[iDC] "Wikipedia Art" and the Kenny Glenn case

Kate Raynes-Goldie kate at k4t3.org
Thu Feb 19 11:19:37 UTC 2009

Given this conversation about Wikipedia's admins and power structure,  
a current event might be of interest to you all.

An American teen posted videos of himself abusing his cat on YouTube  
over the weekend (I found the video very disturbing, so be forewarned  
if you decide to watch). This enraged a loosely affiliated group of  
what can be best described as internet trolls called Anonymous (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group 
) ) who decided to track him down and get him arrested, which they  
did. The story has been all over the internet and has been picked up  
by a number of news organizations, some of which have used the kid's  
name in their reports (see http://news.google.com.au/news?q=%22kenny%20glenn%22&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wn) 
  This case is interesting for a number of reasons, one of which is  
that it could also be the first time a loosely organized group of  
people on the internet initiated a campaign to identify a suspect and  
then notify the police... in the least it has not been so high profile  
and had so many people involved

Anyway, Wikipedia admins preemptively blocked the creation of an  
article about Kenny Glenn, despite it being all over the news. I asked  
that the protection be removed, and I was told if I was to create a  
passable draft it might be used as an article since all the other  
edits had been vandalism. At the same time, a group of people from the  
Facebook group about the story created a page called "Timmy (animal  
abuser)" (the name the kid used in the video) which was factual and  
backed up all its claims with journalistic sources, as required by  
Wikipedia. I followed up with the admin and asked if he/she could use  
the Timmy page as a draft. In response he deleted the Timmy article,  
saying it was a deliberate attempt to circumvent the protection placed  
on the Kenny Glenn article. I asked the admin again if the page could  
be used as a draft in the way he/she first proposed, to which the  
admin replied that he/she wanted to take "a step back" and another  
admin should deal with it. The admin then posted to a special notice  
board on the topic basically saying that his reason for blocking the  
article was about the questionable ethics of posting information about  
a minor.  You can see our exchange here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:MZMcBride#kenny_glenn_article

What stuck out for me was that this seemed to be more of an issue of  
following rules rather than making Wikipedia a better information  
source. We didn't follow them perfectly, so the admins are upset and  
so that becomes the issue to block the page. Its also really really  
unclear to me as to what the process and rules actually are, since the  
reason the admin gave me for the block switched from a lack of a  
neutral well sourced article to being an issue of ethics. I do agree  
there are issues with the suspect being a minor, but I think there is  
a lot more going on here. It also begs the question as to why  
information about this kid and the case can be all over the internet  
(in "credible" sources and otherwise) but that it is being blocked  
from being reproduced on Wikipedia. Isn't one of the goals of  
Wikipedia to provide an open and valuable source of information that  
acts as an alternative to conventional sources of knowledge which are  
protected by gatekeepers?


kate raynes-goldie
phd researcher (facebook and the social web)
curtin university of technology
blog: http://k4t3.org
skype: katierg

On 18/02/2009, at 6:36 PM, Michael Bauwens wrote:

> Hi Stephen,
> that power struggle did already take place, i.e. the civil war  
> between the abundance-orientated inclusionists, and the scarcity- 
> choosing deletionists.
> Scarcity forces created artificial scarcity, therefore an allocation  
> problem, and a power structure, but one that is self-selected and  
> doesn't allow forking,
> self-aggregation only works in an context of abundance, but if you  
> create scarcities needing decision, and this is done entirely  
> without formal democratic rules, that is really a recipe for the  
> tyranny of structurelessness, which is in full view in Wikipedia,  
> which now offers a full view of the dark side of peer governance ..
> for background, see:
> main article: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/is-something-fundamentally-wrong-with-wikipedia-governance-processes/2008/01/07 
>  (text below)
> details:
> - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/conflict-arbitration-at-the-wikipedia/2009/02/10
> - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/banning-the-wikipedia-bans-as-a-governance-tool/2008/11/21
> - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/is-it-time-to-go-beyond-wikipedia/2008/11/11
> - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/update-on-the-bagley-wikipedia-controversy/2008/10/26
> The Wikipedia is often hailed as a prime example of peer production  
> and peer governance, an example of how a community can self-govern  
> very complex processes. Including by me.
> But it is also increasingly showing the dark side and pitfalls of  
> purely informal approaches, especially when they scale.
> Wikipedia is particularly vulnerable because its work is not done in  
> teams, but by individuals with rather weak links. At the same time  
> it is also a very complex project, with consolidating social norms  
> and rules, and with an elite that knows them, vs. many occasional  
> page writers who are ignorant of them. When that system then  
> instaures a scarcity rule, articles have to be ‘notable” or they  
> can be deleted. It creates a serious imbalance.
> While the Wikipedia remains a remarkable achievement, and escapes  
> any easy characterization of its qualities because of its sheer  
> vastness, there must indeed be hundreds of thousands of volunteers  
> doing good work on articles, it has also created a power structure,  
> but it is largely invisible, opaque, and therefore particularly  
> vulnerable to the well-known tyranny of structurelessness.
> Consider the orginal thoughts of Jo Freeman:
> “Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such thing  
> as a ’structureless’ group. Any group of people of whatever nature  
> coming together for any length of time, for any purpose, will  
> inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be  
> flexible, it may vary over time, it may evenly or unevenly  
> distribute tasks, power and resources over the members of the group.  
> But it will be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities and  
> intentions of the people involved. The very fact that we are  
> individuals with different talents, predispositions and backgrounds  
> makes this inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on  
> any basis whatsoever could we approximate ’structurelessness’ and  
> that is not the nature of a human group.
> Consider also this warning:
> Every group of people with an unusual goal - good, bad, or silly -  
> will trend toward the cult attractor unless they make a constant  
> effort to resist it. You can keep your house cooler than the  
> outdoors, but you have to run the air conditioner constantly, and as  
> soon as you turn off the electricity - give up the fight against  
> entropy - things will go back to “normal”.
> In the same sense that every thermal differential wants to equalize  
> itself, and every computer program wants to become a collection of  
> ad-hoc patches, every Cause wants to be a cult. It’s a high-entropy  
> state into which the system trends, an attractor in human psychology.
> Cultishness is quantitative, not qualitative. The question is not  
> “Cultish, yes or no?” but “How much cultishness and where?”
> The Wikicult website asserts that this stage has already been reached:
> With the systems, policies, procedures, committees, councils,  
> processes and appointed authorities that run Wikipedia, a lot of  
> intrinsic power goes around. While most serious contributors  
> devotedly continue to contribute to the implied idealism, there are  
> those with the communication and political skill to place themselves  
> in the right place at the right time and establish even more  
> apparent power. Out of these, a cabal inevitably forms; the rest, as  
> they say, is history.
> Specialized sites have sprung up, such as the Wikipedia Review,  
> monitoring power abuse in general, or in particular cases
> The Wikipedia Review offers an interesting summary of the various  
> criticisms that have been leveled agains the Wikipedia, which I’m  
> reproducing here below, but I’m adding links that document these  
> processes as well.Spend some time on reading the allegations, their  
> documentation, and make up your own mind.
> My conclusion though is that major reforms will be needed to insure  
> the Wikipedia governance is democratic and remains so.
> 1.	Wikipedia disrespects and disregards scholars, experts,  
> scientists, and others with special knowledge.
> “Wikipedia specifically disregards authors with special knowledge,  
> expertise, or credentials. There is no way for a real scholar to  
> distinguish himself or herself from a random anonymous editor merely  
> claiming scholarly credentials, and thus no claim of credentials is  
> typically believed. Even when credentials are accepted, Wikipedia  
> affords no special regard for expert editors contributing in their  
> fields. This has driven most expert editors away from editing  
> Wikipedia in their fields. Similarly, Wikipedia implements no  
> controls that distinguish mature and educated editors from immature  
> and uneducated ones.”
> Critique of Wikipedia’s open source ideology, as opposed to free  
> software principles
> 2. Wikipedia’s culture of anonymous editing and administration  
> results in a lack of responsible authorship and management.
> “Wikipedia editors may contribute as IP addresses, or as an ever- 
> changing set of pseudonyms. There is thus no way of determining  
