Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ethical Values and Quality Control in the Digital Era

Bob Steele at Poynter sees a significant erosion of ethical standards. Blogs, Tweets, social networking, citizen-submitted content and multi-media storytelling offer great promise, he writes—but they also carry considerable peril.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Blogger Ethics

If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn't. So Let's Get a Clue.

"Those in journalism who want to bring ethics to blogging ought to start with why people trust (some) bloggers, not with an ethics template made for a prior platform operating as a closed system in a one-to-many world."

-- from Jay Rosen's blog, Press think.

Wow - this just in

Larry Lessig is leaving Stanford for Harvard to head up an ethics center whose focus is the collapse of trust -- see

(h/t Jay Rosen, NYU)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Wikiversity Follies

The resident scholars of Wikiversity have declined to address these issues within their own community.

ArbCom Review of FeloniousMonk

The Wikipedia Administrator, FeloniousMonk, who relied on the unexamined testimony of Don Hopkins and Bela in his scathing indictment of Moulton, has been unanimously adjudged by the Wikipedia Arbitration Committee (ArbCom) as guilty of corruption and gross violations of policy, including "meritless accusations against other editors on multiple occasions."

Moulton 21:11, 22 September 2008 (UTC)

Do you feel vindicated? Do you think you can stop fixating so much on this and move on to helping improve things yet? Ottava Rima (talk) 03:07, 23 September 2008 (UTC)
No, I do not feel vindicated. Here are two items of evidence for that:
(09/22/2008 11:14:24 PM) Caprice: So far, only Privatemusings has responded to your ethics exercise.

(11:16:50 PM) Ottava: I told everyone to stop and I halted it because of your actions and continued crusade on your talk page

(11:16:59 PM) Ottava: I told you that you had to devote yourself to the process or I would stop it

(11:17:03 PM) Ottava: and you failed on your end

(09/23/2008 07:01:22 AM) Caprice: Are you saying you told everyone to discontinue civil discourse with Moulton?

(07:01:22 AM) Ottava is not logged in

From: Moulton
To: NewYorkBrad,
James Forrester
Cc: PrivateMusings,
Sam Korn
Date: Tue, Sep 23, 2008 at 7:37 AM
: Please remediate the harm to the reputations of those sorely mistreated by rogue administrators.

In view of this finding by ArbCom...

2.1) FeloniousMonk has repeatedly shown poor judgement since becoming an administrator, both in using his administrative tools ([43]) ([44]); and engaged in a variety of disruptive and unseemly conduct, including threats ([45]); personal attacks, incivility and assumptions of bad faith ([46]), and has made meritless accusations against other editors on several occasions ([47]).

...I request that ArbCom expressly undertake to remediate the damage to the reputation and good name of others who were inappropriately harmed by the pattern of conduct delineated in the above cited Paragraph 2.1.

Please give us back our good name.


The Process of Enlightenment Works In Mysterious Plays.

I will feel vindicated if and when the serious scholars here eschew the unbecoming, unprofessional, unwise, unwarranted, and unsustainable culture of incivility, narcissistic wounding, anankastic conditionals, binding, gagging, and kicking people, and petulantly refusing to adopt and abide by the sensible protocols of scholarly ethics.
Moulton 12:06, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

Community-Wide Peer Review of Exceptional Practices

There is underway a community-wide peer review of exceptional practices that I would like to participate in, both as plaintiff and as a defendant in regard to the collection of practices currently under review.

  • With respect to Case #33, where I am named as a miscreant, I would like to be afforded a fair opportunity to respond to my critics, in the venue where they lodge their criticism, at the time they lodge them, so as to maintain timely continuity of the discourse there, in accordance with the protocols of scholarly ethics.
  • With respect to Case #34 where I am accused of engaging in collaborative studies and collaborative research with another scholar, I would like to be afforded a fair opportunity to respond to my critics, in the venue where they lodge their criticism, at the time they lodge them, so as to maintain timely continuity of the discourse there, in accordance with the protocols of scholarly ethics.
  • With respect to Case #40, I would like to add my name as an aggrieved party and plaintiff, and name Cary Bass, Jimbo Wales, Cormaggio, McCormack, SB_Johnny, Centaur of Attention, Salmon of Doubt, Jim62sch, KillerChihuahua, Sxeptomaniac, and Guillame Paumier as respondents who have, at times (and in varying degrees of impropriety) acted in a lamentably uncongenial, uncollegial, unscholarly, unprofessional, unethical, unbecoming, incivil, and ultimately unsustainable manner so as to alienate, aggravate, disturb, annoy, frustrate, dispirit, vex, and perplex me (and perhaps other scholars engaged in their quiet studies) beyond reasonably tolerable levels of adaptation to a hostile learning environment whilst I am striving to address and solve nearly intractable ethical conundrums and dilemmas.

