[Foundation-l] English Wikipedia ethnocentric policy affects other communities

George Herbert george.herbert at gmail.com
Fri Dec 22 00:46:00 UTC 2006

On 12/21/06, Yann Forget <yann at forget-me.net> wrote:
> Hi,
> This is also a reply to David Gerard.
> George Herbert wrote:
> > On 12/21/06, Yann Forget <yann at forget-me.net> wrote:
> >
> >>Hi,
> >>
> >>In your options below, you forgot the main argument GerardM has
> >>expressed in this thread: that the problem faced by the English
> >>Wikipedia upto now will nearly disappear *because* of SUL.
> >
> > SUL does not make the problem go away.  Nobody has posted any
> explanation of
> > how it would.
> Yes, one big part of the  problem goes away: that to find out if the user
> is a vandal or a known user on some other wikis.
> If I understand GerardM's explanations correctly, it will be possible to
> easily find out on which wikis this user has edits, so you will know if
> it is a new account or not.

That is somewhat useful, but doesn't address the concerns we have stated
with it.

Dedicated vandals are banking sockpuppet accounts, creating them constantly
and doing "good" edits from them to get them to be known user IDs, getting
past the "new user" time period and minimum edit counts to be taken
seriously, etc.  The long-term vandal who's been placing penis pictures on
the featured article of the day, for example, has been using sockpuppet
accounts that they started accumulating well before they launched their
first known attack, if I understand it correctly.

Someone could easily use any of the other wikis to do that with under SUL,
and nobody would know there was a problem until the account showed up in
enwiki and started getting the similar-looking user in trouble.

This policy on enwiki was put in place to deal with vandals who are, in some
cases, very persistent, very nasty, and very evasive.

Just implimenting SUL as currently planned does not help us, at all, with
this problem, and does introduce a head-on collision between one of the
preventive mechanisms on enwiki and how SUL works in the first place.

I do not know for a fact that if we strip that mechanism away, it will get
exploited.  But as a rule, flaws that exist in the security regime overall
are being actively exploited at a low rate by persistent high-grade vandals.

SUL neither helps nor hurts some of the higher-volume vandalism issues,
which are generally not as expertly prepared as the high-grade vandals.

The worst problem with the high-grade vandals is that they're often
vandalizing because they specifically have a particular issue with an
individual admin or small group of admins.  One or a small group of
persistent, smart vandals can do an incredible amount of damage, both to the
wiki and to individual editor/admin targets via harrassment or

If these are not affecting your local project yet, be thankful, don't go
around acting like en.wiki's people are paranoid nationalistic chauvinists.
We have a lot of real problems, and our problems are going to be your
problems as your userbases grow larger.

en may not have ended up with the best way to deal with these problems, but
we've developed coping mechanisms which are at least keeping things to a
steady tolerable rate of problems.

-george william herbert
george.herbert at gmail.com

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