Talk:Wikimedia Ethics/Participants and objectives

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Genesis of this Project

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In the wake of Majorly's uncongeniality on Meta-Wiki, WAS 4.250 initiated this learning project on Wikiversity.

See also:

The issues that WAS and I were discussing on Meta-Wiki trace back to an earlier dialogue on the English Wikipedia.

Moulton 21:21, 9 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Define "Management"

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When we discuss "The Management" of the English Wikipedia, about whom exactly are we talking? In my mind, the true management is the executive staff and Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation.

I ran a Board campaign that I felt pounded into the heads of voters that the Wikimedia Foundation needs a new adherence to excellence, accuracy, and ethics in online media. I was voted into 15th place out of fifteen candidates. Therefore, I am not hopeful that anything lasting or truly productive is going to materialize out of this Wikiversity project. Good luck and have fun, though — and I'm available for comment from the School of Hard Knocks. — Thekohser 14:33, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

In this case, Greg, Ethical Guidelines imply self-management, in view of an individual participant's personal commitment to evolve to best ethical practices, grounded in the awareness that sustainable best practices are (by definition) the optimal practice of the day. In learning from our failures, we process our dismay and disappointment, dispel our acedia and spiritual torpor, recover from the Dantean Hell of abandoned hopes, soberly deconstruct and analyze what went wrong, and devise better practices, going forward. —Moulton 16:02, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I begin to understand. I think one element of such self-managed duty is to not tolerate egregious violations of ethics when performed by others. I think there's a broad-based failure in that regard on Wikipedia. -- Thekohser 16:34, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Part of the challenge here, Greg, is to demonstrate an effective ethical response to unethical conduct by others. —Moulton 18:48, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

There are real and significant legal and financial obstacles in the path of the executive staff and Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation providing the kind of management you would like, Greg. It takes more than wishes (if wishes were horses ...). The Foundation every year has more assets, accountability and professionalism. Right now they haven't even completed staffing up to a decent enough level to pursue all the financial opportunities that are available. With greater staff levels and more funding, partnerships with academia to vet content becomes possible. Paying professional dispute resolution people becomes possible. But one thing at a time. We are at the crawling stage, learning to walk, and you keep saying we need to run. Well, yes. But first things first. WAS 4.250 17:55, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Danny Wool (and to a lesser extent, Kelly Martin) have been addressing ethical issues as they apply to the WMF Board and other high-level players who work closely with the Board and the WMF Office. Perhaps either or both of them would be inclined to weigh in on the parts of this project that address ethical issues affecting people at the top of the WMF power structure. —Moulton 18:48, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
As near as I can tell, they have significant ethical issues of their own. None the less, input from anybody and everybody is a good thing at this early stage. But to be useful it must be input that leads us to the identification of ethical practises that should be followed and can be objectively measured with available resources and can be improved by a learning resource at Wikiversity. WAS 4.250 18:55, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Both Kelly Martin and Danny Wool have unique perspectives on these issues. Simply because one doesn't agree with the positions that they take doesn't mean that these positions should not be considered, as they might very well be valid.
Before we start talking about the identification of ethical practices that should be followed and can be objectively measured with available resources and can be improved by a learning resource at Wikiversity, the first question that has to answered is this: Can the current situation be salvaged? Currently, I personally think that without a complete revamping of all WP and WMF policies, the situation is unsalvageable. The first step would be abolishing Arb-Com and using some of the money ear-marked for technical upgrades (which wasn't spent in the last budget) on hiring professional arbitration experts to install a solid policy for handling these sorts of issues. It also might be time to consider building a hierarchy of editors, with a titled "editor in chief", based on expertise and real-life qualifications.
Without this kind of discussion, I fail to see what kind of progress can be made.
The Fieryangel 22:51, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Fieryangel, that's outside the scope of this project. Please don't make it a practice of making comments like that on these project pages. This is not Wikipedia Review. Don't treat it as if it were. Thank you. WAS 4.250 23:11, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I feel that the above comment by WAS 4.250 is indicative of a "bad start" here. I personally felt that the assessment by The Fieryangel was perfectly germane to this project. So, that either means that TFA and Thekohser are in the wrong place, or that WAS 4.250 has been unnecessarily exclusionary in forging "his" vision of this project. I'm honestly tempted to help out here, because my personal experience with WAS 4.250 is that he can be very persuasive and rational in making an argument, even one with which I may strongly disagree. But if this is the sort of "tone" that TFA and I can look forward to, my next step may be to withdraw from the process. I sincerely saw nothing out of line or out of place in TFA's comment above. -- Thekohser 18:56, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I have no idea if systemic dysfunctionality and corruption can be reversed in any given case. Ethics is the best medicine I know of to treat the disease of systemic corruption. But just as in conventional medicine, not every sick patient can be cured. What we are doing here is laying the foundation for providing the best known treatment. It it works, we can celebrate the cure. If it fails we can learn from our failure. In either event, there will be an interesting story to tell after all is said and sung. Whether it will be a Greek Tragedy ending in a Dithyramb, a Mel Brooks Comedy ending in a belly laugh, or yet another reprise of a Dilbert and Sullivan Comic Opera is not for me to say. Que Sera, Sera. —Moulton 00:16, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

WAS, I realize that this is not the WR, but could you please then explain to me how one is to seek to craft recommendations for promoting sustainable ethical practices in the English Wikipedia, Wikinews, and other Wikimedia projects which could benefit from a sober examination of sound ethical principles if one does not examine the ethical practices currently in place? In order to examine the practices currently in place, how does one do this if one does not get outside of the system in place and examine how it works? And isn't one possible outcome of such an examination the idea that the system does not and cannot work?

Obviously, the system is currently dysfunctional. My own hypothesis is that the core principals are sound, but they are not applied properly (ie most editors do not understand them/tl-dr/etc and they are routinely overridden by other practices such as allowing longterm contributors to violate such central principles as NPA and COI). Part of creating a better ethical environment might include insuring that people are aware of these core principles before they are allowed to edit, using a system similar to that used by Muse-net, which grants posting privileges after a short examination. Another remedy might include applying core principals to all editors, regardless of seniority or rank.

I fail to see how one might be able to examine current ethical processes and practices without examining these core issues and how they are used/disused. If I may go further, if such an examination is required to accept all of the current institutions and principles currently active on English Wikipedia as inviolable dogma, I fail to see what good this project can do. Would you be so kind as to explain your own personal view of the objectives of this project then? If they are "we need to create better education resources for WP editors", then perhaps you need to just do that. If they are "we need to make WP less like a game and more like an encyclopedia", perhaps an examination of why WP is like a game is the first step in that process? The Fieryangel 08:32, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I imagine WAS will be along shortly, but let me just say that this project will not dictate structural changes such as abolishing Arb-Com or mandating the hiring of conflict resolution professionals. Our project mission is to facilitate the education of those who wish to learn best ethical practices, so as to empower them to introduce the kind of policy and systemic changes that would rescue the English Wikipedia from the kind of failure that predictably occurs in an organization that fails to learn and adopt sustainable ethical business practices. —Moulton 10:43, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Fieryangel, look at this from the point of view of what this project's mission is. To create a learning resource' That's the mission. From there we can see that we do indeed need to examine what is wrong with Wikipedia in order to identify what we should provide leaning materials on concerning ethics. We will aim our learning resources at things that seem to need the most attention. But well note, that to be effective the Wikipedia participants need to believe that this material is useful, so it would do no good to create a learning resource no one will use. So it becomes a question of what is wrong followed by a question of what part of that do they agree is wrong followed by what subset of that can we usefully provide a learning resource for. Follow? WAS 4.250 14:17, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
If En:WP worked, this project wouldn't be necessary. It doesn't work.

The main question to answer here is this: why doesn't it work?

My hypothesis is this: the basic reasoning behind WP is flawed, but in the absolute, it should work. The problem is that it isn't applied.

If every statement on WP were REQUIRED to have a neutral, third-party source, and if every editor were treated as absolute equals, regardless of seniority or rank, then the system should work. I might not agree with the results of this process in the absolute, but the process itself would be acceptable.

