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Health and RfAs: An interview with Guy Macon

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By Puddleglum2.0

Last month, editor Guy Macon underwent what some called a pointlessly brutal and stressful RfA. Two days into the process, he suffered a life-threatening cardiac arrest, resulting in the inability to answer questions or respond to oppose votes. The good news is he survived, but unfortunately he failed the RfA. Here are his reflections on the entire episode.

What made you run for RfA in the first place?

I have long been of the opinion that anyone who wants to be a Wikipedia administrator must be crazy. It's a thankless job. However, I am also aware from some real-world volunteer work I do that you often see someone putting in a huge amount of time and effort and then burning out. Looking at Wikipedia, I saw a few areas – WP:AIAV in particular – where the same two or three admins are shouldering all the work, so when several admins urged me to run I reluctantly agreed.

Can you describe for our readers exactly what happened during the process?

I had answered a couple of questions right after the RfA was posted, and logged on to Wikipedia the next day to see if I had any more to answer. I was still doing what I always do first – checking engineering-related pages for vandalism and spam – when my heart suddenly stopped beating and I fell over unconscious. No pain, just a brief "I can't get any air" and then nothing. I came to briefly in the ambulance just in time to experience having my heart shocked, and woke up four days later in a hospital bed with a machine breathing for me. The good news is that I have been steadily recovering and am at home – but with a vest that monitors my heartbeat and will shock me if it stops again.

Do you think your cardiac arrest was a direct result of the RfA, or were there other long-term issues?

Completely unrelated. I was feeling zero stress over the RfA, I had yet to see any oppose !votes, and the doctors say that the problem was electrical – cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation. It had nothing to do with the usual reasons behind heart attacks (a different condition). In my case I have never used tobacco, alcohol, or drugs, I exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. There is a chance that the cause was a virus that attacked the heart muscle years ago (it would take an autopsy to confirm this) but the odds are that it was random.

Did you expect your RfA to go the way it did?

Pretty much. I was expecting a lot of oppose !votes because I have been so active in the areas of pseudoscience and attempting to reform the WMF, both of which resulted in a lot of people being pissed off at me for writing things like WP:CANCER and WP:YWAB or for opposing the use of The Daily Mail as a source. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed at having my words twisted. When I wrote "I try to stay cool" and "there are also some cases where I was completely in the wrong and others where I was technically in the right but handled it really poorly" I was not claiming that I always keep my cool, but rather acknowledging that I have on multiple occasions not kept my cool and offering to apologize for those times when I didn't. It dismays me to see my words twisted into me supposedly saying that keeping my cool is something I have always succeeded at rather than something we all should be striving towards.

Do you think that RfA is a broken process, and if so, did yours strengthen (or weaken) that view?

Few people disagree that RfA is a broken process, but there is no agreement as to how to fix it, and the main problem is that what gets the !votes has little to do with what makes one a good administrator. Nothing about my RfA changed my opinion on that.

Going forward, do you intend to adjust your editing habits because of this RfA and perhaps run again in the future?

Without getting into detail, the oppose votes were a mixture. Some were total bullshit, faulting me for doing the right thing or posting an effective argument for or against a proposition. Others were spot on and correctly identified areas where I need to improve. Those later oppose !votes are the ones I treasure, and I believe that I have taken them to heart and made changes in my approach.

Will I run again? Maybe, but not any time soon. We still have too few admins working some jobs and we are still likely to see some of them burn out and quit.

Do you think that you might have succeeded if it weren't for the cardiac arrest (and thus having the ability to answer questions)?

Most likely not. RfA candidates rarely help their case by responding to individual criticisms and oppose !voters rarely look at new evidence and change their !votes. Just to make sure that everyone got an answer, I went back after it was over and answered all unanswered questions on the RfA talk page.

What words of advice would you give to any editors considering an RfA?

If you want to easily pass an RfA, avoid doing anything that shows that you have the slightest interest in or skill at the sort of things Wikipedia administrators do. Just create a lot of good content with good citations, and if you see someone putting something in an article claiming that, say, drinking bleach cures coronavirus, silently walk away and let them have their way, hoping that someone else will deal with it. Sorry to say this, but that's clearly what the !voters want.

