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WMF strikes down enwiki consensus, academic journal partnerships, and eyebrows raised over minors editing porn-related content

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By Skomorokh, Jorgenev, and Daniel Mietchen

Foundation overrules community consensus on autoconfirmation trial

Wikimedia Foundation Deputy Director Erik Möller, who intervened to halt the implementation of the Autoconfirmed article creation trial, which was seen as striking an unwelcome exclusionary stance.

In a heated altercation between English Wikipedia community members and MediaWiki sysadmins in the course of a bugzilla thread, a proposed trial for barring non-autoconfirmed editors from creating articles, which had garnered significant local consensus in a widely publicised Request for Comment, was thwarted by Wikimedia Foundation staffers and developers. The trial had been motivated by the perceived ineffectiveness of prevailing article creation mechanics, whereby a large portion of articles created by new editors were swiftly deleted and their authors reprimanded. By barring new editors from creating articles and funnelling them through the Articles for Creation and Article Creation Wizard processes, it was hoped to ease pressure on new page patrollers, alienate fewer new contributors and ensure a higher quality of new articles. After reticence to implement the trial from sysadmins and an intemperate reaction, Wikimedia Foundation Deputy Director Erik Möller after acknowledging the stated intentions of the initiative, put the boot down firmly on the petitioners' hopes:

However, we believe that creating a restriction of this type is a strong a statement of exclusion, not inclusion, and that it will confuse and deter good faith editors. Instead of trying to address many different issues by means of a simple but potentially highly problematic permission change, we believe that in order to create a friendly, welcoming and understandable experience for new editors, we need to apply an iterative, multi-prong approach, including but not limited to:

Möller and the developers attempted to redirect efforts to the ArticleCreationWorkflow project at MediaWiki in the face of strong resistance from the English Wikipedia community members, with the initiator of the bug report Snottywong commenting "ArticleCreationWorkflow doesn't discuss any real solutions to the problem, so I will not be contributing there". Charges of unilateralism, incivility and a patronising tone were levelled at Foundation staff as it became evident the report would not result in implementation. Volunteer developer and long-standing English Wikipedian Happy-melon attempted to bridge the growing divide with an entreaty for perspective:

On the other hand, there *is* a separation of *cultures* here, and it's something that an awful lot of members of the wiki communities do not appreciate. The developers and (separately) the sysadmins/WMF form their own separate communities with their own goals and practices; and those goals and practices, while closely matching those of enwiki or whereverwiki, do not necessarily precisely align. There is nothing unrealistic, or wrong, with enwiki having goals which are very slightly different from those of the WMF as a whole, or for their requests to not be ones that the Foundation feels bests fits with their own strategies.

In response to the incident, English Wikipedian and developer MZMcBride assembled at Meta a list of instances of Wikimedia systems administrators rejection of configuration changes. The firm insistence of the Wikimedia Foundation to pursue its own vision of sustaining and developing the Wikimedia projects in defiance if necessary of the wishes of the core community of its flagship project – and the chief source of its funding – is an indicator of how far the organisation has grown in its brief history, and is sure to raise the hackles of those who conceived of it playing a primarily supportive role to the local communities.

Academic journals consider partnering with Wikipedia

The secondary structure of SmY RNA, originally published in RNA Biology.
The holotype of Neobidessodes darwiniensis, originally published in ZooKeys.

This month, editors of two academic journals brought up the possibility of content partnerships between their respective journals and Wikipedia. Phil Bourne, Editor in Chief of PLoS Computational Biology, suggested that review articles on topics that are related to computational biology could be considered for publication in the journal in a way that would allow the article to be reused to start an entry on the topic in the English Wikipedia. In a similar move, Andrew Su – editor at the journal Gene and one of the driving forces behind the Gene Wikiraised the possibility of gene stubs in the English Wikipedia being substantially expanded by way of review articles that could be published in the journal. In both cases, the details remain yet to be worked out.

The potential complementarity of open-access journals and Wikipedia has been noted repeatedly, but the Wikipedia policies WP:V, WP:MEDRS, WP:PSTS, WP:NPOV, WP:NOR, WP:NOT PAPERS, WP:TECHNICAL or WP:OWN as well as journal policies on prior publication or (for subscription-based journals) on reuse have all been put forward as possibly standing in the way of such a close association between Wikipedia and journal articles. PLoS Computational Biology publishes its articles under a CC-BY license, which does not allow the article drafting to take place under the more restrictive CC-BY-SA license employed on most Wikimedia projects, whereas Gene content is paywalled and fully copyrighted, such that any kind of reuse beyond mere citation requires written permission, which does not fit with CC-BY-SA either.

Nonetheless, the first journal with such a content partnership with Wikipedia is subscription-based: since late 2008, RNA Biology requires that manuscripts about new RNA families be accompanied by the draft for a corresponding Wikipedia article, and both documents will be subjected to the same peer review process. The first article arising from this collaboration was SmY RNA,[1] and a number of articles – e.g. YkkC-yxkD leader[2] – have been started in correspondence to papers published in journals other than RNA Biology. In a similar arrangement, identification keys of newly discovered species published in the open-access journal ZooKeys are routinely uploaded to a specialist wiki, thereby providing the basis for the corresponding entries at Wikispecies. The first such article was Neobidessodes darwiniensis.[3]

The related proposal for a peer-reviewed journal to be set up by Wikimedia specifically to facilitate expert contributions also surfaced again.

