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Welcome to my personal user page! I am ArticCynda (preferred pronouns: they/them/theirs), and have been an active Wikimedian for about 14 years.
I am an engineer, scientist, and proponent of free and open knowledge available to everyone. I strongly oppose censorship of any kind. I am most active on Wikivoyage, but also contributing to Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and Wikidata in different languages.
Mission, Vision, and Values
Growing up in the Soviet era, I experienced first-hand the destructive effects of propaganda and disinformation. Progress relies on open communication, reasoning, and constructive dialogue. Progress also demands respect for others' opinions even if they are the opposite of one's own point of view, or considered offensive or controversial in a specific social context. History should be factually presented and reproduced, regardless of ideological sensitivities, lest mistakes of the past are marginalized or forgotten. This means historical facts should be viewed within their own Zeitgeist rather than updated to suit contemporary socially accepted constructs. Much of my work as a Wikimedian has in recent years shifted to fact-checking, copywriting, and supporting articles with reliable references while ensuring all points of view are fairly represented in discussions. Of particular concern is intrinsic bias on English language Wikimedia projects, resulting from the large majority of their editors originating from First World countries. This bias leads to taboos around subjects such as colonialism, the Holocaust, or slavery, that results in unnecessarily heated discussions and self-censorship.
At the same time, the Soviet era also taught me the importance of unity and collaboration in our efforts to materialize a better world for generations to come. As we evolve as a species, making mistakes is inevitable, but learning from these mistakes is paramount. We're standing on the shoulders of giants, grateful to thinkers such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Nikola Tesla who have sparked innovative ideas for their time, and shown what is possible if we unite our efforts. Developing shared goals that everyone can recognize themselves in, and considers worth supporting, is critical to the success of Wikimedia. Guiding and helping new users, especially young people and students, is an important objective for me.
The Information Age, for the first time in the history of our species, enables structured access to much of the combined knowledge of our civilization. Never before has so much information on science, technology, history, philosophy, and many other subjects been as readily available as it is today. Projects such as Wikimedia continue to lower the barrier to access information. Widespread internet access and a wealth of information sources that can be tapped into online have effectively made ignorance a choice, in our present society. Unfortunately, history has the unpleasant habit to repeat itself, and this time propaganda and disinformation are spreading like wildfire on the internet. It is my hope that Wikimedia continues its role as a beacon of factual information in an increasingly troubled digital landscape.
When contributing to Wikimedia projects, I abide by these 5 core principles:
- The interests of our readers come first. Policies should be applied to serve the interest of readers. If that is not the case, then exceptions should be applied or policies should be adapted accordingly.
- Contributions must be gauged objectively for their value, independent of the contributor's history, edits on other Wikimedia projects, or opinions voiced on discussion pages. I always assume good faith, unless there is strong evidence of the contrary. I reject application of the duck test because it is too often used subjectively as a substitute for hard evidence, and abused to settle personal disputes.
- Preservation of existing content is as important as adding new content. I take an active stance against disruptive actions such as page blanking, page deletions, and other forms of content vandalism that take place without broad support from the respective wiki communities. This is particularly the case for smaller Wikimedia projects such as Wikivoyage.
- I am generally opposed to banning contributors from Wikimedia projects, because past experiences have shown that such bans are very often ineffective as a result of Wikimedia's censorship-resistant design. Bans are often a consequence of our community's failure to respect and integrate radically different opinions. Discussion should be the preferred pathway to resolve conflicts.
- Because of the learning curve for new contributors, I aim to give newcomers substantial leeway and avoid bombarding them with policies. Wikimedia has many bureaucratic tendencies and a wild growth of policies, which have a negative effect on the user experience for newcomers.
My contributions to Wikimedia projects so far have been mostly focused on Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, Commons, and Wikidata. From ca. 2015 onward I have been increasingly active on Wikivoyage, one of the smaller Wikimedia projects, at the time in need of committed writers to contribute new content. I made over 10,000 contributions to Wikivoyage editions in different languages, and by doing so, I hope to have brought communities together. After all, travel is one of the best and also most pleasant antidotes to xenophobia.
Since ca. 2019, I have increasingly taken on a janitorial role on Wikivoyage, with efforts focused on the English and Dutch Wikivoyage editions. Smaller Wiki projects face unique challenges, resulting from low numbers of regular contributors. Onboarding new arrivals, for example, is vital to securing organic growth and community building. Another problem smaller wiki projects unfortunately encounter is the concentration of administrative powers among a very small number of established users, and this has on many occasions led to undemocratic behaviour by administrators due to lack of oversight. Such behaviour is of course unacceptable, and over the last 5 years I have made it my priority to rectify this structural problem on Wikivoyage. Although some progress have been made, it is an ongoing effort, with much work remaining to be done.
On top of the constant efforts to keep petty vandalism in check, the Russo-Ukrainian conflict has also painfully confronted us with our weaknesses. The conflict is not only fought on the physical battlefield but also in cyberspace, and politically inspired vandalism on a scale never before encountered has been a persistent headache since the start of the invasion. Whereas larger projects like Wikipedia have a well-staffed and experienced team to tackle malicious edits, the small team on Wikivoyage was overrun by coordinated, relentless attacks. Regrettably, many dozens of articles in Russia and Ukraine were vandalised, with large chucks of content deleted, and even entire articles removed on some occasions. To me, this was a significant stress test of the democratic principles Wikimedia is built upon. And although significant damage was done, we can be proud that cross-wiki collaborations, such as backing up articles under attack on different language editions, has strengthened our community.
Two decades into the Wikimedia adventure, the project is facing new challenges with unforeseeable outcomes, as unprecedented progress is made in artificial intelligence research. Whereas the technology is permitting us to process large quantities of information much faster than ever possible before, there are also risks. Like any technology, generative AI can be used for good or malicious purposes. The ability to tamper with images or videos, and generate photo quality imitations that are indistinguishable from real pictures or recordings, will undoubtedly be used for fraudulent purposes such as forging evidence. From that perspective, AI will make fact checking a much more complex endeavour in the future, and a formidable challenge for Wikimedians to ensure the line between facts and fiction is preserved. Much of my contributions to Wikipedia are already centred around fact checking, often by adding references and citations to existing articles, and I expect the importance of this task to increase further in the future as the full extent of AI capabilities are revealed.