One cannot judge what is wrong without looking outside of the sytem itself. Therefore, in the first step, ALL WP policy needs to be drawn into question. What is NPOV? What is NOR? What is civility? All of these concepts have been corrupted by the system. There needs to be a point zero at what criticism can start. Are you brave enough to allow that to happen? The Fieryangel 21:33, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

This does help clarify matters for me somewhat, as I had forgotten that we are at "Wikiversity" not just because it is a somewhat backwater project where we won't catch so much heat, but because there is a unique and specific mission here that we are instructed to uphold. Thus, I semi-retract my indented comment above, and merely ask that WAS 4.250 take more time to gently explain rationales like this, rather than admonishing with comments like "this isn't Wikipedia Review". I probably should have read the entire chain first. Apologies.
That being said, perhaps it is within the scope of creating a learning resource to establish examples of organizations that have been poorly managed when judicial systems are constructed out of popular or oligarchical "votes" from internal members, versus systems where outside "experts" are somehow introduced into that system. We might then conclude that the ArbCom is a poor construction, but leave it at that, without recommending for its abolishment. Similarly, we might examine empirical examples of reference resources that have been constructed without professional editorial oversight, versus those that have, and draw conclusions about the relative worth of the former versus the latter. -- Thekohser 19:05, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Very interesting. We have a "Library" subsection under "Learning Resources" on the main page of the project. Perhaps you would like to put together some material that would be appropriate there under the category of examples of successful and unsuccessful management of similar enterprises? WAS 4.250 19:16, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Last Tuesday, at the MIT Media Lab, I was sitting in on a meeting with a prospective sponsor whose business is management consulting to major corporations. One of the speakers showed a slide that he called the "Alignment Model." The diagram was in the form of a circle, with elements such as organizational values, objectives, plans, strategies, tactics and results on one side, and feelings, methods, and practices on the other. In terms of methods and practices, I asked him about the balance between pragmatics (do what needs to be done to get results, the ends justify the means) and ethical best practices. The speaker responded at some length about the challenge of nudging corporate managers from myopic pragmatism focusing on short-term results (think of Enron as the worst case example) to sustainable best ethical practices. He said that when this issue comes up in his workshops with corporate managers, a question along these lines can transform a 30-minute meeting into an all-day seminar on corporate ethics. I asked him if we could dialogue further on this important subject by E-Mail, as he has a lot more professional experience than me when it comes to injecting ethical reasoning into the day-to-day decisions of those exercising the power to make organization decisions. —Moulton 20:31, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply


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The italicized words -- "respectable level of accuracy, excellence, and ethics". Until you define them, you can't do too much more. DutchHarbor 21:50, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Take a look at our to do list. We will have an operational definition in that we will provide learning resources aimed at helping with what people will agree are objectively identifiable shortcomings in best ethical practices. The aim here is to be useful, not philosophize or name call specific individuals. WAS 4.250 22:03, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

You have failed to address my concerns. Operational definition of what? Ethics? Are you aware that ethics derives directly from ethos, "the way of a particular group of people". For example, if 80% of a certain sport's participants use steroids, steroid use is ethical. Moral and legal concerns are another thing entirely. If you weren't referring to ethics then to whatwere you referring? I italicized four words.
By the way, identifying someone as "x", when the reliable and verifiable sources say that the person is indeed "x" is not "name-calling", it is reporting what others have said. DutchHarbor 22:52, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Please visit the Media Ethics Blog to gain an appreciation of what we mean by Ethics in Online Media. That's the blog associated with the undergraduate course on Media Ethics as taught by a colleague of mine in the School of Communication and Journalism at Utah State University. The short answer is that I'm adopting the concept of Media Ethics as taught in that class. The purpose of this Wikiversity Learning Project is not to repeat that course here, but to apply the principles that one would have learned in a class like that to Wikipedia, Wikinews, etc. In other words, consider a course like that to be a prerequisite for playing a leadership role in this project. —Moulton 23:51, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I do not intend to argue semantics. Moulton likes to use the word "ethics" and I know what he means. When you see what is being measured then you will have an operational definition. But I am not going to argue semantics. It is irrelevant to the actual process at this early stage. We want the management of the English language Wikipedia to have better learning resources for better management practices related to treating contributors and BLP subjects in a less hurtful way. It is currently set up somewhat as a game where to win you need to find fault with the behavior of contributors you disagree with. Better practices are possible and we should strive for them.WAS 4.250 23:06, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
If I understand Moulton's idea behind all of this, he feels that the English Language Wikipedia project and other related WMF projects need to conform to The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, so the term "ethics" would be defined by that code. Since the Wikipedia community (and not the WMF, according to their own definition) is primarily acting as a publisher of information, it is only logical to ask them to conform to the same code of ethics that others who publish such information on the web conform to. The Fieryangel 22:59, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Yes, Moulton says stuff like that. His thinking is indeed along those lines. Myself, I'm entirely pragmatic oriented, so I am trying to keep us activity oriented, rather than dissolve into a debating society. WAS 4.250 23:06, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I personally feel that any solution will involve an in depth examination of the core processes at WP and why they fail to work. And here we have our first (hopefully, non-confrontational) conflict...The Fieryangel 08:58, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

One of the things about having a music man in our midst is that he is likely to do remarkable things with really banal talk page material. So, unlike WAS, I am not averse to a modest amount of vexagonistic dialogue that goes no place logical, but possibly someplace musical.

Dithyrambic Vexameter 01:48, 11 July 2008 (UTC)

"You start a conversation, you can't even finish it. You're talkin' it up, but you're not sayin' anything." -- Thekohser 19:11, 11 July 2008 (UTC) (channeling David Byrne)Reply

What's being managed?

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This looks interesting to me, and would be interested in "joining in".

(And please, feel free to drop me notes/reminders at w:en:User talk:jc37. There's a fair chance I'll likely miss them here.)

That said, I agree with the above concerning defining some terms. I think I see where you're going with this, but in order to "manage" something (ethically or otherwise) it might be important to define what's being managed: The content, the system, the software, the people, or whatever.

This won't get much of anywhere until that's at least somewhat delineated and determined. - Jc37 22:19, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Yes, indeed. That is the step we are at now. Trying to define in operational terms what those fine sounding words mean in practice. That is why I am putting the emphasis on
  • What ethics can be taught? What does a learning resource for ethics look like?
  • What ethical problems can be objectively measured with current resources?
I know about Wikipedia and how to get things done there (I created the initial BLP policy proposal; hopefully this will pan out as well.) Moulton is an expert on learning, ethics, and online communities. Together we hope to create something useful enough that others will join and make great. WAS 4.250 22:53, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Actually, upon further thought, I think I'll drop to "lurker" status for now. Thank you for the cordial welcome : ) - Jc37 03:31, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply


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I'm "The Fieryangel" Wikipedia Review and I'm interested in participating as well. I'll just see what happens. The Fieryangel 22:43, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Welcome. WAS 4.250 22:54, 10 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Very promising :-)

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I avoid the "BLP" stuff on Wikipedia whenever possible (I'm mostly interested in plants, agriculture, and such), but of course I'm quite aware of the difficulties and strife surrounding the issue. OTOH, because I avoid these parts of WP, I'm afraid I don't know what the issues actually are (aside from simple POV disagreements among individual editors or groups of them). Would it be possible to come up with examples of when it's done wrong and/or right?

Custodians able to import pages (usually with histories, depending on how many revisions and how long the page is) from both meta and wikipedia if that would be helpful. I'm also an admin on Wikipedia, if you'd like deleted material imported.

For disclosure: I had a look at the history of this on meta, wp, and to a small extent WR. I'm not at all sure I understand that history, but it does indeed look to me like you've found the proper place for the project. --SB_Johnny | talk 01:06, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

There is a technical distinction between deleted and oversighted. On my English Wikipedia talk page (and one or two subpages), there is some confusion associated with deleted and/or oversighted pages. I'd like to obtain as much of those deleted/oversighted pages as possible in order to solve a mystery that Lar, Dan Tobias, Kim Bruning, WAS, Alison, and I never fully sorted out. There is also an ethical issue or two involved, but it's a little complicated to explain. —Moulton 03:52, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
The database for the case studies and fall out from failed ethical practices at the English language Wikipedia is at the Wikipedia Review. It is poorly organized there and mixed in with a lot of poor ethical practices at the Wikipedia Review, but there is no better site for that data. Unfortunately. WAS 4.250 14:38, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I need to nudge Somey to restore the Opinions and Editorials at Wikipedia Review, as they were better organized than the disucssion forums as permanent resources. That section of the site is curently offline pending an upgrade of the Wordpress software. —Moulton 15:23, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Wikipedia Review

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Just curious: is WR using a compatible license so that you could organize and collate things here as part of the learning resource? Also more generally: could any of you provide some background to Wikipedia Review? I mean history, reason for existence, relationship with Wikipedia, etc. The few links I followed looked like a fairly legitimate web forum discussion, but I was alerted via an IRC conversation that it's at least percieved to have a dark side to it. --SB_Johnny | talk 19:55, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

w:Wikipedia Review for starters. WAS 4.250 20:08, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

In particular, during a recent site outage, the management of Wikipedia Review posted a temporary page that succinctly outlined the purpose of the site. Here is the relevant text...

