Friday, February 26, 2016

When It Rains, It Pours: Lila Tretikov and Oliver "Ironholds" Keyes Leave the WMF

Well I was dead wrong - Lila did not get her "standard three years" to exit, they gave her the boot on February 25th, though she will stay until March 31st. Jumping ship two days earlier, Oliver Keyes posted his snippy resignation letter on the Wikimedia-1 email list; his last day will be on March 18th. Jimmy Wales is trying to play white knight/Champion of Wikipedia by flying into San Fran and rallying the troops, but he is quietly dumping the blame on Tretikov ("we are hopefully entering a new era of stability and productivity" - i.e., trying to make that dysfunctional mess work was too much for Jimbo's cronies.)

                                                         Jimbo to the rescue!

Things are finally coming to a head: the drop in editors has prompted the creation of a secret search engine either called "Discovery" or the "Knowledge Engine" (that Vice Motherboard article in the above link claims that Dr. James Heilman was canned for trying to leak documents proving the SE project was a reality.) The (unpaid, volunteer) editors are happier sock hunting, wiki-lawyering, and accomplishing other timewasters than curating this massive collection of stuff into a halfway-decent encyclopedia. The general consensus is that the WMF is rudderless and bobbing around on a massive sea of cash. Wales has divorced himself from the day to day running of Wikipedia, so it has no real driving force. Either Wikipedia grows into something more useful than it is, or the entire thing dies from insularity. In any case, Coren is probably beside himself with joy.


I can't beat Encyclopaedia Dramatica's article on Keyes. Hell, we barely wrote about the guy when he was at the WMF; he was one of those "get around to it" projects that is now obsolete. What we can say is that he used IRC (internet relay chat) to fight wars he shouldn't have started and created enemies he didn't need (like Badmachine.) I'm certain he will hang around Wikipedia forever, either inside the website under a sock or on IRC as himself, and Wikipedia deserves him.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wikipedia Systems Outside Wikipedia: The Bad Webcomics Wiki

One of those lesser Wikis that isn't a Wikia site, the Bad Webcomics Wiki has been around since 2009 at it's present location, but the previous version goes back to 2008, when it was built on Wikidot (it is now a Shoutwiki site.) It was part of the "Web 2.0" lurch towards doing criticism websites of anything and everything; their wheelhouse was/is online-only comics (unless the artist works double shifts at Kinkos to pay for some crap web publisher to process their website into 10,000 softbound cartoon collections that wind up in thrift stores within a decade.) One of the better people involved in webcomic reviews at the time was John Solomon (alias; name unknown), who ran Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad, and his reviews were put on BWW without his permission. The site admin (a standard non-entity called "The Luigiian") took everything Solomon down. Later they changed websites, and the entire crew running the place either changed names or found other people to do the job. And this is where Oddguy comes in.

The Encylopaedia Dramatica connection

Oddguy is an Israeli (self-proclaimed, real identity unknown), who has been editing Encyclopaedia Dramatica since 2011. His adminship of BWW is prominently displayed among the dancing Gary Busey heads on his user page. How he became the bossman of BWW is unknown because the previous version of the website's forum has been deleted. What we can say is that on the issue of Carlos Latuff, Brazilian freelance political cartoonist who is pro-Palestinian, Oddguy has repeatedly been involved with the ED article on Latuff, and he wrote about the artist on BWW. As with most of the articles on BWW, the Latuff one has not been substantially changed (excluding vandalism) in years; both the ED and BWW articles on the cartoonist are extremely negative. On the forum Oddguy admitted the following:

"It is true the review, like many of our reviews, is dated. That is because, even though we call ourselves The Bad Webcomics Wiki, we are mostly a comedy review site. This is a wiki mostly in the sense that it acts as a list and that anyone can edit it. But in most respects it is a wiki in name only."

Then why not call it the "Bad Webcomics Beatdown" and do it blog-style? Because Dramatica started off mocking Livejournal blogs, the only other viable way of presenting written information online in long form is the wiki. So BWW is marked by ED, which is the bastard son of Wikipedia, and thus Jimbo's shadow faintly hangs over the place.

But does anybody care?

