Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Short Timeline of Wiki-Scandals in 2007 to Early 2008

The years 2007 to early 2008 were the turning point for Wikipedia, when all the scandals finally reached full flower and the insiders and the more internet-savvy portion of general population began catching on that Wikipedia was not to be trusted. The result was that editors began to defect from Wikipedia, and that the culture of Wiki-lawyering grew. If we want to understand why the Essjay mess reverberates, we have to see what happened after both shoes hit the floor.

2007

January - Essjay reveals himself to be a "Ryan Jordan" in order to get a job at Wikia early that month. He is not the graduate-level theology professor he claimed to be; he is a college undergraduate. This starts a chain of events that ends up with Essjay booted from Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales' face covered in egg. This same month Carolyn Doran is hired as Chief Operating Officer of the Wikimedia Foundation.

February - Professor Taner Akçam is held in custody at the Montreal airport on the 16th over information added to his Wikipedia biography (BLP) which calls him a "terrorist." Akçam is one of the few Turkish academics not willing to stonewall on the Armenian Genocide and a former jailed dissident inside Turkey who is now a German citizen. Near the end of the month, professional golfer Frank "Fuzzy" Zoeller sued Joesph Sliny and Associates in Florida over libelous statements added to Zoeller's BLP.

March - After some drama both Brad Patrick and Danny Wool quit the WMF at the end of the month. Possibly Brad Patrick was running from the forthcoming Doran explosion, or he was forced out by Carolyn Doran, questions still need answering.

April - Larry Sanger says that Wikipedia is "broken beyond repair." On April 1st Jimmy Wales tried to blame John Siegenthaler for the vandalism of Siegenthaler's BLP on the Australian TV program Sunday, interviewed by Ellen Fanning for the piece "Wikipedia - Right or Wrong?"

May - Doran gets her third DUI arrest on the 20th.

June - Doran attends a WMF conference in Amsterdam, Holland at the beginning of the month and is stopped by US Immigration officers upon her return to the United States for the parole violation. This is the beginning of the end for Carolyn Doran as COO, though there are still questions at to why she was not fully vetted before being hired for the job. The WMF is unwilling to admit that Doran was fired until September 14. The cover-up involved everybody at the WMF, including their General Counsel Mike Godwin.

July -  John Barberio of Oxfordshire, England goes to The Register to complain about the OTRS system which he was involved with on Wikipedia, claims that it is becoming "an amateurish censorship board." Sue Gardner is hired at the WMF as a "management consultant."

August -  Because "the Hits Just Keep on Comin'" as Dave Rabbit would say, Carolyn Doran goes through her fourth (!!) DUI, which is a hit and run this time. No word if she was still on the payroll of the WMF or living off her final COO check.

September - The bizarre Wikipedia-only saga of Mzoli's "Meats", an article put in by God-Emperor Wales himself, possibly after he had lunch there while touring South Africa. Lots of edit-warring and talkpage posturing and the article has changed little in ten years. The other major fiasco of this month is the culmination of the Overstock.com/Judd Bagley saga - in order to block Judd Bagley from editing Wikipedia (which he wasn't doing anymore, he was just writing about Wikipedia on his own site) , David "Nosferatu" Gerard blocked the IP range of Traverse Mountain, Utah. Because Bagley lived there.

December - Greg Kohs talks to Alex Roshuk early that month, gets the killer quote: The point is he [Jimmy Wales] is pretty flaky and he does not keep his word. He just makes statements and expects us "peons" to forgive him for his lapses because he thinks we want access to him. I don't need people like that, we have a word for them here in Brooklyn: hypocrites. Roshuk was the lawyer who set up the 501-c(3) status of Wikipedia and wrote the bylaws for the organization back in 2002-2003. (We ran across his blog in 2014.)  The scandal of that month was the secret mailing list that was uncovered thanks to Durova's clumsiness. Somewhere near the end of the year BADSITES became a topic on Wikipedia Review.

2008

January - More of a December issue, Professor Carl Hewitt (MIT, emeritus) was banned for being "disruptive." Looking at the list above, we can safely say that Hewitt was the least of Wikipedia's problems. The real January scandal was the infamous "Boy Scouts are For Spanking" pedophile greasiness over the now-long-defunct Wikia "encyclopedia" of spanking "art"; the conversation about it started over at Jimmy Wales' talkpage.

February - Jossi Fresco, student/supporter of Prem Rawat (formerly Guru Maharaj Ji) and deeply connected Wikipedia insider is discussed on The Register, resulting in Fresco leaving the next year after a battle that made War of the Gargantuas look like Manos: the "Hands" of Fate.

March - Literary agent Barbara Bauer begins a law suit against the WMF and seventeen other organizations concerning a list article titled "The 20 Worst Agents"; in Wikipedia's case it was linked to Bauer's stub BLP (which has been disappeared.)

May - The ultimate she said/he said in the history of the Internet; Rachel Marsden talks about her short-lived fling with a divorced Jimmy Wales at Valleywag, the Gawker's Silicon Valley focused sub-site that was destroyed with the mother blog after the 2016 Hulk Hogan/Peter Thiel legal victory over Nick Denton. Jimmy Wales is strongly suspected to be the "Colonelpanic" who tried to match wits with Marsden in 2008. There is also the Valleywag article around the same time on Erik Möller's defense of pedophila, complete with his creeper glasses and "come to my windowless van for candy, children" haircut.

