If you search Wikipedia for present day habitats on Mars, then you will find many articles about Mars colonization, but on the idea that there might be microhabitats for present day life there, you'll find almost nothing. You'll find my Present day Mars habitability analogue environments on Earth but nothing about the possible habitats they are analogues of. So why is this? Well there was an article on this until just a week or two ago, but it is now deleted. You can read it here: Possible Present Day Habitats For Life On Mars in my new astrobiology wiki which I created in order to find a place to host the deleted material off wiki.

This is a topic that has been interesting astrobiologists for the last decade since the Phoenix spacecraft spotted what could just possibly be habitable droplets of salty water on its legs soon after landing, to the great surprise of astrobiologists. It's now one of the top science goals of NASA and ESA to search for potential habitats like this and investigate them to see if they are habitable, and if so, if there is life in them. So, why is it gone from Wikipedia? It is due to small groups of editors who shape articles to what seems right to them, if necessary, blocking other editors so that they can't edit the encyclopedia at all. They do this, in bizarre sanction discussions that are conducted like episodes in "Alice in Wonderland" or "Alice through the Looking Glass". That is what has just happened to me.

I have been a volunteer editor on Wikipedia for a decade, doing my best to improve their encyclopedia, mainly in areas of science, astronomy, and microtonal music. My work ranged from fixing minor errors through to contributing several new articles. As a result of a sudden unexpected action taken against me by another editor a few days ago, I am now indefinitely blocked from any editing of Wikipedia. This has happened to many good faith editors there. It is so easy for editors to get content deleted, and to get each other topic banned or blocked from editing Wikipedia altogether

I thought I'd share my story as it is such a clear example of this process. Few know that this is going on. Here is what I see now if I try to edit my own user page on Wikipedia

It is the same if I try to edit any page there except my own talk page.

The "final straw" for me was that article. Suddenly, without even mentioning to anyone that he had this in mind, an editor, who said himself that he knew nothing about the topic, took an article with 266 cites which had been on Wikipedia for a year and a half, to a deletion debate. He had never edited the article. Nor had he ever commented in its discussion page before to discuss any issues he might have had with it first. This may seem strange but nobody else in the debate found that unusual.

Of course most Wikipedia editors won't have noticed the publicity and conference announcements, unless they are keen on Mars or astrobiology. However the article itself explained that things have moved on so far in our understanding of Mars in the last decade that examining potential habitats on Mars to search for present day life is objective B of NASA's first science goal in Mars Science Goals, Objectives, Investigations, and Priorities. It's also a top goal for ESA (the European Space Agency) too. They were so sure that the article couldn't be correct that they didn't bother to check these cites. Most of the deletion discussion focused on the title and some hadn't read as far as its first paragraph.

Yet they are okay (for now at least) with my Present day Mars habitability analogue environments on Earth. Why is that one okay, yet so passionate about deleting the article about the habitats they are analogues of (both articles by the same author)? There is a bit of a history here related to their articles on Mars colonization, and the last time they deleted material on the present day habitability of Mars. I go into that when I describe the material they deleted on planetary protection and possible present day Mars habitats in 2013.

It's no wonder blocks like this happen so often. Any editor on Wikipedia can ask for any other editor to be blocked or topic banned at any moment. They have to tell you that they have taken you to a sanction debate on your talk page, but typically they don't wait for you to turn up at the debate before they start voting. The debate proceeds by votes and allegations, often false.

In these debates other editors often get in a passion about what they think you did. In my case, adding this material on possible present day habitats on Mars, and other "offences" equally silly. Unless you are fast to respond to the announcement, ideally responding within minutes, you may see votes to ban or block you already when you first notice what happened. I got to mine in 42 minutes, knowing from past experience how important this is, and I already saw a vote to indef block me made 18 minutes after the debate was started. It's like being a character in the Queen of Hearts "Off with his head" episode from Alice in Wonderland! Sentence first, proper evidence checking, never.


King and Queen of Hearts from Lewis Carroll's original manuscript "Alice's Adventures Under Ground" - the Queen is the one who shouts "off with his head", and in the original manuscript says “first the sentence, and then the evidence!” in this scene towards the end of Chapter 4. The published "Alice in Wonderland" modifies this to “first the sentence, and then the verdict!”, but the original manuscript is closer to how it is done in these Wikipedia sanction debates.

I don’t wish this to be about any particular Wikipedia editors. The problem is endemic and I’ve seen it in several cases there. I have to link to the debate for verification but don’t mention any editors involved in it by name in this article. They are just behaving in the way that has become customary in these debates there. I also discuss another particularly silly case, of Clarawood123.

I am writing this a few days after the event. I think mine is a particularly clear case of this process. There is no immediate appeal process. You can appeal six months later, but it doesn't work to appeal on the basis that the original allegations were false, because normally by convention the admins' decisions are treated as final. You can only appeal by either apologizing, or at least, promising to be a good editor in the future. However, I hope this can help others to avoid getting into this situation themselves, and to see the warning signs before it happens.

I will end this with some suggestions about how this could be avoided by a drastic revision of how such cases are decided, for instance with a preliminary evidence checking phase and a requirement to wait for an editor to respond before voting (see Can anything be done about it?) . However, it is unlikely that the admins would adopt such a radical change. The main people who would vote for this are the sanctioned editors. Blocked editors of course have no voice there, so this story can't be told on Wikipedia. Topic banned editors -who can still edit wikipedia but are prohibited from writing about a particular topic of interest - usually have a ban that is "broadly construed" - see WP:BROADLY. This usually means they can't discuss the topic anywhere on Wikipedia,, even on their own talk page, or any of the events leading up to their ban. They wouldn't have a voice in such a discussion, at least, not if they wished to refer to their own experiences for the topic on which they are banned.

However, I also give some suggestions of ways that Wikipedia editors in good standing can help improve the situation at least a bit, at grass roots level (see Working on this at a grass roots level). Perhaps some of you who are Wikipedia editors can use those tips to help others there who may be in the same situation as I was a few days back, right now.

CONTENTS

PATHOS AND ETHOS INSTEAD OF LOGOS

Those most likely to be sanctioned are active editors who work in the most error prone areas of Wikipedia. If you rarely do much there, or work in non contentious areas of the encyclopedia, you are unlikely to be sanctioned except for trolling or vandalism. The voters, and the closing admins make decisions that significantly impact on the reliability of the encyclopedia. In my case there are several serious errors in minor articles that won't be fixed because of my block. The opposite, the active editors compound the errors, for instance, by removing nearly all material from Wikipedia about the science goal of searching for habitats for present day life on Mars.

Their decisions also impact on the lives of other editors, for years, maybe their entire lifetime. This is done in fast decisions in the heat of the moment, that often take up only a minute or two of their own time, swayed by

  • Pathos (arguments by stirring up people’s emotions) - “trusting their gut instinct” which is often unreliable in situations where you need a clear head.
  • Ethos (argument through “authority”) - other editors who claim to be authorities on the topic - but generally do not disclose real world identities and often say things that it is hard to imagine a real expert would say in that topic area.

Rather than

  • Logos - valid reasoning based on real evidence scrutinized carefully and thoroughly in a calm frame of mind.

But they don’t have the training to realize they are doing this. For more about this distinction see Examples of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

My case was taken to WP:ANI - a community sanctions board, where anyone can vote for the sanction, and they don’t have to be admins. There’s another board where only admins can vote, but they also often make swift decisions based mainly on pathos and ethos rather than logos.

This article was taken to deletion as a "boomerang" during a topic ban appeal in another topic area (Buddhism). Then I was taken to a sanction debate leading to votes on an indef block in the middle of the article for deletion debate. Finally during that sanction debate another of my articles was taken to deletion.

It was like a black comedy. At a certain point I couldn't take it seriously, and just laughed at it, it was so daft. After all it was clear I was going to be blocked soon. These people who can seem so important when you are trying to edit the encyclopedia have no authority outside of Wikipedia. It's relaxing now, not to be able to edit Wikipedia, and to know I don't have to deal with this silliness anymore. Although I may revisit this decision later, right now I don't want to even think about trying to return. It's taken up far too much of my time over the years and I have many things I want to do.

SANCTIONED FOR ADDING ARTICLE ABOUT ONE OF NASA'S TOP SCIENCE OBJECTIVES FOR MARS - LATEST OF MANY EQUALLY SILLY REASONS

The closing admin doesn’t say why I was sanctioned. All they say is

“Closing with a consensus towards an indef block, plus my own admin judgment in that direction.” - [CLOSING ADMIN]

However, the editors who made the indef block and site ban votes gave their reasons, which are all nonsense: The only thing they discuss that really happened as described is that my talk page posts, though always thoughtful and to the point, tend to be longer than those of many Wikipedia editors. Many (not all) Wikipedia editors prefer short comments, preferrably very short, tweet like comments.This is something I can work on, and have been working on. That's not a reason for blocking someone however.

If you want a quick summary, scroll down to: Summary of why I was blocked. Here are the details.:

  • I wrote an article saying that NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), DLR (German Aerospace), and others are looking for habitats on Mars that life might be able to survive in
     
    Perhaps surprisingly to many of you, NASA are once more looking for habitats for present day life on Mars! Much of the new research that is getting some astrobiologists excited about the possibility of microhabitats on Mars is less than a decade old. Previously, the two Viking Mars landers seemed to prove the Mars surface to be sterile, in 1976, and through to 2008, most scientists accepted those results.

    The big wake up call came when the Phoenix spacecraft landed close to the Martian north pole in 2008. To the surprise of scientists, it observed droplets of some material forming on its legs, that darkened and coalesced (as in this sequence). Eventually, some disappeared, presumably falling off.
    Mars-water-droplets-phoenix-2008-bg
    Sadly, it couldn't analyse them, but these became the first of many new suggestions for possible microhabitats on Mars. The droplets most likely were cold salty brines., It's not impossible that they, or similar droplets, are habitable to Earth life. This re-awakened interest in the possibility of extant life on Mars.

