Talk:Wikiversity open letter project/WMF Board March 2010

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I usually call them simply Trustees, because "board member" = members of the board of trustees is quite a mouthful.Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 16:16, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

Board concerns may be distinctly different or separate from the concerns that board members may or should have as individual contributors. I think encouraging members of the board to make that distinction is probably something useful that could be done. Is "Jimmy the user" or is "Jimmy an agent of the board" doing _________. Is your support for Jimmy's ______ actions based on your concerns as a board member, or as the concerns of a wikimedia contributor? I guess this letter is assuming Jimbo is acting on his own and not as an agent of the board, which is probably fine, but it should make that distinction clear. I think this letter should also be clear about what concerns or points it wants the board to address, and in what capacity you want the board members to answer as agents of the board or as wikimedia users. I think this letter should be clear about what it expects or wants the board to do. Other than this input I have no desire to work on or be part of this letter. Do not imply that this letter has my support should you actually send this letter. -- darklama  17:33, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

The stewards believe that JW is acting on behalf of the board in their ruling that his block of thekohser cannot be overruled. -- Adrignola 19:48, 24 March 2010 (UTC)

I have left notices on Meta: and Betawikiversity:. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 14:13, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

explicit urls[edit]

as the letter is to be printed out, you need explicit urls for the references. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 16:02, 1 April 2010 (UTC)


I think such pictures removes seriousness of the letter.--Juan de Vojníkov 16:47, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

You tried to remove the emotionall level from the letter, but what these pictures intents to do?--Juan de Vojníkov 16:49, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
If the pictures make you unhappy you can remove them from the page. After the open letter was mentioned in the Foundation's email discussion forum there were some amusing comments made there. I was inspired to illustrate the letter so as to visually illustrate those comments. --JWSchmidt 21:20, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
Well, but the Trustees doesnt know about these comments.--Juan de Vojníkov 23:30, 6 April 2010 (UTC)


Jus' wondering if this letter has been sent, and if we could update the page accordingly? - I support the contents of the letter, but was away for the signing period, and in any case feel that it might be better to avoid the possibility of distraction that my name, as a protagonist / involved editor might have caused? cheers, Privatemusings 01:51, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

