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anon1234
An original essay I've been working on lately. I would appreciate constructive feedback or even a coauthor if someone is so inclined. I am also interested in knowing whether such an essay is of interest/value to the community or whether it is a waste of my time.

I am aware of the following faults in this rough draft:
  1. Its coverage of the topic is selective and not comprehensive.
  2. It doesn't cite any sources or provide any context in established mainstream research.
  3. It doesn't describe how to tell apart a partisan group from a group of editors who are in rough general agreement.
  4. It doesn't cite any specific instances of events on Wikipedia as examples to back up its claims.
  5. It doesn't yet cover how one can effectively respond when confronted with the coordinated opposition of a partisan group.
  6. It doesn't cover what happens when two opposing partisan groups run into each other on an article of mutual interest.

QUOTE

Cabals on Wikipedia
Prerequisites, Characteristics and Tactics of Effective Partisan Groups

February 24, 2007



1 Introduction

Cabals are a topic that rarely is seriously discussed on Wikipedia. Earnest discussions of cabals are mostly the provenance of permanently banned editors who often feel strongly they were unfairly targeted by a so called "cabal" of editors and admins colluding to protect their preferred presentation of information. Wikipedia itself has dedicated a page to a humorous list of alleged Wikipedia cabals each with their own unbelievable or nonsensical agendas and alliances. Unfortunately, the current choice between Wikipedia's mocking the mere suggestion that there may exist some cabals and the excessively paranoid and angry accusations of their supposed victims is a false dilemma. The truth of the matter is that at any given time, there are multiple cabals engaging in coordinated editing of Wikipedia, and that more than a few editors have experienced their tactics, their effectiveness and even the limits to their effectiveness first hand. Instead of discussing cabals, which is itself a very loaded term, it is more precise to think of these entities as coordinated groups of editors and administrators who share strong partisan views on a definable subject and work to defend their partisan interpretations via a number of relatively effective tactics.

2 Prerequisites for Partisan Group Formation

2.1 Topical Focus

Cabals are most likely to form around a set of articles whose subject matter is subjective enough to allow for a range of presentations capable of emphasizing or deemphasizing specific facts and interpretations which are deemed relevant to the cultural beliefs of a demographic represented in Wikipedia’s extensive population of contributors. Topics which often spur the formation of a partisan group of defenders are religions, nationalist movements and ethnic groups. Partisans can be further spurred to greater levels of mobilization if their shared topic of partisan dedication is perceived to be under a serious real world threat of some type.

A cabal is more likely to be concerned about articles that deal directly with the subjects of interest than an article which only mention a subject of interest in passing if all things are otherwise equal. A cabal is interested in controlling how their subject of interest is perceived by non-experts and thus are concerned about how their subjects of interest are presented on pages with high general interest traffic, even if the relevant mention is very brief. In addition to specific articles on subjects of interest to a cabal, the cabal is likely to exert its control over the articles of experts referenced by the main subject articles, buttressing the positive qualifications of the experts deemed favorable and emphasizing the criticism of those less favored.

2.2 Membership

To have a viable partisan group, one needs at least 8 or so distinct editors/admins of which at least half are everyday contributors. A group of 4 regulars and a few hanger-on’s should allow you to effective control the content of a dozen or so non-trivial articles. As the number of partisan members increases, the group can expand its preferred partisan interpretation to additional adjacent articles. These numbers assume that the editorial opposition to the preferred partisan interpretation is roughly equal in size but lacking any coordination or strategy.

3 Characteristics of Effective Partisan Groups

Effective partisan groups realize that they have the ability to largely determine how effective they will be in the pursuit of their objectives. The partisan group’s effectiveness is largely determined by the following:

3.1 Quick and Private Communications

A partisan group’s most valuable weapon in pursuing its self-interest is the ability of its members to support each other in times of need. The best type of support is both timely and appears spontaneous. To facilitate this most valuable weapon, the partisan group must establish an effective means of rapid and private communication, which in practice ends up being a combination of instant messaging and email.

While some cabals have established a centralized communication channel such as group email list or a forum, such centralization has its risks. Less risky and just as effective in most situations is the use of multiple ad hoc one-to-one connections between associate partisan group members. Such an arrangement ensures that if any particular member defects (or you mistakenly embrace a non-partisan) they don't end up with an incriminating official list of all partisan members or other equally difficult to explain evidence.

3.2 Surface Credibility

Often non-partisan outsiders will have to judge the credibility of a partisan editor in deciding how to respond to complains or disputes. To maximize influence with often critical unfamiliar outsiders, it is necessary to be instantly perceived as a credible and valuable editor. Even without explicit encouragement, it is likely that the members of your partisan group are inclined to award each other barnstars and other glowing awards. Just ensure that the incestuous origin of the awards isn’t blatantly obvious.

