Wikipedia talk:Arbitration Committee/Archive 10

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Archive 5 Archive 8 Archive 9 Archive 10 Archive 11 Archive 12 Archive 15

Questions for ArbCom regarding Prioryman

I'm starting this in a new section to distance it from the thread originally started by someone's sockpuppet and also to separate it from the general discussion above. Although I understand that there may be differing opinions within ArbCom about these matters, this has been discussed and ArbCom has presumably decided by consensus what actions to take or not take, as the case may be. I ask that the answers here reflect that consensus, instead of expressing personal opinions (not that I think ArbCom members shouldn't have personal opinions that may differ from the consensus, but the consensus is the basis for action, not the discussions leading up to it). To make discussions less convoluted -- and not as any sort of "outing" attempt -- I am going to refer to the user in question by the name that is most recognized, ChrisO, since it has already been linked to the user in other on-wiki discussions. Thanks. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thank you Cool Hand Luke and Risker for your answers below. I believe that editors tend to think of ArbCom as a single entity and it is helpful to be reminded that it is a group compromised of individual editors who may not have experience with particular past situations or users, due to changes in the composition of ArbCom. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 23:10, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think you mean "comprised" not "compromised"...although the latter adjective has some currency at the moment...Casliber (talk · contribs) 01:08, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Right to vanish

WP:RTV is quite explicit in what RTV is not: "The right to vanish is not a temporary leave or a method to avoid scrutiny or sanction, is not a "fresh start", does not guarantee anonymity, and may be refused if ever abused" (bolding in the original). In this case, despite ArbCom member User:David Fuchs stating "As far as I know all sanctions migrated with the account, so I'm not seeing how RTV was abused in this case," it is clear that:

  • ChrisO invoked RTV in the midst of the ArbCom case on climate change (WP:ARBCC), which was explicitly noted in the final decision as the reason for not imposing sanctions (in other words, there is the appearance that ChrisO invoked RTV in order to avoid sanctions)
  • ChrisO user invoked RTV on or about 30 August 2010 and started account L'Ecrivant the same day, which calls into question their intent to "vanish"

I have heard the suggestion that ChrisO may have been the target of off-wiki harassment by a certain movie producer with an anger management problem, but I do not understand how vanishing the account was intended to have any effect on off-wiki actions.

  1. Does ARbCom consider the use of RTV by a user under sanctions and facing more sanctions to be a proper use of RTV? Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Not "may have been." He was, and it was not the only source of off-site harassment. He wanted what you have "delicious carbuncle": pseudonymity. He apparently didn't want it that badly, however. In retrospect, it's probably better just to tell users they can't be helped, and that their disclosure is fundamentally irrevocable because most users do not have the ability to create a new identity that can't be deduced. This user certainly couldn't.

As for RTV, if ArbCom had voted on it August 30, 2010, it probably would have been rejected. But ArbCom found out after it had already happened. The edits were still slowing transferring over when his abusive sock was discovered a couple of weeks later. There's a very good argument it was a ridiculous and cynical abuse of RTV, but what to do (besides indef the sock, a no-brainer)?

I honestly believed there was no point in telling the devs to reverse their work, naming and shaming him. Personally, our project does too much of that crap. I also honestly believed it would be good to keep this editor if he could stay out of problematic topics. Cool Hand Luke 19:07, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]


  1. ChrisO invoked RTV during WP:ARBCC. L'Ecrivant was blocked by a checkuser on12 September 2010 and I assume that ArbCom was notified. The final ARBCC decision is dated 14 October 2010. If ArbCom was aware that ChrisO had already created at least one new account, why did they choose to impose no sanctions at that time?
  2. What climate change-related sanctions, if any, have been imposed on ChrisO/Prioryman since their return?
  3. ChrisO was under "binding voluntary" sanctions as a result of the ArbCom case on Scientology-related editing (WP:ARBSCI). Do those restrictions apply to the Prioryman account?
  4. What other sanctions were in effect prior to ChrisO's vanishing? (I believe there are some, but there seems to be no consistent logging of these kinds of things)
  5. If editors are unaware of sanctions imposed on or voluntarily undertaken by users, how can they monitor them?
  6. If Prioryman was under sanctions, how was ArbCom monitoring them?
  7. If User:Helatrobus was an account controlled by ChrisO/Prioryman, did the ARBSCI sanctions apply to that account?
  8. Did User:Helatrobus violate the ARBSCI sanctions? Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I will provide my own answers, because I feel largely responsible for what happened; I did support him returning as Prioryman, and it was not a unanimous decision. I've been disappointed by user's editing behavior—if user did intend a fresh start, he didn't realize how obvious his behavior was.

  • 1. His sock was blocked, and he claimed that he could not log in to his old account (and we would have likely blocked him if he did). His underlying IP was also hard blocked. I didn't participate in that case, but I do note that he was topic banned in spite of his false "vanishing."
  • 2. User agreed in October to a binding sanction not to edit CC on any future account we might allow. Since a topic ban was on the table anyway, this seemed acceptable. Also, as I pointed out above, user was formally topic banned after his abusive return.
  • 3. Yes, all sanctions previously in place are still in place.
  • 4. Here is a summary.
  • 5. You know the answer: they can't.
  • 6. Poorly, it seems. I am sorry about that; I didn't notice how deep he was getting into Scientology with all the Cirt stuff. I'm not sure whether there were violations, but ArbCom should have made some sort of indication that he stay away. We didn't contact user until after your email. That was a failure, I'm sorry.
  • 7. User:Helatrobus geolocated to a different continent than Vanished User 03 user 04. If you have credible evidence that it was the same user, I would support a ban on the spot. Do you? Some ARBSCI sanctions apply to everyone, including that account.
  • 8. Maybe. Assuming it was a sock, it's unclear who it was. It also could be a violation as an agenda-driving SPA.

Cool Hand Luke 18:45, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Note that I was asking if sanctions applied to User:Helatrobus in the event that Helatrobus was an alternate account of ChrisO. I asked in order to counter the suggestion that Helatrobus was an ArbCom-approved sockpuppet allowed to skirt sanctions. Incidentally, ChrisO was User:Vanished user 03, not Vanished User 04 (and also not User:Vanished User 03, which is a valid username but not ChrisO). This is exactly why I chose to use "ChrisO" instead. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 23:22, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Prioryman's involvement in Cirt RfC/U

Prior to ARBSCI, ChrisO and Cirt were both very active editors of Church of Scientology-related articles. This link shows their editing overlap. Prioryman's participation in the RfC/U on Cirt is both inappropriate and deceptive. In those discussions, Prioryman not only fails to declare their interest in Scientology (and their voluntary restrictions relating to it), but actively tries to pass themselves off as an impartial editor. At one point Prioryman declares "Let's be clear, I don't edit those articles and I don't have the faintest idea who Lindon Larouche and all the rest are (well, apart from Tom Cruise obviously). The reason I'm commenting on this particular issue is because in your rush to judgement I see you making very obviously flawed claims". While I can't be bothered to find instances where ChrisO has edited the articles under discussion, it is simply not believable that someone with ChrisO's editing background and interests is unfamiliar with Lyndon LaRouche or high-profile Scientologists. ChrisO's close involvement with Cirt calls into question Prioryman's stated reason for involving themselves in this proceeding. Since it is clear that ArbCom was aware that Prioryman was the same user as ChrisO (see Roger Davies unblocking of the account), they surely must have been aware of their participation in an ArbCom case.

  1. What action did ArbCom take in relation to this participation?
  2. Does Prioryman's participation violate their ARBSCI sanctions?
  3. Does ArbCom agree that Prioryman's statements were deceptive?
  4. Having involved themselves, will Prioryman be a named party in the upcoming ArbCom case, and if not, why not? Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Again, these are my answers alone.

  • 1. None, until after your email. At that point, we asked that he identify himself as a returned user.
  • 2. Maybe. That might be determined in an upcoming case (see #4).
  • 3. I think they were.
  • 4. There is support for it, yes. Cool Hand Luke 18:49, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • From my point of view, any case related to the issue of RTV should be handled separately. This case is already extremely convoluted and I'm not entirely certain that the Committee will be able to do justice to the issues that are already on the table. Prioryman did not comment at the request for arbitration in any way, so it is inappropriate to say that he participated in an Arbcom case. He participated (perhaps inappropriately) in an RFC/U, which is a dispute resolution process the Committee does not monitor and over which it has no jurisdiction. I would object to Prioryman being named a party in the Cirt/Jayen case. The issues of how to fairly deal with users who have been seriously harassed in relation to their reasonable participation in the project, and balancing that against the community's increasing view that personality means at least as much as contribution, and also against the breaching of reasonable constrictions applied to individual users, is a very serious subject that should be examined distinct to the other issues of this case. I am currently listed as inactive on this case, as I reasonably anticipate having extremely little time available in the next month; however, I feel strongly enough that this issue should not be conflated into this case that I would become active simply to address this. Risker (talk) 22:41, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No one has asked for User:Prioryman to be added to the Cirt/Jayen case - I have requested he be replaced into motion (b) where he clearly seems to be involved. - or rather to have foolishly and against WP:RTV re-involved himself - You assert, "The issues of how to fairly deal with users who have been seriously harassed in relation to their reasonable participation in the project, " - such claims as this with the disruptive/activist edit pattern history as User:ChrisO has got is nothing but manipulative crocodile tears - like suggesting someone who commits a major crime and get punched in the mouth is a victim. Off2riorob (talk) 23:25, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It was suggested elsewhere. What do you mean by "motion (b)" anyway? Cool Hand Luke 00:08, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Motion 1 - from - Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Case#Motions
The Committee, having considered the statements made in the current request, will:
a. accept "Cirt and Jayen466" as a case, with User:Cirt and User:Jayen466 as the only parties, to examine personal the conduct of ::::::each party and interpersonal conduct issues concerning the two parties;
b. accept "Feuding and BLPs" as a separate case, with all named parties other than Cirt and Jayen466 as parties, to examine meta :::::::behavioural issues and reconcile the applicable principles; note I personally see motion (b) as very vague indeed and did ask for clarification as to its scope. Off2riorob (talk) 00:37, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ok, the reason I find your request so puzzling is that the (b) subsection proposes to open a BLP case that currently lists no affirmative parties. Are you asking us to forget the attack BLP issue and host a whole case for user's RFCU advocacy? Cool Hand Luke 11:24, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK but the case is not simply called "BLPs" but, "Feuding and BLPs." Furthermore you say that it "the (b) subsection ... currently lists no affirmative parties," but that is simply not true. The (b) subsection lists "all named parties other than Cirt and Jayen466 as parties." Indeed there have been several questions, almost entirely unanswered, from various "named parties" about subsection b precisely because the language would include them in the case but they do not feel party to it. That you all failed to answer these questions was bad enough, that you now act as if the very motion that you, the Arbs drafted doesn't include such a statement is quite frankly preposterous. Prioryman was a named party, along with everyone else who commented at the RfC, until he asked ResidentAnthropologist to remove him from the list, claiming not to have any involvement in the related topic area ("cults" I believe, since that was the original arbitration request). I do not know if Prioryman's previous identity has any bearing on his inclusion in the case, but I gather from what Rob is asking that given his involvement in the RfC, which was aggressive and combative, if anyone should be included in a case revolving around "feuding" he surely should. As long as you have a motion that still includes all the original named parties except Jayen and Cirt I don't think there is anything remotely puzzling about Rob's request.Griswaldo (talk) 11:46, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks. I was just thrown off by the suggestion to "replace" him to "motion (b)." I now understand that he was asking that he be considered as a party for the second case. As I said above, arbitrators have supported considering his behavior in that case; whether or not anyone removes their own name, nobody would delete evidence about it. Cool Hand Luke 14:56, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In fact, Prioryman questioned] the ArbCom case on the talk page. Note also that Prioryman was initially named as an involved party to the case, but requested that the initiator remove them, which they did. I suggest that "I'm not a party to any of your disputes involving cults, Larouche, transcendental meditation or anything else" is a less than honest statement. I suspect that Prioryman was included as a party based not on their comments at the RfC/U, but on the basis of their comments on WT:Wikibombing (SEO) (see archived discussion). I could be wrong about that, but if so it shows another instance where ChrisO/Prioryman has involved themselves in a discussion related to Cirt's editing. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 23:43, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • What I don't understand is how obscuring Chris's on-wiki identity helps him in terms of RL harassment problems. Those who might wish him ill have long known who he is. Changing his WP user name does not change that. It only misleads the community. --JN466 05:27, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • Don't you think it's unwise to be so emphatic about the origin or nature of threats you know nothing about? And, no, this isn't an invitation for a speculation-fest, it's a general observation ;)  Roger Davies talk 07:07, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The alleged threats are not enough worrying to the User:ChrisO to keep him from exposing himself by his returning ot his previous fields of activism in support of his fellow anonymous (group) activist. Off2riorob (talk) 10:10, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I suspect that in some cases, it is not a user's on-wiki activities that are the basis for harassment, but a user's off-wiki activities. The connection between that user's on-wiki and off-wiki identities (real or pseudonymous) is likely distressing for the user, but the cause remains the off-wiki activities. In such case, it is unclear that vanishing the user will have any effect on off-wiki harassment. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:44, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, that's not my experience. Overwhelmingly, off-wiki threats are explicitly linked to demands about specific on-wiki activity.  Roger Davies talk 06:38, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Leaker Identity Speculation

More to the point, when will the Arbcom be announcing the name of the leaker? or are we to read that belatedly on WR too? Giacomo Returned 21:41, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To the best of my knowledge, the identity of the leaker hasn't been determined. PhilKnight (talk) 21:47, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Really? You do surprise me, I find that impossible to beleive. Never mind, it's all goood reading and I hope to read a lot more. I supose it must be very hard for you all, does one out him and risk angering him into revealing more, or say nothing and hope he will become tired and return to the fold? I'm sure the Arbcom will eventually make a wise choice, just as they always do. Giacomo Returned 22:00, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You do realise that the above makes not a great deal of sense, don't you. If I knew who the bloody hacker was, I would not stand on ceremony with anybody over saying who it was. Elen of the Roads (talk) 22:49, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • A hacker? No, I wouldn't think so - this is Wikipedia not James Bond. I xpect he's a paid up member of the arbcom, one does not need amazing powers of deduction to deduce that - does one? Giacomo Returned 19:20, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't see any reason to think the leaker must be "a paid up member of the arbcom". A disgruntled member would likely have a more focused agenda, or some sort of specific grudge. The scattershot material argues against the leaks coming from such a person. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 23:40, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
What Seth said. A likely source is malware, with email being the initial delivery mechanism.  Roger Davies talk 06:46, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, I expect to find it is a fully trusted member of the Arbcom. I don't buy all this hacking and other funny, clever business. I think people are showing a marked reluctance to look under their noses. No doubt we shall all find out in the fullness of time. Giacomo Returned 21:01, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It is easier to take everything when you have access to it in the beginning; I agree it's credible. At this time we don't know. Cool Hand Luke 14:07, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, but you are right that I only know what I can see and infer. It would be more accurate to say that I am not aware of anyone on ArbCom who has indicated they know, and I don't know myself. Furthermore, at at least some members, as Elen suggests above, would go on a warpath if they had good evidence of who it is. Cool Hand Luke 00:11, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
When the leaks began, Philippe from the Foundation posted that the developers had found no evidence of unauthorized activity. [1] I took this to mean that no unusual IP address had recently accessed the archives. That suggests three possibilities to me: the leaker is an Arb; a non-Arb with authorized and regular/recent access; or an unauthorized person who accessed the archives from an IP range that an authorized person normally uses. Those possibilities don't include the "malware from a stranger" hypothesis. Or did I misunderstand what Philippe said? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:32, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"malware from a stranger" is the way by which "an unauthorized person who accessed [x] from an IP range that an authorized person normally uses" happens. malware installs a backdoor, and the person with access to the backdoor can use the machine to access the internet via the IP of the authorised person. John Vandenberg (chat) 00:40, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Malware allows not only the target's computer to be used, but also his IP address? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:59, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Malware is a broad term. Any resource attached to a computer, inc. its internet connection and its IP, can be used when someone has access to your computer. John Vandenberg (chat) 02:11, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, I didn't know a hacker could use a back door to gain remote access to an IP address (via the modem?) and the computer at the same time. If that were to happen, would the target's ISP be able to see that someone had hacked into the modem/internet connection? The remote access has to leave a trail of some kind. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 02:24, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
ISP's don't track that sort of thing without a court order, etc. John Vandenberg (chat) 04:04, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Moreover, SV, if it was a compromised machine, it doesn't seem like they needed to download the archive through it. In the recent past, at least, everyone who downloaded the archive reports that they did indeed download the archive when the WMF logs said they did. To my mind, this means that: (1) some sort of unauthorized malware got access to an arbitrator's computer and fished around for the archive stored there, or (2) an arbitrator leaked it to someone else and/or is leaking it now. Cool Hand Luke 12:40, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Okay, thanks. I'm sorry if I'm asking stupid questions. I'm just trying (without technical knowledge) to get a handle on the various possibilities, so I appreciate the corrections. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 23:09, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Umm, how many people can there be who downloaded the entire archive, or huge amounts of it, in the recent past? I'd assume that in practice there would be one and only one username which qualifies. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 13:28, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There seem to have been a lot - it had never occurred to me to download it (to be honest, I never looked at it, even before I broke the password), but it was a common practice. Elen of the Roads (talk) 14:18, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It was "common practice" to download an archive filled with all kinds of information worth protecting to personal computers? When ya'll had remote access to it already? Simply wow.Griswaldo (talk) 14:23, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Since the mailman search function has been disabled for quite some time, the only way to search the archives was to download them. (FYI, it is no longer possible to download them). –xenotalk 14:26, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So convenience wins out over security? Or is it laziness, given that I'm assuming it would not have been so hard to get someone to enable searching the archive remotely again in some manner? I appreciate the explanation but it does not make it better.Griswaldo (talk) 14:28, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I wasn't privy to past discussions about searchability of the archives, but I can tell you that searching the archives is a necessity, not a convenience. –xenotalk 14:35, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Where does ensuring privacy fall on the scale of Arbcom mailing list "necessities?" Because if it is high on the list then there is no excuse for not fixing the problem of being able to search the more secure location, as opposed to spreading the archive around on a bunch of non-secure personal machines.Griswaldo (talk) 14:42, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Just for the record, the act of "looking" at the archives, even if they are not copied, constitutes "downloading" them; a temporary internet file is downloaded onto one's computer. Thus, every time someone even looks at the archive, it is considered a download. I was thinking much the same as others in this thread until one of the sysadmins set me straight on this. As to searchability, this was disabled on WMF servers back in 2009 due to server load, and we have inquired about having it reinstated for this list at least. Risker (talk) 15:22, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Aiiieee ... you mean people have been making wholesale download copies of this supposedly very confidential information, out of necessity because the WMF could not enable a selective list search function??? Oh, Wikipedia has lucked-out so many times here ... Anyway, yes, "every time someone even looks at the archive, it is considered a download" (I was a sysadmin years ago). HOWEVER, nobody should need to look/download e.g. four years of mailing-list archives more than once, to make a local copy. If I read what you are saying correctly, this complete look/download is common enough that more than one account has done it in the past three months. And alternatively, someone might have pilfered a local copy. Is this all true? -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 15:51, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • "you mean people have been making wholesale download copies of this supposedly very confidential information, out of necessity because the WMF could not enable a selective list search function???" Yes. Cool Hand Luke 05:03, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