I'm aware of the letter here, as is the rest of the Board; there's no need to 'send' a wiki-drafted letter in any way other than to declare that it's no longer being revised. In general, if you want a response to specific concerns, it is helpful to separate complaints and background context from specific requests.
The essence of this letter indicates some misunderstanding -- Jimbo's status as Founder isn't something 'granted' by the Board, it is a recognition of the role he has played since before there was a Foundation in founding the project and helping the community avoid major pitfalls. He was not acting as an agent of the Board nor was there any 'Board authorization of an intervention'.
I understand the concerns expressed here about process, and especially Jtneill's concerns about ambiguity of role -- there seems to have been a perception that this was an emergency when that was not the case. But Leigh was right when he pointed out the lack of recognition of the valid points in concerns raised. Nevertheless, concerns about the now-deleted project were widespread -- the deletions and sense of emergency did not arise in a vacuum. Calling the project "a thoughtful search for ways to help and improve WMF wiki projects" may be slightly disingenuous.
(While I'm not sure it merited speedy deletion, it certainly merited deletion in that form (for instance, it focused on how to organize and run such experiments, even though there was no background discussion of how they could be useful, nor any attempt to define ethics standards or a review committee to help determine when such an experiment would indeed be both helpful and harmless.) Gbaor has since recreated the project in a way that focuses on how to help, rather than how to incite -- Detecting and preventing hoaxes in wikis has not received any attention or contributions in the past few weeks, but it is certainly an appropriate topic. SJ+>)
To make a clarification of something that Sj said here - before I took action on Wikiversity, I sought, and obtained, the full backing and support of the Wikimedia Foundation. Sue posted publicly in support of my actions, as well. SJ is right that I didn't seek - nor should I have, nor will I ever in similar cases - a vote of the board before taking right action in defense of Wikiversity.--Jimbo Wales 01:49, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
I don't want to get in the way here, but I must just point out that the version of the project most recently deleted explicitly disavowed organising and running any experiments, and every incarnation of the page featured attempts to define ethical standards, as well as actively seeking review - it'd be easier for folk to be accurate mind were the pages straight forwardly easy to review. Privatemusings 01:14, 12 April 2010 (UTC)
Unfortunately that doesn't help to clarify what Sj said at all. How did you seek and obtain the full backing and support of the Wikimedia Foundation if not by polling or asking the board to vote before you took action? -- darklama  02:11, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
"right action in defense of Wikiversity" <-- The Wikiversity community would welcome justified and responsible "defense of Wikiversity". In this case, what we are dealing with is out-of-process deletion of a learning resource that explicitly tried to improve Wikimedia wiki projects. In this case, we are dealing with out-of-process blocks of Wikiversity participants who violated no policy or rule. In this case, we are dealing with an out-of-process emergency desysop procedure imposed when no emergency existed. I'd like to see an explicit public statement of support for these actions by Mr. Wales: a resolution from the Wikimedia Foundation Board. The Trustees manage the Foundation and are the ultimate corporate authority for the Wikimedia Foundation. The Board needs to state publicly that it has authorized Mr. Wales to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity. --JWSchmidt 14:57, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Mr. Wales is not an active contributor to Wikiversity and his intervention here may have been extraordinarily foolish and clumsy, but WV is an academic community and we should be especially careful about neutrality and how we characterize the actions of others. (I am myself a very new contributor to WV but am becoming very interested in the possibilities that are unique here.) Mr. Wales' comments were not the soul of clarity and may have been hampered by his trying to make a point, but, above, he's explicit: he did not seek specific Board approval. Instead, he refers to the Foundation, which means, I'm sure, "Foundation staff," and if it doesn't mean the Board, that's all that is left. For full disclosure, after I wrote about this on Wikipedia Review, I received an email confirming this from Mr. Wales. Such "approval" could mean as little as approval by a single staff member considered at least somewhat authoritative. I would fault him for allowing the impression to be created of an imminent decision by the Board to close Wikiversity through his lack of caution about precision, which I hope was inadvertent. But it's time to drop the clubs and start working for improvements, both of Wikiversity and how it handles conflict, and of the entire Wikimedia family of wikis and, indeed, all wikis. If individuals here want a statement from the WMF Board, they are welcome to request it, either through official channels or through direct communication with board members, but that is not necessarily the best course for Wikiversity. I do not recommend asking to be free of Founder control until a replacement is lined up, to represent the interests of the WMF as legal and responsible owner of Wikiversity as matters stand. --Abd 19:23, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Abd, your comment and advice here are apt. SJ+> 01:04, 16 April 2010 (UTC)
Finally, the Foundation doese not 'own' the Projects as concepts or as collaborative efforts -- every Project is a constellation of contributors who retain the Right to Leave and the Right to Fork. We are all here, as individuals and groups, because we are working towards shared goals, and helping one another reach them through consensus and partnership. The Foundation tries to help by providing a comfortable space to expand and develop new ideas -- free hosting, freedom from ads, freedom from spammers and vandals, freedom from legal threats and abuse, freedom to try new ways to expand the world's shared knowledge. Jimbo was instrumental in keeping the Projects on an even keel for many years; if a project incites him to extraordinary action, it is generally worth taking his input seriously and working to resolve issues raised through consensus. And the efforts made along those lines this past month have been much appreciated. SJ+> 07:47, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
During community discussion of his intervention at Wikiversity, Mr. Wales claimed, "I have the full support of the Wikimedia Foundation" and "This is a Foundation matter". Will the Board allow those claims by Mr. Wales to go unchallenged by the Board? If the the Board allows Mr. Wales (or anyone else) to claim that their personal actions have the full support of the Board then the Board is implicitly granting Mr. Wales the power to act as an agent of the Board and a spokesman for the entire Board. Unless the Board explicitly repudiates the idea that Mr. Wales acted with the full support of the Board, then members of the Wikiversity community and the public will assume that Mr. Wales is acting as the Board's agent to make editorial decisions about wiki content at Wikiversity.
On a personal level, are you saying that you assume bad faith on the part of Privatemusings with respect to the purpose of the deleted learning project? --JWSchmidt 15:25, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
I'm not sure why you would think that - it is not the case at all. I assume good faith on pm's part, as I know him to be a decent fellow, and chatted with him about this drama shortly after it started. The recent reworking of the project as 'ways to detect and prevent hoaxes' seems like a fine way to proceed. SJ+>
"I'm not sure why you would think that" <-- The thought occurred to me because you have voiced your support for deletion of a harmless Wikiversity learning project, saying "it certainly merited deletion". Mr. Wales has justified his actions at Wikiversity by stating that he was dealing with "trolling". I wanted to know if you assumed that Privatemusings was trolling by creating the "ethical breaching experiments" project. I find your stated reasons in support of deletion to be inadequate. If there were weaknesses in the project, the correct solution was to click "edit" and improve the project. I am shocked that you appear to believe that Mr. Wales has been authorized by the Foundation to to perform out-of-process deletion of a harmless learning resource, authorized by the Foundation to inflict out-of-process blocks on honest Wikiversity participants who violated no rules or policies, blocks imposed with no warning or discussion and no justification beyond the uncivil label of "troll" having been applied, authorized to perform an emergency deysop on a Wikiversity Custodian when no emergency existed and authorized to threaten the closure of Wikiversity in an attempt to prevent his unwelcome intervention from being challenged. I'm surprised that you and Sue imply that that Mr. Wales is authorized to act as the Foundation's agent to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity. Do you really expect thoughtful scholars to participate at Wikiversity under such conditions? --JWSchmidt 02:41, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

This is confusing. The founder flag and the privileges that go with it must have been granted by someone. Is your point that they're granted by the Foundation executive with no direct intervention by the Board or are you saying that they somehow came from somewhere else entirely? Did whoever granted him those privileges thereby also grant him a right (in addition to the power) to override normal community processes or not? If the Board doesn't have the answer to that question then who would? 17:42, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