Brief notes

The 100,000th upload to Wiki Loves Monuments, according to a Spanish blog post. Pictured is a historic Portuguese church, part of a convent dedicated to Saint Clara.
  1. ^ Jones, T. A.; Otto, W.; Marz, M.; Eddy, S. R.; Stadler, P. F. (2009). "A survey of nematode SmY RNAs". RNA Biology. 6 (1): 5–8. doi:10.4161/rna.6.1.7634. PMID 19106623. S2CID 32095624. Closed access icon
  2. ^ Weinberg, Z.; Barrick, J. E.; Yao, Z.; Roth, A.; Kim, J. N.; Gore, J.; Wang, J. X.; Lee, E. R.; Block, K. F.; Sudarsan, N.; Neph, S.; Tompa, M.; Ruzzo, W. L.; Breaker, R. R. (2007). "Identification of 22 candidate structured RNAs in bacteria using the CMfinder comparative genomics pipeline". Nucleic Acids Research. 35 (14): 4809–4819. doi:10.1093/nar/gkm487. PMC 1950547. PMID 17621584. Open access icon
  3. ^ Hendrich, L.; Balke, M. (2011). "A simultaneous journal / wiki publication and dissemination of a new species description: Neobidessodes darwiniensis sp. n. From northern Australia (Coleoptera, Dytiscidae, Bidessini)". ZooKeys (79): 11–20. Bibcode:2011ZooK...79...11H. doi:10.3897/zookeys.79.803. PMC 3088048. PMID 21594142. Open access icon
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In response to the refusal of the Foundation to implement the new article creation filter, I encourage all en.Wikipedia administrators to completely boycott new page patrolling. Don't touch it. Cla68 (talk) 00:54, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I haven't followed this, but I have a few questions. First, what changes have been made to the article creation wizard/articles for creation (ACW/AFC) in the last 6 months? Second, have ACW/AFC been made more visible recently, and what percentage of new editors use it? And finally, did this proposal address how ACW/AFC would be integrated into this new plan? And on another note, is there a reason why Special:NewPages caps at 30 days? I see no reason why it can't just go forever. NW (Talk) 01:08, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
For the Special:newpages cap. Currently its set in CommonSettings.php to be 30 days (the variable $wgRCMaxAge). There's certain efficiency reasons for clearing out the Recentchanges table regularly, but it's quite possible that a higher limit would be acceptable, the default is certainly higher by default in recent mediawiki (I'm not knowledgeable enough about performance implications of the RC table to really say anything intelligent about the performance implications of changing that variable). Anyhow, file a bug :). (In regards to special:newpages going on forever, In theory, I see no reason why we couldn't provide a full list of pages by order of creation date using the page table (and the assumption that page_id's strictly increase), but that list wouldn't be able to really accesses the patrolled-ness of a page [not to mention accessing which user created the page with what edit summary might be difficult to do efficiently, not sure], due to patrolled only being stored in the rc table [which always struck me as odd]). Bawolff (talk) 01:33, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Before taking claims of "community consensus" too seriously, I would like to see the results of asking a hundred or so randomly selected editors whether they ever heard of the discussion. I certainly didn't. --Guy Macon (talk) 01:14, 27 September 2011 (UTC)Apparently there was a watchlist notice about a proposed trial for barring non-autoconfirmed editors from creating articles that I somehow missed. Guy Macon (talk) 22:55, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I didn't participate in the discussion either, but seriously people who don't follow WP:CENT forsake the right to make that complaint. Skomorokh 01:19, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Before taking claims that people who don't follow WP:CENT forsake the right to complain too seriously, I would like to see the results of asking a hundred or so randomly selected editors whether they have ever heard of WP:CENT. I am not trying to be snarky here - I really do have a concern about arguments based upon the assumption that people have heard of things without numbers on what percentage actually have heard of them. --Guy Macon (talk) 02:02, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I see what you're saying, but the numbers involved in these discussions are not any lower than what are routinely considered sufficient for site-wide consensus on an issue like this. What would you have RfC writers do to make more participants aware? Invasive sitenotices for every discussion of the kind that gets added to {{cent}}? Even ArbCom elections attract only a very small turnout from active editors. Skomorokh 02:09, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
We had a watchlist notice; how much more can you ask? The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 21:44, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Anyone just needs to take a look at Special:Log/delete to see the chaos that always has a WP:CSD-linked letter-number prepended to the deletion reason. The NPP zoom interface will greatly help the experienced patrollers, but a tool to speedily wreak havoc and destruction to the inexperienced patroller. It is simply impossible for Wikipedia to maintain its integrity while allowing the current article-creation while nobody deletes the articles. →Στc. 01:32, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I think the tone taken in this story with regard to WP:ACTRIAL is regrettable, especially as the conversation has recently shifted to the point where a more constructive conversation is taking place with regard to improvements to the new page patrolling interface. Specifically, we've created some initial suggestions for an improved patrolling UI, and a good conversation is taking place on the discussion page with regard to approaches that can be taken to reduce the backlog, while also finding ways to improve the experience for constructive good faith editors. We've invited new page patrollers to contribute screencasts, so we can help analyze where the current process and tools can be improved.