SV, given my experiences helping tech support, I would be very, very, careful about drawing too many inferences from anything relayed by a person who did not do the investigation him or herself. The question to ask, if you want to press the matter, is "What username is shown in the server archive log downloading the archives?" -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 11:21, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The answer might be "none". Until this leak, mailman usernames and passwords were used. I'm not 100% sure whether mailman logs each access with a username. I dont think so. The HTTP server only logged the IP. We now have HTTP authentication, so the server log now includes a username. John Vandenberg (chat) 15:53, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks. Earlier, I thought there would be one mass download, which then gives one username. I'm finding out those assumption are sorely in error. Ouch. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 16:14, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Trouts all around for egregiously inadequate security measures, but to be fair nobody on the committee has ever claimed to be an expert on computer security. Seth and Giano, the archive password (singular) was emailed, in plain text, to every member of Arbcom. Most members of the committee likely kept that email in their inbox or archive instead of permanently deleting it. In all likelihood the hacker compromised one of these email accounts, found the password, then downloaded the archive while safely behind an open proxy: we'll almost certainly never know his identity unless he wants us to. TotientDragooned (talk) 18:25, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
but to be fair nobody on the committee has ever claimed to be an expert on computer security. I believe this is factualy untrue. I'm not saying this person is to blame, they've previously commented here on complaints they made pre-leak.--Cube lurker (talk) 19:58, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's correct. At least two folks on the committee have a background in computer security, one of them being me. Only speaking for myself, I didn't ever get into the Mailman software, because I've mostly been a security policy manager and risk assessor for the past several years, and don't do much in the way of technical security. Well, that and because I am not particularly interested in taking on problems without authority or budget to solve them. Jclemens (talk) 06:57, 30 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hmm, John? WMF seems to have an idea of who recently downloaded the archive. Cool Hand Luke 05:09, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My understanding is that the WMF compared the IPs in the server logs accessing mailman with IPs on en.wp and arbcom-wiki using checkuser, and deduced the people responsible for downloading the archives. John Vandenberg (chat) 09:08, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
All this talk of hacking and hackers is just an excuse to stop looking at the obvious. I want to know how the Arbcom are currently discussing this on their list? Are they saying "I think it is A", and A replying "No, it is quite definilty B" or more likely are they seizing on the hacking version because it is less embarasing to all? Let's face it, the Arbs are so stupid and ignorant that last December, they thought that I was clever enough to hack their sacred wiki? Looking for the obvious has never been any of their strong points. This is not clever hacking; it's almost certainly an inside job which their pride forbids them even to consider - or at least admtting to the rest of us. Giacomo Returned 21:47, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Giano, can you lay out a chain of reasoning as to why you believe this is "almost certainly an inside job", as opposed to, e.g. someone cracked into an Arb's email account, and found the list archive password (or found a hole in the archive setup)? The reasons I don't think it's an inside job is that 1) there doesn't seem to be a motive 2) the leaker didn't know the cases where leaks would do the most damage 3) the leaker didn't contact prominent critics 4) the initial release wasted the breaking story interest spike, and actually ending up making ArbCom look good. That all doesn't add up to a rogue insider. I'm certainly willing to consider an inside-job hypothesis. But, please, give some sort of rationale for it, and against the point outlined above. -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 22:28, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It seems from reading some of the leaked emails that the list has on and off, in one way or another, always been insecure - without any doubt from inside and also from possible attack from outside. It is still insecure and should not be trusted as confidential or private in any way. Really, as this is the case and arbitration members are volunteers with no training or success historically in such a task as keeping private information private - the arbitration committee should cease to discuss personal issues in regard to identifiable living living people in insecure locations, such as their mailing lists. The recently added disclaimer - "It should not be assumed that material sent to this address will remain private." - only protects them from release of your own emails sent to them - uninvited personal discussion of private personal details in regard to living people between themselves that is repeatedly published to the www would leave then open to all sorts of situations. - its likely the committee as a whole could be held responsible for any release of private personal data and following that any negative impact in regard to living people in real life. Off2riorob (talk) 22:33, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, Giano, if the Arbs thought you were "clever enough to hack their sacred wiki", doesn't it follow that if they hold such absurd notions, their speculations as to the identity of the leaker would likely be similarly unreliable? -- Seth Finkelstein (talk) 02:04, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Amusing point. Cool Hand Luke 05:09, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

All this talk about the mechanics of security rather misses a larger point: if you want something to be confidential, don't tell 18 people. Short Brigade Harvester Boris (talk) 02:30, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This is a no-brainer. We can't expect people to behave otherwise. Cool Hand Luke 05:11, 29 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

ArbCom support for Right to vanish and Clean start

Speaking generally, not about any particular case, can we start a discussion about whether the ArbCom can agree in future to respect the Right to vanish and Clean start policies? I'm asking this not because of the recent example, but because the inconsistent application has been causing problems for years, so this is a good chance to get it sorted out.

  • Right to vanish is for people who want to stop editing Wikipedia entirely. It involves a bureaucrat moving the user's contribs to a new "vanished" name (e.g. Vanished User X). User pages may be deleted on request. User talk pages should not be deleted, because they consist mostly of other users' posts. The user is expected not to return. If s/he returns under a different name, the vanishing is reversed, i.e. the user pages are restored, and the contribs are restored to the old user name.
  • Clean start involves a user deciding to set aside an old account and begin again with a new one that isn't linked to the old account. This may only be done where there are no sanctions being evaded. The old account's name and edits remain in place. The new account should not return to the same topics, or same behaviour, and should not continue problematic interactions with the same users while pretending to be someone else.

No one wants to be overly bureaucratic, but there are two major problems with allowing flexibility. First, the inconsistent application is unfair to users who are forced to abide by the policies. Secondly, we're encouraging really quite creepy behaviour if we allow users to disappear, then re-appear and start interacting with the same people—including launching personal attacks against them—while pretending to be a different person. There's an interesting article here in The Observer today that touches on aspects of this. Even with quite innocent intentions, it's not particularly healthy to continue interacting with the same people while hiding behind a new mask, and it places those not in the know in a vulnerable position.

So I think in the interests of community health, we ought to agree on a reasonable and humane set of rules, then ask the bureaucrats and committee to apply them consistently. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 22:34, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That's an entirely valid concern, and I support a full blown CENT-advertised RFC on the topic. One situation I don't see addressed here is whether the community would like the rules to take into account when editors have chosen to edit under their real name (or a derivative thereof)--should that modify the rules at all? As you've heard above, it was one of the considerations in the ChrisO case. Jclemens (talk) 22:53, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
First name + last initial is an extremely borderline case of "real name": unless the first name is exotic or unique that information alone isn't nearly enough to identify someone. TotientDragooned (talk) 00:22, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The account was identifying and was in fact identified. Cool Hand Luke 00:24, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It appears that the issue arises when an editor asks for an account rename because of RL harassment arising from onwiki activities that have seen them sanctioned, or to escape from being thought of as a 'black sheep' when returning from a lengthy block. Neither of those match cleanstart, but both requests are likely to be fulfilled, going on previous form. In both cases, outing is a potential issue, but so is the prospect of the editor evading sanctions, or getting back into the fray while pretending to be someone new. Elen of the Roads (talk) 22:56, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The problem with changing names to avoid real life harassment is that people on- or off-Wiki often make the connections and post their speculations. "CLEANSTART" isn't just a proscriptive policy, it's a reflection of the community's experience that editors who go back to the old topics will likely have their previous accounts identified.   Will Beback  talk  23:35, 24 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
What do you mean by "respect the Right to vanish"? Recall that ArbCom did not vanish the account. You mean punitively restore an account if they start editing again? I honestly don't see how that helps the encyclopedia.
If you want to get rid of RTV, I'd support you, as it almost always adds to drama, but I can't think of an example where "fully reversing" the alleged vanishing seems like a good idea. Cool Hand Luke 00:15, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think it is hard to imagine such a situation. Imagine an editor, in a strained marriage with children. The editor sees trouble ahead, and is concerned about custody issues. The editor's contributions to WP are not a violation of any WP policy, but the editor emphasize certain areas that may be viewed negatively in a family court. For this reason, the editor exercises the RTV, to minimize the chance that an investigator in a divorce and custody proceeding might link the editor to comment made to user pages. Fast forward, and the siltation is resolved, perhaps amicably, perhaps resolved completely, or the spouse is no longer alive. The editor wishes to return to WP. It is entirely understandable that the editor would put up where they left off, with deleted user pages restored.
Did I misunderstand the implied query?--SPhilbrickT 01:32, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I disagree that we're under any obligation to help that editor disassociate himself from the consequences of his actions in this hypothetical case. If you feel your editing history will negatively affect your real-world life, it's on you to take appropriate measure to maintain anonymity (and we will respect these by not WP:OUTING you). If you send a letter to the editor of a newspaper and sign with your real name, you can't later demand that newspaper collect and burn all copies it printed because you have second thoughts and fear it will harm you if presented in family court. Personal accountability doesn't stop at your modem. TotientDragooned (talk) 06:23, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

(od) In-depth community discussion of WP:RTV and WP:CLEANSTART is long overdue. Perhaps the thing to do is to more sharply separate them, and perhaps create a third type of vanishing, which applies to when real life identity/risk issues arise. Whether it is possible (or desirable) to come up with a sufficiently nuanced set of parameters that will cover all reasonably likely permutations is another matter.

People usually invoke WP:RTV as a way of severing links with an account which has either been linked to their real life identity or contains information/edits making identification trivially easy; and which has led either to serious harassment or credible real life threats. This, I suppose, evolves from the WP:PRIVACY policy which provides for suppression of information that faciitates real life identification.

In some contexts, WP:BLP (and WP:LIBEL), which apply to any information about living people anywhere on Wikipedia, has a bearing too. For example, someone might wish to RTV an account because it is closely associated with their RL identity and has been been serially (but falsely) accused of, say, pedophile advocacy or other very serious malfeasance. (It is often not possible to RevDel everything, especially if discussions have taken place over time and in multiple venues.) In these circumstances, it is entirely understandable that an editor might wish to sever all connections with such an account.

Complications do arise where there are outstanding community issues (cf. WP:SCRUTINY) or current sanctions, though the sock policy is so loosely drafted on this that it is a wikilawyer's charter. For example, WP:SCRUTINY covers "misuse" of RTV and alternate accounts. This, to my mind, turns on motives, which is a hair's breadth away from personal attacks about integrity. There are also serious implications involving the WP:OUTING policy, which explicitly prohibits linking to renamed accounts. I suppose the issue here is whether a Wikipedian desire for transparency about an editor's history outweighs the real life dangers that editors sometimes face.  Roger Davies talk 05:00, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks, Roger; you've expressed my thoughts better than I could have. Risker (talk) 05:24, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's nothing more than an academic exercise to forbid things on Wikipedia, like outing, when WP editors can go to Wikipedia Review and do it there instead with impunity.   Will Beback  talk  07:24, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The difference, I suppose, is that WR isn't a World Top Ten website. And does this mean that all our editors should plaster their real name/home town on their user pages because the information is out there somewhere if others look hard enough? And who, among our anonyms, will lead the way on the path to utter transparency?  Roger Davies talk 07:35, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • ...and not to put too fine a point on it, but an additional difference is "personal integrity".  – Ling.Nut 07:51, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
With Daniel Brandt's website still active there's no need to post that information ourselves. My point isn't that we shouldn't discourage outing on Wikipedia, just that we need to recognize that Wikipedia does not exist in a vacuum. If someone, even with a very legitimate reason for changing their username, goes back to editing the same articles in the same way then the connection will be obvious to people on and off Wikipedia. If folks want a clean start then they need to avoid those old issues, not because of the WP:CLEANSTART policy but because otherwise their anonymity will be lost. It'd be silly to say, "yes, Joe232 does edit the same articles in the same way as Jack323 but if you say so we'll punish you".   Will Beback  talk  07:57, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've often thought that spurious/unfounded sock allegations probably need some sort of "rebound" penalty. The other question, I suppose, that arises in this increasingly wide-ranging discussion is whether the sock policy is still fit for purpose as drafted and whether the whole sock-hunting thing wastes too many resources/attracts too much drama to well serve writing an encyclopedia.  Roger Davies talk 08:30, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Then insist on anonymity for all. As long as you have individual accounts then you need a prohibition (and a much stronger one than we currently have) on socking. Make all edits anonymous and they can then only be judged on the quality of the edit. DuncanHill (talk) 08:55, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ideally, yes. But in the real world we have to deal with trolls, POV pushers, and other problematic or disruptive users. In order to achieve the goals of the project we need to have an intelligent approach to dealing with those who would derail or degrade the efforts of the rest. But I don't think this thread is really about vandals and trolls - it's about editors who have a significant editing history, with concomitant controversies, who change their usernames to avoid harassment and/or scrutiny.   Will Beback  talk  09:12, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
But that's the problem - we say comment on content, not contributor but in fact we need to comment on contributor. We allow anon editing yet need to know edit histories. We don't allow socking except when we do. Our policies and practices are so confused and confusing and wide open to gaming - as well as to the perception of gaming even when someone has a genuine reason for needing to change name. I think we need to go either for all anon or all one identified account. Allowing the mix is what creates a lot of the problems. All anon would probably lose us a lot of our better contributors who like the shiny things and good feelings they get for their contributions though. DuncanHill (talk) 09:37, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"Comment on content, not contributor" is the right standard for article talk pages. But for all other dispute resolution purposes, we can't regard one person with multiple accounts as multiple people. Behavioral guidelines and polices apply to the person, not the account. If a person creates a dozen or a hundred new accounts, we don't need to accord AGF to each account's edits. Back to the issue at hand: for folks who "vanish" in the midst of a dispute, is it legitimate for them to re-appear with a new, "unconnectable" name?   Will Beback  talk  10:25, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger, when Prioryman was blocked by a checkuser, you unblocked them with the edit summary "False positive: legitimate editor". Leaving aside the question of why ArbCom would go to such lengths to protect a user with so many existing sanctions (and who also gives the appearance of having vanished in order to avoid further sanctions), would anyone who identified Prioryman as an alternate account of ChrisO have your suggested "rebound penalty" imposed on them? Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:11, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Really, I don't regard unblocking someone as going to any great length. On the "rebound penalty" question, it would rather depend what they said and how far they went. The fair-game-for-any-allegation aspect of SPI has always troubled me, as does the propensity for settling scores.  Roger Davies talk 06:17, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The ChrisO case very clearly brings up the issue of how we deal with sanctions in relation to a user who wishes to invoke their right to vanish. Sanctions, whether voluntary, imposed by the community, or imposed by ArbCom, are really agreements between the user and the community. The user is expected to honour those agreements, but the community must also be able to ascertain if they are being honoured. Deals that are made outside of the view of the community deprive the community of the ability to monitor if those the user is honouring their agreements. ArbCom is not a monitoring body and it is foolhardy to assume that they will ensure that users abide by their sanctions. While ArbCom may suggest that they would not undertake any such deal with a user that they felt they could not trust to abide by their sanctions, should ArbCom be making those kinds of decisions for the community? I find it troubling that a user with such a long list of sanctions was extended this special treatment, and I find it more troubling that ArbCom member David Fuchs would suggest that there is no abuse of RTV in this case, despite the very clear wording of the guideline. If ArbCom is going to substitute its judgment for that of the community, the community deserves the right to decide the circumstances under which such deals are appropriate. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 17:34, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What it clearly highlights, in my view, is the Byzantine complexity of various policies, the inherent contradictions in them, and the legion opportunities for selective application of one policy, while ignoring others, that frequently present themselves. What it also highlights is the problem of feuding factions continuing to neutralise their opponents and this later point may well be fuelling the fires considerably here for all concerned.  Roger Davies talk 06:17, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ah yes, the "feuding factions". Let's be clear about what those factions are in this case - anti-Scientology POV-pushers, and those who think Wikipedia's NPOV and BLP policies should be applied consistently, even to Scientology-related articles. I'm part of the latter (and apparently in a minority). I'm sure there are even some Scientologists lurking nearby, waiting to see how the playing field will change, but they are likely to be disappointed in any case. I don't recall having had any interaction with ChrisO when they were editing under that name, but I appear to have earned their enmity nonetheless, likely for my continued criticism of Cirt's editing of Scientology-related BLPs. So while I agree that there two opposing factions, that is hardly an unusual situation here, and it should not be used as justification for you to dismiss people's concerns about ArbCom's actions with respect to a user with a long history of conflicts and under multiple ArbCom-imposed sanctions. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 13:03, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'd actually slice it as three factions but obviously your milegage varies. However, as this current tangled mess has its origins prior to the 2009 Scientology case, with many of the same dramatis personæ, it seems entirely reasonably to allude to it. I'd personally have much preferred it if all this was brought to us by entirely uninvolved people but you can't have everything. Incidentally, I have reviewed the editor's comments at Cirt's RFC and - while it would have been much more politic to have said nothing - the comments express mainstreeam views. In order, they were 1/24 supports; 1/27 supports and 1/19 supports.  Roger Davies talk 19:49, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree there were three factions. As for the first faction, Bearian, one of those 27 "no problem/bullshit RfC" voters, told me a few days later he was not aware of any "adult entertainment company that a free-speech lawyer has a significant business interest in". It so happened that this was the very first paragraph in the RfC/U evidence. Someone saying, a few days after voting at the RfC/U, that he has never heard of what it said, seems like an indication that he hadn't read it, and I suspect he may not have been alone in that. Gamaliel, pointing out that some of the politicians puffed up were Democrats, and some Republicans, simply did not get that this was not about party politics, but about Scientology politics. You can't puff up Democrats in a Republican primary. The three "first faction" views you mention had essentially all the same supporters.
The middle faction were those who agreed there were problems, but felt the RfC/U overreached, like Khazar. I would also include in it those who changed their minds over the course of the RfC/U. Macwhiz, whose initial statement, posted before he reviewed the politicians' bios, received the most supports (27), posted a revised statement two weeks later, after he had worked through the evidence. By that time, of course, most of the original commenters had moved on to other things, and some of them, unlike Macwhiz, probably wouldn't have changed their view anyway. I think it is a reasonable assumption that some of the groups concerned are so hated that a significant proportion of editors here do not have a problem with it if policies are broken in our articles on them, but do have a problem with articles being less negative. I can't subscribe to that view. If a reviewer says a book sympathetic to Erhard is "attractively written", and Cirt says in Wikipedia the reviewer described the writing as "appalling", I do have a problem with that, whatever I think of Erhard.
Coming to the third faction, DGG's view was the most critical outside view, and it was clearly based on a thorough review of the evidence, as you'd expect with DGG. That view attracted 18 supports. The RfC as a whole was endorsed by 9, two of whom did not endorse any individual views.
I sure wish I had written the RfC/U differently (and certainly wish I had never mentioned bacon ...), but with a matter like this, raised against a very popular editor, it was never going to be easy to persuade people that there is a problem with their edits. I am grateful for the number and caliber of people who did see the problem, and said so. --JN466 22:31, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Break 1

I'd prefer to avoid discussing ChrisO in this section. I was one of the editors he interacted with as Prioryman, so I don't want to be involved in discussions about what should be done in his case. The reason I'm posting about this here is I've been involved for some time in trying to bring consistency to the way RtV and Clean start are enforced, and this is an opportunity to get things straightened out for future cases.

The biggest problem with editors disappearing and reappearing is that we actively encourage behaviour we would find unacceptable in real life. If we have a problem with a store assistant, and we complain to a supervisor, we don't go back the next day with a wig and fake nose to complain again about the same assistant, so the supervisor thinks multiple customers have the same problem. If that behavior isn't okay in real life, it shouldn't be okay on Wikipedia.

Allowing some editors to return with new wigs and fake noses means we find ourselves interacting with users we've previously chosen not to interact with; repeating discussions we've had before with the same user; and subjected to personal attacks by users who've previously attacked us using different names. It wastes volunteers' time, makes fools of us, and places us in a vulnerable position. No one minds the occasional exception for users who've been seriously harassed or outed, but if the committee is going to allow regular exceptions, it means the policies (SOCK, RtV, and Clean start) are effectively null and void.