Agreed, this actually makes things more confusing (Jimbo's statements seem in direct contradiction to yours).
Quick question about the forking though, Sj (because that seems to be where things are going because of the lack of clarity): would the foundation give us a bit of support in setting that up? Not asking for funding or server space, but more along the lines of setting up another non-profit foundation and advice on a few issues. I think the lack of clarity is making a schism inevitable, but I for one would like it to be a friendly parting. --SB_Johnny talk 18:27, 11 April 2010 (UTC)
Hi SBJ, it's good to have your input here. The current lack of clarity seems inherent in how Wikiversity has developed; I don't see a need for a fork, but expect clarified goals and guidelines to come out of the next few months of discussion here. If you want a different environment to develop educational materials, there are another half-dozen projects already in existence with different takes on how to do it and manage a community around it successfully. I'm not sure what advice you have in mind, but you might want to start by reviewing the existing venues for this sort of work, comparing how they function, and discussing what differences you would like to see in your ideal community. At any rate, to avoid further confusion, you may want to reach that clarity before worrying about infrastructure. SJ+> 01:04, 16 April 2010 (UTC)
  • Wait a minute, Sj. Do you speak for yourself, for the board of trustees, or for some of the trustees? Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 21:09, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Why ask a question with an obvious answer? Sj clearly speaks for himself, as a member of the board. He would know if the board considered a matter, presumably, and so his personal testimony that the board did not consider the matter, which does not contradict what Jimbo wrote (but only what some assumed from it), can be considered reasonably reliable. Nobody speaks for the Board of an organization without explicitly specifying authorization. Basic stuff. However, Sj may possibly speak informally for "some of the trustees," but he didn't say so. Isn't about time that this edgy inquiry stop? Grilling members of the board, and staff, is not appropriate. Poking a bear is not recommended unless you are prepared for the consequences. Sure, courage in standing up for academic freedom is commendable, but not foolish and unnecessary provocation. --Abd 21:58, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
Hi Hillg, I speak only for myself. This is always the case unless otherwise specified. SJ+> 01:04, 16 April 2010 (UTC)
Abd: "Why ask a question with an obvious answer? Sj clearly speaks for himself,.." ...' However, Sj may possibly speak informally for "some of the trustees," but he didn't say so. ':-) I have no comment, but please make up your mind before you pass down another judgement. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 23:15, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
How about not making a comment when you don't have one? --Abd 17:28, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Maybe you can learn the various uses of the English word "but". Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 18:56, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
Perhaps you might notice that if the "but" was an exception to "no comment," the comma you used was inappropriate, and then your comment should have been put in quotation marks. I.e., I have no comment but "Please make up your mind before you pass down another judgement."
I don't have ambiguity as you imagined. Sj spoke for himself, clearly, but nevertheless his remarks might informally represent other board members, i.e., one or more may agree with him. Some of us are not necessarily swift to recognize all the possible meanings of communications, but I'd expect more of serious Wikiversity participants. It's part of AGF, to interpret writing charitably, to search for how it can be true, instead of jumping on how it might be false and demanding proof. I see, now, other disruption over this.[1] Please stop, it will not help Wikiversity, unlike sober attempts to address the real problem, which, I assure you, is not Jimbo, and if I'm wrong, if the real problem is Jimbo, even less will a tantrum here fix it. Jimbo represented, in this whole affair, a challenge that Wikiversity wasn't prepared to face, but that challenge is actually more routine than many imagine. Address it! How does Wikiversity make decisions efficiently? It's a problem that Wikipedia has largely failed to address, but possible techniques and tools are well-known, why not try them? Hint: start small. --Abd 20:30, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
"How does Wikiversity make decisions efficiently?" - That is a loaded question. You should at least explain what you think about the status quo and what do you perceive as problems and why. What do you mean by efficiency? Can we do it? Should we do it? I presume that you have much experience and view wikiversity from that angle. You are looking only at a small part of Wikiversity, at most few learning projects, but the Wikimedians (who are usually wikipedians) are magnifying them out of proportion and perhaps thinking that's almost all that Wikiversitians do. (I am not giving you an exact link but a reasonable person like you might be able to infer that from some of the comments.) We have many many useful learning resources and a number of study grouops who care nothing about this kind of Wiki-politics. If you mean that Wikiversity do not easily give a unified and direct answer to every question (like you get from the Wikipedia arbcom) coming from inside or outside you had better state your case more clearly. The current community review and deletion discussion processes are sufficient for internal problems. Wikiversity is a different ecosystem from Wikipedia. Unlike Wikipedia and like the academic world there is no need for a final answer for everything. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 23:08, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
You two may be closer in goals and methods than you think. I agree that many of the learning projects here are doing well and care nothing for this set of debates, but they need a lot of help to be effective (and to be perceived as effective). Hillgentleman - "sufficient for internal problems" is easy to assess when problems are within a single wiki. When they span wikis, the needs, concerns, and cultures of all projects involved should be considered. SJ+> 01:04, 16 April 2010 (UTC)

Discussion by project participants[edit]

A good letter, but I feel it needs to show some evidence of understanding to the concerns and motivations of Jimmy Wales, however inappropriate and hurtful his actions evidently were. Showing some level of empathy will help the letter read less like an attack, and more like an invitation to negotiate. Best wishes and thank you for your hard work Leighblackall 06:34, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

I think the concerned users that "We" represents does not know what Jimmy Wales specific concerns and motivations are. Hence a lack of transparency. -- darklama  12:07, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
"show some evidence of understanding to the concerns and motivations of Jimmy Wales". Leigh: I added a new paragraph after the list (items 1-4) that quotes the stated concerns of Jimbo. --JWSchmidt 14:19, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

Above it says:

I'd disagree however with that description. To quote directly from the page, it said "On this page we discuss, brainstorm, and possibly execute ethical breaching experiments - in particular whether or not such things are possible, and if so, how they might be designed and executed to best inform policy and practice on WMF projects." Privatemusings had defined an "ethical breaching experiment" as "An experiment which causes no harm in its execution, whilst yielding results useful for the greater good, or which inspire positive change, but which uses methods which may violate the letter or spirit of the guildeline 'Do not disrupt Wikipedia to illustrate a point'". I therefore don't think the letter accurately describes this. It doesn't make it clear that Privatemusings described the page as a place to "discuss, brainstorm, and possibly execute ethical breaching experiments", nor that Privatemusings definition of an "ethical breaching experiment" acknowledged that the execution of such experiments had the potential to involve violating guidelines. Adambro 15:12, 31 March 2010 (UTC)

I think it would be best for all if the page was undeleted so objective observers can see the page and discuss it. The page is a harmless learning project that was deleted out of process. <-- This is the key point that the letter should concisely convey to the Board. There is nothing wrong with a thoughtful discussion and search for actions that might breach the spirit of a rule in order to bring positive change. --JWSchmidt 16:25, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
The definition Privatemusings provided acknowledged the potential to violate one specific guideline "Do not use Wikipedia to make a point". His desire to explore ways in which to bring about positive change would of followed the spirit of Wikipedia:Ignore all rules: If a rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it. That page is a policy unlike the guideline he was wanting to explore the possibility of ignoring. -- darklama  16:43, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I'm simply making an observation here. Those interested in writing this letter can feel free to do as they wish, it is simply my impression at the moment that the description of the project leaves out some important aspects. Specifically, that the project goal was broader than just searching for an appropriate "ethical breaching experiment", it was to possibly including executing them, and that the definition given acknowledged the potential to violate guidelines. Darklama can verify that the quotes I've given are accurate and I suspect a copy of the project probably exists elsewhere anyway so undeletion isn't necessary or appropriate. Rather than ignore these points in this letter, I think it would be better to explain why they aren't a concern as Darklama has attempted here. Adambro 17:49, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
Adambro: concerns such as yours are not directly relevant to the purpose of this letter. Dealing with concerns such as yours are why Wikiversity has an "edit" button, the button which should be used rather than "delete" and "block". The deleted project existed as a place to discuss the matters that you have expressed concern about. The "ethical breaching experiments" project pages should be undeleted so that discussion of your concerns can take place in the correct place: in the context of the original learning project. Anyone supporting the out-of-process deletion of the "ethical breaching experiments" learning resource is disrupting the Wikiversity project. --JWSchmidt 19:08, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I think including an explanation of the concerned users POV on why the learning project was educational/useful could be useful for the Trustees to understand. The explanation I gave above, if it fits with the concerned users POV, could be used to explain to the Trustees why the inclusion of the learning project is important and is of concern for the concerned users. -- darklama  19:24, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I don't understand your point, but feel free to edit the letter. --JWSchmidt 19:38, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
What I've presented here aren't really my concerns, they are simply the facts about what the page said. I think to neglect to mention these facts would provide an incomplete picture of the project. It would invite suggestions that the reason for doing so is because those facts are perhaps damaging to the argument that this project didn't have the potential of disrupting other WMF projects, a significant part of the justification for deleting it. There is a clear choice for those writing this letter. Either ignore the aspects of a page which present a greater challenge to the argument that the action was inappropriate, or face up to these facts and try to provide reassurance that they aren't a concern as Darklama has attempted above. Adambro 19:40, 31 March 2010 (UTC)
I think everyone at the Foundation who will read this letter knows that Wikipedia culture has a very strong "nip this in the bud" approach to management. I hope they know that Wikiversity has a culture where the approach is more "let's nurture this bud and see what develops". Another way of describing the difference is that Wikiversity participants are willing to assume good faith with respect to people who are thoughtfully developing a Wikiversity learning resource. I believe the letter makes clear that any problems with the content of the "ethical breach project" could have been addressed by editing and discussion...the usual wiki way. This was a project that existed harmlessly at Wikiversity for more than two months; there was no emergency that required Jimbo's intervention. Even if Jimbo mistakenly viewed the project as an emergency, he should have started thinking along other lines as soon as SBJ initiated the community review of Jimbo's actions. Instead, he deleted the pages a second time and threatened the very existence of Wikiversity in order to try to enforce his disputed view of the situation. We need to hear from the Board if Jimbo is more than a Steward and able to get away with this kind of behavior. That is the purpose of this get clarification from the Board. If the Board wants to impose Wikipedia's culture on Wikiversity then they are free to do so, we just need a clear public statement of their intentions. "this project didn't have the potential of disrupting other WMF projects" <-- this is not anyone's argument. I can imagine worst-case scenarios in which the project could have led to something "damaging", but if Wikiversity speedy deletion criteria are to be, "If I assume bad faith about this page then I can imagine a danger to Wikipedia and so I will delete it without discussion," then there are many people who will no longer participate at Wikiversity. If you can think of a way to edit the letter so as to make the point you want to make, go ahead and start a new version on a subpage. --JWSchmidt 00:19, 1 April 2010 (UTC)

I would suggest to change the date on the letter. -- 20:16, 2 April 2010 (UTC)

Cimon on the signatories[edit]

Cimon Avaro commented on the signatories:

User:Jon Awbrey
Parenthetical note: Not an English Wikiversity community member. -- Cimon Avaro 15:53, 9 April 2010 (UTC)
Parenthetical note: Not an English Wikiversity community member. -- Cimon Avaro 15:53, 9 April 2010 (UTC)

