Talk:Requests for comment/2013 issues on Croatian Wikipedia
Is this an issue for meta?
Generally the meta wiki community leaves site-specific issues to the local communities involved, the meta wiki is only a coordinating wiki, generally. However, exceptions are possible. It can happen that a local community develops a systematic bias among administrators and users, such that user efforts to participate in addressing local issues are frustrated.
First, see Neutrality. Has the Croation Wikipedia adopted a neutrality policy, and how is it interpreted? If it has a neutrality policy greatly differing from that on other language encyclopedias, is this a problem? Why? How is neutrality determined?
- Wikipedia is a project to build free encyclopedias in all languages of the world. Virtually anyone with Internet access is free to contribute by contributing neutral, cited information.
Generally, meta as a coordinating wiki is not concerned with maintaining neutrality on each individual project. As long as it is possible for a local community to discuss and maintain its own interpretations and enforcement policies and practices, meta, historically, will stay out of the issue. As I write this, I have no opinion on whether or not it remains possible for the Croatian Wikipedia community to locally ensure compliance with the clear intention of the WikiMedia Foundation, which matches the general expectations of the global WMF community.
From documents I have seen appear here, and the article on Wikipedia on the issue, w:Croatian_Wikipedia#2013_controversy it does seem that there could be a problem.
Hence the first step is the gathering of evidence, and especially evidence as distinct from argument and interpretation.
It's a classic problem with RfCs that the issue is presented, and, before evidence and argument soundly based in evidence are presented, strongly expressed opinions pile in. While these may be based on personal experience, when there is a controversy like this, it is precisely personal opinion, entrenched, that is the problem. Tendentious argument on the RfC page itself demonstrates that there is, in fact, some level of problem.
This proposal had 7 users favoring it, and 1 opposed. The one opposed stated essentially that no problem on hr.wiki was ever solved on meta. Yet there was no proposal for meta action. The proposal was defective. That is, it did not propose a global action. It proposed something for hr.wiki administrators to do. Yet they are not obligated to read this wiki, and generally we do not tell others what to do. A proposal here cannot demonstrate a consensus of hr.wiki users.
That does not mean that nothing could be done. If there is a global concern, and something that reflects on the overall neutrality of the Wikipedia projects can become a global concern, then the global community can, through its available means, take the situation in hand. Interfering in a local wiki is a tricky process; if it is done ham-handedly, it can do great damage. I do not see a mass desysop, as suggested by some, as a reasonable solution. Rather, pending the formation of a clear consensus on hr.wiki, as to how to proceed, global standards could be set for sysop behavior on hr.wiki. Stewards can overule blocks and bans, if needed. Stewards can remove the privileges of those who do not follow clear established standards. I would see identifying local users who are truly committed to project neutrality as crucial; this is not the same as being against the supposedly controlling faction. Users who are committed to civility and seeking consensus might be protected from block by any global sysop. Sysops who wheel-war with global sysops might see their privileges removed by a steward.
If there is a sign that hr 'crats (I haven't checked to see if hr.wiki has 'crats) are preferentially awarding sysop status to factional administrators, removing 'crat privileges would do little harm. Sysops, however, are routinely involved in project maintenance, dealing with vandalism, spam, and serious misbehavior, and mass removals could create mass difficulties.
So I see the role of this RfC as, first, to determine if there is a situation on hr.wiki that needs intervention, if the situation has gone beyond the capacity of a local project to resolve in a reasonable time..
If there is such a situation, then a process would be developed to organize reform on hr.wiki. The sole mission of any interfering global sysops or stewards would be to ensure a fair local process. I'd see a possible amnesty on blocks and bans, based on past behavior or allegations, with notices on the talk pages of affected users; I'm referring to those banned for "POV pushing" or "incivility" or "trolling," while at the same time, new offenses to the civility and respectful behavior that is essential to consensus formation might be handled swiftly and firmly, based on clear operating policies.
I.e., Talk page access might be restored to all such users. Then, if the users agree to a hehavioral standard, they could be unblocked, so they could participate in the reform process. If they violate that standard, they would be promptly reblocked.
(The standard, it is possible, might only allow editing specific pages, pending completion of the review process. A special user privilege class might be established, and then the edit filter could autoblock violators. The opportunity of participating in reform might well outweigh, for users, the frustration of still being unable to edit Favorite Articles. I'm just anticipating some standard objections to a proposal like this, that there can be ways of handling issues.)