It would be helpful if we could have a commitment from the committee going forward that it will respect the policies, and where it allows exceptions, these will be rare enough to allow the committee to monitor the user's edits to make sure old haunts and interactions are being avoided. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 19:44, 25 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sorry, what? I think you're overstating the rigor of the current policies if you're implying that Arbcom is failing to respect them. The first step is as you already described: getting updated, comprehensive community input on what the policies with respect to RTV and CLEANSTART actually ought to be. Jclemens (talk) 00:40, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Wigs and false noses apart, there's a load of behaviour that's (bizarrely) acceptable on Wikipedia that isn't acceptable in real life, prurient examination of people's private lives being one of them :)
Apart from that though, RTV is a guideline "and occasional exceptions may apply". More to the point, as I've outlined above, it can only be read in conjunction with various policies and the overall implication of these is far from clear.  Roger Davies talk 05:58, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
What kind of "prurient examinations of people's private lives" are you referring to? I haven't noticed any in the recent RTV discussions.
The only difference between someone returning from RTV or from retirement is the disposition of their user talk page and their contribution list. If it is determined by the community that a user who vanished has returned to editing, then presumably any bureaucrat could restore the user to the old name. The mechanism for that request is unclear. If the new user denies the connection then the situation is essentially the same as a sockpuppet case, where behavior and CU evidence are applicable.   Will Beback  talk  07:25, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sensitive much? I took it to be a more general comment, reflecting on the penchant for editors to build a one-shop-stop catalogue of gossip, sex and drugs reports, of celebrities, and all the polemical criticism that can be found on political opponents, their family members, and anyone else we disapprove of. The sort of stuff that fills the moulah making machine, and space lizard articles. The nonsense that gets slapped into any breaking crime story, or trial reports, and all the other places where the net-curtain twitchers hang out. John lilburne (talk) 08:09, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with SV that it would be good to get some consistency (her word) and clarity(my word) regarding the RTC and CS options. However, I also think Roger Davies makes a good point that we ought to consider a third option, dealing with the intrusion of RL into the WP world. While it might be tempting to suggest bifurcation: clarify existing guidelines first, then consider additions, extensions or modifications, it is my impression that some of the recent concerns may have arisen from trying to use RTV in a situation where it wasn't intended. If I may push an analogy, suppose you need to drive a screw, and all you have is a hammer and saw. However you use either tool, you will butcher the project. It doesn't make sense, in that case, to redefine and clarify how best to use a hammer or saw to drive a screw, you should obtain a screw driver. I think the RTV and CS guideline/polices each arose to address a legitimate need, but neither is ideally suited to a situation where a user has adopted a user name clearly identifiable to their real name, and has reached the point where off-wiki activity makes this a problem. I suggest that squarely identifying a guideline or policy covering that situation would avoid the issues associated with using the other two options. There may still be a need to clarify the existing options, but that may be easier to do, if we aren't trying to figure out how to use one of the options for a situation they were not designed to handle.--SPhilbrickT 14:47, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm rather sympathetic to the concerns that SV raised. Alert the news media! I think that part of the problem is that we seem to have two separate things going on here, that are getting mixed together: (1) the seemingly reasonable use of clean start to avoid privacy violations while being able to resume productive editing, and (2) the seemingly problematic use of RTV to withdraw from an arbitration proceeding that was in progress, followed by the resumption of edits in related areas. Two different things entirely. --Tryptofish (talk) 18:46, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Interesting points ... though what do you mean here by "resumption of edits in related areas"?  Roger Davies talk 19:21, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I may be entirely wrong about that. I was going by what I understood of what other editors are saying. If the resumed edits are unrelated, then I would consider whether or not the resumed edits would in any way have been affected by whatever decisions would have been made if the participant had remained active during the arbitration. I think it's understandable that editors will have questions when someone vanishes during an active arbitration, apparently under RTV, based on my memory of the discussions at the time, and then apparently returns, more in line with clean start. --Tryptofish (talk) 19:38, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If we're talking specific cases, then the editor has consistently complied with the two extant restrictions. There have been a few gray-area edits but nothing (at least that I've seen) that's in clear blatant breach. Responding more generally, the question is whether risk to personal safety trumps transparency. The answer to that, I suppose, depends entirely on your individual philosophy.  Roger Davies talk 19:57, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
From where I sit, personal safety trumps transparency, of course. You have access to information that I don't. If you only knew what I know, ie the little that the community knows, you might well have wondered the same things that I did (gray-area?). It's not unreasonable for the community to have questions, and you may have reasonable answers to provide. What the community could see, was RTV just before an arbitration decision was going to come down. If that's all one can see, it's reasonable to expect vanishing, not a reappearance. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:08, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I suppose it helps to see the key issue in human terms. The bureaucrats handle RTV, entirely of their discretion. If they are faced with an editor who believes his safety is at risk they can hardly refuse because to do so might have appalling consequences and it puts an immense burden on the bureaucrats to expect them to act otherwise. This, to my mind, makes any discussion of motive for an RTV to all intents and purposes irrelevant. The same argument then applies to ArbCom: it is fair or reasonable to expect ArbCom or indeed the community to make what might be life or death decisions over something relatively trivial? This is way the third route is so important.  Roger Davies talk 20:44, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sure, that's fine. Please understand that the community as a whole didn't have enough information to see it in those human terms. Please don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that the information should have been made public. Of course not. I'm just saying that it explains why you are getting these questions, and that these questions are coming in good faith. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:51, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I do understand that entirely :)  Roger Davies talk 20:59, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(EC) Generaly speaking wouldn't that be a choice the editor has full control of? If their personal safety truly is at risk they have the option of RTV followed by actually not editing anymore.--Cube lurker (talk) 20:11, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes and no. Some people do get addicated to Wikipedia and that must be very difficult indeed to deal with. Similarly, there is the philosophcal issue of whether evil should triumph. To explain, if an editor is receives real life threats because of their on-wiki edits, and seemingly disappearing from Wikipedia throws the bad guys off the trail, then I don't suppose anyone would seriously disagree that it's a job well done. Why should that same lifeline not be given to people wioth sanctions who wish to continue editing? It seems disproportionate to me to do otherwise.  Roger Davies talk 20:44, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Davies, your rhetorical religious inspired bullshit about "good v. evil" is not relevant, not appropriate and not welcome here. There's plenty of wikis that value your fundamentalist fairy in the bottom of the garden view point I'm sure. Be a good chap and go and edit them will you? Pedro :  Chat  20:58, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
LOL! I'm not a Christian.  Roger Davies talk 00:29, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Because if they're truly in danger it's reckless to suggest that their anonimity can be protected if they come back. They're being offered a false promise.--Cube lurker (talk) 20:53, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Actually, I'm not aware of any instance where people have been told their anonymity is guaranteed by a name change; quite the opposite in fact.  Roger Davies talk 20:56, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It seems quite clear if only the arbitration committee would not play around with it. Right to vanish is just what it says - your edits will be moved to a vanished user title which will be blocked indefinitely and your old username will be blocked indefinitely and you are gone from the en project, thank you for your contributions - please be aware if you return you may be treated like a sockpuppet and may be blocked and your edits will be returned to your username. - do you want to request this? - enforce it and the issue goes away. Off2riorob (talk) 21:08, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Actually, for what it's worth, the current guideline specifially says that ArbCom can play round with whether the accounts are connected.  Roger Davies talk 00:29, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Rob, you see the issue here is that no matter that you are entirely correct we've got a bunch of redacted people enacting it and worser a bunch of utter redacted enabling it. The procedure is not at fault I feel. But if you give the procedure over to the likes of "Elen-of-the-D1-minor-roads-with-potholes", "Der ferkwitted" "Chase my copyvios-i'm-immune", "Risk-it-for-a-biscuit", "Roger-love-thy-neighbour-and-thy-bible-10-4-and-out" and "Cool-hothand-luke" it's simply bound to go wrong. It's the people not the process. (no disrespect to Arbcom members of course) Pedro :  Chat  21:25, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I wouldn't go as far as Rob about the Committee "play[ing] around with it", but my understanding of RTV is the same as Rob's. --Tryptofish (talk) 21:28, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't see why it'd be necessary to block a returning RTV. It'd be sufficient to undelete their user talk page and revert the old account to its original name.
The issue of outstanding or pending dispute resolution is more complicated. If someone has been gone for six months or a year then it'd be odd to restart a DR process as if it were an active dispute. It'd probably have to be treated on a case-by-case basis.   Will Beback  talk  21:38, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nearly all of it needs treating on a case by case basis. Incidentally, does anyone know of any accounts that have been unRTV'd? I don't. If not, on what basis is it in the guideline? (Remember: policy etc follows practice, not vice versa.) And how long is RTV supposed to apply for? Surely in this context, permanently means for ever, the duration of a natural life? So a RTV by a 15-year-old can be undone up to 70 years later? That's what the guideline says. Let's face it: the whole thing is poorly thought through.  Roger Davies talk 00:29, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If a 15-year-old is banned permanently by the community, does that ban ever expire? No, though it may be lifted. If a 15-year-old vanishes shortly before being banned, do we simply ignore that history? No, I don't think that makes sense either. The logical thing would be to connect the accounts and ask the editor, "have you learned anything in the meantime?"   Will Beback  talk  00:42, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
FYI, here's an account that returned: user:Mark t young. There are degrees of vanishing-some users don't ask for their contributions to be renamed.   Will Beback  talk  01:26, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes I agree there may be no need to block. I did say " please be aware if you return you may be treated like a sockpuppet and may be blocked" - But it needs to be clarified when users request RTVanish that violating the privilege is a blockable offense. Users that have a bit of harassment but wish to continue to contribute to the project should follow WP:CLEANSTART and keep their heads down for a bit. Off2riorob (talk) 22:33, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm glad we agree on that because blocking would likely be Purely punitive, no? After all, if the RTV'd account has had its email disabled and its password scrambled, which I guess is what happens, it can't be edited from.  Roger Davies talk 00:29, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That may be, but the editor can make a choice of either identifying the new account as belonging to the same person as the vanished account or not. Pretending to be a new account, even making statements to that effect, while still vanished is fundamentally deceptive, and violates the principle of WP:SOCK.   Will Beback  talk  00:49, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, one of the principles of WP:SOCK (WP:SCRUTINY). Otherwise, WP:SOCK is being interpreted increasingly liberally and moving away from the core principle of one editor = one account. That needs looking at critically too,  Roger Davies talk 01:53, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Scrutiny is a key part of the sock policy. Vanishing under one name and returning to old disputes with a new name is a clear violation. If there is significant opposition to the current wording of the policy then maybe we should hold an RFC to change it.   Will Beback  talk  02:07, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You know as well as I do, Will, that WP:SCRUTINY was never intended to be absolute. For instance, the Privacy section of WP:SOCK#LEGIT explicitly sets aside WP:SCRUTINY saying: "Privacy: A person .... may wish to use an alternative account to avoid real-world consequences from their editing or other Wikipedia actions in that area".  Roger Davies talk 15:28, 30 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Break 2

This discussion isn't making sense to me; I suspect it is because it isn't a hypothetical, but a specific example, and not all information is available. To respond to RD, if the bureaucrats are faced with an editor with legitimate concerns for his safety arising from editing WP, then of source safety concerns trump transparently, and RTV should be allowed even if sanctions are pending. It also follows that safety issues mean that, even if the editor pleads addiction, the editors problem should not be enabled by and end around. It literally means those enabling it are putting the editors life in jeopardy, and I could imagine legal consequence. I do hop I've misunderstood the facts, but I'm only working with what has been presented.SPhilbrickT 23:23, 26 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The life or death example is extreme but I have heard about plausible physical threats as I'm sure others here have. But what if the threat is to out someone as gay to their wife and/or parents (ie their editing reveals their sexual orientation)? Or to cause trouble for them at their place of work? Or whatever other nastinesses can be dreamed up. Are you seriously suggesting that someone under a 1RR restriction should be exposed to risk because they "abused" RTV?  Roger Davies talk 00:29, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think I'll leave a note for the bureaucrats to weigh in about Roger's idea of creating a separate policy, or section of a policy, for people with identity concerns. WP:IAR can be applied to those cases, but that leads to some people being allowed to vanish and return, and others not. It would be good if we could discuss the generic issues only, so that we're looking to the future, not applying things retroactively. The point is: the policies have to be enforced and enforceable, or else they're not really policies, so the bureaucrats and Arbs have to be comfortable with them. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:18, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Having an identity concern policy would probably led to everyone pleading it instead of going down the RTV or CLEANSTART route. What might be more sensible is to regard sanctions as spent after twelve months or so if there haven't been further problems in the area of sanction. ie you can RTV or CLEANSTART with blots on your copybook, but they're expunged after twelve months if you don't repeat the behavior with the new account. Underr this scenario, RTV becomes a variety of CLEANSTART but with the original account renamed. All three could, with a bit of sensible drafting, be easily combined into one guideline/policy.  Roger Davies talk 00:36, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, though I'm thinking the text will end up horribly complicated. Also, there are scenarios that don't involved sanctions. E.g. an editor in good standing using their real name, or where the name was obvious via edits. Starts getting harassed, wants to appear to stop editing for that reason, wants his edits to be renamed, but wants to continue editing as before, but with a different name. It's not Vanish (which involves leaving), and it's not Clean start (which involves not continuing as before). It's also not a sensible thing to request, because editors who continue as before are usually identified. But people do regularly want this.
So the questions are: (a) in what circumstances do the Arbs and bureaucrats currently say yes to this, and when do they say no? (b) How do we prevent misuse, i.e. someone simply wanting to re-appear in old haunts with a new name? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 00:44, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
These questions are fine and dandy if the core guideline is okay and workable but, for reasons given about, it isn't. The whole thing needs a rethink, including the premise that RTV is permanently leaving. (Permanent is a very very long time and circumnstances change.)  Roger Davies talk 01:48, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
So are we now suggesting that topic bans, etc, all expire in 12 months if there is no proof that the editor has been active during that time? And that the ability of the community to scrutinize the new contributions of previously banned editors also expires? I think that would be a radical and unfortunate change in enforcement procedures.   Will Beback  talk  01:30, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not necessarily in twelve months (that was an example) and definitely not in all instances, but the broad principle is probably right.  Roger Davies talk 01:48, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have no difficulty imagining serious situations which require a user to leave the community, and not just cease editing, but take steps to hide their past existence on the project. I do not think their ability to avail themselves of this right should be contingent on being in good standing. If they have serious concerns, such s the examples you gave, we should help them mitigate their risk. However, should they avail themselves of an option we have yet to fully articulate, we should not actively help them endanger their own safety by enabling them to get around the rules. I don not see how you can argue that "Having an identity concern policy would probably led to everyone pleading it instead of...". We haven't even articulated the policy. It may, for example, allow a user, even one under a cloud, to leave in a manner like RTV, but we might impose a mandatory 12 month period before they could ever consider rescinding it. That would help eliminate the possibility that someone uses it to dodge a possible sanction. The RTV rules say that someone coming back has to have their (presumably identifiable) user name restored, but again, we are talking about a new option, and we can craft it in a way that makes sense. Better to say that someone trying to come back early will be blocked. Perhaps they have to provide some evidence that the threat is gone. We do have to think this through, and consider different cases. We might decide to come up with a policy covering identity issues while leaving RTV and CS untouched, or we might start with a clean slate, and ab initio, think through what options should be available to a user who needs to do something more than a simple retirement.--SPhilbrickT 03:55, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