Relevance? Seems they have userpages on WV -- how do you define "community member"? Collect 15:26, 11 April 2010 (UTC)

See Also[edit]

  • User:JonAwbrey & Contributions (The CamelCase variant of my name is an artifact from the early days of SUL.)
  • I visited here in September 2008 when a few English Wikiversity folks induced me to imagine for a moment that Wikiversity was a place where academic freedom and academic values would be respected. The events of that Unhappy Fall showed me that the native population was incapable of defending those freedoms and values in the face of brute forces exerted by the Co-Flounder and his Meta-Meatpuppets. That history repeats itself for the usual reasons, but I thought I might at least issue some Commentaries on it this time around. Jon Awbrey 21:48, 16 April 2010 (UTC)
    • As near as I can tell, Wikiversity is much closer to the ideal that was represented to Jon than, say, Wikipedia. However, in no place is freedom absolute. Whether it is wise for the WMF, through its agents, to intervene here is one question, but its right to do so is another, it has not only the right, but possibly the responsibility. WMF is responsible for the actions of its agents, whether it formally acknowledges those actions, and explains them, or not. As far as I have seen, the interference here has been limited to restricting study of WMF projects themselves, and it is possible that it is not pure study that is being restricted, but a form of advocacy, which is dodgier. We all know that many people, not just nonprofit foundations, will sometimes attempt to discourage investigation of their behavior, but even more so -- and more legitimately -- if these investigations become witch hunts. The Wikiversity community is, indeed, weak, as Jon has implied ("incapable"), but that may merely be due to a lack of maturity. When we are born, incapacity is routine for almost everything. I urge Jon to cautiously and carefully participate in attempts to establish the study of wikis here, which, because of the sensitivity, should be general and rigorously neutral. It should report, not judge or condemn. Because it can be difficult to separate out pure investigation from, say, moral outrage at the appearance of some situations, we need proceed with special care, being responsive to complaint, seeking only to hold up a mirror to the wikis, not to judge them. Judgment, indeed, may come, but not from us as an academic community; hopefully, if people see errors in the mirror, they will look at their own behavior instead of blaming the holder of the mirror. It helps if the one holding the mirror isn't yelling at the one reflected. It helps even more if the one holding is smiling and compassionate. Professors and students in brick and mortar universities must also deal with issues like this. Let's not be discouraged by obstacles. Nobody told us that the pursuit of knowledge would be easy. If they did, they lied. --Abd 17:30, 17 April 2010 (UTC)

Petition to shut down Wikiversity[edit]

I think this open letter is a perfect example of what is wrong with Wikiversity. Where most Wikimedia projets serve some useful purpose (as an encyclopedia, dictionary, free media repository, quote collection, etc), Wikiversity serves none. It is simply a haven for trolls banned from other projects, who migrate here to continue whatever behavior got them banned originally. I think it's long past time to shut the entire project down. I have created a petition to the Board of Trustees. Anyone who agrees with me that Wikiversity should be shut down should sign the petition. Raul654 23:18, 4 April 2010 (UTC)

I think this message is a perfect example of what is wrong with wikipedians jumping into wikiversity, not understanding what is going on and passing judgements. A simple search would reveal such pages as wikiversity:mission and Wikiversity:Approved_Wikiversity_project_proposal#Mission, and Wikiversity:Main Page. A simple question on the colloquium would lead you to wikiversity:school and university projects and betawikiversity:brick and mortar collaboration. While you may or may not agree with what are done on these projects, it is folly to speak with such volume without even being aware of them. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 04:13, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
Until I saw this, I thought the idea of shutting down Wikiversity was too extreme, but now I am convinced. This particular asylum seems to have been taken over by the inmates. Kaldari 14:17, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
Oh, Another familiar name. "Seems to have been"? You had better have some more specific charges based on something more concrete or else it is just smearing. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 14:50, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
I've already made my charges and I stand by them (in the RFC regarding the breaching experiments). I don't need to repeat them all here. Kaldari 15:23, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
There wasn't an RFC regarding the breaching experiment. There was an RFC against Jimbo Wales' messing up Wikiversity affairs. As to the so-called "breaching experiments", the most hideous crime ever perpetrated was a proposal to manipulate an admin or steward to close down a project, and that was the work of long term Wikipedian user:RTG. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 07:50, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

The real irony here is that some of the people signing this letter are banned from other Wikimedia projects due to years of disruptive trolling and have yet to contribute a word of legitimate content to this project. 15:13, 5 April 2010 Kaldari

BTW, e.g. who?--Juan de Vojníkov 16:52, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
Jon Awbrey, for starters. Raul654 17:05, 5 April 2010 (UTC)
And? It is one person, not some people.--Juan de Vojníkov 20:35, 5 April 2010 (UTC)

Please don't shut down! It's likely going to be used by multiple Google Summer of Code projects. 21:15, 7 April 2010 (UTC)