Moulton 13:35, 18 September 2008 (UTC)

You can add my name to the list above if you are going to seriously add Cormaggio, McCormack, or SB Johnny. I've yelled at you plenty of times over many of your actions and have told you straight up when I thought you were far over the line. Ottava Rima (talk) 13:43, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
As long as you understand that this is not an indictment in which I seek harsh sanctions or punishments (such as spanking or gagging or other forms of S&M bondage), then I would be happy to include you in a scholarly peer review of the issues raised in these three cases involving elements of candor, collaboration, and inclusion. —Moulton 18:58, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
I feel that any complaint that you file against the aforementioned names should also include me. I was directly involved as one of the 3 bureaucrats that supported your block from this site. I also participated in the decision to kickban you out of the #wikiversity-en irc channel. But, it is really up to you if you feel that these constitute a complaint for #40. I just wanted to remind you of these things in the name of a thorough and balanced review. --mikeu talk 20:15, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
Mike, as long as you understand that this is not an indictment in which I seek harsh sanctions or punishments (such as spanking or gagging or kicking or other forms of S&M bondage and discipline), then I would be happy to include you in a scholarly peer review of the issues raised in these three cases involving elements of candor, collaboration, and inclusion in the sober process of conflict resolution.
In particular, I would like to propose a scholarly examination and peer review of the following two scientific hypotheses:
  • H0:Benign AGF (Assume Good Faith) that nothing sinister, nothing unusual, nothing extraordinary has happened here in Wikiversity or in the associated IRC channels.
  • H1:Speculative (and as yet unproven) hypothesis that "an unknown number of (unidentified) admins requested that Jimbo be the one to make the block" on the (reliable) theory that there would then not be an immediate consensus to overturn the block, even if the consensus were that it was inappropriate for Jimbo to have been asked to make the block on their behalf (and improper for him to have acceded to doing so).
H1 is a falsifiable and testable hypothesis, so I have (elsewhere) proposed a simple experiment to test it. Those here who are systems scientists, can figure out the experimental test without much difficulty. Those here who are actors in a constructed reality soap opera will probably have little or no idea what I'm talking about.
So far, the acknowledged actions of the majority of resident scholars here has reified (rather than refuted) H1. It is still possible for H1 to be falsified, but to the best of my knowledge and awareness, that has not yet happened as of this moment in the remarkable history of Wikiversity.
Moulton 12:35, 23 September 2008 (UTC)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Fearsome Basilisque

Moulton's blog

If Moulton were of a mind to remove whatever content is hosted on his blog that is causing it to be unacceptable to link to it, what would he have do to accomplish this? —Random832 17:43, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

I suggest you contact the enwikiversity community to discuss this. Cary Bass demandez 18:55, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
It's a "foundation directive"; I don't see how the community is relevant. —Random832 19:49, 8 August 2008 (UTC)
Where do you see any directive by the Foundation? If you have a problem with the Wikiversity community you need to discuss it with them. Cary Bass demandez 20:15, 8 August 2008 (UTC) Edit summary "per foundation directive". —Random832 03:15, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

That edit summary is erroneous. There is no "foundation directive". The English Wikiversity, like every other active project is autonimous. If you want an answer on this, discuss the matter with the individual who performed that edit. Cary Bass demandez 15:58, 11 August 2008 (UTC)
If there is no operative "Foundation directive" and no applicable local policy at Wikiversity, then the links are not in violation of any directive or applicable policy. But in any event, there is no "outting" on them anyway. That's a ridiculous canard ginned up by the person leveling the complaint. Even if there were an applicable policy, it would still be necessary to demonstrate that the complaint is valid. The party lodging the complaint has a long history of such sham acts. —Moulton 23:28, 12 August 2008 (UTC)

Further discourse from Wikiversity

My own personal opinion (based on private discussions with a number of Wikiversitans) is that Wikiversity is still in development and that it's certainly not large enough to absorb the fractious drama inevitably generated by the "Wikipedia Ethics" project, which, given its current state could not possibly move beyond personal agenda-driven soliliquys. For the Wikiversity remain engaged in it is to risk further alienating the remaining project leaders and will erode any community left. Moulton has continuously demonstrated that he is only interested in his own ends, achieved only by "outing" people on the Wikipedia project and, quite likely, anyone who wants to disagree with him too vehemently. No project based on that sort of bullying and fearmongering can possibly succeed. Bastique 18:07, 18 September 2008 (UTC)
Bullies and fear-mongers should be indef blocked and not allowed to chase off the rest of us. Both here and at Wikipedia. If Wikipedia had had more arbcom decisions like w:Wikipedia:Requests for arbitration/C68-FM-SV/Proposed decision, then this ethics project would never have been needed. WAS 4.250 09:18, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

I would like some help in reviewing Bastique's soliloquy, above, as I am unclear on his agenda.

I agree with the sentiment that there is a systematic program of alienation underway at Wikiversity. I propose we review the sources, causes, and time-dynamics of that process of alienation.

Although Cary Bass and I have had zero direct communication, he has nonetheless tendered his remarkably original theory of mind regarding my interests, methods, and objectives. I am unclear how Cary could form such a haphazard theory of mind. Upon what evidence, reasoning, or analysis does his curious theory repose?

Finally, what is the name of the fear that Cary is projecting in his fascinating soliloquy on Cormaggio's subpage?

Moulton 12:52, 19 September 2008 (UTC)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The 9/11 Report

Today is 9/11 the seventh anniversary of one of the most notorious terror attacks in recent memory.

Today is 9/11, the first anniversary of one of the most notorious terror attacks in recent Wikipedian memory.

Yes, it was exactly one year ago today that KillerChihuahua (Tracy Walker) executed an indefinite block of this writer on the English Language Wikipedia, on the grounds that I had "no interest in writing an encyclopedia" (notwithstanding the fact that I was already the co-author of one article in a prestigious print encyclopedia ("Electronic (Virtual) Communities"), and subsequently the author of 20 articles in Google Knol.