My take is that I have no problem with someone vanishing and then coming back for a clean start, provided they don't do it to avoid community scrutiny of dubious behavior. For someone who really wants to edit, but knows information about their prior account has exposed them to real-world consequences, the combination would be ideal. So here's what I would suggest: If an editor vanishes and it is not "under a cloud", then they should be allowed to clean start without having their old account resurrected. WP:RTV should be updated to expressly permit that. On the other hand, if there is cloud cover overhead, then a clean start account should only be permitted if they inform ArbCom and commit to avoiding the behaviors that created the cloud. If they return to bad habits, then their vanishing is revoked so the full history of their behavior is available for community scrutiny. WP:CLEANSTART should be updated to say that. This seems the fair approach to me. To facilitate this, when a vanishing is approved, it should be recorded as to whether it is "under a cloud" or not, so any future attempts at a clean start can be handled accordingly. --RL0919 (talk) 04:40, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The problem is that the determination of "leaving under a cloud" would often have to be made after the editor has left and is unable to reply. In one RTV case I know of, the editor RTV'ed after some mild editing problems were revealed, but then more serious problems were found later. Since the editor was already gone there was no point in airing the charged publicly, but the clouds remain. Also, there's no clear definition of what "leaving under a cloud" really means. I imagine that it would include outstanding topic bans or other imposed remedies. But what about unproven accusations?   Will Beback  talk  06:13, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
These same concerns about what constitutes a "cloud" are already dealt with when someone resigns advanced permissions or abruptly retires during a discussion of their behavior, and I agree that it deserves better definition. But there is no inherent reason it can't be worked out, and many cases should be obvious. (No issues ever raised, no cloud. Vanished immediately after an unfavorable ArbCom ruling, cloud. Etc.) I expect there will always be new and unusual situations to handle case-by-case, but AFAIK, the number of vanishings being requested at any given time is not so large as to make that a serious burden. --RL0919 (talk) 14:42, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, but it's possible to vanish without making a declaration of it. Any editor may ask to have their user page deleted. Any editor may blank their user talk page. Name changes are routine and don't require a specific "RTV" reason. In some cases, editors announce a retirement or simply stop editing (with that account). There are a lot of gray areas.   Will Beback  talk  20:45, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm not sure what that means in terms of the present discussion. If someone doesn't invoke RTV, then the current restrictions of that guideline aren't applicable. --RL0919 (talk) 21:22, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It isn't necessary to declare "RTV" in order to vanish. Anyone (with fewer than 50,000 edits) can request a name change, and anyone can have their user pages deleted. If they stop editing then they've vanished. If I understnad correctly, none of that is at issue. The concern here is when editors return with a new name. Is it proper to connect a new account to an old one?
Let's say there are ANI rumblings against user:JohnSmith, but it hasn't yet reached the point of sanctions. He says, "fine, I'm leaving". He asks a bureaucrat to change his account to something more anonymous, user:JS100. He puts SD tags on his user pages and blanks his talk pages. For all intents and purposes he has vanished. Then, a month later, editors notice that user:SJ001 is making the same kinds of edits as JohnSmith/JS100 used to make. Is it outing to say, "hey, aren't you user:JS100"? I would say no. The editor has not really vanished, nor has he followed CLEANSTART. He's just abandoned one account and created a new one. Editors are allowed to do that, but they can't expect others to pretend that they're actually a new person. If there were concerns about the user with his old account then those concerns probably remain. OTOH, if someone vanishes and later wishes to return with a new identity and if he actually follows CLEANSTART to the letter, then there's little chance of him being associated with the prior account. The problem comes when they vanish and then return to their old topics of interest.   Will Beback  talk  21:43, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Why exactly should CLEANSTART be offered to editors with community sanctions in the first place? While I hear from other arbs that such has occasionally been successful, my recent experience dealing with WikiManOne/BelloWello has been that problematic editors simply cannot cease being problematic editors if offered a new chance. Might not a policy that only permits anyone with a block log (or worse) to assume a new, disconnected account after 12 months of no problematic editing be more universally fairly applied? Jclemens (talk) 06:02, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I referred to community scrutiny, not necessarily active sanctions, although the policy should be clear about that situation as well. I don't object to there being some other stipulations on clean starts for problematic editors, but we should be clear on what they are and why we think they are reasonable conditions to have. --RL0919 (talk) 14:42, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As a compromise, how about allowing any unbanned editor to start editing under a new account name, provided it has been at least one year since their last edit under their old account(s)? There's no need for subjective decisions about whether or not the editors are under a cloud, or whether or not their reasons for wanting a new name are credible: instead, each editor weighs for himself whether a new name is worth taking a year-long wikibreak. TotientDragooned (talk) 15:16, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Vanishing makes historic reference difficult - whether users left under a cloud or not, as I understand it vanishing is not for the many but only for the few? Vanishing should only be granted in extreme circumstances and agreeing to actually vanish should be a part of that. If you allow it for all, or even liberally we would have no ability to search or evaluate historic contributions. Are there many users that had sanctions and block records and arbitration cases against them that have been given the privilege of vanishing - is vanishing a privilege or a right? I am beginning to think that we should remove all offer or option of WP:RTV, delete the guideline completely. Get a new username or stop editing or make a WP:CLEANSTART is plenty of possibilities to cover all emergencies imo. In what situation would these options not be sufficient ? Off2riorob (talk) 18:30, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
A user may have no sanctions or even disputes, but still have an editing history that exposes them to real-world consequences. If they edited under their real name or a handle that is easily associated with them, then employers, family, abusive ex-partners, etc., could discover things they revealed in talk comments or edit summaries, or just interests that they have that might be problematic. You might say (as I believe someone did farther up the thread) that this is their problem to deal with, but I think we should remember that people often start editing at a young age, and may not be fully aware of the potential consequences of their actions. Vanishing is useful in a few different situations. Editors who have created a bad reputation for themselves in the community are the most problematic cases, but hardly the only ones. --RL0919 (talk) 20:17, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We have policy and guidelines to support and protect them but after that children that edit here do so at their own risk, at article creation they should be directed to read advice prior to getting an account after reading the advice they should get no leeway for claiming I was only twelve, its a matter of personal responsibility and users need to accept theirs - when they get their accounts a message - Please be aware, every comment you make here at wikipedia will stay in the history attached to your internet address and your username, don't say or do anything you do not want to be later held responsible for. It should be made very clear the dangers of editing under your real name at account creation position, after such a explicit warning anyone that does it should get no benefits from doing it. Anyone can create an account as Harry Higgs , edit away all about racist topics and then squeal away that they have been exposed as a racist to their family. Why should users that have created a bad reputation for themselves get their disruption vanished? Ow - I have been exposed as a supporter of far right political parties through my editing of wikipedia articles please vanish all my contributions - NO - take responsibility for your contributions, you made them they belong to you and we are not hiding them for you. User:ChrisO didn't need or deserve his contributions vanishing and neither did User:Rlevse, both of them were under a cloud when they requested it and both of them should be reverted to a position of responsibility for their historic contributions. Off2riorob (talk) 20:51, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(Looks around to see if Rob is done revising his comments after the fourth consecutive edit conflict.) And a teenage girl could create an account under a screen name that she uses for everything, only to realize later that her not-so-loving parents could use this to discover her interest in lesbianism/atheism/name something her parents don't like/etc. and kick her out on the streets (or in some cultures, worse). Moreover, she could be doing this already, which is a bit late for a new editnotice to change the situation. Not every problem someone encounters is the fault of their "bad reputation", much less "disruption". As I said, those are the most problematic cases, but not the only ones. That doesn't mean there aren't abuses of RTV that we should try to address, but vanishing has its place. --RL0919 (talk) 21:22, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry about the edit conflicts - so many corrections/revisions is the reason I have so many contributions. Off2riorob (talk) 21:35, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, another hypothetical scenario might involve someone creating an article that says something like "<redacted> is an American actress and lingerie model best known for her role in <redacted> and her crotchshot on <redacted>. She is also married to real estate veteran and Internet sensation <redacted>" They might even, hypothetically, add the "crotch shot" in question, although that would be a (hypothetical) copyright violation. If someone had used their real name when creating an account, they might change it to hide their identity before doing that. Of course, if that ever happened and a long time admin stumbled across it, they would probably delete it immediately. Or maybe they would tag it as uncategorized. Hypothetically. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 21:42, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And neither of the users in question has requested RTV. Perhaps you could find a racist pedophile edit warring on Eastern Europe and climate change topics who also hasn't vanished, and bring that into the discussion? --RL0919 (talk) 21:48, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry, I get confused easily. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 21:59, 27 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Vanishing is one thing, and it certainly sounds like it has its value in protecting certain users in very specific types of real world situations. But vanishing is only one half of the scenario that started this discussion. The other half is Arbcom enabling users to return after vanishing. Cube lurker raised an issue in conversation with Roger that no one has addressed, namely that it seems irresponsible to enable such returns. If a user's editing of Wikipedia poses them the threat of real life harm, if there is no way to ensure anonymity and if one is trying to protect the user then there is no rational defense for enabling them to return to editing under a disguise. Roger made reference to not letting evil triumph. Well if that is his position then it is completely disingenuous for him to play the "protection from harm" card in this discussion. If he wants to play with the safety of editors in order to prove some point about Wikipedia not kowtowing to "evil" then he needs to be honest about that. What this all seems like to me is something like the witness protection program saying ... "OK we'll give you a new name and a make over but I'll be damned if we let those homicidal criminals you're testifying against make you quit your job or move from your house." Roger can you please respond to this comment, because the way you left things with Cube lurker doesn't sit right with me at all.Griswaldo (talk) 01:39, 28 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I did comment on this hypothetical here. In the vanishingly unlikely event of someone being mad enough to wish to edit while faced with mortal threats, they would be advised not to. However, anything formally preventing people from editing for their own protection would not only be unprecedented but also the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. And, just to make it very clear, the current guideline permits people to return without being linked to their RTV account (though this is contradicted elsewhere in the same guideline).  Roger Davies talk 15:33, 30 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Which is exactly the sort of thing we need to clean up. If returning under a new identity (WP:CLEANSTART) after vanishing is accepted, then the guidelines should state that it is and under what conditions. That way situations that abuse those conditions can be addressed by reference to a clear and consistent guideline. I believe an example was given earlier (the true details of which I don't know, so I'm not commenting on that user) of a user who RTVed during discussions of his problematic editing and created a new account the next day. I would consider that an abuse, and the guideline should rule out that kind of gaming. But if a good-faith editor vanishes due to external circumstances and later decides to return anonymously, I think the guideline should be equally clear that that is OK. (Assuming the community thinks it is OK; I certainly do. If it isn't OK, then that needs to be just as clearly stated.) --RL0919 (talk) 16:11, 30 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree that many of our policies and guidelines need to be cleaned up for clarity. I see that several users have quoted bits while ignoring all of the equivocal and contrary language. I'm fine with having ArbCom abide with the RTV and cleanstart policies. As far as I can tell, we have (even though the outcome was poor). If the policies are meant to set down firm rules, they should be edited to reflect them. Cool Hand Luke 21:20, 31 July 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger your original comment didn't address the issue nor does this one. Let's straighten a couple of things out. My question was not about "mortal danger," but whatever level of danger that you all consider enough to facilitate a RTV because of that danger. I have no idea if the threshold is "mortal danger." Is it? My concern also never mentioned "preventing people from editing" but something much less extreme--not actively facilitating their return to editing. Those are very different things Roger, and I'll expand on that through the concrete example that started all of this discussion. From what you have stated we are to understand that Prioryman faced enough danger off-wiki to trigger this protective response from the Arbitration Committee. You have even suggested that the very act of editing the encyclopedia put him in danger. These claims are also used to explain why those who knew who he was (the Arbs) did not out him or link him to his old account. Those things were done to protect him we are told. When Prioryman contacted you all to give you the heads up on who he was what was your response Roger? Was it: "Prioryman, we vanished your account because of a safety concern, and as long as that concern still exists we cannot in any way recommend that your return to editing. If you wish to return to editing you do so entirely at your own risk, and without any help from us." That would be not enabling him to return as opposed to "preventing him" from returning (which, in this discussion, is a straw man in case that wasn't clear yet). What we know from the leaked emails is that you all clearly did enable him to return, because you were helping to keep his identity a secret and cleaning up after admins who were not in the know after they blocked him as a sock-puppet. Do you get this point yet? That is actively enabling. You all didn't just stand by and say that you can't prevent the return of a vanished user, which is the argument you present above, but you helped this user get back into the swing of things, to do the exact thing that you claim puts him in danger. THAT is the issue we're asking you to reconcile here. Can you please do that? Thanks.Griswaldo (talk) 02:18, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger, Griswaldo is asking a clear question and deserves a clear answer. He hasn't received one yet. Cla68 (talk) 05:07, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Griswaldo, we are probably talking past each other. The discussion here is partly about actual situations and partly about hypotheticals, and the two are getting hopelessly tangled up. I have tried to discuss this in pertinant generalities because, whatever my feelings on the matter, it's impossible to be specific without disclosing intensely private information.
However, to set part of the public record straight, ArbCom knew nothing of the RTV until after it has been performed. The first returning account was indeffed shortly afterwards at ArbCom's bidding. The second returning account, which started editing a month or so later, was given precisely the warnings you describe.
Despite your repeated assertions to the contrary, letting the second account continue to contribute (especially as they not been near the areas covered by their restrictions) is not prohibited by the RTV guideline and, even if it were, there are other policy considerations. This is not to say that with 20/20 hindsight, and probably with the whole thing unfolding in its entirety over a much shorter timescale, this very complex situation would not have been handled differently.
Now, talking even more generally, there is a major and longstanding issue with editors whose anonymity and privacy is compromised. Their situation is made considerably worse when off-wiki sites join up the dots and, usually from behind a wall of anonymity, reveal real life identities, places of work etc. Once an individual is disassociated from edits and the RL identity recedes from the picture, the opportunities for threats, blackmail and so on diminish considerably. That, I'm afraid, is just the way it is.  Roger Davies talk 18:06, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger, as a social scientist I have a very hard time accepting that these vague generalizations and virtually hypothetical anecdotes tell us anything about "the way it is." I have not asserted anything about "letting" or not letting the account to continue editing, I have asserted things about facilitating their ability to edit anonymously, as you do when you actively work to provide them with the ability to edit here (e.g. what I already mentioned about cleaning up after admins who identified the account as a sock puppet). What you are skirting around is that no one has a right to return (that is crystal clear in the guideline) and that being able to return and edit anonymously disconnected from the prior account is a privilege granted to editors directly by you, Arbcom. You keep on trying to make the policy language responsible for a decision that you all made, and I'm sorry I'm not gonna buy that. You say: This is not to say that with 20/20 hindsight, and probably with the whole thing unfolding in its entirety over a much shorter timescale, this very complex situation would not have been handled differently. OK how would it have been handled differently? Throw us a bone here. Let us understand that you are capable of saying that you might not have made the best decisions, here's how you would handle this in the future. Had you actually done that it might have diffused this situation to most people's satisfaction (certainly mine). Something that I think SV has outlined well below addresses another issue that is quite pertinent in all of this. Your decisions do not just effect the vanished party, but also the community as a whole. When you grant someone these types of privileges you may be doing so at a cost in terms of losing the community's trust, etc. By making this choice and then standing by it you are telling us that this individual person's right to edit Wikipedia in anonymity is worth this type of cost. I'm not sure that it is. I think some people are particularly upset about the fact that part of the deal allowing this editor to edit anonymously, under your protection when needed, did not include the type of oversight that would keep him away from showing up at an RfC of an old friend to argue intensely in his favor. Are you all OK with that particular bit of activity and if not what do you intend on doing about it? Does he get a free pass simply because he had real life harassment issues? I don't think that flies with the rest of us. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 18:30, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It would have been handled very differently if it had been expressed as a single ask, thus: "I'm facing RL harassment so I want to vanish during a case and then return anonymously". This would certainly have been categorically refused. What instead happened was a series of different individually reasonable requests which resulted in missteps as events gradually unfolded over three months.
It is not possible for me to provide any assurances at all about the committee might act in the future: that will be for the committee of the day to decide. Cutting this particular individual out of the equation for a moment, it is plain that the WP:RTV guideline is unrealistic. The idea that someone can and should be penalised for life - for what might be the naivete of editing under their real name or because of a moment of panic - is rigid, harsh and defies commonsense. Pooh-pooh it as much as you like but there will always be instances were people are under serious threat and that threat recedes. One obvious example is the person making the threats being imprisoned or restrained. In these cases, people will be strongly averse to return to the original account - even though the threat has passed - and it's ridiculous to insist that they should.
Overall, what's my view? It's that anything with real life implications - and by that I include all RTVs as they nearly always involve actual identities, child protection, outing, harassment etc - needs to be handled by the WMF as office actions. These difficult ethical decisions should not be foisted onto volunteers (arbitrators and bureaucrats alike).  Roger Davies talk 10:29, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Once again your argument is based on the false premise that there is some unassailable right to edit Wikipedia that needs to be protected at all costs. Where does that notion come from Roger? Sometimes people just need to stay away from the the project for their own good. They ought to realize this and we ought to make that easier for them not harder by hanging tasty carrots in front of their faces. This is a hobby Roger not a necessity. Otherwise I await comment on my many other points. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 10:48, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
False premise? That's not so. The free encyclopedia that "anyone can edit" is what is written all over the tin. This is broadly the reason why blocks are preventative not punitive and why they aren't usually (with a couple of exceptions) for life. Yes, sometimes people do need to stay away for their own protection, but not everyone and not everyone permanently. Either you accept that or you don't. You apparently don't.  Roger Davies talk 11:19, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger can you please respond to (and quote) complete thoughts as opposed to the half of a sentence you find more useful to use out of context? The complete thought: "Once again your argument is based on the false premise that there is some unassailable right to edit Wikipedia that needs to be protected at all costs." Are you just going to ignore this issue of costs? Clearly all people start out with the privilege to edit the encyclopedia, and clearly that privilege can be revoked and does get revoked at times. When it is revoked why is that? Because the cost of letting the person edit is much too high. Now we find ourselves in a slightly different situation where the Arbitration committee is not simply granting someone the privilege to edit, which is what "anyone can edit" means, but is actively trying to ensure that when someone edits it wont effect them in real life. An encyclopedia that "anyone can edit" is not equivalent to an encyclopedia where, "if editing may cause you trouble in real life we'll bend over backwards, even if it means deceiving the rest of the community, to relieve you of those real life problems." It does not mean that we will enable you at all costs to yourself and to the community. That's what my comment was about, and you clearly know it, so please stop taking me out of context. By the way when I develop carpel tunnel syndrome Roger will the Arbitration committee buy me a copy of Dragon naturally speaking and help me get the training I'll need to edit without typing? If I was blind Roger, would the Arbitration committee concern itself with securing the resources I need to edit the encyclopedia? If I was in prison and the prison had a strict rule against editing Wikipedia would you help me do so under the radar so that the wardens didn't find out? So why again are you bending over backwards at a cost in cases like these?Griswaldo (talk) 12:10, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hear, hear. Roger, in addition to you all clearly admitting that your decision and actions on this matter were mistaken and unhelpful to the community, you need to outline what steps you are implementing to ensure that it doesn't happen again. Cla68 (talk) 00:08, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Better still, CLA, let's hear some sensible suggestions from you that will enable people who have been cynically and maliciously driven away by harassers to return to editing without revealing their original account name (which may have been plastered all over the web). By focusing on one wholly exceptional editor, you are ignoring the elephant in the room.  Roger Davies talk 10:36, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know what elephant you're talking about with that defensive response. If you can't say it here, then please say what you mean over at Wikipedia Review. Anyway, when an editor is facing sanctions in an ArbCom case for, among other things, edit warring to introduce pejorative information in a BLP, then it's probably not a good reason to allow them to come back so easily. According to the emails, Rlevse tried to protest what you were doing, but was basically ignored. As Prioryman has shown with his recent actions, Rlevse was right. So, would you like some suggestions on how to structure the deliberative processes of the Committee so that concerns, such as Rlevse had, are better discussed and considered? I'd be happy to do that. In fact, I did some of that already in an earlier thread on this page. Cla68 (talk) 12:31, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What "Right to Vanish" States

Above, Roger Davies writes:

  • And, just to make it very clear, the current guideline permits people to return without being linked to their RTV account (though this is contradicted elsewhere in the same guideline).

I have just read and reread the current guideline and I do not see where it "permits people to return without being linked to their RTV account." Can someone please explain what part of the guideline this permission is found in? The closest idea I can find in the guideline is that if a user vanishes, wants to return but linking to the old account poses a problem "Arbcom may be consulted." So the guideline itself does not "permit" any such thing. You, Arbcoim "permit," or have permitted such things after users with a problem consulted you about it, but nowhere does the guideline itself permit this. In fact the guideline does not even stat that such permissions can be granted by Arbcom (it doesn't say that they can't either). Indeed the only language that deals directly with the issue states things like: "Return leads to the "vanishing" being fully reversed," and "Vanished users have no right to silently return under a new identity or as an IP." What we have here is a situation which has been handled entirely within the discretion of the Arbitration Committee. There are no policies or guidelines to fall back on here guys, its just your decisions. You need to defend these decisions and it would be nice to see you do within the actual context of what has happened as opposed to various irrelevant hypotheticals. Thanks.Griswaldo (talk) 02:56, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Apart from the statement at the top that the guideline "is best treated with common sense, and occasional exceptions may apply", it is laced with stuff that is pregnant with the application of discretion: "Subsequent return should be notified to ArbCom... ArbCom may be consulted ... ArbCom may also be consulted if a user wishes to return and linking to the old account would be a problem". Against this, WP:PRIVACY which is policy and which trumps a guideline says "Posting another editor's personal information is harassment ... [it] applies in the case of an editor who has requested a change in username, but whose old identifying marks can still be found.". Also against this, WP:SOCK#LEGIT which is also policy and which trumps a guideline says "Alternative accounts have legitimate uses.... Valid reasons include: Privacy: A person editing an article ... whose Wikipedia identity is ... traceable to their real-world identity, may wish to use an alternative account to avoid real-world consequences from their editing or other Wikipedia actions in that area...." The situation is nothing like as clear-cut as you would have us believe.  Roger Davies talk 17:48, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger, with respect, you are only now introducing other policies to the discussion. I was commenting on the RTV guideline which, again does not "permit" any such things on its own. Regarding these policies it is really regretful that you have decided to quote them out of context and in abbreviated ways. For instance: "Posting another editor's personal information is harassment, unless that person voluntarily had posted his or her own information, or links to such information, on Wikipedia." When you RTVed Prioryman's original account, you got rid of his identifying information. How does linking back to the "vanished user" account, which again has already been scrubbed of the identifying information (i.e. the former username), in any way constitute a breach of this policy? It simply doesn't. Here's the full quote from the other policy: "A person editing an article which is highly controversial within his/her family, social or professional circle, and whose Wikipedia identity is known within that circle, or traceable to their real-world identity, may wish to use an alternative account to avoid real-world consequences from their editing or other Wikipedia actions in that area." Why did you leave out "which is controversial within his/her family, social or professional circle?" The first part of that sentence is depended on the second, which you omitted. This does not in any way say that an already established user has the right to change his user name and return to areas they previously edited under a new username for the stated privacy reasons. Beyond that it doesn't leave as open of a door as you did by omitted the second part. Your version, with the omission, makes it sound like we welcome POV pusher to bring their WP:BATTLEGROUND here to Wikipedia but to do so under the protection of anonymity. Get into trouble with people who disagree with your POV? No problem talk to arbcom and you will get a new identity from which to continue pushing that POV.Griswaldo (talk) 18:58, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nope, that's not true. I've been focused on "other policies" throughout. Otherwise, to state the obvious, the vanished user in this instance did not return to push a POV: they pretty much kept their head down and did good work.  Roger Davies talk 19:08, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OK fair enough regarding other policies. I did not remember that, but clearly you are right about having already brought them up so I will strike that with apologies. Regarding the POV pushing, I was straying from the specific case and into what I feel your snipped version of the policy would allow more generally (without the added language that is in there). Regarding POV pushing and the specific case wouldn't it have made sense to restrict them from such activity altogether, since this return was occurring in view of Arbcom? Was that done and if so what is being done now that it happened? Also, are you sure that this is the only case in which he has returned to edit in controversial haunts?Griswaldo (talk) 19:21, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
FT2 edited the guideline in October 2010 and introduced the inconsistency about consulting ArbCom if linking pre- and post-vanishing accounts was a problem. It was clear before those edits that vanishing means vanishing. See before, after, and diff.
We should remove the contradictory passages from RtV, because they're mixing up RtV and Clean start. But we shouldn't do this with reference to past examples of people vanishing and returning. What's done is done, so let's look to the future only. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 05:30, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've removed the contradiction, so the distinction between vanishing and clean-starting is back. I'll do some more tightening; the page is very repetitive and wordiness may cause confusion. Once that's done, if there's consensus to introduce more nuance, we can do that. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 05:41, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well spotted, Slim. The timing is suggestive; User:L'ecrivant, the first sock, was blocked on 12 September. The RTV guideline was changed by a former arb and checkuser on 5 October. User:Prioryman started editing on 31 October, was blocked by another checkuser and bureaucrat on December 16, and unblocked by Roger on December 17. --JN466 01:57, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have to say that I find it odd that such substantial changes could be made without so much as a blink on the talk page. Was Prioryman's first attempt to come back somehow a trigger, back in October of 2010 for these changes to be made in the guideline? Does anybody know why FT2 made the changes at that time? I'll drop him a note and a link to this discussion.Griswaldo (talk) 04:01, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Policy changes might happen whenever something comes up that highlights policy wording is lacking. It could be a specific incident, or general chat, it's hard to know this far on. Quite likely there was general discussion about RTV/Cleanstart and wording issues, they are not the easiest of policies to word well because there is in reality a lot of judgment and discretion about them and RTV is routinely being criticized for being too manipulable.
In theory cleanstart is for 2 cases - a user who isn't hiding anything but "got off on the wrong foot" or hit some trouble, and wants to start afresh in order to contribute better and not to just game old shrug off a poor record. RTV is for users who want to leave, permanently, and never return.
The reality (and the problem) is that these are full of exceptions. In reality users RTV and then some time later ask to come back. Other than near-banned editors we aren't going to say "no". So we need to accept it'll be requested and be clear the consequences. Users will want their privacy concerns addressed. Users want special help to avoid a stalker. Exceptional discretion and deliberation can takes place around texts removed and conditions agreed in CS/RTV cases. The privacy/disclosure dilemma is a big one and commonsense trumps rules - Arbcom is our primary decision maker for genuine privacy-related issues and looks at things case by case. So forget what "theory" says "should" happen - the water is in reality very muddy.
Policy documents and reflects practice. Practice is that the theoretical purposes and processes of Cleanstart and RTV, get messy. They can involve privacy and how much to obscure a back-record that the community should sometimes know, and sometimes not know. In those complex and easily abused circumstances the best simple guidance possible is to explain the aims, firmly warn of the consequences of abuse, and then if they have any issues - ask an Arbitrator or the Committee for advice tailored to their case. That way it's 100% "above board". SlimVirgin's wish to keep RTV and Cleanstart cleanly separate is probably doomed, because although they are different in practice, in reality the line gets very blurred in individual cases. "Ask someone" is our best advice if there's an issue on privacy and multiple or new accounts. That way we can encourage honestly even when the user may have privacy or other concerns.
I'm not sure what the specific question is. I was asked if I could shed light on non-specific old wording changes. Generally, Wikipedians need to think a lot more in our unseasoned users' shoes. The kinds of people who seek Cleanstart and RTV need it spelled out with care and with attention to circumstances they may encounter such as return or privacy issues, or "what if they wish to return to old areas", or "who to consult with", because CS/RTV inquirers are exactly the kind of user who aren't au fait with our norms and either 1/ abuse, or 2/ after doing their best to apply commonsense complain (bitterly) that nobody told them or that they were mistreated. I hope this helps. FT2 (Talk | email) 19:41, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Gap in the policies

I think it was Roger who pointed out that there's a danger we're being too harsh.