Among the regular participants on Wikipedia Review are Lar, Alison, Cla68, Random832, NewYorkBrad, DocGlasgow, and many other notable and well-respected Wikipedians.

Moulton 20:19, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

NewYorkBrad (former arbcom member) was a contributor to both that site and Wikipedia, but no more because another participant (Daniel Brandt) identified who he was in real life and yet another participant (a famous Hollywood movie producer who wants his Wikipedia article deleted and is angry he has been unsuccessful in doing so) questioned on his blog whether Brad was editing Wikipedia during hours he was billing his law firm clients. Other WR participants condemned the sequence of actions. This is a nutshell, is the fire we are playing with here. We must be careful. WAS 4.250 20:39, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Just to clarify, NewYorkBrad continues to post to Wikipedia Review and said recently that the "full and official" story of why he left Wikipedia has not been clearly stated and that he doesn't feel that Wikipedia Review was specifically responsible for his "outing". It is apparent by his continued participation that he does not necessary accept this idea that Wikipedia Review is necessarily evil. Perhaps he will be by at some point to clarify this.

WR posts are not GFDL and it would seem that the copyright remains with the posters, as is the case in other community boards. However, those of us posting over there can certainly ask the copyright holders for their permission, which there is no reason that they would refuse. The Fieryangel 21:15, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

OK... more information the better (maybe make a subpage or even a seperate learning project about the history of "internet websites (etc.) about wikipedia (or wikimedia))? I'm honestly interested... I've never understood the Wikipedians' attitude towards their status as an online phenomenon. --SB_Johnny | talk 21:16, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply


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No, not that kind of warning :-).

I noticed some recent edit history to the resource page, and would like to share a bit of experience with you: please keep in mind that at this stage in the process you should be concentrating on building a learning community, and you're not going to do very well at that by reverting one another. Your community will be built not only of people with conflicting points of view, but also different agendas. At the beginning, there's going to be a long list of things to learn about and teach about, and at some point you're going to have to develop some focus groups and priorities. Today, it's a 2-day old project. Relax, listen twice as much as you speak, and over time you'll discover the joys of learning the wiki way. Just make sure to be inclusive and respectful... it will grow well if you do, and it will quickly fizzle and die if you don't. --SB_Johnny | talk 21:22, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Thank you. How about everyone gets to create their own subpages so we don't revert each other? I'll go with suggesting everyone let everyone add. sound good? WAS 4.250 21:58, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Well, the whole point of wikis is that people work together to create content. If you want to just have a bunch of blogs, this might not be the place for you. --SB_Johnny | talk 00:04, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
No, you misunderstand me. Different people wish to focus on different aspects. So different subpages will reflect that. Not multiple blogs, but multiple aspects of ethical management. For example, one person may wish to document various failures and successes in other similar organizations. Another may wish to document aspects of the Foundation's role, and so on. You can see how this might get in the face of someone with a lot of power at the Foundation level (if not, let me spell it out: Jimbo is not going to like this). That's why I was trying to keep a lid on the possibilities. But apparently that is not in the cards. So we shall see what happens. WAS 4.250 19:12, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I second the notion about not reverting each other. We are not crafting an encyclopedia article here. Rather we are collecting and organizing educational resources to empower individuals to learn both the theory and practice of ethical principles. As far as I am concerned, those with divergent views or alternative agendas are free to submit their preferred views along side the views of others. What I take exception to is redacting or reverting the views of others. I prefer that we regard each other's views and compile our insights and recommendations and let competing or conflicting recommendations stand as challenges or minority reports that that others can take under advisement and reckon in the bosom of their own sacred values and sensibilities. —Moulton 22:09, 11 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Do me a favor, guys

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Unless it's absolutely crucial to the forward movement of the project at this stage of development, please just avoid linking to sites that contain materials related to the true-life identity of Wikimedia contributors who didn't intend to have their real-life identities revealed. Content is more important than drama, but drama tends to drown out content. This isn't a matter of policy (at least as far as I know), but it's certainly more pragmatic to just omit that stuff if your goal is to realy teach-learn something. --SB_Johnny | talk 00:24, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing on the sites in question that has not already been voluntarily disclosed elsewhere. I asked Centaur of attention if there was some specific disclosure he was taking exception to, but he declined to respond. —Moulton 05:11, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
As I've articulated to you elsewhere, better safe than sorry. Regardless of whether you think something is outing or not, if there is general consensus that it is, you shouldn't link to it. Regardless of whether someone else did the same to you or not, regardless of whether you think that's fair, etc. Do it on en:wp and it will get you a block. Do it on Meta and it got you (indirectly) your page locked. Do it here and it will, at best, undermine your project, I suspect. ++Lar: t/c 15:28, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I'm not going to live in fear of some bully, Lar. If there is an applicable policy, and someone believes there is a breach of that policy, then let's have an objective review of the case, and an impartial determination by a neutral responsible official who has not adopted an adversarial stance with respect to me or a partisan stance in favor of those who rush to challenge me on the slimmest of pretexts. I would like to hear from Sam Korn, for example, as he seems to be impartial, objective, and not intimidated by the anankastic bullies who hide behind ever-changing and disposable screen names. —Moulton 20:53, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
You know his email. I'm not your keeper, and you've rejected my advice, so you're on your own. ++Lar: t/c 22:59, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Your advice, Lar, is "Be afraid. Be very afraid." Sorry but that's not functional advice. I'm not interested in cowering in fear in the face of corrupt bullies. —Moulton 23:16, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
No, that's not my advice. That you think it is, is part of the problem... ++Lar: t/c 01:08, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
As near as I can tell, the whole badsites thing is a tactic to create censorship about facts relating to the mis-management of wikipedia and is thus central to this whole project. You will note that we tried to discuss this on wikipedia and then on meta and wound up here. Censorship is why we wound up here, where there is apparently still some freedom from censorship. As of now anyway. We shall see what happens. WAS 4.250 19:17, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Ethics is the antidote to systemic corruption. I leave it to the keen observer to determine which characters in this story are promoting Nicomachean ethics and which characters are playing the role of anonymous anankasts manifesting corrupt practices. —Moulton 21:00, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
The irony is thick as molasses in January. Given that some here seem to roughly equate ethics with morality, how precisely is "outting" ethical? Obviously, as Wikimedia Foundation sites do not approve of "outting" (a decision made by community consensus) it is clear that outing is not ethical. I'd note my previous point about ethics, but me comments all seem to have disappeared. Seems that the wrong people might be driving (or policing) the discussion here. If you can't walk the walk, don't bother to talk the talk. DutchHarbor 21:50, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I checked your contributions, and your earlier comments of July 10th on this page are still here, and there are multiple responses to them. —Moulton 00:05, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
As with most things, revealing information about a contributor has to be evaluated according to multiple needs. On the one hand, it opens up a person to real life harassment if a user name is connected to a real life name. On the other hand, in maintaining NPOV there is a need to evaluate for socking and COI. The recently ended multi-year warring concerning naked short selling and related issues is an example of "outing" used as a weapon to maintain a non-neutral POV in Wikipedia article space. WAS 4.250 22:13, 12 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
So you prefer a conditional approach, yes? DutchHarbor 00:22, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
DH, are you asking WAS about conditional enforcement of existing and established policies employed at the English Wikipedia, with attendant imposition of administrative sanctions contemplated under such enforcement regimes? If so, that would likely be outside the scope of any recommended best ethical practices, as best ethical practices typically do not include the adoption of a sanctions-driven enforcement regime. For the most part, I expect our research findings and recommended best practices will focus on advancing the normative level of community ethics to something a notch or two above the middlemost rung of the Kohlberg-Gilligan Ladder. —Moulton 07:27, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

The trouble with "humoring" the people who insist that one must never link to "outing sites" is that some in that crowd are so expansionist in what they consider covered by this that they demand massive, heavyhanded censorship cutting a broad swath across any attempt to discuss criticisms of Wikipedia. Just linking to Wikipedia Review, in any context whatsoever, is a cardinal sin in their eyes. There must be no capitulation to such people if free discussion is to be maintained. See my essay on the subject. Dtobias 13:17, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for the pointer, Dan. I've added your essay to our list of resources. —Moulton 14:57, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply


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The, "oh let's tell Wikinewsies how to run their project too" seems tacked on as an afterthought, and as a result of Moulton not being permitted to edit an archived article.

