
Beresheet and Peregrine to perform civilizational backups of humanity with
all of English Wikipedia (version as of a given date) in the event of
After having their way, to keep their changes forever in "annals of history"
or simply the "placeholders of information" in general, gate-keeping
measures are utilized. A simple example would be using excessively harsh
language against editors who made a change challenging a given status quo.
In contrast, if anybody has a reason to radically change a page and make
sure it stays unassailable afterwards, the same set of actions are used too
but arguably these would be "antigatekeeping" measures instead.
In gatekeeping/antigatekeeping one would resort to different levels of
intepretation regarding PAGs (policies and guidelines) and user essays, the
latter sometimes used as a basis of many editorial and administrative
actions. The documentations can often contradict each other, like how "not
indiscriminate" is to "not a paper encyclopedia", and on top of all, can
overruled by ignoring these if anybody sees fit. Hence, whoever has the
"biggest fist" gets to be the most advantageous in Wikipedia community. In
order to have the "biggest fist", they can befriend anyone sharing interests
with their own and form a cabal/gang that look after their own. To increase
their power and when enough time had passed they can nominate each other for
administrator positions giving them extra privileges of blocking users,
deleting pages, protecting an article from editing by lower-ranked users.
You don't get paid for spending your efforts and time on editing Wikipedia
unless perhaps you've listed a V
enmo link or a crypto address on your user profile, and these
administrative tools alone are so addictive and appealing given that you are
essentially in control of the important bits of "writing history" if you
have these, apart from usual human nature. Wikipedia is among the top 10
visited websites in the world after all.
Even more, there are additional ranks above administrator positions. Two of
those are CheckUsers (CU) and Oversighters. CU has the power to look through
IP address used by an account to see if it was a sockpuppet account of a
person, while Oversighters have super-delete rights to hide contents or
pages, even beyond the reach of administrators.
Those on the other end of the power-tripping, gate-keeping and so on rarely
fares well. One would find them belittled, bullied by those editors. Should
they attempt to properly resolve an issue through established processes such
as talk page discussions, dispute resolution noticeboard, and up to the
infamous Administrator's Noticeboard Incidents (ANI), they would expect to
find obstructions upon obstructions along the way. If the victim decides to
invite other editors to give balanced/impartial opinions and suggestions on
a problem they would find themselves stonewalled on the grounds that these
are "canvassing". It can be quite hypocritical if the "bully" had
friends informed beforehand, which is reasonably believed to often be the
case. Finally, if it escalates into the ANI, this is where it start to get
out of hand.
The reason why I use the term "infamous" is because ANI is the mother-lode
of all kinds of ugly dramas. It is frequently the first place in getting an
editor sanctioned or so on. The bullies (I do not use the term lightly)
would then put all sorts of allegations and aspersions against other for any
types of wrongdoing, whether real or perceived, big or small, or whether the
result is a real harm or just a nothing burger. Regardless, if they twisted
the rules (derisively referred as "wikilawyering" or otherwise "gaming the
system") and played the victim good enough, the passing administrators would
then close the discussion and place administrative actions against the
"real" victim. Common egregious example of such an action is the "not here
to build an encyclopedia" indefinite/permanent block that can be arbitrary
interpreted from any given actions. It's ironic given that the bullies are
guilty of such as well. A prime example of twisting the rules to
railroad/squeeze out other edito
rs would start with so-called bad faith negotiation, where they promised a
victim not to remove content at other pages if the victim lets the bully
keep their changes in a page. Soon the bully reneged it and when confronted
by the victim the bully immediately accused them of being "tendentious" or
The bullies, which can consist of most editors operating at the inner
workings, aren't necessarily beholden to any ideologies and come in all
stripes. The only attribute that they all share is the addiction to power.
After such permablocks, most would be forced to leave it for good, further
bleeding the editors numbers. Still, because Wikipedia's so preeminent and
no viable competitors are currently available, some would rather stay
behind, disguise their identity and either continue editing or start over in
different areas. For those with knowledge of foreign languages, they could
simply switch to other language Wikipedias to continue their work far from
most perturbances. A smaller number would come back as vandals to spite
editors who had wronged them.