    Objective B of NASA's first science goal is "Determine if environments with high potential for current habitability and expression of biosignatures contain evidence of extant life.".

    (here “extant” is the opposite of “extinct” - it means still surviving life)

    ESA (European Space Agency)’s objective for ExoMars
    “The science objectives of the ExoMars Rover, in order of priority, are:
    - To search for signs of past and present life on Mars;
    - To characterise the water/geochemical environment as a function of depth in the shallow subsurface”


    DLR (German Aerospace)’s project HOME: Habitability of Martian Environments: Exploring the Physiological and Environmental Limits of Life as part of ESA
    “The ExoMars Rover mission will pursue one of the outstanding questions of our time by attempting to establish whether life ever existed, or is still active on Mars today.”

    There was an earlier two day conference, "The Present-Day Habitability of Mars in 2013, a session titled Modern Mars Habitability in the 2017 Astrobiology Science Conference (details of the session here, scroll down the page to find it), and this is the next one to be held in 2019, organized by NASA / LPI / JPL

    Mars Extant Life: What's Next? to discuss the "numerous extant life hypotheses that have been advanced over the years and that have evolved in response to discoveries by on-going Mars missions"

    This is the article they deleted from Wikipedia. Most voters in the delete debate gave the supposed sterility of modern Mars as their reason. It’s gone from Wikipedia now, but I copied it over into my new astrobiology wiki as: Possible Present Day Habitats For Life On Mars. As you’ll see, it is heavily cited with 267 cites. They are high quality sources too, many of them to the top astrobiologists in the field, and to NASA, ESA, DLR, the Planetary protection officers, etc etc.

    Some of my regular readers here will know that I have strong views of my own in this topic area, but I did not include my views in the article. The main view presented there is the view of NASA / ESA / DLR etc.

    It was taken to articles for deletion by an editor who says himself he knows nothing about astrobiology, a year and six months after it was added, on the basis that he thought it was unencyclopedic and biased. Many of the people who voted to delete it did so because of its title. Indeed some clearly didn’t click through to look at the article itself. The only “keep” was from someone who thought it was an article about Mars colonization! They can’t have read as far as the first paragraph. Most voters also knew nothing about astrobiology or Mars microhabitats, and from their comments, can't have checked the cites to NASA, ESA, DLR etc.

    The basic argument for nearly all the “delete” votes was that the title doesn’t make sense, and it must be “Fringe-y” because (in their view) modern Mars is not habitable.

    It might perhaps have been saved with a knowledgeable keep at that point. But then I got the main editor of Life on Mars on Wikipedia come to the debate. She claims to be a biologist who has done work in astrobiology, but doesn’t disclose her real world identity. Her write up in the Wikipedia Life on Mars article says the surface of Mars is uninhabitable to native microbes or introduced Earth microbes here: Life on Mars#Habitability and especially here: Cumulative effects .

    There she says that cosmic radiation sterilizes the Martian surface. This was indeed the view up to 2008, but to apply it to these modern discoveries is to confuse dormant and non dormant life. Before 2008 they thought that only dormant life was possible, and it is sterilized over a timescale of around 500,000 years if it stays dormant. But now they are interested in microhabitats for present day, non dormant life. The ionizing radiation levels there are equivalent to the interior of the ISS and are not sterilizing to any non dormant microbes even over century time scales.

    What she says contradicts the findings of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group which found that even the most radiosensitive microbe such as E.coli would still have 10% of the population remain viable after exposure to ionizing radiation through 500 years of dormancy on the Martian surface. Their report is here: . "A New Analysis of Mars "Special Regions": Findings of the Second MEPAG Special Regions Science Analysis Group (SR-SAG2)" - there a “Special region” is the planetary protection technical term for a region of the Mars surface where Earth life could potentially survive

    What she says also contradicts stories like this one, where the decision was made that Curiosity can’t go right up to some dark streaks, that just possibly might be signs of habitable brines on Mars: Mars contamination fear could divert Curiosity rover

    One can understand someone being a little out of date, perhaps if they are no longer involved in active research in the topic, but something strange is going on to directly contradict MEPAG and not know what she is doing, not realize how notable that cite was, and not read the cite, and not to read the cite to the NASA science goals.

    Yes, there are notable astrobiologists who think the surface of Mars is most likely sterile of life but they don’t use her argument. Also, even the most skeptical of astrobiologists are interested in these debates about potential habitats on Mars, and in searching for extant life in them if they are habitable. They expect, but can't yet prove, that the answer will be “no life”. They'd be only too delighted to be proven wrong.

    One of the voters there even suggested that my interpretation of the cites that this was the new astrobiology goal for Mars showed signs of cognitive impairment. They helpfully suggested that medications might help me to understand the cites better (a common thing to happen in these Wikipedia debates, to win them with aspersions on an editor's mental competence).

    You can read this truly bizarre delete debate here: Wikipedia:Articles for deletion/Modern Mars habitability - Wikipedia and you can read the article itself in my own wiki where I continue to work on it here: Possible Present Day Habitats For Life On Mars.

    I wasn't permitted to rename it during the delete debate, but as a result of their confusion about what the title "Modern Mars habitability" meant, I renamed it on my new wiki.

    That I wrote this article, and then compounded the “error” by trying to prevent it from being deleted was one of the main reasons they gave for considering me to be a disruptive editor that needs to be shown the door and blocked from editing Wikipedia.

    I posted this to my Facebook timeline once it became clear they were going to delete the article:

    I also added a Facebook comment: “NASA can save several billion dollars right there :). Just ask those 15 wikipedians who know better than NASA.”

  • That I tried to stop other editors on a similar occasion in 2013 from removing all the material on these microhabitats and all material on protecting Mars from microbes carried by humans during Mars colonization. Here is where I tried to stop them through the admins: Mars. The material on planetary protection which they deleted was cited to the European Space Foundation, the National Research Council in the US, the NASA office of Planetary Protection, Carl Sagan, Joshua Lederberg, and other top sources in the topic area.

    It started off when they removed my article on Concerns for an early Mars sample return with a redirect to the main Mars sample return article. A better title for it would have been Planetary protection for a Mars sample return, which is what I call it in my new astrobiology wiki.

    The main editor responsible for removing that article is passionate about human colonization of Space. I first encountered him in the "NASA Spaceflight Now" forum, where I told human spaceflight enthusiasts about my new sample return article in Wikipedia (rather unwisely, on reflection). The question here is whether it might in some circumstances be necessary to protect Mars from Earth microbes, and Earth from Mars microbes during future human colonization attempts.

    They went on to delete almost all material on planetary protection from the Mars colonization articles in Wikipedia. I was able to reintroduce a short summary of this material several years after the event.

    Another Wikipedia editor who had been following this discussion chose the same occasion to remove all mentions of the possibility for micro-habitats for Earth or native Mars life on the planet from the Wikipedia articles, Life on Mars and Water on Mars. There was a fair bit of this previously, especially Water on Mars#Possibility of Mars having enough water to support life, a section of 1,341 words. It was written mainly by other editors, with only a sentence or two by myself.

    The editor who deleted this material in 2013 is the same one who claims to be an astrobiologist and voted to delete my latest article from Wikipedia - the one which is now renamed to Possible Present Day Habitats For Life On Mars on my new wiki. This is a bit of a guess, but it may be why they are less concerned about deleting my Present day Mars habitability analogue environments on Earth, because it is two steps removed from Mars colonization, being about the analogues on Earth rather than the actual potential habitats on Mars itself.

    I don't think this is necessarily overtly political activity on their part. Just that because of their interest in Mars colonization, they don't like to think that there could be microhabitats for life on Mars. This, I think, biases them against looking at the cites and confirming that scientists are once more searching for potential habitats there.
  • My attempts to fix the Clathrate gun hypothesis article in August of this year - this is an article about a potential runaway greenhouse effect that according to its proponents could rapidly warm Earth up by much more than the IPCC predicts. This was thought to be a possibility some years back but is now largely disproved. In my fixed version of the Wikipedia article, this is the second paragraph in the lede, citing the USGS, Royal Society and the CAGE project. From Clathrate gun hypothesis (in my new wiki):
    “However the 2107 USGS Hydrates project found that evidence is lacking for the hypothesis[2], and the 2017 Royal Society review found that there is a relatively limited role for climate feedback from dissociation of the methane clathrates[3]. In 2018, research from the CAGE research group suggests that the methane clathrates formed over 6 million years ago and have been slowly releasing methane for 2 million years throughout the ice ages[4].”
    Compare Clathrate gun hypothesis - Wikipedia
    “A 2018 published review concluded that the clathrate gun hypothesis remains controversial, but that better understanding is vital.[2]
    That 2018 review is behind a paywall. Its abstract doesn't mention clathrates. I asked the editor who added it to supply a quote from it, as you are expected to do in Wikipedia for a controversial statement cited to material the readers can't access. He never replied. I also asked why he didn't mention the conclusions of the IPCC or USGS in the lede and he never replied.

    This discussion is what one of the editors lists as their first example of “Some topics he disrupts significantly”
     
  • I tried to restore content on central topics in Buddhism that used Walpola Rahula, the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist authors as sources, after most of it was removed in 2014. I tried to do this on several occasions, most recently in May 2017.

    The original articles were cited to various traditional Buddhist scholars, the equivalent of Christian theologians. Someone came along and rewrote these articles cited mainly to non Buddhists and the changes were startling. To make an analogy from Christianity, it was like coming in one day to find the main articles on Christianity were edited to remove all mention of the resurrection, on the basis that there is no scientific evidence that it happened.