3.3 Formal Authority

Even with a lot of symbols of informal credibility, relying on outside non-partisan administrators to rule on 3RR violations or respond to AN/I complaints can be riskier than having a reliable partisan administrator respond. While one or two partisan administrators is better than none, it is best to have as many as possible to ensure that even if a partisan administrator becomes involved in a particular issue, there is always another uninvolved partisan administrator online who claim to be an “uninvolved third-party” and provide an "impartial" intervention.

4 Partisan Group Tactics

4.1 Countering Non-Partisans

Non-partisan editors will randomly arrive at articles to add content or rework its content, which can often minimize the preferred partisan interpretation of the subject.

A partisan editor watching the article should respond first by undoing the non-partisan’s undesirable edits, no matter how much time the non-partisan invested in the edits. The reverting partisan editor should then post a rebuff of the edits on the talk page in an authoritative voice that clearly communicates the partisan editor is a expert in the article’s subject matter and adheres closely to Wikipedia policy, of which the attempted contribution was in clear violation and thus unacceptable. The exact policy violation cited varies depending on the nature of the attempted contribution. Common policy violations which when cited can justify the complete removal of an attempted contribution are WP:RS, WP:V, or WP:UNDUE.

If the non-partisan does put up some objections, another partisan editor, whose participation can be coordinated via an unacknowledged private communication if necessary, can speak up in support of the first partisan’s objection or add his own objection to the non-partisan’s contribution. This gives the non-partisan an impression that he is not only up against an editor who is an “expert” in the subject matter but that he is also against an established consensus that apparently has board support.

Non-partisans, since they don’t feel strongly about the subject matter, are likely to move on at this point.

4.2 Countering Anti-Partisans

Anti-partisan editors, editors who strongly hold views that are in opposition to those of the resident partisan group, can pose a significant threat to the partisan group’s ability to maintain their preferred interpretation on their articles of concern.

Partisan members can distinguish anti-partisan editors from non-partisan editors by their differing investments of time and passion into the defense of their rebuffed contributions. Anti-partisan editors, because of their strong views on the subject matter, place a sufficiently high value on their rebuffed contributions to justify investing the time required to defend them.

Anti-partisans are significantly easier to deal with on an individual basis. Groups of anti-partisans should be avoided, in preference of situations where only one anti-partisan is actively editing and the individual lacks the ability to call anti-partisan allies for assistant.

4.2.1 Neutralizing Anti-Partisan Edits

There are a number of responses capable of neutralizing an anti-partisan’s efforts to edit an article and they should be employed in succession as necessary in order to provide a consistent wall of defense. As before in the initial non-partisan response strategies, partisan allies can be called upon as reinforcements when required.

Possible responses to early anti-partisan efforts:
  • Appeals to Wikipedia policies to reject the anti-partisan’s sources as unacceptable. (Same tactic previously described to counter non-partisan edits)
  • Argue for non-inclusion based on undue weight if the information can be portrayed as negative. (Same tactic previously described to counter non-partisan edits)
  • Question the anti-partisan’s expertise.
  • Aggressively revert all undesirable article contributions by the anti-partisan, the more effort invested by the anti-partisan in the rebuffed contributions the better. If necessary, request partisan reinforcements to tag-team revert the anti-partisan to force them into a violation the 3RR policy if they repeatedly insert their undesired contributions.
  • The anti-partisan should be told that their additions should be discussed on the talk page and agreed upon before addition. Discussions between the partisans and the anti-partisan should be easily dominated by the more numerous partisans, whether or not their arguments are sound, preventing any modification to the “established consensus” and thus never any agreement which allows the addition of the anti-partisan’s material to the article.
  • Respond to any accusations of unfair collusion by accusing the anti-partisan of violating WP:AGF.

4.2.2 Neutralizing Anti-Partisan Editors

Although these tactics are immediately effective, they are not enough to ensure long-term partisan control over the articles of interest. While one anti-partisan can be countered, eventually additional anti-partisans will arrive. Upon arrival the new anti-partisan will quickly recognize the experienced ally and together they will require more effort to effectively oppose. While minor spikes in anti-partisan numbers can be countered by temporary over-mobilization of partisans, eventually unchecked growth in the ranks of anti-partisans could overwhelm the resources of the partisans. This necessitates complimenting the initial strategy of neutralizing the edits of individual anti-partisans with a strategy that prevents the growth of active anti-partisan contributors. There are at least two strategies available to partisans that can limit the growth of active anti-partisan contributions:

The first strategy, the slow instigation of a downward spiral of provocations usually concluding with the permanent ban of the targeted anti-partisan, is preferred but it is not effective with anti-partisans who can not be provoked to anger.