Other Elements

Somewhere along the line Danny Wool revealed that Wales wasted WMF funds on "entertainment", whatever that was. Thanks to the power of non-disclosure agreements, a lot of this stuff is being buried by the passage of time; for example we still don't really know who Essjay was, there is much evidence to doubt that he was actually a "Ryan Jordan." Supposedly Carolyn Doran isn't under a non-disclosure agreement and yet we have heard not a peep from her (the humiliation probably outweighs any possible "kiss and tell" book).





Saturday, September 23, 2017

Addendum on YouTube

As long as we are in a timeframe where we are focused on YouTube, we should talk about the things going on with it right now.

Google is getting weird with YouTube

Right now YouTube is going through the "Adpocalypse" where they have been cutting advertising revenue on certain channels, forcing the affected people to get into the e-begging circus of Patreon, always living in the shadow of Chapo Trap House, the podcast that brings in the most money on the service. That situation has been going on since February and it's now become "the new normal." Business Insider pointed out in 2015 that Google (or Alphabet, Inc. to be exact now) made no real money off of YouTube, and that issue hasn't changed. It is really expensive to run a video storage/streaming website, and YouTube has a number of issues, as this Dan Olson (Folding Ideas) video points out while also nailing the new site VidMe*:


This annoying SEO/Internet branding stuff has become a big deal because YouTube corporate is now seeing itself as this Internet version of a premier cable network (!) and they want everything to be "advertiser friendly", so they have created things like "restricted modes" while not increasing the levels of severity and other settings ("granularity"). YouTube has a massive problem in who "the face" of the site is; Felix  Kjellberg, aka Pewdiepie, who became a millionaire playing video games on YouTube and is now screwing that up because he likes making Nazi jokes and saying racist statements while livestreaming. Jim Sterling  discusses these issues from an insider's perspective in this video (forward it to 8:28):


.....And he's totally right, because we've never had Internet video before, we have no true historical precedents - thus the probability of regulation becomes a thing and YouTube videos will wind up with a system like movie or TV ratings....all overseen by 'bots because Alphabet, Inc. is too cheap to hire humans in America or elsewhere to look over stuff because allegedly a thousand terabytes of data hit YouTube's servers a day, and they would be forced to hire an army of video watchers.

Where is this going?

I have nary a clue, much like Stuart Ashen talking about his YouTube career.....YouTube might just be sold off in the end because the upkeep is just too damned expensive and any ad revenue will never cover operations. That is the downfall of having advertising pay for platforms and websites, and having lived through the rise and fall of the "New Economy", I can easily see this version of the Internet go under.

_________________________

* I've seen a lot of people from the Channel Awesome ghetto use VidMe as an alternate space to keep videos online and under their control that YouTube flagged or removed outright (their most ancient way of dealing with "problem videos") which is why Brad Jones ("The Cinema Snob") has a channel there, as does Bennett White ("Anime Abandon") and so do others....Todd Nathanson ("Todd in the Shadows") uses Vimeo for the same trick. All to hedge a bet that robots at YouTube will take down videos sooner or later.

We broke the 100,000 view mark at the beginning of this month, right now we are sitting at 102,016 views! Thanks to all our readers around the world!


                               Above: Every separate IP that has looked at this blog.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Stuff That has Nothing to do With Wikipedia: The Politics of YouTube

This is a story about a video-streaming/video-storage website (Internet people call it "a platform") that became popular, was bought out by Google, grew even more popular, and then a section of the video producers ("content creators") and the commenters noisily went insane. Some of it had to do with Anita Sarkeesian and GamerGate, some of it with a resurgent feminism during the Obama years and the "mens' rights" backlash that came with it, some of it with this march to the Right that happened in the last few years of the Obama administration.

An Anti-History of YouTube

You can go to Jimbo's Jungle to find an actual history of YouTube, but literally it was just three employees of everyone's favorite buggy cash-transfer website PayPal creating the YT website while working in a jury-rigged office above a sushi restaurant and a pizzeria in San Mateo, California. Steve Chen, Jawed Karim, and Chad Hurley were able to get "angel investors" to pay for their idea, and Jawad Karim appeared in the first YouTube video, shot at the San Diego Zoo.

                             

That video appeared on the site in April 23, 2005. We bring it up because notice that Karim and his cameraman (high school buddy Yakov Lapitsky) are at the sort of place families go and where home movies are shot - it's one of my beliefs about the founders of YouTube is that they didn't understand just what sort of AV stuff would get put on the site. Early on there were no time restrictions, so one maniac spent hours uploading the Coleman Francis clunker The Beast of Yucca Flats in March of 2006. Why? Because the version that ran on Mystery Science Theater 3000 was under copyright.




And that was during the early period, before Google bought the platform in October of 2006, cut down the upload time for videos down to ten minutes (something that did not go away for years), and before the ads began showing up on videos. Of course the site grew by leaps and bounds before Google took it over and it grew even more under the Crayon G, which allowed the site to diversify: parts of it are a video junkdrawer of high-school and college basic videography and animation class projects, some of it is (obnoxious) combat footage left over from the US occupation of Iraq, some of it are entire movies illegally uploaded, parts of it are utterly bizarre crap, and then there are the one-person-talking-into-a-camera "channels" focused on a number of topics (Jim Sterling's "Jimquisition" video-game reviews are a good example). That's what allows YouTube to be political beyond the clips of news shows, late night talk shows, and recordings of speeches - just ordinary people talking about politics, and it has been fascinating to see that change over time.

