[Foundation-l] pt:wiki policies

Virgilio A. P. Machado vam at fct.unl.pt
Fri Jun 5 17:16:24 UTC 2009

This is in reference to: 

I would like to thank Michael Bimmler for 
steering me through this mailing list. Michael 
always addressed me in a polite, professional, 
and non-judgmental manner. It was a pleasure to 
correspond with him. We had the kind and level of 
interaction I was expecting to find at the 
pt:wiki. Thanks also for the sensible comment 
made by Phil Nash. Although we might not be in 
complete agreement, some good points were raised 
and the benefit of experience is of great value. 
Twice I asked for Cary Bass' advice about posting 
this message, but I'm sorry to say that I never 
got an answer. According to Michael, Cary is 
Volunteer Coordinator at the Wikimedia 
Foundation. I'm sure he had more pressing matters to attend to.

Let me try to organize the discussion by 
separating a) a very real general question from 
b) my hypothetical example. I believe that the 
discussion of real examples will be beneficial to both.

a) A very real and clear statement was made by an 
administrator bureaucrat, also a member of the 
arbitration committee, which can be found here 
(the quotations are in English): 

He quoted the Wikimedia:Non discrimination 
policy, explaining that that policy did NOT allow 
them to treat editors differently, based on their 
[...] medical condition.  Wikimedia:Code of Conduct Policy was also quoted.

I believe that "medical condition" includes the 
whole spectrum of physical and mental illnesses, 
but please let me know if my interpretation is not correct.

Phil Nash states that in case a registered user 
is not able to communicate effectively, as it has 
already happened on en:wiki, they have been 
persuaded to be adopted by willing mentors.

I consider that a good example of treating 
editors differently based on their medical 
condition. This is also similar to the special 
treatment given inexperienced users, namely 
through the Adopt-a-User program 
that has a parallel in the Portuguese Wikipedia 
(please see interlanguage link.)

That procedure also conforms to current non 
discriminatory legislation in many countries that 
makes it compulsory to provide ramps for 
wheelchairs, Braille markings and sound warnings, 
and special education for those with all sorts of 
illnesses, both physical and mental. That is, a 
non discriminatory policy means that you treat 
people differently based on their medical 
condition. NOT treating editors differently, 
based on their medical condition, is considered DISCRIMINATION.

In the Portuguese Wikipedia, as exemplified by 
the statement of that administrator bureaucrat, 
and member of the arbitration committee, there is 
the exact opposite understanding and 
interpretation, contrary to what non 
discrimination is. So far, nobody else has 
contradicted that position which was only 
disclosed in response to my questioning.

My point is that this state of affairs in the 
Portuguese Wikipedia cannot be tolerated, 
condoned and supported by the resources of the 
Wikimedia Foundation, generously provided by 
volunteers and donors keen on improving the 
general knowledge and welfare of humankind and 
not the misguidance of a group that actively or 
with their silence have taken over the Portuguese 
Wikipedia. Swift and drastic measures need to be taken to stop this.

b) My strictly hypothetical case assumed that a 
tetraplegic girl had learned how to use a 
computer and found out about Wikipedia. After 
registering as a user she did all sort of 
trampling. To my question if there would be any 
administrator willing to block her from editing 
Wikipedia, three administrators, one of them a 
bureaucrat and member of the arbitration committee answered YES:


No dissenting opinion has been published, to this 
date, anywhere on the Portuguese Wikipedia. I 
have refused to do so for the reasons stated at 
the conclusions of both part a) and b).

This is in stark contrast with the assumptions 
and procedures advocated by Phil Nash. First he 
narrows the case to one in which her physical 
disability does not impair her mental faculties, 
that she is aware of what she is doing, and 
certainly should be after a number of warnings. 
There's no problem with this scenario since it is added:

"If it's just a case of being unable to 
communicate effectively, we do have users on 
en:wiki with similar issues, and have persuaded 
them to be adopted by willing mentors". Thus a 
procedure is suggested to prevent errors at the 
source or have someone at the ready to revert 
them, without requesting for the user blocking. 
Admittedly, the corrective actions of such mentor 
would also avoid the need for those requests to 
be made and to act on them. I find this a viable and correct approach.

I beg to differ with Phil Nash when he states 
that "However, the bottom line to me is whether 
the harm to the encyclopedia (willed or not) 
outweighs the benefit of having that person 
editing". It is not difficult to conclude, even 
without any figures, that this kind of 
benefits-cost analysis would make any action in 
favor of the disabled unfeasible, and disability 
rights laws unactable. The very nature of 
Wikipedia makes it impossible to produce any harm 
comparable to the benefit of making its edition 
available to anyone whose capable of doing it, no 
matter at what cost in reverts. There's already 
enough vandalism being done by people supposedly 
sound of mind and body. It's hard to imagine that 
the marginal costs of handling the errors of the 
disabled would put the project in jeopardy. There 
might even be a way to tap additional resources to cope with such costs.

Such is the current situation of the Portuguese 
Wikipedia. I believe that as a consequence of the 
self management of the project, it is now being 
operated and run on a daily basis by a group of 
people with severe mental, emotional, and 
behavioral problems, completely out of control 
and without any kind of supervision and/or 
regulation. This has been corroborated by several 
pt-wikipedians. In an attempt to gather a sample 
of their statements, a non-exhaustive collection 
was made 
It was voted for deletion 
with arguments from both sides that are outright 
embarrassing.  Maintaining the page won by four votes.

This voting is just one of many examples of 
rampant disrespect for the five pillars, 
occuring, unchalanged, on a regular basis on the 
Portuguese Wikipedia. Mobbing is practiced matter 
of factly, and promoted openly on discussion 
pages. Just for your information, please be aware 
that I was already harassed on the Portuguese 
for bringing up this subject on "foundation-l." I 
was under the threat of banishment 
from the pages where this harassment takes place, 
by the same administrator bureaucrat and member 
of the of arbitration committee mentioned in both 
parts a) and b). When I questioned the voting for 
violating that Wikipedia is free content, I ended 
up blocked for six days 

I don't think that analysis of much of the goings 
on in the pt:wiki by competent professionals 
would give it a clean bill of mental health. It's 
a crazy world, I know, but the project is of an 
encyclopedia, not a crazypedia (forgive my 
hyperbole.) "Pero si muove." Certainly, it does, 
but at what cost, it is my turn to ask. Is it 
really as impossible to bring a project like this 
under control, once it gets spinning on its own 
axis, as it is to stop the Earth from moving? Or 
are there enough resources to correct the course?


Virgílio A. P. Machado (Vapmachado)

Prof. Virgilio A. P. Machado            vam at fct.unl.pt
DEMI/FCT/UNL                    Fax:   351-21-294-8546 or 21-294-8531
Universidade de Portugal                or 351-21-295-4461
2829-516 Caparica                       Tel.:  351-21-294-8542 or 21-294-8567
PORTUGAL                                or 351-21-294-8300 or 21 294-8500
Faculdade de Ciencias e Tecnologia/UNL (FCT/UNL)

(Dr. Machado is Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering at the
School of Sciences and Engineering/UNL of the University of Portugal)  

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