The second strategy, which should be employed if the first preferred strategy fails, discourages the anti-partisan from making undesired contributions via a campaign of proportional retaliation that render his efforts not only ineffective but clearly counter-productive.

4.2.3 Provoking the Anti-Partisan into a Downward Spiral

This strategy is valuable because when it is effective, it keeps the population of anti-partisans in check thus reducing the risk that the anti-partisans will ever cohere into something that presents a serious challenge to the incumbent partisans. The escalation slowly instills in the anti-partisan strong feelings of injustice and powerlessness. As these feelings are instilled in the anti-partisan, the anti-partisan will respond less to the logic and merits of the particular arguments offered by the partisans instead displaying a frustration and eventual anger at his perception that the partisan are treating him in an unprincipled manner. The goal of the escalation is to reduce the anti-partisan to an easily sidelined “nuance” whose exchanges are characterized by an overt and irrational hostility (at least from the perspective of an outsider observer who hasn’t followed the sustained escalation strategy.)

Because of the risk of unannounced outsider intervention, it is important that the individual threads or statements of partisan opposition, when considered in the relative isolation of the limited immediate to which that outsiders have time to familiarize themselves with, appear to be relatively reasonable and of good faith.

The escalation must progress in tandem with the anti-partisan’s growing anger. The more anger the anti-partisan displays the more provocative should be the partisan's response. The escalation is necessary, because the most provocative partisan responses would seem out of place and unacceptable without the semi-justifying context of similar expressions of anger on the part of the anti-partisan. In other words, this escalation is possible because of the reduced credibility of the anti-partisan to outsider observers who only concern themselves with the immediacy, which is now colored by both the anti-partisans obvious anger and the more innocent seeming, at least by comparison, partisan responses. As the anger and frustration of the anti-partisan rises, the partisans should escalate their responses from simply rebuffing his contribution attempts with appeals to policy and community consensus that appear to be in good faith, to more provocative responses such as questioning the anti-partisan’s motives, outright ignoring their comments and accusing the anti-partisan of being disruptive. Existing group strategies to rebuff the anti-partisan contributions can be escalated to increase the anti-partisan’s feelings of powerlessness and persecution.

Examples of provocative responses:
  • Question the anti-partisan’s motives.
  • Accuse the anti-partisan of being disruptive.
  • Stop responding to the anti-partisan’s talk page comments while still reverting, using a tag-team if necessary, any attempts to contribute to the article.
  • Shift from reverting the anti-partisan’s undesirable attempts to contribute to aggressively reverting any and all attempts by the anti-partisan to contribute no matter how minor the changes.
The preferred conclusion of the strategy of escalation is the permanent banning of the targeted anti-partisan. This can occur as the result of one or more of the following factors: First, the anti-partisan is discredited within the general community via the partisans highlighting his displays of hostility that appears, to outsider observers at least, to be unjustified and the cause of the problems. The anti-partisan, faced with blatant unfairness concludes that he too can fight unfairly and resorts to easily detected violations of policy such as sockpuppetry.

4.2.3 Discouraging the Anti-Partisan by Raising the Stakes

When faced with an anti-partisan editor who resists responding to the provocations of the escalation strategy, it can be highly desirable to discourage the continued contributions of the anti-partisan via a strategy of retaliating. The partisans should shift from simply frustrating the anti-partisans attempts to contribute to making the anti-partisans efforts to contribute clearly counter-productive to the anti-partisan’s interests via proportional retaliation.

There are a few main strategies that can be employed to clearly demonstrate to the anti-partisan that to continue his efforts is counter-productive:
  • If the article contains any material favorable to the anti-partisan interpretation prior to the recent efforts by the anti-partisan to make additional contributions, begin arguing for the removal of the prior existing material to force the anti-partisan to shift from debating the merits of his rebuffed additional contribution to the merits of keeping the pre-existing material he was trying to build upon. This creates a sense in the anti-partisan that their efforts for change not only are ineffective but counter-productive.
  • Follow the anti-partisan’s contribution history looking for articles that may contain previously unnoticed interpretations of subjects that run counter to those prefer by the partisans. When such articles are identified, the partisans should dispatch a random member to address that article’s content whether or not the objectionable content was added by the anti-partisan. Reinforcement partisans can be bought in if necessary. The anti-partisan should be made to feel that because of his past actions, he has become toxic to the views he holds dear and that only his personal avoidance of such articles is the solution.
  • Retaliation against the anti-partisan can come in other forms. Partisans can dredge up mud against the anti-partisan in community discussions on AN/I. Partisans can also marshal coordinated opposition if the anti-partisan requires community approval to gain additional account privileges.