  • The claim that the existence of some "bad page" is a reason to shut down a whole project is grossly preposterous. There appears to be no danger that Wikiversity will be shut down soon, Raul654's proposal went down in flames, at least so far, and we know now that the Board has not considered the matter, and my strong suspicion is that Jimbo isn't about to propose it to them, he was posturing here, human being that he is. The WV community has structural problems, as do all the WMF wikis, as far as I know, which should be addressed regardless, and if they are, the small danger of shutdown will be completely gone. That's where the attention should be, not to complaints about "interference" from those who, after all, are at present legally responsible for this site. Until the community, or some other servant of the community, is prepared to assume that responsibility, the community must accept the consequences of the status quo. No Free Lunch. --Abd 22:05, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
    • Legally- Wikimedia Foundation owns the Wikiversity site and every editor owns the copyright of their own contributions and licenced them out with cc-by-sa/gfdl. Where is Jimbo Wales? Hello? Are you saying Jimbo Wales is Wikimedia Foundation? Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 23:26, 13 April 2010 (UTC)
      • Certainly not; however, he has the Founder flag, with its associated privileges, and with the consent of the Foundation. The legal issue is site management, not content license. You can, if you like, ask the WMF for anything, including removal of that flag, but, I suggest, be prepared to offer something better, and be prepared for the answer. I see no sign that this community is prepared, none. That could change in a flash, my opinion, and I'd be applauding. Until then, as has been suggested by others, find something better to do. --Abd 00:31, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
        "with the consent of the Foundation" <-- Please provide evidence that the Foundation had anything to do with giving Jimbo the "founder" tools. Please provide evidence that the Foundation has decided to exercise editorial control at Wikiversity through its agent, Mr. Wales. Such a decision would have serious implications for the Foundation and would leave a public trail such as a Board resolution. It appears that Jimbo acted alone on March 13 to delete a harmless Wikiversity learning resource. The Wikiversity community needs to correct that error. --JWSchmidt 14:03, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
          • WMF owns the entire set of wikis, including Wikiversity. The "Foundation" includes and is responsible for all employees and authorized volunteers. It is as responsible for what it does not do as for what it does. Jimbo claimed "Foundation support." It's pretty obvious that he has it. Does that mean that the board passed a resolution? No, boards do not specifically authorize every act. The *agent, in this case, made the decision to exercise (limited) editorial control. He's done that from time to time. He claims, however, that he did not act "alone," that he had support. From what? From staff. What staff? Well, we've seen one staff member show up to support. We've also seen a board member, here, who did not deny Jimbo's right to act. And all this doesn't matter. You have a user here with high-level privileges. If you don't like it what are you going to do about it?
          • As near as I can tell, there is no coherent voice of the Wikiversity community. That's what's missing, and remedying this would resolve the problem, I'd predict. Wailing about Jimbo won't fix it. In a way, he's like any administrator, who can, in fact, delete a "harmless resource," but, obviously, Jimbo does not consider it harmless. If Wikiversity is to survive, the problem must eventually be faced, and, I'm pretty sure, the obstacle isn't Jimbo, or, at least, if he is an obstacle, he's a minor one compared to the others. Work to solve the basic problem, and Jimbo might actually be thrilled. I'm a parent, with 7 children and 5 grandchildren, and I know how thrilled I am when one of my kids grows up and becomes capable of doing stuff I don't like. If I've raised them well, most of what they do, indeed, I will like. --Abd 17:24, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
            • Abd, You are not seeing the problem perhaps because you haven't been here long enough. Wikiversity is in the process of setting up community mechanisms organically, and we are disrupted by people who are not here very often, and in particular Jimbo Wales, who demand we resolve their perceived problems the wikipedia way. That in itself causes serious disruption because its arbitrariness damages the integrity and trust in the established mechanisms. What we want is simply a mutual understanding, that these folks actually understand our current practices before criticising us with all sorts of accusations, and that we know their pattern of behaviour and intentions so that we know what to expect from them.Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 23:22, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
            • What I have been meaning, all along, is that if Wikimedia Foundation want to have editorial control on Wikiversity, fine, just say it loud and clear; if Jimbo Wales wants to be a dictator here, may be, but be here more often to actually know what is going on. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 23:39, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
            • Abd: "there is no coherent voice of the Wikiversity community". Why do you think there ought to be one? We all come from different backgrounds and if we don't find an agreement on something we don't pretent that there is and silence all oppositions. Wikiversitians who have been around for a while and newcomers like you probably have different perceptions of what Wikiversity does or what it is for, and there is no need for a decision of which one is THE one. Wikiversity has the stomach for diverse opinions as well as critisms. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 23:43, 14 April 2010 (UTC)