    As few of my readers will come from a Buddhist country, naturally, most of you won't know much about central ideas in Buddhism. I think the easiest way to get an idea of how major the changes were is to compare the two versions. Here is the 2014 version of Four Noble Truths. According to tradition, it's the first teaching Buddha gave to the five ascetics, immediately after he became enlightened. It's the most central teaching in all of Buddhism. Here is how it is covered by the BBC. Here it is as covered by Encyclopedia Britannica. Without going into what it means, hopefully you can see that all the treatments are similar.

    This is how Wikipedia covers it now. Hopefully you can see that it was a major rewrite, at least. If you look at the article history, up to 2014 the main editor was Dorje108 who had been working on it since 2012, and it would count as a stable actively edited article.

    Their motivation is a bit unclear but it seems to be something to do with an idea that non Buddhists are less involved and so more “neutral” than followers of the Buddha, in writing about their own faith. You might find that persuasive at first, until you consider whether the same criterion should be used for Christianity and Christian theologians. Those are regarded as excellent sources on Christianity in Wikipedia and I think most of you would agree that that is the right decision.

    Buddhism has its own traditions of scholarship dating back to Nalanda University in Northern India, which long predated Oxford and Cambridge, or the Paris university, the university of Bologna in Italy or the Guinness book of records holder, the university of Al Karueein in Morocco founded in 859 . It already was a flourishing institution when Xuanzang (also known as Hiuen Tsang) visited it in 637 CE. Scholars came to it to study Buddhism from as far away as China. Nalanda - Encyclopedia of Buddhism. (It isn't included in the lists of our oldest continuously run universities because it was destroyed at the turn of the thirteenth century, but not before the visiting academics had set up centers of learning continuing the tradition in China, Japan, Sri Lank, Tibet etc).

    Walpola Rahula

    Here are some of the authors in those traditions that the articles used to cite - the rewrites removed nearly all the material cited to them:

    Walpola Rahula, for Therevadhan Buddhism, as understood in Sri Lanka. Therevadha is the "old school" of Buddhism, with teachings mainly based on the earliest known Buddhist scriptures. He was not only widely respected for his thorough understanding of the vast encyclopedic ancient Buddhist scriptures in Pali but he also got a doctorate from Paris university and became the first Buddhist monk to be appointed professor to a Western university. He was widely respected by Western academics, and his book “What the Buddha Taught” is thought by many to be the best and clearest exposition in English of the teachings in the earliest Buddhist sutras which are common to nearly all Buddhist schools.

    Prayudh Payutto, regarded as a brilliant top Buddhist scholar in Thailand. You can see a photo of him here: Buddhist texts go digital

    For Tibetan Buddhism, one of the main sources is the 14th Dalai Lama who is regarded as a distinguished scholar by Tibetan Buddhists. He has written many books on Buddhism in English, with the help of translators, and is expert on all four of the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

    He attained the highest degree in Tibetan Buddhist scholarship at the young age of 23:

    “At 23, His Holiness sat for his final examination in Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple, during the annual Great Prayer Festival (Monlam Chenmo) in 1959. He passed with honors and was awarded the Geshe Lharampa degree, equivalent to the highest doctorate in Buddhist philosophy”

    Brief Biography | The 14th Dalai Lama

    Here is a rare documentary with video of his final “viva” examination in Lhasa at five minutes in. It normally requires at least 16 years to complete all the studies needed for the higher Lharampa degree (the Tsorampa degree takes 11) - see Geshe, and it can take far longer - in that video they say it often takes 30–40 years.

    The 2014 articles used the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetan Buddhist experts for Tibetan Buddhism.

    This was not my own content. Written by others. All I'd done is wikignoming, fixing a broken link. I ended up topic banned from the Buddhism topic area in Wikipedia indefinitely. Just for talking on the talk pages, trying to persuade other editors that the material needs to be restored in some form. I did not try to edit any of the articles myself, even to restore sections of the old material, Other editors tried but their edits were immediately reverted. My only edit in recent years was to add a WP:POV tag to one of the articles - alerting a reader that the neutrality of the article was disputed. This tag was soon removed by the other editors who said the neutrality was not disputed(‽).

    You can get an idea of the views of the current main editors in the Wikipedia Buddhism project, by a discussion they had with a newbie wikipedia editor who said he was attending a masters in a Buddhist studies program. He tried to edit the Buddhism article on Anatta, "non self". All his edits were reverted for citing Bhikkhu Buddhist scholars (a Bhikkhu just means a Buddhist monk, i.e. a scholar who has taken monastic vows of celibacy etc). This new editor wrote

    “I am amazed at your claim that Bhikkhu Bodhi would not qualify as a reliable source. Bodhi is the President of the Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy Sri Lanka. He is the author of several of the most highly cited (Springer Citation index says it is more than 100, Google scholar says more than 115) translations of the various Nikayas of the Pali Canon. Citations of Bodhi include people like Richard Gombrich, D J Kalupahana and many others. …

    “…But the criteria you mention (rejecting widely read scholars on Buddhism) is nowhere understood in academia and in fact goes completely against good academic policy. In religion, those that practice the religion know much more than those who just publish to increase their h-index….”

    To which he got this response:

    “Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Analayo, and Thanissaro Bhikkhu indeed are not reliable sources” [EDITOR A]

    ….

    “Regarding ‘religious knowledge’: Wikipedia is not about religious knowledge, it's about verifiable information. Please do read WP:RS. If you think that "the words of the reputed scholar monk override those of the academic", then don't edit Wikipedia, but do start your own blog. As a Dutch administrator stated: ‘Being enlightened is not a criterium for Wikipedia; reliable sources are.’”[Editor B]

    [N.B. Buddhist scholar monks do not claim to be enlightened, any more than Christian theologians claim to be saints
    . That includes the Dalai Lama incidentally, he doesn't claim to be enlightened either, in his books he is just writing as a scholar. And he has no authority over other Buddhists and what they believe or practice, he is not a pope either, and there is no Buddhist catechism. When Buddha died he said he didn't want anyone else to take on his role as leader of the community but to let his teachings themselves be their guide]

    “Now I don't think we can say that all books or articles by scholars who are also Buddhist monks, nuns or religious teachers are poor or unreliable sources as some seem to be trying to argue. Of course where scholar who is also a Buddhist practitioner is primarily writing in his/her role a Buddhist teacher or for a publisher of Buddhist books they will likely be presenting only, or mainly, the Insiders view which may (at least for outsiders) be one sided or biased, but if that same scholar is working in a modern academic setting and writing an article for a peer reviewed journal or a book for a serious academic publisher, which have different sorts of standards, then they may be presenting a more neutral view.” [Editor C]

    Full conversation here.

    This is yet another example, Karma in Buddhism as it was in 2014, and as it is now. It should be clear at a first glance, that it's a major rewrite. Of course Karma is a central concept in Buddhism too. There was no consensus decision to change them, or even any preliminary discussion of the proposal, as would be normal before such an extensive rewrite.

    We think that these editors have misinterpreted the Wikipedia guidelines on use of secondary sources. The guideline says sources are not necessarily independent or third-party sources. This refers you to Wikipedia:Party and person, which is a supplement to the guidelines. There you read:

    “’Secondary’ does not mean ‘independent’ or ‘uninvolved’. Most independent sources are not secondary sources.”

    Indeed, as that supplement suggests, often the “independent” non Buddhist academic sources they now use are putting forward some particular thesis of their own. They are presenting their own views in on-going debates with other academics. On our reading of the guidelines, this makes them primary rather than secondary sources in the sense of the Wikipedia guidelines.

    However, there is nothing can be done about it. Just before my final indef topic ban on Buddhism, it was already clear that the process could be taken no further.

    We have used Dorje108’s versions of these articles as the central material for a new Encyclopedia of Buddhism based on the Wikipedia content, as you are permitted to do if you attribute it correctly. It’s here: Encyclopedia of Buddhism and you can read our perspective on what happened here: EOB:About the origin of this site.

    It is so relaxing to just be able to write about it without all this nonsense about having to justify using the Dalai Lama, Walpola Rahula, etc, as sources on central topics in Buddhism! Dorje108 writes the articles on central topics in Buddhism. You can get to them from its Main page - Encyclopedia of Buddhism. My main role is importing and vetting biographies. I also contributed a much expanded biography of Milarepa, one of the most famous figures in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, which I have been working on from May to August 2018. It has some details from modern scholarship that may surprise any of you who only know the traditional story of his life. We work together on the technical side, e.g. writing some of the templates, adding extensions and so on.

  • I wrote an article for Wikipedia about the hypothesis of a connection between Lyme disease and Morgellons. Mayo Clinic summarizes it like this:
    “Morgellons disease is an uncommon, poorly understood condition characterized by small fibers or other particles emerging from skin sores. People with this condition often report feeling as if something were crawling on or stinging their skin.”

    “Some doctors recognize the condition as a delusional infestation and treat it with cognitive behavioral therapy, antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs and counseling.
    Others think the symptoms are related to an infectious process in skin cells. Further study is needed.”
    from: Morgellons disease: Managing an unexplained skin condition (the emphasis is mine).
    The idea of a delusional infestation is that they believe that they are infected by parasites beneath their skin and the sores are the result of scratching themselves in response to this delusional belief. The final sentence is what my new material was about. The Wikipedia article on the topic leaves it out.

    The background here is that the CDC did an expensive study which came to the conclusion that they had found no evidence that it is caused by any disease agent. However other researchers have said that despite the expense, the study was flawed. They say that their tests for disease agents were not sensitive enough. Also, they say that there were flaws in the methods used to select the people to test (they found only 41 patients to test, and didn’t ask them if they self identified as having Morgellons).

    Since then a group of researchers lead by Marianne Middelveen- a veterinary microbiologist have been studying the possibility of a connection with a disease of cattle caused by the same microbes, spirochetes, that cause Lyme disease, and with similar symptoms to Morgellons, causing minute fibres to appear in the hooves of cows. Their results so far suggest that it is connected and that Morgellons is caused by the same microbes.