Not really.....outside of TV Tropes doing a running commentary from 2009 to now, only the artists reviewed seem to notice. The only one BWW won't talk about is Dave Cheung, who got so angry at their fair review of his grossout woman-killing comic U.S. Angel Corps, he either DDOSed the site into the ground or got Wikidot to delete the review through some copyright claim, I can't remember. Now that Cheung no longer has a website for any of his comics (though they float around on porno ripper sites) he may no longer be a threat.

(Yes, John Solomon has links to the Something Awful website/messageboard. No, I did not think it was important to mention outside of the link.)

The Late-February 2016 Wikimedia Foundation "Leak"; Wikipediocracy Slipping into WP Fanpage

This is as close to a real scoop as we will ever get, and it's ongoing. Over on the Wikipedia Sucks! messageboard, it was brought up that Brion Vibber had written this on the Wikipedia-1 email list:

"As a longtime part of Wikimedia's community and staff, I would really appreciate some clear answers on what's going on and why we're losing more and more longtime community and staff members while an ED who needs management coaching is still in place."

He emailed that on Friday, February 19 at 2:08 AM, and over the weekend it went back and forth between MzMcBride, Dariusz Jemielniak (Pundit on the Polish Wikipedia), Millosh (Milos Rancic of the Serbian Wikipedia), with the undercurrent being that nobody at the WMF is wild about how Lila Tretikov has been running the store ("The engagement survey in November showed very, very low support for the Executive Director" in Brion Vibber's words.) It is known that ten people left the WMF from November to January, and eleven staff have left/ announced they were leaving in February, making it twenty-one total. Then there was this from Coren (Marc A. Pelletier):

On 2016-02-20 10:36 PM, Lila Tretikov wrote:
> Information asymmetry is a big issue. For example, in my role there is a
> lot I cannot say, I have responsibilities to protect people in the
> organization both current and former. So, for example, if someone is fired,
> even for cause, I would not say anything about this person that may hurt
> their chances in the future.

That is... downright brilliant.  Pretend to be caring and responsible,
while at the same time make an underhanded implication that the people
who left are villains and that you are a poor victim for being unable to
speak the Truth.  I hope you choke on shame for having the gall to even
so much suggest that pillars of the staff and community like Siko, Luis,
and Anna left for any reason other than your "exemplary" leadership.

"Information asymmetry" is right, mind you.  Staffers have shown
extraordinary restraint in keeping thing quiet and civilized so that
what has been going on does not reflect too badly on the foundation and
- by extension - the movement.  After all, as Ori so eloquently pointed
out earlier, the Foundation is full of passionate and dedicated people
who managed to do a great deal of good things despite all the "fun" of
being rudderless, leaderless and without anything resembling a vision.

If you have a single iota of integrity, please leave now before more of
the foundation crumbles around you.  Even if you were perfectly correct
in all you did and everyone else was perfectly wrong, any supposed
leader that has no trust from at least 93% of their staff should realize
that - if nothing else - they are a bad fit and cannot possibly salvage
the situation.

-- Marc / Coren
There was no response from Lila Tretikov, at least on that email list. As Coren is no longer an employee of the WMF, there is nothing to be gained by having some sort of public pie fight. "Flip Flopped" of the Wikipedia Sucks! messageboard thinks that Tretikov is just serving time until 2017 or 2018, and then will leave for some other executive directorship because the WMF is un-repairable. Her faith in herself is said to be enormous and she wants to be powerful, and being a part of the WMF right now is like being chained to a meteorite tumbling through deep space, instead of being inside a powerful spaceship heading at high speed to some far-away point in the cosmos. Whatever the case, we will be watching for further developments.

Wikipediocracy Lets the Trash In

Since Eric Barbour and Peter Damian stopped participating in the Wikipediocracy message board (WO-MB), all sorts of skeezy characters have been showing up, such as Beeblebrox (who blocked 2400 accounts on Wikipedia from 2009-2013.) Nobody knows who Beeblebrox (it's a Douglas Adams reference) is, except that he is from Homer, Alaska, is a professional IT worker, in his late forties, and acts like a thirteen-year-old on Wikipedia. And Wikipediocracy let him in at the beginning of this month, no questions asked. They let NewYorkBrad in, they let MONGO in, when they get Essjay or a convincing Essjay imposter, the jig will be truly up.