I believe his talk page on Wikinews demonstrates this desire to tell people how to run a project which he has no involvement with the creation of content for. The entire incident was sparked by his desire to edit an archived article, namely Student arrested over "art" shirt with exposed wiring at Boston Airport - or to write a followup detailing the dropping of charges at a point where that piece of information had ceased to be news.

It is my opinion that this is indicative of the meddling that those who have initiated this project wish to engage in, and thus would like Wikinews (the 'n' is not capitalised) excluded from this. Many, many Wikinews contributors are sensitive to the fact that as a small project we frequently get lumped in with Wikipedia; thus, the title for this resource is viewed as insulting and an attempt to arrive at one-size-fits-all regulations for Wikipedia then apply them to sister projects.

To close, I consider this a "forum shopping" exercise. --Brianmc 08:59, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I thank you for offering your beliefs and opinions as to the motivations and desires of the principals of this learning project. Your candid viewpoints are a valuable addition to our studies of the degree to which the content and practices of Wikinews adheres to commonly recognized principles for ethics in online journalism. —Moulton 13:33, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Funny thing is, people on foundation-l were quick to point out that most of those involved in this project have tried it on English Wikipedia, tried it on Meta, then moved here and the majority are actually blocked from en.wp. --Brianmc 13:35, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Please be kind enough to provide a citation to the views of those on foundation-l, so that we can include their perspectives in our studies. —Moulton 13:46, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

[1] [2] is evidence that two of the users are blocked on en-wp.
[3] is a citation showing the discussion on Wikipedia (available at bottom of page)
Are these appropriate as citations? If not, leave me a message on my talk page and I will give you further citations. Anonymous101 16:21, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I found a better formatted page for foundation-l here. —Moulton 17:43, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I have to say, I agree with Brian here. And as an admin on both Wikipedia and Wikinews I guess I'm in a pretty decent position to say that trying to lump the two together won't ever work. Blood Red Sandman 17:18, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Responses from Wikinews Community

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Here are the responses, so far, from Wikinews...

Request Community Input on Ethics

Posted on behalf of the project by Moulton (talk) 16:42, 11 July 2008 (UTC).

Sorry if the next comment is a little mean, but stuff like this, annoys me (I put it in the same category as the template sharing project): For a learning resource, there is a whole lot of pov pushing. Moulton in his own words wants to promote the achievement of a respectable level of accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media (bearing in mind his previous stances on ethics in wikinews, this ought to be fun). Fieryangel seems to want to force wikipedians to follow wikipedias own guideline. Gregory Kohs seems to want to influence wikipedia, despite his indef block there. The page seems to hold Wikipedia review in a very high light, which is odd considering the high ethical standard they use. This does not seem to be an educational project, this looks to me like a giant excuse to keep bothering people. Bawolff 01:26, 12 July 2008 (UTC)

The Perspective of the Wikiversity Learning Project on the Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia is fully disclosed and clearly stated on the project page:

Moulton (talk) 16:10, 12 July 2008 (UTC)

Well, good luck then, thats not to say I really believe you, but hey I've been proven wrong before. I'm concerned it may turn into a platform of just telling people what to do, but if it becomes an actual useful thing, I wish you all the best of luck. Bawolff 05:54, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

As you know, ethics is a subject that is normally taught at the graduate level in Philosophy. Advanced subjects like that are electives which nobody can be coerced to learn. Last week, those of us living in the US celebrated Independence Day. On that occasion, we recall these words, penned by Thomas Jefferson some 232 years ago:

I also hold another truth to be scientifically discoverable: That all people are endowed by their Creator with another unalienable right — the right to engage in discovery learning by means of the Scientific Method on the one hand, or the reciprocal right to remain blissfully ignorant on the other hand.

Which hand (or cerebral hemisphere) any individual favors at any given juncture in life is either a matter of conscious free will or a matter of inherent neurophysiology. In either event, I don't believe elective learning can be coerced (nor would that be ethical). Everyone has unfettered free choice in every instance to choose what they wish to learn, when they wish to learn it, and what subjects they wish to disregard for the time being.

Moulton (talk) 06:43, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

This exercise of your ability to wax philosophical serves no purpose and further alienates the community you appear to be trying to communicate with. --Brian McNeil / talk 07:02, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
  • Comment I have responded on the talk page of the above Wikiversity resource. I am requesting that Wikinews be excluded from this because (a) The title specifically states Wikipedia, and (b) none of the participants are actively involved in Wikinews and familiar with the norms of the project.
Moulton's talk page here demonstrates an unwillingness to accept the realities that govern the running of the Wikinews project. We are a small project, we are volunteers - and few at that. The Star Simpson article that prompted him to try and tell Wikinewsies how things should be done was not followed up on, ideally it would have been, but it goes against key principles of the project to create a report long after the charges have been dropped.
Moulton lists impressive academic credentials, but Wikinews is not an Ivory Tower institution and has to be practical. We should not place onerous requirements around the necks of our contributors to follow up on everything we report; that would sound a death-knell for the project. --Brian McNeil / talk 09:16, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

Do you mind if I import your remarks above, so that we may carefully study them within the scope of the project? Moulton (talk) 16:04, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

I have commented on the Wikiversity talk page, is that not enough? What you can quote me on is the following: It is apparent that all those who have chosen to involve themselves in the Wikiversity project are operating from a position of ignorance with regards to Wikinews and are thus, in my opinion, not qualified to speak on the ethics that should be applied to the project. From highlighting this out of the way and obscure item on the foundation mailing list I have learned that the majority of those involved on the Wikiversity item have been banned from the English Wikipedia. This makes it well-nigh impossible to assume good faith in their efforts there. Other comments on the foundation list have highlighted that yourself (Moulton) and WAS have attempted similar moves to influence projects on en.WP and Meta. It is not a leap, but a small step to thus conclude that the term "forum shopping" applies here. Your efforts on Wikiversity have a potential to perhaps improve areas around BLP or other items on Wikipedia where those gaming the system can whitewash things, but to come back to my key concern - and to be blunt - you know nothing about Wikinews' day to day operation, nor do any of your co-conspirators. Perhaps if you tried writing a few articles on the project and seeing how many of the local contributors try to enforce the existing rules and standards you might garner more respect. As Bawolff points out above, there is - I believe rightly - some concern that those involved in your Wikiversity project are almost all Wikipedia Review regulars; a site which is alleged to have used server logs for the forums to out Wikipedia contributors. I am sure that many of my fellow Wikinews contributors would be happy to join me in telling you to leave us out of this. Our draft code of ethics has languished because people have prioritised main namespace contributions (i.e. real content). Go analyse Wikipedia to your heart's content, but leave Wikinews out of it until you've actually become involved and learned what works and what doesn't. --Brian McNeil / talk 16:40, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
I agree with you, but i don't feel the need to get to upset about this (don't feed the trolls). If moulton wants to analyse us, let him. He can analyze us to death if he wants to, as long as he does it in a place far far away. If they use wikiversity solely as a base to become annoying without knowing what they are talking about, i'm sure wikiversity will deal with it as appropriate (v:WV:NOT). In the end, we can't do much more then disapprove of it, giving this our utmost attention won't help. Bawolff 16:54, 13 July 2008 (UTC)
We should give this the attention it deserves, not a lot. Of course we want to write ethically. Adambro (talk) 16:58, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

Those who are interested in Journalistic Ethics are more than welcome to participate in the learning project at Wikiversity. Those who are interested in criticizing the project, the participants in the project, or the concepts are also welcome to do so, and your crticisms will be carefully reviewed as part of the project. Moulton (talk) 23:35, 14 July 2008 (UTC)

The above commentary from the Wikinews Water Cooler is made available here per the terms of the Creative Commons General Attribution License (Version 2.5). —Moulton 23:49, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I note that despite not receiving the permission asked for, Moulton has imported all of the Water Cooler discussion from Wikinews instead of the bit I said I was happy to have imported. This does not encourage the assumption of good faith. --Brianmc 08:44, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Do you wish me to adopt the suspicion that you are concluding bad faith? —Moulton 12:50, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Meantime, here are the continuing remarks, from the Wikinews Water Cooler colloquy...

