Thursday, December 27, 2007

#wikimedia-ops going private

For those who aren't familiar with Wikimedia IRC on freenode, #wikimedia-ops is described in meta-wiki's channel listings as a place to "Contact Wikimedia channel operators for assistance." In practice, this generally means people will come and ask for help keeping people out of a channel, or help getting people into a channel -- setting and releasing channel bans is the name of the game. Other business includes sporadic discussion of troublesome users or policy matters which affect multiple channels. Each channel is operated independently, for the most part; but there are still cross-cutting concerns.

Many channel operators from various Wikimedia channels idle in #wikimedia-ops; they're set apart from other users by having a voice (+v). Recently, I saw a "regular" user asked to leave the channel because they had no "current business" being in there. I was not aware of such a policy existing, and argued that anything to that effect would be a flawed idea. I was told by several people that the channel needs to be "private" because we don't want trolls listening in on our discussions of how to deal with them; this does seem to be a legitimate concern, but I asked why anyone would consider having private discussion in a public channel anyone can join at any time. I was told that the channel is private, and that people are allowed to join only so that they can appeal channel bans and such. When I asked whose idea this was, I got a bunch of circular logic.

As with the blanket prohibition on public logging, it seems that it was always "someone else's idea" all along. Wonderful how people can make decisions without any risk of accountability, this way.

Now, this bothers me: the assumption appears to be that non-ops are bothersome twits who will only get in the way, and who have no business caring -- much less seeing -- how these channels are run. Governance issues are important to everyone in a channel or group of channels; it strikes me as malevolent or corrupt to suggest that regular users have no right to participate or opine in such matters.

Certainly there is some need for privacy, but that need does not include every discussion, every decision, by any means. As I said in the discussion on IRC, "I'd rather we not take care of private affairs in the public channel, nor public affairs in a private one."


Update 2007-12-29: From the #wikimedia-ops topic, today: "seanw would prefer it if people were not removed from this channel for idling..." Seems the group contact(s) have spoken on the issue.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Free hugs; or, not

Now that I'm done with finals week, it's time for a mad blitz of shopping before Christmas rolls around. Getting so many thoughtful gifts on short notice is no joke!

One of my numerous stops included the Sunvalley Mall. While walking through the common area, I saw a cheerful-looking young woman holding a simple sign stenciled with, "FREE HUGS." Didn't see anybody take her up on the offer, but I could see I wasn't the only person looking on with a smile. It was cute; it was an earnest thing: a good thing.

Lo and behold, the next time I walked past she was getting a stern lecture from mall security. Couldn't get close enough to hear what was said, but she looked rather nonplussed, and immediately folded her sign before leaving the premises in a hurry. Was she asked to leave? Can't say that reflects well upon mall staff, in my eyes; what's the harm in spreading a little cheer?

Wherever you are, sign girl, I salute you.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Clothes make the man

Considering how often I do this in a robe or something, it feels intensely odd to edit Wikipedia while wearing a suit and tie...

Now there's a thought

I realized something, while keeping tabs on the Durova and Jehochman (and Giano?) arbitration case: this is, I believe, the first time I've been consciously glad of both Wikitruth and Wikipedia Review. Not to say I've ever had any strong opinion on them – a few episodes aside, I've usually been more apathetic, I think, wondering why some people on both sides are so caught up and overheated in an apparently pointless battle for whatever; figuring it's only natural that a site as large and prominent as Wikipedia will get (and sometimes deserve) a lot of criticism; wishing these and similar sites spent less time focusing on drama, and more on providing some sort of neutral community oversight. So much of the effort is targeted at specific people, it's bewildering. Perhaps if I'd been more involved in past incidents, I'd feel differently.

Of course I periodically go and check if I'm mentioned. I'd appreciate some useful, evenhanded feedback, to be honest. Far too rare, on and off the wiki.

But getting back to the point I started on, if you're curious to see alleged copies of the infamous email, or lists of people who might have been on the wpCyberstalking mailing list, you're just not going to find them on Wikipedia. Readers can and should judge the sources and messengers on their own.

One other lesson, the outing of this list has helped me to better understand some of the objections I've seen to the #wikipedia-en-admins channel on freenode. Old problems aside, there are key differences: in the case of #-admins, the community at large is aware of the forum's long existence, aware of its membership and of the people in charge, and there are fairly clear qualifications to get in. Accountability is a concern, but no longer as rampant as it used to be, thanks to some community oversight. I certainly have never hidden the fact of my participation in the channel. In the case of this wpCyberstalking list, however, none of those seem to hold even remotely true. The community was not aware of chilling, highly controversial administrative decisions being made behind closed doors. The community had no hope of input, and no way of holding the people making those decisions accountable. The community was not – and still is not – allowed to know who was making these decisions.

The few who have come forward to identify themselves as (sometimes former) list subscribers have, as far as I can tell, denied any list-side participation in or responsibility for these recent events. Aside from Durova's candor, the only people giving straight answers have no answers. What does that say for the rest of them?