Wikipedia and interest groups, part 1

Yesterday I left the article on Slashdot to read it today, because the subject is particularly interesting to me (at the some point of my involvement in WM projects, I had very similar experience).

However, as it is usual on Slashdot, user comments are much more interesting and better then commented article. Working on Wikipedia brings strict scientific method: If claims in articles outside of Wikipedia are not supported by relevant sources, their relevancy drops very low.

This is the situation with article on which Slashdot article referes. So, before I start to talk about the topic (which is important), inside of the first part of this analysis I want to say a couple of words about the Slashdot article as well as about the surrounding articles.

Slashdot article

  • It operates with words like “believe” instead of “is”. This is a good habit of the Slashdot article writers.
  • However, claims like “Shortly after her Wikipedia identity was uncovered, many of her edits to articles related to the bombing were permanently removed from the database in an attempt to conceal her identity.” This claim needs at least an investigation. As well as it is doubtful what is the main purpose of such claim: To say that “Wikipedia” wanted to hide something?
  • And, of course, at the end the article consists a reference on Essjay incident, which barely may be interpreted as “informing readers”, but much more as a sensationalist connection between one questionable opinion, one personal incident and Wikipedia as a whole.

Ludwig De Braeckeleer’s article

  • Slim Virgin had been voted the most abusive administrator of Wikipedia. She upset so many editors that some of them decided to team up to research her real life identity.

I didn’t hear for such polls on Wikipedia, as well as I would like to know the relevancy of the people who voted her as “the most abusive administrator on Wikipedia”. Of course, no reference in the article.

(During the investigation on other claims, I found now User:SlimVirgin is voted as “the most abusive administrator”. According to this article, it happens at Wikipedia Review.)

  • Daniel Brandt of the Wikipedia Review and founder of Wikipedia-Watch.org patiently assembled tiny clues about Slim Virgin and posted them on these Web sites. Eventually, two readers identified her. Slim Virgin was no other than Linda Mack, the young graduate Salinger hired.

Daniel Brandt’s claims and Wikipedia Watch

I needed a lot of time to find where Daniel Brandt analyzed this because there were no reference inside of the article. Finally, I found one forum article on Wikipedia Review site which is written after the article on OhmyNews. (As I don’t want to investigate purely sourced article, I will assume that the article on which Ludwig is referencing shows the same data.)

Again, I had to investigate all of the claims because references are narrative and without possibility to confirm a lot of the claims. So, article stays for:

  1. Some time ago slimvirgin.com was registered on the person named S.McEwan from Swalwell, Alberta, Canada. Domain was registered in 2002. Today, domain is anonymously registered.
  2. Domain was registered on the address slimvirgin1@yahoo.com.
  3. “S.” means “Sarah”.
  4. “[Sarah McEwan] wrote a couple of letters to a newspaper in Britain defending animal rights on the foxhunting issue”.
  5. “Slim signs the name “Sarah” on Wikipedia.”
  6. According to her IP addresses, she is somewhere in central Canada.
  7. During 2006. on her page she said that she was alumnus of Cambridge.
  8. There was a page there which had “mouseover on the name of alumnus Linda Mack showed an email address of slimvirgin1@yahoo.com”, but “”The Kings College website listing of Linda Mack was deleted within the last six months, …”
  9. “Then by looking at SlimVirgin’s early edits on Wikipedia, it was obvious that she was obsessed with PanAm 103, “
  10. “… just as Linda Mack was known to be obsesseed with PanAm 103.”
  11. “Just as Slim’s edits on Wikipedia have slowly but surely been oversighted to obscure the Linda Mack connection, so too has some of the above information.”

In short, there are two points here: (1) User:SlimVirgin is Sarah McEwan who owns domain slimvirgin.com and (2) Sarah McEwan is Linda Mack, who is a member of MI5.

User:SlimVirgin = Sarah McEwan => owns domain slimvirgin.com

  1. Some time ago slimvirgin.com was registered on the person named S.McEwan from Swalwell, Alberta, Canada. Domain was registered in 2002. Today, domain is anonymously registered.
    • It is not possible to check this claim.
  2. Domain was registered on the address slimvirgin1@yahoo.com.
    • It is not possible to check this claim.
  3. “S.” means “Sarah”.
    • “S” may be at the beginning of a lot of female names.
  4. “[Sarah McEwan] wrote a couple of letters to a newspaper in Britain defending animal rights on the foxhunting issue”.
  5. “Slim signs the name “Sarah” on Wikipedia.”

Only one of five claims is confirmed. Two is not possible to check, one is explicitly negative and one is arbitrary.

Sarah McEwan (= User:SlimVirgin) = Linda Mack, MI5 spy

  1. According to her IP addresses, she is somewhere in central Canada.
    • I don’t want to check, so I’ll say that this is true.
  2. During 2006. on her page she said that she was alumnus of Cambridge.
    • Only admins on English Wikipedia may check that. The first available version of ther user page is from 22 October 2006.
  3. There was a page there which had “mouseover on the name of alumnus Linda Mack showed an email address of slimvirgin1@yahoo.com”, but “”The Kings College website listing of Linda Mack was deleted within the last six months, …”
    • It is not possible to check this claim.
  4. “Then by looking at SlimVirgin’s early edits on Wikipedia, it was obvious that she was obsessed with PanAm 103,”
  5. “… just as Linda Mack was known to be obsesseed with PanAm 103.”
    • It is not possible to check this claim.
  6. “Just as Slim’s edits on Wikipedia have slowly but surely been oversighted to obscure the Linda Mack connection, so too has some of the above information.”
    • According to my investigation, this is not true.

