No more ‘lazy editing’
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 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.
I suspected Manul, along with another Wikipedia editor IRWolfie and a ‘Barney The Barney Barney’ were acting aggressively to remove or scare away a number of editors away from Rupert Sheldrake’s biography.
Any editor that did not agree with their aggressive edits were called demeaning terms, like “woo promoters” and “Sheldrake fanboys” and sheriffed away from editing at all. To me, it looked like obvious violations of Wikipedia’s policies that govern platform harassment.
So I decided to join, and make an honest comment or two about what I believed the status of the article to be in.
I wrote that I had an issue with what I believed to be biased editorializing, which I honestly did believe.
In response, Manul came to my talk page with an intimidating warning, looking very official with a Wikipedia banner.
Manul was claiming I made a personal attack against editors, and was close to ‘violating’ policy. This perplexed me because I didn’t address any editors directly, just mentioning over all bias in what I read in the full history.
Manul: an ‘activist’ Wikipedia editor.
Any ideology, movement, culture or subculture can have an activist presence on Wikipedia. Indeed, many controversial subjects are either controlled by antagonists or protagonists of the subject. Activist editors watch and guard a page on Wikipedia, and often they can set traps to fool or intimidate new editors from joining the article.
Manul was specifically a ‘skeptic activist’, a member of a small sub-niche community on the internet who battle the “woos” of “pseudoscience”, acting as avatars for “scientific orthodoxy” on the encyclopedia that ‘anyone can edit’, even the “woos” themselves.
Watch out for events like this.
I’ve detailed events like this so if things like this have happened to you on Wikipedia, chances are you’re targeted for editor suppression and you can make sense to what is happening to you.
Within a few days of this event, I was outed, harassed, and personally attacked on Wikipedia with clear and known intention to do harm to my reputation, so as to discourage me, and others, from editing on Wikipedia’s biography article on Rupert Sheldrake.
This included exposing, disclosing, and distributing discovery of my real name and off-wiki comments, in clear violation of Wikipedia’s own policy and slandering my name and seeding it to another group of people to intentionally rile up a ‘mob’ against me, an action that still continues some years later.
Step one: Flag waving. Trolls, sock puppets, and other aspersions.
When any editor arrives on a contentious Wikipedia article, and they are targeted for suppression, some editor on that article is going to immediately dig through that editor’s history. If it is a true suppression event, the aggressive editor will find some history from the past, link to it back on the articles talk page – and frame it in such a way as to plant suspicions about the editor.
I refer to this tactic as ‘flag waving’. In my case, I was ‘flag waved’ as a disruptive “troll” with tactics that are in direct violation to many of Wikipedia’s policies, including privacy, harassment, stalking and editor civility. You can see these tactics directly on Wikipedia, solely initiated by Wikipedia editor Manul here, here and here.
Wikipedia’s guidelines call what Manul was doing “casting aspersions” on other editors. It is meant to protect editors from harassment. It doesn’t work.
To show how aspersions are abused on Wikipedia, I am going to show you how this claim was abused specifically by editor Manul and exploited as a form of editor suppression.
Manul’s flag-waving attempted to create this confusion by finding something from my past, dating all the way back to 2006 on Wikipedia, some eight years previous to my arrival on Rupert’s article.
Step two: Outing, doxxing, identifying.
This is in reference to the next event which Manul abused as an opportunity for suppression; a reference to something I did in my first sixty seconds of my activity on Rupert Sheldrake’s biography article on Wikipedia, when my real name was signed as my signature mistakenly.
I made this mistake because years back, I did input my real name into my account, but since I never participated in any “talk” pages after that, I had no idea it actually affected my signature and time stamp to any comment I would make on Wikipedia.
As you can see – this was made at 8:02pm UTC 8/31/ 13
Because I was unfamiliar with Wikipedia’s workings, I was not aware at the time that I could have simply asked a Wikipedia Administrator to remove my name from the edit history.
So I removed my name myself within sixty seconds of my first post. This means that my name would still be on an archived Wikipedia page, but not on the public discussion page. At this point, it simply was not easy for anyone to discover my name.
If anyone was looking at the talk page after this, this is how it would have looked, just a comment without a signature.
Additionally, by chance and in my favor, three hours later the talk page that contained my own removed signature and first comment was archived and now hidden down one more layer on Wikipedia from discovery.
My name was not easy discovery.
Additionally, if perchance discovered, no one would readily know that my name, Rome Viharo – was “the Tumbleman” account if they happened to be reading the talk page.
I should have expected all the privacy and protection Wikipedia’s editing and harassment guidelines offer, as long as there was a self-regulating community that operated according to Wikipedia’s rules and guidelines for editing, especially around anonymity and harassing behaviors, I predicted I should have nothing to worry about – with the exception of skeptic editor Manul.