Thunderf00t

Phil Mason (aka "Thunderf00t") has gone through a long transformation from "atheist fighting YouTube Creationists" to "angry man ranting on YouTube about Anita Sarkeesian" - and let it never be forgotten that Phillip E. Mason is a working scientist who has published papers. So I don't know why he was wasting time on YouTube. Pretty much there was a war on YouTube between the Fundamentalist Christian Creationists and the atheists/pro-science crowd during the final years of the tottering/slowly imploding Bush II administration, provoked by all the faith promotion done in George W. Bush's first term, and shored up* by movies like Idiocracy (2006) and Religulous (2008). It didn't help that there was a general belief that 20th Century Fox "abandoned" Idiocracy upon release by under-promoting it and not having a critic's screening. But back to Thunderf00t....one of his first set of videos was titled "Why do people laugh at creationists?" and in it he went after then-topical Creationist Kent Hovind, aka "Dr. Dino":




In fact the "creationists" videos are still coming and he is now up to forty-five of them. Below is his newest, ranting about Ken Ham's Noah's Ark theme park:


Where I first heard about Thunderf00t was his war with a wannabe Fundamentalist preacher/Creationist called VenomFangX (Shawn Karon, a Canadian [!] of all things), which was an extremely complicated multi-year street fight where Karon would pull DMCA takedowns of videos, be pimp-slapped by Mason and a fellow Briton named dprjones (himself running a war against that faith healer/late-night cable TV shyster Peter Popoff) plus other now-obscure YouTubers like FactsvsReligion. Here is VenomFangX doing an awful Heath Ledger Joker impression because that was the then-current way YouTube dipshits told people off:


Thunderf00t has an entire playlist of how Shawn Karon was browbeaten into submission and forced off YouTube (of course, just like Peter Popoff, he returned.....because he was too smarmy to be a used car salesman). And that was the second time VenomFangX was kicked off YouTube. Here is PhilHellenes lecturing Shawn Karon's father (just because he could):


I could also mention the series of videos Mason did with Creationist Ray Comfort, but that would drag us further off target. What dragged Phil Mason into the crazy world of GamerGate was the onrush of accusations in the Obama years that some of the big names in organized atheism/"Freethought"/skepticism liked being cads with any women who showed up to conferences, including "The Amaz!ng Meeting"** (now-defunct) run by the James Randi Educational Foundation (not doing too well itself). Also you have the wonderful Islamophobia of Richard Dawkins (and he managed to drag in the 2009 Rebecca Watson "Elevatorgate" issue as well) which first exploded onto the scene in 2011. (Watson wrote about the incident in 2012.) Thunderf00t decided to blame the entire debacle and the long aftermath of blogposts, email chains, and online video with his own take....which was to pull a Julius Evola and double down, claiming that is the feminists that are wrecking the show (and he did a series on it, of course.)


Above is the first of seven videos....before that he was involved with PZ Myers' FreethoughtBlogs website, and that fell apart. So whatever it was that pushed him down that path, he has decided that this is the way to go, even though we are sure it's costing him at work. Meanwhile former (erstwhile?) partner in crime Dick Coughlin recently spent an hour ripping it all apart:


Where it all started to go under was March 2013, when he made the video below, giving vent to the subjects he would spend the next four years and counting ranting about: Anita Sarkeesian, feminism in media, and why it's all a scam or intellectually vapid or scientifically vapid or Something. (You figure it out.)


He now has seventy-five videos on this one subject and Sarkeesian is part of all of them. I could give a long, rambling explanation for why Thunderf00t does what he does, but a British man has done a better job than any I could do:


Thank you, Harris Bomberguy! We'll see him again in this, don't worry.

I would like to state that, while I was not a fan of Phil Mason, seeing his ability to reason rot like an egg in broken refrigerator has been utterly horrifying. This is what happens when ideology replaces critical thought and obsessions outstrip balance.

Jason Pullara

Also known as "LordKaT", Jason Pullara first came to my attention years ago, when he had a show called "Until We Win" on the Internet review aggregator site Channel Awesome (formerly "That Guy With the Glasses" - a reference to Doug Walker, the sweatshop site owner). At the time (2007-2011) Doug and his brother Rob Walker were getting as many YouTube reviewers as possible to come over, transfer their videos to Blip.tv, and "get exposure."*** Pullara was just one of those people, and unlike most, he ditched his show to do internet streaming, usually talking to people on Skype (he calls it LordKaT Live!). I'm not a fan  of these videos, mainly because Pullara occasionally belches into the microphone. Here is the old version of LordKaT playing the Nintendo version of Ghostbusters on an emulator (it's a re-upload from a fan):


Here he is a few years later on his stream, ranting about Noah "TheSpoonyOne" Antwiler. Spoony was the reason I stumbled on this ghetto Twilight Zone of online "entertainment" - he hosted Brad "The Cinema Snob" Jones' videos for a short time while Jones was setting up his Cinema Snob homepage because Jones had been booted off YouTube for a copyright strike (the jagoffs who own Nailgun Massacre didn't like his review). Spoony predated Channel Awesome slightly with videos, though he had written for the role-playing game magazine Knights of the Dinner Table before that. LordKaT is mostly ranting about Spoony's comedic screaming of "BETRAYAL" over a new version of XCOM at E3 2010 (it's a videogame convention; XCOM is a game series), and somehow that kept Jason Pullara from meeting a game developer he wanted to pitch ideas to (because he wanted to leave the reviewing ghetto and make games instead). He also mocks Antweiler's semi-standup that he did for fans at a convention. It's all very petty, and you get to hear an hour of it.


