This is long. Avert eyes if allergic to Abd Walls-o-Text.
QUOTE(Guido den Broeder @ Sun 10th July 2011, 5:52am)
A few months ago in The Netherlands, we had someone get his PhD in Theology at the ripe age of 89.
Some blossom late.
On the other hand, I was called professor when I was 19.
Some burn out early.
We are all both teacher and student for our entire lives, if we allow ourselves to be.
Bar-banter aside, the beginning of belief is the end of learning. I'm using "belief" here to mean that we accept stories and interpretations as "true," collapsing them with what we have actually perceived. The stories come to dominate our memory, and our immediate perception and perceptual analysis come to be heavily filtered, to exclude whatever conflicts with the story.
It is not that stories are "true" or "false." Story-telling is an essential human function. It is that, if believed as if they were "fact," they inherently cloud and confine our ability to learn, to discover new meaning and possibilities.
The "reality" of "Poetlister"? I certainly don't know. There is evidence for this or that, conclusive and otherwise. What I've been commenting on is what has been happening on meta and Wikiversity, where an "old story" is dominating discussion, where the story is so strong that even massive positive contributions, such as clearly existed on Wikisource and Wikiquote, are "colored" by a story of "manipulation."
Yes. Users "manipulate" communities. Shocking, I know! But we do it. If I create a new sock, I make harmless edits, normally positive contributions. That's my admission ticket to the theater, my actor's union dues. Long before I socked, it was suggested to me that if I did Recent Changes Patrol, it would improve my survivability on Wikipedia. So I did it. It was fun, by the way, and there is a certain sense of satisfaction. I was contributing real value, and the community appreciates that, and I was also
manipulating the community, altering how it perceived me. It worked. It only stopped working when I stopped paying the dues out of disgust, after the ArbComm bans.
At no point was my intention to harm the project, not with any of my activity, including post-ban activity. Yeah, I was angry at points, and the thought of massive vandalism occurred to me. But my basic position is that the so-called "community," i.e., the active core, does not own the project, and the WMF only owns the project as a trustee. The WP project is to compile the "sum of human knowledge," and its therefore owned by humanity, which owns the rights!
And of one thing I'm certain: Poetlister is human. He is one of us. Some would prefer that this not be true. But it is.
Whether or not he should edit the projects depends on the balance of benefit/damage to the true goals. Looking at the history of the Longfellow account, which is recited as if this were proof of how bad he is, I see the only damage as being a brief period of confusion as he ran for admin and was exposed. Given his history, it was an error for checkusers to allow him to work as the anonymous Longfellow, unless they had prohibited him from applying for advanced privileges without disclosing prior history. But this was not a grievous error, it was a simple oversight, it simply did not occur to them, I'd say, that he'd go for admin. But he'd contributed at the level where he'd be a shoo-in.
And that's the point. He's doing that, making positive contributions, on Wikiversity. Wow! He's fooling us!
Wikiversity is benefiting and will benefit. But this is a very different situation from before. He's doing it openly as Poetlister, he might as well have named the account The Beast. The problem that arose at Wikisource will not repeat at Wikiversity, unless he uses an entirely new sock, and he would, in doing this, risk a repeat of the past, even if he only does good work with the sock, doesn't votestack, etc.
The problem is not that Monsters can become admins. They can, and we should recognize that we cannot stop this. The problem is that admins are not supervised. One of the interesting things about Wikiversity, which isn't like the other wikis, is that it has mentored custodianship. (Or should I say, "had"? SB_Johnny, one of two active 'crats, is refusing to implement my custodianship per policy. My opinion is that this is his right, and if I get another mentor, I suspect that my present mentor, the 'crat Jtneill, would then push the button for the toolset. I haven't asked for a new mentor yet.)
There is a well-known case where SB Johnny mentored the probationary custodianship of an obvious sock, probably of WP user Hipocrite. He made sure that the editor (Salmon of Doubt) agreed to immediate desysop at mentor discretion. It always thought that was a brilliant move, it immediately stopped discussion, which could have been very disruptive, SoD did a little wikignoming, and then, realizing that the "powerz" were not that useful if you can't get away with crap, stopped. SBJ said, "I hope you don't mind if I ask for the keys, if you are going to be gone for a while," SoD knew s/he had no choice, and consented, and SBJ desysopped per the agreement. Done. Simple. Easy. No fuss.
