Grants talk:IdeaLab/Impacts on lives of the banned

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We welcome your discussion here, but please be advised that there are Friendly Space expectations in place.

Rapid Grant eliminates "Join" button?[edit]

It appears that by escalating the original Idea to a Rapid Grant, it has the adverse side-effect of removing the "Join" button. Is there some way to correct for this? - Thekohser (talk) 14:52, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Scope thoughts[edit]

This might be an interesting issue to look at, but I think it could be handled as part of a bigger research project - how do our methods of behavioural regulation impact people? Usually in life, any disciplinary action is very private and discretely handled. On wiki-projects, blocks and bans are discussed in public and given very publicly. I could see this having some very negative effects on the people targeted, in terms of vilification and the creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy of non-normative behaviour.

As to this specific proposal, I don't think 20 is a large enough sample size, and I think there is a site which largely handles this already... Ajraddatz (talk) 18:13, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Seems like "letting the perfect be the enemy of the good". Sure, it could be handled as part of a bigger research project, but why not start off with a bite-sized chunk? Since this comes under the Friendly Space expectation, I should hope nobody is going to be "targeted" or "vilified". As for the sample size of 20, we could argue until blue in the face, but there is ample academic literature that supports sample sizes of this kind for qualitative surveys, which are not designed to project to larger populations. Indeed, qualitative research often precedes quantitative studies, as a guide to understanding what sorts of content to include in the larger survey. I hope I don't sound too argumentative, but I am of the strong opinion that this proposal is on sound footing, and it's certainly more credible than many other proposals that have been vetted in the past. - Thekohser (talk) 20:30, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Peer review of contributions by indefinitely-blocked editors[edit]

On my user page, I proposed an improved peer-review system as a solution for several of Wikipedia's chronic problems, including the issues that are being discussed here. Jarble (talk) 18:30, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Peer-review of content from blocked users is a great idea, and it could be a very rehabilitative process if cooperative peers were involved. I like it! - Thekohser (talk) 20:31, 3 June 2016 (UTC)

Literature review[edit]

When you say "nobody", what research have you performed to back this claim? There is so much research on banned users (and such a big variety of terminology) that it's easy to miss some. Random link: --Nemo 10:33, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

That study did not evaluate blocked or banned users of Wikimedia projects. But please, do try to provide more third-party literature that did examine the impacts on lives of the banned from Wikimedia projects. - Thekohser (talk) 18:10, 5 June 2016 (UTC)

Potentially relevant research[edit]

(all are welcome to continue adding to this list)


I admit that I am interested in what the outcome of such a study might be. Despite concerns about Kohs' neutrality (and non-trivial SPI archive), the narrative in themselves would be interesting. I do however have a problem with the financial compensation. It seems to me that in order to hear a widest possible range of experiences, and therefore to have the most relevance to the issue, the interviewees will range from the unjustly banned to serious long-term abusers. I do not see any limitation about this in the proposal. I'm sure I can't be the only one uncomfortable, not necessarily with financial compensation per se, but with giving WMF and hence donor money to such people.

As an aside, while the proposal is mostly couched in "may"s, "sometimes"s and "can"s, I find the opening, "Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects have indoctrinated admins", to be patently untrue. BethNaught (talk) 18:52, 5 June 2016 (UTC)

I agree that it will be a tough nut to crack, getting the Wikimedia Foundation to pay $40 to a "serious long-term abuser", but (as I've said before) this is the same Wikimedia Foundation that paid Sue Gardner $300,000 to stick around for a year after she quit, so that she might be able to "dig up old files" and help guide the new Executive Director through what would turn out to be one of the shortest and most-tension-filled directorships in Wikimedia Foundation history. As for your aside, please note that a scientific study concluded that "agreeableness, openness, and conscientiousness" are personality characteristics that "were lower for the Wikipedia members". It stands to reason that admins represent an even more concentrated batch of these characteristics, does it not? - Thekohser (talk) 13:50, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
@BethNaught: About compensation, please see my comments on the endorsement, where I pointed out that another study done in cooperation with the WMF already used a compensation mechanism. As to your point about giving money to banned editors, I find the concern misplaced. Obviously nobody is suggesting that this gives an incentive to people to get banned, so how exactly does it matter if they receive money as part of a research project? And consider the amount in question: Wikimedia received $75 million in funds in 2015: $40 is 0.00005% of that. It is 0.01% of Sue Gardner's pay last year. Kingsindian (talk) 22:39, 10 June 2016 (UTC)