              • "Coherent voice" means, not suppression of dissent, but rather clear consensus, or, at the very least, actions and decisions supported by a majority of all participants. When there is some kind of crisis, especially, communities that do not have a means of coherent action do not survive. The classic means of doing this is to have a person who fills the role of making ad-hoc decisions (either permanently or pending some other process). To a degree, every admin has that power, and what Jimbo did here was (1) exercise admin power, and (2) imply a threat of more serious action, a threat that he probably has the power to carry out, but it's untested by precedent. There are other ways to handle the problem of immediate decision, and, indeed, I believe that the King model is obsolete even though widely used, except for very short-term decision, on the scale of days.
              • You have missed the point of "coherent voice." To deal effectively with the WMF, there needs to be an ability to negotiate, and the kind of process you have in mind is lousy at that. There are many ways to do it, and what you have in mind, and what has been done so far, I can quite confidently predict, will fail.
              • Setting up community mechanisms organically. Sure. Like Wikipedia did? They got stuck with some seriously defective mechanisms. It's clear to many, now, that wikis don't spontaneously gravitate toward maximum efficiency, and efficiency is absolutely necessary for sustained consensus with a large community. Nor do wikis, long-term, gravitate toward completeness, accuracy, and neutrality, except under certain conditions that don't apply to all topics. Do you really want to replicate the WP experience here? I'm saying that we can do better than that, much better, and if we do it well, Wikipedia might even imitate it. This is an academic community, and academic communities have sometimes led in terms of working with new process. It should be a topic of study here.
              • Bottom line, what you have acknowledged is that the mechanisms for responsibility have not been set up. Do you realize what this looks like to Jimbo? Think about it. He apparently believes that this project was being abused by trolls who have used it to attack Wikipedia, which is very important to him and the WMF. He has a responsibility to Wikipedia, he would believe. When we are ready to assume responsibility for this project, and for what it does in respect to other projects, then we can challenge him and WMF control, if we choose. I don't see that we have even a shred of this capacity yet, and the proof, indeed, is that we still depend on WMF for hosting and other services, yet have no way to negotiate a contract to regulate it. I'm suggesting, bottom line, that this community grow up. No rush. We can take all the time we need. But until we are ready to live on our own, we can't expect full freedom. We can expect it to be constrained, and we can work with the constraints. I don't see the constraints, so far, as preventing any crucial activity here. I'm trying to get the "Response testing" study project going (it will not do any "response testing," it will study what has been done by others), and, if there is true repression here, aside from what might be legitimate concern, that project can be moved elsewhere, it doesn't really matter. How about watching and helping, instead of tilting at windmills, those damn blades can really knock you down. --Abd 01:12, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
                • I think you have been listening too much to Wikipedians. We do have community processes which generate consensus. Our problem is that Wikipedians and Jimbo Wales expect it to be as fast as they do, which for us would mean haste. Hillgentleman | //\\ |Talk 01:21, 15 April 2010 (UTC)
                  • Do you imagine that a real university could function with no campus police (or other local authority) and no administrative position that could make immediate decisions about what might be causing harm? If the physics department wants to run an experiment that is feared might blow up and take out a chunk of the University, does this project continue without restraint, pending "consensus"? I'm saying that responsible administration means having a process for making immediate decisions. You do have a process, it's called an administrator, who can delete and block, but where there is disagreement, you have no rapid means of making immediate decisions. Immediate decisions are not "consensus," but it is possible to structure "government" so that they are likely to reflect consensus, and, as well, so that, the review, if necessary, is relatively rapid. Are you aware that you are defending what has been the major dysfunction of Wikipedia, and probably what has afflicted Wikiversity as well? Do you really think that massive discussions that basically go nowhere (except sometimes one side gets tired and stops and gives up) are functional? It burns people out, this is well known in all kinds of organizations that seek consensus. It eventually burns people out even when it finds real consensus!
                  • Look at what started this, what has now morphed into Wikimedia Ethics/Response testing on WMF projects. Consensus, to be functional, should be informed consensus. Open discussion can eventually inform, but frequently obscures as much as it informs, when the scale is large and there is no guiding process. Centuries ago, functional process was developed. It's been almost totally ignored, by wiki communities who imagine that they are doing better. Nobody who has experience with real deliberative peer democracy believes that wikis are doing better. (Well, Piotrus thought it might be, he's a sociologist, who has written articles about Wikipedia published under peer review, and who was an administrator on Wikipedia. He's now blocked. What did he do? Good question, eh? Practically nothing but talk to people off-wiki. "Cabal!" the mob screamed, and ArbComm joined in the mob.) What does deliberation begin with? Well, that's a big topic, but early in the process, when it's complicated, there is collection of evidence. The resource page mentioned can do that, and it could be done on many questions. When you have discussion before the evidence is developed, you have noise, and lots of it, and people often get stuck on early positions they took. Where is evidence developed? In committee, is the classic solution. Small group, delegated the task of examining an issue and coming back with a report. --Abd 01:46, 15 April 2010 (UTC)

