How not to edit wikipedia

Wiki isn’t as exciting as it used to be – the days of vast opposing armies swirling across the blood-soaked plains of global warming laying waste to innocent and combatant alike have faded into myth. Nowadays we (or rather they; I don’t even need to join in) have exciting discussions about exactly how to portray the 97%-of-scientists-agree stuff.

But now and again something interesting happens, and it has just recently, culminating in a chap called Andrewedwardjudd getting himself indef’d for legal threats. This throws up a couple of interesting issues. The first is, that though wiki can look rather free-n-easy, and while it is possible to be completely useless, do nothing but get in the way of other productive editors, and still not get blocked for years on end; there are some things that wiki does care about and that will get you instantly indef’d: and making legal threats, or things that can be interpreted as such, is one of them (see WP:NLT). The offending text is There are laws against libel, and Wiki should not be encouraging this kind of law breaking by so openly supporting such stupid behaviour. That gets you You have been blocked indefinitely from editing for making legal threats or taking legal action. If you would like to be unblocked, you may appeal this block by adding the text {{unblock|reason=Your reason here ~~~~}}, but you should read the guide to appealing blocks first. The correct response, and the expected response from people who were acting in good faith but got rather carried away, is “oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to make a threat, please accept my assurances that what I wrote was misinterpreted, and just to be on the safe side I now withdraw/rephrase what I said”. The incorrect response (at least, incorrect if you want to be unblocked) is to make the threats explicit.

This may be a good place to point out that “indef’d” – as in, indefinitely blocked – just means “blocked with no explicit duration”. It doesn’t always mean “blocked for a long time”, either (it can sometimes, but not in this case; it just means blocked-until-you-come-to-your-senses).

Soooo… how did this regrettable situation arise?

It is all a fight over wording on the Greenhouse effect article. Oddly, it isn’t a “skeptic”-vs-science fight; Aej was, he thought, just correcting the science; or perhaps the wording – he never managed to make his point quite clear (I’m not going to bother go into the details, since they aren’t the point; some of the 2nd-law-of-thermo-stuff you see around; for example, this). However, what he did manage to do was to break WP:3RR, which is the don’t-revert-more-than-3-times-in-24h rule (I remember the “good old days” before this rule came in; things could be utter chaos. Indeed, even after the rule came in it was initially interpreted quite tightly; you could edit war for weeks on end unblocked, as long as you stuck to 3-per-24h. But nowadays admins would call that “edit warring” and warn-then-block you for it fairly soon). He got a warning about it, which he ignored; he got a note that he’d broken it and an offer to hold off if he’d take a break; he got a note from a heavyweight admin advising him to take a break and he ignored it all; so I reported him for edit warring.

And he got a 48h topic ban. Which was a fairly lightweight result – most people could expect a block for all that; but there was a fairly clear sense that he was trying to do his best and could potentially be valuable. At this point, anyone sane is expected to get the hint, back off, and lie low for 48h. The motto coming here is, if you can’t do that, you need to step gently away from they keyboard. But he didn’t, he just broke the topic ban instead. And so he got blocked for 48h instead. This, again, should have been a hint to stop escalating but no; he just responded with more fire which lead to his indef. The lesson here is that wiki is looking for some hint that you are prepared to work with others; to act reasonably; to de-escalate; any of those, combined with some kind of decent editing, can be made into an unblock. The reverse – continual escalation all the way up to legal threats, then digging in even deeper (amusingly headlined “You guys just dont know when to give up do you?”) is doomed. Once you start talking like that, people know what to do with you and what pigeon hole to put you in, and getting out again is hard (did someone mention self-awareness?).

So children, remember: if you want to edit wiki, please do, but if you start getting heavy hints that you are out of line, its best to cast around for some advice rather than just keep on digging.

(Incidentally, since I’m here, Photon polarization looks like it needs help from someone competent).

Update: the saga now includes the final step in the process: if you make enough unblock requests without thinking, and continue the legal threats, then your talkpage access will be revoked.

Update: I was wrong! There is a further step in the saga, one I should have anticipated. The next step is for the banned user to either (a) WP:SOCKpuppet or (b) get someone else to post for him, aka WP:MEATpuppetry. We’ve now got (b): [1], [2] is “Andrewswife” who has been thrown into the middle of this dispute to defend her husband (to be fair, I doubt they even knew this wasn’t allowed; neither seem terribly familiar with the rules). That isn’t a tenable position; fortunately Vsmith has drawn a veil over the process, hatting the discussion with Proxying for indef blocked user and blocking “Andrewswife”. That is, arguably, a bit harsh, as I doubt she knows what is going on.

