- A sandbox for consensus
- My Sandbox edit: Lead Section, Sheldrake
- Critical questioning avoided, personal attacks delivered instead
- An argument based on a house of cards?
- Responses from skeptic editors to consensus building.
- Steps of harassment I faced during consensus building.
- EEng, an uninvolved editor comes to ‘watch me’
- Anyone want to clear up their problem with Tumbleman?
- Request for a new and rational consensus
- Is there any evidence for disruptive behavior by Tumbleman anywhere?
- Community support for Tumbleman grows and personal attacks increase
- Next attempt to sanction me: spreading conspiracy theories
- Read the next chapter: The first trial for sockpuppetry
On Oct 8th, I officially began the process to reach a new consensus, inviting all editors, including Vzaak, Roxy the Dog, Miles Money, Barney the Barney Barney to participate and used my sandbox edit as a place to begin.
A sandbox for consensus
A sandbox is a practice edit and every Wikipedia user has a sandbox page on their account. Anyone can create a version of the article they are editing and offer it as a guide for the actual subject. On Oct 7th, I completed my Sandbox edit below – a first pass comprised of a neutral point of view the best I saw it based on all the sources available on Wikipedia, and addressing concerns that both sides of the argument were making. You can see my sandbox proposal here directly on Wikipedia or copied below.
I think my sandbox alone shows I was not ‘pushing pseudoscience’ or promoting Rupert Sheldrake like the skeptic editors claimed. I believe my sandbox edit, composed at that time – stands as evidence that my intention was to create a neutral article on Rupert Sheldrake. My sandbox edit below was what I invited them, and everyone else, to collaborate on.
My Sandbox edit: Lead Section, Sheldrake
Alfred Rupert Sheldrake (born 28 June 1942) is a British biologist and author, most notable for his hypothesis of Morphic Resonance, his research into telepathy, and his public criticism of philosophical materialism in mainstream science.
Sheldrake’s work on morphic resonance and telepathy has been widely criticized by prominent scientists, skeptical organizations, and science journalists, with some claiming it is pseudoscience, unsupported by evidence, and others labeling it as magical thinking and heresy.
Reactions from the scientific community and the debate surrounding Sheldrake’s ideas have been analyzed in public debates, books, documentaries, television programs, scientific and skeptical journals, and academia.
I prepared for four weeks to make a ‘request of a new consensus’ on the Sheldrake article. I spent those weeks scouring over all Wikipedia’s policies, scouring through all of the sources on the Wikipedia article, and having direct access to Rupert Sheldrake and his archive, scoured through his history. I wanted to make this process on Wikipedia as formal as I could – written with perfect professionalism and operating with as much transparency as I could. I had Kate Gombert advise me on each assumption I made about Wikipedia, and also had her review and format all of my sourcing. Since I already had Manul harass me for formatting errors – I wanted to make sure everything was ‘perfect’ from an editorial perspective but also with 100% integrity with Wikipedia’s own policies.
Then this happened.
Critical questioning avoided, personal attacks delivered instead
Each question I posed on Sheldrake’s article to various editors was clear and professional, and these same editors avoided in directly answering them. Their response to my request was met with claims of me trolling them, creating conspiracy theories, conducting a social media experiment, and sockpuppeting. This was a consistent pattern in the discussion and this all stems from editor Manul/Vzaak who passed these accusations around to other editors to discredit me.
I questioned them as to their lack of response to consensus building. Craig Weiler’s blogged claimed they were part of Susan Gerbic’s Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia, was this true? If they were claiming I was behind some global social media experiment, surely I could politely ask them if they were involved with the group known as Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. It seemed to me to be a reasonable question, however once I asked them if they were involved, the skeptic editors tried to block me for spreading ‘conspiracy theories’ about GSoW, all the while continuing with their own conspiracy theory that I was conducting a global social media experiment.
