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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.

 

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