4.3 Countering Community Elites

A reputation for effectiveness and vindictiveness can further buttress a partisan group’s power by discouraging elite involvement in issues of partisan concern.

Knowledgeable non-partisans are preemptively discouraged from even appearing to oppose the partisan group for fear of retaliation.

Additionally, non-partisans familiar with the partisan group’s downward spiral of provocation for dealing with anti-partisans, realize that coming to the aid of an anti-partisan, who may end up being community banned if the partisans are successful, could result in a hit to their own reputations. The public denunciation of an editor as a “trouble maker” by the partisan group soon after recognizing a new editor as an anti-partisan can quickly become self-fulfilling as the partisan group mobilizes a campaign of escalation against the target.
Herschelkrustofsky
I'll make a few initial comments here. First, I think your use of the word "cabal" is overly broad. My personal opinion is that this appellation ought to be reserved for the partisan group(s) that operate with the protection and implicit endorsement of official Wikipediadom, in particular, the ArbCom. In the little essay on my Wikipedia user page, I use the somewhat jocular term "POV posses" to refer to other, perhaps less entrenched partisan groups.

In your list of topics that are subject to organized POV pushing, I would emphatically include topics related to economic theory. I have seen fiercer imposition of ideology there then in even the ethnic/religious articles.

Finally, in your catalogue of measures deployed against anti-partisan editors, you should include Wikistalking, which is among the most psychologically harmful tactics, because it creates such paranoia in the targeted editor. Once you have aroused the ire of a sufficiently corrupt group of partisans, any edit you make is grounds for harassment, even in articles that are light years away from the controversial ones.

Here is a useful resource: Rangerdude's catalogue of corrupt Wikipedia practices. Note that he prefers the term "Wiki-clique" to describe organized partisan groupings.
Somey
Well, I think it's brilliant!

Of course, that's not to say it couldn't use some (mostly minor) editorial corrections. This is a good example of why we need our own limited-functionality wiki or, as anon1234 has already suggested, a group blog of some sort. I've made a list of 'em, and I have the means to apply them to the original posting, but I've PM'ed Anon1234 so he can approve them first. (More civilized than the wiki way of doing things, IMO.) There are other alternatives, I suppose... I should probably make a list of those too!

I agree with Herschel that an essay like this shouldn't use the term "cabal" in an overly broad sense, but in this case that should just be a matter of starting in with use of the term "partisan group" earlier on, or even making that part of the title. Then again, both he and I are biased in that regard, I suspect...

And I'd be highly remiss if I didn't point out yet another strategy that can be used if the anti-partisan contributor has one or more accounts on other wikis - the angry offsite sock puppet lynch mob, in which the partisans go to the other wiki, create multiple accounts, and attack the anti-partisan there as well. That one just happens to be near and dear to my own heart, as many of you already know. smile.gif
Elara
Serious question.

Does the Wikiproject: Deletion meet your definition of a cabal?
Somey
QUOTE(Elara @ Sat 24th February 2007, 11:20pm) *
Does the Wikiproject: Deletion meet your definition of a cabal?

I won't pretend to speak for the author (anon1234), but personally I don't see how it could... He's really talking about real-world conflicts as played out between groups of users on WP, and deletionism isn't much of a real-world conflict - which is to say that people don't use WP articles as a means of promoting their deeply-held beliefs on deletionism vs. inclusionism or whatever. (At least not that I know of.)

IOW, it's more of a "meta-concept" - anyone who cares enough about deletionism vs. inclusionism to get into a serious group-based argument about it is already too inculcated in the whole overarching WP idea to risk losing their status over it... right? Even if people are incivil once in a while, they've probably built up too much community presence (if not respect) to be drawn into what anon1234 calls a "downward spiral" of conflict. Besides, you guys don't do things like bait inclusionists into WP:CIVIL violations by reverting their edits, do you? Hardly seems like the sort of thing you'd be into, even if that Moreschi guy is involved... smile.gif

One other thing. "Downward spiral" is too associated with depression and nervous breakdown. Maybe that's precisely what makes it an apt phrase, but it just seems like a better one might be "situational deterioration" or "deteriorating conflict trajectory," something like that...? Am I way off base here?
gomi
I tend to agree with Somey on this, specifically the deletionist v. inclusionist thing.

I see it this way: on the one hand, it seems silly for an encyclopedia to contain information about Nintendo games, Pokemon characters, my neighborhood dry cleaners, or the kids who threw spitballs at me in second grade.

On the other hand, I buy that "Wikipedia is not paper" or whatever they say. There isn't any real reason to exclude more-or-less anything from some data repository, as long as the readers understand that it is just a bit-bucket ... a dung-heap of information.