(out)Overstating things helps no one. There is no prospect of your posited physics department destroying a building here <g>. Nor would a real university have the Board of Governors (or whatever title) leap in to stop the Psych department running tests on how students react in a controlled setting to (say) teachers seeing how far they can go in spouting nonsense in a class (which is far more nearly what any experiments at Wx could be). Nor are universities run on the basis of "consensus" as to what any individual should be writing about. Nor are small, self-selected groups the way to go. Is there a case to be made that WV needs a more formal structure (akin to deans, department heads, faculty members)? Possibly. I think it is now fully established that the status quo wherein JW can jump in with minimal information is problematic at best. Collect 16:04, 18 April 2010 (UTC)

""Nor would a real university have the Board of Governors (or whatever title) leap in to stop the Psych department running tests ..". Well every university I know has a Research Ethics Committee that could do exactly that if the Psych department had not got approval of the committee for running such tests or ran them in any way different from the way they did get approval for. I think WV needs something exactly like a Research Ethics Committee. --Bduke 22:41, 18 April 2010 (UTC)
That's right. However, absent such a committee, can nothing be done? If someone wants to run a project here, do they have to create an Ethics Committee and run some process there to get a report to approve it? I don't think so. There is a wiki standard: you can do anything if nobody objects! And if someone objects, then you stop doing it until there is consensus. You don't edit war, you don't insist on content because it's "right", you don't wheel-war if you have tools, you stop and discuss, and, if you are going to go ahead without full consensus, you make sure you have community backing first. I have some idea about what might have happened here before, based on accounts from those who were involved, and based on what I've seen going on over the last weeks. We can do better, that's what I think. To run an "ethical breaching experiment" or simply "response testing," in itself, would quite reasonably require an ethics committee approval first, but to study what others already did, not. There is some possible objection that is represented by the idea of "Don't erect shrines to vandalism," but interpreting that to prohibit the study of what has been called vandalism would be like prohibiting the study of, say, Nazi Germany, on the grounds that it would be erecting a shrine to Nazism. I don't think so. But if I'm wrong, I assume I'll find out. --Abd 23:12, 18 April 2010 (UTC)
Thanks Collect. Let's look at this:
  • It was an ad hoc analogy, Collect. A real university has an administrator hired by the Board of Trustees to make operating decisions as necessary. It has campus police who have the usual police powers, responsible to the administrator (as well as to the laws of the state). Now what is the situation here?
  • This is a web site owned by the WikiMediaFoundation, which is legally responsible for it. The WMF has allowed Jimbo Wales to have certain operating powers. He can delete pages here and he can block users, and he can remove sysop privileges, and he can do these things without consulting this community first. If we assume good faith, and I do, he believed that Wikiversity was being used by persons he called "trolls," who were attempting to damage other Wikimedia web sites through activities organized here. My point is not that he was right or wrong. My point is that he has the power to act, and he believed these things. From his POV, he acted to protect other WMF sites. Some (perhaps many) users of this site were upset with this, and with prior similar actions.
  • Some here wish to assert a right to self-government for this site. It appears that WMF (and Jimbo) do not wish to routinely manage this site, but that only means that there is limited self-government. WMF pays the bills, providing the servers and paying for the traffic. If the community here wants full self-government, it is very unlikely to get it unless it is willing to foot the bill and take legal responsibility.
  • Short of that, some here seem to think that reciting litanies of the wrongs, real or merely alleged, done by WMF, Jimbo, or "abusive administrators" is going to make the situation better. Sober analysis of the situation, and making practical recommendations to Jimbo or the WMF Board might. If there have been errors, showing a better way might help. Blaming, and especially repeating the same blaming message over and over on this page or that page, won't help. It will only harden opposition if it continues to be allowed, without restraint.
  • So the current flap began over a study of breaching experiments relating to Wikipedia. In a sense, it doesn't matter if this was actually ethical or not, what matters in a practical sense is that it was seen as a hazard. Was it seen as a hazard in the sense that any study of actual Wikipedia process and behavior would be "hazardous," such that repressing it was a form of cover-up, or was it seen as a hazard in the sense that it would encourage damage to Wikipedia, either actual damage to articles or damage in the sense of disruption?
  • In order to move beyond these events, I believe, we need to know the difference. I have accordingly encouraged the beginning of a carefully restricted study of "response testing," with the understanding that this process will come to an immediate halt if offense is taken to it by WMF staff. That doesn't mean that it's over, but that whatever was offensive would be blanked, at least, and then discussed here, as well as with the protesting staff (which would Jimbo). My assumption of good faith, mentioned above, requires me to assume that Jimbo's action was not a form of cover-up, but was, in fact, protective.
  • The goal of this study is not the assignment of blame, neither of the "trolls," nor of administrators and others who opposed the actions, whether this was abusive or not. It is not to create more response testing, but to study, carefully and thoroughly, what actually happened. If we cannot do that, if that, itself, is blocked, then I would agree that academic freedom would have become impossible here, and such study would have to move elsewhere. What might be called Wiki Studies is quite appropriate for academic work, and, indeed, academic studies of Wikipedia are being published in peer-reviewed journals.
  • I have reviewed only a little of what happened before, in 2008, with another affair about "managerial ethics," which was a loaded title (in spite of possibilities for objective study of it). It is my tentative opinion, from the little I know, that mistakes were made, and not just on one side. Eventually, I would hope, we could come to identify those errors and find ways to avoid them in the future, but that is way down the road from what I'm proposing. I simply want to start with an understanding of what happened. A project dedicated to knowledge and education cannot fear this, or it fears success at its own purpose. There are legitimate fears, that studies will become witch hunts, aimed at defamation and blame, and it is in this regard that we need to take special care. When actions are described as "abusive," that's blame. When they are simply described neutrally, and with evidence that the actions took place, and with the process encouraging the completion and balancing of what might otherwise be cherry-picked for effect, it's not blame. It's just what happened. The difference is crucial. --Abd 22:26, 18 April 2010 (UTC)
    • The universities I have known do not have an "administrator" make decisions which are genrally made at a department level - not at the top level. Individual departments are responsible for themselves, and departments heads do not interfere with other departments. End of analogy. <g>
    • If you have reviewed my posts, you will note I have never doubted JW's ability to undertake actions. I have, moreover, iterated a belief that actions taken in haste are generally repented at leisure.
    • The precise project is now quite irrelevant. The issue is now one of how Wx, and in particular WV, are to handle governance. Much of this, frankly, is related to long-term strategic planning. It is quite proper that WV be a site which discusses the governance of WV, and I think it likely that the participants here do not necessarily feel that WP is a strong model to follow. Collect 00:32, 19 April 2010 (UTC)