  • VANISH says you can have your contribs moved (to Vanished User X), and your user pages deleted, but only if you leave forever and never darken our doorstep again. If you come back, it's all reversed.
  • CLEANSTART says you can retire one account and start with another, but nothing is moved or deleted, and you mustn't revisit old haunts, interactions, or problematic behaviors. You must be a new person behind the new name.

But what about someone who doesn't want to leave entirely, but who has used a real name, or a handle they care about, and who is embarrassed about some posts, or is being harassed, or his employer is checking to see how much he edited during work hours? Such a person falls between VANISH and CLEANSTART.

This page on Meatball Wiki is worth reading. It lists situations in which people might want to disassociate themselves from old accounts, like moving house to avoid arguments with the neighbours – you don't want your old interactions to haunt you. This is especially true for very young people. If you start editing WP when you're 15, do you really want that stuff hanging around when you're 25? Should you have to promise to leave entirely just to make it vanish?

So the question is: how do we introduce some humanity into this situation? Things to avoid:

  • We don't want the policies to contradict each other or themselves.
  • We don't want to leave such a wide loophole that people will routinely abuse it.
  • We don't want arbs or bureaucrats to exercise discretion too much, because it leads to unfairness, with some users allowed to vanish and others not, even when their situations are similar.
  • We don't want people to have to deal with old users with new names who are continuing the same behaviors; it can be demoralizing to have to do that, and the non-vanished user has rights too.

I'm having a hard time coming up with policy words for a third way (something between VANISH and CLEANSTART) that would fulfill all those requirements. SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 07:36, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I suggested one possible such third way above. TotientDragooned (talk) 15:18, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
A whole year off may be difficult for keen editors to keep to, but even so this does not address the main problem: what happens if a third party makes the link? There are already circumstances where Wikipedia rules direct that some fact about an editor can't be mentioned, for instance if someone works out an editor's real name, so it breaks no new ground of principle to say that a new user name may not be linked to an old one. What seems to be under discussion here seems to be more like a Wikipedia version of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, under which there is an agreement to disregard past offences after a few years.
The key to the problem is the number of people who have to be told about the new username. CLEANSTART is basically more a statement of the obvious: if an editor behaves as it indicates, it is almost certain they will not be detected, so saying it is allowed is no more than "making a virtue out of necessity". If policy is interpreted strictly, the Right to Vanish gives no discretion - if the user returns, the connection to the old account must be made. The situation outlined above for a new username is different in that it requires admins, bureaucrats, checkusers etc to acquiesce, and that means that there is inevitably going to be an element of discretion involved. It is better to face this head on and discuss how that discretion can be exercised in a fair way. (NB: It could be argued, not least by me, that in December 2006 I followed essentially this procedure for essentially the reasons suggested above, although CLEANSTART was not added to policy until November 2007.) Sam Blacketer (talk) 16:20, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Picking up on Sam's comment, one way forward may be a modified RTV procedure. The bureaucrat RTVs the account and as standard suppresses the links in all cases between the original account and the renamed account. The 'crat then creates a new account and links it to the renamed account. The editor then edits, if they wish to edit at all, from the new account. This allows for one way scrutiny if the new account is acting oddly (because you can see their previous sanctions, blocks etc) but protects the original identity. Outing the original account then becomes blockable but referring to the renamed one is okay. This probably provides the best compromise we can reasonably provide and gets rid of a common complaint from prevously sanctioned editors that their history is following them around. It also has the advantage of clarity and gets rid of all the bloodcurdling threats.  Roger Davies talk 19:32, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pardon me for joining this discussion late, but I'm not yet convinced that there is a serious problem here that requires such extensive concern and rewriting of policies, particularly if the rewritten policies would reduce discretion to deal with the more serious types of problems that might cause a user to wish to invoke one or both of these policies. Is the number of instances in which vanishing or cleanstarting has been misused, and caused serious problems, very significant? I can think of a handful of such incidents, which given the number of users who have come and gone over the years is a relatively small number. Of course, we expect candor from users who apply for certain positions, and we don't expect new accounts to be used to evade (e.g.) topic sanctions on former accounts—but let's decide how big a problem we have before we decide what measures we should employ to solve it. Newyorkbrad (talk) 16:46, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The more general discussions about rewriting/clarifying policy are a direct effect of the Arbs' inability to handle specific situations like the one with Prioryman when they surface. IMO you have all been extremely evasive, and some of you have put forth arguments which simply do not make sense on their face. If we are meant to understand the policies in the manner that these strained arguments force us to then here we are, asking to clarify the policies so that this doesn't happen again. Pick your poison and please don't ask to have your cake and eat it too.Griswaldo (talk) 17:05, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
With respect, why have you assumed that this was the wrong way to handle this particular situation? Because what everyone seems to agree was a poorly written and contradictory guideline set out a course of action which was not followed to your satisfaction? Where are the serious problems flowing from the return? There's an old adage that hard cases (and this one was hard in spades on a number of grounds) make bad law. That's pretty true here.  Roger Davies talk 18:17, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Everyone does not agree on how poorly written the guideline was at all. I addressed the issue above. Sam Blacketer adds: If policy is interpreted strictly, the Right to Vanish gives no discretion - if the user returns, the connection to the old account must be made. Your reading of the policy is not one I would have ever considered before you offered it. To me it seems extremely forced, and as I noted above, does not even, in it's forced form fit the description you have offered. So no everyone does not agree with this. What I don't understand is why you are trying so hard to deflect the source of Arbcom's decisions away from itself.Griswaldo (talk) 18:38, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Griswaldo, I for one think the previous version of the RTV guideline had some poor wording in it. I'm glad SlimVirgin cleaned it up, and I would love to discuss the options for creating a clear and fair policy that can be followed in the future. Perhaps we need to relocate that discussion to separate it from questions about past ArbCom actions or the behavior of specific arbitrators? --RL0919 (talk) 19:12, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To be frank the policy discussion does not belong here at all. I understand why Slimvirgin started it here, but Arbcom does not decide on policy language, the community does. Perhaps in their decisions Arbcom is afforded some leeway in interpreting existing policies. So yes, that discussion should really move from this talk page and into a more appropriate forum. This conversation should not be restricted to people monitoring this talk page because they are involved in ongoing arbitration requests. Cheers.Griswaldo (talk) 19:35, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Can I once again reiterate that there's an enormous difference between a policy and a guideline. Policies are mandatory (to the extent that anything on Wikipedia is actually mandatory) whereas guidelines describe best practice. I suppose the reason why SlimVirgin is asking here is because it's a natural focal point arising out of a related discussion. It also makes no sense to write a guideline which doesn't describe the way things are actually done, which is why I expect she's had the courtesy to involve arbitrators and bureaucrats, in their individual capacities, in the discussion. Incidentally, the legislative principle (for want of a better expression) is that the written stuff follows actual practice, not vice versa. That said, I'm not fussed where the discussion of WP:RTV takes place so long.  Roger Davies talk 20:09, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Proposed new RtV section about discretion

I've had a go at writing a version of Right to vanish that includes clean start as a subsection (rather than it having its own page, which was only created in September last year), and which includes a subsection about arbs' and crats' discretion. See User:SlimVirgin/Right to vanish. It's not ideal, because it basically says throughout "you may never do X, except when you're allowed to," but I think it's a fair reflection of what actually happens. As Roger says, the guideline has to be descriptive.

The new discretion section reads:

==Arbitrator and bureaucrat discretion==
Occasionally situations arise where users not wishing to leave Wikipedia will nevertheless want to disassociate their account name from their contributions by having the account name moved—as under the right to vanish—before continuing to edit with a new one. This option should be used sparingly, because it can appear to the community as an attempt to avoid scrutiny. Examples where arbitrators and bureaucrats might allow this include where the old account is a real name or has a real name associated with it; or where there has been demonstrable harassment or real-life concerns deemed sufficiently serious to justify overriding the policies and guidelines.
Arbitrators and bureaucrats granting this option should balance the needs of the vanishing editor with the reluctance of other volunteers to work in an environment in which they may feel they have been deceived. Users allowed to vanish and return with a new account should take particular care not to engage in old disputes or interactions, broadly construed. Any misuse of the option may result in the vanishing process being reversed. Users requesting this option should be in good standing. Arbitrators and bureaucrats should consider declining the request if the user is facing sanctions.

Does that sound about right? SlimVirgin TALK|CONTRIBS 17:38, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nice work but not sure about the interactions ban and would like to specify not double voting. May I suggest replacing Users allowed to vanish and return with a new account must take particular care not to engage in old disputes or interactions, broadly construed. With Users allowed to vanish and return with a new account should take particular care not to double vote or to continue old disputes or negative interactions, broadly construed. Also replacing should with must makes it clear that this is part of the deal, and therefore breaking this can result in the rtv/cleanstart being ended. ϢereSpielChequers 07:04, 3 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Discussions about changes to policies and guidelines should really be conducted on the relevant talk pages.   Will Beback  talk  07:17, 3 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Break 3

Was Arbcom actively monitoring Prioryman to ensure he did not return to old battlegrounds from which he had been sanctioned? Were his edits at the RFC noticed by Arbcom and discussed on the mailing list? Did Arbcom, after carefully considering these edits, come to the consensus that they were OK and no action was needed? Unless the answers are "yes," one might reasonably conclude that the Committee dropped the ball, and so it is on the Committee to show cause why the return was not handled "the wrong way." TotientDragooned (talk) 19:02, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This editor does not appear to have done anything untoward in Scientology in the two years since the sanction. He wasn't topic-banned in the usual sense. Instead, he himself "proposed a binding voluntary restriction that within the Scientology topic (i) he limits his edits to directly improving articles to meet GA and FA criteria, using reliable sources; (ii) he makes no edits of whatever nature to biographies of living people; and (iii) he refrains from sysop action of whatever nature. [He] is instructed to abide by these restrictions." As you can see, there were no restrictions on userspace, wikipedia space etc. While his edits at the RFC may have been unwise, they weren't in breach of anything, expressed mid-range views moderately, and were in the most supported sections.  Roger Davies talk 19:58, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Roger you said While his edits at the RFC may have been unwise, they weren't in breach of anything, expressed mid-range views moderately, and were in the most supported sections.
  • When you say his editing wasn't in breach of anything do you mean that they were not in breach of any demands you had made of Prioryman to refrain from editing in controversial areas of past involvement? Does this mean that you and the committee thought it was fine for him to edit the RfC/U in the manner he did? Please answer that latter question, because no matter what the fine prints reads that is something that I can assure you many in the community would take issue with.Griswaldo (talk) 21:07, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • You also claim that he expressed "mid-range views moderately." I think many do not agree with you.
  • On the actual RfC page was the first person to accuse Jayen of Wikihounding" - "The fact that the creator of this RFCU has been heavily criticised for 'Wikihounding' Cirt [145] does not fill me with confidence, either. This strikes me as just more of the same. As a side note, is it appropriate to post notices about this RfC/U to numerous user talk pages? [146] Prioryman (talk) 19:14, 27 June 2011 (UTC)"
  • On the RfC page he also accused Jayen of "(I assume deliberate) misrepresentation. Prioryman (talk) 20:19, 27 June 2011 (UTC)".
  • On the talk page he accuses pretty much everyone of hounding Cirt - "It's becoming obvious, I think, that the aim is to get rid of Cirt or at the least to make it impossible for him to contribute without being hounded at every turn...Prioryman (talk) 00:41, 29 June"
  • He claims of the evidence against Cirt that he thinks "it's plain that a lot of it has been trumped up or grossly exaggerated... Prioryman (talk) 00:15, 4 July 2011 (UTC)".
  • He repeats the claim that Jayen is victimizing Cirt many times as well. Here's another example: "I also gather that you have been pursuing Cirt literally for years, which strikes me as an unhealthy obsession. And I have the evidence of my own eyes, notably seeing Cirt being bullied and threatened into removing his already-approved DYKs, which is how I learned of this matter in the first place... Prioryman (talk) 08:13, 4 July 2011 (UTC)".
  • He also repeats the general idea that everyone is out to get Cirt many times: "Right now there seems to be a lynch mob mentality and I dislike that intensely. Prioryman (talk) 01:39, 12 July 2011 (UTC)" and "I'm sure I'm not the only person here who is finding the 'burn the witch' mentality on display here tiresome and unhelpful...Prioryman (talk) 08:58, 16 July 2011 (UTC)". Here's a final one that really nails the point home: "When you engage in ludicrous McCartyism like claiming that everyone who has disputed your view is responsible for violating policies, it's obvious that you're on a witch hunt. I'm not so much a supporter of Cirt as a sceptic of his detractors...Prioryman (talk) 11:18, 16 July 2011 (UTC)"
  • Do you, Roger Davies, earnestly declare that these examples are of someone expressing "mid-range views moderately?"Griswaldo (talk) 21:07, 1 August 2011 (UTC))Reply[reply]
Ouch :) Perhaps the use of the word "moderately" was optimistic but the three comments on the RFC page itself (which is what I was referring to) are pretty much par for that particular (ill-tempered) course.  Roger Davies talk 10:49, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You think that initiating the accusations of hounding against Jayen and accusing him of "(I assume deliberate) misrepresentation" was "par for the course." Prioryman essentially ignited a fire around Jayen, and the rest of us, at the RfC and then continued to stoke the flames. If you insist that this is "par for the course" and representative of "mid-ranged views" then I remain speechless. Do you also maintain that this was done in good faith?Griswaldo (talk) 12:21, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Priory man also requested for me to let him on the case. I granted it because I felt his statement were inflammatory but not the as incendiary as others were dropping. Given his long term history in the topic area, I now see those comments as part of infinitely more problematic. The Resident Anthropologist (talk)•(contribs) 21:17, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I reinstated him as a party a couple of days ago as there's obviously stuff that needs airing/examining. That case should open today or tomorrow.  Roger Davies talk 10:54, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
User:ChrisO is a well known anti Scientology author and activist, he came with a new disguised name supported by arbcom and defended the User:Cirt another well known anti Scientology anonymous activist - the right to vanish hypocrisy is deafening and demeaning to uninvolved neutrality. Off2riorob (talk) 20:20, 1 August 2011 (UTC).Reply[reply]
I agree with Rob. But mainly I am uncomfortable with Three factors here. 1) Prioryman wandered back into an area that ideally he would want to keep operate from his ChrisO account. This is not wrong, but it was unwise especially if it was indeed for safety reasons. 2) Prioryman attempted to act as previously uninvolved individual and act as a moderate voice. ChrisO tended to be more moderate than most of the Anti-CoS activists participating in the ARBSCI case. This does not negate his activist role or his heavy involvement in the Scientology topic area prior the RFC/U. From my point of view that, it could be an attempt to manipulate consensus as Cirt and him often sided together in disputes. I am not going to pretend I know "if it was malicious" but it was dishonest at best. 3) ChrisO disappeared during the Climate change arbitration case. I find it incredible coincidence that people involved in ChrisO side of the dispute there just showed up to launch insults and taunt the Filers in the RFC/U.The Resident Anthropologist (talk)•(contribs) 20:22, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • - anti-Scientologists have had a firm footing here at en wikipedia with some high profile users holding positions of authority almost since the beginning of Wikipedia, having migrated *en masse* from alt.religion.scientology - This is the reality and the enabling needs to stop - wikipedia is supposed to be NPOV not an activist org. Off2riorob (talk) 20:45, 1 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • What makes it worse is when the ArbCom helps enable it, which was the reality in this situation. I hope the ArbCom will take this as a learning experience. The problem is, there shouldn't have been a learning experience necessary here if the Committee had some kind of coherent decision-making structure and a leader who took an active role in trying to keep the Committee myopia-free. Cla68 (talk) 00:14, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • Indeed, if ArbCom were not at all like ArbCom, it would have none of the problems that arise from being like ArbCom. From a historical perspective, however, I'm not convinced that an ArbCom with someone actively trying to "lead" it really works any better than the alternative; I suppose the question is whether the community would prefer stability with an ongoing stream of minor mishaps or energetic activity with the occasional catastrophic meltdown. Kirill [talk] [prof] 02:08, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
      • Not to butt in on the discussion here, but I'm legitimately curious about why you feel that a leader wouldn't be helpful. I'm sure it's one of those subjects that's frequently discussed, but it seems intuitively obvious that having more structure would enable the committee to keep on track a little more. Even without looking at the leaks, it's obvious that things fall through the cracks, get slowed down, etc. That said, I'm obviously not going to have more experience regarding this than Kirill or other Arbs. It just seems like a logical thing to do, set up some kind of executive structure in order to keep things on track.

        That said, I think this is a separate discussion from the one regarding activism among anti-Scientologists and others on Wikipedia. I think that will require significantly more than a reformed ArbCom, and I don't think any structure would enable 18 volunteers to police the activism of all the site's users. Archaeo (talk) 21:19, 5 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • While unaware of this discussion, I started a somewhat related talk page thread on Roger's talk page. --JN466 01:39, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hard cases make bad law. We should not set rules that cover 100% of all possible disruptions. Instead, policies should aim to cover 98% or so and let IAR cover the remaining tricky situations. We all know that the aim is to keep the encyclopedia going.   Will Beback  talk  12:43, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I just became aware of this discussion. I have no opinion on the specific editors and situations discussed above, but I am generally concerned about RTV. A little while back I encountered a problematic editor who had used his "right to vanish" but was engaging in conduct similar to his old conduct. In researching the policies I found that it is almost impossible to police RTV to ensure that it is not being abused. This needs to be addressed. ScottyBerg (talk) 20:37, 2 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some food for thought

Not a reply to Coren, but if you take the Racepacket case again clearly the most important decision to make in that case was the sanctions against Racepacket. Given that if one year was considered reasonable in the meeting/discussion phase why was three months proposed as an alternative and not six months (or even nine months depending on whether that's a period that's ever used?) To me that shows in the Racepacket case that the committee didn't communicate properly during the meeting phase and either proposed an initial block period that was too long, or the alternative proposed should have been more of a compromise. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:01, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What it means is that, in a committee as diverse as this is, there may be very different perceptions of the root of the problem. The diversity of the committee is a highly valuable asset (bringing a wide range of experience and knowledge of the project), but its flip side is that it is far more difficult to find the middle ground at which the majority of its members are comfortable. I'd also suggest that the most important aspect of that decision is the reinforcement of the "involved administrator" principle of the administrator policy, which also discussed the seriousness of carrying out good article assessments when an involved editor. The article in question was subsequently reassessed by other members of the community. Risker (talk) 21:40, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Look fundamentally it doesn't matter if its the #1 issue or the #3 issue, my general point still stands. The issue of how long to block Racepacket is still important enough that it should have been discussed at least a little bit before voting started. If someone suggested a year and you suggested three months it would be clear you disagreed and that reaching a compromise pre-voting was important. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 22:52, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes and no. There is an argument to be made that working the compromise on-wiki is exactly what the community expects in regard to the transparency of our opinions (contrary to common belief, when we vote nearly unanimously on a proposed decision it's almost never because of prior agreement out of sight — the cases which do draw discussion on the mailing list tend to be the complicated ones where there is some disagreement).