This is just it: Wikipedia can't decide whether it is "the repository of all human information" or "an encyclopedia". The former might asymptote toward exhaustive, but never becomes correct. The latter chooses to narrow its focus to what it can hope to state correctly, giving up on true breadth.

This is also the problem with, e.g. the Nature magazine comparison of Wikipedia and Britannica. Setting aside the speed-of-correction issue, Britannica can lay claim (I wager) to better average correctness across its scope of articles. Wikipedia is potentially more correct on non-controversial but moderate-traffic articles that are not subject to fanboyism. But Brittanica doesn't try to be correct about the 527 kinds of experimental creature in the "Lilo and Stitch" movies, and nor should they.

So one cabal says: "We should delete the articles about which we cannot be certain". The other says: "We are not paper, we should accept all information", in effect letting the reader sort out what is "knowledge", what is "fact" (but not important), and what is apocryphal, false, deliberately or accidentially misleading, or otherwise just plain wrong.

Both are misguided. Hence the "deletionist v. inclusionist" debate is beneath our dignity.
guy
People can hide genuine POV behind deletionism. "Let's delete all these articles we don't like under the pretext of being deletionists."
anon1234
QUOTE(guy @ Sun 25th February 2007, 10:00am) *

People can hide genuine POV behind deletionism. "Let's delete all these articles we don't like under the pretext of being deletionists."
That is how I would describe it as well. The whole WikiProject: Deletionism is too board to push any specific POV but it can easily be aggressively applied to a limited set of articles by a group of POV-pushers under the guise of being deletionist. I think that is fairly common practice.

Partisans tend to naturally feel that articles which are favorable to their agenda are more worthy of inclusion than those articles which undermine their agenda all things otherwise being equal. As such, I regularly see partisan groups block voting on XfDs. In such situations, it is important to ensure the partisans don't all show up at the XfD page at the same time otherwise it becomes obvious something is up.
Queeran
Replace "Downward Spiral" with "Provoking Escalation", maybe?

That is if you're serious about this.
anon1234
QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sat 24th February 2007, 3:48pm) *

I'll make a few initial comments here. First, I think your use of the word "cabal" is overly broad. My personal opinion is that this appellation ought to be reserved for the partisan group(s) that operate with the protection and implicit endorsement of official Wikipediadom, in particular, the ArbCom. In the little essay on my Wikipedia user page, I use the somewhat jocular term "POV posses" to refer to other, perhaps less entrenched partisan groups.
Ok.

QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sat 24th February 2007, 3:48pm) *
In your list of topics that are subject to organized POV pushing, I would emphatically include topics related to economic theory. I have seen fiercer imposition of ideology there then in even the ethnic/religious articles.
Can you suggest a succinct way of describing a generalization of your specific example? I would guess that there are many areas in academia where there are competing ideological interpretations. Some of these, at least those that have gained sufficient penetration into the mainstream, could be vulnerable to POV clique formation. Evolution and climate change are two others subject areas that come to mind.

QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sat 24th February 2007, 3:48pm) *
Finally, in your catalogue of measures deployed against anti-partisan editors, you should include Wikistalking, which is among the most psychologically harmful tactics, because it creates such paranoia in the targeted editor. Once you have aroused the ire of a sufficiently corrupt group of partisans, any edit you make is grounds for harassment, even in articles that are light years away from the controversial ones.
Can you describe how they get away with such obvious stalking? While I can write about all types of retaliation, I would prefer to focus on methods a POV clique is likely to get away with. The stalking you describe sounds like it would be obvious and thus easily complained about and stopped. (Also note that I did describe one of the last bullet points something similar to stalking.)

QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sat 24th February 2007, 3:48pm) *
Here is a useful resource: Rangerdude's catalogue of corrupt Wikipedia practices. Note that he prefers the term "Wiki-clique" to describe organized partisan groupings.
That is an amazing resource. I will integrate this into the next version of the essay.
Herschelkrustofsky
QUOTE(anon1234 @ Sun 25th February 2007, 2:57pm) *

QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sat 24th February 2007, 3:48pm) *
In your list of topics that are subject to organized POV pushing, I would emphatically include topics related to economic theory. I have seen fiercer imposition of ideology there then in even the ethnic/religious articles.
Can you suggest a succinct way of describing a generalization of your specific example? I would guess that there are many areas in academia where there are competing ideological interpretations. Some of these, at least those that have gained sufficient penetration into the mainstream, could be vulnerable to POV clique formation. Evolution and climate change are two others subject areas that come to mind.


How about "areas of academic debate, where organized political forces seek to shape the outcome"?