Update: just to make it clear that there is nothing desperately exciting about this, here is another chap, just indef’d for edit warring at Free will. And another, for edit warring at Angle trisection.


* A childs garden of wikipedia
* Over in the comments at Rabett Run – Eli being a bit cruel.

Imagine a World Without Free Knowledge?


“Learn more” is SOPA and PIPA are just indicators of a much broader problem. We are already seeing big media calling us names. In many jurisdictions around the world, we’re seeing the development of legislation that prioritizes overly-broad copyright enforcement laws, laws promoted by power players, over the preservation of individual civil liberties. We want the Internet to be free and open, everywhere, for everyone.


* Google
* Beeb
* Wikipedia blackout forces students to copy from printed ‘hardcopy websites’

Its fun to snark

A headline which is doubtless a hostage to fortune. Anyway, I had fun deriding the Heartland Institute’s failed wiki but, as frank points out in the comments, there is more fun to be had: you can look at Special:ListUsers. If you do this on a real wiki like wikipedia, you get an enormously long list, the first page of which consists of !, ! !, ! ! !, …, ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !, after which whoever it was got bored. And who has been indefed since 2006. In fact, because of the way special characters list first, you have to page through thousands of usernames before you get anywhere. Slightly more entertaining is Special:ActiveUsers. Anyway, the point is that if you play this game with the Heartland’s toy wiki, you get:

* X Abarr (Created on 6 June 2011 at 16:57)
* Admin ‎(Bureaucrat, Administrator) (Created on 26 March 2010 at 07:58)
* X Darren (Created on 7 March 2011 at 01:05)
* Jason (Created on 1 March 2011 at 01:53)
* X Jbast (Created on 11 April 2011 at 20:25)
* Jlakely (Created on 1 March 2011 at 02:56)
* John (Created on 8 March 2011 at 16:54)
* X Jtaylor (Created on 11 April 2011 at 20:27)
* Kendall (Created on 1 March 2011 at 01:52)
* X Marcoestreich (Created on 22 February 2011 at 17:01)
* X Mmartin (Created on 11 April 2011 at 20:25)
* X Nthorner (Created on 31 May 2011 at 21:15)

and that really is it. All of them are redlinks (i.e., no text on their userpage, which on wikipedia is generally regarded as a bad sign), most of them (the ones I’ve marked with an X) have contributed nothing. Jlakey has contributed only one thing, to water use efficiency, which is an obvious COPYVIO of some pap from CO2 science and would have been deleted from wikipedia as a WP:COPYVIO. Which leaves only 3 users with any contributions – hardly a vibrant community.

Someone (I forget who – apologies) suggested that the Heartland wiki was mainly intended as repackaging of the NIPCC “report”. And that seems so; John for example has created the marvel that is West Antarctic ice sheet and sea level, which starts:

From Climate Change Reconsidered, a work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Many of the studies of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) cited in the previous sections of this report address its past and future effects on sea level. In this final section on the WAIS, we bring this body of research together in one place and add other research summaries. Bindschadler (1998) analyzed…

Even by the low standards these people are aiming at, that is appalling copyediting: simply pasting in the text and forgetting to leave out the “cited in the previous sections of this report” bit. In fact John seems to quite like adding the fact that text has been ripped from the NIPCC. But there are just too many examples of rubbish copyediting whilst making amateurish cut-n-pastes from NIPCC to bother comment any more. John is also very interested in mercury, a substance distinguished by having absolutely nothing at all to so with climate change. But, it happens to be one of Fred’s pet obsessions: mercury is good for you: Mercury (Hg) is an element that has existed (and will continue to exist) naturally since the earth was formed 4.5 billion years ago. The oceans alone contain millions of tons of mercury.. Etc etc, very dull. So, at a guess John is S. Fred, or one of his minions [update: VB points out that more plausible candidates can be idenitfied from the Heartland staff list]. Though that bit about 4.5 billion would be controversial over at Conservapedia, where they believe in Bishop Ussher.

Jason has had some fun: he first created the IPCC page, by ripping it off wikipedia, but then realised that they had already got a ripped-off-and-cut-down version but he hasn’t learnt about #REDIRECT yet. Never mind, he’ll learn. Poor Jason has a lot of other things to learn – like, that when copying from wikipedia, you should copy from the “edit” tab, not just from the page itself, otherwise you get a lot of [n] type references that you later have to correct (or in Jasons case, simply remove – who needs references anyway?).