Here is his YouTube channel; he has now decided to change the name of his show to Drop Dead Cynical, but we're not interested in that. Here he is this Spring ranting abut Brianna Wu's fundraising for her Congressional run, which he thinks is a scam. (Brianna Wu was/is one of the targets in GamerGate.)


He also spent time in 2015 riffing on Doug Walker's semi-failed gameshow Pop Quiz Hotshot. He also ranted about Walker complaining about getting a DMCA copyright strike in January 2016. The reason why I bring LordKaT up is that he went for GamerGate in a big way:


If you do a search for GamerGate on Pullara's channel, you get a long list of videos; some of them have GamerGate in the title, some are tagged that way. And the more thoughtful parts of Youtube are noticing, such as this Dan Olson "Folding Ideas" video from October 2014 (skip to 7:05 to see Jason Pullara named alongside people like Davis Aurini and Phil Mason):


....And that's as much as I am willing to write about LordKaT.

The Amazing Atheist

Thomas James "TJ" Kirk III, aka The Amazing Atheist (RationalWiki overview; Encyclopaedia Dramatica semi-satirical takedown) is, like Phil Mason, one of the older YouTubers still working on the site; he started in 2006. In the 2007-2008 time period if you typed "atheist" the choice was either him or Pat Condell ranting in an unfinished room of his house (or was it his garden shed?) At this point TJ has thousands of videos out there, many of them mirrored by fans because the originals were yanked by YouTube, and you can watch him in almost real time shift from from Libertarian to moderate liberal Democrat all while still denouncing feminism. Here is a video that was the basis for a remix video that was part of the old ED article on Kirk:


That was from some time in 2008 or 2009 because he's talking about the Great Recession before he coins the word the video is known for, "nigggot" which he wanted applied to fans of Billy Ray Cyrus and Miley Cyrus or the fandom of the entire Cyrus family, he wasn't sure.

The Amazing Atheist early on got into a lot of online arguments, including with Pekka-Eric Auvinen, the Finnish teenager who later carried out the Jokela High School shooting in Finland in 2007. Auvinen was Sturmgeist89 on YouTube. Shades of Pat Condell, TJ Kirk did an angry response video in his garage, a video that TJ Kirk flagged so that remote playback on other sites is impossible (you can do that as a YT channel operator).

From 2009 to 2011 he also made videos for TGWTG/Channel Awesome under the name The Distressed Watcher; his show was called Trailer Failure and he ranted about movies. They were all on Blip and some of them were mirrored (by fans) on YouTube, like this rant about Kevin Smith's nullity of a film Cop Out. He talks about what happened to his show in the video below:


 When the Paul Feig version of Ghostbusters became a massive online shitstorm last year, TJ Kirk was there every time it got slightly interesting. And when the movie hit video, he and his friend Paul Zego did a running commentary in the style of a reaction video where the movie ran in a small box in the corner, but they did it on Vimeo to try to dodge the copyright 'bots, and they charged three dollars to see it. That video has vanished, though I did see a copy on YT (also since vanished) and they were mostly smoking dope and commenting on how the lighting was wrong for a horror comedy. Below is the only online proof they made the video:


I think it is obvious that TJ Kirk will be making videos on YouTube until he dies or the site dies, whichever comes first.

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a human face ranting on YouTube—for ever.” 

I am certain the YouTube addicts are wondering why Sargon of Akkad and Mr. Metokur weren't mentioned, and the reason is that they are the foreseeable future of this style of online AM talk radio. Also, they both give me hives.


Here is more of H. Bomberguy talking about the related Pick-Up Artist movement which runs alongside the Men's Rights movement that overlaps with GamerGate. If you skip to 7:58 you will get to see Dan Olson recount how he infiltrated a Roosh V forum meetup in Canada. Below is a video H. Bomberguy did on Carl "Sargon of Akkad" Benjamin:


Finally, this:


And yes those goofy hats actually existed, but you can't buy them now:



______________________________________________

* There was this general sense that Bush II was sucking us into a Second Coming for the Moral Majority, 1980s abortion protest politics fused with the patriotic fury unleashed after September 11, 2001. It fell apart pretty quickly after Hurricane Katrina, the numerous failures of the "Global War on Terror", and the Wall Street collapse of 2007.

** We had to get that ephemeral MastCell connection in there somehow, not that he had anything to do with Rebecca Watson, Michael Shermer, et. al.

*** People were not paid by Walker - they were paid through Blip.tv which let ads run so the videos could be monetized. I still do not understand the Walkers' business model, though the rumors of their on-set behavior during the making of their bad satire "film" Kickassia (2010) have been hilarious to read. (Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug says they are lies. Delicious, delicious lies.)

Before the Lolcow people complain, yes we know that Thunderf00t has a Kiwi Farms messageboard thread, and that the one for The Amazing Atheist is longer because it's years older.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

End of the Summer Grab Bag

We have made it past the 100 post mark, and we will shortly have 100,000 views. Unlike last summer, this has not been an easy ride, for a number of reasons.

"He went AWOL for two months, sir", the Sergent said.

Thanks to computer issues since resolved, we could not work on the blog during the crucial May and June months, a period that would be a good bet for when Wikipedia finally closes shop and the WMF staff slinks out of San Fransisco with the millions taped to their bodies. Suffice it to say, that won't happen again.