Don't worry about it guys. We are trying to create a learning resource. We are not trying to tell anyone what to do. It's like the library downtown. You can ignore it completely if you wish. WAS 4.250 (talk) 06:39, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

I note that a - somewhat unethical - import of the vast majority of the above discussion has been carried out and comments which Moulton requested, but did not receive permission, to quote are included. This can be seen on the talk page of the Wikiversity article linked to above. --Brian McNeil / talk 08:48, 15 July 2008 (UTC)
It occurs to me that when a sister Wikimedia project invites comments, and others respond with comments directed toward the project, they intend for the project to take notice of their most thoughtful comments. Are you objecting now that we are taking notice of your invited comments? Moulton (talk) 12:45, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

No account but I like this site wikinews and would like to make a comment here. No one can control outside observations or any decisions made anywhere else, but for cooperation the outsiders must abide by certain rules that they are failing to follow. That page probably will not last long on its site. Truly most comments are ridiculously phrased and few there understand the words they are using. It is no better than a personal blog from someone with an axe to grind. It reminds me of a group of angry children at a playground most of all. 09:04, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

Would you (or someone else in the know) be kind enough to cite the rules which you are referring to here, along with the attendant processes for addressing and resolving alleged breaches of (un)said rules? Moulton (talk) 12:45, 15 July 2008 (UTC)
Call it a genuine decorum and an actual desire to follow the rules that are set out here. The numerous links throughout the entire site for starters. To learn about the culture of the site try doing the work you claim to be doing here and you'll see how things work readily enough. But if you want to just keep on with your strained and artificial language, and your harassment efforts.... 12:56, 15 July 2008 (UTC)
Thanks for the vote of confidence in Wikinews. Even if you don't want to contribute articles you might want to create a user account and make use of the Comments: namespace to get involved with discussion on specific articles, and on the discussions behind the scenes such as this one. --Brian McNeil / talk 09:09, 15 July 2008 (UTC)
To Moulton. In case you missed it, Wikinews and Wikiversity do not operate under the same copyright license. Your mirroring of comments from here without permission from all contributors constitutes copyright violation. --Brian McNeil / talk 19:47, 15 July 2008 (UTC)
Moulton, can I say that you are handling this in a very unethical manner. You appear to me to be deliberatly trying to create an atmosphere of unease by monitoring us all like guinea pigs in some experiment. Your attempts to gain our trust with your soothing comments remind me of a propaganda campaign by a fascist state. I hope that you aren't trying to make this as unpleasant as possible, but it loos like you are. Please, read over your own comments, take a look at the displeasure your causing in this community, and then consider carefuly your next move. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 20:40, 15 July 2008 (UTC)

My next move will be to take careful note of your remarks and share them with others on the project. I appreciate your input into our thinking about the issues that vex and perplex us. Moulton (talk) 01:07, 16 July 2008 (UTC)

I think some people do not understand the aims of this project. It is not meant to be an effort to influence policy on Wikipedia in an way. In fact, much of the project discusses different forms of ethics and the validity of different ethical viewpoints in online media in general. And, as with any essay on Wikipedia, it is just suggesting a particular viewpoint on ethics, not saying "here is policy, enforce it." In fact the person who created this project has said that "There is nothing in our vision that contemplates enforcement. The concept of enforcement is abhorrent to our sensibilities and at odds with our understanding of best ethical practices."
Anonymous101 (talk) 19:55, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Well, Moulton inspired the project and he is our primary educator. But I created it and am organizing and coordinating it. I'm not so sure I agree that "The concept of enforcement is abhorrent to our sensibilities" as I believe it is needed for someone to enforce things; but the actual wording is mostly correct in that I don't want myself to enforce anything. I wouldn't be an admin if you paid me. As I told Moulton, I don't want to make anyone do anything. WAS 4.250 (talk) 20:36, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Neither WAS nor I have the slightest interest in coercing anyone to do anything against their will. And that ethic of personal freedom includes the unalienable right to choose what one elects to learn, when one elects to learn it, and what subjects to remain blissfully oblivious of for the time being. And that unalienable right to remain ignorant even goes for failing to apprehend or understand the aims of the project that one is taking note of. However, it occurs to me that it would be difficult to play the role of a successful news person without manifesting the faculty of learning about the subjects one is writing about. I realize that the comments posted here and on Foundation-l include personal editorial opinions which do not rise to the normative standards for objective reporting of the news, but I am chagrined to note the degree to which the op-ed remarks posted here and there are based on misconceptions about a noteworthy event which might someday become a newsworthy story. Moulton (talk) 21:31, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
Wow, you are really talented at using fancy language to insult people. --+Deprifry+ 21:51, 16 July 2008 (UTC)
You mean like this? Moulton 01:29, 17 July 2008 (UTC)
Enough of this trolling. If you want to keep spurting out this nonsense and keep NOT contributing to this project in a constructive matter, then I will block you. I have had enough of this. DragonFire1024 (Talk to the Dragon) 01:39, 17 July 2008 (UTC)

The above commentary from the Wikinews Water Cooler is made available here per the terms of the Creative Commons General Attribution License (Version 2.5). —Moulton 03:26, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

  • Brianmc, On your comment concerning "forum shopping": I would like to see you specify what you mean by "shopping". It is very well to go around to check out what is available before you settle on one product. The usual negative connotation comes when you try to create a false "public opinion" by picking your own participants. As all wikis are different, it is reasonable to expect that wikiversity is a good forum for certain discussions which are not possible in any other place. Hillgentleman|Talk 06:18, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Action Research

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  • Moulton, It is well that wikiversity try to accomodate original research with our research guidelines. I, for one, would like to see some rigorous and focused study of issues, especially community and ethics issues, arising in wikipedia in English and its community. It doesn't help your course to keep arguing on wikinews, when many members from the wikinews community has explicitly stated that they do not want your ideas. You would have a much better platform for your ideas soon if, instead, you keep the focus on improving the learning project, analysing existing issues, and trying to draw some conclusions in them. Hillgentleman|Talk 10:20, 17 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

What I have in mind, Hillgentleman, is an exercise in action research. My neighbor, Jerry Pine, who just retired as Dean of Education at Boston College (after a 50-year career as a distinguished scholar and educator in the field), has a new book coming out next year on Action Research.

If you are familiar with the dominant players at Wikipedia Review, you may recognize the name of Jon Awbrey, a young scholar from Michigan's Oakland University, who ran into difficulties at the English Wikipedia when he sought to craft encyclopedic articles on subjects that he had specialized in during the course of his studies there. Before assuming the Deanship at Boston College, my neighbor (Jerry Pine) was the Dean of Education at Michigan's Oakland University, where he hired Susan Awbrey (Jon's wife) and collaborated extensively with her on the development of Action Research.

Here is a brief precis of Action Research as it was initially conceived in 1981:

As you can see, Action Research does not retreat to the Ivory Tower, but engages with the subjects of the research. The difficulty we are running into here is that the subject of our research includes some who wish to participate collaborately and constructively with us, some who are indifferent to the enterprise, and some who are frankly antagonistic to the idea. Those who are most antagonistic appear to be a vocal minority who are not averse to creating diversions, disruptions, deletions, and drama. Because I am also doing active research in Storycraft and Drama Theory, I am not particularly put off by the histrionics of our most vocal detractors. Indeed, engaging them in the very drama they seek to foment is both an application of Action Research itself, and a laboratory exercise in the application of Dramaturgy in Education.