Your RfA has been described as stressful, pointlessly brutal, etc. etc. As the nominee, would you agree?

It really didn't stress me at all. I read a bunch of RfAs before I ran, and mine had the exact same problems that so many others had. The result was pretty much as I expected.

Why did you go back and answer the questions after the RfA had closed?

Over the years I have seen many situations where somebody asked a reasonable question and got no answer. Sometimes someone asks a question, gets a reply asking for clarification, and then never edits again. That's annoying. I didn't want to leave anyone hanging just because I was in the hospital and unable to edit Wikipedia. Plus, if I ever run for RfA again some of the same questions will no doubt resurface, so I might as well get them out of the way now.

Are there any last words you would like to share with our readers?

Don't take Wikipedia for granted. You may think that it will always be there, but that's what they said about a bunch of organizations and websites that later fell apart and are now either gone or a shadow of what they once were. We need to be diligent and wise to keep what we have built.

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This is not regarding the Q&A, which is obviously an opinion piece of the subject at hand, but regarding the first paragraph, which should be neutrally worded and introducing the subject of the Q&A. This sentence is not worded in a neutral manner, "The good news is he survived, but unfortunately he failed the RfA." The word "unfortunately" is not needed, and presents a bias in that RFA's are mere rubber stamps. You should have just said that the RFA failed. Sir Joseph (talk) 19:09, 26 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Sir Joseph: I have amended the the article accordingly. Regards, Eddie891 Talk Work 19:23, 26 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Do not edit material published under a byline. If you want a change to the non-answer portions, ask the author (Puddleglum2.0) or the editor in chief (Smallbones). If you want a change to the answers, ask me. --Guy Macon (talk) 21:17, 26 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
In general we don't make corrections, unless it's a simple copyedit near the publication time, after publication without checking with the editor-in-chief. When I first saw this, I thought it was ok ... but what if Guy took this as "it was not unfortunate that he failed the RfA." I doubt that was intended but he might have taken it that way now. So I'll leave in the "unfortunately". To the very first commenter, @Sir Joseph:, we allow ourselves polite comments like "unfortunately he did not pass the RfA" without considering ourselves mad POV pushers. Smallbones(smalltalk) 21:59, 26 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I understand your point, but that is the whole point of an RFA, to get the support and oppose and then see where consensus takes you. You're a newspaper, you're supposed to report that the RFA didn't pass. This interview is his lookback at the process and his opinions on it. You are basically giving your newspaper's opinion that it was unfortunate that he didn't pass his RFA. That's all I said, that it was not a neutral statement, it has nothing to do with being mad POV pushers. Sir Joseph (talk) 22:08, 26 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
You and I have a completely different view on the meaning of the word "unfortunately". In my opinion, if the worst editor in the world ran for RfA and was rightly shot down 1000 to 0, that would still be unfortunate -- unfortunate that a thousand people's time was wasted, unfortunate that the editor wasn't a better person, and unfortunate that someone with a better chance of winning did not run instead. Sir Joseph, I know that you hold a grudge against me because I once disagreed with you on a content dispute and the consensus of editors was in my favor. You got your opportunity to express your opinion of me in your RfA !vote. Coming here and picking a fight over the word "unfortunately" is, IMO, a form of grave dancing. I would strongly prefer to not have any further interaction with you. --Guy Macon (talk) 00:19, 27 April 2020 (UTC) I have stricken my comment and sincerely regret interacting with Sir Joseph in any way. --Guy Macon (talk) 15:29, 27 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
In your hypothetical case, then it would be "fortunately" the person didn't pass RFA. In the paragraph above, the sentence says that you unfortunately did not pass RFA, which is editorializing the RFA. (Also, you didn't just once disagree with me, you also hounded me and accused me of being a sockmaster, and I don't think that's the only reason people didn't want you as an admin. Finally if you don't want anything to do with me, simply don't respond to my posts, as you were supposed to do, with the unofficial IBAN you agreed to.) People are reading this Signpost, and they want the intro to be neutral, not everything is about you, the Q&A is, but the intro should be as neutral as possible and we should be encouraging people to express their opinions at RFA, whether it's support or oppose, and if we tell people that their oppose votes are the wrong votes, that is bad. Sir Joseph (talk) 01:03, 27 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Fwiw, as someone who did not participate in the RfA, I read the "unfortunately" at the top to have an implied "for him" after it, so I didn't see it as an issue. But I could see how others might have interpreted it differently.