Pointless Drama

The little world of Wikipedia criticism keeps getting roiled by things; in the last month it was HRA1924, which is the collective account of a group claiming to be part of the India Against Corruption movement within India. On the Wikipedia Sucks! board one or more of them was going under the name Moneypenny (with an avatar taken from Wikipedia of Lois Maxwell as the James Bond character), after that was banned, they were using the creative title Username3 (also banned). Of course they were involved with en.Wikipedia, which has a "long-term abuse" page on the group, and a list of the sockpuppets they were using:


Wikipedia claims the group's MO is the following:
  • Primary target is India Against Corruption but also people and political parties mentioned in the article, Indian journalists, and Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (and its related articles). Since October 2014 this has extended to articles mentioning both the words "India" and "Corruption", e.g. this one and this one, and then to articles on Indian topics which are the subject of controversies/edit wars.
  • Repeated assertions that all independently published sources which do not support their claims are hoaxes or written by corrupt journalists.
  • Repeated references to cartels/cabals of compromised Wikipedia administrators
  • Extensive use of legal threats directed at both the WMF and individual editors
  • Extreme harassment both on and off-wiki, attempts at outing, demands to know the real-life identity of editors.
  • Tactic as of 2014 has been to launch various claims of copyright violation, impersonation, defamation, sexual harassment, paid editing, racism, pornography, forgery, and "violations of terms of use" on:
In September 2014, much of this was done via accounts claiming to represent the company "Name Defend", which in turn claims to legally represent "India Against Corruption 2", but whose website was created the day before the first Name Defend account was created and is registered to the National Convenor of "India Against Corruption 2" (background here).
  • Engage in off-wiki canvassing and mail list spamming via "Wikimedia India Editors Forum"/"Wikimedia XYZ editor forums", which have no connection whatsoever to the WMF or to the official Wikimedia India chapter (see here and here) and via blogs and Google Groups impersonating other Wikimedia initiatives.
They call the group "India Against Corruption 2" because they claim it isn't the original one (the original split in half after existing from 2011 to 2012 and they both went in different directions). We decided to copypaste all of the above so you can see what the list of alleged sockpuppets looked like at the end of August 2017; knowing Wikipedia, this list might change or vanish entirely.


The other thing, somewhat related is that Auggie's Wikipedia Review was yanked by ProBoards this last week. Allegedly some of the takedown had to do with HRA1924 writing insane stuff similar to:

Hey guys -- I'm Carlos the Jackal. I'm an international terrorist and am gonna blow up the WMF office in San Fran. Just thought I'd let you know so you can stay clear of the area and avoid collateral damage. 

Auggie banned them, but the board vanished anyway. The Dark Knight tried to ask the ProBoards people on their complaints forum about transparency, and it did not go well:

Is anyone here actually aware of any occasion when the abuse department has responded with anything other than a pointless form letter after deleting a forum citing Section 25(a), which of course gives them carte blanche to delete a forum for "any reason at all" (said form letter simply reminds the victim this is the case). Since the reason for my post is that I have never heard of it occurring yet, despite two pretty big forums being yanked in this fashion, and with all emails to the abuse department having been brushed off with form letters failing to give a reason, which is all anyone is after (presumably so they can take retaliatory legal action against the reporter), I would appreciate not being directed to mail the abuse department. A simple "no" would suffice as an answer, if that is the case. Or if "yes", some idea of the case in question (no identifying details needed, obviously), as I doubt it could have involved the loss of more data or the annoyance of more customers than the two cases I am aware of. If this is standard operating procedure for ProBoards, I am amazed you get any custom, and can only presume it is because your Support documentation doesn't give fair warning to customers signing up that this is how the business operates.
- The Dark Knight (as "darkknightthe")

Which was responded to by Scott the ProBoards Admin:


Is anyone here actually aware of any occasion when the abuse department has responded with anything other than a pointless form letter after deleting a forum citing Section 25(a), which of course gives them carte blanche to delete a forum for "any reason at all" (said form letter simply reminds the victim this is the case).

Yes - I have been witness to this.

Since the reason for my post is that I have never heard of it occurring yet, despite two pretty big forums being yanked in this fashion, and with all emails to the abuse department having been brushed off with form letters failing to give a reason, which is all anyone is after (presumably so they can take retaliatory legal action against the reporter), I would appreciate not being directed to mail the abuse department. A simple "no" would suffice as an answer, if that is the case. Or if "yes", some idea of the case in question (no identifying details needed, obviously), as I doubt it could have involved the loss of more data or the annoyance of more customers than the two cases I am aware of. If this is standard operating procedure for ProBoards, I am amazed you get any custom, and can only presume it is because your Support documentation doesn't give fair warning to customers signing up that this is how the business operates.

Our Terms of Service are very clear on what is expected and these terms are agreed to when a forum is created.  If someone chooses to not adhere, then that is their choice.  And unless a forum is so egregious in their violation of the Terms of Service that deletion is inevitable, admins are notified of any infraction and given the chance to rectify it.


Your thread title speaks of transparency and yet your "first" time here and first post broaches this topic?  Seems there may be more to the story.