For Wikipedia criticism to work, there has to be a distance between the subject and the critic. When a criticism site allows some of the worst people from the target to become members, the necessary distance is destroyed. The situation at WO-MB is unworkable, unless they want to be a toothless fanpage.

(Thanks to "Sigma", "Mutineer", "Flip Flopped", "ilvadel", "ericbarbour" and "The Dark Knight" for their input on those threads.)

Friday, February 5, 2016

Guest Post: The Dark Knight takes on Drmies

This originally appeared as forum post over at by a member. Check out the board; interesting stuff happens there.

A Disturbing Damnation of Drmies

by "The Dark Knight", assisted by "Mutineer"

One piercing example of Wikipediocracy's (WO's) ineffectiveness as a critic site of Wikipedia (WP) is the damning and disturbing case of Drmies' handling of Mighty Morphin Army Ranger (MMAR) and Brad Dryer. In short, it has looked the other way, perhaps even aided, the rise of a corrupt and belligerent administrator to the highest level on WP. This despite knowing Drmies (hereafter "he," though he has varied his online gender identification) was a proven liar and all-round scum bag. This article is long, but well worth a read if you're a deeply embedded critic. He's an admin and arbitrator on WP. A bad one. Many many people have their own horror stories, and consequently, he hates critic sites, as they're the only places where people can discuss his actions without being blocked by him or one of his allies. He's well known for being a bit of an ass, he has a poor sense of humour and very little dispute resolution skills. He's the sledgehammer who cracks nuts, the vinegar spoiling the honey, etc, etc. Basically, on WP, if he's your mate, you're doing OK, but if he's your enemy, you're screwed. He is a great example of Wikipedia's poorest admins - whether you are wrong or right in policy or fact has very little effect on how long you will last if you go to the mat with him.

This story begins with the tale of WP user Mighty Morphin Army Ranger - who was drawn to purported WP criticism website WO after he was abused and taunted by Drmies on WP. His main complaint was that Drmies lied about the nature of his edits, falsely claiming he had inserted unverified information and indeed had misrepresented sources (in WP, such logical contradictions in accusations are normal). This falsehood was basically excused by AN/I because of the insider/outsider phenomena - MMAR was not an established editor, while Drmies was a trusted admin. Even though he's well aware of it, Drmies has never even acknowledged the falsehood, let alone apologised for it. Through the various machinations which will be familiar to Drmies' enemies, MMAR's career on WP was brought to a shuddering end by admins known to be close allies of Drmies, his talk page blocked and only allowed to appeal through UTRS, which is WP-speak for being shipped to the USA's Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

MMAR stuck around on WO, and having remembered the awful way Drmies had treated him, posted a forensic analysis there about a subsequent Drmies-related case of character assassination - the alleged racist hounding of admin Malik Shabbaz off of Wikipedia by user Brad Dryer (since renamed Bad Dryer). This incident evidently terribly upset Drmies, and led him to make all sorts of claims about how Brad was a racist and Malik was entirely innocent. This narrative was all a load of crap, all debunked in a thread in WO's private forum (evidently WO believes it's too embarrassing for Drmies to have his lies discussed out in the open internet), but it has of course been accepted on Wikipedia as fact. Wikipediocrats weren't even all that interested - it wasn't the sort of easy sound-bite they like, it required lots of reading to figure out just how false the whole thing was. They didn't even bat an eyelid when Malik himself popped up in the thread to accuse MMAR of talking rubbish without actually pointing out a single thing he had said which was untrue.

The plain truth of the incident was this. Having worked tirelessly in the Israel-Palestine area, Malik was a stressed out admin, who had either been acting poorly for a while, or was gradually melting down. Over a trivial edit dispute, Malik launched an unprovoked and arrogant attack on Brad, oozing superiority and self-entitlement, in a way that admins seem to get away with a lot (especially Drmies). Brad jabbed back, using a phrase, "sonny boy," which has two meanings, one innocent, and one racist. Despite having no evidence Brad intended the racist usage, Drmies constantly and loudly pronounced Brad to be a racist. Before anyone could blink, Malik became outraged and committed suicide by admin (resigned), and Brad was reflexively blocked by another notorious cowboy admin, because blood must have blood (Brad had at no point been allowed to even give his side of events). The fact that the context and other factors made it obvious it was most likely the innocent usage, Brad was eventually unblocked, once other typically Wikipedian bureaucratic stumbling blocks had been cleared.