Moulton 11:07, 17 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I am not familiar with action research. Cormaggio has done some work in developing wikiversity through action research. Action research would be fine in wikiversity, within the research guidelines, and perhaps even on meta (which is a project about wikimedia communities). However, wikinews is about news reporting. And using too much of their (community) resources for a learning project that they don't care about is unfair. Hillgentleman|Talk 13:11, 17 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
It doesn't appear to be fine on Meta-Wiki, either. —Moulton 14:04, 17 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Something for you to discuss

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The main thing for you chaps to work out is the clash between the fundamental "open society" nature of a wiki and the "closed society" way in which too many of WP's decisions are taken. This could, I think, benefit from some ethical thought. If you can come up with some practical, ethical solutions to this — bearing in mind privacy etc — it would be great. Moreschi 17:37, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Would you be willing to work with us to better define the clash and the resultant issue as you perceive it?
Note that last October, I picked up on your comment as then posted on your English Wikipedia user page, as it related to the issues leading up to this project...
Back then, I was scratching my head trying to understand the problem as you and others were then characterizing it. I'd be interested in closing the gap on your thinking then and now, and clearly defining the ethical issues to be addressed at this stage of the game.
Moulton 17:56, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Meh. I've changed my mind since then. Wikipedia works better than it should, in spite of an incompetent admin corps and arbitration committee. None of those are really ethical problems. Unless you think the people I block get a raw ethical deal. Probably they do, I don't care.
No, the major ethical problems for you to discuss are BLP-related — living persons should not be slandered, but can we really ignore guilt and desert? The only other ethical problem, as I perceive it, is the secrecy that surrounds Wikipedia's governance, which I don't approve of. That is ethically dubious. Too many decisions taken in #wikipedia-en-admins, or on investigations-l or cyberstalking-l or even arbcom-l. See also the multiple arbcom cases related to Giano. Half this stuff could be discussed in public. It probably should be. Privacy has a place: occasionally checkusers give me IPs when I'm trying to figure out serious sock-puppetry problems, and yes, that does have to be private for obvious reasons: a PM in IRC, or an email. But the rest? Meh. Too many people shitting themselves that a) they might offend someone and b) fear of Wikipedia Review. Moreschi 18:04, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Regarding BLP issues, doesn't NOR and RS already cover that? Isn't the problem really that these core principles are routinely ignored (as in IAR...which obviously is not working...)? The Fieryangel 18:18, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
It's unlikely we'll work very many people up the Kohlberg-Gilligan Ladder all the way to Stage 7, the Ethics of Care. But we might be able to model the likely consequences of failing to achieve that elusive level of perfection of the human character.
I'd dearly love to bring DocGlasgow back from the margins, as he had studied the BLP problem more carefully than anyone.
I honestly don't understand the dread of Wikipedia Review. All media is subject to examination and criticism, especially when the media is as high up in the Google rankings as the English Wikipedia. Even as I type this, I am listening to On the Media on NPR, which is a weekly program that examines the media.
With respect to specific cases, such as the one you mention with Giano, if he wants to come here and review the ideas for better practices than those he has been able to manifest so far, I would welcome that kind of live case study, in the spirit of Action Research. But only if Giano agrees to participate.
Moulton 18:48, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

My current reasoning is leading me to believe that the core problem is the focus on the "community" aspects of WP, to the detriment of "content". Content creation is supposed to be the focus, but the current way the system works is centered around community interaction, dispute resolution and identifying bias and COI. While all of this is important to the writing a neutral encyclopedia, the core principles (if they were applied) should theoretically take care of these "content issues" and remove the "personal" issues which generate so much drama.

It seems to me that one of the most important root causes of this current climate is the idea that established editors (and especially administrators) have privileges which give them some sort of permission to violate core policies such as NPA, NPOV, COI, NOR etc, while others who simply swing by, don't read the core principles and dive in trying to promote whatever POV position that is their "flavor of the month" are banned for much the same things which are tolerated in established users.

If the policies were enforced equally on all editors, regardless of edit count, regardless of "status" in the hierarchy etc, this "insular" quality would probably become much less important, since people wouldn't get so wrapped up in the "How to win friends and influence people" aspects of "the game".

Another solution I'm imagining is adding another function in the structure, that of "fact checker". This type of editor would be responsible for checking sources, making decisions about NOR concerns and also investigating COI motivated edits, in order to effectively settle "content disputes" before they become the sort of large-scale flame wars that one sees brought before Arb-com...Experts? Yes, certainly. It seems to me that disputes regarding content need expert advice. And yes, perhaps they should be paid. They are experts, after all. However, the main failing I see in dispute resolution is that the ARB-COM is not equipped to deal with content disputes. Ignoring that problem is not helping.

The Fieryangel 18:16, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Let's define the problems to be solved and then think them through in terms of the best models we can craft of the human socio-cultural dynamics of the English Wikipedia Community. To the extent that we can craft reliable system models, we can take suggested solutions (such as even-handed justice to solve the problem of favoritism and corruption or fact-checking to solve the problem of inaccurate content) and see what the models predict for such solutions. Otherwise, we are just falling back to conventional politics where the only impetus for adopting a solution is political power to make it so. Here, our objective is to construct insights that take us farther than that. —Moulton 19:00, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I understand what you're saying, Moulton, and I do agree with you that the solution needs to go beyond the process that's already there. I am personally trying to make an effort to frame my comments within the context of the system that already exists, rather than sweeping everything away and telling people to "start from scratch".
Although I probably personally wouldn't like the way WP would look if these core ideas were used, it seems to me that their application in a stricter sense would go a long way towards creating a more ethical editing environment.
I do think that it is only polite to try to work within the framework of the various WMF projects here...and we can always discuss other aspects of this problem which are outside of this framework on WR. Anyone who participates here can also participate there. I do think though that we have to at least make an effort on following the customs here as in "when in Rome, etc...)
The Fieryangel 19:22, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I don't plan to tell anybody to follow a prescription. What I propose to do is to craft a suffiently compelling educational resource that those who care to look at it will elect, of their own free will, to adopt an improved course of action over the one they are currently relying on. And those who don't care to look at it are free to go their own way.

You see, I have zero political power to compel anyone to do anything at all. And that's exactly how it should be. People will pay attention here if they believe there is something worthwhile to be gleaned. But like Mary Poppins, I'm not averse to a spoonful of sugar, to convert the "guilt and desert" into repent and dessert.

Moulton 20:01, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Both you and JzG have invoked Mary Poppins lately... is this a pattern? :-) Dtobias 17:42, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I wish it were. Alas, WAS does not share my view that music lightens the burden. —Moulton 05:34, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply


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Management of any Wiki will obviously involve aspects of the software. One thing that appears forgotten above and elsewhere throughout the Wikis is the very foundation of what lets Wikipedia or any other wiki work by MediaWiki software. I would like to see the title changed to 'Ethical Management of MediaWiki' or such, but that doesn't really cover some of the goals stated here. There are BLP concerns and those aspects very will match in with the aspects of the software itself and not just for the purpose of Wikipedia but for other wikis as well. Due to its very size and scope as an encyclopedia, Wikipedia gives pragmatic evidence of what kind of automation can be made to help in that purpose, and it helps here in the purpose to learn ethical management. We all need this kind of reflection, and this Wikiversity allows it to be created openly. Some of the simpler technological changes can help with managing vandalism. BLP issues can also be addressed in software aspects. Those issues do not need to be managed by warm-blooded people alone that work on only the premises of textual based edits without any further automation. I'm sure there is curricula that can be developed and even imported from other sources that will help how to recognized areas of concern and when they merit technological change. Dzonatas 19:49, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I would encourage you to tap into the sister projects here that more closely match the subjects that interest you. Our core issue here is ethics, as practiced by humans making ethical choices in the course of engaging with others in the community. There may well be some algorithmic improvements that address some of the same underlying problems, but here we are educating those who come to this table in search of better ideas for regarding the ethical aspects of community management. —Moulton 20:08, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Humans make the software, and they must make ethical decisions on how to create and maintain the software. The software is the medium the community engages with each other, so the software is also involved to make ethical choices. I see no reason to ignore recognition of the software and its automation in regards of ethical management. There are also other projects that dive deeper into into the software itself, but if those projects don't receive any feedback from those that use the software, then that is where this resource can help. Sometimes, it more ethical to engage in that feedback instead of a more direct engagement with another member of the community, but that feedback needs to be created. Another way to say it is, it might be more wise to change the software then trying to change one or more members of the community (like by RFAR or such), and that is a principle that can be added to this thought: "To the extent that current practices fall short of best ethical practices, this project will seek to craft recommendations for promoting sustainable ethical practices in the English Wikipedia, Wikinews, and other Wikimedia projects which could benefit from a sober examination of sound ethical principles."(quoted from resource page). Dzonatas 21:41, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
May I suggest to you that you attempt to write a learning resource on that topic and place it in an appropriately named subpage of this project and add links to it on the main page of this project? Perhaps at Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/Ethics and MediaWiki? Original research is allowed on this site so long as the claims are backed by evidence. Give it a try. Educate everyone on what you are talking about. Please. WAS 4.250 22:03, 13 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
It has begun. Dzonatas 01:34, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

If you can come up with a module on the Ethics of Algorithm Design, I expect it will be a novel contribution to the scope of ethical studies. —Moulton 01:40, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

What do you think of the RESTful design? That is in regard to have an interface in layman's terms, for those that at least understand URLs, without the need to be distracted by actual implementation. Dzonatas 14:51, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Architectural Styles and the Design of Network-based Software Architectures

The World Wide Web has succeeded in large part because its software architecture has been designed to meet the needs of an Internet-scale distributed hypermedia system. The Web has been iteratively developed over the past ten years through a series of modifications to the standards that define its architecture. In order to identify those aspects of the Web that needed improvement and avoid undesirable modifications, a model for the modern Web architecture was needed to guide its design, definition, and deployment.