    The main Morgellons article in Wikipedia does not mention that there has been any scientific criticism of the CDC study or cite the research. There are pages of archived discussions of people saying the same thing “please mention this research in your article”. They always answer “No, it can’t be, under the strict guidelines of the research that can be used in medical articles, MEDRS”. It is true that it can’t be included under MEDRS, strict guidelines to prevent inaccurate or controversial information from being presented in Wikipedia articles on medical conditions. But what they don't mention in the debates is that it could be included so long as it is labeled as minority or fringe science, as is done for a similarly controversial condition, Chronic Lyme disease which that Wikipedia article introduces as a "generally rejected diagnosis". Bizarrely, they have this line in the main Morgellons article:
    “In 2008, The Washington Post reported that Internet discussions about Morgellons include many conspiracy theories about the cause, including biological warfare, nanotechnology, chemtrails and extraterrestrial life
    Those hypotheses can be mentioned apparently, on the basis of a journalist who wrote about what they saw in a google search of internet forums. But research by a veterinary microbiologist published in the science journals can’t be mentioned, even as “Fringe science”. Instead the only mention of this topic is a one sentence link to an article in "The Atlantic". To me it seems like double standards.

    When I tried to get the research mentioned on the main page. I was warned by an editor, who I'll call EditorJ, that I risked a topic ban, and I left the discussion. You can read the discussion on my own talk page here. His warning that he would try to get me sanctioned if I persisted is towards the end of the discussion. Just for talk page activity. I've never attempted to edit the article itself. I’ve been told that other people who try to get this research included in the article have ended up being blocked from Wikipedia.

    Anyway, before that, on an earlier occasion, one of them said it was okay for me to write such an article on Marianne Middelveen's research, so long as it is labeled clearly as controversial fringe science in the first paragraph, and I link back to the main article. So, I and a wikignome (an editor whose main interest is in improving details of presentation rather than adding content) then started work on it. The wikignome said my first draft had issues of encyclopedic tone, but after working on it for a while, eventually we were both satisfied and he said it looked fine. This is the final version: Morgellons Lyme hypothesis - Wikipedia

    At that point two editors from the main article who hadn’t commented before came along and first deleted most of the content of the new article that I’d written until there wasn’t much left. Then they said that what was left was unacceptable and that they did not agree with the original editor who had approved our idea. They changed the page to a redirect back to the main article. I did nothing to try to stop them when they did this. Talk page discussion here Talk:Morgellons Lyme hypothesis - Wikipedia. In the indef block debate, this was given as an example of my bad behaviour, and inability to co-operate. Actually I collaborated well, as you can see. It wasn’t our fault that at the end of all that work they just merged it away due to two other editors disagreeing with the one who originally approved the new article.

    I eventually wrote up that rejected Wikipedia article on my Science 2.0 blog here: Mystery Of Morgellons - Disease Or Delusion - Scientific Hypothesis Of Connection With Lyme Disease and got a fair number of comments and emails from Morgellons sufferers saying how good it was to see someone writing about it properly. I have no personal connection with this condition, and never encountered a Morgellons sufferer before writing it. I just got interested when I read a news story about the singer Joni Mitchell who suffers from the condition and ended up on the Wikipedia article and tried to find out more.

    Note - no editors in Wikipedia have authority over any others on content. It’s settled by voting, as the last resort. But the newbie editors come to pages like this one, one at a time. Also they don’t understand Wikipedia guidelines and policies, so the established editors run rings around them, and if it comes to it, can also block them easily too in these bizarre ANI sanction debates. The bewildered newbie won't have a clue what to do about it. In this way a handful of two or three editors can guard a page and keep away dozens of newbies, however distinguished and knowledgeable, who try to add content that they don't "approve" of. The Morgellons article is a good example of this phenomenon.

    This excuse that health issues have to be covered by MEDRS is also used, for instance, to remove all content on potential health issues of 5g from the 5g article. Whether there are any risks associated with mobile phone use is controversial of course, see Mayo Clinic's Is there a connection between cellphones and cancer?. For 5g it is if anything more controversial. But it is subject to a lot of debate in the media, and also amongst scientists. It should surely be covered. This is an example, an editor's attempt to add a section: Danger of 5G - note it's an early draft stage. They don't let it go any further. Yet, though they remove anything from the 5g article on this topic, they are absolutely fine about having an article on health effects in Mobile phone radiation and health - they just don’t let the 5g article talk about this topic or link to this topic (the word "health" doesn't occur in the page).
     
  • I added a short paragraph about the lifetime of a solar mass black hole here: Hawking radiation#1976 Page numerical analysis - 28 July 2018 - added a paragraph about the timescale for evaporation for various sizes of black hole. This is getting really really silly. My supposed "offence" here was to add a calculation of the lifetime of a solar mass and other mass black hole to the “wrong section” of the page. I added a calculation by one scientist to a section that is about a calculation by another scientist without explaining the connection

    (The connection is that he used that scientist's paper and calculation method in a simple calculation to find its lifetime - nothing new, just crunched the numbers as a “for example” - I had added it to the right section of the page).

    The editor who made this remark acknowledged that he know nothing about black holes, yet he felt competent to judge whether my extra paragraph belonged in that section of the page rather than elsewhere on the page. And - even if I had added a paragraph to the wrong section of a page in Wikipedia, he made it sound like that makes me incompetent to edit Wikipedia at all. As a friend said - and wish I’d put it in my final comment - they let newbie editors edit Wikipedia all the time. Mistakes are part of the process of editing Wikipedia. So, even if it was a mistake - you rely on other editors to fix them if necessary. It’s certainly no reason to sanction someone, even if they make many mistakes, so long as they are good faith edits, which mine were. Indeed, all my edits were good faith, and in theory that should be all that matters. What does it matter even if I write an entire article, in good faith, that other editors decide should be deleted? And what is wrong with trying to defend it? None of this should be sanctionable offences. ANI is supposed to be about editor behaviour, not a place for content disputes to be resolved using sanctions. But too often it is used for exactly that.
      
  • One of the members who voted for me to be blocked mentioned an off wiki conversation I had with him about Dennis Wingo’s idea in “Moon Rush” of platinum from the Moon

    The background is that Dennis Wingo thinks that at some time in the future, platinum could become so low cost we use it in many ways - it’s a useful metal, if it weren’t so expensive. He thinks it might eventually even be used for electrical wiring in buildings in the place of copper wiring. He thinks based on magnetic anomalies that the Moon may have vast quantities of platinum rich metal on its surface splashed out from the core of a huge asteroid 200 km across that formed the south pole Aitken basin as it hit. He talks about this in his “Moon Rush” book which has had good reviews in space science circles.
    “Dennis Wingo’s book Moonrush should be mandatory reading for space enthusiasts. Although his hypothesis concerning the presence of lunar platinum group metals (PGM's) remains unproven, his hypothesis is also eminently testable—all we need do is go look, something NASA presumably intends to do, eventually at least.” Priming the pump for lunar PGM mining -The Space Review and see also their Review: Moonrush
    So anyway, this editor told the others in the debate that me supporting this idea in an off wiki conversation with him is an example of the Dunning–Kruger effect where someone [me] who has a very low competence in a field is not competent enough to realize how little they know.

    [Case of a pot calling the kettle black!]

It continues on the next page:

`Would you tell me,' said Alice, a little timidly, `why you are painting those roses?'

Five and Seven said nothing, but looked at Two. Two began in a low voice, `Why the fact is, you see, Miss, this here ought to have been a red rose-tree, and we put a white one in by mistake; and if the Queen was to find it out, we should all have our heads cut off, you know. So you see, Miss, we're doing our best, afore she comes, to--' At this moment Five, who had been anxiously looking across the garden, called out `The Queen! The Queen!' and the three gardeners instantly threw themselves flat upon their faces. There was a sound of many footsteps, and Alice looked round, eager to see the Queen.

Lewis Carroll's original illustration from page 68 of the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Underground (this is the original manuscript for "Alice in Wonderland", and Lewis Carroll is a pen name for Reverend Charles Dodgson).

When you are an editor there and encounter one of these episodes, it is a bit like being asked to paint white roses red, because another editor has told you that's what they have to be. And if you don't, off with your head!

They also claimed I was involved in using Wikipedia for purposes of profit, This naturally enough is a serious allegation to make about another editor. There is no truth to this either. Although not directly relevant to content, it's another example of the bizarre "Sentence first, evidence later" approach used in these debates. This was their supposed “evidence”:

  • That I have a profit motive for writing for wikipedia because I sell a book on Kindle which incorporates some material written originally on Wikipedia. Yes, I sell kindle books that have some content from Wikipedia in them. The Wikipedia license CC by SA permits any use of the material, including commercially, so long as you attribute it back to Wikipedia authors (usually through a link to the page there). The problem was that I re-released it under "All rights reserved". See Okay to Touch Mars?

    However their example was of material I wrote myself for the wikipedia article. The CC by SA license is non exclusive, and irrevocable. Others who reuse the material must release it under CC by SA, but as the author I have the right to re-use my own material written for Wikipedia with whatever license I like so long as the licenses don't exclude each other. A restriction of "all rights reserved" on one copy of my work doesn't mean all rights reserved on all copies. And as I wrote it on Wikipedia originally and released it under CC by SA before I released it under “All rights reserved”, there was no reason for the Wikipedia draft to attribute my off wiki copy either.

    Indeed it is hardly a commercial enterprise anyway. They could have realized that without asking me, as the whole book is also available to read free online, and it includes instructions to the user on how to export it to a pdf or save it as web page complete, with images, or to save it to Pocket for offline reading. The kindle booklet is provided only as a service for some of my readers, with a few sales a year.
     
