The Signpost

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Wikipedia, our Colosseum

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By The ed17

"You wouldn't recognise a fact if it bit you in the ass"; "eat your 'fucking' crow"; "[you are] an ignorant idiot"; "If you get testicle cancer or become a transsexual, then estrogen ... could enlarge and improve the mammary function of your breasts."; "are you a pedophile?"

"I'm sorry if that's considered a personal attack, but it's just true."

In the impersonal, detached Colosseum that is Wikipedia, people find it much easier to put their thumbs down. As such, many people active in the Wikimedia movement have witnessed a precipitous decline in civil discourse. This is far from a new trend, yet many people would agree that it all seemed somehow worse in 2012.

On the English Wikipedia, this is most often witnessed on the administrators' noticeboards, but the decline was perhaps most visible in the featured article process, where the various talk pages were disrupted with personal disputes, sockpuppetry, and gladiatorial nastiness. These attitudes have been increasingly evident in many corners of our encyclopedia.

Some people have talked of a new-year détente between the warring parties. While this could result in greatly reduced tension—assuming everyone involved agreed, which they have not—new disputes arise every day; détente alone will not solve the problem. Yet there is still resistance from editors: for example, there is a certain attitude that the quality of Wikipedia is low, and editors need to be kicked into improving it with harsh language.

Those attitudes should be rejected. Have we not tried that for the last several years? Do any editors believe it has worked? We have to come together and improve the health of our community. Even Rome eventually found that gladiatorial fights were detrimental to their society.

Wikipedia is what we, the community, make of it.

Take it upon yourself in this new year to make it a better place.

The Signpost's volunteers wish all of our readers a Happy New Year. We hope 2013 brings everything you wish of it.

— The ed17

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Yes! Civility for all in 2013! GoingBatty (talk) 05:38, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

There's actually a reason that isn't linked here. The current civility 'policy' is broken; I think everyone can see that. I'm just hoping that even though the policy is broken and no one can agree on a way to fix it (assuming there is a way), editors will take it upon themselves to improve the amount of civil, productive, interaction. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 05:48, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Amen to that, brother. Amen. TomStar81 (Talk) 07:20, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Ed! Sorry for being naive, but I'm interested in knowing what you think is broken? The way WP:CIVIL is written? Editors choosing not to follow it? Lack of enforcement? Something else? Thanks! GoingBatty (talk) 01:24, 5 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Sociologically speaking, civility is a fundamental problem with any project like Wikipedia because it is based on a culture of honor (vs. a culture of law). This sounds odd given all the "laws" (rules) we have, but the reason is there is no good structure in place to enforce the rules of civility - there are no police to call, we are mostly left to defend ourselves, which by definition is a culture of honor. This creates the Gladiatorial atmosphere (less romantic: a poor kid from the projects who shoots someone over a pair of sneakers). It might be possible to fix but I suspect a large body of editors would resist a police contingent that enforces civility rules. Cultures of honor, once established, are notoriously difficult to change into cultures of law because many people resist it since don't trust the enforcers whom they see as impinging on their freedoms. -- Green Cardamom (talk) 09:06, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Or, stated more bluntly, Wikipedia is like the Confederate States of America. Many of its soldiers actually thought it was about protecting their freedoms, brainwashed by the prevailing culture of honor. Time to replace the outdated model of Wikipedia administration we have now with a new one that's not stuck in the 19th century. Wer900talk 17:28, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Hear! Hear! --Surturz (talk) 09:59, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

What exactly are you "Hear Hearing"? Green's statement seems like rather depressing analysis of the current state of affairs. Are you "Hear Hearing" that it should change or stay the same? Kaldari (talk) 10:43, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
I'm applauding the editorial. Indenting was wrong, which I've now fixed. --Surturz (talk) 12:55, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • One of the problems is the culture of anonymity that the Internet has bred on forums, blogs, and collaborative sites. Kudpung กุดผึ้ง (talk) 11:33, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    Or it just has become an accepted culture that people haven't felt empowered to challenge. That something is a truth does not make it either relevant or necessary to be spoken. We lifted the quality of the standards of our articles, and we can certainly also lift the standard of behaviour, contributions and respect. Aim high, not low. Don't tolerate it and call it out for what it is, "bullying", rude and unnecessary. — billinghurst sDrewth 11:56, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    Anonymity is not at fault. Whenever any Wikimedia "Office Action" is received by any community, these are hardly anonymous, but they are as rude as anything I have encountered in many years of wiki-work. If our "mothership" can do nothing more than sweet PR talk (with loads of bullshit bingo possibilities) or rude orders, there's no wonder the rest of the project is not that different. --FA2010 (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 12:53, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • Thanks for this, Ed. Needs to be said, and read. The Interior (Talk) 13:32, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  • The idea that civility problems are getting worse needs a big fat {{fact}} tag. It shows a lack of historical perspective, as far as I can see. Jimbo was talking about stamping out incivility in 2007 (yes really), at a time when the community was hardly ready to accept that. My feeling is that it took three or four years for the penny to drop. There were green shoots of community renewal in 2011, in my view. There are certainly some immature attitudes still around to incivility. It seems to me to be less used for disruptive purposes than in the past, but still to be used just to be rude. It was the disruptive use of incivility in the past that made it hard to sanction ("I'm uncivil but I'm a tribune of the people"). With some dishonourable exceptions, I think this argument, at last, is no longer washing. Charles Matthews (talk) 16:54, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    I think one of the main issues with civility in the past year or so is that it's had a chilling effect on certain areas of Wikipedia. For example, I know plenty of editors who no longer participate at RfA or FAC due to incivility issues. Kaldari (talk) 22:56, 2 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    And another "big fat {{fact}} tag" is needed on the statement that this issue is "perhaps most visible in the featured article process". Not so, whatsoever. What has been true is that rampant socking at FAC and FAR has led to a decline in the quality of reviews, and has affected nominations at Todays' featured article requests, but to my knowledge, socking and civility are not necessarily related, and the civility problem is most certainly not worse on the FA pages then it is in the cesspits of Wikipedia such as ANI. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 03:04, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
This discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
  • Another example of your acquiesence to another sexist insult---the euphemism "let's go get a ethanol and a Caribbean woman" suffices for this discussion---is of more recent vintage.
    Usually prophets start evangelizing by going into the desert and purifying themselves, before they denounce their neighbors for their sins. You might start with stopping misogynistic behavior from your buddies, and stop the chatty New-Year cheer. Action, not hortatory, is needed.
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The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.
  • May I suggest that people on this page take a deep breath and cool off? It's the silly season turning into the nasty season, ironically demonstrating one of the points of the article. This debate is going nowhere. Tony (talk) 14:25, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Hatted upon Ed's tweaks. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 23:53, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
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  • Tony1, perhaps you are unware of the full history or discussions elsewhere, but I doubt that you would support same if you knew.