Only Manul saw my deleted user name. Here is proof.
Manul was the Wikipedia account that archived this event.
As you can see, Wikipedia editor Manul was the editor who archived the talk page with my signature just three hours after I posted.
What does Wikipedia editor Manul do after the discovery of my name?
Do they ignore it, which would be common wiki etiquette as well as required directly by Wikipedia’s editing guidelines?
If I was a target for editor suppression, this unfortunate event would be the vulnerability that would be attacked first.
It quickly took the form of harassment and threatened my anonymity.
Manul broadcasts my real name on three different Wikipedia’s talk pages.
Manul re-posts and republishes my real name to my Tumbleman talk page, their own talk page, as well as the talk page on Rupert Sheldrake.
Not once but three separate times.
Now there are a number of problems with this as any responsible and experienced Wikipedia editor knows, or anyone else really with a sense of common courtesy. Wikipedia has community rules and guidelines against this.
This guideline was immediately abused by a member of this community against me, no manner of gas lighting or revenge articles about me can change this simple objective fact.
Searching for past editing histories, off-site comments, outing, stalking, harassment and personal attacks are all forbidden on Wikipedia and considered harassment on the platform, and users can be sanctioned for taking these actions. I was soon to discover that these violations not only occur, but occur with support inside of the Wikipedia community, including many of their admins.
Additionally, attempting to link offsite creative works from years previously to establish my state of mind and intentions on Wikipedia is something Wikipedia clearly forbids.
I believe I made honest, reasoned comments on the talk page for Rupert’s article. I was sincere.
I was very aware that what Manul was doing was wrong in this instance. Regardless of my unfamiliarity with Wikipedia’s community or WikiMedia software, I knew enough to know this was something I should not expect.
Wikipedia’s dispute resolution.
I just knew I had to immediately confront this behavior as obviously non-collaborative, and figure out a way to work with it.
As every other step that I took on Wikipedia up to this point, my next few actions were naive and vaguely informed of how Wikipedia works.
I searched and scoured a labyrinth of Wikipedia “notice boards” that all confusingly seemed to be able to provide some form of dispute resolution. I looked into all of the Wikipedia guidelines on editor behavior.
I just picked the best ‘dispute resolution’ forum I could find, one that made sense to me.
I immediately informed my intentions and formally addressed my presence and intentions for editing on this noticeboard, confronting Manul and rebuking their ‘charges’ I was playing a joke on Wikipedia.
It turns out, however, that I addressed my issue with Manul in the wrong forum.
But my purpose was still met. Manul replied in the forum, and had no choice but to accept the face value of my words.
Manul knew what they did was wrong too.
I know this because after dispute resolution, and without the instruction of any admin, Manul redacted the posts on me and my past history.
On top of that, Manul even offered me an olive branch on my Wikipedia talk page.
I was, at the time, quite pleased. I felt that I was able to deal with the issue of editor suppression on Wikipedia before I even started consensus building.
Intentional malice, evidence for suppression.
By this time, Manul had no reason to further plant this suspicion on Wikipedia about me. It was dead, or at least it should have been.
Unfortunately, this was for me an unwise assumption, a misinterpretation of Manul’s intentions.
An olive branch betrayal of trust.
While Manul acknowledged that this was private and personal information by retracting it when other users posted it to Sheldrake’s “talk page”, Manul continued to pass around this information to other “skeptic” editors, attempting to build an “army” against me.
This one action Manul took exposed me a gang of editors, including the notorious Oliver Smith/Goblin Face/ Dan Skeptic, some of whom still track and target me to this day.
Additionally, these types of behaviors from Manul and this collective of editors created a set of events in motion on Wikipedia that resulted in the sanctioning of many many editors.
From there, a corrupted narrative about me and my intentions became a digital wildfire of speculation, each Wikipedia editor adding an element for suspicion to the “biography” of “The Tumbleman”. I became, within a matter of days – a legend who was not just a sophisticated troll, I was a “true pro” in bed with PR companies, conducting a “massive worldwide social media experiment”, a “disruptive editor” with an “anti-social personality” disorder.
These narratives were very deceptive, and neither reflected by words or my behaviors on Wikipedia, which I made an intentional point to be professional, and patient.
Manul, and only Manul – is directly and intentionally responsible for the spreading of slander and harassment on Wikipedia which as affected my personal and professional life ever since.
Preparation Sept 4th – Sept 30th
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.
Enter Kate Gombert, Paid Wikipedia editor and my Wikipedia consultant
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’.
Paid editors, Paid Wikipedia consultants – an underground profession.
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.