Regarding the more general question of editing after publication, I've noticed before that the Signpost has different standards than a normal area of Wikipedia. This seems appropriate since it is a newspaper, but since it is also unusual for Wikipedia, Smallbones, would you consider drafting an edit notice to go on all Signpost articles explaining what the policy is? {{u|Sdkb}}talk 18:10, 27 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
For now, let me just quote About (The Signpost): "We welcome post-publication edits such as grammatical and spelling corrections to articles, subject to review by the Signpost team; we value our readers' efforts to correct simple mistakes and provide needed clarifications." That should be read in the context of us being a newspaper - we have a deadline and publish on a specific date, we then do not update articles, other than corrections and minor copyediting; we have bylined authors - it is not a joint communally written constantly updated article like a mainspace Wikipedia article. Rather, each Signpost article should be seen as a snapshot of a particular time, written by a particular person or team, with input from the overall Signpost collective. Smallbones(smalltalk) 19:38, 27 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks! Let me give you a rundown of what it is like after you spend a couple of minutes with no heartbeat.
I came to in a hospital bed. Air was going in and out of my lungs, but I wasn't doing the breathing. The respirator tube going down my throat was. You know that feeling in your legs after a long-distance run? That's lactate buildup, and if you overdo it you are sore the next day. When your heart stops the lactate builds up everywhere and it doesn't stop increasing. So everything was sore. It even hurt to move my eyeballs (which you pretty much can't stop doing). Even my tongue was sore. My major muscles were so sore that I literally could not lift my arm and could barely lift a finger. And my chest muscles were too sore to do any breathing.
A physical therapist explained that my muscles should recover, and they did. after a day I was able to breathe without the tube. After two days I could lift my arm enough to get a sip of water without help. After four days I could roll on my side (you don't realize how much you miss that until you can't do it). As the days went by I was able to sit up with help, then stand for a few seconds, then a couple of steps using a walker, and so on. I was released when I could get out of bed and walk 20 or 30 feet between rests.
Now that I am home I am building up my stamina, walking farther each day. And I can now sit at my computer for 40 to 50 minutes (I get up and walk every 15). So I haven't fully recovered, but I am getting better every day.
The best part of all of this? All of the well wishes on my talk page. They really lifted my spirits. --Guy Macon (talk) 03:54, 27 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I am happy that Guy Macon is recovering and not taking the failure of an RfA too seriously- life is too short to stress over a website. I wish him a full recovery and encourage kindness all around, especially with the challenging environment that all of us are experiencing today. Jip Orlando (talk) 15:57, 27 April 2020 (UTC)[reply]
The discussion of RfA as a whole has me wondering what the end-game for this is going to be... I can see at least two possible outcomes, both obviously terrible:
  • Administrators continue burning out faster than they are elected, until eventually en-WP becomes reliant on meta:SRP for a lack of local bureaucrats. CAT:AB is (on average) growing faster than it shrinks, in my estimation, so we already have a rather serious problem (for a smaller-scale example, RfD discussions are now semi-regularly relisted by involved admins because there aren't enough uninvolved admins to close out old discussions in a reasonable amount of time). This would just be the logical conclusion of doing nothing to solve it.
  • The WMF decides that the above outcome is unacceptable, and declares a new RfA process by fiat. The community hates this, but is unable to reach consensus about whether the WMF's process is actually better or worse than the existing process, so the WMF just waits out the resulting "no consensus" RFC, and wins by default.
Again, I dislike both outcomes, but I don't see all that many viable alternatives. At some point, something is going to have to give. --NYKevin 05:15, 27 May 2020 (UTC)[reply]


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