QUOTE(anon1234 @ Sun 25th February 2007, 2:57pm) *

QUOTE(Herschelkrustofsky @ Sat 24th February 2007, 3:48pm) *
Finally, in your catalogue of measures deployed against anti-partisan editors, you should include Wikistalking, which is among the most psychologically harmful tactics, because it creates such paranoia in the targeted editor. Once you have aroused the ire of a sufficiently corrupt group of partisans, any edit you make is grounds for harassment, even in articles that are light years away from the controversial ones.
Can you describe how they get away with such obvious stalking? While I can write about all types of retaliation, I would prefer to focus on methods a POV clique is likely to get away with. The stalking you describe sounds like it would be obvious and thus easily complained about and stopped. (Also note that I did describe one of the last bullet points something similar to stalking.)


They claim to be enforcing Wikipedia policy. The fact that they obviously are not, but are tolerated nonetheless by the ArbCom, is an indication of how corrupt the ArbCom is.
anon1234
QUOTE(Somey @ Sat 24th February 2007, 6:14pm) *

Well, I think it's brilliant!
Thanks! It is my hope that this first version pales on comparison to the final product.

QUOTE(Somey @ Sat 24th February 2007, 6:14pm) *
Of course, that's not to say it couldn't use some (mostly minor) editorial corrections. This is a good example of why we need our own limited-functionality wiki or, as anon1234 has already suggested, a group blog of some sort. I've made a list of 'em, and I have the means to apply them to the original posting, but I've PM'ed Anon1234 so he can approve them first. (More civilized than the wiki way of doing things, IMO.) There are other alternatives, I suppose... I should probably make a list of those too!
Your corrections were appreciated. Thanks!!

QUOTE(Somey @ Sat 24th February 2007, 6:14pm) *
I agree with Herschel that an essay like this shouldn't use the term "cabal" in an overly broad sense, but in this case that should just be a matter of starting in with use of the term "partisan group" earlier on, or even making that part of the title. Then again, both he and I are biased in that regard, I suspect...
I recognize now Herschel's distinction between a "cabal" and a "clique." For the most part, I am describing "cliques" and it would improve future versions of the essay if I consistently employed this term. The current draft's heavy reliance on the vague term "group" is boorish.

QUOTE(Somey @ Sat 24th February 2007, 6:14pm) *
And I'd be highly remiss if I didn't point out yet another strategy that can be used if the anti-partisan contributor has one or more accounts on other wikis - the angry offsite sock puppet lynch mob, in which the partisans go to the other wiki, create multiple accounts, and attack the anti-partisan there as well. That one just happens to be near and dear to my own heart, as many of you already know. smile.gif
It would be nice to generalize this response strategy a bit more. It appears to be a strategy of retaliation via stalking/harrassment taken off-wiki. While you mention sockpuppets, it likely doesn't require them in order to execute if enough partisans are available.

What is the desired result of such an attack? The attempt to sustaining a campaign of harassment against the target in order to inflict psychological damage? Or does it just cost the target a lot of their time and effort in order to repulse the attack? How do they act like a "lynch mob" as there should be some method on that other wiki of protecting against blatant attacks, especially from new accounts/sockpuppets that have not built up a reputation?
Somey
Y'know, I probably shouldn't have even mentioned this!

QUOTE(anon1234 @ Mon 26th February 2007, 2:18pm) *
It would be nice to generalize this response strategy a bit more. It appears to be a strategy of retaliation via stalking/harrassment taken off-wiki. While you mention sockpuppets, it likely doesn't require them in order to execute if enough partisans are available.

"Sock puppets" may not be the right term... Presumably if you're going to attack someone you've identified on another wiki, you're not going to create accounts with the same names that you're using on WP. That would just be silly.

QUOTE
What is the desired result of such an attack? The attempt to sustaining a campaign of harassment against the target in order to inflict psychological damage? Or does it just cost the target a lot of their time and effort in order to repulse the attack? How do they act like a "lynch mob" as there should be some method on that other wiki of protecting against blatant attacks, especially from new accounts/sockpuppets that have not built up a reputation?

Well... The main objective would be to ramp up the general level of hostility in order to further goad the victim into making personal attacks and accusations that would then be dismissed as "paranoid" and "delusional." And of course, there definitely should be a method on the other wiki of stopping blatant personal attacks, but it only takes one or two "crossover admins" - quite common on large Wikia sites such as Uncyclopedia, Wookiepedia, and Memory Alpha - to arrange things so that the other admins look the other way for a while, and retribution against the lynch-mob accounts (if any) is delayed long enough for the victim to get sufficiently pissed off.

I doubt such a tactic would ever be used in some sort of high-level ideological conflict, though. It's more for people who argue about video game consoles, obscure plot points in Star Wars, things like that - not that there aren't plenty of people arguing bitterly over that stuff too, of course.