In other words, rather than looking at a set of problems (NPP backlog, bitey experience, learning curve for new patrollers) and considering a single solution (creating a restriction for page creation), we hope that over the coming months, we can experiment with alternative strategies. If you want to take our response to an RFC and proposed trial as "overruling community consensus" and "putting down the boot firmly [sic!] on petitioners' hopes", you can certainly do so, but I fail to see how that gets us to any useful place other than inflaming conflict. We're here to help -- but if you wish for a WMF that merely slavishly executes what is being requested of it, that entity has never existed.--Eloquence* 01:42, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Are you really characterizing this as you being asked to "slavishly execute a request"? Good grief. Why don't you and the rest of the Foundation staff trade places with en.Wikipedia administrators sometime. You patrol new pages, block vandals, and deal with POV-pushers and send the en.Wikipedia administrators to India and Europe to attend conferences. Cla68 (talk) 01:50, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I've explained my position here, here, here and here. Essentially, this is a big deal, and we've got to figure out together whether we've explored reasonable alternatives before implementing restrictions. You'll find me in discussions that seek to achieve constructive outcomes.--Eloquence* 02:01, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
The purpose of this report is to represent actual developments within the community, not developments desired by the subjects of articles. I can fully understand that people may have wished for the response to the decision to be sunshine and rainbows and universal love, but the plain facts of the matter are that it was anything but. Speculations as to what WMF the Signpost wishes for is confused and misplaced; it's a journalistic endeavour with the directive to faithfully communicate the reality of the situation to the readers. That I, personally, say thought the decision was the right one is completely irrelevant to the fact that the thrust of the response from those involved with the trial to the decision was decidedly negative, and that real concerns exist over the Foundation's manner and self-conception in handling it. As to aspirations for getting to useful places, attempts to paper over real and evident cracks will not likely prove conducive to that goal. Skomorokh 02:02, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Let me put it this way: A serious journalist preparing a news report wouldn't use language such as "putting down the boot firmly on petitioners' hopes" even when describing Chinese government thugs beating up townspeople. I realize you may have intended this to be somewhat dark and witty, like referring to Sue as "die fuehrerin" in an edit summary. My suggestion would be to stick to neutral language in the description of events, and leave editorializing for editorials. The Signpost has often done a good job at that in the description of fairly dramatic moments of wiki-history, so I hope you take my feedback in the spirit in which it is intended. Cheers,--Eloquence* 02:29, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I completely agree. I just copyedited and hacked at some of the odd prose and weird phrasing before seeing this. This is a neutral newspaper, not a platform to strike at the WMF. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 03:21, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I have reverted your changes, Ed. Due to The Signpost's published nature substantial editing of articles after publication should not be under taken except in the case of basic factual errors. You are perfectly free to publicize your views here. Also, muckraking journalism is highly appropriate for a newspaper and is the kind of thing they hand out the Pulitzer Prize for. JORGENEV 03:57, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
You may want to give the article that you linked a more attentive read. The term "muckraking" mainly refers to the informational content of a journalistic article (exposing corruption etc. by publicizing previously unknown facts), not to style/tone issues such as these that are debated here. Regards, HaeB (talk) 04:09, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, much of The ed17's changes were stylistic but he also whitewashed a piece of important historical perspective. JORGENEV 04:14, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
It's true that The ed17 also deleted an editorial comment, but regardless of whether one considers it appropriate for the article or not, I fail to see how it constitutes muckraking journalism in the above sense. Regards, HaeB (talk) 04:24, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I feel that the one paragraph is extremely important for giving context to the issue and facilitates awareness of a trend some may find very concerning —I guess that is why I chose to draw the connection to muckraking. JORGENEV 04:32, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Yes, I deleted an "editorial comment" in an article that is not an editorial. Showing a trend is not a problem in itsef, although I don't see much of a trend from the linked meta page created by MZM; the problem is in the wording. I'm frankly surprised that the editors of The Signpost did not catch this, nor are doing anything to address this situation. I have raised my issues with this article at WT:SIGNPOST. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 05:27, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • The foundation needs to be kicked to the curb. They can derp around cluelessly all they want with the excess funraising money (its a huge waste I belive, the activities of the foundation probably only account for 0-1% of Wikipedia's effect) so long as they manage what they were created to do: maintain the technical infastucture to our specifications because us digital volunteers can't, but now they are refusing to do that! extransit (talk) 02:31, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • It is odd, and more than a little ironic, that the foundation is willing to let us block unregistered editors from creating articles, but not newly-created, non autoconfirmed editors. Why is one "exclusionary" and not the other? I can understand the principle of wanting to be as inclusionary of new editors as possible, but at the same time, the people who do the dirty work, such as NPP, deserve a little support as well. The patrollers are clearly frustrated, and the founation would be wise to take a closer look at what they are going through as well. Something a little more concrete than a project at Meta that might get implemented someday, and which may or may not ever actually address the issues both sides are facing. Resolute 03:18, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
    • As a point of fact, restricting new page creation on the English Wikipedia was a top-down decision by Jimmy Wales [1] following the Wikipedia biography controversy, quite strongly opposed by some editors [2] at the time, and only accepted by some others on the grounds that it was an experiment [3] which turned out to be rather long-lived. English Wikipedia is one of only a handful of Wikimedia wikis that have this restriction (which, at this point in time, is not being questioned -- at issue is whether an additional secondary restriction should be layered on top of it).--Eloquence* 04:33, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
      • I appreciate learning the history of that matter, thank you. That said, you never addressed the question: Why is the foundation mum on limiting one class of editor from creating articles, but opposing the will of the community on another? Also, for my education, given I have not followed this debate closely, has the foundation spent much time contemplating ways to support the patrollers who are seeking ways to make their their jobs easier, and therefore their time on Wikipedia more productive? Resolute 04:54, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
First, allow me to take issue with your characterization of the request to restrict page creation as "the will of the community". With no disrespect to the people who've put a lot of effort into WP:ACTRIAL and who have given good reasons for doing so, the request for comments has brought out many opposing voices in the community as well, including 101 users who have endorsed the statement drafted by User:Ironholds opposing the restriction. Yes, by some count, there's a strong majority in favor of running a trial, and we have precedents by which such strong majorities are sufficient -- but we're generally been very careful taking strongly articulated minority positions into account, and this is certainly a case where there is a strongly articulated minority position. This lends support to WMF's approach to try other strategies before implementing an autoconfirmed restriction on new page creation.