  • I added an article about my own software, Tune Smithy, in 2008, which they say was me using Wikipedia for promotion, which of course is not acceptable. However, that was not my motivation. It was my fourth ever edit of Wikipedia. Done because I thought it was notable, not to promote my software. It had just had an extensive review; you can read it here, over 1,000 words and a screen shot, in a techy monthly magazine Sound on Sound, about musician’s gear that in the UK at least, is available in any general newsagent, with foreign editions in the US and Brazil. This is the latest version of the article as copied to my own Tune Smithy wiki - they are likely to delete it from Wikipedia: Tune Smithy

    I disclose this on my user page at Wikipedia and explain how it happened.
    “I created an article on Tune Smithy after the review in Sound on Sound because I thought that established notability, at an early stages of understanding of the wikipedia policies and guidelines. In hindsight it might have been better not to create this article myself, and leave it for someone else to do it. However, it is done and I have done my best to deal with COI issues in the article and to deal with the requirements to provide citations etc.
    This was the “evidence” several gave for their vote for a site ban. WP:PROMO is about writing for Wikipedia in order to promote your own product. So, it's about motivation. I didn't do that. It was my fourth ever edit, I was not aware of the guideline on COI at the time and I wrote about my own software because I thought it was notable. The Wikipedia guideline on COI says
    If an editor has disclosed that s/he is editing with a COI, or edits in a way that leads you to believe they might have a COI, raise the issue in a civil manner on the editor's talk page, citing this guideline, or open a thread on WP:COIN. Avoid making disparaging comments about the subject of the article, its author, or the author's motives.
    Nobody asked me anything about it as far as I remember, in all my time with Wikipedia. Not until they accused me of WP:PROMO a few days ago .If anyone had a problem with it they should have talked to me first. As for the COI guidelines, it just says that:
    " Wikipedia discourages editing articles about individuals, companies, organizations, products/services, or political causes that pay you directly or indirectly" -

    discourages, not forbids. And continues

    "However, Wikipedia recognizes the large volume of good faith contributions by people who have some affiliation to the articles they work on."

    So they recognize that such contributions can be good faith, as they were in my case. If it was non notable without a review I'd have deleted it myself. Having added it, I thought it was notable enough to keep - and though it is borderline.  I think  in more normal circumstances it would have been kept.

    They started an Article for Deletion debate for the Tune Smithy page and the article is now deleted with five delete votes, all saying as if it were a fact established during the debate, that I created it as a promo article. I think the editors concerned didn't really understand the guidelines on COI and WP:PROMO. I’m not that bothered about them deleting the article, and I would not have added it if I had been aware of COI when it was created. It’s more the way it happened.

THE ONLY THINGS I DID DO - MAINLY, LONG COMMENTS ON TALK PAGES

Things I did do:

  • I tend to do longer comments than most editors there - all to the point and directly intended to improve Wikipedia, but detailed and rather academic in tone. There are several other editors there, similarly academic in their approach. But many editors there only do short tweet like comments on the talk pages and find the longer comments in the discussions tedious.
  • I also sometimes added extra comments to a conversation thread when nobody responded to it.
  • And I used to do many minor edits of my talk page posts after posting, which irritated other editors because if they follow a talk page they can get an alert for every edit - it’s mainly copy editing. By the time of this action against me I had fixed that by using the sandbox for posts that need editing.

The rest is nonsense. I didn't do any of those things they alleged.

AVOIDED A SITE BAN - HURRAY!

They made several other points, equally silly. This is the conclusion of the discussion, starting with my response to some of their allegations (see the complete discussion for what I’m responding to), scroll down to the end to see their response to my suggestion of a wikignoming wikibreak:

  • Comment (CC by SA) Firstly, I intend to take a wiki break very shortly, but there are some recent comments I feel I need to respond to.

    [Here CC by SA means Creative Commons by Share Alike which is the license for Wikipedia content. You can use it in any project you like, including commercially, but you have to attribute the original creators of the material on Wikipedia]
  • I wrote 'Tune Smithy' for Wikipedia in 2008 when I was a brand new Wikieditor. It was my first article and I disclose my my connection as author of Tune Smithy on my talk page
    .... (explained as above)
  • The section on eutonic mixtures in Touch Mars? is new and written by me. Yes I wrote it for Modern Mars habitability which is released under CC by SA. However, since CC licenses are non exclusive, I can release my own work under both licenses.
  • ...(explained as above)
  • Comment (WP:POV and WP:RS) I'd like to make a couple of points as they relate to intent. With Modern Mars habitability, the intent was to express the WP:POV of NASA [208], ESA (European Space Agency)[209] and DLR (German Aerospace, Berlin)[210] as the main view in the article.

    [Here POV means Point of View - they claim I’m trying to insert my own views into Wikipedia. RS means Reliable Sources. They claim I don’t know how to use reliable sources. ANI is the board that I was posting to where they make community decisions to sanction other editors]


    WP:RS is for WP:RSN rather than WP:ANI. I'm not sure how it is relevant here except as a question of good faith, and talk page technique. On that matter I assure you I am acting in good faith with the sources used in Modern Mars habitability.
  • Comment (knowledge of Wikipedia guidelines and policies) Please bear in mind, although I have been on Wikipedia a fair bit over the last few days because of this emergency (and have been also during similar events in the past), I am not normally here much except to read. Normally I do edits on a few occasions per week, and most are minor. (For recent examples of me collaborating with other editors here: [211], and [212].) On a couple of other points raised, bear in mind, I am not permitted to comment here or anywhere else on wikipedia on past events relating to an active topic ban.

    [This is about my Buddhism topic ban - it was "broadly construed" which meant I couldn't discuss details of the ban or the events leading up to it anywhere in Wikipedia except in an appeal of the topic ban itself - several editors had mentioned those events in the debate, and I was pointing out that I was prohibited from even mentioning the events, to respond to them]
  • Comment (Wikibreak) As I mentioned, it is my intent to take an extended wikibreak, as Prokaryotes suggested. For at least a few months. I have removed all the pages from my watch list. If I am left unblocked, I will restrict my edits of Wikipedia to wikignoming activities such as fixing broken urls (I notice those often). My wish throughout has always been to benefit Wikipedia and its readers.

[Not in my original text: “The elusive and bashful Wikignome” - goes around Wikipedia doing minor fixes of text. Got the image here: Nisse d apres nature ill jnl fal. [ Wikipedia:WikiGnome - Wikipedia]

I'll be working on talk page technique, encyclopedic tone, and WP:NPOV on other wikis where I am an editor in good standing. And I think it would be best for me not to comment further here, unless someone specifically requests a response. Robert Walker (talk) 03:36, 20 August 2018 (UTC)

[Not in the original text LPL 2017-02-17.png — Wikipédia]

  • Opposed to wikibreak You're brilliant, creative, diverse, and can write. However, a wikibreak could only gift you with the power of concise teamwork through use of a golden lamp and benevolent genii. Stranger things have happened here, but this seems like a forlorn hope to me. [EditorA]

    I agree with [EditorA]. The user has been given ample and repeated time and opportunities to improve, but has failed to. The fact that his disruption has now been revealed to have extended over many many years and many scientific subjects only makes it more important that he be shown the door. The community has wasted too much time on him. [Editor B]

    Closing with a consensus towards an indef block, plus my own admin judgment in that direction. [Admin]

So, that’s it done. I’m indef blocked, but at least I avoided a site ban.

SUMMARY OF WHY I WAS BLOCKED

Going by the reasons given by the editors for their unblock votes, I was blocked from Wikipedia for:

  • Possible present day habitats for life on Mars - tried to stop them deleting an article I wrote about the present day habitability of Mars for extant life - they don't seem to know that it is one of NASA and ESA's main science objectives for Mars to search for such habitats and for possible extant life in them.
     
  • Planetary protection and possible present day Mars habitat deletions (2013) ) - tried to stop them deleting material about these habitats, and material about planetary protection issues associated with human colonization of Mars.
     
  • Clathrate Gun Hypothesis tried to add the latest research by the USGS, the IPCC, and CAGE, a group who are researching specifically into the Arctic clathrates.
     
  • Buddhist articles cited to scholar monks tried to restore deleted material cited to the Buddhist equivalent of theologians from articles on Buddhism. For Christianity then it's widely accepted in Wikipedia that theologians are the best authorities on Christianity. Yet in all seriousness they tell another editor not to use Bhikkhu Bodhi as a source on Therevadhan Buddhism because he is a Buddhist and has taken the monastic vows. Honestly, so weird. If this happened on a theology article there, it would cause an uproar amongst Christian readers.
     
  • Morgellons - tried to get the Morgellons article to refer to recent peer reviewed research by Marianne Middelveen and others. I agreed that it was not covered by MEDRS - the strict guidelines on mainstream medicine articles - but they do cover minority view science with, for instance, Chronic Lyme Disease - and their article bizarrely refers to ideas such as nanotechnology and even extra terrestrials based only on a journalist writing about forum posts they found on the internet - but don't mention this genuine minority view science.
     
  • Black hole lifetimes this was one of four edits I shared as examples of my best recent work in the last couple of months. They said they were mistaken and damaging to Wikipedia, while at the same time saying they knew nothing about the topics, which their comments confirmed. One of them went on to say I am unable to write encyclopedically because of an off wiki conversation about a respected hypothesis by Dennis Wingo on possible future Platinum from the Moon which got good reviews in space mining circles.
      
  • Kindle booklets A claim that I was using the wrong license for one of my kindle books which shared content I originally wrote for Wikipedia under "all rights reserved". Did they perhaps not know that the CC by SA used by Wikipedia is non exclusive and you can release your own content under multiple licenses?
     
  • Tune Smithy A claim that my first article was done to promote my software. Never asked me about it or took it to WP:COIN (Conflict of Interest Noticeboard). It was a good faith edit a decade ago by a newbie editor on their fourth edit, I did it because of a 1000+ word review in the top UK magazine for gear for professional musicians, on sale in every newsagent here. I would not write it now, but having written it, it was notable enough to not feel I had to delete it. All this is explained on my own user page if they had but checked there first.
     