Kendall has been editing Technology and Climate Change. What caught my eye was In a major move away from global warming orthodoxy, the United Kingdom is currently in the process of studying the economic challenges of addressing climate change. Sir Nicholas Stern, a fellow of the British Academy, is leading a major review of the economics of climate change to understand more fully the nature of the economic challenges and how they can be met both in the UK and globally. Firstly, calling Stern a move away from orthodoxy is very odd, but secondly the present tense is strange: have I missed something? The answer is no, but Kendall has: instead of ripping off wikipedia, Kendall has been pasting in 5-year-old press releases from Heartland.

So in my (admittedly brief) survey, I could see no evidence at all of what is commonplace on wikipedia: people actually knowing stuff, and writing about it, backed up by references. All I saw was people pasting in stuff from elsewhere, usually without any thought.

William elsewhere: Existence

People don’t talk about me much, so I’ll point you at It is even kind, in parts, but the problem he points out – the difficulty of maintaining an article like [[Existence]] – is quite genuine. I’m currently hacking through various “esoteric” bits of wikipedia removing cruft (I even started [[Gurdjieff Foundation]]), and Existence was but one minor victim of my ghastly surgery. I don’t agree with “Ockham” – my attitude is that maths doesn’t really belong in an article that is predominantly philosophy, but I don’t care enough on that subject to argue hard.
Continue reading “William elsewhere: Existence”

More wikifun

My previous post refers. There are lots more things to say; this post doesn’t really say any of them but veers off at a tangent. Let me know if you get bored.

The tangent to start with is “no-one from outside understand how wikipedia works”. An obvious example of this is Lawrence Solomon (my apologies for mentioning: it is more honour than he deserves; but he is a convenient example), who says:

Connolley did not wield his influence by the quality of his research or the force of his argument but through his administrative position

There are several problems with this statement: the first is that I haven’t been an admin since last summer (13 September 2009 to be precise; and in case you’re uncertain, that case had nothing to do with Global Warming). But more important are wikipedia’s conflict-of-interest rules, which prevent admins doing controversial things in the topic areas they edit (if they edit; some admins drop down to hardly editing at all once given the bit. Not me). In case you think that rule is just a formality, and as easily evaded on wiki as it is by city dealers: no. All my edits (and admin actions) are and were scrutinised avidly by any number of highly unfriendly eyes and anything violating the rules would have been reported (in fact there is a section William M. Connolley’s use of administrator tools while involved in that previous, remarkably stupid case, but you’ll notice none of those are in the GW area).
Continue reading “More wikifun”

They make a wasteland and call it peace

No, not the US in Iraq, but a smaller matter: the recent arbcomm case. The case is now closed, and the the usual idiots are as usual getting it wrong (hint: the bit about admin is totally wrong). But then again, no-one from the outside ever understands wikipedia.

At some point I’ll do a long post on this (well, or maybe not. We’ll see. The point is, this isn’t that post). So for now:

The actual decision is available here, though if you prefer to skip over the goo and dribble you can just read the remedies. Though there is a fair amount of goo there too, so you may prfer to skip to just the remedy on me. Note that although that is framed as indefinite, it should probably be interpreted as no-fixed-end rather than permanent. Unless I’m Bad again, of course.

My response is on my talk page; feel free to join in there. One thing that may well be worth noting is that this isn’t a content decision; ie there is no finding at all of whether the climate change pages are in any way biased (so, e.g. Watts is hopelessly wrong. But I told you no-one understands wikipedia from the outside).

It occurs to me that the response may not stay there forever, and anyway maybe you can’t be bothered to click the link, so it is:

Final decision: thoughts

Of the decision:

* the “scorched earth” idea is unthinking and stupid.
* arbcomm demonstrate again an inability to distinguish the valuable from the valueless; indeed, they appear to be too lazy to even try.
* in pursuit of their atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant they have failed to notice that peace has already broken out. For two reasons: the worst of the “skeptics” (MN, M4th, Cla, ATren, TGL) are all gone; and the external forcing (Climatic Research Unit email controversy‎) has been resolved in favour of Climate Science. So all the disruption was for nothing.

About the only good thing about the PD is that it is so obviously bad, it is likely to rebound more to the discredit of arbcomm than anyone else.