These things all happened months ago, but at the time, with one one or two noted exceptions, they were largely ignored by WO's membership, either because it was all a bit too "inside baseball," but also because of how far down the line WO has gone as far as cosying up to WP and letting die-hard Wikipedians defend their own on their forum by taunting and trolling editors like MMAR.

Consequently, in the subsequent Arbcom elections, Drmies was unbelievably elevated to the high position of an arbitrator, essentially Wikipedia Supreme Court Judge. Not once did anyone from WO think to challenge him on his false statements against MMAR, which spoke to the very heart of his character, even though many of WO's members are WP users in good standing and would be perfectly allowed to ask him such questions. No, their interest in the elections was largely focused on fighting other battles, and weirdly, because a lot of disgruntled Wikipedians are WO members, this manifested on WO in actively drumming up support for Drmies (because he's seen as someone who could bring it back to the good old days of machismo, bullying and tribalism). Now, you could argue this is the evident triumph of a devious hasten-the-day strategy, but in reality, you'd be wrong - the hasten-the-day camp is all but non-existent on WO now.

And then Drmies blocked Brad for personal attacks and harassment over an unrelated dispute, having presumably see his name pop up in lights in an administrators noticeboard report. There's not been a word from Drmies about his obvious INVOLVEMENT withe respect  to Brad, before or after the block (honestly, his prior statements alone are so strong, no reasonable person would sign off on the idea he was not compromised as far as acting as an admin on Brad in any future incident). He had "invited" people to discuss this block , but now that he is an arbitrator, even if he suspected anyone was about to take him to task over it, he must be confident in his standing now that he can pretty much connive his way out of the situation, knowing that the prior incidents happened months ago, and require a hell of a lot of reading to digest.

This will all most likely be quickly forgotten on Wikipedia as an open and shut case - even before the first block, Brad had been painted by some as a POV pusher and likely sock, and the same is being alleged now, so even if the block is INVOLVED and horribly abusive and shows an arbitrator to be a real nasty piece of work, it will likely stand, under the well established Wikipedia doctrine of "the ends justify the means."

The lack of notice taken by Wikipedians to these things is to be expected, but you would expect a so called critic site like WO to at least make sure people are aware of these things? Their role is to inform the outside world that these sorts of abuses are allowed to happen on WP even after Wikipedians have been informed of them. As of right now, there's been no mention of it on WO's public forum. It may have been mentioned in the secret forum, but you can see how much impact that had from the way Drmies was able to ignore it before. Just to remind you - this is an ARBITRATOR getting away with an involved block on someone he clearly hates, and has wanted to block for a while now. While the "inside baseball" characterisation could at least have been forgiven when Drmies was just an admin, now that he is an arbitrator, evidence of blatant abuse like this by one of Wikipedia's most trusted and powerful users, is just an open goal, begging to be put away.

This case will definitely be forgotten now - the same admin which declined Brad's unblock request, has also just closed the case on AN/I, so discussion of Drmies' pretty obvious motive for the block will now not be possible without much wailing about the picking up of dropped sticks. A final attempt at having the block reviewed was subsequently filed on AN, but this just led to more lies - a second admin denying Brad's unblock request claimed he had been "indeffed in the past for making racial comments at another editor. They were unblocked after apologies and promises." Someone who was there (which this admin was) would know that's a lie - Brad specifically denied it was meant as a racially-charged comment. All this was documented in the thread on WO, as well as all being public record in WP's history logs.

In an amusing post-script, Malik Shabazz has just recently made his way back onto Wikipedia, having previously made all sorts of loud noises about never setting foot in the place until justice was done. You can see from his talk page all the people who were ecstatic to see his return. Including, hilariously, the admin who has also just declined Brad's unblock request.

                                                         Drmies: The smile says it all.