This is a common problem in any debate, and this is also a common criticism of Wikipedia, as found on Wikipedia’s article on Criticisms of Wikipedia:
“The standard of debate on Wikipedia has been called into question by persons who have noted that contributors can make a long list of salient points and pull in a wide range of empirical observations to back up their arguments, only to have them ignored completely on the site.
An argument based on a house of cards?
I found the editorial argument that was maintaining the WP FRINGE policy the skeptics were using to control a biography of a living person highly problematic based on the sources they were using. I confronted this from a logical and editorial perspective, each question directly relating to one or more various Wikipedia guidelines or policies. The questions were genuine and well intentioned.
As long as Rupert Sheldrake is evidenced as engaging in pseudoscience – the skeptics editing the page believed they had support of WP:FRINGE guidelines to control his biography, regardless of Wikipedia’s Biography of a Living Person guidelines in any manner they choose.
At the time, the skeptics appeared to me to be using a very circular argument built upon a house of cards, filled with contradictions with sources and ad hominem attacks on editors who questioned them. They did not seem to want to account for the conflicting nature of many great secondary sources. I wanted to focus on what I believed to be the core flaws of their argument, and that is what I started to present on the Wikipedia talk page.
‘Pseudoscience’ is a charged word in skepticism. While there may have been a number of scientists critical of Sheldrake, not all of them considered Morphic Resonance a pseudoscience, rather just a failed hypothesis. This was therefore clearly a controversial ‘label’ rather than a scientific consensus. Neutrality on Wikipedia is pretty clear here, this is not even a difficult problem to solve.
Skeptic editors believed anyone holding an opinion otherwise was guilty of disrupting their editing, a Sheldrake ‘fanboy’ and a ‘woo promoter’. In my case they made their discrediting of editors who disagreed with them more severe. Even to this day, some 18 months after this occurred, I am described as someone who promotes Sheldrake’s views, arguing that his theories are not pseudoscience around the world. Yet all evidence on Wikipedia shows my arguments were based on biographical facts and events in his career that were all recorded clearly in primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.
At the time, I felt their somewhat over the top narratives of me would hardly be taken seriously by anyone on Wikipedia. I was very naive about that. One of the reasons I had so much support from the community when I was banned was because my communication was very clear and consistent – but most importantly professional.
This example here on Wikipedia will sample this approach and this approach is consistent in all of my ‘Talk’ participation which anyone can confirm. It’s a very deliberate approach and I did not waiver from this approach at any point.
My case study shows that personal harassment increased considerably with the rate I made intentionally polite and professionally critical editorial arguments..
Responses from skeptic editors to consensus building.
Examples of off topic commentary I would receive to my very specific and nuanced proposals were;
“The sources support the fact that he has little to no support within the scientific community, and his work has no standing whatsoever. Trying to weasel out of this isn’t going to work, whatever social experiments you’re plotting. Barney the barney barney (talk) 16:26, 27 September 2013 (UTC)”
“Tumbleman you have already mentioned that you are Rome Viharo in one of your posts so I am not “outing” you. You have been banned from countless forums for trolling, and I believe that is what you are doing here. Nothing you suggest has been productive. You have been involved in promoting pseudoscientific ideas at TED talks on woo claims about consciousness. It’s highly likely you know Sheldrake in real life who has been part of these TED talks. You have blog posts and YouTube channel which praises the work of Sheldrake, you have other connections to Sheldrake and you seem to link morphic resonance with your own beliefs. You should just lay out your cards on the table and admit you are a full blown Sheldrake supporter. As for your post… you say Sheldrake is a biologist, he doesn’t classify as promoting fringe ideas and he is part of the mainstream scientific community. That’s not what the sources say and if you honestly believe that then you may need one of these. Dan skeptic (talk) 19:04, 7 October 2013 (UTC)
I believe there is a direct relationship between users behaviors in a discussion when they avoid critical questioning. I believe that the avoidance of critical questioning is evidence of a lack of consistency in the argument and a protective mechanism to hold status in a dispute.
