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Talk:IP Editing: Privacy Enhancement and Abuse Mitigation/Archives/2019-10

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Update: October 4, 2019

Hello! Thank you everyone for your continued engagement and feedback on this page. I’m here to present an update on this project.

CheckUser improvements

As mentioned previously, our foremost goal is to improve our existing anti-vandalism tools and to that effect, the Anti-Harassment Tools team will be kicking off work on making (long-overdue) improvements to CheckUser extension. We have been conducting a series of user interviews with Checkusers and stewards to understand their workflows with the tool at present. Based on that research, we have come up with an initial list of proposed improvements we can make to remove some of the biggest pain points. I welcome you to visit the project page and provide your feedback on the talk page.

Research about usefulness of IP edits

As promised in my last update, we have gathered some data about how many IP edits our projects received over the last year and how many of those were reverted, revdeleted or the IP address was subsequently blocked. The compiled data can be found on the Research page.

We have not seen any major trends in the data except for the fact that majority of IP edits are kept on the wikis and are not reverted or revdeleted. That does not, however, tell us anything about the quality of the content contributed by IP editors. Qualitatively measuring the content contribution is a much bigger task and we are not sure if there is a good way to do it, besides manually looking at incoming IP edits.

Since we don’t yet have an accurate picture of what will happen if IP edits are disabled on a wiki, we are willing to run an experiment to see what the effects of doing a small, targeted intervention to could be. This doesn’t necessarily have to exclude all IP edits. We could selectively prohibit IP edits to certain namespace(s) and see what the effects are. We would like to hear your thoughts about this and if you are interested, we are looking for a small wiki to collaborate with for this experiment.

I will also take this opportunity to thank Benjamin Mako Hill and his team of researchers for putting together a page to showcase the prior research done on this topic. It has been very informative.

Lastly, I’m sorry if we have missed responding to a question raised on this talk page - there is a lot of discussion and sometimes things slip through the cracks. Thank you. -- NKohli (WMF) (talk) 22:36, 4 October 2019 (UTC)

Experimenting around what sort of effect limiting IP editing would have would be useful. With browsers like Chrome remembering all your passwords, registration is less of a barrier than it used to be.
Having a pop up appear after one hits "publish", when they are not logged in to inform them about this would be a good initial measure. This will likely decrease editing by IPs aswell... Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 06:21, 18 October 2019 (UTC)
@Doc James: - I get distinctly concerned at making life awkward for a large subset of our editors in order to encourage them to sign up. It would however cover aspect 1 of your comment well. Perhaps have it once per session, with a session ID to remember it until they closed the tab? Nosebagbear (talk) 18:14, 22 October 2019 (UTC)
Yes could be decreased to once per session... Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 09:06, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

I am always wondering whether it really would be so different. Yes, an editor under IP is now a very good editor, they would also be a very good editor if they were editing logged in. Would really all of those long-term IP editors walk away if they have to make an account? I doubt it, but yes, a few would. But that is also true for editors who already take the situation serious and make an account. Many IPs make a throwaway account and make good edits and are never seen again. You will only lose the few editors who REALLY insist that they do not want to make an account and want to edit as an IP. I really wonder if Facebook would ever worry about the fact that there are editors who do not want to make an account but want to post as an IP. I don't buy the 'but we have also IPs who do not vandalise' argument .. --Dirk Beetstra T C (en: U, T) 10:01, 25 October 2019 (UTC)

This is completely anecdotal, of course, but to give an example of what one could be afraid of: as my normal, volunteer self, I edited almost exclusively as an IP user for four years before I started logging in. The reason I became a Wikimedian is that the barrier to entry was so low that I could help out without any investment – until I became invested, and started using the account I had registered a few years earlier. I would not have become invested if IP editing had not been an option, because I wouldn't have bothered. It wasn't important for me to fix the things I fixed, it was easy. If we look at the long-term IP editors, we might be focusing too late in the chain of events, because the harm we could cause is to the people who aren't yet invested but could become because editing is easy. /Johan (WMF) (talk) 02:57, 1 November 2019 (UTC)
yes, as we know one reason wikipedia prevailed over other online encyclopedia projects was that it had the lowest barriers to entry. Almost Wikipedia: What Eight Collaborative Encyclopedia Projects Reveal About Mechanisms of Collective Action to the extent you continue to raise barriers to entry, you will contribute to editor plateau, and impact the growth of quality content. "would those admins really leave if we banned one, or took away ip surveillance? i doubt it, but a few would." Slowking4 (talk) 15:34, 4 November 2019 (UTC)
@Johan (WMF): If this is really such an issue, why hasn't the foundation or someone done something about these administrators on the English Wikipedia who keep blocking hundreds of thousands of people to stop middle school students from writing "poop" on articles. I'm talking about blocks like this, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Log/block&page=User%3A165.155.128.0%2F17 this], this, etc. The low barriers to entry is also how I became a Wikimedian. It started when I was a 15-year-old high school student (hence the username) editing from my home IP, and I can assure you I wouldn't have went to the effort of requesting an account, as many of the proponents of these asinine blocks on schools (and other institutions) propose good-faith editors from these ranges do. Ironically, I frequently see vandalism reverted by people editing from school IPs, something that cannot happen if the editor in question is greeted with "log in to edit." Administrators claim that these ranges "persistently vandalize" but I'm pretty sure most of the vandalism is just kids being kids rather than one or two people hopping all over these ranges to terrorize Wikipedia, and the administrators doing these blocks are just taking the easy way out at the expense of the more mature student or staff member who could eventually become a Foundation employee like you as a result of that first edit from the school/company computer. If nothing else comes of all of this, perhaps the Foundation should consider software changes to limit the length of rangeblocks to one month intervals and limit the length of IP blocks to three month intervals. PCHS-NJROTC (talk) 03:25, 19 December 2019 (UTC)
Or become the best thing one can become – a Wikimedian, generally. I consider myself useful to the projects mainly in my volunteer role. (:
I understand your concerns and frustrations, and one of the main uses of better blocking tools is to block exactly as much as is needed, but not more – Community health initiative/Partial blocks has a lot of potential there, I think – but we need to acknowledge that the vandal-fighting expertise lies within the communities. This lies outside the remit of this project, and whereas it's not for me to decide, I can't see the Foundation technically limiting this against the wishes of the community.
My home community has decided never to block know school IPs beyond the extent of the school year, which is working well for us and making sure we don't indefinitely block schools, but any changes around this on English Wikipedia would have to be an English Wikipedia decision. /Johan (WMF) (talk) 10:51, 19 December 2019 (UTC)

