Enter Tumbleman

 

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No more ‘lazy editing’

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On August 31st, 2013, I decided to become a bit more active on my Wikipedia account ‘The Tumbleman’ and engage on Rupert’s article by assisting in a consensus building process, something I never did previously on Wikipedia.

In addition, I was entering into an emerging wiki war – and wanted to be transparent with the community. I wanted to inform them of my interests, media and consensus building – and inform them that I am a ‘collective editing’ enthusiast. I wanted to inform them that I was going to be focusing on this considerably and respected the process. Six weeks later, this transparency I freely offered was used against me as evidence of trolling Wikipedia and conducting an experiment.

My Wikipedia experience prior to this was tame. I usually just made random late night edits if I saw a strange sentence or word. Just random edits and one or two article creations, nothing impressive or controversial. I also was highly unfamiliar with the complex Wiki software and process for deliberation.

My first time on Wikipedia however I got thunked on the head. This was in  2006, when I tried to create an article on OS 012 (a ‘peculiar’ creative work I did in 2003 that went viral) without realizing how Wikipedia works, and learned a lesson then in many of it’s wise policies. That was of course over 8 years previously and some few dozen or so harmless edits when I first arrived on Rupert Sheldrake’s article. That history from 2006 is what Wikipedia editor Manul/Vzaak used to frame me for trolling Wikipedia within my first few days joining the Sheldrake wiki war in 2013, contrary to Wikipedia’s own direct editing policies.

Before I was harassed and joined the Sheldrake wiki war, I noted that Manul, Barney the Barney Barney and IRWolfie were harassing other editors away from the Sheldrake article, getting them blocked or banned however they could.

After reading about Wikipedia’s editing policies, I felt confident that all I had to do was bring this sort of thing to the attention of Wikipedia’s admins, to this day I realize how naive of an assumption for me to make, clearly my own failure for my idealism blinding me from ‘wiki – reality.’

One of the Wikipedia Policies that I felt protected me was ‘WP:No Personal Attacks.

WP: NO PERSONAL ATTACKS

Specifically Wikipedia’s guideline says

 “It is as unacceptable to attack a user with a history of foolish or boorish behavior, or one who has been blocked, banned, or otherwise sanctioned, as it is to attack any other user. “

Wikipedia’s policy of personal attacks protected me against anything I may or may not have done in the past, regardless of how it is perceived. This did not stop Manul however from using a 2006 issue on Wikipedia as evidence I was trolling and disrupting Wikipedia.

My study in online consensus building focuses  one of the most recurring patterns in any genuine and rational consensus building process. These are simply personal attacks, a manner of argumentation where the user attempts to frame the debate around the people involved, not the content they are discussing. While this can take simple expression as simply an ‘ad hominem’ attack – often it crosses over into ‘social propaganda’.

This is why Wikipedia’s policy of NO PERSONAL ATTACKS is in the plainest of english.

WP:HARASS

WP also has a policy called WP:HARASS. Harassing other editors is grounds for any editor to be blocked from editing..

I go as Tumbleman to Rupert Sheldrake ‘Talk’

I found ‘Talk’ on Wikipedia confusing. To me, it was as if Wikipedia’s talk section was still stuck in 1998. Nothing ‘natural’ or user friendly about it, I found it awkward. To me it’s as if it’s you are having a discussion with others through a file cabinet run by librarians. Whatever mistakes I would make – they would  be real mistakes anyone would make trying to navigate any site’s complexity. And I made a few, i accidently split a few comments my first few times. This was also used by Manul as evidence that I was trolling Wikipedia.

.I figured it would be best just to jump in to the best of my ability say ‘hello’, and if I make a mistake or an error, allow the other editors to correct or help me, but more importantly ‘see’ how they would correct me. By their willingness to help me, I could see who was co-operative. If an editor tried to use a honest mistake against me, I would see their limitations around consensus building and collaboration.

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My first comment on Sheldrake talk accidentally contains my name

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“This front page edit uses horribly biased definition of authors own work to define it re: – “and is responsible for “mysterious telepathy-type interconnections between organisms”. To use a bias definition of an authors notable work is misleading. Rome Viharo (talk) 20:02, 31 August 2013 (UTC)” [Page]

Rome Viharo???

Wikipedia had my signature as ‘Rome Viharo’ instead of The Tumbleman! This was a mistake I made somehow. Years earlier I guess I changed it in my signature, and forgot all about it or did not even realize it would show as my signature some 7 or more years later.

I immediately went in and removed my name – which you can see here.  It was only viewable for 60 seconds.  There is no other place on Wikipedia where my name was used other than this unintentional signature. After I removed it –  it could only be discovered in the talk page edit history.  I was relieved to see that the recorded history showed my talk post as ‘The Tumbleman‘ and not my name.

Of course, if anyone saw my real name, and did a Google search on it out of curiosity I was not worried anyone would find anything about me other than I was just some ‘poly dork’ – it’s just I believe that anonymity is essential to online consensus building.