This is where "sockpuppetry investigations" kick in, mostly referred as SPI.
Editors go there to start a new case if they suspect that an account is an
alt/sock account of someone else particularly users who evaded the
blocks/bans. When a user is blocked or banned for good, they are relegated
to a pariah status much akin to "unpersoning", Scientology's suppressive
persons, and the lowest ones in North Korea's Songbun, in the respect that
any and all edits by them under other accounts or IPs are liable to be
reverted/undone pursuant to policy pertaining to block evasion. While the
original goal of not separating the wheat from the chaff is expressedly to
prevent them from gaining further recognition and diminish the spirit of the
block, in practice this means a Monkey's Paw that any further potential good
contributions from them would be lost forever, handicapping the improvement
of encyclopedia as a whole in a way or more. Other editors have the
exception from edit-war policy to reve
rt and undone any changes from the violators of the blocks, perhaps as well
as anybody who helped them. In effect this is like what the Meatball Wiki
said, a "PunishReputation".
During a SPI, there are "clerks" who will look through the user's
contribution history to see if there is a similarity in pattern to warrant a
block for abuse of multiple accounts (sockpuppetry). If that alone is not
enough, the CheckUsers can then be called upon to check and compare the IP
used by the accounts.
If a user is determined to have engaged in sockpuppetry, the userpage of
original and alt accounts used are then replaced with a scarlet letter
notice such as this example boasting that which sock account belongs to who
and therefore blocked. Forget about "denying recognition", this is simply a
The SPI case, now listing the accounts and IP used, would then be archived
in a separate page, still publicly viewable. This is despite recent GDPR
regulations and the implication that major privacy-improving adjustments
should've been made for the process while keeping it viable. Try that in
Reddit and you'd be instantly banned for doxxing, I can assure you.
In there you can effectively cosplay as a CSI although substantive attention
are given to clerks, administrators and CheckUsers. Keep in mind that the
results and outcomes of most if not all sockpuppet investigations aren't
really 100% accurate, given that there are a lot of unforeseen variables
such as the imitation of writing and behavior styles that are mostly a
result of multiple people pushing any particular editorial change for any
reasons i.e. brother helping his sister, along with the use of software that
can mask your IP addresses such as VPNs and TeamViewer. Those admins in
charge of sockpuppetry investigations often aren't privy to the root cause
of a "sockpuppetry" or "block evasion" and as such tend to for
underestimate the amount of users who has the right reasons to support an
edit made in violation of a block.
VPN IP addresses, which are used for obvious privacy reasons, are blocked in
sight by any administrators pursuant to policy against open proxies. They
even have a dedicated WikiProject and a bot specializing in finding and
blocking these proxies, with the result being a great inconvenience for
people wishing to edit from countries such as Russia and China.
In time, if someone continues a behavior the other editors deemed as
"disruptive" or "vandal" past the initial block, they end up getting
displayed in so-called "Long Term Abuse" caselist. Right there, their
accounts and/or IP addresses, along with a likely-skewed description of what
they've done were listed out. The places they've been and accounts outside
of Wikipedia were frequently exposed there, as if it's an opposition
research and spiteful doxxing. Things that'll get you quickly banned here
are just a normal Tuesday over at Wikipedia, with GDPR out of the window.
As I see it, there are two categories of LTAs/vandals/whatever you call it.
The first are the inherent vandals who had been problematic and disruptive
for Wikipedia upon their first edit, and the other are those who had been
regular or good standing users in the past until their fall from grace,
normally caused by themselves such as being too overworked over one thing
but could be by others, like the bullying example.