Second, we (WMF) have at no point said that the reasons proposed for staging a trial to restrict article creation are misguided. Indeed, the reasons are very similar to the ones given by Jimmy in 2005 for a top-down decision to restrict it to signed in users. In both cases, they are rational reasons founded in real concerns about the quality of new articles (and increasingly, the treatment of new users as well). The "firehose of nonsense" cited by Jimmy is even more real in 2011 than it was in 2005, and certainly, restricting that firehose further is an obvious and logical response to managing the problem.
What we are saying, is that we should first give full consideration to other strategies that do not require restricting the firehose, before restricting the firehose further. Our concern about the restriction is, quite simply, that new page creation remains (through mechanisms like red links) a key funnel through which new users experience that Wikipedia is an openly editable resource, and that we risk deterring new users who come through that funnel, or losing it entirely, neither of which are arguably desirable outcomes.
In response to your question, then, what are we proposing that helps alleviate the actual issues: We've proposed a multi-pronged strategy which would consist of: 1) an improved new page patrolling toolset (see mw:New Page Patrol Zoom Interface and discussion), 2) an improved article creation flow which surfaces key instructions up front and provides clear affordances that help users identify the article creation flow most suited to their own predispositions (bold vs. cautious), 3) an improved alternative to the WP:AFC, such as a collaborative draft workspace supported by the software. (The second and third ideas are described in mw:Article creation workflow). None of those are trivial suggestions, but we do believe we can iterate over them in smaller experiments. If they turn out to succeed beyond our wildest expectations, we could in fact reconsider lifting the current new page creation restriction to registered users -- but right now, that's not even on the table. Our first priority is to work with the community to resolve the real problems identified in the discussion leading up to the WP:ACTRIAL proposal.--Eloquence* 05:29, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • I applaud this Signpost. Thanks, you guys, for actually representing the community and not the whims of the Foundation. I think all of this shows that the Foundation is not actually working for the benefit of the community, but what they believe will benefit them as a company, which really falls down to two things: image and money. That's all they care about, not the actual improvement of Wikipedia, beyond the good image that it gives them. Welcome to the corporation, everyone. SilverserenC 03:30, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Again, there is no reason that the Foundation should ever be able to say no when en.Wikipedia's administration asks them to do something to make the job of administering easier. If they refuse to implement a suggestion approved by the Wikipedia community, the response is simple...all en.Wikipedia administrators need to walk off the job. No more page deletions, no more vandal or sock blocking, no more account changes, no more page protections, no nothing. Believe me, the Foundation would cave in quickly if that were to occur, because somehow I doubt that Mr. Moeller and his associates are willing and able to administer the en.Wikipedia themselves. Cla68 (talk) 04:44, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • In addition to the bad press, the breaking point would occur as soon as Ms. Gardner told Mr. Moeller, "I'm sorry, but you can't go to the Future of Social Media Symposium in Budapest next week, because we need you here to help patrol new pages on the en.Wikipedia." Cla68 (talk) 05:03, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Let me put it to you this way. In the first 25 days of February, I patrolled about 1,700+ pages; on March 10th, two days after I patrolled 350+ pages, I'm the one who brought this up at the village pump. It was not some idiot unaware of what was going on, it was the most active NPPer at the time. It was not only listed at WP:CENT, there was a watchlist site-notice about this. I don't want to take credit for all or even most of this (I did a tremendous amount of behind-the-scenes work with two other users to get this ready), but I can say that I was seriously angry about how that went down. Now I'm not saying the Zoom interface won't be helpful to me, but the majority of NPPers don't know their head from their ass (you'll know if that comment applies to you or not; the people responding here don't fall under that), and if not done carefully it will (to recycle the example I gave over there) allow a 13 year old to patrol an article consisting of "Let's expose all burakus for what they are!!!!!!!!" [link to list of burakumin in Nagano Prefecture]. That isn't a hypothetical either, I came across that some time ago, and you Cla68 would probably have a good idea of what that could have done. I hope my frustration with this has showed through on enough levels, through comments in various fora. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 05:50, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
If I understand Eloquence's explanation above, what the Foundation is proposing is some changes to the new article creation process to give added guidance to new users and provide some assistance to NPPers. I'm not sure that their proposed changes will significantly reduce the amount of silly, mendacious, and whimsical new article creations that have kept you and other NPPers so busy. Again, if I were you, I'd get with the other NPPers who have been doing most of the work and organize a strike. Allow new articles like the example you give above to accumulate. You are the ones doing all the heavy lifting, so if the Foundation won't give you what you need, then don't give them what they need, which is any more of your unpaid, free time. Cla68 (talk) 06:52, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I agree with this. In the end, you're giving your free time as a volunteer to help make this corporation's product better. If they're not willing to take the time to actually focus on making it easier for you to do the work you're volunteering to do, then you should stop doing it. Go and work on other parts of Wikipedia and let NPP stew for a while. SilverserenC 07:38, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
"this corporation's product"? If the product you're talking about is Wikipedia, the Wikimedia Foundation doesn't own the content of Wikipedia. Yeah, it administers the Web domains and trademarks, but both of those things are meaningless without the actual encyclopedia. Wikipedians own Wikipedia, no bones about it. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 20:20, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Then the Foundation should be following what the community decides is for the best interest for Wikipedia. Disallowing new page creation for non-autoconfirmed users will lighten the load on NPP patrol, hopefully decrease the amount of non-notable pages that are created, and will give more users the time needed to become more experienced with Wikipedia so less are bitten are so that they also make less mistakes when they are new. I see absolutely no downside with the proposal and the Foundation's decision here to ignore the community's decision is a smack int he face to the entire community. Maybe Wikipedia deserves declining editor numbers if we're going to be treated like this. SilverserenC 23:19, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I really do not see how this sort of vandalism/poor editing is really any different than that we deal with on the rest of the none protected articles? We all tire of dealing with spam/poor quality edits. Pending changes was not passed even though it had majority support. I would support applying pending changes on all newly created articles meaning that they would need to be approved once before going live. A RFC is ongoing here. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 12:08, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