If there was any record of my name, it was deep in archives somewhere and even if it was, no one would necessarily put ‘Tumbleman’ and ‘Rome Viharo’ together.

Besides, what difference would that make about anything anyway, even if it was discovered? This was my naive thinking at the time. I was relieved when I saw the talk page archived, not realizing at the time that Manul was the one who archived my post and saw my identity for the split hair moment.

I assumed Wikipedia’s policy about anonymous editing would protect me. It didn’t.

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 Manul greets me with a personal attack immediately.

I posed one or two questions on a few edits. I mentioned that I believed there was a bias expressed in the article and on the talk page.

In response to this, I felt that Manul was very confrontational with me on the ‘Talk’ page.

I split my response to Manul (Vzaak) accidentally and apologized. Manul then warned me on my talk page about ‘making personal attacks’.

There is somewhat of an irony in Manul’s accusation for my first comment on Sheldrake’s biography article. I did say that I believed there was a bias in the article. Yet Manul framed this as me ‘making personal attacks’ against editors. Irony holds it that this was also Manul’s very first comment on Wikipedia, and on Sheldrake’s article as well.

What I did not realize at the time was that Manul’s strategy on Wikipedia was to first accuse others of making personal attacks and give them a warning that they would then use in an ‘ANI’ hearing on Wikipedia to get that user banned. Manul began their case against me with my very first few comments.

Within hours of accusing me of making a personal attack, Manul then went through my online history from 2006 – and posted my name and past on Wikipedia, exposing it to the other editors, and claimed I was trolling Wikipedia as some sort of a joke.

We’ve been had! Rome Viharo!

On Sept 4th – Manul posted a new section called ‘We’ve been had! Bubblefish/Tumbleman/Rome Viharo! Manul then left the ‘diff’ which showed the comment, now archived, where my name was accidentally recorded. Now ANYONE could see my identity and not only that, but framed in such a way to make it appear as if I was found guilty of trolling on Wikipedia, discrediting me immediately to the Wikipedia community.

Next Manul used my ‘splitting of comments’ error as evidence of behaviors of me creating ‘antics’, claiming I split comments as part of some trolling joke. Additionally – Manul was linking to a 2006 Articles for Deletion case where I tried to publish an article, but failing to mention it was in 2006. Now I felt stalked a little.

If there were any doubts in my mind that these editors were bullying others, they were now extinguished.

When I took this to dispute resolution – a ‘Wiki’ bot automatically left a notice on Manul’s page that they were mentioned in a dispute case. I noticed Manul immediately removing that message from Wikipedia from her talk page. I also noted Manul was removing any of her talk page messages that reflected issues other editors who were complaining about Manul’s harassing treatment and behaviors editing.

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Vindicated Sept 4th, 2013, Manul retracts statement, offers an olive branch

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My first ‘dispute resolution’ hearing was over quick, admittedly because I posted it in the wrong dispute section, but a dispute section none the less.

In their defense, Manul tried to make an argument that somehow my presence on Wikipedia was apart of some ‘online social media experiment’ as evidenced by my splitting of comments  ‘antics’ using a link she found from 2004 to support this argument.

Again, I believe this is an experiment by Tumbleman, “a character who spontaneously ‘shows’ up in a internet community and puts on certain antics” [1]. Among other things, he has claimed that the TED blog is a news organization and a reliable secondary source, and that quoting an author’s own words is “horribly biased”. It matches the behavior Tumbleman has boasted about on other websites.

No personal details have been posted. Tumbleman has called himself Tumbleman, and has identified himself on WP here. He has further identified himself, in a manifestly obvious way, through his creation of a WP article on his own project.

I’m not sure how much time I should devote to this DR, since the case is so clear cut. Manul (talk) 18:40, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

Note that behaviors on the page she is mentioning are hardly evidence for anything other than someone unfamiliar with posting comments in ‘Talk’ and a disagreement about a source. Regarding my past history, I made my position extraordinarily clear in dispute resolution.

To assume this is an ‘experiment’ because 8 years ago I was doing an online experiment and personal writing project that had absolutely nothing to do with Wikipedia is a personal attack. Who I am or why I am here is irrelevant, what is relevant is maintaining a WP NPOV which I believe the record on the talk page shows my true intention and I believe what your doing shows yours. This is completely unacceptable behavior for wiki editors. The Tumbleman (talk) 19:14, 4 September 2013 (UTC)

After this case – Manul removed all of the evidence in question from Sheldrake’s talk page, her page, and my page – and came to my talk page and offered me an ‘Olive Branch’.  Manul understood how clear I was about my privacy.

I accepted her ‘Olive Branch’ and assumed this would never be an issue again. Manul took the steps to remove all elements of my name that she posted and did a good job of it, confirming she received the message clearly. I thanked Manul for the honorable resolution and that I looked forward to discussing the neutral point of view surrounding the Sheldrake article in ‘Talk’ with her. By this time, Manul and Tumbleman had an understanding about it.