What can be done with the results?[edit]

Assuming it were possible to gather valid evidence about the lives of banned former users, what use do you see that information being put to to improve the Wikimedia projects or advance their mission that would justify spending donor's money on gathering it? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:09, 5 June 2016 (UTC)

The information might be put to use in such a way that where currently (hypothetically speaking) our practices on Wikimedia projects lead to 10% of all editors being banned, with 2% of them ever returning to productive status in good standing, that post-study we might see only 8% of all editors being banned, and 4% of them ever returning to productive status. When you worry about "spending donor's (sic) money", please keep in mind that we are asking to distribute money to at least 20 people what will constitute only 2.6 thousandths of what the Wikimedia Foundation spent on just one person, to get their evidence and information. - Thekohser (talk) 13:50, 6 June 2016 (UTC)
It might indeed: and then again, it might not. Is the proposal then to gather information with the explicit intention of encouraging the rehabilitation of banned users, or reducing the number of bans imposed? If those are the desired intentions why not frame the proposal as such? It seems odd to lead in the title on information which by itself seems to be of no value to the users of the projects, or to the donors (whether singular or plural). Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 18:41, 7 June 2016 (UTC)
If we were to launch qualitative research into the behaviors and psyche of the Angu tribe, if it was the first time such research had ever been done with this tribe, would it be appropriate to go into the research with the "desired intention" of getting the tribe to stop its customary practice of pederasty? It may be important from a Western morality perspective, but it would not at all be important from a scientific perspective. I'm sorry, but it just seems like a contrary point for the sake of being contrary, to say that gathering information must have an explicit intention toward how that information will specifically be put to improve Wikimedia projects. The Wikimedia projects may very well be "improved" just by having this information, where there had been only a void previously. - Thekohser (talk) 15:49, 8 June 2016 (UTC)
No need to apologise for suggesting that "it just seems like a contrary point for the sake of being contrary, to say that gathering information must have an explicit intention toward how that information will specifically be put to improve Wikimedia projects". After all, neither I nor anyone else have make that assertion, so no-one here is likely to be offended by your criticising it. What I asked for was that the connexion between this proposal, and the objectives for which the donors have given money, be made clear. I don't think the excursion into the manners and customs of the Angu tribe succeeded in doing that, and I don't yet see why accumulating information without context or purpose is something the donors expect their money to be spent on. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 19:37, 8 June 2016 (UTC)


While I don't have any doubt that my friend Greg Kohs, who has professional knowledge of scientific sampling, could set up an excellent survey in the right situation, this proposal strikes me as being more in the way of collecting a comparatively small number of anecdotes. Good fare for summary for the purposes of book-writing or a documentary film, but not much help in the way of providing a truly scientific study of sufficient magnitude to provide valid inferences. Carrite (talk) 15:29, 8 June 2016 (UTC)

My good man, Tim Davenport, with your experience observing past quantitative studies by the Wikimedia Foundation, you should know better than most folks that a lousy survey, poorly sampled, does far less good -- even with hundreds of respondents -- than an excellent survey, properly sampled might do, even with only 20 respondents. If you are unfamiliar with the survey research practice, keep in mind that small, qualitative surveys are often the groundwork for future design of "truly scientific" studies of great magnitude. If we snuff out this tiny first effort, what do you think are the chances for an eventual large-scale scientific study to follow? - Thekohser (talk) 15:54, 8 June 2016 (UTC)

Transcription of interviews: who will do it?[edit]

As I asked in the main comment section few days ago (with no replies yet), I think it is necessary to discuss who will transcribe the interviews. It is not cheap, as the cost of transcribing the 20 intereviews averages at 2,000$, but the project does not budget anything for that. As I noted earlier, I would like to help, but transcribing interviews is a thankless "Graduate student" type of a task, and if this grant is funded, it may be better to spend $$$ on transcription services then on participants (since IMHO enough will respond without monetary incentives anyway to make this project feasible). --Piotrus (talk) 07:20, 9 June 2016 (UTC)