  • And a bizarre sanctioning process where people who read allegations immediately believe them and sentence you based on them without even pinging you about the allegation or asking you questions. They almost never change their original vote based on what you say in response, even if you totally disprove what they gave as "evidence". With so many false allegations against me, and this process of voting first, evidence checking later or never, an indef block became inevitable.

They did have one thing that I do do. Many of them prefer short comments, sometimes as short as tweets, and find longer thoughtful comments tedious. I've been working on this but my talk comments still tend to be a little on the long side for Wikipedia. But they didn't indef block me for long comments, which were hardly mentioned, and wouldn't normally be a reason for blocking someone.

The closing admin does not give any reasons, so it's impossible to know which, if any, of those allegations they supported.

NO TRUE APPEAL PROCESS

Now, they almost never accept an appeal on the basis that the original judgement was mistaken. It is “set in stone”. So, there is absolutely no prospect of appealing it by saying to anyone on Wikipedia what I said in this blog post. Once admins make a decision like this, the Wikipedia custom is that it is their final decision, never to be questioned.

This makes some kind of sense actually, when you consider it from the admins' point of view - but is frustrating for those wrongly topic banned or blocked. They want to make it clear that it's not a legal process. They have no authority for that. It is just sysops deciding who has permission and who doesn't, to edit Wikipedia. This is something they do have the authority to do, as sysops for a website owned by the Wikimedia foundation. They don't want to have to revisit past decisions, and are only interested in what can be done to move on if an editor wishes to return to Wikipedia.

So though you can technically “appeal” it’s not really an appeal as in the sort of appeal you can make in a legal case where you could show the evidence was flawed or that the judge made a mistake. In practice, any attempt to say you know what you did and it was not wrong, and to ask them to re-examine the evidence, just leads to the appeal being thrown out on the spot for “relitigating”.

YOUR "APPEAL" HAS TO CONSIST OF AN APOLOGY - OR AT LEAST - SHOW YOU WILL BE A GOOD EDITOR IN THE FUTURE

In practice at least, the best way back is to apologize and say you have improved and will never again do whatever it was they said you did. In my case I would not want to apologize for trying to save the Buddhism articles, for trying to save the material on planetary protection, for trying to save my Modern Mars habitability article, or for telling the others in the debate that NASA’s Objective B in its first science goal is to search for extant life. It would be bizarre to apologize for any of that.

I can apologize for making some talk page posts that were too long, also for too many minor edits of posts after posting. So, you can do that, look for something you did that you can apologize for. If you can’t apologize, because that would be too silly and would be lying, the way to get unblocked is to just show in some way that you will be a good editor and not mention your past “transgressions”.

With that background, how can I say I have changed given that they say in the debate leading up to the sanction that

“a wikibreak could only gift you with the power of concise teamwork through use of a golden lamp and benevolent genii”?

By answering:

“Look I found a golden lamp and a benevolent genii” ?:).

Free Image on Pixabay - Genie, Lamp, Magic, Cute, Ghost

But I suppose if I do lots of work on WikiNews where I’m an editor in good standing and come back and show them pages of conversations where I have been involved in good team work? And show that I have made short comments,using the opportunity to learn to do short talk page posts there? Maybe? After all, the closing admin doesn't actually say what I was sanctioned for. So I could appeal based on the only thing that I accept that I did do.

That’s my best bet, and using that approach it’s possible I can get back in six months. However, for now, I've not got any plans to appeal and I do not wish to get involved in thinking about how I might return and what I might be able to do by way of editing Wikipedia without getting re-sanctioned, if they let me back.

It's actually very relaxing for me to visit Wikipedia, and know that I can't edit it :). I have so many past bad experiences there. And it is not through me abandoning the project. It's through the project deciding it doesn't want me. For me that makes a big difference as my wish is to help them still - nothing has changed about that. But I no longer have any way to do it via editing and that is very relaxing.

BLACK COMEDY - COULD ONLY LAUGH

This whole thing started out with what I thought would be a simple and straightforward topic ban appeal against my Buddhism topic ban. First, I unwisely started the topic ban appeal soon after that Clathrate Gun Hypothesis discussion had come to a close with my comments ignored by the other editor. That article was my first edit revert in over a year. The timing could have been better (irony), but it never occurred to me that they would refer to it in the topic ban appeal.

So then, I thought I could share my article on Milarepa as a biography I'd worked on, on and off, in our new Encyclopedia of Buddhism for several months. It was was the best work I could do, and in a topic area far removed from the dispute (remember I never had any editing interests of my own in writing on central topics of Buddhism - for those I was a wikignome and a reader, not an editor).


Milarepa statue, Pango Chorten, Gyantse, Tibet.

"In paintings, his slender torso is usually draped with a simple white cotton robe, the attire of a[n] ... itinerant yogin. His face may look hollow from years of living in the frigid caves of Tibet’s high snow mountains, or it may have a greenish hue from a diet of nothing but the broth of wild nettles. ...His left hand rests in his lap in a gesture of deep contemplation. His right hand is held to his ear in the pose a singer might strike to better hear his own voice; his lips may be slightly parted as if singing one of the spontaneous songs of inner realization for which he is so famous. ... Such images would be instantly identifiable to all Tibetans ....Many can recite his songs from memory." - Quintman and Heruka, 2010 "Life of Milarepa"

Surely I could edit in biographies without disturbing the editors who deleted that 2014 content? Well, so I thought, as most of them seemed to have no interest in Buddhist bios, at least, I hadn't noticed them in the article histories. Also the Wikipedia article had a template at the top of the page identifying several issues to be fixed which I felt my bio solved.

But one of the editors responded by suddenly, for the first time in its edit history, rewriting this article mid-appeal, using ideas from my bio to fix it. Simultaneously he was arguing in my topic ban appeal case that my bio showed that I didn't know how to write for an encyclopedia! Then at the same time as all this was going on, I'd given my Modern Mars Habitability article as one of several examples of my best work outside of the Buddhism topic area for the appeal. Another editor responded by taking my Modern Mars habitability to AfD. This was mid-appeal so I had to deal with a topic ban appeal, this Milarepa bio stuff, and an AfD at the same time.

I got upset at the height of the proceedings, but one morning after everything had suddenly piled up - topic ban appeal going wrong, attacked for my treatment of the biography of Milarepa (for silly reasons), AfD, the topic ban appeal thrown out, and then when finally, I got the indef block sanction debate, overlapping with the AfD - it became so extreme it was like a black comedy. I could no longer take it seriously. From then on it just began to seem silly. I couldn't help but laugh at that point. The final AfD on the Tune Smithy article was more of the same by then.

For a post I did in the middle of it all, this is just after that moment when it suddenly began to seem silly and funny: :

For those three ways of reasoning:

BIZARRE CASE OF CLARAWOOD123

I'd like to look at another clear and rather strange case. It is possible to edit wikipedia for years without any problems. Much of wikipedia is excellent. But then you can run into crazy opposition by these editors who turn out to have immense power within the tiny world of a small subsection of wikipedia. When you tangle with them, it’s like suddenly ending up in a hall of mirrors, like Alice through the Looking Glass.

This is the bizarre case of Clarawood123 who after 80 edits found themselves attacked on all sides for the heinous crime (being ironic there) of writing about the place where they live. They were warned that this is a “conflict of interest” and eventually after a number of other bizarre incidents, were forced to leave wikipedia. All on the basis of those 80 edits of their first ever article in wikipedia.

“But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,” - Alice objected.

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.

Part of Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice through the Looking Glass “

They tangled with EditorJ. This is the same editor who warned me that they would take me to AE if I continued to ask them to include a mention of Marianne Middleveen’s research in the Morgellons talk page.

Anyway, when I talked about this to a wikipedia editor friends off wiki, I learnt that I was right to take this editor very seriously. So that’s how I found out about EditorJ’s extraordinary message to Clarawood123.

A “CONFLICT OF INTEREST” TO WRITE ABOUT THE PLACE WHERE YOU LIVE???

Clarawood123 joined in January 2016, and this happens after only 80 edits of wikipedia. It’s their first article, and not surprisingly, all their edits are edits of this article, about the housing estate in Ireland where they live called Clarawood, which also naturally enough they took as a wikipedia user name.

If you live in the US a bit of background may help. Here in the UK, large estates like this are typically built by the government, rather than private contractors. So it’s just like writing about the village you live in.

EditorJ tells them on their talk page that they have a conflict of interest because they live there! He warns them that they should learn to concede to the better judgement of people who don't live in Clarawood and have never seen the place! He also warns them of a possible financial conflict of interest if they own property in Clarawood - a UK reader will take this as meaning, a conflict if you own a house in Clarawood. It’s quite the most bizarre wikipedia episode I’ve ever seen.

"Hi Clarawood123. I work on conflict of interest issues here in Wikipedia and my attention was called to your situation by the ANI filing. Apparently nobody has talked with you about what we call "conflict of interest" in Wikipedia, which is pretty clearly at the root of the problems you are experiencing. You made it clear in this comment[] that you are "a very long term resident of Clarawood with direct experience", and every edit you have made has been about Clarawood. I'm giving you notice of our conflict of interest guideline and will have some comments and questions for you below.

....

"As I noted above, it is clear from your username, your editing, and your actual disclosure that you are a long time resident of Clarawood. It is not clear to me if you own the place where you live and have an actual financial conflict of interest, but it is clear that you are very invested in how people see Clarawood, and in your notions about it. This connection to Clarawood - your "interest" in it, is creating a conflict of interest here in Wikipedia, and that conflict is in turn driving the problems you are having with other editors. "

Wikipedia is going stark raving bonkers here!