Software architecture research investigates methods for determining how best to partition a system, how components identify and communicate with each other, how information is communicated, how elements of a system can evolve independently, and how all of the above can be described using formal and informal notations. My work is motivated by the desire to understand and evaluate the architectural design of network-based application software through principled use of architectural constraints, thereby obtaining the functional, performance, and social properties desired of an architecture. An architectural style is a named, coordinated set of architectural constraints.

This dissertation defines a framework for understanding software architecture via architectural styles and demonstrates how styles can be used to guide the architectural design of network-based application software. A survey of architectural styles for network-based applications is used to classify styles according to the architectural properties they induce on an architecture for distributed hypermedia. I then introduce the Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style and describe how REST has been used to guide the design and development of the architecture for the modern Web.

REST emphasizes scalability of component interactions, generality of interfaces, independent deployment of components, and intermediary components to reduce interaction latency, enforce security, and encapsulate legacy systems. I describe the software engineering principles guiding REST and the interaction constraints chosen to retain those principles, contrasting them to the constraints of other architectural styles. Finally, I describe the lessons learned from applying REST to the design of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol and Uniform Resource Identifier standards, and from their subsequent deployment in Web client and server software.

I'm missing something here. How does an architectural concept for Internet software design tie into ethics? —Moulton 21:04, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I've only skimmed this material, but it seems that, according to our friend Dzonatas, that certain ethical elements can be automated into the software itself. In other words, you can program software which doesn't allow "unsourced claims" to go into "BLP articles" and the like. This is extremely technical and completely out of my understanding, but it seems both important and practical to me. The Fieryangel 22:06, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
It is a matter of views, and The Fieryangel has expressed it right, Moulton. Architecture does not have to have anything to do with software or software design, and that does not mean it should be excluded where software is involved. Perhaps, you can elaborate what your view was when you mentioned the 'Ethics of Algorithm Design.' Or, how does 'Ethics of Information Architecture' sound to you? Dzonatas 23:37, 14 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

What perplexes me is the gap between the state of the art of information processing algorithms and the prerequisites for ethical reasoning. Ethical reasoning is a derivative of model-based reasoning. In order for software to employ model-based reasoning, there must be a computable model embedded within the software. It seems unlikely, at this stage of the game, that production software systems like MediaWiki will be outfitted with the computational models of human socio-cultural dynamics that would make it possible for the software to compute best ethical practices. What you might be able to get into MediaWiki software is clerical level bureaucratic checks, of the sort that Wikimedia 'bots are now doing routinely. Are any of the existing 'bots behaving in a manner that one would consider "ethically challenged"? —Moulton 02:11, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

As even you seem to have noted, the system develops in evolutionary steps. To address your immediate concern, there is a whole field of Expert Systems that get into topics as you mention. The more rudimentary versions of such systems can be used to help prevent unethical management. Experienced developers know very well that too much worry too much about the complexities results in an unsubstantial amount of work being implemented on time. As on the resource page "Without any feedback, or without the proper feedback, the developer spends more time in their research on how to improve the software than actual time spent in active implementation." That perplexity you have demonstrated above is known as over-planning, and that is where the expression "give it a REST" is needed to be said, literally, with an emphasis on the architectural and interface concepts stated earlier. Dzonatas 03:54, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
You lost me. —Moulton 04:02, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
We just need more resources here. Dzonatas 04:24, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

G'day folks...

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I've been lurking here for a while and finally grabbed a moment to make a post.. I've read the project page, and skimmed this page, which is already getting into areas which seem pretty complex to me.. I'll continue to read what goes on here, and offer a couple of my thoughts too;

  • This is a very good essay, and when I first read it I felt it could well form the basis for some sort of statement relating to project ethics.
  • I'm particularly interested at the moment in issues surrounding pseudo-anonymity, identity, and ethics - there are cans of worms in these areas in my view, and I reckon it's an area worth exploring - we're about 50 / 50 here at the moment in terms of 'real names' and pseudonyms, so that could be interesting too....
  • Another key aspect for me is Wikipedia's insularity - which you could sum up somewhat hyperbolicly by asking 'is Wikipedia a cult?' - I think there are aspects of reinforcement within wiki-culture which actively prohibit reflection and growth, and I wonder if this is further supported by either demographics of editors, or in the nature of the software / online beast.
  • I'm not sure that I completely endorse some aspects of the background and purpose - I'm not sure that the ethical strength of the wikipedia project hasn't actually been pretty much constant, and that scale and timeliness are behind any trends we might identify - this could be a case of describing the same thing from a slightly different perspective, so it's likely no big deal - but I thought I'd mark it here.

Overall (and kinda echoing some of the above) - I perceive an over-reliance on 'rules' within wikipedia culture, without a rigorous examination / understanding of the principles which I believe should govern them - 'do no harm' for example being contravened by the inability of the community as a whole to ensure adherence to site policies and guidelines on biographies.

There's much food for thought here, and I'll stick around and try and get stuck in! cheers, Privatemusings 04:53, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Hi, PM. I thought you'd never show up. Glad to see you made it. :)
  • Thanks for linking the essay by Kirill Lokshin. That will be helpful.
  • People are not as anonymous as they might imagine.
  • I don't think the MediaWiki software is any more or less susceptible to ochlocracy or corruption than any other variety of collaborative or forum software. Yes, the English Wikipedia is a cult, and not a particularly honorable or benevolent one, either.
  • Feel free to suggest revisions to the background statement or the statement of aims. Given your expression of interest in ethics way back in November of last year, I'm hoping you'll sign onto the project here and make a significant contribution to defining and solving the problem at hand.
I agree 110% about the idiotic over-reliance on rules. They are mainly used to kibosh people, much the way the rules of a chess game let you move a piece and smash an enemy, like Wizard Chess in Harry Potter.
Once we get established a bit here, would you consider hosting a Skypecast roundtable discussion with as many interested participants as is practical to include?
Moulton 05:33, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Kohlberg-Gilligan Model

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Moulton, I look forward to your creation of a sourced learning resource that clearly explains your idea of the relationship of rules and ethics. We disagree on this issue. I think you are simplistic in your claims on this. But Wikipedia clearly has a problem with mindless rule following. It's the mindlessness that is the problem, not the rules. After all, one of the rules is "Ignore the rules". But worse than the mindlessness, is the deliberate gaming of the rules. To fix that will take some kind of structural change. What does ethics have to say about power structures? Openness, division of powers, limited terms in office? WAS 4.250 07:01, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Sure. I take it you want the sources for my concise summary of the Kohlberg-Gilligan Model of the stages of development of moral and ethical reasoning. That's the model that places rules no higher than the middle-most rung of a seven-stage ladder of development of moral and ethical reasoning. By Kohlberg and Gilligan's model, there are three more stages of development of moral and ethical reasoning that rise above the limited affordance and inherent problems of rule-based socio-cultural regulatory systems. By the way, Carol Gilligan should not be confused with James Gilligan (also from Harvard University) who offered an independent analysis of the short-comings of the Law and Order model. —Moulton 13:03, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
...or, for that matter, the Gilligan who's stranded on a desert island with the rest of the castaways. But I, for one, have my doubts about whether the 7th stage added by Gilligan is actually an advance; it seems to me like a reversion to stage 3, where the subject backs off from universal, consistent principles to return to giving special favor to one's own friends and allies. Dtobias 13:12, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

What is the scientific evidence for the validity of the Kohlberg-Gilligan Model as applied to the English language Wikipedia? WAS 4.250 14:51, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Let's open a discussion thread on the talk page associated with the links to those scholars. We need to work our way through Lawrence Kohlberg and Carol Gilligan's material, as well as that of John Rawls, James Gilligan, and Rene Girard (among others). —Moulton 15:03, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Yes. I was going to move it to its own learning resource subpage also. Where you placed it is fine for now. We can move/alter/edit as needed later. The idea is to create learning resources and as you know this stuff and I don't; a back and forth between us (and others) might just be the thing. WAS 4.250 15:17, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
The learning resource on the integrated Kohlberg-Gilligan Model is now essentially in place and available for review and discussion. —Moulton 18:24, 18 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