It seems that either (A) the project could be completed without written transcriptions, (B) the transcriptions could be voluntarily completed by those who have already signaled their willingness to pitch in, (C) those interviewed for the research might volunteer to transcribe their own interview, (D) some of the interviews might be completed via e-mail or online chat, which would already represent a written transcript. Anyway, these are just some ideas. Wikisource has hundreds of people voluntarily transcribing things every day. We shouldn't assume that we need funding for this process. - Thekohser (talk) 13:03, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
Well, I would feel much safer if we had clearly declared volunteers that will help with that. And yes, of course written (email, chat) interviews would make things much easier. Still, this is something that should be fleshed out before asking for funding, I feel. --Piotrus (talk) 05:30, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
Then the next step is to treat this like a job application. Write up descriptions of the specific kinds of volunteers you need and say what qualifications they should have. There are probably new grads and old pros who don't know that they don't need highly specialized training to conduct these interviews. Or maybe they do need highly specialized training but it could be conducted in one hour via Skype. Darkfrog24 (talk) 10:53, 19 June 2016 (UTC)
You will probably also want to explain to these volunteer interviewers why they should spend their time doing this, if you are not proposing to pay them minimum wage. For example, you might want to demonstrate how their work will empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally. Indeed, you might want to address any perceived inconsistency between having volunteers in good standing within a project do this as-yet-explained work for free while handing out donors' money as a reward to people banned from that project for reasons which might include harassment of other volunteers. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 11:58, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

Is participant compensation necessary?[edit]

I realize it's customary, but when a college psych department holds a study, they tend to offer their undergrad volunteers far less than $20, and sometimes they offer no money at all. Speaking as a blocked editor myself, I wouldn't need financial inducement to talk to someone about what I think is wrong with the block process. Darkfrog24 (talk) 13:15, 19 June 2016 (UTC)

Indeed. Most people edit Wikipedia for no compensation, so they can be reasonably expected to talk about it with no monetary incentive either. I stand by my view that the proposal to pay people money to participate has not been sufficiently proven to be necessary for this grant to be required for that purpose (through I still believe it may be needed for transcripts if any interviews are done by voice). --Piotrus (talk) 01:28, 27 June 2016 (UTC)
What is the procedure for altering the scope of the grant request, if I were to agree that participants need not be paid, but that transcription workers may need to be? Now that the grant concept has numerous supporters, is it fair to them to change the intent of the usage of grant money? Would they each need to be notified of the proposed adjustment so that they could reconsider their endorsements? - Thekohser (talk) 19:04, 5 July 2016 (UTC)
Copypaste "I am planning to alter the grant portion of the proposal so that transcription workers will be paid but participants will not. I consider this a minor change but I understand if you wish to withdraw or alter your endorsement. Thank you" onto twenty-six talk pages. Darkfrog24 (talk) 19:56, 5 July 2016 (UTC)
I agree that changing the scope of the grant to compensate the people working for the benefit of the mission as opposed to people who have been excluded from participation on the grounds of disruption or misconduct is indeed a significant change. On the other hand it is rather clearly a change that improves the chances of the proposal being accepted. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 07:11, 6 July 2016 (UTC)

Smallbones' opposition[edit]

(Comment below removed from Grants page and pasted to the Talk page, per Friendly Space expectations.)

