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Deconstructing Wikipedia User Mathsci

by E. A. Barbour

“Mathsci”, a British Wikipedian since 2006, has unquestionably written some good content for mathematics, science and music articles. He is a degreed and lauded mathematician, one of the few “experts” to successfully endure Wikipedia’s mad “anti-expert culture”.

Since 2009, Mathsci has also developed a reputation as a determined opponent of pseudoscience and “quack medical” editors, generally a good thing for a reference-work project that attracts many “cranks” of various persuasions.

As a result of his endless disputes with others over the Race and Intelligence subject area, or “R&I” (a common target for racists and people with “fringe” viewpoints”) and with promoters of pseudoscience, his recent history has shifted from content work to constant arguing on talk pages and noticeboards, and aggressive pursuit of perceived enemies.

Sockpuppets on Wikipedia are viewed as a major obstacle to achieving the project’s goals. Characterizing one’s opponents as sockpuppets is a well-known tactic for getting them blocked and out of your way. Mathsci identified more “Mikemikev” and “Echigo mole” sockpuppets than any other Wikipedian, even the SPI clerks who are supposed to do such work (Mikemikev was an extremist on the R&I subject, Echigo mole was accused of “pushing pseudoscience”). On the side, Mathsci pursued outright vendettas against numerous editors he was in dispute with, and always prevailed, despite not being an administrator.

At least nine longtime Wikipedia editors were banned or forced off Wikipedia as a direct result of Mathsci’s efforts, which have often become obsessive and bizarre. This amazing record stems partly from his implicit protection by certain powerful administrators, notably Charles Matthews and David “MastCell” Gorski, plus a few others. Mathsci has openly attempted to defame members of Wikipedia’s powerful Arbitration Committee, and has never been sanctioned for it.

 

…continue reading Deconstructing Wikipedia User Mathsci

The tragedy of Wikipedia’s commons

By Gigs

This article appeared originally in the Wikipedia Signpost, June 12, 2013.

I’ve long thought that we should get rid of the Commons as we know it. Commons has evolved, through the actions of a tiny group of people, into a project with interests that compete with the needs of the various encyclopedias that are the primary users of Commons, and the reason it was created. It’s also understaffed, which results in poor curation, large administrative backlogs, and poor policy development.

First, some background information. Commons was primarily created so we could share media between various wikis, with a secondary goal of being a free media repository. When Erik Möller proposed the idea of Commons, he also proposed an inclusion criteria, “Material would be eligible for inclusion in the Commons if it is useful to at least ONE Wikimedia project [including potential future use].”

At no point during initial discussions was it proposed that the inclusion criteria basically be the mere fact that an image was free. There was an implicit assumption throughout that the files would be free, and also encyclopedic in some way.

From inception until 2008, the main inclusion criteria at commons was the media be “useful or potentially useful” to a Wikimedia project, reflecting Möller’s initial proposal comments. In 2008, a replacement policy was proposed and implemented by User:MichaelMaggs, with half a page of feedback from about six other editors. These six editors (some seemingly unwittingly) redefined the scope of Commons from a repository of files useful to Wikimedia project, to files “useful for an educational purpose”.

This unchallenged action by a tiny group of people changed the scope of the project such that any media file with a free license can be included, since it is extremely easy to argue that any media is

…continue reading The tragedy of Wikipedia’s commons

The Deaf Leading the Blind — the tale of Jimmy Wales’ vanishing talk page posts

by Wer900

Jimmy Wales is well-known for having opened his user talk page to general discussion of Wikipedia/Wikimedia issues, creating the impression that he is genuinely interested in fueling productive and civil debate on the nature of the encyclopedia. After deeper analysis of the talk page’s history, though, it becomes clear that there is something more at work than a desire for constructive discussion. On numerous occasions, the god-king, constitutional monarch, and sole founder of Wikipedia has suppressed discussion about topics uncomfortable to him, including the various misdeeds of the Board of Trustees and chapters of the Wikimedia Foundation, and the editing community at large, not to mention those of Wales himself.

Take this talk-page removal from April 27, 2013. Although he ostensibly removed the message in order to “rm trollimg”, the message contained a link to a particularly damning article in the Daily Dot regarding his non-payment of the 2012 “Wikipedian of the Year” award, whose US$5000 prize was to be extracted from his own personal funds. The next day, Wales questioned whether the author of the Daily Dot piece was a “real journalist”, and other users responded to his insinuation. Quite predictably, Wales deleted what was apparently a “useless trolling discussion”. A related May discussion, centering on “Wikipedian of the Year” as well as various other “Jimbo awards” coming from Wales’ own purse (and, crucially, his avoidance of scrutiny on such contentious matters), was also deleted, with the edit summary of “rm trolling”—a byword for the systematic removal of content unpleasant to Wales and other corrupt players on Wikipedia.

Shazam!

Questions about the (in)actions of the Wikimedia Foundation, its affiliated bodies, and officials (Wales included) are not the only ones that elicit the standard “delete” response. When his article-space contributions were

…continue reading The Deaf Leading the Blind — the tale of Jimmy Wales’ vanishing talk page posts