I believe the rate of avoidance of critical questioning is close or exact to the rate of personal attacks in a critical deliberation, and my study here is consistent with that observation. My own research into online consensus building shows this pattern is predictable within a given set of behaviors. Sometimes this can be subtle, sometimes extremely polemic – but consistent in all extremes of this is a focus on the person delivering the argument and less on the actual argument itself. Usually the attacks start to focus on grammar and spelling, or length of the post, not the content of the actual statement. If that does not work – then some attempt at sanctions, some manner to control the discussion out of history.
To me, the behaviors of Manul and the other skeptic editors evidenced this phenomenon in discourse, almost too perfectly.
Steps of harassment I faced during consensus building.
Manul posted personal information and past history about me to other editors, found here.
Manul, along with editors Barney Barney Barney, IRWolfie, Miles Money and Louie Louie continued to discuss once again my personal identity and off wiki project from 2004, some nine years earlier, for making a case against me with evidence ‘trolling’ Wikipedia to get me sanctioned.
On Oct 2cd – I found an ‘Talk’ page section created by Manul on an uninvolved Wikipedia editors page called “That Peculiar Person.” about yours truly.
What was strange however to me was that they were bringing this to an uninvolved editors attention. The editor’s name is EEng. EEng then came to watch me.
EEng, an uninvolved editor comes to ‘watch me’
Why would they bring this to another Wikipedia editor, one who was not involved in any way with the Sheldrake article? It’s difficult to determine from the evidence – but what is easy to determine from the evidence is that distorted personal information about me was being distributed to editors around Wikipedia and EEng was alerted and informed them he would ‘check me out’.
I was aware of this at the time, it was unnerving, I felt stalked on Wikipedia. While they were avoiding my consensus process, which was beginning to change the dynamics on the article, they were grouping together and planned on getting me banned.
At this time, I began to get scrutiny on my ‘Talk’ page with a visit by David in DC and EEng. I was being called into question again.
This time, it regarded what I wrote on my talk page on September 30th, my attempt at being transparent. David in DC expressed a concern that I had ulterior motives and that perhaps I was not here to make the encyclopedia better. What case study was I doing? Was this some experiment?
I felt ridiculous. I could see how it may look like that, especially in light of the personal information Manul was spreading about me. In my attempt at transparency I over dramatized my presence. Childishly naive of me, I admit. I cleared this up on the ‘Talk’ page and got supportive comments from both David in DC and EEng in doing so.
Thinking at the time that EEng was sympathetic, it was disturbing for me later to find him harassing me and never once participating in the Talk section on Rupert’s article or any edits there.
Anyone want to clear up their problem with Tumbleman?
So I posted a new section in Sheldrake ‘Talk’ called ‘Tumbleman Talk Page’ – inviting any editor who had any concerns about me to come talk with me about it on my page. Not one of them did.
Rather, they continued to ‘plot’ against me, ignoring not only my critical questioning, but my invitations to resolve any concerns they had about my presence there.
It was around this time, especially because I was personally experiencing a very organized ‘harassment’ – that I asked some of these editors if they were members of the Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia organization. Craig Weiler was posting this on his blog which was covering the Wikipedia article, even mentioning my Tumbleman activities. It did not seem like an unreasonable question. From my point of view, they were organized in terms of harassing me and they were all avowed skeptics based on their editing histories. If I had to be transparent, so would they. If they had an agenda, I wanted them to be transparent about it.
On Oct 7th, enter editor Roxy the Dog. He came into Sheldrake’s ‘Talk’ section and again posted the personal information about me that Vzaak was sharing with everyone.
As the evidence shows, Vzaak/Manul knew this was unacceptable because Vzaak deleted his section and archived it in a manner no one could see it with the edit’ Tumbleman does not want this here’.
I show this as evidence because I want to be clear, Vzaak knew it was inappropriate to share my personal information.