  • Oppose to the highest degree - I am agnostic as far as the topic of the study, but it is obvious that Thekohser is not the person to do an unbiased study of the topic. Thekohser has been been banned on the English Wikipedia for almost 10 years. He seems to have a new sockpuppet there every week. He boasts about his paid editing - that is he says he is violating the terms of use (that should automatically disqualify him). He has been banned from attending a Wikipedia conference. He appears to own a website that openly outs and harasses editors. He has personally harassed me. (I will send the evidence to the WMF on request). For the last several years he has conducted a campaign against WMF fundraising, so this application looks like the ultimate hypocrisy - he should get funds from the WMF, but others should not be able to get them. Finally, this Inspire campaign seems to be about finding solutions to the harassment problem. The solution is obviously not to subsidize the harassers. Smallbones (talk) 19:20, 9 June 2016 (UTC)
I don't know why User:Smallbones feels motivated to cast false aspersions at me, but I think it's important to respond to some of his falsified personal attacks. Yes, while I have been indefinitely blocked, or banned (the distinction isn't exactly clear) on English Wikipedia for almost 10 years, I have been a continuing and thoughtful participant in good standing on Meta, Commons, Wikiversity, Wikibooks, Wikisource, and other projects. I am not in violation of Wikimedia Foundation terms of use, and I've not said that I'm in violation of terms of use. I do not directly edit Wikipedia in exchange for payment -- full stop. You should not charge me with such a violation based on zero evidence and an active imagination. Moving on, my ban from attending a Wikipedia-related conference (actually three of them, now) has been determined (by a Freedom of Information Act request) to have been conducted "out of process" from guidelines laid down by the hosting facilities. "Appears to own a website" -- what does that mean? That I pay a $12 annual domain registration fee for a site where I have no moderator privileges, where I have no access to the site administration dashboard on the server? What kind of "owner" doesn't have the keys to his property? The site occasionally openly outs (but does not harass) editors who are a danger to safe communities. For example, our site has outed a number of editors engaging in disturbing pedophilic activities, and then later (thankfully) those editors have been globally locked by the Wikimedia Foundation. How could you complain about a site that is performing important protective services on a voluntary basis? I have not personally harassed you, Smallbones, so you can stop lying about that imaginary slight. I have conducted campaigns not so much "against WMF fundraising", but against "improper spending of WMF funds", which have been very successful campaigns that have resonated with many in our community, and with many in the mainstream media. Your vitriol and falsehoods above are not appropriate conversation for an IdeaLab grant that is gaining traction with our Meta community. I strongly suggest you drop this unseemly line of personal attacks. - Thekohser (talk) 13:15, 14 June 2016 (UTC)
  • Well... to play devil's advocate, that's actually a pretty big deal and something that can have a huge effect on the research. It's a fairly big omission. It's kind of a conflict of interest in this situation since we have no way of knowing if you're going into this with a potential bias or if you're specifically looking to go into it with a specific viewpoint. To my knowledge you didn't mention anything about being blocked from Wikipedia on the proposal and a disclosure of any potential COI or bias is something that is direly important to any scientific study. (Granted a look at your talkpage shows that you've been blocked, but not everyone checks the talk page of people on Wikimedia or on WP itself.) I'm not saying that having a potential bias means that you cannot create a helpful study, just that this is something that you should've been at least a little forthcoming with from the start. Now I haven't commented on the site, but I do have to raise an eyebrow that you're affiliated with Wikipediocracy. Again, this doesn't mean that you can't produce a helpful and/or neutral study, just that this is something that you really, really need to be transparent with from the start. Even the slightest hint of unstated bias can absolutely ruin a study. I really want a study of this type done and I don't want you to shoot yourself in the foot by not being as transparent as possible from the beginning. Tokyogirl79 (talk) 05:42, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
While I am respectful of your opinion, by your logic, every other proposal in this campaign would have a potential COI or bias, because the proposers are participants in good standing with Wikimedia projects. Would you want Chuck Norris managing a study of harassment of gun owners? Would you want David Miscavige leading a study of how to reduce harassment of Church of Scientology members? Well, that's kind of what you have with most every other proposal you see here. Why is it only when "the banned" wants to do a study about the banned that we hear complaints of COI or bias. Everything here has a potential COI or bias -- it's all in how you manage that COI and bias so that the results aren't non-credible. - 21:33, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
  • >>The solution is obviously not to subsidize the harassers. — That's an unseemly personal attack, ironic if not so typical. Carrite (talk) 20:59, 24 June 2016 (UTC)

Boulder, Colorado IP's opposition[edit]

  • Strong oppose: applicant Greg Kohs has long advocated violating Wkipedia's core content NPOV policy by censoring articles on corporations for pay, and works for Comcast opposing network neutrality which would allow them to insert interstitial advertisements in attempts to access Wikipedia. 22:35, 17 June 2016 (UTC)
The above message was moved from the Grants page to the Talk page by User:Thekohser because it contains a falsehood and a bizarre fringe theory about the applicant's employer, which is out of place in this discussion. - Thekohser (talk) 11:50, 20 June 2016 (UTC)


To echo the most recent endorser, what would it take to get this started?

Does anyone here have experience in sociological studies of this kind or at least a familiarity with the principles behind designing a non-leading survey or questionnaire? If the information were collected online instead of with a live aide, it might be possible to do it with less grant money. (I can see someone writing the questionnaire for free but I don't know about programming an online survey.) If anyone objects to TheKohser having some kind of conflict of interest (I only learned that Wikipediocracy existed a few weeks ago), then who says he personally has to be involved beyond this point? Darkfrog24 (talk) 00:27, 9 July 2016 (UTC)