[WikiEN-l] Quitting Wikipedia and wanted you to know why.

Parker Peters onmywayoutster at gmail.com
Fri Oct 6 12:47:08 UTC 2006

I'll respond below for you. Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful


On 10/6/06, Tony Jacobs <gtjacobs at hotmail.com> wrote:
> >From: "Parker Peters" <onmywayoutster at gmail.com>
> >Reply-To: English Wikipedia <wikien-l at Wikipedia.org>
> >To: wikien-l at wikipedia.org, jwales at wikia.com
> >Subject: [WikiEN-l] Quitting Wikipedia and wanted you to know why.
> >Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2006 21:38:18 -0500
> >
> There's a lot of truth in that email.  I'm disappointed with David's
> response, which is to question the examples given, and basically evade the
> point.  The point is not wrong, and it's that we've allowed ourselves to
> develop a culture of disrespect, contempt, and dickishness.  We haven't
> made
> it a priority to insure that Wikipedians, especially admins, treat one
> another with respect and dignity at all times.  We're actually developing
> a
> reputation as a place of arrogance and nastiness, a place of heavy-handed
> thugishness, a place where people treat each other quite badly.  That's
> bad
> for the project.

That is precisely what I was saying.

Rather than defensively trying to say why Parker Peters is wrong, we should
> be introspectively asking what we can do to make Wikipedia a better work
> environment.  I see no reason why Wikipedians shouldn't set a standard for
> excellent treatment of contributors.  In Jimbo's Statement of Principles,
> I
> read #7: "Anyone with a complaint should be treated with the utmost
> respect
> and dignity."  We seem to be very quick to revert to the final sentence of
> the paragraph, which says, "I must not let the "squeaky wheel" be greased
> just for being a jerk."  The trouble is in being too quick to decide that
> someone is "just a jerk".  When you decide someone's just a jerk - they
> often become one, and I don't blame them!

I don't blame them either. I've seen editors who get some incredibly
insulting things put into their user pages or talk pages and respond by
namecalling, to see the admin who made the original insult block them for
"incivility" with a lightning fast trigger finger. The only possible
explanation is that it was planned: the admin knew that the user was being
targeted and prodded, and was waiting for any excuse they could come up with
to drop a block.

I've seen our warning system misused and abused countless times; every POV
warrior seems to think it is their duty to send a "warning" for "vandalism"
if they see an edit they don't agree with, and then to abuse the person even
more if they are told that a good-faith edit isn't vandalism. Even worse,
thanks to the crummy and unreliable codes of "vandalism", these bad-faith
"warnings" can't be removed by the user without receiving more harassment
and abuse.

That is, until it escalates, when their friend the admin can be called in to
block whoever the POV warrior is attacking.

I've seen admins treat regular users like dog shit way too many times.  Why
> doesn't ArbCom come down on admins who fail to respect contributors?

Because, by design of the system, no arbcom case can ever be brought, and
even if it were, arbcom is FIRMLY on the side of the admin every time. Think
about it. In order to bring a case to arbcom, you have to (A) be the
aggrieved party, (B) have someone else sign on to the case at least twice
(you have to RFC beforehand or arbcom will just dismiss it), and (C) be a
"user in good standing."

How do the problem admins game the system? Three ways.
#1 - Make sure that the aggrieved party remains blocked. There are plenty of
ways to do this. Provoking them into incivility is one; the more times the
better, because it makes it very easy for the admin to say "oh they're just
an incivil jerk." As an added bonus, continually blocking the user makes
arbcom's rubber stamps more sympathetic to the admin, because the admin's
argument becomes "see how many times they've been blocked for incivility,
they're just harassing me."

#2 - Make sure that nobody else signs on to the case. Easiest way? Attack
solitary users, one at a time. Attack newbies as well. If they do find their
way into the dispute resolution system, they'll make mistakes, they'll sign
on to the wrong side or file in the wrong place, and the admin can
wikilawyer it away.

And remember: contradicting another admin is "incivil." That's why our
unblock policies have changed to require that the unblocking admin "talk to"
the original blocking admin. Well, that and to put yet another bureaucratic
roadblock into the system so that all the blocking admin has to do is stay
silent and nobody will unblock before the block period is up.

#3 - Again, the "in good standing" bit. Most likely, a user will try to come
back. Then, the admin gets to tag on "block evasion" or some other nonsense,
even if their only "evasion" is to try to file the report with arbcom or
admins noticeboard.

  Why isn't that a high priority?

Again, because the system is designed so that a user being hounded has no
chance to ever file the case, much less see it completed.

 We're not in an early development stage at this
> point, where the whole cowboy, run-and-gun mentality is all that valuable.
> We've reached a plateau where other things start to matter a lot - things
> like maintaining an atmosphere in which good writers will want to
> contribute
> their valuable time.  Wikipedia's grown up a bit, and we should really
> start
> acting like grownups.

I agree. But the system is designed to protect admins at all costs, no
matter how abusive.

The email from Parker Peters makes me sad, because it hits so close to home.
>   If we don't start demanding civility, not in some hollow sense where we
> manage to avoid personal attacks, but in a real sense that involves
> treating
> people with actual dignity, we're going to start seeing a lot more
> fallout.

We already have. We lose prospective new editors to this problem every day.
Not just the worst cases: we lose editors who edit once, see someone post a
derogatory comment about their edit, and walk away because wikipedia isn't a
civil place.

I'm not citing any examples, or getting specific, not because I can't (I
> could go on and on), but because I don't want people to focus on attacking
> whatever particular case I bring up.  The point is that more and more
> people
> are thinking of Wikipedia as a place to go and get showered with abuse,
> with
> little or no provocation.  Is that what we want?

It's not what I want, and that's why I'm leaving. Because that's what it has

I suggest we take a cue from those great philosophers from San Dimas, and
> make it a site policy to "Be excellent to each other".

That would make an "excellent" idea.

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