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> Cumulus Clouds, Synopsis for Peter Damian
lonza leggiera
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:45am
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Early in November 2008, the Wikipedia editor Cumulus Clouds began a month-long break from editing Wikipedia. On November 20th, a new Wikipedia account, TGH1970, was created. It would later be suspected of having been created by Cumulus Clouds. TGH1970 discovered that a contributor to a web forum—titled FYAD—, on the site somethingawful.com, was claiming to have created a hoax article, Podtats, on Wikipedia as an entry in a contest to vandalise it. This contributor, who used the handle Anne Frank Fanfic, would later claim—with what justification I do not know—that Cumulus Clouds (and TGH1970) was a former, but now despised, contributor to the FYAD forum whose handle was variously given as Tyler Peppar, Tyler Pepper, or Tyler Pepar. The username of the Wikipedia editor who created the article Podtats was Banime, a user who had previously left oleaginously "friendly" warnings on Cumulus Clouds' talk page.

On December 3rd, TGH1970 raised the matter of Banime's alleged vandalism on the appropriate Wikipedia noticeboard (ANI). Despite making a very strong case, TGH1970—as an apparently new, but obviously very Wikipedia-savvy user—fell under suspicion of having an undisclosed axe to grind—and was unable to convince anyone else that there was sufficient evidence of vandalism by Banime for any action to be taken against him. Nevertheless, TGH1970 continued to argue the point at sufficient length to exasperate most of the participants in the discussion, and on December 4th one administrator became sufficiently fed up to block him indefinitely, for supposed "disruption".

Cumulus Clouds resumed editing on December 10th. On December 11th, Banime lodged a request for checkuser on the grounds that he suspected Cumulus Clouds of being the same user as TGH1970, and therefore guilty of evading his block. Cumulus Clouds opposed any checkuser's being carried out as "unnecessary". On December 12th he posted a "retired" notice on his talk page and ceased editing Wikipedia.

On December 18th a group of other contributors to the FYAD forum decided what great fun it would be to upload an image of an apparently strange-looking individual of their acquaintance and insert it into the Wikipedia article Fragile x syndrome as an example of someone (supposedly) suffering from that condition. Some of comments in the FYAD thread strongly suggest that the image had been distorted with photoshop. Within a day, Cumulus Clouds had the image deleted from commons, I believe on the grounds that the uploader's claim to own copyright of the image was fraudulent. This was taken by the above-mentioned group of FYAD contributors as justification for a vicious campaign of abuse and ridicule of Cumulus Clouds on both the FYAD forum and with edits to Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia edits were deleted or oversighted fairly quickly, but a screenshot of one of them has been preserved in the FYAD forum. The following edit was made to the Wikipedia article Eastlake High School (Sammamish, Washington) (Cumulus Clouds' alma mater) on December 19th.

QUOTE(some creep)

On December 20, 2008, Dick Hansen, a 17 year old teenager known on several websites by his nickname "Cumulus Clouds", opened fire first in a classroom and then in the corridors of the school killing 69 students and injuring 420, until the police shot at him, hitting him in the anus and killing him, putting an end to the carnage. The tragic murder suicide had been announced on his personal Wikipedia page the evening before, followed by a speedy deletion request of said page shortly after. The causes of the incident have yet to be determined exactly, but several of his Wikicolleagues and classmates reported that Dick Hansen had been struggling for a long time with an organized band of internet trolls, a battle which had stemmed a lot of anger and frustration into the young man and had made him plunge into a deep depression


Both the age and name given here for Cumulus Clouds are likely to be fictitious, since they conflict with the ones which these FYAD contributors later would accept as being correct. Initially, they also didn't seem to be aware that Cumulus Clouds was supposedly the former FYAD contributor Tyler Peppar, but Anne Frank Fanfic informed them of this later on the same day, when he bragged (somewhat inaccurately) of having been responsible for getting Cumulus Clouds "banned" from Wikipedia, and pointing to the ANI thread started by TGH1970 as a reference. Much of the remaining FYAD thread was devoted to making fun of TGH1970's contributions to the ANI thread, lionising Anne Frank Fanfic for having "owned", and ridiculing Cumulus Clouds for having been so humiliated.