And here we are, exactly one year later, and KillerChihuahua is still defending her disgraceful actions of a year ago, acting as an agent of the WikiClique on Intelligent Design (IDCab) — 14 allied editors who acted in concert as Plaintiff, Arresting Officer, Bailiff, Witness, Judge, Jury, and Executioner, all in the space of one week (September 4th to September 11th, 2007).

The evidence of corruption in the ethically challenged editors of IDCab has been accumulating for over a year now, and yet the erratic and dysfunctional community at the English Language Wikipedia still cannot decide the case.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Perplexing Ethical Conundrum

Yesterday, I posted on MoultonLava an item involving Wikimedia Foundation Volunteer Coordinator, Cary Bass, who has long been Jimbo Wales' right-hand man.

Bass had briefly stepped in to deal with an issue brought to his attention by a troubled Wikipedia Admin who goes by the avatar name of FeloniousMonk. When the issue became too hot for Cary Bass to deal with, he bailed from the brouhaha, whereupon it was taken up by the fabled and legendary Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Late Tuesday night, and into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I exchanged E-Mail with the Founder, who was seeking to placate FeloniousMonk by persuading me to remove from Wikiversity all links to learning resources currently residing on MoultonLava.

The ethical conundrum arose because some of the content of that E-Mail exchange included problematic content that Jimbo preferred no one else to see.

I initially consulted a trusted counselor (with whom I shared the traffic, and who also helped me craft my responses).

Several custodial admins have offered to intervene, provided I don't air the details here. So I am redacting the sensitive portions of this blog post to give them a chance to resolve the issue without a public spotlight.

What I am leaving in place here is a list of problematic pages on the English Wikipedia that Jimbo promised to look at.

At his request, I compiled this list of problematic BLPs (Biographies of Living Persons) and other assorted travesties propounded by the WikiClique on Intelligent Design ("IDCab" or ID Cabal), and transmitted it by E-Mail to Jimmy...

Rosalind Picard Biography, as I found it, exactly a year ago. It's still not fully cleaned up.

Affective Computing, which the IDCab trashed up in a childish act of revenge.

James Tour Biography, a similar battleground for accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media.

David Berlinski Biography, an utter travesty if I ever saw one.

Guillermo Gonzalez Biography, another IDCcab hatchet job.

A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism, which I fear the IDCab will never bring into compliance with reasonable standards of objectivity and professionalism.

List of Signatories to the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, which for two years contained libelous and defamatory claims about many scientists and academics whose names were emblazoned there.

Icons of Evolution, which can't even cite a bibliographic entry correctly without a protracted edit war on how best to write a hatchet job.

Moulton's User Page, which FeloniousMonk egregiously vandalized, necessitating an MfD by gobsmacked admins.

FeloniousMonk's scathing indictment of Moulton, which he and User:Filll cite in three administrative proceedings: RfAr/C68-FM-SV, RfAr#Moulton, and RfC/ID#Questions.

Filll's non-article space biographical sketch of me (referenced in WP:AN/Moulton)

IDCab's Spammish Inquisition of a year ago which Sam Korn (and others) found to be a sham.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

And so we temporarily suspend review of the underlying ethical conundrum, pending guidance and intervention from ethical custodial admins who are more astute in these delicate (and sometimes adversarial) discussions and negotiations.

I await their demonstration of ethical best practice for resolving this perplexing political dilemma and ethical conundrum.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Taboo Or Not Taboo? That Is the Question.

A few days ago, Cary Bass, Volunteer Coordinator, of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) Office, issued a "foundation directive" to Wikiversity custodial admin, SB Johnny, to systematically remove from the pages of Wikiversity any and all links to Moulton's Blog.

When questioned about this unprecedented departure from Section 230 aloofness, SB Johnny replied:
Ask the guys on IRC [Internet Relay Chat] for details, but we've received word from them that links to Moulton's blog are specifically prohibited. I assume there will be a public explanation when they're ready. --SB_Johnny talk 21:11, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
It's been nearly a week, and no further explanation has come forth from Cary Bass, WMF General Counsel Mike Godwin, WMF Board Chairman Michael Snow, or anyone else at the Wikimedia Foundation Office.

Yesterday, SB Johnny made this move in the resultant chess game:
Suffice it to say that there have been myriad contradictory (mis-)communications on the subject. Please consider me "on Sabbatical" from the Ethics project. --SB_Johnny talk 10:09, 10 August 2008 (UTC)
Additional discussion of this curious turn of events may be found on Moulton's Talk Page at Wikiversity.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Harden Not Your Heart

Even those of us who do not read bible passages on a weekly basis are nonetheless familiar with many of them.

There is a phrase that appears in both the Old and New Testament that has long arrested me. I first heard it in a passage from the Passover Haggadah, in connection to the story of the Ten Plagues. The Plagues were supposed to cause Pharaoh to relent, and allow Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, out of oppression. But nine times, Pharaoh changed his mind. In the text, he "hardened his heart."

In the New Testament there is a prominent teaching, "Harden not your heart."

Most of us understand this metaphor to mean a failure to adopt a merciful, compassionate, and understanding attitude. In the 1982, the pop group Quarterflash produced a musical number entitled Harden My Heart to dramatize seething anger that culminates in bulldozers and flamethrowers.

