A open letter to Tim Farley, your data sets are fake.

Dear Tim Farley,

This is a response to your article “When you are not here to contribute to an encyclopedia, your Wikipedia statistics show it.”

Much of this blog post of yours, it clearly appears, intends to discredit my voice and Wikipedia We Have a Problem, supporting the narrative that I am just a troll and internet crank with a conspiracy theory about “skeptic editors”.

A common tactic, damaging editors reputations in a consensus process on Wikipedia is something specifically this case study focuses on. I believe in my case you’re getting a little carried away.

You probably went through the Wikipedia talk page sections and realized there was really not much you could pin on me on Wikipedia, as all of my participation on the Sheldrake article was patient, professional, collaborative, and 100% in step with Wikipedia’s policy, even exceeding it.

So I guess the only thing you could say honestly about me is my light editing history on Wikipedia, and my extensive writing on the subject of “wiki wars”, specifically Rupert Sheldrake’s biography, where I focused.

Your post suggests that I don’t have the right to criticize certain Wikipedia editors since they are genuine contributors, while those “pro Sheldrake” editors, myself included, don’t contribute.

I’m not sure what is necessary to draw from that. It also suggests that readers of Wikipedia, i.e. the rest of the internet, don’t have any say or rights to have any concerns about how articles on the worlds largest and most influential encyclopedia are written and evaluated.

Most importantly, however – it appears like a remarkable justification to abuse and harass editors on Wikipedia, their lack of experience.

Wikipedia editing experience should not be a rationale for editor suppression.

The extent of my editing history, or anyone’s, is irrelevant.

Everyone uses Wikipedia in one way or another, a lot. Either as a researcher, light contributor, donor, it does not matter.

To suggest that skeptic editors are immune from criticism regarding their consensus building on Wikipedia because they are the ones doing all the “heavy lifting” is not a justifiable position for harassment, nor is it even a reasonable position at all.

No matter how much editing “skeptic editors” do, nothing gives them the right to violate any of Wikipedia’s own community guidelines, especially around what Wikipedia itself defines as platform harassment, against other editors.

You introduce a few other straw men, mentioning I’ve written over 35,000 words on this issue, which isn’t really a solid way to discredit something. Some people enjoy writing. I am one of them. On RationalWiki, they quote you as a source for my description of an “internet troll” which seems to again be another instance where “verbosity” is somehow an offense, and what is more – offense enough for you to justify the horribly trollish behaviors coming from this highly toxic community.

Pro sheldrake vs ‘skeptic editors’

Tim, this is your data set.

In your article, you literally took editors who were making what you would call “pro Sheldrake” arguments and arbitrarily placed them in your category of “skeptic editors.”

I assume you did that to bolster your straw man argument that Wikipedia experience and more contributions make editor suppression justified on Wikipedia.

Specifically, David in DC, Lou Sanders, who you strangely put in the ‘skeptic’ category, were making the same or similar concerns as Capn, Tumbleman, barleybannocks, who you put in the ‘pro-Sheldrake’ category.

What bothers me about this so much is that you should know better.

Because you start adding numbers to your datasets which only appear to back up your narrative that “skeptic editors contribute” and “pro sheldrake editors, non-contribution”.

Lou and David in DC gave you your biggest data sets for productivity, yet you arbitrarily assigned them in the skeptic category when they were making the exact same arguments that you accuse others of making as being  ‘pro Sheldrake’, and were even threatened with sanctions by the skeptical editors and quit editing the page because of it.

So that is just misinformation you are publishing. That isn’t even a criticism of your overall activity on Wikipedia, yet. It is a factually correct claim.

I have a problem with that because you claim to be an online skeptic who focuses on online misinformation.

Here is what your data set should have looked like, keeping your arbitrary assignments, even without including the other, as you call it ‘pro-Sheldrake’ editors.

Using your arbitrary assignments of ‘pro-Sheldrake’ and ‘skeptic’, we could also add editors 74 and Liz and Very Scary Mary, who noted the same problem regarding the small but vocal set of skeptic editors, and were frequently but ‘coincidentally’ harassed by those same skeptics.

And something else you left out was that the biggest editor on Rupert Sheldrake’s article is Manul (formerly Vzaak).

Manul has such a large article count because they got approved to perform hundreds of auto-reverts a day, but those active contributions are negligible in number as those are programmatic actions taken by a script, not a human behavior.

So to include that data from Manul could be considered cheating, if you want to talk about numbers of actual edits users are doing.

And we both know Manul is a skeptical activist through and through, beginning editing on the Sheldrake article as a Single Purpose Account (SPA) and focusing on Biographies of skeptics.

From Vzaak’s formation until the auto-reverts began on Feb 11 nearly all their activity was devoted to ranting about pseudoscience but not doing much else on Wikipedia, and his percentages haven’t improved much since then if you look closely.

If we included the (somewhat dated, I’ll admit) number of article edits Manul made before starting auto-reverts – here is what his part of the data set would have looked like without his auto-reverts.

Here is a preview… it doesn’t uphold your claim that skeptics contribute more than the ‘whackos’ they oppose.

I’m not sure where the win is for you running misinformation campaigns like this for skeptic activity on Wikipedia, you are clearly misrepresenting and misleading readers to what is happening.



Rome Viharo – publisher, Wikipedia, We Have a Problem.

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