Take Responsibility

Here's a key example of a grave weakness of the MachoAnonymous approach to Wiki. UnethicalEditing has had the following for quite a while:

Altering signatures
Changing or adding a signature to a post is a lie. Even if the attribution is correct it still makes it look like the original poster meant to sign the contribution. If they didn't mean to then making it look like they did is a lie.

There are two things to separate here, very importantly, and I don't think the above paragraph separates them at all well. I'm not sure I will either on the first cut but here goes.

Point 1: People are moral agents and are (as far as we know) the only such agents to have done bad and unethical things on Wiki, including lying. Some of the bad things have been done signed, some with UserName but unsigned, some more anonymously than that, some using PseudonymityWithUntraceability and some using more advanced techniques like DoubleMinorEdit, in my own very limited experience. If one or more people are involved in premeditated UnethicalEditing it is likely that they will choose a largely anonymous route to achieve their evil ends, perhaps using some PseudonymityWithUntraceability to add variety to the overall effect. Whether or not the bad editing is premeditated though, once bad things have been done there is an obvious issue: who did it?

Point 2: Any attempt to find out "who did it" can itself be good or bad. But when it is good, and successful, it can be helpful and just to those that have suffered at the hands of the unethical editors and to the wider WikiCommunity to go public with the result. However this is encoded, whether using long words or the more concise "-- [WayneCool]", it is surely doing vast injury to PlainEnglish to call this lying.

Reactions and refinements welcome. Thank you. -- RichardDrake


When an idea or expression is not an individual opinion or is extracted or adapted from the ideas of others, it would not be honest to TakeResponsibility for the idea. Expressions meant to be points of view which are shared by many and are the result of collaboration and development are also in this category. This paragraph is an example. -- unsigned

In other words, it can certainly be wrong to add a signature. But lying it seldom is. Stealing (from the community, in effect) perhaps or simply lack of wisdom. The interplay between CollectiveOwnership and TakeResponsibility is the key thing here, as in XP. The above entry in UnethicalEditing misses most of the useful targets. -- also unsigned

The point is not about unethical editing, statements or anything of the sort. It is about the attachment of a name to an edit. Editing pages, paragraphs, sentences and words is expected. Associating ones name to the edits is not. Some do not wish to be credited favorably or unfavorably for such efforts, they just do their thing. This wiki is not a collective and is not governed by set of by-laws or rigid rules. Therefore insisting on accountability may be a wasted effort. -- unsigned

Two questions are raised by this last paragraph, though not presumably questions only for the author but for the whole community.

-- also unsigned


"Lying" is surely too strong. But why is this verbal infelicity on UnethicalEditing an example of a "grave weakness of the MachoAnonymous approach"? -- GarethMcCaughan

The weakness is at its worst in the case of grave abuse. The attempt to try to identify culprits in such cases feels just like adding a signature and in the process breaks many other WikiTaboos. The verbal infelicity is a symptom of muddled thinking rather than its cause. Meanwhile, back in 1999 I never signed WikiRewritesHistory, WikiIrregularVerbs, UgLy, RhetoricalQuestion, WikiUncertaintyPrinciple, ExtremeOxymoron, WikiBallotBox and a host of whole pages I started here. Some of them have grown rather beautifully since and I accept everything about the correlation of that to lack of signatures. Why should a critique of the abuse of anonymity be inconsistent with the humble (though now boastful) application of anonymity when appropriate? -- RichardDrake

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