But why that metaphor? Why the metaphor of "hardening the heart"?

Today we know that the heart is a powerful muscle, used to pump blood.

Like any muscle, it can be made hard by mechanically tensing it. Who among us has not "made a muscle" of the biceps and palpated it to see how hard we can make it?

But the heart is not a voluntary muscle like a bicep. What hardens it?

Today most of us can name the neuropeptide that acts to make the heart race like mad, pumping blood in times of stress or danger. We know it as the Fight or Flight Response, mediated by Adrenaline.

And yet as a child, I was mystified by the biblical phrase, "harden the heart" for a reason that most adults of that era would not have been able to explain.

You see, I'm a redhead.

And there is something different about redheads.

For reasons having to do with physiology and cell biology, those of us who have diminished levels of Eumelanin also have correspondingly diminished levels of correlated neuropeptides, including Adrenaline, Serotonin, Dopamine, and Oxytocin.

As a result we tend to be somewhat more mellow, contemplative, and affectionate than the mean population. Think of a Golden Retriever. That's my demeanor.

The key thing here is a diminished store of Adrenaline. I rarely pump Adrenaline, and then only under exceedingly dire circumstances, such as a life-or-death situation (which almost never happens in my laid back life as a semi-retired scholar, researcher, and science educator).

But a lot of people not only experience Adrenaline surges, they actively seek the thrills that produce an Adrenaline rush. And one effect of that is to activate the heart muscles so that they can pump blood like crazy.

It's hard for me to have empathy for someone who is berserking in an Adrenaline-driven rage, because it's not a physiological state that I have any direct experience with.

Oh, sure, I've had my heart-pounding moments, but harnessing that surge of physical energy for Fight or Flight is just so far outside of my normative behavior that it didn't even occur to me to put a fist through a wall (let alone someone's nose).

On the Internet, it's nigh impossible to detect when a correspondent is in an Adrenaline-mediated rage. You can't see their eyes bulge out, or any other physiological manifestation of turning into the Incredible Hulk. Instead, people seem to take on a Jekyll and Hyde character, behavior uncharacteristically idiotic when intoxicated with Adrenaline and other surging neuropeptides (like Dopamine).

When us mellow redheads observe that, we scratch our heads, and mutter WTF???

Friday, August 08, 2008

Durova's Blog, Part 2

Durova is a Wikipedian who also writes a blog about Wikipedia.

A week ago last Thursday, she made good on an offer to post remarks on my behalf during a brief interlude when I was unable to post on Wikipedia Review.

After a few rounds of comments, Durova posted one final remark of hers, and then closed out the comments without posting my response to her last remark.

Here is her last comment...
Durova said...

Moulton, you assert that your goal is to promote excellence and ethics in online communications. Having been expelled from Wikipedia Review, and before that from Wikipedia, Slashdot, and various other sites, now would be a good time to reassess how that project is going.

Supposing your aims are sincere, and you are an intelligent and rational Ph.D. with an (unpaid) position at MIT, then it must be obvious by now that you’ve expended a great deal of effort only to meet rejection at site after site. If key positions throughout the Internet are indeed held by (as you say) “anankastic control freaks“, then your ability to identify these problems is futile without the tools and support to implement reform. Tilting at windmills may be picturesque, but it is a waste of effort. Surely your considerable talents would achieve more result if redirected into efforts that played to your strengths. So far, this endeavor at excellence has been so unsuccessful that I also write what follows.

Your record also has the characteristics of a spectacularly successful troll. Disruption and turmoil thrive wherever you go. You manage to stick around just long enough to really spin a community into a tizzy, and you are quite skilled at identifying weak points in online structures and kicking them hard enough to really throw the anatomy out of joint. In spite of that, due to your credentials and your articulate civility, a long line of people extend the benefit of the doubt. It takes a while for a person to realize that dialog doesn’t actually happen with you. When they offer solutions to the problems you raise you pause long enough for them to have their say, then resume whatever destructive course you had already embarked upon--all the while proclaiming that no other option remains due to the ethical failures of the people who control the site.

If the former estimate is true then it should give you pause to read that the latter interpretation is possible. Surely “excellent” communications would never be misconstrued as badly as this. And if the latter estimate is true then I applaud you, wholeheartedly and publicly: this is performance art.

I think these two possibilities will shake down to one based upon Moulton’s experience at the next online community he joins.

And now, per the mutually agreeable terms of engagement that Moulton and I worked out before this post started, I wish you all well. Adieu.

Here is my response to her final comment...

I'm not sure where you're getting your information from, since (as far as I know) you are neither a reader nor a poster on WR or Slashdot. So let me ask you: Upon what evidence are you relying to assert that I have been "expelled" from WR, Wikipedia, Slashdot, and various other sites? Is this original investigative reporting on your part, or have you adopted the version of some intermediate reporter? If the latter, please identify and cite your source, so that we may examine it for accuracy and ethics in reporting.

I don't have the power to "implement reform". I only have to power to research known problems, construct system models and theories with as much insight as I am able to muster, and publish my findings for the benefit of those who wish to learn how to solve the problems I'm studying.

I will grant you that there are many (perhaps a majority) who have less than zero interest in rectifying corruption and ineptitude. There is little I can do about desire or motivation, short of revealing the ineluctable consequences of failing to ascend the ladder of improvement in terms of accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media.