Of the process:

* more of it should be open. There were very clearly extensive periods when off-wiki emails between the arbs were the main means of discussion. Some of that must be tolerable, but not to the extent that it is done. The arbs have become as addicted to secrecy as the Civil Service, and it is not good: both because of the dark deeds done in darkness (one example: the unexplained but welcome booting out of Rlevse) and because lack of on-wiki information fostered unease amongst the participants.
* the arbs need to be more involved, and to manage the process. Some are lazy, but none are good. This isn’t acceptable. It has become near-expected practice in arbcomm cases for nothing but a few gnomic utterances from arbs during the case. The sheer volume of evidence and discussion produced by petty back-and-forth needs to be rigourously policed. Arbcomm as a whole is fairly lazy, in that they don’t really evaluate the actual abckground to a case – that would be too much trouble, and they never bother. Instead, they rely on behaviour *during* a case, and part of their technique is a deliberate fostering of the possibility for disorder, in order to give them a lazy way of deciding. In this case, arbcomm gave a clear signal right at the start that evidence limits could be ignored. It was downhill from there.

Of the arbs:

* none of them emerge with any credit.

[ps: I changed the name of this post; the original still appears in the file name]

Flaunt the stupidity

This post is about the ridiculous “hide the decline” video. I watched it when it first came out. It wasn’t funny, it was dull. Apparently it has now been pulled from YouTube, but who cares?

But… because the thing is anti-science, the std.anti-science septics on wiki feel inclined to have an article on it. Sigh. There enough real subjects to create articles about without wasting time on vapour. I really ought to point you to the current version, and the current edit war: should this edit be included – viz, is the fact that some guy with a blog thinks the video is funny worth noting? I don’t think so, but I’ve created this post so we’ll see if that fact that some other guy with a blog thinks the video is dull is worth noting. I wonder if you can predict people’s reactions? Hopefully the whole thing will be deleted.

Perhaps I should create “Hide The Incline” instead.

Update: since I’m talking about generic stupidity, you may like to read The Trend from Wootsup by Steven Goddard.

A child’s garden of wikipedia, part I

“Part I” is very presumptuous. I might never write part II. Ah well, I press onwards in hope.

[2019 update: there is now a part two. But it isn’t very exciting.]

I’m going to take my text from Climategate: the corruption of Wikipedia [now very sensibly disappeared from the Torygraph site (arch); something similar is at (arch)] and see what we can learn about wiki’s workings from the way people misunderstand it. I should warn you that blog is mostly recycled Solomon.

Before I go on (well actually I wrote this *after* I went on, but I came back up here, that is one of the marvels of modern tech) I’ll point out that the LS/JD article is riddled with amateur errors that a moments time from someone competent at wiki could have fixed. This is genuine modern journalism at it’s very worst.

* ”All told, Connolley created or rewrote 5,428 unique Wikipedia articles.” This is either technically true, or wrong, depending on how you interpret “re-wrote”. If you use an edit counter you can discover that I have, to date, edited 5,474 unique articles, so it has gone up by a few since LS wrote (actually I wouldn’t swear that total didn’t include talk space, but never mind). But that raw number is nearly meaningless, because it includes articles such as Aesop, where I reverted vandalism, Berkhamstead Castle, where I added a picture, I removed the S word from the CRA , and… I’m sure you get the picture. I can’t quite make it up to Z, but I did remember the XAP2. If you want to know how many articles where I’ve valiantly kept at bay the forces of wacko-dom, you need something more intelligent than an edit counter or a Delingpole.

* “When Connolley didn’t like the subject of a certain article, he removed it — more than 500 articles of various descriptions disappeared at his hand”. If you’re an admin (as I was for a while, before I got de-sysopped, full story sometime) you get the power to delete articles. However, all such deletions show up and all other admins have the power to recreate deleted articles. So going around deleting articles I didn’t like on climate grounds would not have worked – people would have said “hey, you have a [[WP:COI]] you can’t do that. And indeed, although the edit counter will faithfully tell you “Pages deleted: 510”, you need to look at to see what I actually did. Most of the pages you see there are redlinks – which is to say, they are links to pages that don’t exist, because (surprise) I deleted them. But any admin that disagreed could restore any of them. Most of the pages I deleted were just simple deletions – they were totally uncontroversial and obvious (I was never much of a one for frequenting [[WP:AFD]] where people have long and tedious arguments about whether individual pokemon cards are more notable than Polish politicians. One of my controversial deletes was [[Antisemitic incidents during the 2008-2009 Israel-Gaza conflict]] which I deleted with “edit warring disaster area. where are all the people who voted keep?” but sadly it got re-created (the comment, oh you wiki-virgins, is a reference to the discussion at AFD/DR; don’t lets go there). I’m not at all sure I deleted *any* controversial GW-type pages, but if I did I’m sure the Dark Side will bitch at me and I’ll update this.