I've written a Standard Stop Agreement,
and agreed to it in my Candidacy. That makes the assignment of tools to me, or to any probationary custodian who accepts it, completely safe, with only one exception: the toolset allows reading deleted material. If I were likely to disclose private information found in such, causing damage, then I shouldn't be allowed the access. (Such damage possibility is rare, and the relevant information was actually published for a time. it's not like checkuser data. That's why positive identification is not required for admins.)
If Poetlister would agree, formally, to avoid the use of socks on Wikiversity, unless the socks are openly disclosed, as a consideration for remaining or being unblocked, it would seem to address all the prior legitimate concerns. To address cross-wiki issues, some additional terms might be needed.
If Poetlister would agree to the Standard stop agreement, I'd support him being granted probationary custodianship, allowing Wikiversity to benefit from his considerable skills and experience, and he was, on Wikiquote, the checkuser Cato, and there have been no allegations that he misused private information, that account was de-opped and blocked in 2008 because of socking and votestacking, not checkuser abuse.
I did an analysis of the votestacking in the Talk page for the meta RfC. Yes, he commonly votestacked on Wikiquote. A link had been given as evidence of votestacking, it was to a search of coincidence of "Cato" and "Votes for deletion." Hundreds of hits. I looked at the first five or so. In every one, there had been multiple voting. But in no case did the result change. It's possible that further review would find some instance of it, but Cato/Poetlister/Yehudi was generally representing consensus, only taking positions, in what I saw, that consensus would support.
When I think of votestacking, of abusive socking, as I've seen it, it was always about conflict, about someone attempting to flip consensus by multiplying votes. The knee-jerk reaction against this is based on that being the common problem. If someone votestacks, it must be "bad" and therefore they are a "bad person." Definitely, it was confusing. We should remember, though, that wikitheory has decisions only being made by strength of arguments.
Suppose that someone was truly a multiple personality, the personalities don't directly know of the existence of the others. (I know that the existence of this is controversial, but just suppose....)
What would be the problem with each personality having an account?
It's only if they are identical in position that some level of confusion is created, but that confusion is also created by multiple people with the same POV. One of the VfDs I looked at, Poetlister was the nominator for deletion. Cato closed the discussion with a Merge, based on a suggestion by another user. Not deletion. That's not exactly different, but neither is it rigidly the same. In no case I saw did the votestacking do actual harm. It was irrelevant.
My point is not that the votestacking was legitimate. It was not. The point is that actual damage was not done.
The same is true for the later account Longfellow, and the only damage that resulted was from the flap over identity. That doesn't apply, in the least, to his work as Poetlister at Wikiversity, where the identity is known.
I'm seeing with Poetlister the same error that is repeated all over the WMF: a failure to treat users, once they are considered disruptive, with respect. Poetlister was never engaged in an agreement, a quid pro quo, with obligations voluntarily assumed by him. Rather, the community, like ArbComm, assumes that if it commands, obedience is automatic, and variation in behavior from what the community intended is defiance, and to be punished if noticed. Often the community has never actually determined a consensus on what it intends!
(And JzG has defied the ArbComm restrictions that he never agreed to, they didn't want to embarrass him by actually asking if he "got it." So what's happening? From the discussions, JzG was an insider, and was only sanctioned as a compromise, to toss a bone to the dogs, since what he'd done was so obviously contrary to policy. Surely he would understand this and avoid such actions, because they Look Bad. But, heh! We all know that he's Right and he's only trying to stop these POV-pushing assholes from destroying Wikipedia. This may easily have been the majority position, concealed by the fact that ArbComm does much of its real deliberation privately.)
(The Arbs in RfAr/Abd-William M. Connolley, we haven't seen leaked material on that yet, apparently intended different things by the MYOB ban, it was a compromise. I interpreted the explicit "leniency" as an important part, but it's likely that an ArbComm majority actually opposed that part, but accepted it to increase support. Certain admins, then, enforcing the decision, interpreted it without those parts, interpreted them away as insubstantial, thus blocking me for stuff I'd thought was fine, and when I objected, I was again dinged for "wikilawyering" and for "pushing the limits." Gee, I'd thought it was clear! I didn't push clear limits, and relied upon what I'd explicitly been permitted.... The enforcement by FuturePerfect was, again, a form of "do what I think ArbComm intended, never mind what it said.")
From what I've seen of Poetlister, I truly want him as an engaged and active participant at Wikiversity. He's brilliant, he's competent, and, yes, he's had problems and may still have them. So do I. So does everyone I know. How can we cooperate with each other in spite of these problems?
