User:JWSchmidt/Blog/14 October 2007

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Ever since Wikiversity launched there have been discussions about possible ways to turn vandals into constructive editors. I wonder if some vandals might become constructive if allowed to edit under a different set of rules.

Alternative realities[edit]

Wikimedia Foundation wiki projects all operate under the same basic rules. In particular, there are some wiki functions (such as page deletion) that are restricted to "sysops". The wiki projects each select "trusted participants" who are granted the power to delete wiki Wikiversity they are called custodians.

Over the years, I have repeatedly seen the suggestion made that ALL wiki participants should have the ability to delete pages. It would certainly create an "alternative wiki reality" or alternative wiki culture if everyone could delete pages. But maybe such an alternative reality could serve as a kind of wiki learning environment that would appeal to vandals. Maybe vandals need a playground where they can explore the power of wiki without getting tied up with vandal fighters. What kind of a wiki would vandals create if given a chance to do things their way?

This is a very interesting point! is a mirror site of for evil conspiracies, a farcical place to have fun interacting with other super evil villians familar enough with hacker slang to mix and match metaphors. I thought it was intended mainly to help test how to link automatic trust/reputation webs so I participated a very short while. At the time I was having a bit of reality phase shifting due in part to some neuroleptic prescription drugs I was taking. The different environment certainly affected my thinking/learning/behavior patterns. The engineering groups should be able to use "vandals" effectively to help breaktest designs and processes when we get to the point of needing to safety check/validate processes,parts,subsystems, etc. Perhaps we could entice better behavior from attention seeking vandals by giving them something useful and productive to do within the context of specific tasks and projects. One kind of really useful engineering review might be the satire exhibit ... take some manufacturing or lab instructions and follow directions as given and post a video of the resulting experiment. The results of a few typos can really be impressive, dangerous, and embaressing to the design team when an honest test is performed. A vandal might setup an old stove outside or in an expendable building and then perform the alumimum melts and green sand casting followed by hand machining and then visual inspection of a proposed micro steam turbine chamber or rocket combustion chamber. It would be extremely helpful for the first few test runs to be validated before turning brownies and lay guardians and/mentors loose with a process instruction that usually results in a fire or steam explosion. Another way to field test would be for vandals to place known defective specifications and designs on the vandal site and vandalize each others designs while attempting to get their own approved for relocation and configuration management and control in the authentic engineering validated section. This gets us back to verification of who has what engineering expertise in what fields and how many signoffs we need before a U.S. licensed engineer (P.E. Professional Engineer, licenses issues by state board of engineering examiners will signoff on the drawings. So by my count we might have four or five engineering zones ... one for authenticated designs, one for competent design teams, one for pickup design teams with little expertise accessible, one for vandals trying to sneak around and sabotage designs to illustrate other people's design flaws. To make this work we would need clean clear design rules. Intentional sabotage in the authenticated design space could certainly be criminal and should be reported to appropriate societal authorities. 18:14, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
It should not be a problem e.g. to set up a wiki specifically for this purpose and analyze the data based on this e.g. on the Sandbox Server (e.g. "Any user can request to be an admin" (and therefore delete pages), but then it is restricted: "Just do not be too stupid, and you will be fine.") ----Erkan Yilmaz uses the Wikiversity:Chat (try) 21:28, 30 June 2008 (UTC)

Vandal wiki experiment[edit]

One option would be to set up a "vandal wiki" and just turn it over to vandals. However, I'm interested in creating a learning environment that would be coupled to Wikiversity and that would provide a path for vandals to come back to Wikiversity as constructive editors after they get tired of wasting their time as vandals. Such a wiki space for vandals might also become a useful research tool for trying to understand vandals.

The v-bit[edit]

I have no understanding of the technical details of what happens when a wiki editor is blocked from editing. I assume that some "bit" associated with the blocked account (or IP address) is flipped and then the MediaWiki software always notices that flipped bit and prevents the blocked editor from being able to edit most wiki pages. Blocked users are supposed to be able to edit their own talk page in order to be able to ask for help if they have been blocked by error. Blocked vandals cannot create new pages or move pages.

V World[edit]

An alternative would be to allow blocked vandals to continue editing all Wikiversity pages, but when a blocked user saves a wiki page, then a new copy of the page would be created and added to the "vandal wiki". One way to do this would be to create these new pages in a "Vandal:" namespace. All blocked vandals would be free to create new pages, edit pages and move pages in the "Vandal:" namespace. However, my preference would be that only the MediaWiki software be able to "see" the "Vandal:" prefix; blocked users would see page names that all look just like normal Wikiversity page names. All the pages created by blocked users would constitute the "vandal wiki". Also, since all the pages in the "vandal wiki" are not "real" Wikiversity pages (in particular, they would not be visible to unblocked Wikiversity users), the blocked users could all be given the power to delete pages in the "vandal wiki". This does not mean that blocked users would all be like "sysops" within "vandal wiki"; in particular, blocked users would not have the power to block others from editing the "vandal wiki" pages.

