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Hogarth judge

November 2018



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Hogarth judge

Should I resign as a Wikipedia admin?

(Cross-posted from wikipedians.)

I am considering resigning as an admin based on my deep misgivings about the imposition of CSD:T1, Jimbo Wales's decree that "polemical or inflammatory" templates --- meaning, of course, opinionated userboxes --- can be speedily deleted.

About the policy itself, the most charitable thing that I can say is that I sorta, kinda understand why he dislikes them. Lots of people don't like bumper stickers or the slogans that fit on them. Slogans that embody viewpoints you dislike intensely are bound to be especially disliked. In civil society, though, we are not empowered to rip down other folks's stickers without incurring a charge of vandalism. I fully understand that in the hothouse society of Wikipedia, Mr. Wales is the ultimate authority, and can legalize some kinds of vandalism if he wishes.

Since the policy does not represent consensus and has been imposed without regard to consensus, attempting to enforce it by consensus is sure to fail. For the moment, accepting rhetorically the validity of the policy, any deletion under it is going to generate an automatic constituency opposed to the move. So, at least in this sense, I understand why it "has" to be not only a ground for deletion, but a ground for speedy deletion without warning nor discussion. The net result is to empower admins to delete userbox templates on a whim. Those who would disagree run the risk of starting wheel wars, and can be accused of restoring deleted content.

I suppose the last straw for me was when the "inclusionist" and "deletionist" templates were deleted earlier today. Using a template on your user page to signal general agreement with either of these meta pages is considered "divisive" by at least one admin, and one is all it takes.

It's one of those perennial problems: how best to protest in a despotism, where any act of dissent is likely to be seen as quixotic and ineffectual? Moreover, some may say that these userboxes are a trivial matter, and they no doubt have a point. I think it's somewhat more serious than that: not because of the userboxes themselves, but because the project is under somewhat greater external scrutiny and internal stress than it has been before, and the project to upgrade the existing article base to provide greater referential weight and authoritativeness is an additional burden being placed upon the volunteers. Declaring a pointless pogrom against slogans on user pages probably never was a good idea at any time; it certainly wasn't a good time to start one now. The anti-userbox pogrom is a serious mistake of judgment on multiple levels.

I suppose the best thing to say is that I am starting to have misgivings about continuing as an admin while this criterion remains in effect. Even if userboxes are silly sloganeering, they are nevertheless pretty trifles offered to the community by unpaid volunteers. I could not go around wrecking them and remain faithful to the Golden Rule. Being an admin was a position of trust and honor; I fear that while CSD:T1 remains, it is in danger of no longer being an honorable position.


It seems to me that if you resign, it'll be like b_phil said -- the more sensible admins resign, the fewer will be left to counteract the stupididity.

A Userbox User and Creator
The problem is that lots of sane people have problems with the way it's being dealt with, but that the userbox situation remains untenable. As a Level 33 cabalist I'm in on the discussions on the matter. They're causing such major problems there's serious consideration (which I put my name to) of going to the solution the German Wikipedia eventually resorted to: rather than allowing all userboxes except the forbidden ones, they only allowed languages and location and forbade all others - if you want to say it, put it in your userpage text. Note that the German Wikipedia has notably not collapsed into ineffectuality or user civil war. We can live without the damned things.

The question is what to do about abuse of them. It was when the "Catholic Alliance of Wikipedia" started using them explicitly for POV-pushing that the situation exploded. See the Tony Sidaway arbitration case and workshop for where it's likely to be dealt with. Hopefully in a workable manner.
Further: Demanding neutrality of userboxes is not a stretch IMO, because they look like rubber stamps of some standing on a page. Personal views should go in the user page text — where they are (2) useful in telling you what this person is like, but (1) clearly the user's own words, not a subliterate grunting bumper sticker. So I might have a "This user edits on [[WP:SCN]]" userbox and in my page text have "I am a noted critic of Scientology [http://www.suburbia.net/~fun/scn/]." Make sense?