There is an ancient answer to the problem: banish the Bad People, or kill them. Modern society has generally recognized that this doesn't work, that societies need diversity to flourish, but that realization is quite uneven, still.
Poetlister might flame out at Wikiversity, it's not impossible. He might start socking there, and it would then be up to the community, if this is revealed, if this outweighed his positive contributions. From the history, though, I'm confident that if it is all added up, even if he is eventually banned from the Island of Banned Users, as some are now calling Wikiversity, the net result will be positive. That's what's being missed by all those meta users trying to tell Wikiversity what it can and cannot do.
Some get it, there is knowledgeable comment on meta that the RfC attempt to globally ban Poetlister is a very bad idea. I'd say it's important to nip this in the bud, this is an attempt to decide what is obviously local business, a user editing with only one account at only one project, based on a user "consensus" at meta. Not on a consensus of users of that wiki. If stewards fall for this, they have become servants of meta, not of the wikis.
Wikipedians are accustomed to community enforcement of bans. When a user is banned on Wikipedia, a substantial segment of the core, watching over Wikipedia, looks for ban evasion and deals with it, normally with RBI. The whole point of RBI is to avoid fuss. RBI works, and I've been making the point with my socking on Wikipedia that RBI is all that is needed, when sock edits aren't actually harmful in themselves.
But what will happen if the global ban passes on meta? How will it be enforced on Wikiversity? What will happen is that Poetlister will be locked, preventing him from using that account. There are some signs that email access won't be inhibited by the global lock, Thekohser apparently was able to send email on wikinews even though the account was locked. Since it has been alleged (on remarkably thin evidence) that Poetlister abused email on Wikisource, the lock may be useless for that. So a steward or global sysop may go to Wikiversity and block the account, unless they can get a local custodian to do it. (Ottava probably would have done it before he was desysopped.) Local blocking policy prohibits -- I made sure this was there -- wheel warring with a steward. Global sysops are prohibited from doing anything that could be controversial locally. There may then be a discussion, and it's unclear what would be decided. The principle of local autonomy is very important at Wikiversity, but Poetlister is about as unpopular as I can imagine without the person being a true vandal.
Suppose the local block is upheld, and the account is not unlocked. What will Poetlister do? Slink away in shame? If anyone has been paying attention, that's not likely to happen. He'll sock. If he openly discloses the account, it will be locked/blocked. So he won't openly disclose it.
The very goal, prevention of deceptive socking, will be defeated by the ban, combined with ordinary human nature and the obvious habits of Poetlister. The way to influence Poetlister is to open a door at the same time as others are closed. Open the door to Wikiversity, make him welcome there, put him to work, give him praise and credit for what he does, reinforce this, at the same time as doors to known abuse are made relatively uninviting and the two hands of relationship are linked, the good hand and the bad hand.
This will not absolutely prevent him from socking elsewhere. Global locking is useless as a tool to prevent socking, the main complaint about Poetlister. In the case of a user like him, a global lock creates
a motive to sock.
I've pointed out that if he is editing as Poetlister, it is easy for anyone to request global checkuser at meta, the Poetlister checkuser information will assist in identification, not make it more difficult. The lock will make that source of information disappear.
Consider Wikiversity as being like a penal colony. It isn't, but there is a certain utility to the concept. The Wikiversity account being open for use does not facilitate misbehavior at all, not for someone like Poetlister, who will be watched for a long time no matter what he does, he has dedicated enemies, like the Ottava.
By whom and how will the prohibition against Poetlister socks, as applied to Wikiversity, be enforced, as to identification, reversion, and blocking? If Poetlister edits are made by IP and self-identified and reverted, as might well happen, or if there are anonymous edits made to Wikiversity and reverted by someone suspecting they are Poetlister, will it be allowed for other users to revert them back in? Who will detect these socks and sock edits? Local wikis depend on local users, but will global users start watching Wikiversity more closely to enforce this ban, thus increasing outside interference? That attention is welcome -- and easy -- when it comes to vandalism and spam, but for positive contributions?
It's predictable what will happen, and the "ban" will either be useless and ineffective, or it won't be pretty, and it will do real damage. The global ban on Thekohser eventually worked, to a degree, precisely because it wasn't a global ban, it stopped with a global lock that was reversible locally, and there was no attempt to insist (from "above") that Thekohser remain blocked. This new effort is an attempt to truly ban, it's explicit that the idea is to prevent local wikis from bypassing it. "Helpful," eh?
If anyone thinks that global locking prevented Thekohser from socking, well, wow! He's laughing all the way to the bank.