Now EditorJ’s aggression towards Clarawood123 is based on a false assumption I think. Housing estates are not generally owned by developers here in the UK. Many were built by the government and that's the case for Clarawood. From the Wikipedia article, 313 of the estate houses remain in government ownership and 278 have been sold. At most Clarawood123 might own his or her house if it is one of those 278 houses privately owned.

So when EditorJ says

“It is not clear to me if you own the place where you live and have an actual financial conflict of interest”

- then Clarawood123 would understand that as saying “It is not clear to me if you own your own house and have an actual financial conflict of interest”.

However probably EditorJ meant “It is not clear to me if you own the Clarawood estate”. Otherwise how could they think it is a potential COI? As the conversation continues others from the US put this more explicitly, a user called “North America” of all things says “Your username implies that you represent the Clarawood housing estate.”.

It's an understandable misunderstanding once you realize the different approaches to housing development on the two sides of the Atlantic. But a friendly conversation and a few questions back and forth could have cleared that up quickly.

A bit more background. When EditorJ says

" I work on conflict of interest issues here in Wikipedia"

- that sounds like they have an official post - but no, this is just an editor who has decided they want to patrol wikipedia looking out for conflict of interest issues, they are not speaking for anyone except themselves.

As for the “ANI filing” - that was actually a filing by Clarawood123 themselves to a complaint board on wikipedia called “ANI” just the day before: Problem with admin who has erroneously accused me of disruptive editing on the page Clarawood. It's the same complaint board that got me indef blocked.

Instead of getting support and sympathy, Clarawood123 find themselves in the middle of what’s called a “boomerang” on wikipedia. You go to complain about some bad conduct, and the argument reverses and you find that everyone is complaining about your conduct instead. Though those boards are supposed to help you, editors who run into issues on wikipedia soon find out that it's best just to steer well clear of them, unless you really know what you are doing, especially if you are a newbie complaining about the behaviour of an established editor there.

So, far from getting support there, suddenly many editors they have never come across before weigh in on whether to topic ban or site ban them.

FIRST THE SENTENCE, THEN THE EVIDENCE

It’s like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland in these dispute boards on wikipedia. They really could do with the advice of someone with some experience in the judiciary. It is all back to front. The editors there are rapid to sentence you, and declare you are guilty first before they go on to examine the evidence. As happened with me, and other actions I’ve seen there - you try to defend yourself from this assumption of guilt after many people have already said you are guilty and sentenced you.

And you have no assistance. There is no system by which a neutral third party helps newbie editors to present their case. It’s like a legal case during which a member of the jury can shout out at any time “Guilty” even before any evidence is presented. You then have to try to persuade the jury to reverse their sentence. But there is no judge, only a jury, and no-one to help you mount a defense.

It’s like the episode in Alice in Wonderland with the Queen of Hearts, “No!” said the Queen, “first the sentence, and then the evidence!”

“Now for the evidence,” said the King, “and then the sentence”. “No!” said the Queen, “first the sentence, and then the evidence!” “Nonsense!” cried Alice, so loudly that everybody jumped, “the idea of having the sentence first!”

"Hold your tongue!" said the Queen "I won't!" said Alice."You're nothing but a pack of cards! Who cares for you?"

At this the whole pack rose up into the air, and came flying down upon her; she gave a little scream, half of fright and half of anger, and tried to beat them off, and found herself lying on the bank, with her head in the lap of her sister, who was gently brushing away some dead leaves that had fluttered down from the trees on to her face.

Alice's Adventures Under Ground - Lewis Carroll - British Library - original MS for Alice in Wonderland, see transcript in Wikisource - this scene is towards the end of Chapter 4

You can read the debate here: Proposed ban / WP:BOOMERANG of Clarawood123

As you see, four editors say Clarawood123 should be topic banned, four say they should be site banned meaning prohibited from editing wikipedia at all in any topic area, and four oppose or strongly oppose. And many of them have already made their judgement before Clarawood123 learns about the case.

Probably many of them made the same assumption EditorJ made. Perhaps that’s why Clarawood123 faced so much hostility?

Then in the middle of that, they got this bizarre message on their talk page by EditorJ saying it is a conflict of interest to write about the place where you live - by an editor of the name “North America” of all things.

User talk:Clarawood123 - Wikipedia

"Welcome to Wikipedia.

"I noticed that your username, "Clarawood123", may not meet Wikipedia's username policy because Your username implies that you represent the Clarawood housing estate. See WP:CORPNAME for more information. Please seriously consider creating a new account using a neutral username.

"If you believe that your username does not violate our policy, please leave a note here explaining why. As an alternative, you may ask for a change of username by completing this form, or you may simply create a new account for editing. Thank you . [EditorNorthAmericaxxxx]

"… Clarawood123, you can safely ignore the above warning which I assume is based on a misunderstanding. The US (where I assume from their name NorthAmericaxxxx is from) has no tradition of centrally-planned housing and thus no real equivalent to estates, and NAxxxx is probably assuming that this is a private development and you work for the developer. NorthAmericaxxxx, a British or Irish estate is for all practical purposes a government-planned village, usually complete with its own pubs, shops, churches etc (some of the larger ones like Becontree or Wythenshawe can be treated as full-blown cities in their own right); treat it as you would any other village. Estates are built by the government, not by private developers; unless you're insinuating that Clarawood123 works for the local authority, claiming a COI from the name would be like me banning you from North American articles owing to your username. [EditorI]

"(ping) EditorI and Clarawood123: I struck my message above. I assumed it was a private development. Cheers, [EditorNorthAmericaxxxx]

"Cheers Clarawood123 (talk) 08:13, 16 April 2016 (UTC)"

This user later strikes out their comment, explaining that they made a mistake. But why not ask? It’s the same thing as with the ANI discussion. They just presume guilt on the basis of slender evidence and you then have to try to prove innocence.

CLARAWOOD123 BLOCKED AS A SOCK PUPPET‽

And then finally (you can read this on their talk page as well), Clarawood123 gets blocked as a sockpuppet!

What, I’m a sock puppet? Carlb-sockpuppet-02

I.e. the admins claim that they are not a genuine person, but rather, another experienced wikipedia user masquerading as a newbie Clarawood123 in order to harm wikipedia (a sockpuppet by definition is always someone doing something harmful, the idea is that they wear the other person’s identity much like the way someone might wear a sock as a puppet on a hand).

The result of this block is that they can’t contribute anywhere on wikipedia except their own talk page, just as happened to me.

This is what Clarawood123 says when they find out that they have been blocked:

User:Bbb23 has blocked me in connection with a sockpuppet investigation of me. I have just discovered this today. There is absolutely no way any investigation of this would have been able to prove any sockpuppetry as I am a genuine account and have no connection whatsoever to the disruptive editor or anyone else. I am not able to defend myself as I have been blocked. I would like to be unblocked immediately so that I can defend myself as I have, once again, been accused of multiple things I have not done.”

This appeal is declined

"Decline reason:

Confirmed sockpuppet. And you are able to defend yourself just fine while blocked. You still have access to this page. You don't need to edit articles in order to defend yourself"

I don't for a moment think they are a sock puppet. They are so obviously genuine and a newbie too, from the way they talked and reacted, from the nature of their first article, from the understandable but naive way they tried to go to ANI with a complaint and it boomeranged - everything they did shouts out newbie wikipedia editor. How anyone could conclude that they are a sockpuppet is beyond me. Maybe they are at the same school or use the same internet provider as a confirmed sock puppet?

Imagine facing all that as a newbie user with only 80 edits, attempting your first ever article in wikipedia!

Eventually they get unblocked with a warning

“As a result of an appeal to the Arbitration Committee. However, I strongly suggest that you get consensus for any possible controversial edits “

I would imagine they have probably thoroughly discouraged this newbie editor from taking part in wikipedia. They started trying to help wikipedia in February. That final unblocking happens in June. But, naturally enough really, they haven’t contributed anything since then: User contributions for Clarawood123 - Wikipedia

I’ve seen many strange Alice through the Looking Glass conversations during my time of contributing to Wikipedia as an editor - but this one really takes the biscuit. Think how many people must get discouraged from editing wikipedia every year as a result of this absurd nonsense!

CLARAWOOD123’S ORIGINAL ARTICLE

And having said all that, well I’ll also link to their original version of the article they wrote. It’s still there in the article history. And I think it’s a nice article myself :).

Clarawood (old version as written by Clarawood123)

I can see how some of it could be said to go against the wikipedia guidelines on “original research” which in my opinion are taken way too seriously there. They take this so seriously that sometimes it seems that you can’t say that there is an ancient oak tree growing in your village green or that it has a duck pond, unless you can find a newspaper story or similar remarking on it… I can understand the reason for those guidelines but I think even at the best of times they are somewhat over enforced.

Anyway the original is much better than the latest version. And I get a bit of pleasure from sharing their original here after everything that happened to them.

Clarawood Park entrance. The editor who took this photograph and wrote the article has now been banned from wikipedia as a “sockpuppet”, a ridiculous allegation, after stirring up a hornets nest because they had the misfortune to cross paths with EditorJ.

And here is their article about it again :). Clarawood

WATCH OUT FOR MAD HATTERS AND CHESHIRE CATS

So - generally if you are in any of the more controversial areas, you may find that it’s hard to make friends on wikipedia and you may encounter a lot of hostility, and some (of course not all) of the most prolific editors there are characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a book by Lewis Carroll - Mad Hatters, Queens of Hearts (or Red Queens, that's the chess piece in Alice through the Looking Glass), Mock Turtles, Cheshire Cats vanishing leaving only a smile behind.

If you’ve ever been involved in this stuff you’ve probably met the equivalents of all those characters and more.

Cheshire Cat vanishing (detail) - original illustration by Tenniel.

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE ABOUT IT?