This won't happen overnight.
The goal, however, would be to reform the administrative culture of the project, if reform is needed, or to establish that the real community supports the existing culture and set of administrators.
Sometimes consensus requires facilitation, sometimes disputing parties cannot handle it themselves. I wish the hr.wiki community success in creating a project that the world can be proud of. If that can be done, perhaps some of the seemingly intractable local political and cultural problems can be resolved as well. --Abd (talk) 22:32, 25 January 2014 (UTC)
- This suggestion has some similarity to Project restarting process. The difference is that ordinary administrators, in this suggestion, would not be removed immediately. It would be a fresh start for everyone.
- At least one of those commenting in the RfC were upset that nothing has happened after months of this RfC. The problem is that the RfC did not engage the meta community. It did not make specific requests. Here is that post:
- I'm very disappointed with the way the things are dealt with on meta. After months of complaints NOTHING HAPPENED. Even after majority of users agreed to initiate checkuser https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/2013_issues_on_Croatian_Wikipedia#Can_we_agree_on_CheckUser_investigation.3F nothing happened. Not even after the systematic list of abuses was compiled here https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Requests_for_comment/2013_issues_on_Croatian_Wikipedia/Evidence nothing changed. Did you gave up on hr.wikipedia? Do you care? Do something! --Imbehind (talk) 21:00, 2 November 2013 (UTC)
- Here is the problem: this is not the request for checkuser page. If a case can be made for checkuser, it should be made there. We may wish that meta users would somehow take an interest in hr.wiki, but it's not necessarily going to happen. Consider this: there are a huge number of projects, and only so many users who take much interest in wikis other than those where they are, themselves, active. Bottom line, to get things moving here, you need users who are familiar with meta, because they have been working here on cross-wiki issues. A request for checkuser can be initiated here, i.e., can be based on what was here. It's not going to happen just because a majority agree on it here in this RfC. Someone has to take it there, someone who knows how to file a proper checkuser request. And it must be timely. Checkuser data is rapidly stale, the server records are not kept for long.
- I see that User:Sj commented in the checkuser discussion. Sj is a Trustee of the WikiMedia Foundation. His suggestions were sound. They might fail, but if checkuser abuse is suspected, and more than by a few disaffected users, then a *specific* request can be made, timely, on the steward request page here. If the request independently finds checkuser abuse, that is of major concern, and checkuser privileges can be removed. Checkusers have a duty not only to their local wiki, but to the WikiMedia Foundation and the global community.
- The RfC became a repetition of factional battles that I imagine are happening on hr.wiki. There are two issues of concern on meta, and the rest seriously doesn't belong here.
- Is the project systematically and routinely violating WMF neutrality policy? This has little to do with "truth." Arguing that a point of view is true is what advocates of points of view always do, after all.
- Is there an overall pattern of administrative abuse that prevents the local wiki community from resolving issues over neutrality? --Abd (talk) 02:17, 26 January 2014 (UTC)
- Yes this is the issue for meta because at this point local community cannot solve it. This mess was cooked by Meta which decade ago granted admin buttons to the selected few on trust and without any background checking, and now we have ten right-wing extremists and three times as much of their sockpuppets dictating the POV on key articles and banning dissenters without the possibly of complaint. Just look at this discussion and evidence - and responses by Mir Harven, Kubura, Vodomar, SpeedyGonsales, Roberta F. and Zeljko. A bunch of 40-50 year olds who still think that we live in the Soviet era and see conspiracies in every corner. Consensus can be formed only among the people willing to make concessions - which they never do. Not once did any of them admit that they did something wrong in any case of abuse.
- I've see you recently interacted with the worst offender of them all: User:Kubura. In his message he forgot to mention that it was him that has been revealing other people's full name (publicly in the local discussion board), and that the IP he was referencing in order to make himself look like a victim was merely pointing out that they knew his identity and place of residence, and were not revealing it, so if he could stop what he was doing it would be much appreciated. Do you see a pattern here? All of them exhibit a selective perception of the reality where 1) they are always right 2) they are defending the "truth" 3) everyone who objects gets labeled as a communist, traitor, enemy, or whatever. 4) They endorse the most wild conspiracy theories imaginable and profusely reference them in articles. 5) NPOV and RS is ignored and only POVs that suits the imagined truth are cherry-picked and used in articles. The bias in articles merely manifest their set of beliefs that they also make use of in discussions and interaction with other editors. E.g. blocking editors for a long time for trivial and vague offenses ("attacking behavior" is their favorite), while at the same time they do personal attacks for which they are never blocked.