A severe problem with the above approach JW is how do you know that it has not already been done to you and I. Perhaps we are in the vandal zone and Wikiversity is a gigantic successful project proceeding without us? Would explain adequately the slow growth experienced just as well as poor outreach or poor appeal until we have an obvious going thing of large value to new editors. Occam's razor ...>>> some wiki genius anticipated your idea. Mirwin 01:30, 20 December 2007 (UTC)
There is certainly no guarantee that Wikiversity has the best formula for creating online wiki-based learning communities. --JWSchmidt 01:57, 20 December 2007 (UTC)

In the interest of limiting strain on servers, I would put a limit on the number of edits allowed for each account/IP allowed to edit in the "vandal wiki" (say, one edit each minute).

Blocked users who edit the "vandal wiki" would be allowed to select their own Custodians (call them vCustodians) who could have the power to block (meta-block?) other editors from editing "vandal wiki" pages, but that would be up to the editors of the "vandal wiki". They might decide that nobody should be prevented from editing "vandal wiki" pages. If the "vandal wiki" community did want vCustodians, they would have to hold community discussions and a Wikiversity Custodian would be able to grant (and remove) vCustodianship to editors of the "vandal wiki". It might be interesting to see what kind of behavior would be a blockable offense among already blocked wiki participants!

I could see some licensed PEs wandering around such a vandal site using various sock puppets or functional responsibilities to create real world scenarios. Imagine a master criminal (role playing) who has lead a team in misdesign of a critical subcomponent to ruin a competing team's chances in a competition. Say a control lead was reversed resulting in positive feedback rather than negative feedback for a team you were collaborating with on a subsystem. A dreaded QA hat might wander by and cut and paste a convoluted explanation nobody could understand while changing an IC part number to create fair conditions or unfair conditions to everybodies design. A black hat adminstrator might change a drawing number in the BOM so that parts were exchanged or shipped incorrectly. Under the published rules of the engineering competition any team that failed to detect such critical errors might be penalized somehow while avoiding hazardous conditions in the simulation or actual realworld launch of their plastic water bottle rockets or aluminum/methane lunar landers. Automated design checking might be implemented such that "sabotaged" could not be saved until specific errors disappeared intentionally or by design. 18:28, 24 November 2007 (UTC)


Allowing such a "vandal wiki" space for blocked Wikiversity editors would create extra work for Wikiversity Custodians. In addition to a possible need for Custodians to manage vCustodianship decisions, Custodians would have to delete illegal content and block people from editing "vandal wiki" pages if they add illegal content. I think there would be a volunteer core of Wikiversity Custodians who would take on these "extra" duties.

Might not be any extra work in long run. If we successful "crack" a few vandals such that they begin to value the site enough to help protect it we should eventually see a "return" on "investment" of time that the transition period would take. If the experiment is a failure or we run out of responsible volunteer time we can simply suspend operations of the vandal site until we are prepared to try again. user:mirwin

Return from V-World[edit]

A goal of "vandal wiki" would be to give vandals a chance to edit wiki pages under relatively free conditions (just do not do anything illegal), but with the hope that they would eventually grow tired of the futility of the "vandal wiki" and become constructive editors at Wikiversity proper.


What are the possible "worst case scenarios" for such a "vandal wiki" project?

  • social networking - the "vandal wiki" might just become a social networking site where vandals hang out and socialize...nothing useful would ever come of the project
  • too ugly to allow- some vandals are specialists in anti-social behavior; they might find ways to avoid doing anything illegal but still engage in editing behavior that is so ugly nobody at the Foundation level would want to allow the project to continue
  • retaliation - if Wikiversity ran such a "vandal wiki" project, it might prompt vandals to get serious about vandalizing Wikiversity

What are potential benefits? Cracking even a tiny bit of this problem at a profit would guarantee Wikiversity's success. There are over 2 million men in prison in the United States and who knows how many uncaught criminals, adult delinquents, and juveniles too poorly socialized and educated to function in any other way except as a net loss to civilization and society. If we could show a solid metric shifting a portion of questionable participation to positive contribution then this function would merit large scale funding as required from government research and regulatory agencies looking to reduce government costs and philanthropical organizations looking for ways to profitably reduce barriers and induce recovery of our most dysfunctional elements of society. 18:38, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

I do not think I have ever thought about wiki website vandals as being real world criminals. Most vandals strike me as being bored kids who have a few minutes to goof around online. There are some wiki vandals who seem persistent and mad about something...maybe some just feel it is a challenging "game" to see how big of a mess they can make. I think wiki websites and other online communities do attract some folks who have trouble with social interactions. I guess some of these might occasionally get frustrated and resort to vandalism. Some people just do things in unusual ways, so I hope we can try to have multiple ways for people to participate rather than a "one size fits all" approach. --JWSchmidt 02:44, 25 November 2007 (UTC)