Here is a little bit better situation: From six claims, two are positive, one is maybe positive, it is not possible to check two claims and one claim is negative.

Wikipedia Watch

Wikipedian and Wikimedian communities have a lot of problems. And no one is hiding that. Also, it is a natural human reaction not to talk a lot about her/his own problems. I am against that because only with open talk about our problems — we may solve them. However, Wiki(m|p)edian community is far of censoring critics. Look at the article Wikipedia on Wikipedia.

There are some serious problems, too. Wikimedian community became inert, which is usual for big communities. Faction wars on Wikipedias are usual. Bureaucracy is a big problem, too. Not so small language communities are often under hard pressure of nationalists. Political model of Wikipedia reached it’s own limits and project needs some deep changes to survive to the next decade.

However, up to this moment I’ve seen a small amount of constructive outsider’s critics of Wikipedia. The vast majority of critics are written in more or less bad faith.

Wikipedia Watch is particularly bizarre. It seems that Daniel Brandt knows to use “history” option on every article, but he shows extremely poor knowledge of Wikipedia functioning. For one long-term fighter against social monsters, it is very unusual. So, here are some examples:

  • I was laughing when I saw the page “Wikipedia’s Hive Mind“. It seems that I’ll be there, sooner or later; and in that moment I’ll be completely sure that the site is a real bullshit. (BTW, as this will be seen by a lot of the people from the list, I would like to hear them about their involvement in conspiracy 😉 )
  • Plagiarism by Wikipedia editors” shows that:
    • He doesn’t know anything about article-making process and constant fights against copyright infringements on Wikipedia.
    • He was able to remove sections, too and he didn’t do that. Also, I am sure that if he gave this list directly on Wikipedia — community would remove that. And it is done when it was noticed (cf. articles about Mercy Otis Warren through Wikipedia Watch and at the 28 July 2007). A little bit more good faith would help…

A number of other things may be found which is in the range from simple bad faith up to the conspiracy theories. Please, look at the site.

End note

It seems that this issue is very complex. I didn’t finish with some points and I’ll give them in the next few days.

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~ by millosh on July 29, 2007.

5 Responses to “Wikipedia and interest groups, part 1”

  1. Unless you have oversight privilege (the ability to delete and see deleted revisions that are completely invisible even to administrators), you will not be able to validate many claims.

    In several cases, Wikipedia Watch users have made links to material in Wikipedia article histories, information which assists in verifying the public identity of a Wikipedia contributor. Later, members of Wikipedia use the oversight facility to completely remove all trace of it.

    This is not because the claims are invented and untrue, as you seem to think. It is because Wikipedia oversighters do not want you to be able to verify them, and to presume them wrong.

  2. While I don’t want to edit anonymously because I stay behind all of my words, I may give a number of examples where exposure of someone’s identity is dangerous: from my personal experience (and very explicit threats) to the experience of people who I personally know (from problems in relation to family to much more serious problems). So, I think that exposing some personal identity is not always the best idea and because of that I understand why people who have oversight privileges don’t want to give identities.

    In this text the only thing which is related to oversight privileges is related to the Cambridge and SlimVirgin (I marked that as “maybe positive”). Even if this is true, I don’t see a lot other connections here which are not related to oversight privileges.

    The real problem with Wikipedia Watch page “Wikipedia’s Hive Mind Administration” is the fact that it is mystifying admin rights on English Wikipedia, without any information about relations inside of Wikimedia projects.

    As I know personally a lot of the people from the list, as well as relations between them, I may say that this list is a clear example of pseudo-scientific investigation, as well as publicly marking people only because they work on free knowledge.

    In some of the future posts I’ll describe why such list is pointless.

    Also, I was very careful when I said that something is not true here. I said two things: (1) I didn’t find connection “SlimVirgin-Sarah” and (2) that according to my information people with oversight privileges don’t hide “connections between SlimVirgin and Linda Mack”. Both of claims are with a good reason:

    1. There is no connection between SlimVirgin and Sarah. People with oversight privileges had to do a lot of work to remove all of such mentioning, which is very complex task.

    2. Two other “connections between SlimVirgin and Linda Mack” were related to SlimVirgin interests. Yes, she was working on animal rights related articles and up to mid 2005 she was working on PanAm flight 103. No one removed that.

    The most problematic claims here are not related to Wikipedia, but to claims which are related to sources outside of Wikipedia. Claiming that some Sarah sent some animal rights related articles and that “Linda Mack is obsessed with PanAm flight 103” and that SlimVirgin is/was working on the articles which are related to animal rights and PanAm flight 103 is not enough to connect them.

    For other claims I would like to get some better proves then “20 pages down at some page on the [known] site”. It is not my part of job to give good references for claims that SlimVirgin is MI5 spy.

  3. http://web.archive.org/web/20041224005037/http://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/nonresidents/directory/fulllist.html

  4. Would you mind discussing this on Wikipedia Review? I think it may make for some interesting conversation, and we all may learn more from each other. Please note that I would sign this with my real name as you so proudly do, but as you may know, dissent is not a popular thing (See “Publius” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federalist_Papers). Try to understand and engage us. Then dismiss us, if you must.

  5. I believe that Wikipedia Review is able to give a good critics of Wikipedia. Because of that I subscribed to your RSS feeds.

    However, I hope that my goals of doing so are clear: I want Wikipedia and Wikimedia improvement.

    I am not interested in particular cases, like SlimVirgin case is. The only conclusion which this case gave (at least to me) is that admins on Wikipedia shouldn’t be anonymous.

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