What really takes you aback when you are first taken to one of these sanction proceedings is the unrelenting hostility against you as well as the sentence first, examine evidence never, approach. It shows the power of pathos and a kind of lynch mob mentality. And - they don't have the training to recognize that they are doing this. It is the way things are done there by custom. I think many of them are so used to this process, they don't even realize it could be different.

Alice in Wonderland - shows the King and Queen of Hearts, Lewis Carroll's original illustration from page 89 of the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Underground Fictional characters. the Queen is, famous for her "Off with their heads" sentencing her subjects, at the slightest whim, the King then frequently pardons them when she isn't looking. Wikipedia has lots of Queen's of Hearts but the King's of Hearts are rare.

There should be a separate evidence giving phase. Something like this, but it is just a suggestion. A formal multi-stage process, perhaps:

  1. Anyone who has accusations should present these first, in full.
  2. Independent fact checkers check any evidence supplied
  3. After fact checking, the person who is being sanctioned is given time to answer all the allegations. Not as it is now, that they have to answer within hours, and race to make a reply before the first sanction vote against them. A reasonable amount of time to set out their case, a few days, bearing in mind that the editors are volunteers and may have full time jobs and commitments, and may not be able to drop everything to respond to one of these cases.
  4. Q/A about the evidence so far and any responses to it.
  5. Finally, only after all that is complete, the voting phase. During this stage, no new accusations or evidence can be added.

A streamlined process could be used for out and out vandals and trolls, who don't pay any attention to the admins or other editors, and need to be dealt with right away. But for anything else, where the editor being sanctioned is behaving in a reasonable way, then something like this.

And, given how bewildering it is for newbies, I think editors should also have access to a more experienced editor, preferably an admin, who can help guide them through the process, explain what the obscure wiki guidelines mean, and generally help them understand what is happening and what their options are. And the closing admin also should be required to know all the Wikipedia policies that are relevant to the case. If they don't, to leave it to someone else to close it.

But the main issue is that they are following pathos rather than logos, and they are going by "gut feeling" and have no training even to recognize they are doing this. And other editors, knowing that it works that way, are not above "gaming the system" by submitting supposed "evidence" that wouldn't even stand up to a minute of scrutiny, in some cases

So, the editors need some training, maybe a series of questions and a mini course they have to do, online course, before they can vote?

And some method for independent evidence checking. Either volunteers or paid professional evidence checkers. The Wikipedia foundation spends millions of dollars a month keeping the project going. They can surely afford to hire professional evidence checkers for these sanction debates, only a few per day.

And - do something about their idea that sanctions are "set in stone" - that admins can never make mistakes. Have some sort of oversight, a proper appeal process.

The Jury (1861) painting by John Morgan- wikipedia appeal boards are like a legal system with a jury but no judge, no defendant, and on the basis of sentencing first, with the jury often meting out sentences there swiftly within minutes of filing the case, before the person accused has had a chance to reply to the accusations. Perhaps it would benefit from an overhaul and attention by people with a background in jurisprudence? Maybe it could even do with a full time paid member with jurisprudence experience?

But for that to happen, the volunteers who man wikipedia would need to agree that it needs overhaul. The admins there don’t even see that it is a problem. They don’t see all the posts and complaints by banned users because this happens off wiki.

I think this is one of the main issues holding wikipedia back at present myself.

Of course it is not a real legal system, and never can be. They have no authority to pronounce on guilt or innocence in a way a real legal system can. But - they could use some of the features that have been developed for legal systems to make the process more transparent, and fair, and to avoid sanctioning good faith editors who are working to help Wikipedia.

ArbCom is their highest authority, apart from Jimmy Wales. It's a committee of a dozen admins who you can go to if everything else fails. But they will only rule on procedural irregularities at present. They are not able to override decisions that are just wrong. This is called "relitigation" and an appeal that proceeds by trying to prove that a previous sanction was mistaken is likely to be thrown out, without the admins looking at any of the evidence.

TOO RADICAL FOR THE CURRENT ADMINS

There is no way the admins are going to decide on such radical changes by themselves. It probably has to come from a higher level in some way. The only higher level in Wikipedia is Jimmy Wales.

Don't get me wrong, must of the encyclopedia is excellent still. Even in the topic areas where these issues arose for me.

  • Just about all of astronomy and spaceflight is excellent, so long as you avoid the politically sensitive topic of the astrobiology of present day Mars.
  • Astrobiology also is fine until you get to present day Mars.
  • I expect Morgellons is a rare example in Medicine.
  • Articles on individual Buddhist sutras, and other texts, for instance the Tibetan book of the Dead, and on the monastic vows, and biographies of historical Buddhist figures of the past for the most part are fine. Indeed, many of the less popular articles describe the Four Noble Truths correctly too.
  • Most of articles on climate change are excellent with the article on the Clathrate Gun Hypothesis a rare exception. This is striking in a topic area that has so much disinformation on the web. For the most part the Wikipedia editors have been able to avoid putting this into the articles, or present them correctly as fringe views.

However, Wikipedia should be doing something to fix the few articles with mistakes in them. Editors like me who try to fix serious errors should be encouraged, rather than topic banned or blocked. Also we should be encouraged to try to resolve things via talk page discussions, as I did, rather than through edit wars (where editors revert each other's edits to an article).

Instead we get thrown out. Meanwhile, editors who rewrite articles to fit their own ideas are encouraged. It's going in the wrong direction. Parts of Wikipedia that used to be unbiased and accurate are slowly deteriorating. Many editors who try to fix this give up quickly.

Of course Wikipedia depends on being reasonably accurate and unbiased for its success. Only Jimmy Wales could perhaps initiate such a radical change, but he has reduced his influence so much he probably can't.

Maybe, if Wikipedia can't solve this, a reset with a new encyclopedia can. All the great content is there, and licensed in such a way that anyone can re-use it, so long as they attribute the original authors with a link back to the Wikipedia pages and page histories.

But it's not going to be easy because of the vast expense of running Wikipedia, and because of the competition. Many people trust Wikipedia, and are probably less likely to read a competitor. Maybe only if Wikipedia folds up, the whole thing collapses and it is no longer available on the internet, and someone else starts up a new version to take its place? This is not likely any time soon, but it could happen if Wikipedia became less and less trustworthy to the point where people stop donating to it, as it is entirely run on donations at present.

It is fabulously expensive to run, millions of dollars per month.

However, they have enough money in hand to keep going for 1.5 years. And they find it easy to get more with their short campaigns which only run for a few days a year (with a header at the top of every page asking for donations). So it’s not going to fold up any time soon. And I hope it doesn't come to that.

SO WHERE IS THIS HEADED?

I think few of the regular readers of Wikipedia, or occasional editors, or the fund raisers, or the technical staff even, have any idea of what is going on behind the scenes in these sanction debates.

I think even many editors who vote on these sanctions also are unaware of what they are doing. They are voting based on emotion and pathos, but don't have the training needed to recognize what they are doing. The issues I raise here with the process itself are also ones that they clearly don't recognize as needing to be fixed.

The Wikimedia foundation has already tried to deal with the toxic environment with algorithms. But I think the sanctioning processes need attention too.They have forced me, and others like me, to join the at least 99.95% of people who read Wikipedia every day and don't do as many as 5 edits a month (I get that 99.95% figure from 30,000 active editors, and 60 million daily unique devices = visitors roughly - could be more, as not all those editors who do the 5 edits a month will be there every day).

The number of new editors has roughly halved since 2007, although the number of pages viewed per day has doubled. The number of active editors has declined by more than a third, from 46,000 in 2007. Surely these sanctions must be a factor. For each editor like me who is blocked, you typically get dozens of friends who follow every stage of the episode on social media. It's a kind of "anti-recruitment" drive. I think this is a major issue with Wikipedia that gets too little attention. Although much of it is still excellent, some of it at least is deteriorating. Articles that used to be good are becoming false and misleading. Blocks like mine are most likely to affect editors who attempt to fix the more serious errors in Wikipedia. This is surely at least in part because of these bizarre sanctions and the knock on effect.

I hope that this article can lead to more awareness of these issues, using my own example as a particularly clear case. Maybe, just possibly, something can be done about it? Of course most of us are not Jimmy Wales and he also has limits to what he can do.

WORKING ON THIS AT A GRASS ROOTS LEVEL

There is something else that we can all do about it, working from the grass roots level (well obviously not me, because I'm blocked, but any editor in good standing).

Photo by Moonsey

What any Wikipedia editor can do is to take part in these community processes, but buck the trend by doing proper evidence checking, and Logos rather than Pathos.

For the sanction debates, particularly if you can keep a clear head and not be influenced by lynch mob mentality, it's possible that your impartial vote, bucking the pathos trend, may cause some people to think twice.

Those debates are for experienced Wikipedians only, as they can get very technical. Also, passions often run high there, and you'll be noticed if you defend an editor who the others have already decided should be sanctioned. Although the risk is surely small, coming as an uninvolved editor, it may be best not to get mixed up if you are new to Wikipedia.

However, there are other far easier ways one can help, things anyone can do, including taking part in Requests for Comments, Third Opinion (on some matter in which one has expertise), Article for Deletion discussions, the Neutral Point Of View noticeboard, and the Reliable sources noticeboard, depending on what interests you most. You can also help as a "Prod patroller". I did it for a while, These are articles tagged with "Proposal for deletion". Sometimes there is nothing wrong with them, and they are easily fixed, but the notice bewilders newbie editors.

For details of all this, see Can we do anything to help fix Wikipedia? Some things one can do right away

If you want to help buck the trend and get Wikipedia back on course, ignore any lynch mob style pathos arguments and votes you may see there, and use a clear head. Re-examine the case from the start, take statements by supposed "experts" with a large pinch of salt, ask questions, either on the page or on individual users' talk pages, or it may sometimes be best done via email to avoid on-wiki drama, and then add a genuine independently assessed view on the matter.

SEE ALSO

Some of the material here comes from my “Alice in Wonderland” themed:

Also