There is a reasonable possibility that some of those LTAs/vandals would be
redeemed and become a good editor once again if enough diplomacy and
mediation were tried. However, those would be a time-consuming process
compared to simply actioning them, and I reasonably suspect that some of
those are intentionally provoked by corrupt admins or their friends into
vandal or disruptive editing in order for them to increase that admin
actions count so as to further their own standing in the community, and to
stay away from losing their cherished tools if their KPI fell low enough in
a given period.
It's fearful that the cycle of toxicities in Wikipedia could eventually led
to real-world harm, though I will not further speculate how that might
transpire for fear of stuffing the beans and giving bad ideas. However, VICE
had reported in 2016 that an editor had nearly driven to suicide after being
subjected to online abuse by the editors despite what the documentation say
about community collegiality. Furthermore, just before Musk' comment against
Wikipedia, the Anonymous group hacked a Chinese ministry site and a
satellite system out of the suspicion that a state actor has manipulated
Wikipedia's system and process to censor information about their hacking
activities against China. It was a hot news in Taiwan then.
Theoretically a deep and comprehensive reform is past due for Wikipedia in
order to (re-)foster collegiality among the members of Wikipedia community
and reduce the amount of synergies that leads to intractable conflicts, as
opposed to sinecures such as blockings and SPI which often treats the
symptoms but not the cause.
Still, it appears that the core editors and/or administrators are so content
enough for the present status quo and thus doom any effort to change the
system. An example would be the temporary ban of an administrator made in
2019 by the Wikimedia Foundation (ultimately responsible for maintaining
English Wikipedia and any other projects such as Wikimedia Commons for
photos and Wikipedias written in other languages), nearly causing the split
of Wikipedia into two or more. This is not to mention that presently
Wikipedia has a financial cancer and having to beg for donations despite
having sufficient funds so it may be worthwhile to put your donations for
the Internet Archive instead.
A key to a solution may lie in the comparative analogy that Wikipedia is
like the only restaurant in a food desert. It could be a McDonald's, KFC,
BK, Taco Bell, White Castle, or so on, but customers are forced to go there
to dine in every time, even if some does not really like their food. Thus,
they will be really happy if a second restaurant is opened at the location.
If Musk is really serious in fixing whatever problems Wikipedia has brought
as a result of its internal problems, then he would be wise in
angel-investing any alternatives which aims to become a better or next-level
version of Wikipedia.
The hypothetical rival alternatives could come in the form of a more
comprehensive encyclopedia, close to the level of a compendia. It can come
in a format similar to GitHub where anyone can present in their preferred
version of a subject instead of edit-warring at a small point, and if
version is good enough then they can be merged/pushed/vouched by other users
to work upon and goes to the top in ranks.
In fact, every edition of page histories are logged by Wikipedia when a
change is make, but in addition to heuristic placements which make these to
be perceivably obscure, those would get redacted if the page in question is
Forking contents from English Wikipedia isn't really a big problem since all
you can do is to go to the Wikimedia dump site and look for enwiki, but the
biggest issues are how to convince editors and readers alike to move over to
the alternative. One possible solution that I can think of in terms of
editors would be a pitch promising that the contents will eventually get
copied into discs that lasts for billions of years and launched to the Moon
and beyond for posterity.
It is entirely possible that if such solution with out-of-the-world approach
had been thought about earlier, the synergies that led to all sort of
intractable conflicts in Wikipedia could be cut by a half or so. Perhaps
inside Wikipedia the environment would not resemble an authoritarian police
state like now. After all, you can find so many real stories echoing the
same theme on Wikipediocracy, Wikipedia Review and Wikipediasucks.co, which
are like how Xenu.net
is to Scientology.
Finally this post is released under Creative Commons CC0, which is a public
domain as the only thing I want is let everyone know how Wikipedia really
works in the inside given the recent attention to Musk's comments against it
and to dispel idealistic notions (as seen in WhitePeopleTwitter regarding
Musk's tweet) that overrated it beyond what should've been, while hoping for
alternatives to spring up to provide greater opportunities for anyone to
preserve histories without corrosive influence from systemic biases such as
those in Wikipedia.
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