    This is the worst example of the civility problem that I have seen on Wikipedia. It was delivered by a sitting arb, has zero to do with the FA process, and is further discussed here. Kiefer gives above additional examples of civility issues that had nothing to do with the FA process, and even involved the person writing this piece. The person writing this opinion piece is also discussed on my talk page as one of the aggressors on FA-related talk pages.

    On the other hand, here is an example of a recent FAC discussion: a nominator refers to a reviewer request as "complete garbage", a FAC delegate reminds the nominator that "we can do better than responding to our reviewers like this", and the nominator strikes the imprudent remark. Pretty bad stuff that, no !?!? Particularly when viewed relative to the arb issue and how it was handled.

    After more than a year of assaults by multiple socks and returning users breaching CLEANSTART to visit old grudges on the FA-related pages, and at the very time that so many editors are trying to move on and reinvigorate the FA pages, we have one of the very people involved in the negativity using his position on the Signpost to claim these issues are "perhaps most visible in the featured article process"-- taking a gratuitous dig at a process where he has been one of the aggressors. Surely you can't support an involved aggressor using his position here to once again bring the FA process into unjust ill repute, just as efforts to move on are taking hold everywhere? Yes, it is time for everyone to take a deep breath and move on; that includes this kind of hatchet opinion piece that has come to characterize the Signpost since the loss of Ral315 and SageRoss. MANY folks want the issues that have been visited upon the FA pages to stop now that one sock is blocked, one is banned, and a returning user revisiting old grudges has at least for now moved on. Perhaps the Signpost can do the same. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 19:32, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Are you kidding me? Sandy, I doubt any editor of this site has been civil for every edit of their wikilives. I know I haven't! However, that was not the point of this editorial.
The idea was to change that culture and move into the future, leaving the baggage behind.
As for the rest of your post, you should show me more than one archived section where I was an 'aggressor' at a FA talk page before characterizing me as a major player. You also say "After more than a year of assaults by multiple socks and returning users breaching CLEANSTART to visit old grudges on the FA-related pages"this is what I was referring to. Not the current state of the FA process, but the state of it at a time in the past year. As for the Signpost, there has been exactly one controversial story in the past year, so I'd reject the idea that we're "characterized" by "hatchet" stories.
It's an indictment of the culture here that a high-profile call for peace can lead to drama. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 21:52, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
Perhaps it's only an indictment of unclear writing, because this piece does not make any distinction that I can tell between the current state and any past state. The hatchet is involved in that you singled out the FA process instead of another area (as shown in my examples) with hyperbole even considering the socking issues-- the "gladitorial" issues occured on talk pages, while the processes themselves are functioning, albeit in a limited manner because so many quality reviewers were chased off and were replaced by DYK-style reviewers. I applaud your stated attempt to "change the culture and move into the future, leaving the baggage behind", but you would need to be a much clearer writer to do that, and you did in fact just the opposite. In fact, I can't tell where in this piece you believe you did any such thing. You again indicted the FA pages because of sock interference at a time when so many people are trying to put the past behind. YOU drug it up with quite an incorrect indictment, that appears to be focused on the present. Unfairly targeting FA pages, who were victimized by socks, when rampant civility issues occur elsewhere at a more alarming degree. Ya know one thing that past Signpost editors did quite effectively? They asked people who were about to be hatcheted for feedback before publishing. You might take that into consideration. SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:09, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
(edit conflict) The FA process was not 'hatcheted' in any sense of the word, and I would say that the FA process was 'disrupted' if it resulted in reviewers leaving. Still, I have made some tweaks to the language, so that we can move past these issues. Have a good evening! Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:18, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
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The following discussion has been closed. Please do not modify it.

That's a good start, Ed; I've asked Kiefer on his talk to drop the Aruba thing from here forward, and perhaps we can all do more of same. Best, SandyGeorgia (Talk) 22:15, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]

I replied above; my apologies. Ed [talk] [majestic titan] 22:18, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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