Sunday, February 25, 2007

Unblock-en-l going private

The unblock-en-l mailing list, dedicated as a forum of appeals for user blocking on Wikipedia, is poised to go private, following concerns over past abuse and possible privacy issues. Archives access has long been limited to subscribed users only, but now subscription will no longer be a free deal. The reasoning, as I understand it:

1) Blocked users frequently subscribe to the list instead of sending their request. Limiting subscription should make the appropriate course of action for blocked users more clear.

Recently, some trolls have subscribed to the list, and send abusive mails to users in need of unblocking.

Users who send mail to the list frequently post potentially sensitive personal information.

Following off-list discussion about privatizing the list, which was later re-hashed on-list, the subscription rules for the list have changed -- all users requesting a subscription will now require moderator approval. Unsubscribed posters are moderated, but can still post to the list.

There was some debate as to the exact criteria for subscription. Some people proposed making it an admins-only list; I opposed that, and still do, pretty strongly. People need to be able to see and watch, if they so choose, to confirm that we're not abusing what small authority we might pretend to have. I'd prefer we let in any established editor who can tie their email to an existing account in good standing. Trust isn't a magical admins-only commodity.

At the end of that debate, the rule seemed to be "use your discretion," which works, but it's a bit more wiggle room than I was hoping for. So long as that is the rule, however, I expect to be fairly loose about who can get in. Brand new accounts, no, but anybody's who's been around for awhile should be fine. That's my story, and I'll be sticking to it.

So, that brings us to the next step of this process: purging the subscription list. Over the next week or so, all currently subscribed emails will be receiving a request to confirm their ownership of an established Wikipedia account. Those who don't reply by the deadline will be unsubscribed, pending further contact.

I'm uncomfortable about any possibility of creating a shadow government, but equally uncomfortable with the trolls we've been having problems with. The people who come into this mailing list are, more often than not, new and confused, and deserve a response from somebody who has at least a little credibility and familiarity with the community.

If anybody needs a subscription approved, let me know. ;)

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