My position is that projects which fail to become successful learning organizations in this regard simply don't have much of a future. Those who (for whatever reason) wish to see Wikipedia fail might well be in favor of more ineptitude and corruption, and thus alarmed at any movement to salvage the project.

A "troll" is defined as someone who asks difficult questions that those being questioned would prefer not to have to answer. I do ask hard questions, and there are some who frankly would prefer not to have to answer them. Those who prefer not to address hard questions may well seek to dismiss me as a "troll" in their terminology.

There is another more classical term for someone who asks such questions. Socrates was called a "gadfly". Beckett was similarly a gadfly to King Henry. It is the role of educators who employ the maieutic method to ask serious questions that only serious scholars will undertake to answers. Those who prefer not to think their way through the issues will dismiss their interlocutor with a curt, "Giddoudahere, Doofus."

Was Filll trolling when he asked his famous Eight Questions at RfC/ID? I didn't think so at the time. I undertook to respond to them directly, and to support my responses with hard evidence. But when he sought to redact and expunge my response, I began to wonder why he would ask such questions if he could not abide the answers.

As I look back on other pioneers of science and didactic education, I can see the recurring pattern. Everyone is familiar with the well-known examples of Socrates, Beckett, and Galileo. The central drama of their stories is repeated time and again in lesser known variations of the same process. Perhaps no one caricatured it more amusingly as Lewis Carroll. There is no shortage of Red Queens.

I once asked a learned scholar why Socrates didn't just write a novel, like Mark Twain or JK Rowling. He replied that the novel hadn't been invented yet, and didn't really become a mainstay until the Russian Realists perfected the genre. Probably Dostoevsky signifies the epitome of this method. His sendup of a profoundly dysfunctional culture remains one of the most seminal and insightful adaptations of literature to the problem I'm working on.

Fiction is a great scam. You get to tell the truth while pretending to lie.

Alas I am a theory guy, not a storymaker.

I greatly admire Umberto Eco, but it's unlikely I'll ever write any work of fiction as brilliant or effective as his in translating subtle theory into compelling story.

I'll have to stick to the drama of the Socratic Method, at least for now.

If you have the Hemlock concession, Durova, you stand to make a killing.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Questions the press should ask

The Watchdog Blog, specializing in "questions the press should ask," comes from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

Why questions?

Some may wonder about our emphasis on asking questions, since politicians and most of the rest of the world – even schoolchildren – are adept at sidestepping them. What's the point of asking good questions if the answers aren't forthcoming?

First, the ability to ask appropriate questions comes only with an understanding of the subject at hand. When experts help with questions and background, they also help deepen the reporter's knowledge of the issue.

Second, targeted, insightful questions are typically more difficult for public officials, candidates and others in public life to dodge, mislead or even lie about.

Finally, the questions don't disappear simply because a president, or someone else in a high position, won't give a straight, complete answer. The answer may lie in documents or in interviews with other sources, or both. But assuredly, a key to great journalism comes mostly to reporters and editors who ask the right questions, who have a full understanding of what they are looking for and who can recognize what rings true and what doesn't.

There are some important ones here -- check them out.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Durova's Blog

Durova is a Wikipedian who also writes a blog about Wikipedia.

Last Thursday, she posted an interesting blog entry entitled, The Lucifer Effect.

Here is my comment, appended to other comments at her blog...

Durova writes:

"Some Wikipedians get sucked into the minutiae of personalities and diffs while others regard it as an ethical responsibility to avoid all drama."

This is an interesting and insightful observation about the extremes of a continuous axis of possible responses ranging from those who habitually engage in scandal-mongering to those who habitually engage in peace-making practices. Of course, as Durova's reference to the Fundamental Attribution Error points out, most people are generally not well-modeled by pegging them at either extremity of any given behavioral axis.

For an example of scandal-mongering (albeit not necessarily habitual), see this fascinating page from the Static Wikipedia.

For an example of an analytical model that suggests a better peace-making practice that avoids WikiDrama, see this adaptation of Girard's Model of Competiton, Conflict, and Violence. In this case, it might be necessary to migrate to the Mirth Model. Sometimes levity is the best medicine. This is probably one of those times.

Regarding the issue about finding a way for outcasts from the English Wikipedia to return to an editing role within the English Wikipedia Community, I've taken a middle ground position. I've stated that I am not interested in editing mainspace articles on the English Wikipedia unless and until the site can see its way clear to establish a more collegial and congenial operating environment, more hospitable to academics like myself and Ottava Rima.

If that Age of Comity is not soon forthcoming, then I ask for something less. I ask first of all for the English Wikipedia to give me back my good name. If it is the custom of the English Wikipedia to take away editing privileges from members of the established academic community and culture, I can accept that as a defining feature of the prevailing culture and practices of the English Wikipedia. But there is no need to take away the good name of distinguished academics like Carl Hewitt (or considerably less distinguished academics like Jon Awbrey or myself). I secondly ask the English Wikipedia to give me back the longstanding GFDL content which Toddst1 hastily and summarily deleted without just cause from my userspace subpages.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Speed of Enlightenment of an Ethically Challenged Learning Organization

Peter Senge has a concept that he calls the Learning Organization. Some organizations (especially highly successful ones) learn quickly and learn well. Other organizations don't learn as well, and gradually fall behind the curve.