In my case, it was more personal - Dave Gerard had spread the rumour around that I was Lir, and some of the WP'ers picked up on it, set up some dummy accounts on Uncyclopedia, and made up a bunch of user pages (and at least one mainspace article) that suggested that I and several other Uncyclopedians - including some who'd produced feature-quality material - were all him (Lir, that is, not Dave). But of course, Lir had already been long-banned from WP at that point, so it was really just a form of juvenile personal payback, rather than an effort to pursue an ideological or other content-specific dispute. And to be honest, the actual "attacks" were nothing compared to the fact that Dave had managed to co-opt the other Uncyclopedia admins into not doing anything about them. That was the thing that really got me angry, far more than anything else... In fact, the primary attack account never was banned, and remains unbanned to this day.

Still, things are much better in Uncyclopedia-land now! I don't contribute much anymore, though. smile.gif
anon1234
While I am no fan of the paranormal, they have put together a great guide to how deal with Wikipedia abuse, which you can read here. It contains a lot of the same material that was contained in my earlier "Cabals on Wikipedia" essay. Here are some of the best excerpts:

QUOTE
Techniques Used by Editors to Get Their Way

The following are observations based on experiences I had while trying to make the EVP entry represent EVP in a reasonable way and may not be typical of your experiences. I will admit that I can be aggressive when dealing with people who refuse to negotiate in good faith.

The main method of getting ones way in editing discussions are:
  • If you outnumber the people with an opposing view, you do not have to listen to their argument. If you do have to listen, only respond to the last point made in a post. That way, the opposing person will have to repeat the point over and over again.
  • Be more stubborn than the opposition. Say that you are working for a consensus, even an informed consensus but never compromise.
  • Accuse the opposition of doing what you are doing. In this case, I suggested that it might be necessary to ask other EVP people to join in, and the skeptical opposition behaved in a most indignant fashion. Later, they posted a banner asking other skeptical editors to join in and then accused the "EVP people" of mounting an organized campaign to control content. In fact, they had run me off at the time and there was only one other person who seemed a little pro EVP. I later discovered that there was actually a Wikipedia sponsored Skeptics club and its members were coaching one another on how to deal with the opposition.
  • Threaten your opposition. Tell them that you are going to take them to arbitration, or even more daring, goad them into an argument and then call in a mediator to punish the opposition.
  • Eliminate your opposition by saying they have a conflict of interest. If you examine the credentials of the opposition--especially if they are using their real name--you are certain to find some level of conflict of interest. For instance, any research scientist can be disqualified from speaking about his or her field of interest because doing so may enhance the chances of receiving a research grant.

There are others, but these should illustrate how combative it can become when trying to modify the content of a controversial subject.

Safely using Wikipedia

The majority of articles in Wikipedia seem to be well compose, and I image they are reasonably correct. As I said before, the problem seems to come with fringe subjects and especially with those dealing with survival. Even so, I would make the following recommendations to anyone planning to use Wikipedia:

Consider Wikipedia as a study guide for all subjects. The rules of Wikipedia require that comments be supported by references. So, the references are presumably the first source, and should always be used if available.

Check on the reference before accepting anything said in Wikipedia. Not all editors are trained to know what a satisfactory reference is, and too often, I have found that the person who wrote the referenced source is simply not qualified to speak on the subject or the person was not actually addressing the subject.

It is common for editors to say something and then try to find a reference to support the statement, so it is easy to see how they might cite a reasonable sounding source that is not available for examination, such as a hard to mind text book. If you cannot find the reference, it is best to discard the statement.

Many schools do not allow students to use Wikipedia without at least one other reference. From Vicki, and AA-EVP member and university instructor, "Those of us who teach at colleges and universities in the U.S. are strongly urged not to accept any references from Wikipedia in research papers from our students since the entries can and are regularly being edited by people with no degree or expertise in the area they are editing." As a precaution, we recommend that parents take time to explain how Wikipedia is written and how important it is to have good sources of information.

What Should be done to Counter Biased reporting in Wikipedia?

Like it or not, Wikipedia has an entry for EVP. It is now necessary for us to keep a close eye on the entry to make sure changes are not added that bias the entry even more. Since it casts doubt on the validity of EVP with unchallenged references, and since they will not allow us to make changes, the only thing left to us is to challenge those references outside of Wikipedia.

It is hard to offer cautions about Wikipedia without seeming to tear down an important tool for public education, but until Wikipedia has made changes to improve the subject matter qualifications of the editors, it simply cannot be trusted as a reliable source of information. If and when such changes are made, we believe that Wikipedia should be promoted as a valuable tool for civilization building. Until then, the online encyclopedia can only be considered a source of misinformation.