Research on the value of IP Editing currently says "A major theme of community responses to that proposal are suggestions to disallow contributions from users without accounts". That is either a serious misunderstanding or mispresentation of the community response here. There is a longstanding community consensus supporting editing by users without accounts. While there is of course some dissent from that consensus, it is (or it was) an effectively dead issue.

The theme of community responses is opposed to masked editing, and that the community can and almost certainly will block masked editing. NKohli (WMF), or anyone else on this project, do you disagree with my assessment of the community response? Can I get a more meaningful update? Does the Foundation still a plan to build a system to mask IPs, given that masked-edits will almost certainly not be allowed? Does the Foundation still intend to work towards terminating IP-editing (converting it into masked-edits), given that Foundation would be terminating the existing ability of those users to edit without making an account? Alsee (talk) 18:23, 8 November 2019 (UTC)

@Alsee: Regarding the issue of disallowing edits from unregistered users - that is something that has come up on this talk page quite a few times and the purpose of that research page was to gather some data to get everyone on the same page about how unregistered users contribute to the projects. We have no intention of terminating the ability of our users to edit without an account if the community does not want that.
As for this project, we are grateful for all replies we are receiving on this and related project pages. We are not making any assessments or decisions yet. We have barely had time to gather ideas since Wikimania. Our team plans to work on improving anti-vandalism tooling over the next few months and we are kicking off this work by making improvements to Checkuser and meanwhile plan our next projects. There are lots of things we don't know yet and hence I can't comment on those. Thanks for your understanding. -- NKohli (WMF) (talk) 05:15, 12 November 2019 (UTC)
@Alsee: I read the entire discussion and do not feel that the sentence was a misrepresentation. Blocking IP editing is a description of one theme that was raised. The section "Simpler solution - turn off IP editing" is one example but the idea is discussed positively in many other sections as well. It's not the only response, and probably not even the most important one, but it is one major theme of community responses to the proposal. More importantly, NKohli (WMF) is considering this option very seriously. I agree with you completely that this suggestion goes against a long-standing community consensus and the outcomes of many discussions over many years. I also think a large body of evidence suggests that consensus is empirically justified. —mako 20:37, 14 November 2019 (UTC)
Benjamin Mako Hill I stand by my comment, you misunderstood the community response. For example in the section you cited, Simpler solution - turn off IP editing, the author of the section says in their second comment that they believe the Foundation will not permit retaining-IP-editing as an option. The author opened that section explicitly to present an argument between two options (1) building masking vs (2) not building masking. More specifically, they argue that not-building-masking would be would be simpler and cheaper and less disruptive than building masking.
The discussion on this page is in response to the masking proposal. To the extent this page contains any debate of pros and cons of contributions-without-an-account independent of masking, it's an irrelevant distraction. That topic is old and thoroughly resolved. That topic has a tombstone is English Wikipedia's Perennial proposals graveyard for zombie topics. The Perennial proposal page exists specifically for topics that we consider a waste of time to discuss anymore. Community consensus is approximately 2-to-1 in favor of contributions-without-an-account. That consensus has been clear and stable for years. That consensus is expected to remain clear and stable... unless the Foundation does something like trying to push masked editing. The Perennial proposal page well summarizes the result of (excessive) past discussion of the topic:
A large portion of our good edits come from IP addresses;[1][2] positive experiences with initial IP edits lead users to create accounts who otherwise would not do so; software features disabling IPs from creating new articles or editing semiprotected ones are sufficient. According to Jimbo Wales, "what is commonly called 'anonymous' editing is not particularly anonymous ... and there are good reasons to want vandals on IP numbers instead of accounts". While about 97% of vandalism comes from anonymous users, about 76% or 82% of anonymous edits are intended to improve the encyclopedia. (Prohibiting IP edits would not eliminate 97% of all vandalism, because those inclined to vandalize could easily take the 10 seconds to register.) The ability of anyone to edit articles without registering is a Foundation issue.
Alsee (talk) 22:22, 15 November 2019 (UTC)
Benjamin Mako Hill to clarify, I'm saying it is not a major theme. I am saying it's not even a significant theme. I'm saying it's a tangential and irrelevant topic. NKohli (WMF), I am saying that you are making a mistake taking this topic seriously. I'm saying that producing Research on the value of IP Editing was not relevant or helpful to the discussion on this page. The fact that the report was produced and presented here is a warning sign that the team is misunderstanding/mishandling community engagement on this project.
There have been very good improvement in communication and engagement between the Foundation and the community recently. However that improvement is absent from this page. The team here has been either been non-responsive or evasive to too many community questions. There are too many warning signs that this project is repeating the mistakes of past failed projects. Alsee (talk) 00:10, 16 November 2019 (UTC)