Just as the speed of light slows down in denser media, the Speed of Enlightenment of a Learning Organization similarly slows down with the density of the organization.

It's not hard to measure the speed of light in different media. The more refractory the media, the slower it goes. Every medium has its characteristic index of refraction which can be readily measured.

My interest in participating in Wikimedia Foundation projects like Wikinews depends on what I am able to measure of the site's Index of Refraction and the corresponding Speed of Enlightenment, in the sense of Peter Senge's concept of the Fifth Discipline as applied to the Fourth Estate.

At the present time, the status of the Code of Ethics at Wikinews leaves something to be desired.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Relevant Discussions

The following page section, retrieved from Google cache, is currently not available on the English Wikipedia. It is temporarily reproduced here until an Admin on the English Wikipedia can restore it.

Relevant Discussions

Moulton's Answers to Filll's 8 Questions

The following subpage, retrieved from Google cache, is currently not available at the English Wikipedia. It is temporarily reproduced here until an Admin on the English Wikipedia can restore it.

User talk:Moulton/Answers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From the talk page of the RfC/ID, here is the section with Gnixon's answers to Filll's 8 questions, with my comments at the second level of indent.


See Filll's questions above. I'm answering these in consideration of his response to my request for a link to some of his "plenty of evidence." I'll sign each answer in case of further comment. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(1) If Moulton was such an easy obvious "shameful" case, why did 20 people have trouble with him at his RfC? Including those who initially supported him?

I didn't say it was easy or obvious, just that it was handled shamefully. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
I concur that the RfC which Filll and ConfuciusOrnis filed against me was shameful and deserving of a careful review by responsible officials to determine whether it conformed to the English Wikipedia's standards for due process. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(2) Why were his appeals to Arbcomm turned down twice?

Interesting question. I'm not sure. I suspect they're busy, and they didn't look deeply enough to appreciate that their intervention was required. I believe one arbitrator later said something to the effect of "we probably got this one wrong." (Happy to go dig up link if you require it.) Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
I only filed one appeal to ArbCom, and that was to request that ArbCom review the RfC and subsequent block to adjudge whether or not I was afforded due process in accordance with the community standards of the English Wikipedia. ArbCom declined to take up that question, without explanation (but see the remarks of GRBerry and Lar at AN/Moulton). The second appeal was filed by Ryan Postlethwaite, and was turned down as premature, as other community processes were still underway. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(3) Why did all three of the people who wanted him unblocked and wanted to mentor him recently all decide that they did not think he should be unblocked and that they did not want to mentor him?

If I recall correctly, it had to do with the fact that he refused to specifically ask to be unblocked. One interpretation of his refusal is that he found it unfair to be forced to swear a specific oath to the conduct policies in order to be reinstated, when it was his opponents whose conduct he thought was grossly inappropriate. I don't know if it was even appropriate for well-meaning outsiders to suggest to him that he needed mentoring. Happy to discuss further. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
I have no theory of mind regarding the cognition, affect, or decision-making of others in this particular question and issue. It occurs to me that it would make more sense to ask each of them directly to answer this question, rather than speculate on what was going through their minds at the time. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(4) Why did Moulton not do what Filll requested to clean up the issues Moulton supposedly had with the article?

I don't really know. What I recall from a cursory look at your advice is that you recommended he (a) generate published personal statements from Picard or news stories about her to represent her position on ASDFD and (b) address WP:UNDUE by adding information not about ASDFD instead of trimming the ASDFD stuff. I personally thought there were simpler ways to address the problem. Perhaps Moulton chose not to follow your advice because he disagreed with it, but that's pure speculation. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
To the best of my knowledge and recollection, Rosalind Picard had never spoken of or written about Intelligent Design or her attitude toward it, nor did it appear to me that she had any obligation to take time out from her overloaded schedule to do so, just to convince Filll that he had jumped to an erroneous conclusion about her beliefs. Note that later, Picard did answer a journalist's questions on the subject, at which time she expressed skepticism of the concept of Intelligent Design. (Quote: "I think we should be much more skeptical," she said.) That's not too surprising, since she routinely expresses scientific skepticism of any and all proposed hypotheses, and expects those interested in advancing such novel hypotheses to rigorously support them with solid evidence and careful reasoning, in accordance with the protocols of the Scientific Method. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(5) Why did Picard not indicate that she had the same concerns as Moulton when in communication with Filll?

I don't know much about her communication with you, but I've seen that she tried to address the concerns by editing the article directly. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
Picard did indicate, in an E-Mail of August 29, 2007 responding to Bob Stevens <>, that she had the same concern as me. In that message to Filll and to me, with a copy to Alexandra Kahn (the Media Relations Officer at the MIT Media Lab), Picard wrote, "I do appreciate all of your efforts on my behalf and hope we can achieve whatever needs achieving peacefully. And I do thank you, each, for what seems to be a nice shared goal of trying to get objective accurate information online." Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(6) Why did Moulton not do what Durova asked him to clean up the issues Moulton supposedly had with the article?

Moulton was asked to generate published articles for reference or a personal request from the subject of the biography. I was surprised Durova thought such extreme measures were required---I thought there were easier solutions. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
I did publish two such articles. One appeared on August 31 2007 as an Op-Ed piece in the Hard News Cafe, an award-winning online publication of the School of Journalism and Communication at Utah State University. The other, which the first one referenced, appeared on August 28 2007 as a personal memoir on my personal blog, Moulton Lava. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(7) Why was Moulton banned from at least 4 other online communities before this?