The stats show that 80% of articles by non-autoconfirmed users are deleted, which is a higher percentage than non-autoconfirmed editors' edits need to be reverted (I am not counting sockpuppets here, as they are not new users). The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 13:15, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • The article doesn't make it clear that a non-trivial proportion of involved editors were directly opposed to the proposal, and that WMF have been castigated in the past for implementing features despite strong minority opposition to them! As a result, it suggests WMF turning down a unanimously supported request on a whim, which isn't the case, and portrays WMF-community relations in a much more adversarial light than is justified... Shimgray | talk | 13:32, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I !voted in favor of this trial, but it was a close decision for me and it doesn't really bother me all that much for it not to happen. Nonetheless, I am bothered by the means by which the Foundation has chosen to address it. By waiting until the discussion was complete and only then choosing to quash the proposal, citing the additional no-voters who have come out of the woodwork since implementation was attempted, they have treated the community effort much like refusing to allow a candidate to take office because of a groundswell of opposition from non-voters between the end of the election and the inauguration saying, in effect, "Hell, if we'd known he was going to win we would have voted." Granted that nothing is ever set in stone here at WP since consensus can change, even between adoption of a proposal and its implementation. But in this case WFM has just said that they, on their own volition, aren't going to do it and are going to accept totally-anecdotal evidence that the "real" majority of WP users oppose the trial. The Facetious Golden Rule, of course, applies. They have the gold, so they can make the rules, but what they have done in this case comes very close to disrupting WP to make a point: they want newcomers treated nicely, so they are going to ignore the consensus of the community to make that point. I realize that they had a dilemma while the proposal was pending: weigh in against it (or insist on a wider discussion) and be accused of interfering with the wiki or remain silent and be accused, as I'm doing here, of ignoring the will of the community. But if they're going to engage in power trips like this one then they need to not let the community waste its time on something that they're not going to be willing to do. (And, anticipating the response that they didn't know what they were going to do until the discussion had ended, I'd ask this question: If this issue is so important that they're willing to do what they've done here, then why didn't they resolve their uncertainty while the discussion was still going on or, at the very least, let it be known that there was a debate within WFM over whether or not it might be implemented.) They've not even chosen to send it back to the community with the comment that they feel that the discussion was not adequately announced and that they would like to see additional discussion and more editors involved before they're called upon to do it: they've just imperially announced that they're not going to do it. Someone in the bugzilla queue asked whether WMF is more concerned about bringing in newcomers than they are retaining established editors who quit over naked expressions of power such as this. That question is apropos, but I'd suggest that it needs to be taken further: Discussions over controversial such matters like this and often end up with very hard feelings and established editors coming to the conclusion that it's time to leave WP due to the battering they've taken. If WMF is going to do something like this, they're saying that it is okay for the community to waste in vain the talent and work potential that is inevitably going to be consumed in such a difficult discussion. WFM may say that this is for the long-term good and survival of the project, but they have been irresponsible towards the existing community. Regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 17:28, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