- Personally after everything I don't think that these kind of systemic biases can ever be solved locally on Balkans wikis, and it has to be either 1) from the top 2) by engaging third parties (e.g. sister wikis bs/sr/sh). Even mandating that the disputed articles be translated from en wiki which holds much higher set of standards would suffice.
- Of course, Meta can choose to ignore this altogether, but then again what is the purpose of Wikipedia if the most important demographic is missed because the local Minister of Education and historians have made a laughing stock of Croatian Wikipedia in the media.. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 05:24, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
What's happening now and a path forward
- Yes this is the issue for meta because at this point local community cannot solve it. Then it is mostly likely that meta cannot solve it either. The local community will need assistance from meta, likely, if at least part of what Ivan is claiming is true, but it will not obtain that assistance through complaints like this. Ivan, you are trying to swim upstream, in a stiff current. Slow down, step back! Drop the story! Focus!
- This mess was cooked by meta ... admin buttons to the selected few on trust and without any background checking. Again assuming general truthfulness on Ivan's part, this appears to be an attempt to convince meta to intervene because, It's meta's fault! There is no person named "meta." There is a collection of rough traditions, some called "policy," and a community that implements them. Very good chance that those who responded to requests back then are no longer active. Among the early concepts developed was that of anonymous editing, and that included anonymous administration. Investigation is impossible. Maybe this was a bad decision, many have thought so. But it's not going to change any time soon. (It could have been argued that, fine, anonymous editing is allowed, but administrators must be known. However, then, that can create other problems. Think about it, I shouldn't have to explain all of this.)
- You have a user who is proceeding in a way that might eventually work. If you have an on-wiki cabal that is controlling discussions, not allowing consensus to be expressed, you are going to need off-wiki organization. That is likely to terrify the en.wiki crowd, but the necessity is obvious, logically. You will need discipline, i.e., if those who realize the need for reform act individually and just yelling and screaming about their latest pet peeve, if they prematurely use a developed power just to improve a few favorite articles, from their point of view, it's going to damage the effort. From history, there will be moles. You cannot depend for long on secrecy, so whatever you do, if it becomes public, must not look harmful.
- What you are saying is that, on hr.wiki, wiki traditions are not working. You will need to move outside those traditions, or it is practically guaranteed that you will fail. Yet, here, you will need to fit within wiki traditions. And your behavior will need to be impeccable, or close. You will need to train yourselves in total NPOV writing, including about the situation on hr.wiki. You will need to impress this community with your cogency and competency.
- This community is not likely to, in general, pour over hr.wiki history to investigate your evidence. If this community remains true to form, it will act based on the impressions you create, and if you can convince users here that there really is a serious problem, and that there is something they can do about it, and if you know what they can do that will appear safe and prudent, it might be done. Stewards are supermajority elected. One of the problems with supermajority election is that those who are elected that way, and if they must be confirmed periodically, as stewards are, can be extremely conservative, unwilling to act if they think it could look bad, later. Do not expect a truly bold move from a steward. That is not a criticism of stewards, this is by design. Also don't expect them to take a lot of time pouring over evidence. They are busy, often teetering on the edge of overwhelm. Understand the situation!
- So you will need to organize off-wiki (not here!), and I will be making a suggestion privately. There is nothing wrong with the suggestion, what I will suggest is fully within policy, but ... very specifically, I don't want the majority or the "cabal" at hr.wiki to expect it. They don't need it, they have control there, and this suggestion will not harm whatever is legitimate about what they are doing. I will make that suggestion to an individual user whom I think is mostly likely to be able to make it a reality.
- I have already suggested that evidence pages be prepared that are rigorously neutral. It seems you have a user who is working on that. Support him. That means, among other things, that the summaries give full voice to the "other side." That they only draw conclusions with consensus. If consensus on a point cannot be found, then a "report" will report the disagreement, clearly and cogently and neutrally. It takes skill to do that. Develop that skill. The skill is relatively common among highly trained academics, but certainly not universal.
- If you can succeed in reforming a wiki, in the presence of a dominating cabal, you will have blazed a path that could actually help other wikis, not just your own.