There are a few things you can do to help in this:

1. If you have a web site, place the “Concerns with Wikipedia” logo on a page that the public will find. It has a link to this web page. We have no problem with you copying this essay to your web page, but one of the objectives is to have as many other web sites linked to this page as possible. A web site’s ranking in search engines is at least partially based on how many other pages are linked to it.

2. Let us know about other Wikipedia entries that you think are biased with an email to us, and we will begin to add the titles of those pages to the bottom of this web page. In that way, search engines will be more apt to offer this page somewhere close to the Wikipedia entry.

3. If you have a good understanding of one subject or another in this field, and the time and skill, register as a Wikipedia editor and learn how to make changes. If you do this, be sure to use your real name as a screen name. Show the other editors and the public that you have the courage of your convictions. And most importantly, make sure you can reference your comments and that they are fact-based.

If you wonder why we ask that you use your real name, consider this passage from the novel, The Lord of the Flies. See www.essaydepot.com/essayme/2059/index.php. From that essay about the book, "These masks also let the boys hide from their conscience we can see this when we are informed, 'The mask was a thing on it’s own, behind which Jack hid, liberated from shame and self-consciousness.'”

Not all editors are guilty of this, but it is clear that many do not feel bound by social norms, and we feel this is because they are hiding behind screen names. Without the usual social pressures to behave toward one another in a civil way, other than the fear of being banned, some editors are rude, aggressive and do not behave as if they care about issues of right or wrong--only winning a point or getting his or her viewpoint expressed over that of the perceived opposition. Please do not become one of them.

4. Tell everyone you can about this. We are not trying to be obstructionists. All we want is for the public to know the evidence that is based on existing research.
Jonny Cache
Just scanning the initial essay, there seems to be something about it that almost entirely misses the point of what a cabal really is.

For one thing, the term partisan group suggests something like a political party. But a party of that sort is usually very open about its point of view, frequently making its interest and its principles explicit in the form of a public platform.

But cabals are not like that. The elements of secrecy and subterfuge are part and parcel of their character. As far as their agendas go, they typically have exoteric doctrines that are disseminated for the consumption of the gullible masses, while their esoteric doctrines and their real interpretations remain closely guarded secrets.

A party with an express platform and an explicit POV, however much dissemblage about such things will naturally occur in all human enterprises, can at least be held accountable to its published positions. But the kind of cabal that controls Wikipedia is ostensibly dedicated to the wholly untenable fantasy of a neutral point of view, and so it is forced to disguise the nature of its bias, to keep pretending that it's invisible and transparent, or that it reflects the only possible view.

For another thing, the picture that you paint of a large number of diverse, topic-oriented partisan groups is not at all the kind of cabal that we see in Wikipedia. The Wikipedian Cabal (WC) is a totalitarian interest group, a single cohort that imposes its POV across the full spectrum of subject matter areas covered, and I do mean covered, by Wikipedia.

Indeed, though the POV of the WC is bound to distort the content of what it allows to be published in Wikipedia, in large part the content of its exoterica is not even the most important thing — what matters above all is selectively cultivating a membership that acts in a particular way, that jumps when the WC says "Jump!"

Jonny cool.gif
thekohser
QUOTE(Somey @ Sat 24th February 2007, 2:14pm) *

Well, I think it's brilliant!

Of course, that's not to say it couldn't use some (mostly minor) editorial corrections. This is a good example of why we need our own limited-functionality wiki or, as anon1234 has already suggested, a group blog of some sort...


Not to toot my own domain's horn, but this type of essay could be composed as a community in Centiare.com's "Main space". It would be more than welcome. And, nobody who has edited Wikipedia would have any trouble at all with our software, since it's 99% the same as theirs. Essentially, a page could be created with a title like "Wikipedia Review Wiki", which would serve as the home-base menu, so to speak. And then infinite numbers of sub-pages could be created, such as "Wikipedia Review Wiki/Essay on Cabals on Wikipedia" or "Wikipedia Review Wiki/Banned from Wikipedia Club".

Possible drawbacks of using Centiare (at least as far as this community might be concerned) -- we require users to register before editing, and they must do so with a valid, non-throwaway e-mail address (i.e., not Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or the like). However, I'm sure that if Wikipedia Review really wanted to use Centiare space, the other co-developer of Centiare and I could even briefly allow/assist selected WR editors to come aboard with anonymous, throwaway e-mails for verification. Additionally, any registered member of Centiare could edit in this space, so it's not like you'd have complete control over access rights. (But with less than 200 members so far (and only about 15% of them really "active"), I'm doubtful any Wikipedia Reviewer would have a really big "issue" with unwelcome guest editing in the Centiare space.)

I won't press it any further (I don't want to spam my favorite message board), but the offer definitely stands.

Greg
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