That said, I've never liked the "make x independent proposals, vote on them" format myself. I'd much rather the decision was written as a whole cogent document, tweaked until consensus is reached (i.e.: the Wiki Way), then signed off on as a whole. — Coren (talk) 01:18, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If you want to discuss these issues on wiki that's fine but then you guys need to go into much more detail than you currently do and you need to make more proposals. If you guys are going to propose a 3 month and a 1 year block for Racepacket then you should have also proposed a 6 month (and maybe even 9 month) block too. Whether that was discussed on wiki or off wiki is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned but it should have been considered - otherwise you end up with the possibility of giving Racepacket a block of twice as long as the committee might have agreed - which isn't fair.
FWIW I like the idea of making a proposal and tweaking them. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:20, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Why do you think we should be obliged to make proposals that we neither support not believe will succeed? I'm sorry, but I just don't get that. Risker (talk) 11:37, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If a 6 month block wasn't something the arbitrators believed could succeed why did an arbitrator propose a 3 month block? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:00, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, I'm the arbitrator who proposed it, and I did so because I thought that was the most appropriate sanction. My colleagues clearly disagreed with me based on their assessment of the evidence. Risker (talk) 22:27, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

motion regarding abstentions

The committee is currently reviewing their use of abstention votes at Wikipedia:Arbitration/Requests/Motions. --John Vandenberg (chat) 23:51, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Arbcom committee lack of Chairman and Secretary

Moved from Wikipedia talk:Arbitration/Requests/Case/MickMacNee/Proposed decision#Knock knock!

The other obvious issue is the lack of a leader. I think having a committee chairman who you vote on at the beginning of the term would be a good idea, and a secretary as well. Obviously they'd be able to stand down or nominate someone else in their place as appropriate. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:58, 3 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

We have a "coordinating arbitrator" and a deputy, which are Roger Davies and Kirill Lokshin respectively. (See WP:ARBCOM) John Vandenberg (chat) 09:11, 4 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It also says "The Arbitration Committee does not have a chair" why not? And obviously there is no secretary either. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:21, 4 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Probably for the same reason the Community elects a Committee rather than just a Community-elected Jimbo Wales. Ncmvocalist (talk) 14:53, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
A community-elected Jimbo is an unrelated proposition to a Chair of ArbCom. It would, in RL, be a highly unusual committee of 17 people that could operate effectively without a leader/chairman/chief executive. DeCausa (talk) 14:59, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Its almost certainly a legal requirement in many situations for a committee to have a chairman and a secretary, I've never heard of an committee not having these. Additionally I see no reason the community should get a say in who the chairman of Arbcom is. The committee should pick one itself. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 15:29, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm sure someone (if not myself) can point to where the Community brainstormed about the Committee - specifically, where they repeatedly came to a consensus on increasing the number of Committee members, rather than showing a willingness to elect or to let this Committee elect a "leader/chairman/chief executive/secretary". I don't think my comparison is unrelated at all - a Community or Committee elected Jimbo Wales would have those sorts of privileges, and some of the Committee members are either fully aware of it having witnessed what has happened in the past (or have already experienced it); the harshness of the Community's reaction and how widespread it was is in no way comparable to the apparent dissatisfaction that I am seeing here. Obviously, there has been recognition that a level of coordination is necessary - that is why that role already exists, and is very carefully within the role of "coordinating arbitrator". "Putting more thought into what is being proposed" would probably be more useful in the grand scheme of things. Ncmvocalist (talk) 15:40, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The bigger the committee the more it needs a chairman. The chairman has no particular special privileges - they just run the committee. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:00, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If the Committee needs less people so it can function effectively, it has the ability to tell the Community. The Committee has told the Community accordingly, both repeatedly and emphatically. And at least on one occasion, someone did try to act as a 'chairman'. The Community's response to that has (each and every time) been pretty loud and clear.... Ncmvocalist (talk) 16:11, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's not a question of reducing the numbers on the committee. I think both Eraserhead and I are alluding to a wider experience than the narrow world of wiki. DeCausa (talk) 16:21, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps you wouldn't respond so foolishly if you took the time to actually reflect on what is being said rather than limiting your response to the first sentence that appears before you. Ncmvocalist (talk) 16:30, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps you'd like to point us at this evidence of yours. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:37, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Its well worth pointing out that none would run a primary school association without a committee chairman, so its not surprising an organisation the size of Wikipedia has so much trouble with Arbcom without one. Take a look at something like this from the UK Charities commission. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:47, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

NCM, I read your entire post and discounted it. I don't think it's foolish to base my view on broadly accepted (at least in the Western world) tried and tested principles of corporate governance. On the other hand, if it is considered less "foolish" to base it on the last few years usage at Wikipedia and the limited experience and preferences of its "mid-20s males", to quote a reference in Jimbo's recent speech, then so be it. DeCausa (talk) 16:58, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
When I've travelled in developing countries one of the most noticeable things is the number of organisations who boast about their ISO 9001 compliance. So it certainly isn't just the Western world which follows Western management styles. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:09, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps you both could show the Committee that you know what you're talking about - that is, you've done your research and put thought into what you are saying (and I'm not talking about mere research outside of Wikipedia either). Between the arbitrators, other active contributors, as well as myself, there's no shortage of theoretical knowledge and practical experience IRL (and it's not a mere superficial understanding of those principles either). Maybe if you followed what's happened with AC from its start until today (or at the very least, have a solid understanding of AC and its interaction with the Community, other DR, the rest of the project, areas outside of the project, etc.), and if you're familiar with the background and the way things work on Wikipedia, then you'd understand how very different the RL environment is to the Wikipedia environment, and why things are not always so straightforward (or directly compatible). So far it seems, your comments/proposals show that you have NOT factored all of those considerations and nuances. Unless it is your intention to cause further problems or repeat the same problems that were made in the past or create a new source of conflict, it would be best to stop and think rather than continue to respond foolishly (in particular, DeCausa, who might be embarassing himself). Ncmvocalist (talk) 17:16, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
See my link above to the UK charities commission.
Wikipedia really isn't that different from any other organisation. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:22, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
With regards to the committee's "experience" I would presume that some or all of the committee members are members of or know people who are members of a football club, or a tennis club, or a school association, or some other kind of club. And when those organisations have meetings that they will have a chairman and a secretary. If anyone can point to a single over example of a serious organisation (or even you know a local football club) not following these basic norms of meetings I'd love to see it. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:30, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
See Steiner Schools for an unusual approach to overall governance if not to all meetings. It may be a rare RL example but (in my experience) Wikipedia really is quite different. For example, how many RL organisations operate grievance procedures during which any member - and even members of the public with no previous relationship to the organisation - can wander in and offer opinions? This is not to say that Arbcom is perfect, but in my view those who volunteer to act on our behalf in this way deserve a little more credit and a little less in the way of hasty judgement. Ben MacDui 17:56, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For NCM, this seems to be rather more about who he's having the discussion with rather than the issue itself. So I'm done here but may take it to another forum - except to respond to Ben MacDui's question by saying the courts do. In the UK it's called third party intervention. There's nothing new under the sun, even in Wikipedia. DeCausa (talk) 18:14, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
With regards to the Steiner Schools they may avoid having a head teacher and may decide things among equals, but I'm sure they have a chairman at their meetings unless you can show otherwise. Additionally organisations do generally have some sort of grievance policy (its certainly in my work contract) which is going to be fairly similar to Arbcom, and I'd expect that committee (which might be the company board) would have to have a chairperson/secretary etc etc. With regards to having a chairperson and secretary for Arbcom having one would mean there would be people to push the process forward and stop open and shut cases taking months to solve.
Given the lack of chairperson and secretary personally I wouldn't dream of standing for the arbitration committee at any stage without taking serious legal advice as I strongly suspect its illegal and/or highly unusual which significantly increases the risk of legal issues. I'm sure there are other people in that boat. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:04, 6 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To add a further comment I'm sure other people won't stand rather than for legal reasons on the principle that the committee doesn't follow established committee norms. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 08:42, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Joining this discussion after it was moved. Possibly the Arbitration Committee should be renamed, as despite it's name it isn't actually a committee (which has led to some of the confusion above). It is more an elected group of individuals that have to work out how to work together, and who vote on things called arbitration cases (which don't always have much to do with arbitration, but sometimes have to do with dispute resolution). This elected group of sometimes antagonistic individuals also engage in group discussions, and usually some form of consensus or deadlock is reached, sometimes with and sometimes without an individual stepping forward to take a lead on that issue, or to guide the discussion. I agree that the elected body should have a secretary (or secretariat), but not a chair. But really, you need to hear from current arbitrators about how they see their role. Carcharoth (talk) 11:49, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The fundamental issue I see here is that the critical element to having officers is not the titles they use—the mere act of labeling one arbitrator "chairman" and another "secretary" would do nothing to change how the Committee operates—but rather the duties they carry out (and, as a slight elephant in the room, the authority they must hold in order to carry out said duties effectively).

The normal role of a committee secretary—or, to be more precise, that of the traditional "recording secretary"—is of limited relevance here, given the lack of any substantive meetings for which minutes are to be produced. We could have a secretary purely for the purpose of maintaining the official record of the Committee's resolutions; but, as these are all formally published on-wiki in any case, it's unclear whether this would be a particularly useful position.

Somewhat more useful might be a "correspondence secretary"—and perhaps this is what people refer to when they ask that a "secretary" position be established—who would be responsible for ensuring that correspondence to and from the Committee was addressed in a timely manner. This is by no means a new idea; indeed, we designated an individual specifically for this purpose in the first quarter of 2009. The unfortunate result of that experiment, however, was that the volume of incoming mail was such that a single person (or at least the particular person selected) had difficulty dealing with it; the formal mail tracking system became a direct responsibility of the coordinating arbitrator in the second quarter of 2009, and has gradually lost its formality in subsequent years. Generally speaking, while I wouldn't be opposed to reviving a position of this sort, I'm not convinced that it's really viable, or that it couldn't be better handled in an automated fashion (e.g. by moving incoming mail to something like OTRS).

As far as a putative "chairman" is concerned, we are again faced with the problem of applying the role to our unusual structure. One of the main duties of a chairman—presiding at meetings—is, as before, largely irrelevant given the lack of any meetings at which to preside. The other main duty—determining the Committee's agenda—is, admittedly, both quite relevant and quite necessary. However, the elephant in the room with regard to that particular aspect of a chairman's duties—and this is what I believe Ncmvocalist has been alluding to—is that the past instances in the Committee's history when a single individual was effectively responsible for determining the Committee's agenda have all ended very, very badly. So, while I would certainly like to see a chair established, I don't really have any insight into how we could make the position feasible (or, more precisely, how to mitigate the occasional debacles that arise when a single arbitrator feels empowered to determine the Committee's course). Kirill [talk] [prof] 12:45, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

instance(s)? - plural? I can only recall the one, or is there another I am forgetting? Casliber (talk · contribs) 13:01, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I would argue that both FT2 (in the first half of 2008) and I (in the first half of 2009) would fall into this category. Obviously, only the latter case involved a formal position per se; but I'm looking at situations where an individual arbitrator is given reason to believe—rightly or wrongly—that they are "empowered to determine the Committee's course" in general, rather than only the existence of a leadership position in and of itself. My view is that the Committee's move towards less "active" leadership after the summer of 2009 is due in large part to a desire to avoid a repetition of the problems that resulted from more "active" leadership (whether formal or informal). Kirill [talk] [prof] 13:16, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You do raise a very good point about the secretary, I do think a "communications secretary" would still be useful, but if there is too much work for one person to deal with you could have a couple of arbitrators do that role. Either with one senior and one junior or both at the same level depending on what works.
With regards to a chairman I think the current system works reasonably well for setting the agenda, if there are things that should be addressed by the committee that haven't been pushed to that stage by the participants that is a shame - but ultimately by encouraging better communication between the committee and the community (with the secretary) those issues would be likely to clear themselves up on their own as people would be able to ask the committee whether a case was appropriate before formally creating one.
What the chairman can do that's valuable is to hurry the discussion process along when it needs hurrying along, and ideally making sure the positions the committee votes on are well worded. The MickMacNee case took 5 weeks after the evidence phase was completed. With someone running a tight ship surely there is no reason the "meeting and decision phase" needed to take more than 10 or so days after that (with ~ 7 days for the meeting phase and ~ 2-3 days for the voting). -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 13:23, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You were told elsewhere that a sideshow (see the history of this page, as I think that is what Coren was referring to) delayed things. I think during the case there was a post by a clerk saying that posting of a proposed decision was delayed. Yes, see here (that is easy to miss). If there had been a more prominent notice on the case page suspending it until things were ready to move forward again, would that have been helpful? Carcharoth (talk) 13:54, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I missed that, and certainly it should have been made more prominent. But even if we take the week at the end for voting to be down to Rd232's motion, and take two weeks off for the sideshow, there is still a two week "meeting" that could have been condensed into surely at most one week, and a 50% improvement in speed is not bad.
If we look at previous cases this year the Racepacket case took 7 weeks. The case opened on the 30th April and the voting for that started on the 21st May, which to me seems about right (it was a more complex case after all) but then the voting stage, rather than taking 2-3 days took until the 19th June, or 4 weeks to complete which is far too long. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:00, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Another problem that occasionally occurs is the fact that the more straightforward cases tend to be the ones to suffer the most when drama erupts elsewhere: given that they are the easiest to resume "later", and that they tend to not have already lingered for a long time, they are usually seen as easy to set aside for a little while — which is fine when the distraction is short, no so good when it becomes protracted or if there is more than one incident to deal with. — Coren (talk) 20:27, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If that's a problem reasonably frequently maybe the whole committee shouldn't judge cases and only a subset (probably ideally picked by lot) should. Having a subset would mean that other members of the committee would be able to deal with other issues. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:04, 7 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Eraserhead, what happens with cases is that there are one or two arbs who draught (draft?) the case, and generally do the groundwork on reviewing evidence in depth. We decide this on an informal basis. The others often wait until the drafters post the Proposed Decision, or things are being discussed at Evidence/Workshop pages, so there is some division of labour. However, as Coren points out, other issues sometimes swamp us, or arbs have real life issues which supervene. Wikipedia is a voluntary activity, it don't put the food on the table. Casliber (talk · contribs) 00:47, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
While I think everyone has great sympathy for the "we're only volunteers" stuff, it's disheartening to see it trotted out so frequently in these discussions. Not that it isn't perfectly true, it's just not particularly constructive.

Of course, that's just a general thing; these reform ideas might work elsewhere and for other people, but increasingly, it looks like the community has the committee it deserves, if not the one that it wants. The committee can reform itself or they can continue on just as they have been. People are going to gnash their teeth either way, and with just as much vigor. Archaeo (talk) 21:44, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

When the treasurer of the high school glee club fails to perform their duties adequately because they had too much homework that week they don't get to use the "I'm a volunteer" excuse. Presumably the Arbs want to be in their positions or else they would not have run in the election or they would have stepped down since. Those positions come with certain responsibilities. If real life issues interfere with the performance of those responsibilities the community has a right to be annoyed. It's really that simple. Shit or get off the pot. Personally I'd never get on that pot in a million years, but the people who choose to do so for whatever reasons they may have need to do the job or hand it over to someone else. As you might have deduced by now, I also find this "we're only volunteers" thing to be completely counterproductive in these conversations.Griswaldo (talk) 22:41, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
(edit conflict) Actually I don't think they will gnash there teeth with as much vigour. Pretty much all the participants in good standing in the recent MickMacNee case have made criticisms about the arbitration committee's behaviour during the case. The committee trying to pretend that everything is just peachy runs entirely contrary to the facts. While you might find the subject continues to criticise the committee you should be able to avoid editors like me, Rd232, HJ Mitchell and Sandstein from criticising the committee.
With regards to Casliber's point local community clubs are just made up of volunteers too, and yet they manage to take less than a month to vote on a series of motions. If you guys are busy in real life that's fine and the generally followed solution is to use a quorum so that not everyone is required to vote, and if people are busy doing other things on wiki you either have a suitable quorum that takes that into account or you have a sub-committee looking at the case so other arbitrators can concentrate on other things.
Given the level of resistance you'd have thought I was asking you guys to be ISO 9001 compliant or something, rather than just following basic principles that local community clubs manage to follow. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 22:52, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Arbcom committee lack of Chairman and Secretary - break