The Dark Knight's response:

Your terms are indeed very clear - forums can be deleted for "any reason at all", so talk of egregious violations is nonsensical, particularly when no reason is given except to refer back to "any reason at all" - a customer cannot egregiously violate an open ended term, whose application is decided entirely by the enforcer, as any logician would point out. And if this is the unspoken rule, understood by people like yourself, but not the poor saps who sign up for a forum here, then it might be worth clarifying it in your support documentation and these pointless form letters, which certainly make no mention of egregious violations (of your open ended terms) as the reason for wholesale and unrecoverable deletion. It seems the only people who think these violations are so obvious and unworthy of being pointed out, are the abuse department. They might need to rethink their strategy, as due to these deletions, ProBoard's reputation is now in the toilet in the community these particular forums cater for (and happily still do, on an independent and proudly 'not ProBoards' footing). Indeed, ProBoards are being seen as complicit in preventing legal action being taken against the people who either complained or posted whatever it was that was seen to be egregious, by being so reluctant to identify reasons (because naturally, knowing the reason would identify the person or persons guilty of endangering a forum). Not that it is really possible to endanger a forum whose existence is solely at the discretion of people who think "any reason at all" is a perfectly reasonable Term of Use that any sane person would willingly sign up to in advance. They would not.

And then he posted again:

As for transparency, there is nothing more to this that what was outlined - to my knowledge, the abuse department has twice blown off forum owners with a form letter after a 25(a) board deletion, which pointlessly refers them back to the rule which refers board owners to their error in signing up for a service where "any reason at all" is considered a fair and reasonable, never mind legally enforceable, term of use. It is not, not from the standpoint of reasonableness. Certainly not when the reason is not given. You would be well within your rights to delete a forum for any reason at all if you really thought that commercially wise, just as board owners are well within their rights to decide your stated reason is unreasonable and merits further action. You appear to be avoiding this possibility merely by deliberately avoiding giving a reason. Hence the call for transparency. I appreciate the natural response then is to try to turn the tables and accuse the accuser, but I owe you now such courtesy, especially since I am not the owner(s) in question, thus have no say in the matter according to your own oft repeated policy here. I'm just a very interested observer, and sometime media commentator.

Which got a response from Kami:

A vast majority of Terms of Service for various services come with a clause that states either party -- the Service and the User -- is able to terminate their agreement at any time for any reason. It is a frequent part of contract writing to allow a clause that would allow one or both parties to terminate the relationship without breech of contract.

If you are under the impression that "no one" would sign up for something with these terms, then my supposition has to be that the people included in this do not read the TOS of a Service prior to registration otherwise they would not have registered.

Additionally, ProBoards clearly outlines prohibited content and uses in their TOS. I have personally received warnings to fix prohibited content, which PB is always reasonable about when the forum purpose as a whole does not countermand the terms outlined in the service agreement.

ProBoards would be foolish to arbitrarily remove forums based on unfounded accusations because it's a loss of revenue. If a forum is removed without warning, it is either a) because the warnings sent to the admin account were unheeded; or b) because the entire purpose of the forum went against, or intended to go against, the terms of service.

There are also legal ramifications to disclosing the reasons behind a termination of contract to persons who are not involved in said contract. Without the ability to verify identity, and without legal representation on behalf of the querent, ProBoards can open itself up to legal trouble if they responded to emailed demands for an explanation.

If you are under the impression, or are confident you "know" the reasons a forum is entirely removed, then you must have better contacts than I in the 12 years that I have used this service.

Finally Scott got the last word:



It is clearly obvious that you are one of those individuals who does not read terms of service or does so after the fact in an effort to justify an action you should not have done.

Our terms are quite in line with other social sites. In fact a competitor of ours has this in their terms:

"_____ Forum Hosting, may at its sole discretion, terminate any Customer and their site for any reason or no reason.
_____ Forum Hosting is not required to tell any Customer why their account was terminated."


While I can appreciate your attempt to besmudge ProBoards, blithering on with nothing constructive to say is pointless and does not belong on this Support Board - which you would know if you, again, read the rules of this board.


I'm locking this thread as it's not appropriate for this board and offers no constructive help in using the forum software (the intent of this board).  If you have concerns about the process used by the Abuse Department, then I suggest you contact them via email at a-----e@p--------s.com

Thank you.

In full disclosure, I should write that I had dealings with Kami, possibly Scott, when the ProBoards version of the WS! board was trashed, and they were just as unhelpful then as now. Probably it is impossible to use ProBoards for Wikipedia work, possibly because there are links between the two.

Auggie now has a board here.


"And that's the waaay the news goes!"

This is the world we live in online, where you can't run a board criticizing a nearly-dead Internet encyclopedia project for fear of having it taken down if you don't have the cash to have your own server space. This is absolutely lame. Wikipedia is sixteen years old (which is 10,000 years in Internet time) and yet still commands such respect from the internet business community it's astounding.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Guest Post: Wikipedia is a (Broken) Hippie Commune

WIKIPEDIA IS A (BROKEN) HIPPIE COMMUNE

by E. A. Barbour

While reading this recent article in Sonoma County’s lifestyle magazine, I realized Wikipedia is running in a similar way to two counterculture communal groups, both established in western Sonoma County in 1966, a year before San Francisco’s notorious “Summer of Love”.

Wheeler Ranch and Morning Star Ranch were among the first "hippie communes" in the world. They were both started by (obviously egotistical) gents with commendable ideas of freedom and love (maaan). What they started, soon attracted too much attention, and then too many people. Some of them proved to be very bad people – petty thieves, liars, sex and drug addicts, the violence-prone, and so forth. The normal “filters” that a human society creates to prevent collapse were not followed in these early communes. I can easily picture Lou Gottleib, sitting naked in a yurt, spluttering “We don’t need the outside world! We don’t need laws and taxes and money!” I can also picture him saying “We don’t need ‘experts’, either”…..
 