> conflicts of interest, canvassing, or other misbehaviour in article  
> editing. Wikipedia’s adminsitrators are similarly anonymous,  
> shielding them from scrutiny for their actions. They additionally  
> can hide the history of their editing (or that of others).”
> 3. Wikipedia’s administrators have become an entrenched and over- 
> powerful elite, unresponsive and harmful to authors and contributors.
> “Without meaningful checks and balances on administrators,  
> administrative abuse is the norm, rather than the exception, with  
> blocks and bans being enforced by fiat and whim, rather than in  
> implementation of policy. Many well-meaning editors have been banned  
> simply on suspicion of being previously banned users, without any  
> transgression, while others have been banned for disagreeing with a  
> powerful admin’s editorial point of view. There is no clear-cut  
> code of ethics for administrators, no truly independent process  
> leading to blocks and bans, no process for appeal that is not  
> corrupted by the imbalance of power between admin and blocked  
> editor, and no process by which administrators are reviewed  
> regularly for misbehaviour.”
> Overview of developments
> The blog Nonbovine ruminations critically monitors Wikipedia  
> governance
> The Wikipedia has stopped growing because of the deletionists:  
> Andrew Lih ; Slate
> Wikipedia’s abusive bio-deletion process: case by Tony Judge
> 4. Wikipedia’s numerous policies and procedures are not enforced  
> equally on the community, popular or powerful editors are often  
> exempted.
> “Administrators, in particular, and former administrators, are  
> frequently allowed to trangress (or change!) Wikipedia’s numerous  
> policies, such as those prohibiting personal attacks, prohibiting  
> the release of personal information about editors, and those  
> prohibiting collusion in editing.”
> The undemocratic practices of its investigative committee
> A personal experience
> The badsites list of censored sites belonging to Wikipedia’s enemies
> Lack of transparency and accountability
> The Judd Bagley case
> InformationLiberation on Wikipedia’s totalitarian universe
> 5. Wikipedia’s quasi-judicial body, the Arbitration Committee  
> (ArbCom) is at best incompetent and at worst corrupt.
> “ArbCom holds secret proceedings, refuses to be bound by precedent,  
> operates on non-existant or unwritten rules, and does not allow  
> equal access to all editors. It will reject cases that threaten to  
> undermine the Wikipedia status quo or that would expose powerful  
> administrators to sanction, and will move slowly or not at all (in  
> public) on cases it is discussing in private.”
> Monitoring of ArbCom’s activities
> Summary of criticisms
> The case of the secret mailing list for top insiders
> 6. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the organization legally  
> responsible for Wikipedia, is opaque, is poorly managed, and is  
> insufficiently independent from Wikipedia’s remaining founder and  
> his business interests.
> “The WMF lacks a mechanism to address the concerns of outsiders,  
> resulting in an insular and socially irresponsible internal culture.  
> Because of inadequate oversight and supervision, Wikimedia has hired  
> incompetent and (in at least one case) criminal employees. Jimmy  
> Wales for-profit business Wikia benefits in numerous ways from its  
> association with the non-profit Wikipedia.”
> The Foundation’s budget
> Wikimedia chairwoman rejects demand for transparency
> Review of the conflict of interest issue
> From: Stephen Downes <stephen at downes.ca>
> Cc: "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>
> Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 2:13:39 AM
> Subject: Re: [iDC] "Wikipedia Art"
> Hiya,
> There is eventually going to be a power struggle on Wikipedia. This  
> will occur because, in the process of enforcing MPOV, citations,  
> notability, etc., Wikipedia has created a power structure. It is no  
> longer a freely collaborative enterprise, but one now where a  
> smallish group of people (the moderators can make decisions that  
> over-rule the majority. This is a classic instance of a power  
> structure, and makes Wikipedia  a tempting target for an  
> organization large enough and self-organized enough to effect the  
> take-over.
> Wikipedia's only defense against this sort of action (and the  
> Wikipedia Art page is a first of a kind (though if one believes the  
> deleters' comments, not even that), not an anomaly) is to return to  
> its collaborative roots. It's nice that this particular attempt to  
> subvert the power structure is art. Subsequent attempts to control  
> the encyclopedia will not be so benign. It must be necessary for the  
> users of Wikipedia - that vast majority of people who for the most  
> part only make occasional edits, who are not insiders, and will be  
> moved only by egregious errors and omissions - to be able to over- 
> rule the power structure. If this does not happen, then when one of  
> these actions succeeds (as it inevitably will) we will have lost  
> Wikipedia as a voice of knowledge and reason forever.
> Since I don't exxpect the (current) Wikipedia elite to relinquish  
> power, this post is written for the record, so I can say "I told you  
> so" later on.
> -- Stephen
> Zbigniew Lukasiak wrote:
>> On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 2:24 PM,  <koltzenburg at w4w.net> wrote:
>>> Hi,
>>> sounds interesting to me but I do not seem to find any page of  
>>> that name,
>>>> An article appeared on Wikipedia -- called "Wikipedia Art" --  
>>>> with the
>>>> following description:
>>> would you mind posting the link?
>> It was deleted:
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Wikipedia_Art
>> Now it all depends if they make enough noise that it be heard in main
>> stream media - then Wikipedia will have a real problem with it.
>> I do like the paradoxical nature of it and I do think it is a kind of
>> art - but if they let it bury so easily then I guess it really is  
>> 'not
>> notable'.
> -- 
> ---
> Stephen Downes  ~  Researcher  ~  National Research Council Canada
> http://www.downes.ca  ~  stephen at downes.ca        ** Free Learning
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kate raynes-goldie
phd researcher (facebook and the social web)
curtin university of technology
blog: http://k4t3.org
skype: katierg

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