I am a red hot climate change denialist?

Strange – you might think – but not so bizarre that some people don’t think it. Here is the quote

William, given the article’s clearly supposedly-sceptical viewpoint, I did not expect my edit to survive but, 8 minutes! Wow, you are red hot! I note your track record of getting into trouble with Moderators over edit-warring issues, so will not be so foolish as to do the same with you myself. However, is there anything you would care to say in your defence that will prevent me from writing you off as a climate change denier?

Why does he call me “William”? I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me. Is he a foreigner? No, he is Britishor so he claims. But clearly not a well-bred one. I delicately suggested that he might get a clue (as the hip doodz say) from Conservapedia, but he doesn’t seem to have done so.

What has him so hot under the collar? The runaway greenhouse effect article. This has always been rather poor: largely because, as the article says, A runaway greenhouse effect is not a clearly defined term; and because it was edited by Andrewjlockley, who is part of the AMEG crowd. And because people keep confusing it with positive feedback. Our man wanted something less ambiguous, and there is a not-very-exciting talk page thread.

All this has odd echoes of last week’s tempest but Martin Charles Lack is not Andrew Judd – he seems to know when to back off, for one thing.

Largely irrelevant refs

* [[List of Viz comic strips]]. Check for “Captain Oats” – I still remember that one. I personally rescued Mickey’s Monkey Spunk Moped from redirection.
* No lessons learned from Climategate ? Fred Pearce and the New Scientist attack anti-nuclear book – this is a guest post at WUWT by Martin Cohe[n]. It contains refs to “Climategate”, therefore by WUWT standards it is publishable; but it is so laughably incoherent that even the regulars think it should be pulled. My comment.
* The Fireplace Delusion – meant to be about religion, but would fit the denialists, too. h/t Paul.

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.

The Heartland Institute’s failed wiki

From the Heartland Institute:

Subject: Announcing ClimateWiki.org: The Definitive Climate Change Encyclopedia
To: <no-one@cares>
Date: Wednesday, June 8, 2011, 4:40 PM
Announcing ClimateWiki.org: The Definitive Climate Change Encyclopedia

CHICAGO – Backed by more than two decades of institutional knowledge and the work of some of the world’s most esteemed climate scientists, The Heartland Institute <http://www.heartland.org/&gt; is proud to announce the launch of a new Web site called ClimateWiki.org . It is the definitive climate change encyclopedia.

It is doomed, obviously.

Looking at the Global Warming page (it might be best to look at the version when I wrote this) you see why. The page itself isn’t too bad, of course. A bit dull – no graphs – but the text is basically OK. Which is because it is just the introduction from the wikipedia article. Why would anyone bother read the cut-down Heartland version rather than the real thing? If you want to live in the denialist echo-chamber, you read CA and Watts and watch Faux. You don’t need a broken copy of wikipedia. They’ve moved it into “Category: Politics”, which is presumably a silly joke on their part. Or perhaps, being the Heartland, all articles will be in the politics class?

Also, anyone pausing to compare their claims (“Backed by more than two decades of institutional knowledge and the work of some of the world’s most esteemed climate scientists”) against the reality (broken copies of wikipedia) is going to wonder at the disparity. Good grief: they haven’t even managed to copy across the IPCC page yet.

Or, you can read an article not copied from wikipedia: they push their Introduction to Global Warming. That one is a true Heartland article, and has been written (or copied) straight from their current hand book, whose theme is “if you can’t convince them that you are right, try to convince them that it is all to complicated and confusing for anyone to understand”, aka FUD: Global warming is a complicated issue. It’s easy to get confused by all the scientific arguments and conflicting claims… Scientists disagree on the causes and consequences of climate change for a number of reasons… Again, this is all very well if you’re part of the echo chamber, but a teensy bit useless for anyone else.

William elsewhere: Existence

People don’t talk about me much, so I’ll point you at ocham.blogspot.com. 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]