Saturday, December 1, 2007

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?


Guy Chapman said...

Luna, the reason that those who have spoken out have given no answers is that there are no answers to give. Durova did not give any indication that a block was even being considered, so however often and however shrilly we are demanded to reveal who approved the block, there will never be any answer other than: nobody did.

Durova's main problem was the a priori assumption of bad faith. I am having some trouble seeing how an a priori assumption of bad faith against others actually helps improve that situation.

Luna Santin said...

A fair point, worth considering, but I have to disagree, it's not without cause at all. I think it's entirely understandable that several in the community are outraged, and pretty much unacceptable that so few people will even say whether they're ON the list. There's no hint of, "Durova was acting alone, that's now how things should go," nor of, "Durova had some support, but not everyone's," nor even any significant impression of, "A mistake was made, and it was made on this list. Oops."

For the most part, it's all being played cloak-and-daggers, with nobody even taking the slight responsibility of saying, "I'm a list member, I feel bad about this." Has this happened, before? Will it happen again? Do the list members care? Factoring in the incident with Krimpet, my impression of this list is not good. The list members aren't helping that any by going into hiding and keeping mum. One could easily get the impression that Durova's mistake, from the list perspective, was in getting caught.

Is that the wrong impression? I'd love to think so. But given the way this is being handled, it's no surprise some people are thinking that way.

Guy Chapman said...

Hmmm. I've said I'm on it, Jimbo has said, some others have said - but since the list is primarily for victims of stalking it's not a big surprise that not everybody is queueing up to say "me too". You wouldn't really expect them to.

And it's not being played cloak-and-dagger either. Every list member who has posted, has said that Durova screwed up royally and if we'd had even the slightest inclination she was thinking of doing that then we'd have advised her not to. It's a bit harsh to denounce people for not stopping something they had no idea was going to happen.

What we're not going to do is post the membership list (for obvious reasons), post the contents of some incredibly personal discussions that have gone on there, open the world of hurt to the prurient interest of people who were, in some cases, an active part of that hurt, or pretend that we've done anything wrong. Because we haven't.

It really is very simple: this is a group that grew up from an email trail from some people who had been harassed, and whose attempts to minimise or refactor that harassment had been aggressively reverted, with the effect of increasing the volume and profile of the harassment. This really is not a good thing for Wikipedia to have happening. You know about people like Judd Bagley; they will do *anything* to get back at Wikipedia for daring to stop them abuse the project for their own ends.

Luna Santin said...

Thank you, I sincerely appreciate your saying that.