I see that the Mediation Committee manages to have a chair. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:55, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Perhaps you could put together a more cohesive list of what you think a chairperson and a secretary would be doing; but so far, most of what you've suggested is basically what the coordinator arbitrator is supposed to (and does) do, and others arbitrators also do send notes out to keep things moving on a regular basis (sending reminder emails to look at x amendment, y clarification, a note that the parties are getting restless at z case, etc.). –xenotalk 19:12, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • Fair enough, I'm not an expert on committee organisation, but I'll have a go - the UK charities commission website does a good job of explaining the roles generally.
    • In the case of Wikipedia the chairman would be able to prioritise the committee's actions within the bounds set by the cases and other things requested by the community to avoid the need for the parties to get "restless" before actions are taken - which is far healthier for everyone. Additionally the chairman would be able to make sure that discussion doesn't go into too much depth or not enough depth about specific topics and to enforce any procedure consistently (possibly for example evidence lengths).
    • With regards to reminders, these would usually be handled by the secretary - and would be able to be send out each day (or whatever) in a single email which would be much easier to understand and mean that things would get looked at consistently rather than in the order of whoever made the most fuss. The secretary would also make sure that cases were kept to schedule and would remind people of the timetable for completing the various cases (and hopefully make sure the case target date wasn't in the past). Ideally they would make sure that proposals made for voting were sensibly worded beforehand and minimise complaints from arbitrators that they don't like the wording of a particular motion.
    • Given from the above there seems to be quite a bit for the secretary to do they probably require one or two junior communication secretaries to handle external communication initially while giving someone else to escalate discussion to without having to question the whole committee.
    • Fundamentally having a bit of structure means the committee should function significantly better - its clear from this discussion and the ones on the MickMacNee case talk page that the committee doesn't really function particularly well. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:22, 9 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
      • This just seems like stuff the coordinating arbitrator and their deputy should be doing (and for the most-part, they already do). –xenotalk 16:49, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
        • Given that ArbCom is evidently satisfied with their organization internally, the issue must be how that organization is presented to the community. The MickMacNee case is only one example of a case where the committee's failure to effectively communicate with the parties and with the community caused some kind of grief. The committee usually arrives at a decision that most of the community can live with; it's the mealy-mouthed communication and "who's going to respond to this latest crazy" CYOA-ism that drives people nuts. That's with all due respect; I really do think the current committee has made more effort to communicate than any other ArbCom I can remember, and you lot have had your fair share of setbacks in the past couple of months. Archaeo (talk) 18:49, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
          • For the record, my comments made here should not be taken as an official committee position. –xenotalk 18:54, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
            • Sorry if it seemed like I had implied that, Xeno. For what it's worth, comments throughout the Arbitration space definitely make it look like the committee isn't much interested in adopting a different organizational structure, and I tend to agree that it isn't necessary. However, I think it's important to look past Eraserhead's solutions and focus on the problem they're trying to solve: the lack of effective communication. I'd be happy to throw out ideas, but I get the sense that it's not useful, and that I would only be the latest Sisyphus (and probably the least effective, given my "newbie" status) to try to tackle this particular boulder. Archaeo (talk) 19:45, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
              • No worries - it was the indent level that prompted my comment. I'd be happy to hear any suggestions you have. –xenotalk 19:55, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
                • Personally while the current structure is rather bizarre and I wouldn't join the committee without some change if you guys are happy with the structure I can live with it if the underlying communication issues can be successfully addressed. Archaeo puts it well. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:07, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
                • Thanks, Xeno, but I'm not kidding when I say I don't think it'd be useful. I can say that I think the committee should use a To-Do List edited by clerks and arbs, an open Skype chatroom (harder to hack than e-mail, one imagines) to coordinate responses and voting, and a new workflow that eliminates the workshop and uses questions to parties instead, but why bother? People have been suggesting sensible workflow changes for the entire history of ArbCom, and I'm not the first to suggest these, I'm sure. I think it's more productive to wait and see what the mailing list solution looks like before other issues are dealt with; when we know how that will work, it'll be easier for the community to start discussing ways of fixing these communication flaws. Archaeo (talk) 20:56, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
                  • We actually have started trying to use Skype voice to meet weekly, but as you might imagine, getting 17 people all in different timezones together can be difficult. –xenotalk 22:16, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There isn't some magical way the community would elect 20 more of you so that smaller subcommittees could be formed? That's the only other thing I've got. Seriously, Risker's account below makes it obvious that a public or partially public mailing list would solve half your problems. It's impossible to be angry at people who are so obviously swamped. In other words: sure, you've got problems, but as long as cases go in and decisions come out, the worst thing that will happen is a dozen people will be righteously angry about something on the Internet. Cheers, Archaeo (talk) 06:01, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The committee is probably unworkably big at 17: unfortunately, 20 would make that worse.
Picking up on your earlier comment about poor communication, yes, there is a very real problem. It stems directly from the difficulty in getting seventeen people in six or seven time zones to respond swiftly to proposals and all agree to sing from the same hymn sheet. The committee's greatest strength - its diverse and global nature - is also its greatest weakness when it comes to acting swiftly. One of the best short-term solutions would be a secretariat simply because most people do not equate being elected as an arbitrator with doing prioritising mountains of tedious clerical work that would probably end up on the backburner even if it were part of a RL job. Unfortunately running the ArbCom secretariat isn't a very attractive position; it come with privacy problems; and would depend on one or two people's constant involvement to keep it running. When that person leaves, or is on holiday, or sick, then the process stumbles, especially the process is involved or complicated. None of this is to suggest that improvements aren't possible - of course, they are, as an organisational structure ArbCom leaves much to be desired - but there are significant logistical hurdles to overcome.  Roger Davies talk 17:51, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
After reading what's been said here and Risker's comments below again its pretty obvious that the biggest issue is Arbcom's structure. While adding twice as many people might not make something go twice as fast it shouldn't make it slower than it would be with a smaller team if people are effectively organised. Its clear that Arbcom's responsibilities are very large, and there is no reason that the workload couldn't be split into multiple effectively independent teams to look at each issue. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:08, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, yes and no. The bottom line is that we're elected on our decision-making capacity (presumably), not our ability to manage large volumes of constant input. Some of us have skills in that area and others don't. In the Real World, when a committee is put together, its members are selected for their particular skill set; even the WMF Board of Trustees is at least partially selected on that basis. The problem is in thinking that Arbcom is a committee: it's not, it's a random collection of diverse editors with a wide range of experiences, thrown together to handle an array of tasks, with the assumption that consensus can always be found amongst this group. The ability to successfully achieve those goals is largely dependent on the personal behaviour of each individual member; there is little leverage to "force" someone to fulfil *any* related responsibilities, be it working on a specific team, sharing in responding to messages on this page, getting decisions written in a timely way or even voting. Risker (talk) 18:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
About that issue of it actually being harder with more members, I'll just throw out a thought. Maybe if the Committee were to be made larger, there could be a process whereby, when a case is accepted, only a subset of the currently active Committee members would be assigned to the case by a clerk. These assignments could be rotated, so that each member would serve on another case only after all the other members had rotated through a case. It should be possible, then, to have any given member actually serving on fewer cases, and fewer people needed to reach an agreement on a given case. Again, that's just a thought. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:00, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I would suggest they were picked by lot to avoid accusations of bias, but otherwise it seems perfectly sensible. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:27, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We've just finished saying that the smaller committee was more efficient and effective in every way: just as in any other aspect of life, the larger the group of people involved, the more its members are likely to suffer from somebody else's problem syndrome. If more of our members were to realistically be forthcoming about their ability to participate in various roles (i.e., go inactive on cases when they're too busy off-wiki to participate fully and in a timely way), and others would willingly step up when a peer was having difficulty meeting a commitment, this would not be an issue. Again, that is much easier to do with a smaller group than a larger group. The one thing that every arbitrator is undisputedly elected to do is to participate in cases, and proposing to explicitly and arbitrarily exclude elected arbitrators from certain cases is always going to be problematic. Why would anyone want to put up with the scut work if they're going to be disenfranchised from doing the primary function for which they were elected? Nobody runs for Arbcom to handle unblock requests or manage mailing lists. I'll admit that's a problem, but it's also the reality. Risker (talk) 20:34, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The smaller committee was more efficient and effective because the structure of the committee is inadequate.
If the committee had a more effective structure then the "someone else's problem" issues would go away. Personally I'd much rather handle communication with other members of the community than Arbcom cases. The reason Wikipedia works is because you have a diverse group with different interests - I fail to see why Arbcom isn't the same.
Now maybe the current committee only cares about cases but I bet there are other members of the community who wouldn't mind doing handling smaller issues and management? Its not as if they'd have to deal with unblock requests all the time. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:42, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You could be really simple about splitting the committee by simply splitting it into two committees of 10 one of which does one case and one of which does another. Then the "off team" if there is one handles all the other issues when they don't have a case, or if they do then that work is split simply between the two teams. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:48, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Eraserhead, you've got a few specific complaints about certain cases/subjects where the unwritten SLA perhaps fell a bit short of what should be expected. I don't think that sweeping changes are needed in order to address this. Keep in mind that we have recently formulated internal teams for handling issues: Wikipedia:AC#Internal teams. If there is an issue that is not being addressed in a timely manner, community members should feel free to contact a member of the appropriate team directly. –xenotalk 20:54, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'll chime in one more time to say that my concerns regarding communication are largely rendered silly in the face of several active arbitrators commenting at length in this thread and elsewhere; the current committee really has made great strides toward improving ArbCom, and it's really just their bad luck the leak happened under their watch (and lucky that most of the egg ended up on the face of people we already knew were pretty eggy). It's easy to lose sight of the fact that ArbCom has generally gotten better over the years, and if that progress has been slow, well, this is Wikipedia, where people can argue for years about the length of horizontal lines in titles. There are a number of wp:acronyms I could use to describe this, but it's a beautiful day outside. Archaeo (talk) 21:52, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Some Questions

If the current structure is considered acceptable by the committee perhaps they can answer these questions.

  • If someone already sends out a coherent daily update message why do any other arbitrators send out reminder messages for voting? If no-one is currently doing this why not?
  • Why didn't the coordinating arbitrator make sure a 6 month block for Racepacket was considered?
  • Why did the Racepacket arbitration case take a month for the voting to finish?
  • Why did the MickMacNee case ever have the completely unrealistic completion date of the 28th June?
  • Why did the MickMacNee case take until the 27th July to be marked as having a proposed decision date of after the 16th July? And why did it take until the 9th July to change the proposed decision date from the 28th June?
  • Why did it take the third reminder on the questions raised on the MickMacNee Proposed decision talk page to get the Arbitration committee to respond adequately?
  • Why does it clearly regularly take the parties to get "restless" for action to be taken?
  • Why does the arbitration committee have an issue with Jayen466 going to 537 words when there is a 500 word word limit in the Cirt and Jayen466 arbitration case? Isn't that being extremely picky?
  • Why is the committee trying to argue that no changes in structure or committee makeup are required when a majority of the editors in good standing involved in a recent case have criticised the committee in multiple ways? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:12, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • I think it is also reasonable for the coordinating arbitrator, their deputy or the committee as a whole to make a response to these questions within a week. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:08, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ah the joys of decentralization. The coordinating arbitrator ensures that an arbitrator is assigned to draft any particular decision. There may also be a second or co-drafter. These individuals are responsible for getting a proposed decision up, and they are usually self-selected.
However, we need to be somewhat realistic here: many hours go into preparing such a decision, and almost everyone on the committee also has personal, business, educational and/or family responsibilities as well, some of which can be unpredictable. A straightforward decision usually requires somewhere between 10 and 30 hours of work for the drafting arbitrator, including all the requisite reading, and is highly dependent on the quality of evidence provided, whether or not additional information needs to be sought out, how proliferate people have been on the workshop pages, etc. (More complex ones will often take 30-60 hours or more of hard slogging.) And if the drafting arbitrator unexpectedly finds him or herself falling behind or unable to meet the time commitment, it is often very difficult to find another arbitrator in a position to pick up the ball, particularly at times of the year when availability is already low (June through September, December in particular, when many have significant non-Wikipedia commitments).
Individual arbitrators may add proposals to either the workshop or the proposed decision, based on their own reading of the evidence, or to fill in "gaps" identified amongst the committee members. Nobody, however, is obliged to make a proposal that they do not personally support (with the possible exception of the original drafter, if he or she elects to offer a range of options). Thus, Arbitratrator #1 may propose a 3-month sanction as an alternative to a 1-year sanction, but if nobody believes that a 6- or 9-month sanction is appropriate to the case, then there's really no point to proposing it.
I'm not going to comment directly on the Mick MacNee case as I was inactive for it (a realistic assessment of my personal availability for the case), although I will say for the record that I reminded the active arbitrators that a decision was past due and inquiring of the drafting arbitrator if he needed some assistance or backup (the co-drafter had to withdraw for non-Wikipedia reasons). Nor will I comment on Jayen's evidence length, as I am inactive on that case as well.
Eraserhead, I recognize that you're raising these issues in good faith, and I really understand where you're coming from: there are many days when I wish that we were in a position to have such a structure myself. To give you a bit of a picture: Yesterday's "arbcom-L mailbox includes several unblock/block appeal requests, discussions about "outing"/harassment, status of the checkuser/oversight ranks (off-wiki because it involves personal information of individual functionaries), who should draft a current case, a message from a checkuser (contains private information), some follow-up on ideas that had been developed in late June/July, and discussion about a current motion. Total exchanges in just that 24 hours: 12 threads, 79 emails. That does not count the current on-wiki work: a case request, two open cases, clarification request, open motions, the discussions on this page, the discussions on the Arbcom noticeboard, etc. This was actually a relatively quiet day. The unblock requests are generally dealt with by the BASC team, and the current group is fairly efficient, but some requests need feedback from others. We're looking at various options to improve the flow without increasing anyone's workload, because the workload is challenging enough as it is.
I can see you're really trying to help us to find some solutions. It's my experience that very few committees require anything near the time commitment as Arbcom does, and certainly not on a near-daily basis. (Not even the WMF trustees put in as many hours as the average arbitrator does, and much of their work is done at regularly scheduled meetings with weeks of preparation time in advance.) Very little that was on yesterday's plate could be handed off, even in an ideal world where we had a highly supportive and cohesive community as well as the WMF picking up some of the "user specific" issues. Throwing more people at the issues actually has made things more difficult; I'm surprised to see myself saying this, but we stayed on top of things better in 2009 when we had 12-13 arbitrators for most of the year - and were more realistic about what we weren't going to spend time on. Risker (talk) 22:21, 10 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks for the very detailed reply. I will read it through in good time. I may need the rest of the week to do so :). -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:26, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It would be nice for the rest of the questions to be answered as well though. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:20, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Request for arbitration

I have posted a quick deletion nomination on this page as it is blatant spam posted by the owner of a minor website. Unfortunately he has a small club of members who are patrolling the page for him and reverting any attempt to delete the page. Please arbitrate this matter. Thankyou. Exobiologist (talk) 04:25, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The article has already survived two AFDs (many years ago) and several well-established editors have declined Exobiologist's speedy-tagging. He's a new editor apparently having some difficulty navigating the various deletion processes. I've advised him on his talk-page that WP:AFD is the way forward if he wishes to pursue deletion to draw input from other editors. DMacks (talk) 04:42, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have not been involved in this -- I have never even seen the article in question before -- but it seems to me that if Exobiologist would follow the AfD procedures he might very well succeed in getting the page deleted. It is a completely unsourced article about a web site, with no indication (naturally, since there are no sources) that it has received coverage in any publications outside of itself. The article contains no claims to notability. Depending on who happened to show up at the AfD, the page might well go -- or at least someone would be prompted to bring it up to an acceptable level. Instead, this editor has managed to get himself blocked. And, of course, this isn't the proper venue to bring this up either. It's all kind of a shame, especially when I look at Exobiologist's handful of substantive edits to actual articles and see that they seem to be constructive edits. Neutron (talk) 23:35, 8 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I put it to AFD. Totally not an arbitration issue. --RL0919 (talk) 15:57, 11 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Making non-parties into parties

At present, we allow both evidence and workshop proposals from non-parties. This strikes me as odd, as real life bodies rarely allows just anyone to turn up and give evidence. Even where this is allowed, with amicus curiae ans intervener submissions, the court has discretion over wheher to admit them or rely on them. The way forward is probably to require non-parties who want to give evidence or workshop proposals to become parties to the case (explicitly waiving dispute resolution to do so). This would have four effects:

  1. It would reduce the stigma some people perceive as attaching to being a party;
  2. It would ensure that the parties were stakeholders in the case;
  3. It would introduce personal responsibility for submissions by non-parties by providing consequences for misconduct.
  4. It would reduce drive-by traffic on evidence and workshop pages and improve focus.

Thoughts?  Roger Davies talk 19:44, 14 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I think it would be a bad idea. The actual effect would be to strongly discourage interested but impartial editors from contributing anything, leaving only the most polarized members of the community within the process. It goes against the principle of an open Wiki. Certainly the concerns underlying points 2 and 4 can be addressed simply by Arbitrators paying less attention to whatever lacks merit. Putting that another way, no member of the Committee has a "right" to be protected from un-useful evidence or proposals. --Tryptofish (talk) 20:03, 14 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • We get the most polarised members anyway and it is probably their activities that most need moderating. I'm much less concerned about protecting the committee from unhelpful evidence but avoiding outspoken pile-on and monstering/demonising of the parties.  Roger Davies talk 07:39, 15 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
      • Risker's comment below does a very good job of expressing what I, too, think. With respect to the need to moderate the most polarized members, some uninvolved editors can be the most helpful in doing that. With respect to pile-on and demonizing by other non-party editors, that's a valid concern. But I think that automatically adding more parties will just automatically add more targets for demonizing, as well as discouraging good faith editors from adding useful evidence, for fear of retaliation. Instead, I'd urge the Committee, where appropriate, to reflect judgments about disruptive contributors to the arbitration, in findings at the end of the case. For example, a finding of fact that "Foo has engaged in disruptive editing." can be supported by a vote stating "Support, but noting that Bar's comments in this case, criticizing Foo, have also been disruptive and unhelpful." --Tryptofish (talk) 19:52, 15 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Well, most legal and quasi-legal systems do allow uninvolved parties to offer comments on a case where they have some interest — this is good for everyone involved since it allows people who would be affected by the result to participate even if they are not parties to the actual dispute.

    That said, one normally has to ask leave to be considered amicus curiae before they are allowed to file a brief or testify — and I think having to show cause or standing is a reasonable barrier. I wouldn't be opposed to the concept that only parties are allowed to participate in a case unless permission is asked first. This would also neatly fix the concern around editors who are too new without bringing edit count in the picture. — Coren (talk) 13:46, 15 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I don't know about this. Often enough, the most unbiased and useful evidence comes from non-parties. In my mind, the community is always a party to a case; if the community was not being disrupted by whatever issue(s) is being reviewed, then we shouldn't be reviewing it in the first place. I'll grant that some third party evidence is of questionable value, but we have no obligation to respond to it or base our decisions upon it. Unless and until we have a system in place that routinely gathers factual information about the case and the parties, it's not reasonable to rely on the evidence given by parties in making decisions. Removing community members from cases may reduce the number of distracting participants, but it also drives away those with useful information and ideas. Risker (talk) 15:32, 15 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can Wikipedia:Discretionary sanctions be activated without an ArbCom case?

Like in a RfCU or maybe AN? Because I think it's quite called for in this area (Singaporean politics). Editors, including an admin, write massive chucks of WP:OR, unsourced, and extremely WP:POV text. FuFoFuEd (talk) 03:20, 21 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Any editor can take any appropriate set of actions to enforce WP:V and NPOV; admins have more tools than most, but fixing things is everyone's responsibility. If the participants are behaving badly, noticeboards and RFCs should serve to attract uninvolved editors and admins. If those fail, then ArbCom may be appropriate. All that discretionary sanctions do is give a bit more guidance and "oomph" to the enforcement tools that are already within the community's collective right to exercise.
In other words, we could, but if the community has failed on a broad scale then maybe a case is the right way to go, and if it hasn't failed, then such an action is probably premature. Jclemens (talk) 04:08, 21 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Finalizing the changeover to the oversight requests email address

The email address to which requests for oversight should be submitted is Editors with email enabled may use Special:EmailUser/Oversight.

Further to a previous announcement and to finalize the announced changeover to the above email address, the original oversight-l mailing list shall be set to subscribers only effective 1 September 2011, automatically prompting non-subscribers to email requests to the new address instead.

Individuals who submit requests via direct email should ensure that their address books are updated to the new mailing address.

For the Arbitration Committee, –xenotalk 04:21, 29 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Discuss this


I would like to query the committee to see if they intended to publish statistics on the BASC, as the last posting regarding that was 5 months ago. Also with the departure of Shell Kinney, and the inactivity Iridescent, does the Committee intend to designate any other member for the aid of David Fuchs in handling the BASC. I also think two eyes are better than one, and i've needed it at times, so is there a second member looking over these? I understand that the Committee shares and "coordination assignments are not exclusive" and "all arbitrators may participate equally in all aspects of the Committee's work", but i've seen places with multiple supposed 'active people' on the job and people are just too busy with other stuff to assist. -- DQ (t) (e) 04:02, 6 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

WP:BASC is currently compromised of Cool Hand Luke, David Fuchs, and Mailer diablo - you seem to be looking at the makeup of the internal teams, which are informal designations of "who you can go to if you need someone in particular to discuss a problem with [specific function]". Also, keep in mind that BASC appeals are made and discussed on the main mailing list, so all active arbitrators pitch in from time-to-time. –xenotalk 12:52, 6 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, that was the kind of clarification I was looking for, thanks Xeno, and yes I know it goes to the main arbcom-l list. Any comment on the statistics? -- DQ (t) (e) 04:02, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think they're generally published every three to six months. –xenotalk 15:09, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
We missed the last 'scheduled' period for publishing stats, but once I get caught up with work I'll see about publishing a larger timeframe. Der Wohltemperierte Fuchs(talk) 15:18, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sounds good. Thanks! -- DQ (t) (e) 23:02, 9 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

RfC on WP:ACE2011 in the works

To give everyone a heads up, I am planning to start a request for comment for the upcoming Arbitration Committee 2011 election (WP:ACE2011) around mid-September. Having looked at Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee Elections December 2010/Feedback for a little bit this past week, amongst other things, I have drafted a rough agenda of what needs to be discussed and decided upon:

  • Number of seats to fill (9 arbitrators will remain after 2010)
  • Of the number of seats to be filled, how many should be 2-year terms, and how many 1-year terms
  • How many days for voting?
  • Notification of election (i.e. WP:CENT, watchlist, bot, etc.)
  • Clarity in candidate/voter eligibility
  • Questions for the candidates
  • Voter guides
  • Type of voting (normally perennial discussion on that)
  • Page structure
  • Percent required for election

I want the RfC to start early this year so that we can develop a rough consensus on what we want now so that we can plan accordingly; last year, we started way too late, resulting in only a 10-day window for an RfC so that the Developers had time to setup the SecurePoll interface for the election. The earlier we start this, the more we can discuss, the better consensus we can develop on some things, and the more prepared we will be come November. –MuZemike 22:24, 2 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The first two bullet points are pretty straightforward. Assuming no resignations, 9 seats are to be elected, all for 2 year terms. Of the arbs elected last year, the lowest three chosen were to serve for one year terms. Since Shell Kinney has resigned, that leaves John Vandenberg and myself to face reelection again after a single year, as well as the six sitting arbs who did not face reelection last year. That is to say, this is all pretty straightforward unless there's a new push for structural changes that would alter these assumptions.
In addition to the other bullet points, which I endorse, there was also a question about the wisdom of positioning the voting over the U.S.' Thanksgiving Holiday, though I don't recall whether any consensus was reached there.
Thank you very much for taking the initiative to start this now. Jclemens (talk) 23:00, 2 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know about that, Jclemens; I don't see any reason at all why the community shouldn't consider altering the number of arbitrators or to change the terms to two years for all appointees with no future one-year appointments. In some years, the election has run starting immediately after US Thanksgiving and well into December; one year, the elections weren't held until January. Thanks for taking the bull by the horns, MuZemike. Risker (talk) 01:41, 3 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think we should have some kind of 21-gun salute for those final brave souls foolhardy enough to bear through a grueling three-year stint on the committee. –xenotalk 23:25, 2 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, thanks indeed for starting this with enough elbow room that, for once, we won't be racing against the clock making changes just as voting opens (with the unavoidable mess and errors this causes). — Coren (talk) 23:18, 2 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Just as a reminder, one point that we might want to look at, because it has been discussed in the past, is the percent needed, to be elected, in the election.--Tryptofish (talk) 23:57, 2 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Noted. –MuZemike 00:19, 3 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
But let's do it right this time :) In the previous RFC, the number of arbitrators was set without regard for the percent needed to be elected, so that we ended up with a high number of arbs elected with lower support percentages. The RFC needs to be correctly designed this time, to allow for all possibilities and alternatives (that is, do we want a large committee of arbs elected with minimal support percentages?) SandyGeorgia (Talk) 15:45, 10 September 2011 (UTC)sReply[reply]

OK, so I rephrased the working agenda above into a series of questions which can be presented for the RfC so that people can more easily understand what the agenda is and what is being asked:

  • How many arbitrators should we have for 2012? That is, how many seats should we fill for next year?
  • Of the number of seats to be filled for next year, how many should be 2-year terms, and how many 1-year terms?
  • (Obligatory perennial discussion) What should the method of voting be?
  • How many days for voting?
  • When should the voting window be?
  • How should the community be notified of the election?
  • What should the requirements be for candidates to run for the election?
  • What should the requirements be for people to vote in the election?
  • What general questions should we ask each of the candidates?
  • How should voter guides be handled for the election?
  • What should the minimum support percentage be in order to be considered for appointment to ArbCom?
  • How should the page structure of ACE2011 be?