I just want to say honestly that, in retrospect, I don't think anyone at the Foundation would disagree that it was a poor decision to wait until the Bugzilla request to be frank in communicating our reservations about the proposal. You are completely correct to point out that it was irresponsible and disrespectful to let people put a huge amount of energy into designing a trial after the RfC was closed if this was going to be the end result. I'm not going to apologize on behalf of anyone because we're not a hive mind at the WMF and that would be a weird thing to do. But I will say that we agree that we should have gotten engaged with the topic and the people who care about it much earlier. Steven Walling (WMF) • talk 17:59, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Thank you for being so forthcoming about this. I do not want to grind an axe, but I must say that at the point at which the Foundation realized that they had waited too long to weigh in on this issue that the more probably right choices of things to do would have been to publicly say, "We waited too long to nip this in the bud, and we really don't like it because x y z and (choose one) (a) we'd like the community to reconsider the decision with additional publicity to bring in additional editors and with our position fully expressed, but we'll do whatever the community chooses after that or (b) we'll go ahead and do it, but would like to ask the community to reconsider it and bring the trial to an early end if the consensus about it changes." (The second choice has some obvious actual cost issues, of course.) It might not be too late to implement (a) or (b) now and thereby restore some of the confidence of the community in the Foundation, especially since you say that it is universally acknowledged that waiting was a mistake. I can understand that the Foundation might want to say that even though they messed up in that way that the long-term survival of the project mitigates in favor of declining the change, but this is a time-limited trial not a permanent change. Best regards, TransporterMan (TALK) 19:07, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
That was the whole idea; to allow for a trial so it wasn't completely irreversible, and to make it a trial that was community-generated so people wouldn't feel like they were ruled by fiat. Not that I own the whole thing in any way, but I started this on March 10th; I spent so much time pulling this together with the thought that I'd finally be able to spend more time helping out with new articles instead of just tagging them, but that's obviously not going to happen now. The "long term survival" of the project also rests on our ability to filter out the increasingly large number of useless pages, and it's not looking good. Come over to WT:NPP to get a feel for the situation there; it's not exactly a happy place at the moment. Kudpung, Snottywong and I are trying our damnedest to pull it together, but nothing's happening, and after this there's not exactly a huge amount of desire to continue. Pissing off three of the most active people there isn't going to help the long-term survival of the project either, on a lot of levels. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 20:19, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • The WMF didn't seem to think that pending changes was exclusionary. What we proposed was exactly like pending changes for new pages, except that everyone can see the draft articles in AfC, while with PC non-logged-in users can't see pending revisions. But I find this extremely hypocritical and very disappointing that the WMF only decided to stamp out the proposal after people had spent so much time on it. Thanks for wasting our time and being hypocrites, WMF, and you wonder why our editors are leaving? /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 22:59, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
That is an interesting conjecture fetch, it really is impossible to investigate but I did hack out this graph:
What does it all mean? I don't know. JORGENEV 23:49, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Very interesting, although I don't think there is any cause-and-effect relationship between the two (as WP grows, the WMF buys new stuff and invests in more staff and new programs, etc.). However, I am more concerned as to why the WMF thinks it is appropriate (not allowed, as they are perfectly allowed to do whatever they want in regards to Wikipedia), I repeat, appropriate, to let hundreds of users waste hundreds of hours formulating and voting on proposals before squashing them without even a trial. Wikipedia is not a democracy, but no one likes dictatorships, especially ones that contradict their own views. So we can have a trial for PC for edits but not PC for article creation? Article creation is just another edit. When the WMF finds a way to patrol new pages by itself, then it would appropriate for them to say "nope, no trial for you", but until then, we should be able, as an intelligent community, to determine what might be best in the long run. /ƒETCHCOMMS/ 03:55, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
Ha! Interesting, but probably about as valid as File:PiratesVsTemp(en).svg. —SW— yak 04:07, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • While I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one who felt the way I did when the WMF denied our request for a trial, I don't agree with the editors advocating a strike or a walk-out from NPP and administrative/maintenance tasks. This would be a pointy and spiteful response to the situation. Was the WMF's response to our request both unacceptably late and inappropriate in tone? Yes. But it wasn't irresponsible, reckless, or entirely illogical. While I personally disagree with the WMF's alternate strategy to address the perceived problems that WP:ACTRIAL was designed to solve, I recognize that we are all working towards the same goal. What we have learned from this exercise is that the WMF is in the power position, and they are increasingly willing to exercise their veto power. So, our only choice at this point is to allow them to try their less "extreme" solutions, and to help them in any way we can. If they end up working, then the problem will be solved without introducing additional restrictions on article creation. If they don't work, then perhaps it will sufficiently convince them that our idea was the right one from the start. At the very least, this situation demonstrated the extent of the problem to the WMF and prompted them to devote significant full-time developer resources towards designing solutions. I've largely withdrawn from the discussion about the trial because I've burned out on it, and I've withdrawn from NPP (well before the trial) because of an overwhelming feeling of futility I experience when patrolling. But, I remain willing to share my experience and opinions with WMF in the hopes that their efforts are as fruitful as possible, and I hope the rest of you will adopt the same attitude. —SW— express 04:02, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • Just some general responses to things stated above:
    (1) It is incredibly easy not to be aware of important discussions involving Wikipedia policy, & to participate usefully in any important discussion means sifting thru dozens of comments -- which can take hours most people would rather spend on something else far more interesting.
    (2) Even if someone were to reach out to every active Wikipedian & ask them to weigh in on a discussion, a lot of Wikipedians won't participate. Some because they aren't convinced that participating will make a difference, some because their experience has convinced them that participating won't make a difference.
    (3) Does anyone honestly question the fact that most of us reading this are convinced the Foundation is out of touch with the Wikipedian community?
    (4) What's stopping someone at the Foundation from reaching out & engaging 100 randomly-selected active Wikipedians & asking for their input? At the very least, I believe this act would prevent a few from quitting Wikipedia out of the belief their contributions don't matter.