- Another general approach: Get involved at meta. Work cross-wiki. Identify vandals and spammers and make requests for global blocking and locking. Help other users with problems that show up here. Develop your connections with the meta community, and demonstrate that you have what it takes to assist, here and elsewhere. Build a base of users who, should they choose to accept, may be nominated for global sysops and stewards. And if any of you gain those privileges, use them with extreme caution. You might need, where there is some possible personal agenda, or it could look that way, to explicitly recuse. But then you could give opinions, and the opinions of those with extensive cross-wiki experience, obvious integrity, and reputation in the community will carry weight.
- You are making a common error. You think that if you complain loudly and bitterly, and if you are right, others will rush to help you. It doesn't work that way. "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," all right. On-line it is usually the path to being shoved outside that gets greased. People are annoyed by squeaky wheels. Grease your own wheels, so that they are quiet and fully functional. And then act, with power and effectiveness.
- Oh, about Kubara. I saw a mess on User talk:Jimbo Wales, a debate that was inappropriate there. Yeah, I could form my own opinion based on that, and I wouldn't need to learn the language of hr.wiki to do it. But that's irrelevant. The debate didn't belong there at all. Jimbo doesn't watch that page. So I blanked it, later archiving that Talk page entirely. And I offered to assist the users, with  and . Also see , where I was asked to look at this RfC. --Abd (talk) 18:17, 28 January 2014 (UTC)
- Secretive communications channels, off-wiki meetups and coordination of votes is the reason why we have this problem. This should be solved by demanding more transparency and accountability, and not by creating an alternative cabal which no one here has the time for. If you look at the home wikis of the critics that posted on this page, they all come from 5-6 different projects and never communicate except for here. Rotten system is disassembled by dismantling it and not by creating a competing rotten system that would out-organize the first one. The purpose of this page and the related evidence page is 1) to establish that there is a pattern of admin abuse through testimonies and diffs 2) to prove that that abuse results in a systematic nationalist right-wing bias of some key articles 3) to demonstrate that that abuse results in an exodus of editors that do not conform to that bias, either by harassment, direct bans under unjustifiable blocking excuses, or self-willingly because they do not want to contribute to a project governed by extremists (though this last one cannot be proved only indicated through charts of editing statistics). All of which leads us to current situation where 1) there is significant over-representation of the "cabal" in the number of admins 2) They continue their existing practices of bullying and blocking "unwelcome" editors even after the start of this RfC 3) They do not appear to want to make any concessions, refuse to admit that they were ever wrong, and persist in accusations that it's all an overblown lynch by the left-leaning media, government, secret service or whatever against them (whom they believe to be the caretakers of Croatian nationhood and the Church on the Internet against vile communists).
- Now this last point is crucial because if would naturally lead to reforming of the wiki from the inside were it not happening, and editors would wage war on talk pages with references and not with admin buttons. But it does happen and the fate of hrwiki is like that of any dynamic system without a feedback loop - getting blown to pieces. Whether this RfC should've happened at all is debatable - but it did happen and its outcome will either consolidate existing practices for a long time to come, or change them. Meta is the right place to submit evidence because that's were the deciders reside. Whether they want to act on the submitted evidence or not is up to them. --Ivan Štambuk (talk) 00:37, 30 January 2014 (UTC)
Dear participants in the RfC so far: Thank you for taking the time to organize such a thorough discussion. I understand that there was a surge of interest in September and many fewer editors from hr:wp have watched the discussion since then. Nevertheless, the bilingual discussion here was a good one.
I think all of the proposals made here are reasonable for such an RfC. I also think that stewards are the appropriate group to sort out next steps, now that neutral summaries of the RfC are being made. Change organized entirely on hr:wp would be excellent. However there seems to be a fairly steady 50/50 split within that community -- amplified by some voices being blocked from those discussions, and others fearing (even if fearing without reason) that votes are being manipulated, or that sockpuppets are being used.
- The proposal for neutral checkusers to help with CU requests is similar to requests that stewards regularly fill, and seems like an issue for the ombudsmen.
- The proposals about admins are unusual, but not unique. Confirming (all) admins is not dissimilar to what happens with stewards here. Deflagging or confirming a few specific admins happens sometimes on smaller wikis that have been taken over by a clique.
- Proposals to alter content -such as stubifying specific pages - are unusual for meta, and normally handled locally. (Exceptions have been made when people were pushing personal agendas on main pages or in banners.) These content issues seem to have been proposed here because editors felt that they were being blocked and prevented from discussing content issues by local admins; so they are a symptom rather than the underlying issue.