In my previous blog post I said: "There has never been a shortage of authorities who abuse their positions of responsibility. Scholarly questioners often attract the wrath of such authorities." How can the participants at the Wikiversity project protect themselves from those who abuse their positions of power?
I believe in the power of observation, study, discussion and learning. A peaceful community of learners and scholars can protect itself from invading barbarians. Study and documentation of past abuses of power are an important part of how a community of learners can protect itself. Wikiversity is the perfect place for research into abuse of power...or, it was, until 2008 when the Wikiversity community was subjected to a hostile takeover. Those within the Wikimedia community who abuse their power certainly do not want Wikiversity functioning as a place for study and analysis of their abusive behavior.
Under the conditions that have been imposed on Wikiversity since 2008 we must ask: why would any scholarly learner participate at Wikiversity? Wikiversity is now yet another Wikimedia website where policy violators are protected by abusive sysops and scholarly research projects are disrupted and deleted and discussion of these atrocities is censored. The Wikiversity project has been threatened with closure in an effort to bend the will of the community and prevent community members from investigating the problems of Wikimedia wiki websites and their management. Honest Wikiversity participants who would like to fix these problems are driven away from the project. Additional abusive sysops are attracted and installed...the reign of terror is perpetuated.
About the only remaining learning project of relevance at Wikiversity is this: can the Wikiversity project be returned to its peaceful pre-2008 roots?
Signs of hope?Edit
Wikiversity has always had a tiny community that is easily disrupted by authorities who abuse their positions of power. Once in 2008 and again in 2010 Mr. Wales, rather than engaging in community discussion and consensus building, used his "special powers"; he imposed blocks and bans and deleted pages without due process and even performed an emergency desysop procedure when no emergency existed. Damage done to the Wikiversity community has been vast. The community is still struggling to recover. Are there any signs of hope for a brighter future?
Mr. Wales has, in the past, also thrown his weight around at larger Wikimedia projects including his recent intervention at Commons. This statement by Mr. Wales sounds promising. If he will no longer abuse his "Founder flag" powers at Wikiversity then there is a chance that this community can regain its feet and get rid of the all the abusers of power who have operated in the shadow of Mr. Wales.
Before Mr. Wales visited Wikiversity this year to perform an out-of-process deletion of Wikiversity content, one lonely Wikiversity participant was concerned about "porn" within Wikimedia wiki projects. (I put "porn" in quotes and I'm using the term as a convenient label. The issue is actually more subtle and complex than just pornography, but this is the term selected by the Signpost and I'll go along.) Of course, "porn" has a special place and constituency within Wikimedia, so that lonely Wikiversity scholar had been marginalized by the Wikimedia community.....Mr. Wales even tried to dismiss his concerns as "trolling" and blocked him from editing at Wikiversity. It is ironic that Mr. Wales (cue sound of stampeding bull) trampled on the one Wikiversity participant who was trying to deal with the "porn" problem. When Mr. Wales himself tried to deal with the problem he met the same kind of resistance from the "porn" constituency as had the poor Wikiversity scholar who Mr. Wales had previously gone out of his way to punish.
This episode provides a good example of how Wikiversity could function as a safe haven for scholarly Wikimedians whose good faith efforts to help Wikimedia are rebuffed by the mob rule that characterizes Wikimedia culture. Instead, rampaging Wikimedia "authority figures" prevent Wikiversity scholars from engaging in their research projects.
One Wikiversity participant described the behavior of Mr. Wales as resembling a bull in a china closet. Another useful analogy is the inattentive and clueless playground monitor. The playground bully pushes another child who is playing peacefully. The peaceful child protects himself from the bully. The clueless playground monitor, late on the scene, punishes the child who was protecting himself from the bully.
There are some diabolical Wikimedia participants who specialize in tormenting honest wiki participants and goading them into some action that can be used as an excuse to ban the honest wiki participant. I study these and other kinds of abusive behaviors within Wikimedia wiki projects, particularly Wikiversity. Of course, given the existing climate of censorship and intimidation at Wikiversity, my research activity is restricted to my user pages. There have in the past been calls to censor my user pages (example), but so far that step has not been taken.
Part of any research project is data collection and collation. Some of the available data concerning abuse of power by sysops ends up on my user talk page. Since the hostile takeover of 2008, I have systematically archived such data on subpages.
A favorite tactic of abusive sysops is to call good faith wiki participants "troll". The first time I was called "troll" by a fellow Wikiversity participant I was rather shocked. Since 2008 I have made a study of the Wikimedia practice by which people in positions of authority abusively label other Wikimedians as "trolls". There is now a well-entrenched network of abusive administrators who use the label "troll" as a code word for marking wiki participants for elimination. No evidence needs to be provided. The abusive sysop only need toss out the word "troll" and fellow abusive sysops rally around and set to work eliminating the hapless editor who has been targeted for destruction. Quite frequently abusive sysops make use of IRC chat channels to apply labels like "troll" and "dick" to the wiki participants they want to ban. I believe that the official Wikiversity chat channel should be publicly logged so that there is a public record of all the abusive behavior of Wikimedia sysops in that channel. Of course, the abusive sysops of Wikimedia maintain control of the chat channels and they prefer to use them as a safe haven where they can practice their abusive behavior and plan how to eliminate honest wiki participants from Wikimedia wiki communities. I log the Wikiversity chat channel and interested Wikiversity participants who want to see my logs of the chat can contact me privately. In addition to abusive sysops who use the chat channel to fling labels like "troll" and "dick" at their fellow wiki editors, the logs document the bad blocks on chat channel participation that have been imposed. My belief is that the channel logs should be reviewed by the Wikiversity community and all of the abusive Wikiversity sysops who terrorize the chat channel should have their sysop powers removed. But that's just the opinion of Schmidt the troll. If you call me a troll there is a chance that your talk page comments will also be archived at JWSchmidt is a Troll so that I can add your behavior to my studies of Wikimedia collaboration.
In addition to JWSchmidt is a Troll I have a few other subpages where I archive examples of the civility of Wikiversity sysops. Recently I was told that these archive pages are not acceptable. In the near future I fully expect some abusive sysop to censor the archive pages and/or block me from editing because I created the archive pages. Since the hostile takeover of Wikiversity in 2008 it is accepted that abusive sysops can call me troll or tell me to fuck off. I fully expect the Wikiversity reign of terror to be extended to censorship of my user pages in an effort to prevent me from documenting and discussing the actions of abusive sysops.
In the past, any Custodian who got in the way of the Ruling Party was subjected to an emergency desysop, implemented in violation of Wikiversity policy. Now, in 2011, when Wikiversity policy was followed for a community discussion of a disruptive sysop, the community discussion was terminated by a rogue sysop and the Wikiversity participant who dared to follow Wikiversity policy was blocked from editing (25 January 2011 Abd blocked Ottava Rima with an expiry time of 1 year). Abd then explained the basic wiki principle that community discussions are a waste of time....the only remaining step is to add that observation to the Main Page so that unsuspecting Wikiversity participants can be informed about how things are done at Wikiversity since the Hostile Takeover of 2008.