If anyone can find ways to make the questions sound more clear than they are currently, feel free to make changes above. I have tried to bold the key parts of each question so that people can focus on the important part. –MuZemike 17:48, 4 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Please please change the default for voting from "neutral" to "no opinion". A big reason we saw such low percentages were that voters only made positive or negative decisions on a subset of the candidates and the percentages were computed as support votes over total votes. Protonk (talk) 20:54, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As far as I can tell, the percentages were calculated in regular RFA style, or S / (S + O). –xenotalk 20:58, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hmmm. Perhaps I'm totally misinformed! Could have sworn that neutrals were counted. Protonk (talk) 21:00, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Perhaps you are remembering statements made in the post-election analysis suchlike "nn of the appointees were supported by less than half of those voting on them". Anyhow none of this negates your suggestion, per se. –xenotalk 21:20, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I may be. And, as you say, I think disambiguating neutral (or just renaming it) as a suggestion doesn't turn on my recollection of last year's election. Protonk (talk) 21:23, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Maybe "No Vote" would be better. I would suggest only having Support and Oppose, except that if SecurePoll is being used, it seems that one button for each candidate has to start off "checked," so it needs to be something that is neither Support nor Oppose. (I am not an expert in SecurePoll, but I remember someone saying this last year, and it makes sense.) Last year I thought Neutral was ok, and I think it was made very clear by the election personnel that it did not mean anything, would not be counted, was the same as not voting on the person, etc., but then some people (not the election officials) tried to attach significance to the Neutral votes anyway, by "counting" them in the total vote when calculating the percentage of Supports. I think it needs to be made as clear as possible that only Support and Oppose have any significance, and maybe by calling the "default" button "No Vote," that would be reinforced. Of course, people could still do whatever statistical analysis they wish, but it should be clear that only the "official" calculation determines who is elected. Neutron (talk) 21:34, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think it makes sense to include a "No Vote" option as the preselected option in addition to standard S, O, N, to allow editors to indicate whether they have reviewed the candidate and truly feel neutral about their candidacy or that they have simply not had an opportunity to review the candidate and cannot genuinely place a vote in their limited volunteer time. Just my opinion. –xenotalk 22:37, 7 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I would have either No Vote or Neutral, not both. If you have both, some people are going to want to count the Neutral as if it were tantamount to an Oppose. Some tried to do that last year, when there wasn't even a fourth option. Keep it simple. You either support or oppose someone, or you don't vote on them. Neutron (talk) 01:55, 8 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That an option must be provided to be the default is indeed a requirement, although it's actually of HTML rather than of SecurePoll (it is possible to set SecurePoll to not select an option by default, but once a user has loaded the form and selected one of the options, most browsers don't provide a mechanism to 'unselect all', only to move the selection from one radio button to another). If people want to be able to draw any conclusions from the number of "neutral" votes, it needs to not be the default option but a proactive choice. It's not a foregone conclusion that "being able to draw conclusions from the number of neutral votes" is an essential ability. Happymelon 16:21, 10 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have a draft of the RfC page itself done with the above questions; I plan to launch the RfC about this time next week. However, I have one more question, which is how long the RfC should be. We could go 30 days, which is the standard for most RfCs; however, since we're starting this early, my personal suggestion would be to lengthen it to 45 days (ending in the beginning of November), so we have as much time possible to discuss and build at least a rough consensus on most of the issues. –MuZemike 23:49, 9 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Curious where the draft is? Also, we might want to reconsider the wording of the Voter Guide question to something more open-ended, rather than a yes/no question. At the feedback page last year, the general consensus seemed to be that guides were useful, but there was a question of whether they should be in a template, or a subpage somewhere. There were also questions about how to handle guides that were written in bad faith, or were obvious satire. So, instead of, "Should voter guides be continued for the election?" something like, "How should voter guides be handled for this election?" might be better, or even breaking out individual issues such as, "Should satirical guides be listed?" --Elonka 00:49, 10 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, I have one saved on my own drive right now. Anyways, we can certainly reword that question to make it more accurate. It's better we do that now than later. –MuZemike 17:54, 10 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Flying monkeys

This redirect is up for deletion. Please see WP:RFD#Wikipedia:Flying monkeys. Simply south...... creating lakes for 5 years 21:21, 11 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks for the heads up. Please see my comment on the RfD. Regards, Newyorkbrad (talk) 22:13, 11 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

2011 CheckUser and Oversight appointments: Call for applications

The Arbitration Committee is seeking to appoint additional users to the CheckUser and Oversight teams. Experienced editors are invited to apply for either or both of the permissions, and current holders of either permission are also invited to apply for the other.

Successful candidates are likely to be regularly available and already familiar with local and global processes, policies, and guidelines especially those concerning CheckUser and Oversight. CheckUser candidates are expected to be technically proficient, and previous experience with OTRS is beneficial for Oversight candidates. Trusted users who frequent IRC are also encouraged to apply for either permission. All candidates must at least 18 years of age; have attained legal majority in their jurisdiction of residence; and be willing to identify to the Wikimedia Foundation prior to receiving permissions.

Current demand for users with regional knowledge
Because of the increasing activity from the South Asian, Southeast Asian, or Middle Eastern regions, CheckUser applications are particularly sought from people who not only meet our general requirements but also are familiar with the ISPs and typical editing patterns of any of these regions.

If you think you may be suitably qualified, please see the appointments page for further information. The application period is scheduled to close 18 September 2011.

For the Arbitration Committee, –xenotalk 16:40, 12 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Discuss this

Block notice - no clear link as to why the user was blocked

Hi there. I just came across User:Rodhullandemu, and was surprised to find that the account had been blocked. I was specifically surprised that there's no obvious link to find out why the account was blocked, which struck me as odd. Shouldn't the "blocked indefinitely" point link to the case where the blocking was decided upon? Mike Peel (talk) 23:11, 15 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Typically, but this is an untypical case. See the ACN archives for information about the block. –xenotalk 23:33, 15 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Erm... OK. And where do I do that, exactly? (this is what I was meaning about the lack of a link...) Mike Peel (talk) 10:47, 16 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sometimes things are sensitive, and providing a full and public explanation is unhelpful. This kind of situation is rare, but searching contributions and the archives is still available (while emailing Arbcom would be the appropriate action if it were necessary to get clearer information). Johnuniq (talk) 11:22, 16 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Request for comment on Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee Elections December 2011

As customary, I have started a request for comment for the 2011 Arbitration Committee Elections. The community is invited and encouraged to discuss the issues at hand in order to develop a rough consensus for the procedures and rules for the election in December. –MuZemike 00:38, 18 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

2011 CheckUser and Oversight appointments: Invitation to comment on candidates

The Arbitration Committee is seeking to appoint additional users to the CheckUser and Oversight teams, and is now seeking comments from the community regarding the candidates who have volunteered for this role.

Interested parties are invited to review the appointments page containing the nomination statements supplied by the candidates and their answers to a few standard questions. Community members may also pose additional questions and submit comments about the candidates on the individual nomination subpages or privately via email to

Following the consultation phase, the committee will take into account the answers provided by the candidates to the questions and the comments offered by the community (both publicly and privately) along with all other relevant factors before making a final decision regarding appointments.

The consultation phase is scheduled to end 23:59, 4 October 2011 (UTC), and the appointments are scheduled to be announced by 10 October 2011.

For the Arbitration Committee, –xenotalk 14:00, 26 September 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Discuss this

Logs are difficult to follow on some disputes

I ask anyone reading this to click the above two links and tell me they can figure out basic information such as who is blocked how many times or which account is whose sockpuppet. It currently is difficult to follow such logs. I propose these logs to be more structured perhaps with the use of templates. I was wondering what information would be more relevant at least as far as Arbitration Committee would be concerned with it.

I was thinking of creating a system where the log displays ongoing blocks and expired ones based on the time and date and length of the block that is inputted. A color code could be used to make viewing easier. Also logs perhaps should be presented in a sortable table.

-- A Certain White Cat chi? 23:09, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

Also perhaps logs could be a sub page... For example Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/Palestine-Israel articles/Logs for the above example. -- A Certain White Cat chi? 00:20, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think there is a problem with the presentation of logs today. Older logs are unwieldy, but also not as important. Creating a template for log entries could be useful, but should not be backwards-implemented: it would take too much time to "convert" all our logs to use a new template. Also, there is no convention for what information must be included in a log entry (although there are some basics, such as sanctionee, sanctioner, and sanction type and length), so that would have to be clarified beforehand. But I honestly don't think that they are at all unusable at present, though perhaps I have simply gotten used to them. While I am open to the idea of a template for standardisation, I think sub-pages are wholly unnecessary. AGK [] 16:35, 10 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Certainly at least for the above case I can imagine it would be very difficult to load the page particularly on slower connections or even older computers. If the user only wants to read everything but the logs that would be a problem. I can certainly see room for people to have genuine difficulty (or such a guise to game the system) to read the arbitration case. While I do not propose sub pages to be created for every arbitration case, I cannot really see the harm if that were done. Arbitration cases already have multiple sub pages, this would just be one more sub page per case if applied to every case. -- A Certain White Cat chi? 19:55, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

What secure address?

Discussion at WT:Child protection about what address people should write to if they've got concerns about "another editor's behaviour" (read: stalking of children and so on). Given recent history, I don't think we can invite people to write with this kind of information to the Arbcom mailing list (I mean, in this case it actually matters - possibly to the extent of preventing physical harm - that the information sent be private and stay private). Is there any address (e.g. at the Foundation) people can write to with a reasonable certainty of what they write not being leaked at some time in the future, but still with a reasonable certainty that it will be acted on? Would it help to recommend writing to an individual Arb rather than to the whole Committee?--Kotniski (talk) 14:58, 16 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Since one theory doing the rounds is that someone's Gmail account was hacked and another is that it was deliberately leaked, and no-one has actually identified what really did happen, I would have said that emailing an individual may not be any more secure. The other point is that the individual Arb won't deal with it themselves, they would probably promptly forward it to the mailing list. The same applies if you used a WMF contact like Phillipe Baudotte - he would just forward it on to the mailing list.
In any case, the main reason for insisting on contact offwiki is to avoid the world's biggest dramafest. It has happened before, believe me - half a dozen editors weighing in on each side, half of them ending up accusing all the other half of unspeakable acts, people threatening to sue, call the FBI, Interpol, Mossad and the Vatican, revert wars, Oversighters having nervous breakdowns etc etc.
I can't see that there's a better option than just using the mailing list address, and without one, I think it would be better to leave the current instructions as they are (I note you and another editor seem to be getting into a bit of a contretemps over this). --Elen of the Roads (talk) 15:30, 16 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There is an element of soapboxing here. The June 2011 leak controversy has no direct links to WP:CHILDPROTECT. Any e-mail sent regarding this issue is likely to be seen by all ArbCom members, that is how ArbCom works.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 15:39, 16 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It would be nice if one could assume that emails regarding serious accusations such as this were seen by all ArbCom members but this is not the case. The was an incident at the end of last year wherein an editor sent some individual ArbCom members an email identifying a user, but none of the individuals took action. Several weeks later, the editor sent the message to the general ArbCom email and the named user was blocked shortly after. Following this incident I made a straightforward suggestion to Sue Gardner that any such emails be forwarded to the general list by any Arbs that receive them. I got no reply, either to that message or to my follow-up message. I assume that the lack of response reflects the importance given to this issue. Delicious carbuncle (talk) 02:20, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I find it beyond simply worrying that we still haven't got this sorted out, and extremely worrying that Arbcom members are so complacent about the matter. If we're telling people (including possibly stalking victims) to report what is likely to be sensitive personal information to a particular address, we must surely have as much confidence as can reasonably be expected that the information sent to that address is going to be kept secure. But at the moment we're telling people to send such information to a mailing list whose contents have twice been leaked to the world, and likely will again in the future. I just can't get inside the minds of people who think that this is morally and logically OK. Surely matters of this nature can be handled in a way that doesn't need the whole of Arbcom (and the whole of all future Arbcoms) to see this correspondence? Why are these matters not handled at Foundation level anyway? Surely English Wikipedia's kiddy-fiddlers shouldn't be allowed to continue their activity on German Wikipedia and vice versa - our Arbcom seems entirely the wrong body to tell people to write to (and English Wikipedia is the wrong level for the policy to be set, but someone with Jimbo's ear will have to speak thereinto about that).--Kotniski (talk) 09:45, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Another thing is that we're not even allowed to include, at WP:Child protection the caveat (which thankfully still appears on this page at least) that the address we're telling people to write to is not necessarily secure. Removal of this information seems worse than complacent - it's purposely misleading, and has the sole purpose as far as I can see of not making Arbcom look a little bit bad. Can anyone provide any other justification for this removal?--Kotniski (talk) 09:48, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

ArbCom has neither funds nor a technical support team. We simply do not have the resources to implement technical solutions.
And perhaps, more to the point, this arbitrator would be delighted if the WMF assumed complete and sole responsibility for Child Protection enforcement.  Roger Davies talk 10:04, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And have you corresponded with WMF on the matter? Are they not willing? Do they not understand the problem? Do they not care? Can Jimbo help bang heads (this Pedophilia thing was his idea originally, I believe)?--Kotniski (talk) 10:16, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, of course we have corresponded with the WMF. It seems they prefer to lay down the policy and leave enforcement to the wikis.  Roger Davies talk 10:35, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And you didn't press the point? Anyway, if they lay down the policy, why is it not on their site? Why is it apparently only on English Wikipedia (at least, there are no interwiki links to any others)?--Kotniski (talk) 10:44, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The caveat was removed on several occasions as it was an attempt to rewrite policy on the hoof. All ArbCom e-mails should be in PGP format. Security tokens would be nice but cost $. Gpg4usb can be carried around on a pen drive and is freeware. Contact me using the public key on my user page to try it out.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 10:12, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Sorry, why was the caveat removed? Clearly it wasn't a rewrite of policy, purely an attempt to be more informative. (But good to see someone actually suggesting a solution.)--Kotniski (talk) 10:15, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
WP:CHILDPROTECT is not the best place to re-open the June 2011 leak debate. All ArbCom e-mail should have two stage authentication, and this can be done free of charge and very simply. Here is the word "hello" encrypted to my public key with gpg4usb. Sorted.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 10:26, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You're mixing two threads, which is confusing. Glad to hear you suggesting technical solutions - I hope Arbcom will take note. But on the question of the caveat, it's not rewriting policy and it's not reopening a debate (the only reason the debate has been reopened is that you insisted on removing the caveat without responding to the reasons for putting it there). Can you provide some concrete justification for deliberately withholding from people this apparently pertinent piece of information? --Kotniski (talk) 10:30, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It is still unclear how the June 2011 incident occurred. What is clear is that ordinary username/password combinations are too weak to handle this type of information. Since the June incident, there has been a review of security, and it is not for me to say whether there should still be a caveat in October.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 10:38, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Good. So when I re-add the caveat, you won't revert it this time?--Kotniski (talk) 10:40, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Somebody else might. There seems to be a bit of a thing here.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 10:46, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can we have a single statement, perhaps on this page (in the e-mail addresses section), which informs people as much as we are able (preferably in factual, honest, non-Bradspeakian language) how secure the mailing address is likely to be? Then at any point anywhere (including the top of this page, at the Child Protection page, and so on) when we suggest that people write to that address, we can link them to that section as a kind of standard caveat?--Kotniski (talk) 10:49, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Something like Wikipedia:General disclaimer, only for emails? --Conti| 11:02, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was thinking along the same lines.  Roger Davies talk 11:03, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It is often said that Rule One of e-mails is not to put in them anything that you would not want to be published. Saying in an e-mail "I think that User:John Doe may be a pedophile" carries this risk, but as long as it is done in good faith there should be no legal ramifications. Technical implementations such as PGP would all but rule out a standard hack attack, but not the possibility of a deliberate leak by a mole. There could be some wording on the likely use of the information in the e-mail, but rather than getting into revert wars, it should be discussed first so that we are all agreed on what it should be. There is little point in using scaremongering words that would prevent people from sending e-mails in the first place.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 11:10, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, I mean, Wikipedia:General disclaimer is vaguely the sort of thing, but it wouldn't have to be as long or scary as that, nor even appear on a separate page. Just say in a few words in the e-mail addresses section here that (1) this address is intended to be private, but (2) because of the fairly large number of people who have access to it, there is a fairly significant chance that information sent to it will somehow find its way into the wrong hands or the public domain (and this has happened in the past); and therefore (3) when writing to it, be wary of sending any information (including your e-mail address) that might identify you or otherwise might be misused. --Kotniski (talk) 14:42, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A question

To digress slightly: Has ArbCom reached any final conclusions on whether the June 2011 incident was caused by a hack attack (like ACS:Law in September 2010) or a deliberate human leak? ACS:Law was fined after it sent privileged material in unencrypted e-mails, leading to a shambles that was widely reported in the UK media. It could never happen here?:) ArbCom e-mail should use Gmail because it can be set to always use HTTPS [2] and report login attempts from unusual IP addresses.[3]. Law firms generally put footers in their e-mails saying something like "This message contains information from the law firm of Foo & Bar which may be confidential or privileged. If you are not the intended recipient, be aware that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of the contents of this message is prohibited. If you have received this message by mistake, please notify me immediately by telephone or return e-mail and securely dispose of the message." It is what is known in the trade as covering your *ss.--♦IanMacM♦ (talk to me) 12:19, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

From subscribing to Clerks-l and Functionaries-l, to which the arbitrators are subscribed, it seems, in a happy coincidence, that almost all the arbitrators use Gmail. Indeed, in my experience, most wikipedians do: it seems to be the best of the free e-mail clients, has good support for mailing lists, and is easily accessible. I think the only arbitrator that doesn't use Gmail is Iriscident, who is currently inactive, though I may be wrong. Of course, that isn't to say that all of the arbitrators use the https:// option… AGK [] 15:21, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you look at Wikipedia:Arbitration Committee#Individual arbitrators, there are 3 arbs, including myself, who use something else other than Gmail. In regard as to whether it was a hack or a leak, as far as I know, we haven't had a conclusive answer as to what happened. PhilKnight (talk) 22:07, 17 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]