I don't really know, and I think it's only relevant if there's a striking pattern of egregious behavior on his part. The evidence you've provided doesn't convince me there is such a pattern, so there may or may not be one. See my other responses to this point upthread. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
This is an interesting and important question, and I urge Filll, Gnixon, Dtobias, Random832, and any other interested party to investigate it carefully. I believe you will find the answers to be quite suprising and illuminating. I will be happy to provide helpful pointers to otherwise hard-to-find URLs which speak to this fascinating question. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

(8) Was Wikipedia really so unfair to Moulton? Has he not had way more time and attention than most people in his situation? Including at least 3 appearances on WP:NTWW and several AN and AN/I threads and two RfArs and most recently a chance to build a case for himself on his unlocked talk page? So please let's cut with the whining and deal with the facts here. If you think he was so hard done by, why do you not volunteer to mentor him, with the condition that if he screws up again, both of you are banned immediately, no questions asked? How does that sound? Are you ready to stake your editing privileges on it?

Moulton is a distinguished scientist who earned his Ph.D. from Stanford years before I was born. I would frankly feel quite silly offering to "mentor" him. I do think Wikipedia treated him unfairly. Since you're asking my opinion, I think it happened because a group of editors was so caught up in their crusade against ID-on-Wikipedia that they couldn't recognize valid criticism, and moreover, that many of those editors resorted to despicable tactics in order to get their way. Gnixon (talk) 04:45, 15 June 2008 (UTC)
My view was that the "despicable tactics" of the ID Editors were not only outlandish, they were egregious enough to merit documentation and analysis in the Media Ethics blog associated with the undergraduate course on Ethics in Journalism at Utah State University. Moulton (talk) 13:18, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

See also the first two days worth of E-Mail from Bob Stevens to me and to Alexandra Kahn, Media Relations Officer of the MIT Media Lab.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Haphazard Theory Construction

There is now a new blocking notice up on the English Wikipedia for this writer. It looks like this:

You are currently unable to edit pages on Wikipedia.

You can still read pages, but cannot edit, change, or create them.

Editing from Moulton (your account, IP address, or IP address range) has been disabled by Blueboy96 for the following reason(s):

Personal attacks, outing other editors. Sorry, you're done here

This block has been set to expire: indefinite.

Even if blocked, you will usually still be able to edit your user talk page and contact other editors and administrators by email.

Note: If you have JavaScript enabled, please use the [show] links across from each header to show more information.

I have no idea who Blueboy96 is on the English Wikipedia. But there is now a new discussion about this latest block taking place on the Administrators' Noticeboard. The admins can't seem to decide what theory to apply to explain what happened here. One admin did send me E-Mail asking me to explain, which I did. I wonder why so many other admins prefer to form haphazard and erratic theories and act on them as if they were the ground truth?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ridiculous Fascination

There is a fascinating discussion underway for the past two weeks on the Wikipedia Administrators' Notice Board. It concerns the status of this writer, who has been indefinitely blocked on the English Wikipedia since 9/11 of last year. The blocking notice currently reads as follows:

You are currently unable to edit pages on Wikipedia.

You can still read pages, but cannot edit, change, or create them.

Editing from Moulton (your account, IP address, or IP address range) has been disabled by FeloniousMonk for the following reason(s):

Disruptive editing: Restoring community ban, arbcom rejected reopening case. no grounds for undertow to reduce ban duration

This block has been set to expire: indefinite.

Even if blocked, you will usually still be able to edit your user talk page and contact other editors and administrators by email.

The aforementioned discussion seeks to arrive at a community-wide consensus on whether the status displayed above was properly arrived at.

Viewpoints vary.

One observer likened my memorable experience to being "mugged" in a Massive Multi-Player Online Narcissistic Wounding and Mugging Game (MMPONWMG). Elsewhere, other observers have commented on how ridiculous the game appears to be, wondering whether noting the ridiculousness of the game is grounds for exclusion from playing it.

It all reminds me of Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote a mostly forgotten short story, "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man."

Whether Dostoevsky's allegory has any meaning in this context, I leave it for qualified literary analysts to opine.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Quickening Pace of Progress

The rate of progress in bringing the Wikipedia article on A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism up to standards (in terms of accuracy, excellence, and ethics in online media) appears to be picking up the pace. An anonymous editor identified only by an IP address has introduced a crucial improvement in the opening sentence:

A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism (or Dissent From Darwinism) is the name given to a petition notable for its use in promoting intelligent design. It is a list of signatories attesting to a statement, produced by the Discovery Institute, expressing skepticism about the ability of natural selection to account for the complexity of life, and encouraging careful examination of the evidence for "Darwinism". This list was first published in advertisements under an added introduction which stated that its signatories dispute the assertion that Darwin’s theory of evolution fully explains the complexity of living things, and dispute that "all known scientific evidence supports [Darwinian] evolution".[1][2]

The most important part is the insertion of "the name given to". This important edit now helps the reader appreciate that the name given to the petition by the DI is not the name on the petition (it actually had no printed title on it at all). The article still doesn't reveal that the name initially appeared as the headline in the advertisement cited in Ref #1.