Three days later, a 25-year old Seattle man died suddenly, and an obituary was published on January 5th, 2009. On the following day, a contributor to the FYAD forum announced that Tyler Peppar had committed suicide and cited—with what justification I do not know—the aforementioned obituary as a reference. On January 27th, Banime added an item to Wikipedia's memorial listing of deceased Wikipedians, stating that Cumulus Clouds had committed suicide on December 22nd, again citing the abovementioned obituary as a reference. Six minutes later, Wikipedia adminstrator, Raul654, added a note to Cumulus Clouds' talk page, stating that he had committed suicide on December 22nd. Later on the same day, Wikipedia administrator Alison replaced the statements in these two items that Cumulus Clouds had committed suicide with ones which merely said that he had died.

This post has been edited by lonza leggiera: Mon 28th November 2011, 11:14pm
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Kelly Martin
post Mon 28th November 2011, 3:28am
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QUOTE(lonza leggiera @ Sun 27th November 2011, 8:45pm) *
Early in November 1978, the Wikipedia editor Cumulus Clouds began a month-long break from editing Wikipedia.
That can't be right.
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lonza leggiera
post Mon 28th November 2011, 3:42am
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QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Mon 28th November 2011, 2:28pm) *

QUOTE(lonza leggiera @ Sun 27th November 2011, 8:45pm) *
Early in November 1978, the Wikipedia editor Cumulus Clouds began a month-long break from editing Wikipedia.
That can't be right.

I've no idea how that managed to get in there. Thanks for picking it up
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thekohser
post Mon 28th November 2011, 4:34am
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QUOTE(lonza leggiera @ Sun 27th November 2011, 9:45pm) *

Two days later Cumulus Clouds took his own life. He was 25.


I hate to do this, but... {{citation needed}}.
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EricBarbour
post Mon 28th November 2011, 7:25am
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Obituary, as if it matters.

Original RFC -- read it carefully, it's one of the worst SPI pages I've ever seen....Alison was the only admin who did not act like a complete idiot.

This post has been edited by EricBarbour: Mon 28th November 2011, 7:25am
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radek
post Mon 28th November 2011, 8:02am
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QUOTE(EricBarbour @ Mon 28th November 2011, 1:25am) *

Obituary, as if it matters.

Original RFC -- read it carefully, it's one of the worst SPI pages I've ever seen....Alison was the only admin who did not act like a complete idiot.


To be fair Avraham seems to have done the right thing too by blocking the sockpuppets of some of the lynch mob. The original AN/I thread is worth reading too ... and remembering some of the names (including Ottava).
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the fieryangel
post Mon 28th November 2011, 10:27am
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QUOTE(radek @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:02am) *

QUOTE(EricBarbour @ Mon 28th November 2011, 1:25am) *

Obituary, as if it matters.

Original RFC -- read it carefully, it's one of the worst SPI pages I've ever seen....Alison was the only admin who did not act like a complete idiot.


To be fair Avraham seems to have done the right thing too by blocking the sockpuppets of some of the lynch mob. The original AN/I thread is worth reading too ... and remembering some of the names (including Ottava).


My thanks to all of you. I was trying to piece this story together, as it's probably one of WP's worst moments. You've saved me quite a bit of time!
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Newyorkbrad
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:12pm
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The situation described in this thread was discussed here on WR when it first came to light, in January 2009. (The link can be found in the general discussion from last night.) It appears to have involved a combination of cyberbullying, trolling, harassment, and game-playing on another website, which was imported into Wikipedia and was followed by a tragedy.

A main focus of the WR thread at the time was disagreement with the action of a Wikipedia administrator who had unnecessarily disclosed the suicide of one of the people involved. There was a strong consensus among the WR members commenting that this should not have been done.

Do I correctly understand that for potential use in connection with a challenge to a Wikimedia chapter's tax status, some 34 months later, the whole matter is now being deliberately re-publicized here?
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Kelly Martin
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:18pm
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I think it's important that we not let Wikipedia's callous disregard for the safety of its own (clearly very vulnerable) participants go unheeded. Wikipedia, by its nature, attracts vulnerable people, and by failing to take even the most minimal of efforts to prevent predatory and abusive behavior from within its ranks, bears at least some moral culpability for events like this. Indeed, that Wikipedia and its agents aggressively seek to bury all evidence and discussion of such events when they happen, and often try to minimalize consequences for the perpetrators, clearly indicate that the goal of gathering as many participants as possible outweighs all other legal, moral, and ethical considerations. This is unquestionably germane to the question of whether the Wikimedia Foundation, or any of its related entities, are truly acting in the public interest and thus deserving of recognition as charities (or similar such status).
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Newyorkbrad
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:23pm
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QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:18am) *

I think it's important that we not let Wikipedia's callous disregard for the safety of its own (clearly very vulnerable) participants go unheeded. Wikipedia, by its nature, attracts vulnerable people, and by failing to take even the most minimal of efforts to prevent predatory and abusive behavior from within its ranks, bears at least some moral culpability for events like this. Indeed, that Wikipedia and its agents aggressively seek to bury all evidence and discussion of such events when they happen, and often try to minimalize consequences for the perpetrators, clearly indicate that the goal of gathering as many participants as possible outweighs all other legal, moral, and ethical considerations. This is unquestionably germane to the question of whether the Wikimedia Foundation, or any of its related entities, are truly acting in the public interest and thus deserving of recognition as charities (or similar such status).