I felt vindicated at the time. What I did not realize was that although Manul offered me an olive branch, it was a Machiavellian one. Manul continued their campaign to harass me and spread my personal information to other editors, building a case against me she would take to AE some 6 weeks later.

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Preparation Sept 4th – Sept 30th

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I decided to the best of my ability and according to WP: CIVIL the best I understood it – not to make this harassment an issue – but rather just rest on the validity of my arguments for a rational consensus. I was of course also very careful about ‘commenting’ in talk with the splitting of comments. I wanted to make sure my presence in the ‘Talk’ section was deliberate, thoughtful, reasoned, and as disinterested as possible.

This early experience with Manul also inspired me to be more transparent, not less. I decided to update my ‘Talk’ page and personal ‘bio’. Framing it as honestly as I could while still protecting my privacy.

From Sept 4th until Sept 18th – I did not participate in talk at all as evidence shows. I spent the time formalizing a consensus building argument from the pages of Wikipedia guidelines that I was devouring. My argument for consensus was also a simple one. My only focus was going to be to the lead section – where the basic meta data of the whole article is summarized.

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Enter Kate Gombert, Paid Wikipedia editor and my Wikipedia consultant

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During this time I actually spoke with and encountered a number of paid Wikipedia editors and consultants. I really wanted experienced guidance, I did not want to make any mistakes or errors. My page integrity was very important to me.

It’s was an interesting part of this story actually – hearing how experienced Wikipedians that I encountered reacted to what I showed them occurring on Sheldrake’s page and my own experience of outing. All of them expressed the same level of amazement and awe as I did. None of them ever even heard of Rupert before – they were simply responding to the level of personal attacks and bullying that was occurring. All of them said it was one of the worst examples they ever witnessed.

Speaking with a handful –  I had a ‘stack’ to pick from – and I chose my friend, Kate Gombert.

Kate’s not her real name of course. She does edit on Wikipedia as her real name. She is also a professional Wikipedia consultant and sometimes a ‘paid editor’.

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Paid editors, Paid Wikipedia consultants – an underground profession.

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Kate is transparent about being a paid editor when she is paid to actually edit an article. In her case – most of the time it is either a celebrity that already has an article that was hired by a celebrity or new pages for tech companies. She makes a point to make sure that the article has all the proper sources – as celebrity pages are often abused and vandalized, potentially becoming libelous. It was indeed interesting to hear – many notable and famous people have to deal with their Wikipedia article on a regular basis and have absolutely no clue of what to do when they find something misleading.  Enter Kate Gombert. Enter an entire underground of paid editors.

I think there is a genuine need for this type of service. Of course this can also be abused, with spam companies or individuals who are not notable creating vanity pieces. But one does not need to get paid to abuse this either. Any editor can abuse the system this way. Because any editor can abuse the system – individuals have to protect themselves and safeguard articles from just being misleading or biased. It’s very time consuming to do this! It would even make sense that Wikipedia would allow it’s more experienced and reputable editors to get paid for this, considering editors have all volunteered enormous amounts of time making Wikipedia the most popular site on the web. Allowing paid editors to be certified by Wikipedia would probably help clean up a lot of the problems occurring on the platform and give back to the community to boot, rewarding the most neutral editors who have ‘hard won’ the most edits a way for them to make money doing what they love to do most. Instead, Wikipedia culture frowns on paid editing, and many an Arbcom case has been made regarding the conflict of interest of paid editors. Since the Slate article – now most people assume paid editors are people spamming and sock puppeting.

Kate was terrified of being associated with Sheldrakes under her active accounts for this reason. At first, I did not understand her level of ‘caution’ – she was so terrified of having her reputation damaged on Wikipedia. She too prides herself on her respect for Wikipedia guidelines, personal attacks, and transparency. As she is transparent about being a paid editor, she is also experienced enough to know that can be used as a personal attack. She told me that it’s so easy to get booted off of Wikipedia and she could never damage her hard won good reputation, paid or otherwise.

“I’m not paying you to edit anything, I’m going to edit. I just need  you to help me with my sandbox (practice) edit and make sure I have the resources done right. Also, I really need help with how all the noticeboards, Arbitration enforcement, dispute resolution process works on Wikipedia. I want to understand that process, and will need advice as I move forward. I’ll probably have a bunch of noob questions too. But that’s all I need from you.”

Kate took the gig. And I began to formalize my argument for a rational consensus on the Sheldrake lead. Kate regretted taking this gig six weeks later, when she was brought into an ANI hearing on Wikipedia, with claims that her editing account was one of my sockpuppets. She was terrified of being harassed and would not do anything to link her real editing account, which she discloses as ‘paid editor’.

Read next chapter; Request for a new consensus, denied.