Then both these pioneering communities self-destructed in an ugly and public fashion, as the founders fought with county government and the sheriff’s office over the problems that were denied to be “problems”. Thousands of other communes have been started around the world since then -- and most of them have eventually failed. “The Farm” in Tennessee is one of the very few to survive more than 40 years. Occasional media stories about communal living often mention their economic struggles—the outside world always ends up intruding.

Wikipedia represents a clear online parallel to communes. It is following a similar curve of idealism, massive growth, political problems (and denial thereof), and collapse, although it's doing it more slowly than most 1960s communes. It was also established along libertarian lines, allegedly free of government or taxes or censorship. Most Wikipedia content writers appear to be reasonably honorable people, yet there are unquestionably some troublemakers writing biased content. And their all-volunteer administration has always contained a number of raving liars, crackpots and persons not on Wikipedia for honorable reasons. It started with Jimbo making administrators out of bad people who then installed other bad people. And even after 17 years and numerous scandals, bad people continue to edit and to try to control it. The only things keeping Wikipedia alive are annual infusions of cash from millions of their well-propagandized readers; and ruthless propagandizing.

One thing was most prominent to me: the comment about Kevin Kelly's 85%-15% rule struck a nerve. We kept seeing approximate 85-15 balances in our statistical studies of WP content and the behavior of its "community", and in the comments of others. Allow me to quote an appendix I originally wrote in 2013 for the book I co-authored about Wikipedia’s history. Four major examples of that roughly-85%-15% split are given.

“How do Wikipedia articles break down by size? Since the available WMF statistics do not tell us very much, the authors decided to take a sample of 200 completely random articles and sort them by length, into four categories: stubs, “short” (less than 10k bytes and therefore probably not complete for many academic subjects), and “long” (more than 10k bytes), plus those odd little things called “disambiguation pages”, which are used to cover a name shared by more than one article, and are commonly considered to be “bureaucratic overhead”…...About 39% of English Wikipedia appears to be stubs, 36% are less than 10k bytes (about 1700 words), and 7% are disambiguation pages. So, only 17% of Wikipedia's items (perhaps 650,000 articles) are likely to be of useful length.”

Association football (soccer) dominates Wikipedia. If biographies of football players are included, it appears that football makes up the largest single specific subject area on all of English Wikipedia, a staggering 13% of the entire database of 5-million-plus articles. It is most ironic that the American-invented and American-dominated English Wikipedia is obsessed with the world's biggest non-American sport.”

Because Wikipedia is the “encyclopedia anyone can edit”, inevitably some people will write their own biographies, or hire someone to do so. And they have done so. The biography sample was read, and some rough notes were taken of the bias of each of the living people, positive or negative. This is a contentious area, so these figures can be viewed only as rough guesses. However, it appears that about 15% of Wikipedia BLPs are overly positive, and are likely to have been edited by their subjects or by representatives of their subjects.”

“Finally, in 2010, the nabobs of Wikipedia began to admit they had problems. In November, Wikimedia Foundation director Sue Gardner posted on her personal blog something she had mentioned before: that a WMF study had shown that very few women were editing Wikipedia, only 13% of editors were female. Some media coverage resulted. Yet the percentage of women continued to decline, according to another study in June 2011. By way of comparison, we have estimated that about 95% of Wikipedia's active administrators are men.”

Personally speaking I can’t manage to say anything nice about Kelly. As the founding editor of WIRED magazine, he was a mainspring and cheerleader for the magical purity of the “digital world”. He was previously an editor at the Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review, two of hippiedom’s primary mouthpieces—so he straddles two very different worlds, that evolved to resemble each other. He pontificated and spewed about the Internet being a “perfectly free cyberplace” and not subject to pesky things like laws, taxes and economics.

Yet only eight years after WIRED started, and six years after the Internet was opened to the general public, the booming dot-com industry melted down in 2000-2001. Later startup businesses (Google, Facebook, Twitter etc.) were far more ruthless and learned from the foolish hippie mistakes of the pioneers. Kevin Kelly, no longer pontificating at WIRED, is currently a “freelance genius” taking fat speaking fees. Just like Jimbo Wales.

Unlike Wales, Kelly enjoys a fanboy-written biography on Wikipedia that is carefully watched and is always totally free of negative information. The Wales bio is currently more than ten times as long as Kelly’s bio, and despite efforts by insiders to keep it happy, it now has two “Controversies” sections. Because not everyone on Wikipedia loves him. And in spite of a 10-year-and-continuing program to hire Wikipedia volunteer insiders at the Wikimedia Foundation to “keep them happy”, squabbling and “purges” are still commonplace. Sex? Ask me about Wikimedia Commons sometime.

They could not escape the “real world”, money, censorship, and other things that cool hippies don’t need, maaan. The freaks in this commune are becoming unhappy. The fires have already started; it’s probably only a matter of time before the bulldozers show up.


Monday, July 31, 2017

"Never mind that shit....Here comes Mongo!"

Now that we have survived seven months and counting under the incompetent-thuggish presidency of Donald John Trump, we should talk about the thuggish goonery of MONGO, the outsider member of the Cabal and spiritual grandfather to Wiki-cops like Tyler van Wormer (Tiptoety). He had endless fights with Encyclopaedia Dramatica, to the point where ED has multiple pages on MONGO, because he has vandalized their site, possibly while at work, a thing he claimed he did while editing Wikipedia articles.

