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Presa de decissions.png This is an assignment for Simone's adoption program. You are welcome to edit this page if you notice any errors or have any additional information to add, but as a courtesy, please notify OrenBochman if you make any major changes to avoid any possible confusion between him and his adoptee(s). Thanks!
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What we're going to do now is get you started with some basic vandalism patrols. This is by no means something you will be obligated to do as an editor, however it is something you should know how to do due to the high risk of vandalism on Wikipedia. Should you ever become an administrator, you will likely be expected to deal with vandalism in some respect.

To start off, let's get some background. Wikipedia is, as you know, a wiki, meaning anyone can edit virtually any page. This is both a blessing and a curse, however, as while it does allow a wide range of information to be added and shared, it also allows people with less than benevolent intentions to come in and mess around with stuff. It requires a fair amount of work during every hour of every day to ensure that this vandalism does not run rampant and destroy the project. Fortunately, with a near-endless supply of volunteers across the world, this doesn't really cause a problem. The addition of various tools help aid our cause and make the "reversion", or removal, of vandalism happen within minutes (sometimes seconds).

What is vandalism?[edit]

What we define vandalism as is "an edit which is delibrately attempting to harm the encyclopedia" to an article or other page. Most commonly, these are pretty blatant - replacing a whole page or section with curse words, simply removing entire sections, and so forth. Occasionally, it's less obvious, like changing key words in a section to completely alter the meaning. Basically, anything that can't be helpful at all to the article should be considered vandalism, however you should always remember to assume good faith for questionable cases.

The most commonly used, and arguably the most critical tool in this respect, is Special:RecentChanges. Recent Changes is a special page that lists every edit made across the project within the last few minutes. You can find a link to it in the toolbar to the left. The page is formatted similarly to a page's history, with a few differences. Here's how a standard entry generally looks:

So that you can know all the terminology (which in some cases will be used across the site), I'm going to explain what all of this means. Feel free to skip this if you've already clicked the links.

  1. A "diff" is the difference between two revisions. Wikipedia has a special feature that allows you to compare revisions to see exactly what was changed. This is particularly useful when on vandal patrol, as this is the best thing available to tell you if the edit was or was not vandalism. Clicking on the link above will only take you to the help page on diffs, unfortunately, however an actual diff link will bring you to a screen that looks like this one, an actual diff of another article. Content removed appears in red text in a yellow box on the left; content added appears in red text in a green box on the right.
  2. The "hist" link will bring you to the page's history. You can click on the "hist" link above to get to the help page for this feature. A page's history lists all edits ever made to a page, something which is required under the terms of the GFDL, Wikipedia's licensing.
  3. The next link is the article that the edit was made to.
  4. The time stamp will indicate when the edit was made. The time will appear in your time zone, as you have it defined in your Special:Preferences. Note that this is different from signature timestamps, which are always in UTC/GMT time.
  5. The green or red number after the timestamp will tell you how much was added or removed to the article in the edit. A green "+" number shows the number of bytes added to the article - a red "-" number indicates the number removed. In general, the number of bytes is equal to the number of characters, however this is not always the case: Certain special characters can contain more than one byte, and templates can completely mess this number up. Templates will be covered in another lesson later on, however you will be using some in your patrols later. This number will be in bold if a very large number of characters were removed, which is usually a good indicator of vandalism.
  6. The next part is the name of the user who made the edit, which will link to their user page. In this case, an IP address made the edit, so the link will instead go to their contributions. Since most vandalism comes from these anonymous editors, this serves as another convenience to those on patrol. The user name is followed by a link to their talk page.
  7. The last part of a RC report is the edit summary. When editing a section of an article, the title of that section will automatically be included in the edit summary, as you see above. Other special edit summaries include "Replaced page with..." and "Blanked the page". In general, these last two are dead giveaways for vandalism edits, however you will occasionally see an editor blank his own user or user talk page, so be careful about that.

Now that you know how to use Recent Changes, I want you to and find some vandalism edits. I don't want you to remove the edit yourself just yet - we'll get to this shortly and chances are, another editor or bot will beat you to it. So before you go on, go to Special:RecentChanges and find three vandalism edits. So that I can check your work and we can discuss things, I want you to copy the links to the diffs of these three edits into the brackets you see below. (This is most easily done by copying the URL from your address bar while you're viewing the diff.)


IMPORTANT WARNING: Due to the very nature of vandalism on Wikipedia, it is possible you will encounter something that will offend you. I take this time to point out Wikipedia's Content Disclaimer, which basically says that you can find just about anything on here and it's not WP's fault. While you may find something offensive in your searches and subsequent vandal patrols, it is best to simply brush it off and not take it to heart. Later on, when you are actually reverting vandalism, it is possible that your own user pages will be vandalized. Here the same thing applies - ignore and simply remove it. I do not tell these things to scare you, or to imply that it will happen. I am simply pointing out that it is possible, although exceedingly rare. In many cases, these attempts to attack you are in fact somewhat amusing. If it occurs, just remember how intellectually superior you clearly are to the vandal and be glad that you actually have a life. Please add your signature here (~~~~) to confirm that you have read and understand this warning:


Now that that's over with, go do your task. Have fun! (By the way, please ignore new pages, indicated by a bold "N" on the log entry.)

  • Diff 1: [] Why you think this is vandalism:
  • Diff 2: [] Why you think this is vandalism:
  • Diff 3: [] Why you think this is vandalism:

How to Revert[edit]

Well, if you're using anything but Internet Explorer 8 and below, I suggest using Twinkle. You can turn it on by going to My Preferences --> Gadgets --> Twinkle. saving your preferences and then holding shift while pressing the refresh button. Suddenly you have new things to play with! Each diff gives you 3 options to roll back - more can be found at WP:TWINKLE

Vandalism and warnings[edit]

You occasionally get the repeat vandal. The vandal who is here, not because he is bored and has nothing better to do, but because he has a singular purpose of wreaking as much havoc as he can before he gets blocked. These vandals go in and remove entire sections of text, or replace entire pages with gibberish repeatedly. Even after you've given them a warning, they ignore it and continue. It is for these vandals we have multiple levels of warnings. In general, you will escalate up those levels from 1 to 4 as the vandalism continues. If it's nothing clearly malicious (see below), you should always assume that it was a careless mistake (in short, assume good faith, one of Wikipedia's foundation principles), and just let them know that you fixed it. As it continues, it becomes more and more obvious that they intend to cause trouble, so the warnings get more and more stern. Occasionally, you'll get the vandal, who despite all logical reasoning, continues to vandalize after that final warning. When this happens, we have no choice left but to block them. Since we're not administrators, we lack this ability, so we must report them to those with that power at Administrator intervention against vandalism. That page provides complete instructions on how to file a proper report. If you are using Twinkle, you can report a user to this page by clicking the "arv" tab at the top of any of their user pages. Usually, an administrator will take action within minutes, but until that happens, you need to continue watching the vandal's contributions and reverting any further vandalism. The Three-Revert Rule does not apply when dealing with obvious vandals. I should also note here that many vandals will remove warning template from their talk page. While this may appear as vandalism, and for a time was treated as such, it is not necessary to re-add these warnings, and no warning should be issued for the blanking of the talk page. While these templates do serve as an easily accessible record for other vandal fighters, their main purpose is to alert the vandal to the consequences of their actions. Removing the templates is considered a way to acknowledge that they have been read.

Then you get the belligerent vandal. This is very similar to the last kind, although they actually take the time to read the warnings (or are able to) and take offense. They go by the logic that anyone can edit Wikipedia, so who are you to tell them that they can't edit in this particular way? To make this rather annoying point, they will leave an offensive message on your talk page, or more often simply add some sort of vandalism to your main user page, which you generally won't notice for several more minutes, or days, if someone else reverts it first.

When this happens, you just have to take it in stride, and remember that you are far more intelligent than them because you actually stop to read information instead of blanking it away, and thus the human race still has some hope for salvation. Just revert it, and slap them a {{uw-npa}} warning of whatever severity you deem necessary. The last version got a {{uw-npa4im}} warning, an "only warning" for the most severe offenses, and I still reported him straight off anyway.

The final version is the malicious vandal. These are hardest to notice, because their edits aren't immediately recognizable. They will seem to be improving the article at first glance, when really they're replacing true information with false, often libelous parodies. Others replace valid links with shock sites, or add hidden comments with offensive information. This last version doesn't actually appear in the article, but is there waiting when someone comes to edit it. A similar type of vandal, the "on wheels" vandal, is here for the sole purpose of destroying the encyclopedia. The namesake, User:Willy on Wheels, replaced dozens of pages with the text "{{BASEPAGENAME}} has been vandalized by User:Willy on Wheels!" The BASEPAGENAME variable is a magic word that displays the name of the page. After his blocking, Willy continued to create hundreds of sockpuppets for the same purpose. This sort of vandal is clearly here to vandalize, as such actions are not accidental. With them, you can safely assume bad faith right from the start and slam them with a more severe warning. No, you don't have to escalate in all cases - if there is no doubt that the edit was made with bad intentions, you may start with a higher level than normal. The "4im" level is designed specifically for cases of severe vandalism, and is an only warning to cease and desist.

Keep an eye out for all of these vandals, and keep that information in mind when stopping them. There is a full customized range of warning templates to be found at WP:UTM - use the most specific one possible, so that the vandal, if he did make a simple mistake, has the links at hand to learn from his mistake and improve. Any questions, please put them on the adoption talk page.


Any questions? If you want to take the test, please confirm that you have finished your task in the "IMPORTANT WARNING" section, and have signed the important warning so I can give you the test.