Kelly, I have to confess that I am a little bit bewildered, because a main person objecting to public disclosure of Cumulus Clouds' suicide in January 2009 was you.
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Kelly Martin
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:30pm
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QUOTE(Newyorkbrad @ Mon 28th November 2011, 8:23am) *
Kelly, I have to confess that I am a little bit bewildered, because a main person objecting to public disclosure of Cumulus Clouds' suicide in January 2009 was you.
Yes, well, you never were a very bright individual, now, were you?

I used to respect you, you know, but now every time we interact, even in the slightest, I realize that much more how misplaced that respect was.
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Ottava
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:34pm
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QUOTE(radek @ Mon 28th November 2011, 3:02am) *

QUOTE(EricBarbour @ Mon 28th November 2011, 1:25am) *

Obituary, as if it matters.

Original RFC -- read it carefully, it's one of the worst SPI pages I've ever seen....Alison was the only admin who did not act like a complete idiot.


To be fair Avraham seems to have done the right thing too by blocking the sockpuppets of some of the lynch mob. The original AN/I thread is worth reading too ... and remembering some of the names (including Ottava).


In briefly rereading what I said there, I stand by it. Banime produced at least one decent page that makes it appear that they were a standard editor. The claim was that the user only produced vandalism, which I didn't think there was any evidence for. THG tried to claim that the Frederick the III page was nothing, even though it was 500 edits and quite a bit of hard work. I don't like dishonesty.

This post has been edited by Ottava: Mon 28th November 2011, 2:35pm
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Kelly Martin
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:36pm
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Please note that Wikipedia took no action against the malfeasors in this case until posters at Wikipedia Review pointed out that no action had been taken. If not for WR, it's entirely possible that these bags of slime would still be trolling Wikipedia, seeking more victims. (Actually, they probably still are, just under different accounts.)

Bullying is a hotbutton issue right now. Wikipedia's practice of covering it up when discovered effectively protects the perpetrators and perpetuates the silence. Not surprising when you consider that Wikipedia is essentially run by bullies.
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Collect
post Mon 28th November 2011, 2:40pm
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QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:18am) *

I think it's important that we not let Wikipedia's callous disregard for the safety of its own (clearly very vulnerable) participants go unheeded. Wikipedia, by its nature, attracts vulnerable people, and by failing to take even the most minimal of efforts to prevent predatory and abusive behavior from within its ranks, bears at least some moral culpability for events like this. Indeed, that Wikipedia and its agents aggressively seek to bury all evidence and discussion of such events when they happen, and often try to minimalize consequences for the perpetrators, clearly indicate that the goal of gathering as many participants as possible outweighs all other legal, moral, and ethical considerations. This is unquestionably germane to the question of whether the Wikimedia Foundation, or any of its related entities, are truly acting in the public interest and thus deserving of recognition as charities (or similar such status).


Anent this - the editor was extremely active in attacking anyone who sought to make the gubernatorial and other articles related to his personal campaign activities neutral in tone - especially in guarding BLP violations at the Gregoire and Rossi pages, and in making sock accusations himself. [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Collect&diff=prev&oldid=245253670]. He also loved making repeated warnings which were unwarranted. [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Collect&diff=prev&oldid=244307055], [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=User_talk:Collect&diff=prev&oldid=243270463] was rich considering his official status in the Gregoire campaign <g>.

I daresay he gave out more grief than he received overall on Wikipedia, and it was likely a symptom of his troubled nature, and not the fault of other editors, that he committed suicide unhappy.gif though no one would ever wish anyone to do such.
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dogbiscuit
post Mon 28th November 2011, 3:20pm
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The fundamental issue is that it is clear that there is a bullying culture within Wikipedia. While some might hold their hands up in despair and claim that is the state of the world, the reality is that it does not have to be so.