How to drive yourself crazy

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Believe it is a good idea that:

  1. anyone should be allowed to edit without revealing their identity
  2. no one should be allowed to act as if their multiple accounts are different people
  3. it is important for you to volunteer your time to enforce this

WAS 4.250 18:44, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Hey, I sympathize with you and you're exactly right. I figured all of this out a long time ago. Come over to WR and we'll talk about it! (Actually, if you want my personal view, I'm beginning to think that ole Jimbo is starting to see the wisdom of this kind of thinking...I often wonder when we'll see him over at WR...) The Fieryangel 19:48, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

I agree that the use of anonymous/pseudonymous/sock-puppet accounts is a crazy-making feature of Wikipedia (and other online venues). Somewhere in the land of proverbs there is this admonition: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

Having said, that, let me also point out that the use of puppet characters in educational sketches is a time-honored tradition. Burr Tilstrom pioneered it on children's educational television with Kukla, Fran and Ollie, quickly followed by "Buffalo" Bob Smith with Howdy Doody. Shari Lewis, Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo), Fred Rogers, and (especially) Jim Henson used puppetry in a creative and appropriate manner to craft high-quality edutainment aimed at children of the late 20th Century. I expect that some of our academically dry material can be usefully presented through Aesopian sketches populated by Muppet-like players. I've long used well-known character voices like Montana Mouse, Barsoom Tork, Gastrin Bombesin, and Caprice the Flying Goat (among many others) to voice different perspectives in dramatized presentations of educational ideas.

Moulton, the Schmeggegy Scientist 10:00, 17 July 2008 (UTC)


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I am interested in participating in the resource (but not enforcing its views on Wikinews/Wikipedia). Could someone give me advice on how I could help as I am rather new to Wikiversity. Anonymous101 19:57, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

There is nothing in our vision that contemplates enforcement. The concept of enforcement is abhorrent to our sensibilities and at odds with our understanding of best ethical practices. —Moulton 21:17, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I think this particular resource is in its infancy stage, but like anything on Wikiversity, the best way to help is to read the material so far, ask any question you have (often the "dumb, simple" ones are the most challenging and most constructive), and just offer any ideas (no matter how tangential) that the resource inspires in you. Teach, learn, and share so that others can learn more or become better teachers. --SB_Johnny | talk 21:11, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I personally think that the only clear idea here is that we all have different ideas about what is going on. This is not necessarily a problem and may indeed be an asset. I would simply suggest that Anonymous101 dive in and see how things go. Someone participating who is involved in WikiNews is a very positive thing, from my perspective. The Fieryangel 21:46, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I thought I'd note that, despite my disagreements with much of this (especialy Moulton's handling of it), I may try to contribute something to the discussion as well some time, if I can make time for it. I promise nothing, though. Blood Red Sandman (Talk) (Contribs) 22:18, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
No promises expected or needed... this is a wiki, and ideally we should rely more on many people with a bit of time than on one or a few people with lots of time :-). --SB_Johnny | talk 22:35, 15 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
It's good to see that Blood Red Sandman is now feeling a bit more sanguine about the project. —Moulton 00:01, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Background, purpose and objectives

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Hello all. I am not familiar with these issues. The introduction is brief, cryptic and doesn't show the concrete problems on the table except for those who are already "in it". And your discussions are long and difficult to follow. To help new participants join the debate before you (in moulton's words) promote the achievement of a respectable level of accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media, especially when the subject at hand is an identifiable living person. , would you be kind enough to summarise what is going on, and identify what exactly are the problems that you want to explore? And perhaps you can point out one or two detailed examples of the conflicts that you mentioned? Hillgentleman|Talk 08:12, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

See Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/Overview. WAS 4.250 16:22, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
The discussions and explanations therein are too broad and general. Can you study one or two concrete cases in detail? I have a feeling that I am not getting to the bottom of things. Hillgentleman|Talk 17:00, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Define "the bottom of things". How would you recognize it if you saw it? Read the section headings of Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/Overview. Is that "the bottom of things"? If not, why not? WAS 4.250 17:57, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
I would be happy to introduce a handful of specific cases. I have perhaps half a dozen in mind that we could import here. If you like, I can list them in brief. —Moulton 18:46, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Yes, please do. WAS 4.250 19:14, 16 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
See the next subsection. —Moulton 12:18, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Specific Cases Illustrating the Endemic Problems

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The newest case study is imported here. It has the advantage that it's fresh, not overly convoluted, and already familiar to at least three or four of us. Another very short example is here. I have others that need a bit more setup to put them into the appropriate context and perspective for our purposes here. —Moulton 10:19, 17 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

The remaining case studies are considerably longer, more convoluted, more distributed, and more interlocking. However, they primarily revolve around RfAr/Corruption and RfC/ID, both of which are currently in progress process. Both of those Requests for Spammish Inquisition refer to this evidence page of FeloniousMonk. Oddly enough FeloniousMonk quietly deleted that page, but it remains available on the Static Wikipedia. At RfC/ID, Filll references it here...

Filll's link goes to the deleted evidence page of FeloniousMonk. The same material is still available on the Static Wikipedia at this link. The cited material, introduced into RfAr/Corruption by FeloniousMonk and into RfC/ID by Filll, presents "evidence" gleaned from remarks posted elsewhere on the Internet (notably at Slashdot and at a discussion forum at WorldCrossing.Com). This material patently violates w:WP:BLP#Non-article_space and w:WP:RS; two of the cited sources are pseudonymous avatars, including one role-playing character engaged in farcical theatrical histrionics in a faux Soap Opera. A close examination of the cited references reveals how oblivious FeloniousMonk is with regard to both the criteria for valid evidence and the content of the cited web pages. The content not only doesn't support his interpretation, it wouldn't even be valid or reliable evidence if it did, per w:WP:RS and w:WP:V. For a long-term WP admin to demonstrate such astonishing incompetence, and for a sycophantic acolyte to mindlessly repeat the error is nothing short of gobsmacking.

But wait. There's more...

Filll not only references and invokes the ethically challenged example of FeloniousMonk, he develops his own independent version of such a page. See also these responsive answers to Filll's 8 questions at RfC/ID. These were the answers that so disturbed Filll and his cronies that he insisted the answers to be summarily deleted and for me to be blocked for having posted them. Finally see my response to Filll's biographical sketch of me and my response to Filll's criticisms of my objectives.

Moulton 12:18, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

Moulton, why not turn the above into a learning resource? Start by copying the above to Ethical Management of the English Language Wikipedia/The Case of the Censored Moulton or some such thing and add/modify as you are inspired. While your appeal of your original block was poorly handled by you, it is very true that your ruffians used excuses to try to censor you and was therefore merely a skirmish in the larger BADSITES WARS which in turn is a consequence of inadequate policies (or in your language a very poor social contract). WAS 4.250 12:37, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Yah. This package is still a bit too inchoate for someone unfamiliar with the soap opera to wrap their brain around it. I'm gonna need some help boiling it down to a coherent story, properly grounded in the widely distributed and dauntingly convoluted source material, further complicated by the deletions, redactions, oversighting, and silencing of the trials and tribulations. Here I was hoping someone like FieryAngel, who is gifted at crafting epic operas, can figure out how to present all this material in a way that tells the story in a coherent manner that someone like SB Johnny could follow without getting hopelessly mind-boggled. —Moulton 13:16, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
Perhaps an introduction with a story of children playing house and making up inconsistent rules as they go; saying nasty things about each other as part of the game; ending in upset feelings and the mother telling them people's feelings are important. Wikipedia must pay more attention to not hurting people's feelings if it is going to work better. We are creating too many enemies. WAS 4.250 13:48, 19 July 2008 (UTC)Reply
OK. Montana Mouse has the first version of the story laid out in ballad format. —Moulton 20:56, 20 July 2008 (UTC)Reply

An interesting pattern of conduct that represents an endemic problem is one of bullying or intimidation. The clinical term for such menacing speech acts is anankastic conditional where the (negative) consequence is one for which the speaker clearly intends to be the causal agent. Here is an example (I've redacted some specific identifying terms, as they are variables that can be plugged in to any anankastic conditional).

Notice how the WP:Rules are being used as a weapon to coerce or intimidate an adversarial party. Here the Dispute Resolution (DR) process is being portrayed as a dreadful tool of combat rather than as a positive resource to sincerely resolve a dispute.

Moulton 14:08, 22 July 2008 (UTC)Reply