    (5) All of the indenting above has made the comments in parts difficult to read. Is there a way to refactor or reorganize the threads to improve readability? -- llywrch (talk) 06:39, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • I think it's time I chimed in here (this will only take 5 minutes to read) as one of the initiators back in September 2010 of the research into the NPP problem, which was further developed with the collaboration of Snottywong and Blade. First, let me assure readers that the cut-off period of 30 days for the special:new pages list (often as many as 10,000 pages or more) is no longer quite accurate. We had discussed the possibilities of extending the duration of the list and came to the conclusion that it would only exacerbate the problem of unpatrolled pages rather than remedy it. We therefore developed a bot that went into operation in December that would at least tag those pages that had overstayed their 30-day welcome with an invisible category to avoid them simply being absorbed, unpatrolled and forgeotten, into the 13 million Wikipedia pages. This was followed up by a massive attack by ourselves at the backlog which by the end of January had been largely cleared. As expected, it slowly built up again until it was once more hovering around the 30-day mark. That exercise enabled us to pinpoint the real cause of the problem. As we already suspected, two issues were at stake: 1) the inability of the average New Page Patrollers to accurately identify the problems with new pages, carry out the recommended steps in the tutorial at WP:NPP, and apply the correct CSD tags and maintenance templates, and 2) the fact that the daily arrival of around 1,000 new pages comprised roughly 20 - 30% of usable new articles. The remaining 70 - 80% or so are pages that are made up of uncontroversial CSDs such as test edits, blatant spam, autobiographical vanity pages à la FaceBook, and the G10 attack pages that must be blanked, tagged, and deleted asap.
An apparently erroneous statement published by the WMF at the Haifa Wikimania in a printed flyer claimed that around 30% of our best editors began their Wikipedia careers as vandals, fuelling the belief that it would be contrary to the WMF 5-year plan policy, to accept a measure that would require a short waiting period before new pages go live - it is assumed that making people wait would lead to a drastic loss in potential new, serious contributors to the encyclopedia, and their eventual content. In spite of all the time and funds invested in research, there still appears to be no documentary evidence of either claim. It has further been claimed by the WMF that one of the problems of poor New Page Patrolling is due to stress or 'burn-out' suffered by the patrollers. Again, there is no documentary evidence for this. The more likely fact is, that patrolling is carried out largely by a huge number of transient, inexperienced users who occasionally do a few patrols on-the-fly, who when they have finally lost the interest and excitement of 'moderating' one of the world's biggest websites, simply either move on to other areas of Wikipedia, or back to activities in real life - more often than not to their schoolwork.
The consensus in the RfC to limit the creation of new pages to autoconfirmed users also carried with it no less than three parallel solutions to fast-track the live publication of serious articles by serious creators, and to conduct a well designed, and clearly time-limited trial before any decision were made to implement the feature as a permanent policy. The trial was also to be closely monitored and it would naturally have been immediately stopped if the number of reasonable, undeleted articles plummeted significantly as a result of the new measure. The request at Bugzilla for the minor tweak to user-group permissions was indeed greeted by unprecedented hostility by the WMF staff and developers whose replies were so instantaneous, they could not possibly have read up on the history of the proposal, and as a result, the WMF now certainly needs to reexamine their policy of retention of dedicated, experienced volunteers. I do not believe that four WMF employees and/or internships can accurately express the wishes of the tens of thousands of editors who write quality pieces, and who want that quality to be reflected in the corpus of the encylopedia, and maintained by the people who manage the funds.
This Signpost article is well written, accurately reflects the facts and, and exploits the journalistic licence which any newspaper is accorded; any attempt to censor it is as invidious as the attempt by the WMF to surpress the consensus reached in debate that was as well published as any major RfC can be, and was subscribed by around 500 participants. It is nevertheless assumed at this stage that the WMF will not back down, and some of the strongest proponents of ACTRIAL have since agreed to help the WMF steer its focus towards the core issues with NPP and editor retention that it initially chose to ignore. The proposed new Zoom interface tool for patrollers is a step in the right direction, but it will only be of any use when in the hands of already competent patrollers - I made the analogy that the Zoom tool would be like giving cars with automatic gearboxes to people who are competent drivers and have already learned to drive quite well with a manual gearshift. What the WMF must learn to understand is that we cannot allow hoards of learner drivers racing up and down the motorways before they are mature enough to drive and have passed the driving test. Hence we are left with the embarrassment of choice between either turning 'New Page Patroller' into a user right for competent editors, or stemming the volume, at source, of useless new pages (not to be confused with articles) that not even we, the experienced users, can adequately cope with.
The proposed article quality controls, new user retention, and the future of WMF control, are top priority issues - but the WMF has now asked politely for our input, and we're now working on it, and we hope that the next Signpost article about it will show some progress in the right direction. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 09:21, 28 September 2011 (UTC).[reply]
Just for some clarification on your two statements about things that "WMF claims," which are drawn from research sprints conducted by our team of summer academic researcher fellows:
  • The 30% figure printed in the Wikimania pamphlet was a typo. Our fellows never claimed anywhere that 30% of our best editors start out as vandals; the 30% figure was actually the number of current highly active English Wikipedians who'd had at least one edit rejected (reverted or deleted) in their first edit session. But you know how that saying goes – 75% of people believe in the veracity of all statistics :)
  • We actually found the opposite about patrolling (and vandal-fighting) workload: it's been steadily decreasing since 2007. So, incidentally, has vandalism.
I know the Meta pages are long and some of the studies are fairly methodologically complex, but Steven Walling and I worked really hard to distill the essence of the WSoR findings here, and I heartily suggest to anyone who's interested in the data that's currently informing some of our thinking at WMF – start there! --Maryana (WMF) (talk) 14:38, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
The number of pages has decreased, but the difficulty in figuring out how to handle them has gone up. The decrease is more than made up for by the high percentage of total crap we have to work through; if we can't just zap it, we have to clean it up, and if you think that's easy I invite you to clean up the next Indian village article on NPP (which should also enlighten you of what's actually happening with the recruiting of Indian editors to enwiki; it's often not pretty). And for people like Kudpung and I, you can add on a lot more because we end up cleaning up after the patrollers in addition to the articles. So no, the stats don't necessarily show the actual amount of work being done, especially by the relatively few patrollers who know what they're doing. The Blade of the Northern Lights (話して下さい) 16:00, 28 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  • I have a number of concerns about this disagreement, many of them have been addresed by WMF staff, for example the way it was handled. What haven't been addressed, however are the core points (and yes I have read the research summaries)
    1. There is a problem with people creating junk pages
    2. One possible and totally reasonable way of reducing it has been proposed
    3. The proposal is for a trial (note: a closed trial, not a "we leave it on while we make a decision" trial)
    4. The proposed trial has been approved by the community
    5. If other changes are made (which are welcome, probably necessary, and Good Things) the control data for the trial will be invalidated
    6. The other changes are not likely to affect the junk page problem to the same order of magnitude as the proposed trial
    7. The research cited did not bear on the problem at hand but was tangential
    8. The WMF staff who were once very active in the wikimedia community base their opinions on things as they remeber them
    9. There was, and still is, no sign that WMF is taking this input seriously. That is except as an "oh dear we upset the community again".