* “When he disapproved of the arguments that others were making, he often had them barred — over 2,000 Wikipedia contributors who ran afoul of him found themselves blocked from making further contributions.” – one of the other privs of admin-hood is blocking people. Sadly, however, the COI guidelines stop you blocking people you’re in dispute with (ahem); if you do it, another admin will unblock them (incidentally, you can unblock yourself, but you’re not allowed to; see my block log). So where do the 2,000 (2029, to be precise) come from? Well, I used to do a lot of work at [[WP:AN3]] which is a project-space page where people could be reported for breaking the “3 revert rule” (viz: revert a page more than 3 times in 24 hours and you’re blocked, sonny, usually for 24h in the first instance; [[WP:3RR]] for details). You can see (the last 500) of my block’s at here (I was especially pleased with “2009-09-12T13:49:44 William M. Connolley (talk | contribs) blocked Dak (talk | contribs) (account creation blocked) with an expiry time of 24 hours ‎ (edit warring at Fisting)” and rather hoped that would be my last admin action, but sadly I couldn’t resist, and my last was “Redking7 (talk | contribs) (account creation blocked) with an expiry time of indefinite ‎ (SPA RoC/Taiwan edit warring)”). As you can see from the list, there is a vast amount of edit warring at wiki; as you’ll see, (almost) none of the blocks are for GW (indeed the only one ctrl-f finds for me from that list is “2009-06-07T21:55:28 William M. Connolley (talk | contribs) blocked (talk) (anon. only, account creation blocked, autoblock disabled) with an expiry time of 12 hours ‎ (tripe on Talk:Global warming)”).

* “Acolytes whose writing conformed to Connolley’s global warming views, in contrast, were rewarded with Wikipedia’s blessings” – I’ve not a clue what this means.

* “Connolley has supposedly been defrocked as a Wikipedia administrator… If this is true, it doesn’t seem to have made much difference to his creative input on the Wikipedia’s entries”. Again, it is possible to check. Juliancolton is shown to be an admin. I’m not (I am a humble rollbacker; another once-admin-only priv is a little button that allows you to revert junk edits quickly; since this is no great power moderately trusted edits can have it too, free of charge). But the main error here is confusing admin and editor status, and it is an enormous error. The admin bit is popularly and laughably called the “mop and bucket”; admins get to patrol wiki and wipe out the cling-ons, so to speak. But this has no affect whatsoever on their ability to *edit* pages (except for the minor matter of editing protected pages, but lets not go there either today).

Well, there you go, that is about all you can learn from JD. I’ve not bothered comment here on his misc errors about me – I am all powerful (part 2) is probably your best source for that.

[Teensy update: well there is a bizarre coincidence. I mention Aesop and A, href=”″>some anon wazzock vandalises it -W]

Poor old Watts

Via dubious routes I ended up at the bizarre Unfortunately I didn’t get to see the original version. In what is presumably deliberate irony, he has coined the term “Turborevisionism” to describe his own updating. And it possesses the always-amusing feature of the ignorant trying to talk about wiki: that people complain about the unreliablity of wiki when they are clearly clueless about how it works.

So: assuming he hasn’t re-revised it (I’ve kept a copy in the “extended” bit below, so refer to that if you need to), Watts is quoting:

Found a msg from Connolley directly to me:

William Connolley I’m the original author of the paragraph at William Connolley that deals with the Lawrence Solomon article of December 2009. I note you inserted some specific detail that I acutally removed, as I believed it only caused confusion between opinion and fact, and isn’t really necessary, anyway. I don’t want to add any more reverts to that already poorly abused article, so I’m urging you to reconsider your addition of the detail. Cheers. -Ħ MIESIANIACAL 05:58, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

This is badly confused/ing. The text above was posted [1] to the talk page of [[User talk:Certayne]] by [[User:Miesianiacal]] (I’m not familiar with either editor). This is relating to edit-warring or whatever at the wiki page about me [2], which shouldn’t be confused with my wiki user page [[User:William M. Connolley]]. If you’re interested in whether I’ve edited the wiki page, it is trivial to check, or you can rely on TOAT’s summary. If you want to edit that article you can’t, because it is now protected. If you want to annoy me by posting stuff to it once it gets unprotected you can’t, becasue I learnt not to watch it :-).

BTW, if you’ve come here cos you want to read fun stuff about clueless folk abusing me, you’ll like I am all powerful (part 2). If you *are* a clueless person come here to abuse me – can you at least try to be original?
Continue reading “Poor old Watts”