What Little We Know About Him 

Pretty much he was Ron Swanson before that Parks and Recreation character existed; right-wing and a Federal government employee, he claimed to be working for the Department of Homeland Security in some unspecified role, and a US Park Service Ranger before that. According to ED, as a ranger he had worked at the Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, and Shenandoah national parks, had never traveled outside of the United States (though he had traveled extensively through America), and possibly lived somewhere in Nebraska or Illinois. Encyclopaedia Dramatica accused him of using the IP address 68.13.87.131 to vandalize their wiki during the Bush II years, and that geolocates to Omaha, Nebraska.

MONGO was/is a hater of Muslims (example from his blog), would fly into fits of rage if anybody on Wikipedia talked about September 11th conspiracies, liked to make threats on Wikipedia, had a massive block log in 2005-6. For his Islamophobia, Jayjg was a supporter, and he got help from Tony Sidaway during his long edit wars on September 11th-related articles, and he got support from fellow conservatives Tom_harrison and Robert Djurdjevic.

                                                    Possible Image of MONGO?

The Damage Done

MONGO showed up in January of 2005 to edit the George W. Bush BLP and do work on certain national park articles but by the summer of that year it had become screamingly obvious that he didn't get along with a large number of editors....though that is hard to track because MONGO decided to play hardball and rev-delete or oversight his past edits at points, as with the talk page of Karwynn:

Additionally, see this [http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard/Incidents&diff=prev&oldid=64975291] Same story here. He did not block him for poor judgement in that comment. He blocked him for alleged '''deliberate trollery.''' This is entirely inappropriate, considering the lengths both Hardvice and I have gone to show that our actions are in good faith, even if we are wrong. Tony Sidaway is not allowing anyone to question MONGO's judgement, despite having very concrete reasons to do so, which most have made abundantly clear, even if they were ignored by Tony. Tony Sidaway is not fit to be blocking people for these reasons and ought to recuse himself and let someone else review these blocks. Maybe someone who is willing to follow [[WP:AGF]] should take a look at this. [[User:Karwynn|Karwynn]] [[User_Talk:Karwynn|(talk)]] 17:54, 21 July 2006 (UTC)
To which MONGO responded:

*You know what, I think I will now delete the history of those IP's just so you stay curious. I suppose I need to get an account at ED and tell them it is me so they can then do a checkuser and then you'll see that it is the one and only time I logged into there. ''But'', the problem is, I don't want those guys posting my true IP on the article that is over there about me. Don't you think I would have either gone into that website myself or had one of my "friends" take care of it if it was my IP...think.--[[User:MONGO|MONGO]] 18:00, 21 July 2006 (UTC)

His real use was as a hatchet-man for "the Cabal" (Mantanmoreland/Gary Weiss,  JzG/Guy Chapman, Tracy Walker, Fred Bauder, William McWhinney, Raymond Arritt, SlimVirgin/Sarah McEwan/Linda Mack, Philip Sandifer, etc.) and they backed him up in return. Bizarrely, MONGO got his first Request for adminship in November of 2005 - and he was allowed to be an administrator. If the reader looks at the comments of opposing voters, they will see a large number of strikethroughs and reversals - people were pressured to let MONGO emerge into Wikipedia leadership like Godzilla walking out of Tokyo Bay in 1954.

After a year of fighting people over the Collapse of World Trade Center article, he went through his first Request for comment "hearing" in June of 2006 which he was allowed to censor (!), then there was the first Request for arbitration in November of 2006, which was supposed to be about Seabhcan, but like the best Alice in Wonderland trials it sucked in MONGO and both were stripped of their admin powers, Seabhcan for piddling reasons and MONGO for his personality and actions. There was a second Rfc in April 2007 over 9/11 conspiracy editing, which he was fighting tooth and nail. Just to show what a pain-in-the-ass he is to the Wikipedia system, he had YET ANOTHER Rfc in November of 2007, this time over the BADSITES nonsense. He was never blocked, just reprimanded, eveen though he remains the King of the POV Pushers. He tried to do a Request for adminship in January 2008 and November 2012 and was turned down both times - Wikipedia post-Essjay was no longer so tolerant of known problem users getting back into administration.

Of course there was MONGO's brown-nosing, he said nice things about Guy Chapman in a 2008 RFC, Tony Sidaway in a 2005 RFC, about Bishonen in his second RFC in the summer of 2007, and Cyde's 2006 RFC. He even defended Arbcom twice!

The Outside World pays attention

Besides Encylopaedia Dramatica, MONGO was discussed on Wikipediocracy's messageboard before they let him join (!) about two years ago. The nearly-dead original Wikipedia Review once had an entire subforum dedicated to him, but they deleted it in 2009 "because he wasn't important." That said there are still threads like: example one, example two, example three, example four, example five.....the notes I got from Mr. Barbour have at least fifteen links about MONGO from WR alone. I am surprised that Mother Jones magazine didn't do an "Angry Right-wing Editors of Wikipedia" article ten years ago featuring MONGO like they did one of Richard Spencer last year. He deserves to be known outside of WikiWorld, just like how Manos: the 'Hands' of Fate (1966) should be shown to film students as an example of how to not make a movie.

                                       You knew we had to put this in, it was inevitable.