I have to say that there does seem to be a new era (maybe not so new) of "we know best". And to dispel this, lip service to discussion and compromise will not do. Wikimedia contributors are sometimes an ornery lot, but they are mostly intelligent, many of them hold or have held senior posts, are professionals in one sphere or another. Therefore they have, betwwen them, an extensive skillset, which should not be taken lightly when considering the WMF as "professionals" adn the community as "volunteers".

Rich Farmbrough, 18:56, 29 September 2011 (UTC).[reply]

Valid points Rich, and not running ACTRIAL will deny us of the valuable feedback that it would have provided, and it's true that the WMF has had it's fair share of disagreements with several Wiki communities of late. However, I do believe the WMF has now taken all this on board and although ACTRIAL as an immediate experiment may not happen any time soon, there is positive resonance from them and some serious challenges to the problems of New Page Patrolling (which triggered everything in the beginning) are going to be met head on, and most importantly, now with the close collaboration of some of us 'ornary lot' . Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 05:49, 30 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]


You state PLoS Computational Biology publishes its articles under a CC-BY license, which does not allow the article drafting to take place under the more restrictive CC-BY-SA license employed at Wikimedia. Given that they might also change their license in the future, if we want to use their material in our articles, we can certainly do this. --Elitre (talk) 07:47, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Sure, the ability to reuse CC-BY-licensed materials on Wikimedia is one of the core elements of such a partnership. The comment that you quoted was aiming at the initial suggestion to draft the articles at Wikipedia sandboxes (which are under CC-BY-SA), then publishing in the journal (which is unlikely to switch to CC-BY-SA any time soon), thus creating the incompatibility. -- Daniel Mietchen - WiR/OS (talk) 22:37, 27 September 2011 (UTC)[reply]
I also had to read this over a few times before I understood it. :-) Dcoetzee 21:00, 3 October 2011 (UTC)[reply]


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