Request for a new and rational consensus
Although I requested consensus from all of them, not one of them participated in the process and all just continued with their talk page discussions regarding my ‘years long world wide social media experiment’, ironically a day or so later accusing me of spreading conspiracy theories about them regarding the Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia organization.
All I heard in response to my requests were ‘troll troll troll’ as if written from a scene from Lord of the Flies.
Is there any evidence for disruptive behavior by Tumbleman anywhere?
These were my core arguments and my only arguments. If there was any evidence to be found of me ‘trolling’ or being disruptive in any manner it would be in these discussions.
Here you will see that these editors would avoid the critical questioning, edit war and revert, and would refuse to accept that there was no community consensus for their edits. You will also see a new ‘skeptic’ editor joining the discussion, Dan Skeptic. The response to my critical questioning was not addressing the arguments with common sense reasoning – but with more accusations that I am just ‘trolling’ and therefore my critical questioning does not need to be considered.
These arguments also started to receive a lot of support from other editors – and again as the evidence shows – the skeptic editors would fail to respond to critical questions providing very little if non common sense arguments in return.
Response from editor Tom Butler said “Tumbleman’s argument is well reasoned, I suggest we use it as a template for neutrality on the page.”
Barney the Barney Barney’s sole response was “This is more of Tumbleman (talk · contribs)’s complete nonsense that selectively ignores sources and tries wikilawyering his way of WP:FRINGE and WP:NPOV by ignoring the sources and creatively interpreting Sheldrake’s attempts at science as “philosophy”, and should be given the due credit it deserves, which is none. “
Community support for Tumbleman grows and personal attacks increase
The new consensus was beginning to build on the page, with a number of us in agreement on key components of these arguments. A ‘new edit’ section was created and an editor made a change based on this series of argumentation. This edit was reverted immediately by the skeptics and the following argument arose. This time the responses to my arguments consisted of accusing me of intentionally deleting ‘Talk’ comments as more evidence of my trolling – yet no arguments providing any refutations of critical questions raised.
New skeptical editors were now coming to the page, Red Pen of Doom and the infamous JPS formally known as ‘Science Apologist’ – a Wikipedia editor banned for sockpuppetry and incivility years previously, but now back in action on Wikipedia.
Then it was just an edit war of reverts between all sides.
I then challenged all of these reverts in a series of new arguments
Next attempt to sanction me: spreading conspiracy theories
By now – the skeptical editors, clearly frustrated by the support and argumentation I was building – opened a new admin noticeboard about ‘The Tumbleman’ (along with Craig Wheeler, a blogger) accusing us of spreading conspiracy theories and claiming that I admitted to trolling. You can see this noticeboard hearing here.
I simply explained my position on the noticeboard, drawing not attention to whether they were members of this organization, but regarding their behaviors and agenda on the actual article itself.
Liz – a respected Wikipedian with an interest in conflict resolution – suggested I make a summary in this Rfc of all the behaviors of these editors in question. Instead of the RFC being focused on me, now it would be focused on them.
Before I did this, I decided to take a few days off from editing – as the past week was entirely stressful having to balance reasoned argumentation with continual attempts to harass me.
When I got back from my self imposed exile and break, I would formalize my case against them in the RfC per Liz’s suggestions and with soft support from admin Tom Morris.
That was never allowed to happen. This was to be my last time editing and participating in ‘Talk’ on Wikipedia. A few days after this – I was banned indefinitely from editing Wikipedia.
So there it really is. Anyone reading this can click on the links back to Wikipedia, look at the editorial based arguments I was making. This is my only activity on Wikipedia Sheldrake. Some may agree or disagree with my editorial arguments, but I don’t think there is one human being who can look at those discussions and say that I was trolling, or disruptive, or a wasting people’s time, or promoting Rupert’s theories. Even after I was banned indefinitely – the arguments I introduced lived on, and were picked up or discovered by numerous other editors.