There is an element of hypocrisy here, as WR clearly has a culture that also encourages such an approach - paradoxically, I think the best example is the way WR allows Ottava to subject himself to abuse and disdain rather than excluding him, even though he himself is something of a bully and is unable to moderate his own behaviour and show basic tolerance and decency for others. There is nothing unusual or novel in this: it is just the same in any school where many bullies are themselves the product of bullying. WR culture seems to be that we like our zoo exhibits, tolerated on some rationale of freedom of speech or local colour or something.

However, over many years, WMF have taken no real steps to reign in the community so it operates in a benign fashion. It is not a given that operating on the Internet means that management of a site must sink to the lowest common denominator and it has been long established that in taking responsibility for the proper operation of the site, the operators do not expose themselves to piercing the veil of liability. There is a strong culture of abuse, which is reinforced rather than fought by a core of admins who reinforce each others behaviour - unable to tolerate even rational criticism of their own behaviour.

The fact that Teh Community cannot tolerate rational debate on something as inconsequential to the project as the image filter, is a community act of bullying against the wider world - the culture of Wikipedia is "If you are not one of us, your views don't count and you must not be allowed to pollute our view of how this project should be run, we don't care about your culture, we have our own, fuck off."
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that one guy
post Mon 28th November 2011, 3:44pm
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QUOTE(dogbiscuit @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:20am) *
...which is reinforced rather than fought by a core of admins who reinforce each others behaviour - unable to tolerate even rational criticism of their own behaviour...

That's what happens when the group with more privilege takes advantage. Those who do not have admin but side with them are protected.

Or...

"User X wasn't all that uncivil, thus your block is weak and I will unblock X despite yours (and others) objections."
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Kelly Martin
post Mon 28th November 2011, 3:45pm
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QUOTE(dogbiscuit @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:20am) *

The fundamental issue is that it is clear that there is a bullying culture within Wikipedia. While some might hold their hands up in despair and claim that is the state of the world, the reality is that it does not have to be so.

There is an element of hypocrisy here, as WR clearly has a culture that also encourages such an approach - paradoxically, I think the best example is the way WR allows Ottava to subject himself to abuse and disdain rather than excluding him, even though he himself is something of a bully and is unable to moderate his own behaviour and show basic tolerance and decency for others. There is nothing unusual or novel in this: it is just the same in any school where many bullies are themselves the product of bullying. WR culture seems to be that we like our zoo exhibits, tolerated on some rationale of freedom of speech or local colour or something.

However, over many years, WMF have taken no real steps to reign in the community so it operates in a benign fashion. It is not a given that operating on the Internet means that management of a site must sink to the lowest common denominator and it has been long established that in taking responsibility for the proper operation of the site, the operators do not expose themselves to piercing the veil of liability. There is a strong culture of abuse, which is reinforced rather than fought by a core of admins who reinforce each others behaviour - unable to tolerate even rational criticism of their own behaviour.

The fact that Teh Community cannot tolerate rational debate on something as inconsequential to the project as the image filter, is a community act of bullying against the wider world - the culture of Wikipedia is "If you are not one of us, your views don't count and you must not be allowed to pollute our view of how this project should be run, we don't care about your culture, we have our own, fuck off."
I would also like to add a point to this. There is a significant difference between Wikipedia and Wikipedia Review. Wikipedia Review is not a public charity: it operates as the personal hobby of a handful of people, with no tax or other public benefits. As such, it has only the ordinary duty of the private person to avoid harming others. (The same can be said of Something Awful, although I frankly don't think that a comparison of WR and SA is fair, either.) This is not true of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is run by and for the benefit of the Wikimedia Foundation, a public charity. As such, the Foundation has an obligation to serve not only its own interests, but also the public interest; this is part and parcel of charitable status. And it is certainly not in the public interest for tax exemptions and the other benefits of charitable status to be used to coddle bullies.

Wikipedia is certainly free to be a haven for bullies; such is our cultural conviction of the merits of free speech. But it is not free to do so with tax-exempt dollars or pounds. And that is why the incident with Cumulus Clouds ought to be publicized.
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Michaeldsuarez
post Mon 28th November 2011, 4:11pm
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QUOTE(Newyorkbrad @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:12am) *

The situation described in this thread was discussed here on WR when it first came to light, in January 2009. (The link can be found in the general discussion from last night.) It appears to have involved a combination of cyberbullying, trolling, harassment, and game-playing on another website, which was imported into Wikipedia and was followed by a tragedy.

A main focus of the WR thread at the time was disagreement with the action of a Wikipedia administrator who had unnecessarily disclosed the suicide of one of the people involved. There was a strong consensus among the WR members commenting that this should not have been done.

