“Blocks are used to prevent damage or disruption to Wikipedia, not to punish users” + X (the user) states he is not going to edit Wikipedia + Wikipedia:Assume good faith = unblock, right?
Not so fast, say the wikipediots. Oh, those wikipediots! They don’t act as humans, they act as Wikipedians. They don’t speak English, they speak Wikipedian. They don’t use common sense, they use Wikipedian sense. “Trongphu” is a Wikipedian who is active on Vietnamese Wikimedia projects, and is a sysop on one of them. Two years ago he was blocked from the English Wikipedia indefinitely, and his talk page access was revoked. Trongphu had only one way to appeal the block: by sending an email to the list of admins, and that is what he did. Having already had his share of aggravation from the unfriendly English Wikipedia environment, Trongphu had decided to concentrate his efforts on volunteering on Vietnamese Wikimedia projects. Being blocked from the English Wikipedia had hurt Trongphu’s reputation on the Vietnamese projects. This is what he tried to communicate to the list when he requested his unblock:
*I’m requesting an unblock on condition that you will never see me here again. I promise to not edit here anymore, if I broke my promise, you’re welcomed to block me again.
*Please, don’t make blocks punitive. It has become punitive. It is only hurting me.
*It is still making a negative impact on me as a devout editor on Vietnamese Wikipedia. Once in a while, someone would bring up the fact that I was blocked on English Wikipedia to make fun of me.
But what response could one expect from a list, especially if this list is the list of wikipediots? Trongphu got his response. The list decided that in order to get unblocked on English Wikipedia he … must edit English Wikipedia. Are you still following? He may not edit English Wikipedia because he’s blocked there, but the only way to get unblocked is editing English Wikipedia. Go figure …
Desperate Trongphu turned to the last resort: he came to one of the Wikipedia drama boards, introduced himself and asked for some understanding and some compassion. But wikipediots are not capable of compassion. They use their drama boards to revel in the pleasure of bullying. Kelly Martin describes it thusly:
Wikipedia is full of bullies. This is a common enough trajectory, so much so that it’s the recurring plot of a TV sitcom (“Big Bang Theory”): nerds, fed up with being bullied for their entire lives so far, gain some tiny sliver of power over someone else and use it to mercilessly bully them in revenge. That’s what this is, plain and simple.
I still don’t understand how George Orwell was able to anticipate what Wikipedia drama boards discussions would be like, but he did:
“A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing …
Actually, now I think about it, I wonder if the unblock request is because the user is planning to return to disruptive editing (yeah, I know AGF and all, but the block was for a reason)
There is no conceivable reason why you should be unblocked so you can leave the project. If you want to go away, Just go away.
This user is evading their account’s block to make this request after their talk page access was removed for abuse of the unblock request facility.
By that time wikipediot Jehochman had blocked Trongphu’s IP address.
It all seemed to be over and done with, but then Newyorkbrad, who is a senior administrator and a long-time arbitrator, decided to help. After he was reassured that if Trongphu is unblocked the sun will still set in the West, the worlds will not collide, and Wikipedia articles will still show #1 in Google search results, Newyorkbrad did not go so far as to actually unblock Trongphu, but he asked “for some input from other admins”. A day of suspense passed with no inputs from other admins, but then another senior admin, Alison, did allow Trongphu to edit his own talk page in order to submit his unblock request there, and he did. Now yet another senior admin, A fluffernutter is a sandwich!, weighed in:
I think that the sticking point – the potential problem with granting this request – for many administrators is that while Trongphu is exactly right when he says blocks are preventative rather than for punishment, he’s also exactly right when he says blocks are preventative rather than for punishment
Okaay … So, if Trongphu is right, then perhaps the answer would be to unblock him. Right? Wrong. As Sandstein stated:
the user claims that they do not intend to edit Wikipedia again, and if that is the case, they have no reason to be unblocked.
Once again wikipediots were walking in endless, closed circles, repeating each other’s comments, and not only that. As Wikipedia’s co-founder Larry Sanger once said:
I mean, they’re so ridiculously self-important, when they aren’t acting like trolls, and show no sense of grace, humanity, or even style. Admins and even rank-and-file contributors go around making high-sounding declarations and announcements, as if they were government officials dispensing court orders.
At one point during his ordeal, Trongphu asked Beyond My Ken this question: “What I don’t understand is you don’t even know me nor do I even know you. How can you hate me so much?” In response he got this:
You’re a total, loser, pure and simple, and you’ve sullied my clean and empty talk page. I pity vi.wiki if you are one of those in charge. I think I’ll have to reconsider Eric Corbett’s position about shutting down the lesser Wikipedias.
See, Trongphu: there is no logic to the hate of wikipediots.
They hate because they hate. Period.
And then, Trongphu was unblocked by Alison.
It’s pretty obvious where consensus is below, at this point, so I’m unblocking this editor. Furthermore, it’s the kindest, most decent thing to do here. Worst comes to worst, it only takes seconds for someone to reblock this account. I’m willing to reach out and unblock this editor so he can be free of this burden and I’m trusting him that he will be true to his word.
It is interesting to analyze the first three sentences in Alison’s comment. The first one was written by a Wikipedian (she’s referring to “consensus”). The second one was written by a human (“the kindest, most decent thing to do”). The third one was written by a person who uses common sense (“Worst comes to worst, it only takes seconds for someone to reblock this account.”) Alison’s statement was good, but in my opinion not good enough. What if consensus had been different? Would the user have been unblocked anyway, and if not, would it have meant that on Wikipedia insanity won over common sense, and cruelty won over humanity yet another time?
The whole affair seems to have provoked some reflection among senior personalities at Wikipedia, as demonstrated by the discussion about it on Jimbo’s talk page, which elicited this comment from Wnt:
We should enact the following reforms: 1) remove all Scarlet Letters from main User: pages. 2) Do not route unblock email requests to /dev/null. 3) because you should actually be ”reading” all unblock requests, mailed or not, there’s no reason not to revoke talk page access only when the blocked user posts a substantial number of unreasonable “unblock requests”, like ten or twenty non-responsive answers, or at least two or three that contain material so problematic (such as “outing”) that you feel the need to ‘oversight’ them.
Image credit: Flickr/DoNotLick, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic