Fundamental Flaw

On August 16th 2006, Anon became involved in an EditWar. A long-time contributor and WikiGnome (LTCWG) attempted to exercise his RightToLeave, but Anon decided not to allow it. Rather than waste further time reversing his edits while he's awake and on-line, I've decided to highlight the fundamental flaws that Anon's actions demonstrate.

The problem isn't Anon's behaviour. Irritating as it is, there will always be anti-social, uncooperative individuals. We can't fix brains by remote control, so we have to treat this as a technical issue. One would assume such individuals could be banned by IP or blocked by the CodeWord. Unfortunately, Anon uses open Web proxies to move from IP to IP, thus making it impossible to ban him. For whatever reasons the CodeWord doesn't appear to stop him, either.

However, although Anon is annoying, frustrating even, ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, he's not worth worrying about. He is presumably limited by his own typing speed and need for sleep, which keeps him somewhat in check, and it's relatively easy for one or more individuals to simply undo his damage while he's inactive. What is, I think, worth worrying about is that Anon could turn out to be the small premonitory fart that hints at a big, stinky windstorm to come.

Using Anon's methods, imagine how trivial it would be to create a script or 'bot that automatically seeks out open Web proxies and deletes Wiki pages (or replaces their content) using a different anonymous proxy for each edit. Keeping the edit rate low from any given IP would circumvent the existing timer-based anti-spam mechanisms, while using multiple IPs would permit an extremely high overall edit rate, as well as easily supporting DoubleEdits. As Anon has shown that the CodeWord is not an obstacle, it cannot be considered an effective barrier to such an attack. Being automated, the 'bot would have no need for sleep. No concerted group effort, no matter how large and coordinated, could keep up with it. While such a 'bot could presumably be traced and stopped (assuming it is not a distributed attack), this might not occur until after every page has been wiped out. The pages could be restored, of course, but that wouldn't stop the human culprit from installing the 'bot on another "pwned" box (or boxes), and off it goes again.

The fundamental flaws, therefore, are these: As long as these flaws exist, I believe this Wiki is so vulnerable to this style of attack that (a) I suspect such an attack is inevitable; and (b) putting content here is tantamount to storing data on a known defective hard drive.

Of course, if the two fundamental flaws, or even just the first one, were fixed, not only would Wiki be safe from automated attack, it would also be safe from Anon.

Knowing that this is so, do you still feel comfortable contributing here? Or do you feel I'm being paranoid, and that such an attack is unlikely? Or am I simply over-valuing the content?

-- DaveVoorhis
This was settled years ago (long before the CodeWord was introduced). Preventing one type of edit merely allows another type of bot. Deleted pages are easily restored from the HistoryPages, which are currently retained for ages. Even so, readers are encouraged to make local copies of pages of interest to them. Current anti-spam measures, such as the CodeWord, are working as intended; what little spamming now occurs is not a problem.

The theoretical possibility of an EditWar is a good thing - an actual war is unlikely if users want to reach a consensus, which is what they are supposed to do. That might not happen for highly controversial topics, but there aren't many of those relating to software. What you call flaws are benefits.

Crucially, "safer" wikis, such as those which never delete old versions of pages, have been tried elsewhere and have tended to fail.

Hi, Anon!

I'm not surprised you object. Fixing the flaws would stop you from hounding LTCWG, wouldn't it?

Furthermore, you seem to have missed the point that the flaws are particularly subject to the attack I've described.

Now then: How shall we "reach a consensus" (which, apparently, we're supposed to do) on your most recent activities?

-- DV

They're not flaws. Anyway, Wiki isn't trying to be flawless and has done quite well in its present form.

They're flaws when they (a) permit an obvious (and, arguably, inevitable and easily avoidable) exploit; and (b) permit you to circumvent a ban that had it been enforceable, would either have LTCWG contributing new material or free to remove his signature or content as he sees fit. By what reasoning does your will take precedence over his? I would hardly call letting your edits take precedence only because you stoop to exploiting open Web proxies and using DoubleEdits, an example of "done quite well," at least of late.

Once again: How shall we "reach a consensus" (which, apparently, we're supposed to do) on your most recent activities?

-- DV

The first of the WikiDesignPrinciples is that Wiki is open to editing. If you reject that, perhaps you should use a site which requires you to log in prior to editing.

Repairing the flaws would not make Wiki any less open to editing. There is no legitimate justification for bouncing from one open Web proxy to another. It would only be closed to certain forms of vandalism, and obvious misuse. -- DV

You're mistaken - they're not flaws. Past experience shows that if I only use one IP address, I get my edits reverted by a script.

You are mistaken. They are flaws, as I have shown above. Potentially fixable exploits are flaws.

When I use only one IP address, I do not get my edits reverted by a script. When you use one IP address to perform legitimate edits, you do not get your edits reverted by a script. When you make edits of nil or negative value, you get reverted by me and a dozen other people. We are not scripts. -- DV

The fact remains that a few years ago my specific edits (mainly minor corrections) were reverted persistently by a script. The CodeWord is a reasonably successful anti-spam measure, not a flaw. If a script is causing a real problem, it is easy for Ward to take Wiki out of service temporarily, and this has been done very occasionally and has nothing to do with the CodeWord. Better measures against spam are possible and have worked elsewhere, but aren't trivial to do. You're missing the point that this wiki isn't intended to be exceptionally robust through restrictions. Instead, it attracts many users by virtue of not being restrictive. Some users cannot use their default IP address because it's too close to a spammer's address.

The CodeWord itself is not the flaw. Your ability to circumvent it is the flaw. Users whose default IP is caught in an anti-spam range can contact Ward or a steward to have access restored.

The CodeWord is to deter (rather than prevent) scripted spamming, which it manages to do even though it's currently readable by a script. Its implementation isn't flawed. The steward's facilities might be, but since they're not disclosed one can't tell. Ward doesn't guarantee to restore access if contacted.

If the CodeWord is readable by a script, then that's the flaw, since obviously you and anyone else can easily subvert it. It's quite appropriate that Ward doesn't guarantee to restore access, because it's WardsWiki, not yours. -- DV

No, because Ward has observed that the readable code could easily be made hard to read. Even when Ward does restore access, it can take some time. It's a clumsy process.

And my argument, made on this page, is that it should be made hard to read. The fact that restoration of access might be clumsy is no reason for you to subvert Wiki mechanisms. No one needs to edit Wiki. -- DV

I meant hard to read by a script. Obviously, it should be easy to read by a human. I'm human and I've never used a script to read it. If some spammer does, there might be good reason for Wiki to produce a picture of the code instead of using digits. There's no need to make that change until such a script is used.

In the field of security, it is always better to be proactive than reactive. -- DV

This type of open forum doesn't need such security. You're deliberately ignoring my point that Wiki isn't intended to be vandal-proof. A vandal-proof Wiki is trivially obtainable - simply require users to log in. However, such a wiki would be much less open.

In other words, 30,000+ pages aren't worth the improvement in protection? That is a very weak argument, and doesn't hide your apparent real motivation, which is that you wish to edit completely unhindered. -- DV

No, I want anyone's normal edits (except spamming) to be allowed unhindered.

I too want anyone's normal edits (except spamming) to be allowed unhindered. I would like abnormal edits, such as spam and EditWars over bizarre matters to be hindered. -- DV

You seem unaware of much of the related past debate on that.
"Safer wikis, such as those which never delete old versions of pages, have been tried elsewhere and have tended to fail."

That is an odd statement, considering that revision-controlled wikis such as Twiki, MoinMoin, and MediaWiki are by far the most prevalent wikis on the internet. (See VersionControlAppliedToWiki.)

The page you mention doesn't refer to prevalence, MoinMoin or MediaWiki. However, a tendency to fail has little relation to prevalence. A wiki is failing when open discussion is suppressed.

"A wiki is failing when open discussion is suppressed."

You mean, like your suppression of LTCWG's freedom to edit his content as he sees fit?

Eh? How is the link I added to CulDeSac LTCWG's content?

Are you not the same Anon who spent the better part of this evening trying to restore LTCWG's signature?

There is no signature at all in CulDeSac.

I'm referring to all the other pages that contained LTCWG's signature. Did you not spend the better part of this evening trying to restore LTCWG's signature in them?

And weren't you trying to delete a link I put in CulDeSac? If a name is added to a page, that doesn't make that name belong to the person named.

I see you fixate on CulDeSac, where you are restoring an out-dated link to an out-dated page, while conveniently ignoring, say, TheEarthIsFlat, where I answered a question in some detail, removing the need for my signature.

Your description omitted the actual transformation and proof. Your model makes "actual flatness" effectively meaningless, but such a point can't be made directly to you if you're unidentified.

You can address the point. An identity is unnecessary. -- DV

But that would be pointless, as there wouldn't be any reply.

Anon, why do you insist on restoring LTCWG's signature, and in some cases, text he specially wants changed or removed? -- DV

LTCWG used to state he signed his posts because he was happy to be acknowledged as their originator. However, if I add "LTCWG", that's my addition, and so not his concern.

I was once happy to acknowledge the text as mine. I still am, when it's unaltered and in context. Experience has taught me that you alter text and add slurs to change the content and/or context. I am no longer willing to have my name where you, and potentially others like you, can make such changes.

Your concern is groundless. I wasn't distorting your signed statements in the way you suggest. Even if it seemed like that when I corrected mistakes, it wasn't my intention to give others a false impression.

Anon, perhaps you'd consider replacing "LTCWG" with WikiGnome? -- DV

The name needn't be LTCWG. WikiGnome would be inappropriate, though, and is unlikely to be accepted by LTCWG, who has used it on only a very few occasions. I tried putting "gnome" and LTCWG simply deleted it, as Eliz observes below.

I've seen LTCWG use it, and if he objects, he can change it. (And bloody well let him, if he does.) An alternative is AnonymousContributor? or some such. Either way, it's better than using "LTCWG", to which LTCWG does object! -- DV

So what happens when another LTCWG turns up? There are dozens of people with the same first and last names and middle initial (hundreds if the middle initial needn't match). You seem to be saying that if someone talks to you in a bar, they can insist you don't mention their name after they've left the bar and gone home.

Huh? All the more reason not to use LTCWG, and replace "LTCWG" with WikiGnome or the equivalent! Do that, and we're done here. -- DV

Not really. Almost everyone would know WikiGnome meant LTCWG.

If that is so, then it shouldn't matter if we use WikiGnome instead. Let's use WikiGnome, so you and LTCWG can part ways, EditWar-wise, and everyone is happy. Okay? -- DV

If "gnome" gets removed, one can reasonably suppose "WikiGnome would also be removed.

Perhaps. Then why don't you do the proper thing and either do what LTCWG wants -- which is to let him remove his name -- or ask him what he wants? -- DV

Because when I did precisely what he'd insisted that I do in order to get a particular type of response from him, I discovered (eventually) that he'd already decided not to respond, and to keep that decision not to respond a secret. It would seem that his default precept is that it's probably the other party's fault if he's misunderstood, not his, so that any follow-up question put is treated as a criticism or annoyance.

Several years ago, my edits from one IP address were being reverted by a script over a period of several months. If it happened then, it could happen again. That's the history, which LTCWG ought to be aware of, but doesn't mention.

Such a script could easily be blocked, were the flaws I've mentioned corrected. -- DV

Experience showed they couldn't be blocked. BTW, there was no codeword at that time. In some cases, another name would be fine. The page names and certain remarks made by LTCWG about me elsewhere show that LTCWG seems keen to slur (or insult) me.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing about this from my view is, I have no idea why Anon is adding back LTCWG's name, given the content is still there. EditWars over contentious issues I could understand (but not condone) but this just leaves me confused. After all, LTCWG's edits are essentially ThreadMode to DocumentMode conversions, which are surely a good thing. -- JamesKeogh

They are. To understand Anon's motivations, I think we'd have to understand the psychology of Anon. It's clear that Anon has "issues" with LTCWG, the nature of which I can only speculate upon, and I shudder slightly when I do. -- DV

On some pages, the content is still there, but not all. In one case, the content is just the name itself (in a list of names). I don't have "issues with LTCWG". It baffles me that he's worried about his name to that extent, especially since many people can recognize his style without the name anyway.

And why shouldn't LTCWG be permitted to remove it - he created it - if he wants to? Why should your edits take precedence over his? -- DV

He can remove something. I can add the same text. But it's then my communication, not his.

So... By the same logic, if you remove a dash in a double-dash em-dash surrogate, and I put it back, then it's my communication and not yours. Therefore, my edit should remain. However, you have reverted my reversions under those circumstances, once again demonstrating that your edits should take precedence. You are inconsistent. Or, you're consistent in insisting your edits are always right and must remain. Therefore, I do not believe some specious notion of "my" communication vs "your" communication is your motivation -- especially as LTCWG has clearly communicated his desires vis-a-vis appearance of his name, and you deliberately flout these.

In an open wiki, there is no ethical principle that any particular person's edit should prevail, especially if that person isn't even using the wiki.

What are you trying to communicate by reinstalling LTCWG's name? -- DV

Your reasoning is faulty. I am suggesting equal access, not that some people's edits should take precedence, whereas you seem to be suggesting that somebody who is leaving should have more influence than somebody who is staying.

That's irrelevant; you should answer the question. Look, it's simple: LTCWG doesn't want his name to appear here. Why that is, doesn't matter. The simple fact is, he doesn't want his name to be associated with his content. So, he removed it. Fine. Anyone else on this Wiki, and probably the entire planet, would have thought, "Yeah, okay. T'ain't nothing wrong with being anonymous - makes it a bit more DocumentMode, anyway," and got on with business.

Except you. You put his name back. He took it out. You put it back, etc. Lo and behold, it looks like we have ourselves a full-bore, steaming EditWar! Soon other people were trying to take his name out. You put it back. RecentChanges goes on and on and on with three inch strings of -13 13 -13 13 -13 13 -13 13 -13 13 -13. And there's you, hopping from Web proxy to Web proxy like a hyperactive frog bouncing across lily pads, desperately trying to keep that damn name in. It's a losing battle, but sometimes it stays in for a few extra seconds - if you manage to jam in a DoubleEdit to slow your opponents down.

Must. Leave. Name. In. Must... Or die!

Or so it seems. Now that just boggles my mind. What could possibly be your reasoning behind that? What is so important about keeping LTCWG's name on a dozen pages that you have to go to war over it? He doesn't want his name here, and anyone, and I mean anyone but you would have supported that.

Even if they didn't support it, there would have been a discussion. "Please, Mr. LTCWG! I love your name. I get a little thrill every time I see it, and if I don't see it, I'm just a-gonna DIE, Mr. LTCWG!" or "Later discussions refer to 'LTCWG'." or "I feel so guilty about making LTCWG feel unwelcome that I can alleviate the pain just a teensy, teensy bit by pretending he's still around." Or something.

Yeah, there would have been a reason why that name's gotta stay, and there would have been a discussion and an explanation.

Except from you.

So. Enough pissing-about over whether bypassing the CodeWord (and I mean the secret one, not the displayed one) is right or wrong. Enough wasting time over whether using DoubleEdits to preserve edits is right or wrong. Enough quibbling over whether the use or mis-use of open Web proxies is right or wrong. Enough discussion about whose "communication" it is, or ethics, or anything else. That's all irrelevant. Let's focus on the one issue that started this mess; the one thing that's so peculiar about what's been going on here:

Why are you so damned insistent on preserving LTCWG's name when he wants it removed?

-- DaveVoorhis

Dave, if you're so keen on a resolution, how come you haven't asked LTCWG whether he would accept replacing "LTCWG" with "gnome", say? If LTCWG was simply removing his name, how come he's also removed entire conversations which refer to his company website without using his name? If he simply doesn't want that website mentioned either, how come he's made no attempt to remove mentions of it on other pages, such as InterestingQuestionsForInquiringMinds, and hasn't removed his name from that page either? Also, how do you propose his name and website name would be removed from pages such as BinarySearchCodingChallenge?, which have his name in the name of the page as well as within the page without converting them to nonsense? You'd imagine those would be the first pages that LTCWG would change if he really wants no mentions of him, yet he's left them alone.

Because Wiki's future shouldn't be controlled by you if you don't even want to edit it or be referenced in it.

Nor, obviously, should Wiki's future be controlled by you, no matter how many DoubleEdits or reversions you try to make. -- DV

As observed before, it's easy for LTCWG to demand something, but when he did that before and I cooperated by doing exactly as he'd asked, he simply found reasons to respond with no cooperation of his own, instead just giving me another hoop to jump through when queried on the matter.

LTCWG is not the subject here. You are the subject, Anon. Weren't you visited by the police a couple months ago?

No, I wasn't. The subject is flaws and their remedy, in case you hadn't noticed.

Thank you, at least, for answering a simple question. The flaw is we can't get rid of you. We can get rid of spammers, but we can't get rid of you.

I take it, Eliz, you agree that Dave's suggestion is unusable if LTCWG rejects it. Hence my reply above is relevant. Do you think Wiki needs to be more secure than at present? If so, do you have any suggestions for "improvement" of your own?

Don't change my words!

Anon, one question. One, simple question. Please remain on-topic, don't stray, please just answer the question.

As a part of my efforts to withdraw from this wiki without causing damage, I've made a change to MakeItWorkMakeItRightMakeItFast. I've changed a signed, personal, ThreadMode comment, namely: to an unsigned, impersonal, DocumentMode question, namely: Why do you feel obliged to return the DocumentMode version back to being a ThreadMode version? Regardless of the signature you place against it, why do you feel that the version with the signature is better than the one without?

For reference, I have again put that comment back to the unsigned version, in keeping with Ward's known preference for DocumentMode, and my intention to remove my name. It doesn't matter what the signature is, putting it back to ThreadMode is unnecessary, unwarranted and perverse.

Possibly, but there is no ethical principle that a non-user determines to what extent such conversion to DocumentMode is done. That contradicts the principle that unsigned comments are treated as common ground, not "owned".

Well, at least you agree that it's possibly unnecessary, unwarranted and perverse. That's progress. -- DV
Please do not be evasive, simply answer the question:

Why are you so insistent on preserving LTCWG's name when he wants it removed, even when it makes no difference to the content at all? -- DV

Actually, I don't. It doesn't matter in this case. However, you were making bulk changes, some much less trivial, and by association those changes seemed to be a cover for other matters, such as sidestepping a reasonable question by asking some other question... and when pressed regarding the original question then accusing me of slurring you by merely asking it, etc.

That is an evasive response. On at least six pages that I explicitly counted, and probably more that I didn't, LTCWG's only action was to remove his name, and your only action was to restore it. Why? Explain your motivations. What goes through your mind when you see LTCWG remove his name, and you restore it? -- DV

I saw the bulk change of about a hundred pages (of a possible 150 - 200 probably), with reasons given only in summary at a later date. The ones I changed back were just a small random sample. Other motivation is a figment of your imagination.

If you at first thought it was a case of WikiVandalism, it is surely quite clear now that LTCWG just wants his name removed so surely you could have stopped all this nonsense ages ago? -- jk

The number of changes you saw is immaterial. The reason given later is immaterial. Please answer the question: What goes through your mind when you see LTCWG remove his name?

LTCWG's motivation is immaterial. You're saying nothing in particular goes through your mind?

Nothing in particular. LTCWG's motivation is unclear. As indicated in my first reply, I wasn't referring to vandalism. Bear in mind that in over ten years, the only official advice added to Wiki is "Spam is not allowed on this site." The rest is just mixed edited contributions, including a fair amount of hogwash.

Your thinking nothing in particular sure causes LTCWG a lot of anguish. Doesn't learning that your thoughtlessness causes LTCWG a lot of anguish bother you?

It might if it were true, but it isn't, because his feelings are not caused by my thoughts.

His feelings were caused by your actions, which presumably are based on your thoughts. -- DV

No, you're just trying to unlink a chain of events at a particular place and claim you've identified the root cause. That's not valid.

You're trying to deflect attention from your obvious responsibility. Had you not tried, repeatedly, to restore LTCWG's name, he wouldn't have gotten upset. Had you not upset him in the first place, he wouldn't even be trying to remove his name. In short, had you not got the idea to interact with LTCWG in a peculiar manner, you wouldn't have acted in an obviously peculiar manner, and LTCWG would not have been caused anguish by your peculiar, unjustified actions. It's your fault. Yes, you are to blame, and every moment you fail to apologise is a moment of shame. You should be very, very ashamed of yourself, because no healthy, mature adult would act the way you've acted. -- DV

Finally! This last section answers all my questions. It's clear evidence of a personality disorder, Asperger's Syndrome, or somebody's achieving rare success in AI research. Further discussion is pointless. He'll have to be banned through technical means, i.e., the original subject of this page. -- DaveVoorhis

You are apparently looking not for an improvement, but just for an excuse to criticize me.

I am looking for improvement, but this exchange has convinced me that the most effective short-term improvement would be your removal. Nor am I criticizing you. I am simply stating what I see. I am sure you are already well aware of the difficulty you have interacting with people, and it's not your fault. I certainly sympathize. However, that is no reason for us to have to endure it. I suggest you take your efforts to WikiPedia, where in a larger group you are less likely to be identified as a source of conflict. Also, Wikipedia could benefit from the spelling and grammar corrections. You will be happier there. -- DaveVoorhis

Sarcasm? You previously indicated you were worried about a possible scripted attack. Are you now saying you want a compulsory login? I could refer to LTCWG on Wikipedia, I suppose...

No sarcasm at all. I meant every word.

No compulsory login needed. Correction of the flaws mentioned at the top of this page would be sufficient.

They are not flaws, as observed previously. Anyway, Wiki isn't intended to be a flawless wiki. Also, "correcting" your alleged second flaw does imply having a login procedure, even if it isn't compulsory.

Whether they are flaws or not is a matter of opinion. Apparently, we differ on this.

I think you would be happier on Wikipedia. Have you tried gnoming there? -- DV


Then please go there, do not edit here, and leave us to our humble, flawed Wiki. You will be happier there. -- DV

[removed threads to PeteTalksWithAnon?]

Effectively, you want Wiki to be your private club, where new members are allowed, but subject to the whims of a largely self-appointed membership committee, which will now avoid the issue of how a future malicious script can be thwarted and vote, I assume . . .

Clearly, that doesn't counter a future script. Do you want open access, which a script can use, or a login procedure? BTW, since when did Wiki become specifically your wiki?

[So far, no answers to that.]

The issue is the current and past actions of a single sociopath, not some ill-defined future script.
Effectively, you want Wiki to be your private club, where new members are allowed, but subject to the whims of a largely self-appointed membership committee, which will now avoid the issue of how a future malicious script can be thwarted and vote, I assume . . .

Clearly, that doesn't counter a future script. Do you want open access, which a script can use, or a login procedure? BTW, since when did Wiki become specifically your wiki?

So far, no answers to that.

I wasn't going to bother, but all right:

Personally, I'd like to see all open Web proxies blocked, and I'd like to see a secret CodeWord that can't be subverted. No login is required to achieve these, and it would effectively deal with at least the scenario I've described. And it would deal with you, which is something we have to address.

A user's IP address is often variable, so having a little extra variability by using proxies is not significant. If, say, you notice some spam posted using several AOL IP addresses (which might easily be the same user), is your problem solved by banning all AOL users? Obviously it isn't. Hence your first "flaw" is a minor issue, especially since some users need to use a proxy anyway (due to workplace restrictions, for example).

To prevent certain activities, it might occasionally be desired to stop all editing. Ward has always been able to do that, regardless of the CodeWord mechanism. Any secret CodeWord is equivalent to a login procedure for those who use it, and certainly can't be determined on demand by a script (unless Ward's server has been hijacked, which is most unlikely). In any case, a malicious script can simply pause until normal availability is resumed before continuing. Hence even if there's a flaw in the current system, correcting it wouldn't make much difference. If the CodeWord were unique to each user, that would provide considerable security, but that's equivalent to having a login procedure (which you say isn't needed). Hence your second "flaw" is at worst a minor issue.

Therefore neither of the alleged flaws merits being called "fundamental", and the changes you want would make little difference and would not prevent editing by any particular user or script.

Perhaps. I'm not going to discuss it with you until we deal with the following:

"BTW, since when did Wiki become specifically your wiki?"

It isn't my Wiki or your Wiki, ItsWardsWiki. Thankfully, Ward lets us use it in a generally free and open fashion. By in large, the majority of us get along, and cooperate and collaborate according to written and implicit norms. This is true of Internet fora in general, and communities and groups in the "real" world as well. Occasionally, someone does not understand -- or chooses to ignore -- the written and implicit norms, and conflict and/or hurt results. In such cases, action has to be taken by the community in order to prevent objectionable conflict. In the case of this Wiki, my opinion is that the best way to prevent you from causing conflict -- which you have definitely done -- is for you to leave. It wouldn't hurt you at all, as you do not appear to have any great interest in either PeopleProjectsAndPatterns or the social aspects of an Internet community, and it would benefit everyone (including you) as a result of the reduced conflict. I think you'd enjoy WikiPedia more than WardsWiki, as it would provide you with a virtually infinite supply of material to proofread -- something you obviously enjoy -- and a large enough group to reduce the likelihood of being singled out as a troublemaker.

I will no longer discuss with you the merits (or lack thereof) of tightening up the CodeWord or blocking open Web proxies until we resolve the issue of your inability or unwillingness to cooperate or collaborate with the rest of us. I find it interesting that you ignored this section, yet posted your essentially technical reply (which I've moved to a more appropriate location) after it. Please address what I've written in the paragraph above. Better still, please do us all a favour and move your efforts to WikiPedia, where I'm sure everyone (you, us, WikiPedians, etc.) will appreciate them. -- DV

I agree that cooperation is normally beneficial. It needn't be in a situation where rules are "conveniently" introduced by a handful of users and applied unreasonably, unfairly, with unjustified bias, only to certain users, or simply to justify harsh censorship.

Fortunately, that isn't the situation here. -- DV

Unfortunately, it is the situation. Folk tend to underestimate their own bias, etc. For example, see how LTCWG subtly misquoted himself, as explained on this page, so that he could allege misrepresentation.

How does your sense of fulfillment compare when gnoming at WikiPedia versus gnoming here?

At WikiPedia, I provided one external link and corrected a few typos. It was some time ago, so I can't really make a comparison. My PC is too slow for frequent use of WikiPedia to be practical.

Your PC is slow, or your internet connection is slow? Are you a dial-up user?

See also:, who are very interested in your comments about Nomad.

Earle, are you singling me out, or am I getting paranoid? -- Eliz

No, "you" means everybody in this case. -- EM
Again I feel obliged to defend myself.
The Voorhis has come up with two "fundamental flaws" with this wiki:

I propose a third:

Such a document would provide someone like Nomad with real rules and an official code of ethics. More importantly, spelled-out terms have teeth. Violating the written TermsOfUse can be used as grounds to get a malefactor dropped from an ISP or thrown in jail.

-- ElizabethWiethoff

Coming late to this scene, I see people having a disagreement with noisy behaviour and various forms of insult being thrown. Why is publicly insulting people while sticking to the mechanical part of GoodStyle acceptable, if reverting edits is not? Both are impolite.

We are all, in a virtual way, guests in Ward's house. It's an "everyone knows the key is under the doormat, please let yourself in, meet my friends and I'd be grateful if you can tidy up a little on your way out" kind of party. He is quite tolerant of impolite behaviour, but that's no reason to do it - deliberately or accidentally.

Part of the trouble is wiki's great strength: one person with something to say can make himself heard over anyone who wrote before him. This can gently correct mistakes and modestly add helpful information, but it's not suitable for any argument more heated than "polite disagreement". If this wiki is an exercise in helping us to disagree only politely, then any successful attempt to fix the FundamentalFlaw is just as likely to kill it's spirit.

-- MatthewAstley

See AssumeGoodFaithLimitations
Gee, Anon, don't delete chunks of this page, including MatthewAstley's benign comment. That's really poor form, and the page is a pain to restore.

That wasn't intended - my browser refreshed the page without refreshing the text box.

The timeline I saw went like this. EW: append. MA: append. EW: revert the "Don't change my words!" area, which NewRecentChanges shows is controversial. Anon: revert the whole page to an earlier version, plus edits. EW: restore MA text, then revert the "Don't change my words!" again. Anon: other edits, plus apologies for accidental deletion. Thanks for the restore, and I apologise if I've got this timeline wrong.

It's clear to me that reverting a controversial change isn't helping - but then I don't own the text or the controversy. If it's OK for A to remove his name from pages (even though he wrote them), why is it not OK for B to remove comments police? It is always easy to revert a page to an earlier revision, if you have the source saved in a file. Why give the incentive to do it, when your more careful restore takes more effort? -- MatthewAstley

Anon, I think you should refresh the basic page then go to EditText. A new habit. -- Eliz

There's no problem if I use the shift key when refreshing, but occasionally the key doesn't quite make proper contact. I noticed what happened, but couldn't remedy it fast enough. I don't think it's a good idea for such a minor issue to clog up this page.

[minor issue deleted] -> restored because I was just about to reply to it - could you give it a few hours at least? Thanks. -- ma

@Anon: thanks for the explanation. Given the link you add I think you understand why people will not AssumeGoodFaith when the EditWar is still fresh? Careful edits are important, and this is independent of the preference for GoodStyle in all its various forms. Don't give people an excuse to conflate the two, when they're disagreeing with you.

Sure it isn't the EditText page that needs refreshing? If the act of getting an EditText page were a POST instead of GET, it would prevent caching in all cases and also stop search engines indexing the page. EditConflictResolution is the place for this.

On the "I think you should", this is an ElselessWarning (better description welcome). The "else" may be obvious in this context, certainly obvious to you & me, but on a page where other instructions from the InGroup? have been "go away" you may see a simple imperative, although polite, could easily be filed with the rest of the advice. -- MatthewAstley

I honestly had no "else" in mind and intended it as a technical tip. I think it's a good idea to get into habits that are not likely to lead to difficulties. If Anon's shift key occasionally creates problems, a new editing procedure that does not depend on the shift key strikes me as wise. Sorry, Matthew, I deleted the minor issue stuff too soon for you. -- Eliz

Ah but there's always an else! "If (x % 2 == 0) { print "x is even\n" }" has an else, it's just not written down. I didn't mean to suggest that you were threatening anything, the else in this case is the possibly increased and now-recognised risk of accidental deletion.

No worries about deleting, I'll be off to mess about with plywood soon. If a few contributions can't improve things here then I'm afraid I'm not going to stick around. -- ma

It's just that some browsers deliberately refresh the static part of a page without refreshing the text box unless shift is used. That's probably mentioned elsewhere already, as I've been aware of it for many years.
Dave, isn't it the case that regardless of what I now say, you would still conclude I should "go away"?

Not necessarily. However, others may feel that regardless of what anyone now says, you should go away. -- DV

If not, outline in brief what minimum I should do and what I get in response, other than being ignored, but kindly make your proposal general-purpose so that it's applicable to RK or dl or whomsoever happens to be in the firing line next. I'm just asking what your own opinion is, not what you think others might think, as others might well disagree anyway.

At a minimum, I think it boils down to this:

1. Before making any edit, especially one that removes or restores existing content, consider whether or not it is likely to cause unhappiness and/or conflict. If so: 2. If you have made an edit that results in unhappiness or conflict: 3. Do not, under any circumstances, attempt to maintain your position by engaging in an EditWar, no matter how rational, logical, or reasonable either your position or an EditWar may seem.

4. Be prepared to compromise, even if it seems irrational, illogical, or unreasonable to do so.

5. If others violate the above, it is appropriate to register your objections, but do not violate these rules in doing so. -- DV

Those seem very impractical when correcting typos, asking for clarification, etc., as distinct from substantive discussion.

Try it. I believe it should even apply to correcting typos. The first rule should not normally apply to correcting typos, but the subsequent rules definitely do.

If after trying it there turn out to be difficulties, we can discuss revising it. But please try it first. -- DV

Also, the true issue is probably whether weeding out wiki traits/users is an improvement or just a part of wiki reductionism by stealth, which is controversial.

Be that as it may, I believe the same rules as above should apply. -- DV

I believe these are good points, and both sides should try to follow them for the sake of peace. It does take two to have an EditWar.

Also, I would like to raise a RudenessObjection to many of the things said about Anon. I haven't seen him make insults against anyone, but I have seen three or more people have a go at him in various ways. It's not polite, please take some time to go back over your own writing and DeleteInsults. This won't be controversial and can help with the peace. -- MatthewAstley I've re-read my contributions, and can only find one instance of something that might be construed as an insult -- my paragraph about personality disorder, Asperger's, etc. However, that is an observation based on experience, rather than a slur per se, though my quip about artificial intelligence is probably needlessly pointed. I admit my present judgement may still be clouded by anger over Anon's absolutely disgusting treatment of LTCWG. However, if my observation is accurate, Anon may genuinely have little or no grasp of smooth social interaction. As such, he may be just as baffled and annoyed by our reactions to his behaviour, as we are baffled and annoyed by his behaviour. As such, there'd be no point in being angry about it or insulting him with it, but his behaviour (for whatever reason) is still an issue that needs to be dealt with.

If you find something I've written is purely insulting and with no basis, please point it out and I'll consider removing it when I've cooled off a bit. -- DV

Why purely? Why is it necessary to keep anything partially insulting (or purely insulting, but with some basis)?

If something is purely insulting, but has some basis, is it still insulting? Wouldn't that be, say, a truth that's difficult to swallow? Anyway, if you find something that's insulting (pure or partial) without basis, let me know and I'll remove it. If something is insulting but with some basis, let me know and I'll endeavour to remove the insult and leave just the facts. My intent is not to be insulting, but in the heat of the moment, I sometimes am. Muy bad, and apologies to those offended. -- DV

It's insulting to apply different standards to two users, especially when based on mere assumptions as to what their motives are. Likewise, to apply rules as though they're fully-established and official, when actually they're ill-defined, unofficial or non-existent. Specific examples are your frequent use of a highly patronizing tone towards just one party, and expecting all your questions to be answered promptly, whilst not replying to some of the questions put to you. Likewise, to suggest rules for others which you yourself are not following.

You imply that I am a hypocrite. I do not think I am. I endeavour to apply exactly the same standards to all users whose actions consistently result in conflict. In reference to "two users", I assume you are referring to yourself and LTCWG. To my knowledge, LTCWG's contributions and edits have never resulted in group conflict and complaints. Therefore, I have never had to deal with him about such things. As for you, I have seen your edits result in large-scale group conflict on several occasions. As you have (I suspect) only seen me deal with you over such matters, you have only seen how I deal with such matters in the context of your behaviour. Therefore, it may seem like I'm applying inconsistent standards, when in fact I am not. If someone else causes conflict, they will receive exactly the same from me. In fact, more than once RK did receive exactly the same from me. -- DV

The qualification "users whose actions consistently result in conflict" in your comment is inappropriate since it didn't apply to the point to which you replied. In particular, insertion of the words "consistently result" allows you to specify rules which are mostly (or entirely) applied to just one party in an EditWar in practice (though they may theoretically apply to both or all). The nearest alternative example was an argument between LTCWG and RK (I don't know if anyone else was involved), which probably led to the action against RK which occurred not long afterwards. The fact that their argument was independent of the flaws you originally described confirms the change of subject in this page. You've similarly applied the word "group" to allow selection of just one party. That was the effect, regardless of whether such an effect was intended.

As a general case, I endeavour to apply exactly the same standards to all users. Certainly, the rules should apply equally to both parties in an EditWar or any other dispute. Indeed, one of my earliest signed edits here -- after having been a WikiReader for a while -- was to berate two individuals equally for engaging in a childish argument. However, in the case of your EditWar with LTCWG, it is clear to me that you are at fault. You restored his name even after he specifically stated he wished it to be removed. As far as I'm concerned, that absolves his violation of Rule 3, as it is perfectly understandable in light of the fact that he was obviously upset by your pointless actions.

I assumed the change in subject on this page was obvious. The general discussion of flaws and the specific discussion of your behaviour (restoring LTCWG's name when he specifically stated he wished it to be removed) probably should be refactored into separate pages. I'll do that once this page cools, if no one objects.

I don't understand your point re the application of the word "group" to allow selection of just one party, nor am I clear on the purpose of the reference to an argument between LTCWG and RK. Sorry.

As for the standards and rules that I apply, they are no more and no less than the rules of effective social interaction that are implicitly understood by functioning groups. That is why they may appear to be ill-defined, unofficial or non-existent. For the majority of us, there is no need. The rules are so instinctive and understood that they bear no thought at all, let alone bothering to codify them. -- DV

The general consensus you referred to implies some minority may disagree. It's impossible to know the true situation. It's a default assumption that correcting minor errors is approved by a substantial majority even if a few users keep debating the precise determination of such errors. Users are encouraged to add a note in every relevant context if they want mistakes in what they've written left uncorrected. Wiki users are not one large functioning group. Often, a discussion leads to the formation of a very small group of interested users. The size of the group isn't known and it may well dissolve with no continuing interaction between those users. In such circumstances, an EditWar occasionally arises. However, your rules are much too cumbersome to be practical. I doubt that they've ever been applied, though one probably wouldn't know until an EditWar occurs (or is narrowly avoided). In the Wiki context, they take polite cooperation to an absurd extreme.

The issue here isn't correction of minor errors, it's your restoration of LTCWG's name, and I'm not clear on the relevance of discussion leading to the formation of small groups of interested users, nor your point that some minority may disagree. Disagreeing is fine, and there are polite ways of handling that. An EditWar is unnecessary.

As for the rules being too cumbersome to be practical, or that you doubt they've ever been applied: I formed them by observing behaviour that has led to effective conflict avoidance and resolution. They're merely a codification of polite behaviour I've witnessed here on a daily basis. There are even examples on this page! The vast majority of edits are non-controversial and do not result in conflict. Therefore, the rules should not come into play in the vast majority of cases. Please note that I've gone back and highlighted an "if so", which if accidently missed might lead one to feel the rules are unnecessarily cumbersome. Also, the directions to discuss rather than edit may seem cumbersome to those who would rather edit than discuss, but please consider that there is no time limit on producing Wiki content. We're not facing a deadline here, so if an edit is deferred while its controversial nature is discussed, so what?

If I've seemed patronising, you have my apologies. The same if I've been insulting. Neither are my intent, but I've been accused of both before. Like any other human, I have flaws, but I try to correct them. These are things I have to work on.

As for replying to questions, I do not necessarily expect prompt responses. Take as long as you like. However, I do expect you to focus on the issue at hand. If there is an open issue and unresolved questions on my part, I consider it impolite to respond by ignoring my question in order to pose unrelated (or semi-related) points or questions of your own. This has occurred more than once. However, I will make a greater effort to answer your questions. -- DV

Where questions effectively change the subject, use of a different page would be a good idea. I see no justification for manipulative ultimata such as "I won't discuss A until discussion B has ended" which tie together discussions which could easily be independent.

I agree. In the heat of the moment, I didn't even think of using a different page. At the time, it seemed like your focus on the original topic while ignoring the "hot" topic was deliberate avoidance. Feel free to separate these threads into different pages, or, as I've noted above, I will do so anyway once this page cools.

Finally, the rules I suggested above are those that I've been attempting to follow all along, and are nothing more than a simple codification of the behavioural rules implicit in any functioning group, though slightly shaped to fit a Wiki. If I have failed to follow them, I would appreciate it if you could show me where and when. -- DV

When some dispute has arisen, have you ever carefully analysed it to see to what extent your rules have not been followed by each party involved, and partitioned blame accordingly?

I don't think I've ever not done that. -- DaveVoorhis

You might have noticed, for example, that apart from removing his name, LTCWG was making subtle changes to unlink and hence isolate pages, allowing later removal of content.

"You might have noticed, for example, that apart from removing his name, LTCWG was making subtle changes to unlink and hence isolate pages, allowing later removal of content."

Nope, I didn't see any evidence of that. Even if there was, it isn't justification for an EditWar. Far better to post a question and open it up for discussion, e.g., "Did you change <page and paragraph reference> in order to later remove the page? If so, please do not delete it. The content is of value because blah blah blah..." AssumeGoodFaith, yes? -- DV

Unworkable, since he won't discuss anything. Note his lack of response after requesting a reference already given.

If someone won't engage with you, for whatever reason, it is never justification for engaging in an EditWar. It is justification to let it go, move on, and edit or contribute something else. No content is so important that it's worth a dispute. -- DV

When some dispute has arisen, have you ever carefully analysed it to see to what extent your rules have not been followed by each party involved, and partitioned blame accordingly?

I've looked at a few. Rules are broken, yes. Usually the minor ones, and it usually doesn't cause trouble.

Sometimes it does cause trouble - for example, apparently I made a 'D' angry by a poor choice of words. I'm not exactly sure which rule I broke, but that wasn't what mattered to me. More important, since I want to join the conversation, was for me to ApologiseUnconditionally?. Also I'll be more careful for a while, until I forget again (inevitable, sorry).

By the time we try to enforce rules on a social interaction, we already have discord. When things are quiet nobody needs the rules, but these rules are still being followed to some extent. These are my observations, for what they are worth.

Do you like analogies? This wiki is a vast flowing river. Even with great strength you won't change its course by getting in the way, blocking it or trying to push it some other place. You're likely to be flattened by the force, sooner or later. Flattened comes in various forms: blocked by technical means, or your hardware destroyed by a man teleporting in with a shotgun *wink*, or just you losing the will to fight for what you believe.

Do you want to improve the way people are treated here? (Including yourself, of course.) The better alternative is to GoWithTheFlow, or OnlySayThingsThatCanBeHeard. These are the most effective ways to change things. Does this make any sense to you? I don't really know which way you're trying to go... -- MatthewAstley

As I said on PissedOffAndExtremelyAngry: for [...] shrinking [...] this page in a graceful way, I'd like to collect a few bullet points, find a more suitable home for them and delete the source comments here. Can we try a small BulletCollectorRefactoring please? I think it may produce some useful signal and reduce the noise. [...] I'd like to know whether the recipe is of any use. -- MatthewAstley

[Copied from AnonIsStillBanned as a gift ClueByFour for Matthew:]

Matthew, you are merely demonstrating that you still haven't familiarized yourself with the background on all of this, and as a result, your take on things can't be anything other than naive at best; you completely lack context. As it happens, a further result is that your comments above are actually inflammatory again, despite your apparently good-natured intentions.

If you care enough to comment, kindly care enough to figure out the context first. There is still plenty of relevant material here to study that sheds light on such, if you go to the trouble.

As it stands, comments such as yours give the impression of 100% adding to the problem, rather than assisting with a solution. They are, amongst other issues, quite unsympathetic to the victimized. -- DougMerritt


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