Do I correctly understand that for potential use in connection with a challenge to a Wikimedia chapter's tax status, some 34 months later, the whole matter is now being deliberately re-publicized here?


Here are some links to previous threads concerning Cumulus Clouds:

http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=22617

http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=24231

Cumulus Clouds is also mentioned in one of ArbCom's leaked Emails:

http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=34501
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SB_Johnny
post Mon 28th November 2011, 4:32pm
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QUOTE(Newyorkbrad @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:12am) *

A main focus of the WR thread at the time was disagreement with the action of a Wikipedia administrator who had unnecessarily disclosed the suicide of one of the people involved. There was a strong consensus among the WR members commenting that this should not have been done.

Do I correctly understand that for potential use in connection with a challenge to a Wikimedia chapter's tax status, some 34 months later, the whole matter is now being deliberately re-publicized here?

Discussing it now and here as a "moral lesson" is at least somewhat different than bringing it up on a dramaboard in the middle of the drama-battle, as long as it's handled with respect and in good taste.

Thanks for removing that crap from the archive, Brad. I'm tempted to protect it at that version, tbh.
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dogbiscuit
post Mon 28th November 2011, 5:06pm
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QUOTE(Kelly Martin @ Mon 28th November 2011, 3:45pm) *

QUOTE(dogbiscuit @ Mon 28th November 2011, 9:20am) *

The fundamental issue is that it is clear that there is a bullying culture within Wikipedia. While some might hold their hands up in despair and claim that is the state of the world, the reality is that it does not have to be so.

There is an element of hypocrisy here, as WR clearly has a culture that also encourages such an approach - paradoxically, I think the best example is the way WR allows Ottava to subject himself to abuse and disdain rather than excluding him, even though he himself is something of a bully and is unable to moderate his own behaviour and show basic tolerance and decency for others. There is nothing unusual or novel in this: it is just the same in any school where many bullies are themselves the product of bullying. WR culture seems to be that we like our zoo exhibits, tolerated on some rationale of freedom of speech or local colour or something.

However, over many years, WMF have taken no real steps to reign in the community so it operates in a benign fashion. It is not a given that operating on the Internet means that management of a site must sink to the lowest common denominator and it has been long established that in taking responsibility for the proper operation of the site, the operators do not expose themselves to piercing the veil of liability. There is a strong culture of abuse, which is reinforced rather than fought by a core of admins who reinforce each others behaviour - unable to tolerate even rational criticism of their own behaviour.

The fact that Teh Community cannot tolerate rational debate on something as inconsequential to the project as the image filter, is a community act of bullying against the wider world - the culture of Wikipedia is "If you are not one of us, your views don't count and you must not be allowed to pollute our view of how this project should be run, we don't care about your culture, we have our own, fuck off."
I would also like to add a point to this. There is a significant difference between Wikipedia and Wikipedia Review. Wikipedia Review is not a public charity: it operates as the personal hobby of a handful of people, with no tax or other public benefits. As such, it has only the ordinary duty of the private person to avoid harming others. (The same can be said of Something Awful, although I frankly don't think that a comparison of WR and SA is fair, either.) This is not true of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is run by and for the benefit of the Wikimedia Foundation, a public charity. As such, the Foundation has an obligation to serve not only its own interests, but also the public interest; this is part and parcel of charitable status. And it is certainly not in the public interest for tax exemptions and the other benefits of charitable status to be used to coddle bullies.

Wikipedia is certainly free to be a haven for bullies; such is our cultural conviction of the merits of free speech. But it is not free to do so with tax-exempt dollars or pounds. And that is why the incident with Cumulus Clouds ought to be publicized.

A worthy clarification, and I only raised the issue of WR as it is important that there is no misunderstanding that I don't hold up WR as any model of appropriate behaviour itself, neither by its moderators nor its members, but as you say, WR is not putting itself forward as an organisation that is supposedly both producing the ultimate reference work (and yet resists attempts to suggest how it could improve this) and has a duty of care for its members, both as volunteer employees (and in UK law, organisations do have a duty to volunteers "working" on their behalf) and as a demonstration that they are able to support a healthy community for the long term benefit of the project.

It is straying off into other areas, but the way those outside the project are strongly discouraged from practical contribution, and the deliberate resistance to operate editorial restraint through mechanisms such as flagged revisions should be of serious concern to the Charities Commission; that WMF provide technical mechanisms to ensure that higher quality published information is resisted by the community and that this is tolerated shows the tail is wagging the dog.
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