I hope our intrepid IP editor also attends to the "See also" section where the List of signatories to "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism" takes the reader to another article that begins:

These are some of the individuals who have signed the Discovery Institute's pro-intelligent design/anti-evolution statement, A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism.

So once again, we need to revise that to correct the inaccurate characterization of this list as living persons whom Wikipedia has inexplicably identified as proponents of ID or opponents of evolution.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What Is the Rate of Progress?

On Monday, I published an article here on the Media Ethics blog entitled, What Is the Name of This Problem?

I also copied it, verbatim, to a discussion thread on Wikipedia Review.

Today, I noticed on my watchlist that there had been some new activity on the article on A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism.

Yesterday, it seems, a Wikipedian named WAS 4.250, boldly undertook to correct a long-festering inaccuracy in that article. And he also posted a comment about it on the article's talk page. Having moved the ball closer to the goal line of accuracy, excellence, and ethics, the defending editors pushed back with all their might, so there was modest net gain in yardage at the end of two days. The article still does not acknowledge that the name, "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism" was originally just the headline on the Anti-PBS ad of 2001.

I suppose I might have used the same 32-word petition in an ad headlined "100 Scientists Urge Rigorous Adherence to the Protocols of the Scientific Method When Examining Evidence in Support of Scientific Theories" followed by a couple of paragraphs of advertising copy explaining what that means. And I suppose I could have later launched a promotional web site, RigorInScience.Org, soliciting even more signatures. I wonder if those 100 scientists would have smiled in approval or frowned in disapproval of the way I had interpreted and promoted their previously untitled statement.

When I wrote the blog article on Monday, the key references were #19 and #20, buried deep in the article. Now the key references are #1 and #2. That's as it should be, since they are the references one must examine to sort {fact} from fiction PR spin.

So good for you, WAS 4.250. You're a mensch in my book. We've come a long way in a mere 10 months. We're halfway to the goal now. Zeno would be kvelling in his grave.

And thanks to Wikipedian PelleSmith, too, for pointing out that whatever goes for the main article goes for the WP:COATRACKS out there in that ever-hazardous BLP space.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What Is the Name Of This Problem?

Wikipedia has begun to recognize that it has a huge problem with biographies of living people.

But that's not what I want to talk about in this post.

What I want to talk about today is akin to a tiny pea under a pile of mattresses.

But it's an annoying pea that illustrates the subtlety of reckoning ethics in online media.

For the past ten months, I have sought, with notable lack of success, to raise to the attention of editors on Wikipedia a seemingly insignificant error that has caused a number of people considerable grief.

The problem arises because the editors of several related articles on Wikipedia insisted on incorrectly labeling a 2001 document that had become the centerpiece of a national controversy.

There is an article entitled "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism" which describes a 2-sentence petition and a sponsoring web site promoting it. The problem is that the name attached to the petition and the purposes to which it has been put by its sponsor have varied and evolved since the document first was circulated in academia back in 2001. Among the signatories to this petition, the first 100 are said to be the most notable and most prominent scientists and academics. They are the ones who had signed the petition in question in 2001, prior to its first known publication.

Let's take a close look at the article in Wikipedia. First look at the main section, Statement, just below the article table of contents. Note that the text of the statement is in a pink box, with the italicized title outside the box. So far, so good. Below the pink box with the 32-word statement, the article continues, "The statement, and its title, refer to ..." Notice how the authors of this article have distinguished the 32-word statement from the 5-word title. In a minute you'll discover why. But first look at the balance of that section carefully, with special attention to the degree of ambiguity as to what it is that the petition is a "dissent from." Notice the article is now referring to "the petition" which is ambiguous, because we don't know if 'petition' refers just to the 32-word statement, or to the 32-word statement plus the 5-word title as a package.

Now we come to the next section, Discovery Institute usage, which talks about a "list of names" that the Discovery Institute has published in various paid advertisements, beginning in 2001.

Now it's time to drill down to the primary sources, which are references 19 and 20 in the current version of the article. Reference 19 goes to a press release from the Discovery Institute that has some bylined text followed by a bold-faced title, an italicized 32-word statement in quotes, and then a list of about 100 signatories. Reference 20 goes to a facsimile of the printed ad, as it appeared in the NY Times and other publications around September/October 2001. This is the best source. Look at it carefully.

It is a newspaper ad with a headline, two paragraphs of advertising copy and then a gray box with a 32-word statement in quotes, surrounded by the same list of about 100 names.

Now, here is the Socratic part, dear reader:
  1. What is the headline of the advertisement?

  2. What is the title of the statement inside the gray box? (Is there one?)

  3. If you were a journalist, what would be your evidence and reasoning to support the notion that those 100 scientists put their signature to a document that contained both a 5-word title and a 32-word statement?
Is it journalistically accurate and ethical to say that those 100 scientists put their names to a petition bearing the title, "A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism"?

See also the cited analysis by Skip Evans, published by the NCSE shortly after the ad first appeared, which raises similar concerns about how the Discovery Institute had reframed and recontextualized the 32-word statement by framing it with a headline and two paragraphs of advertising copy suggesting how they'd like the public to interpret it.

Until last week, Wikipedia had prominently tagged the biographies of any of those scientists as "Signatories of the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism". That category tag has since been removed from Wikipedia, although it remains as a list, which includes those 100 scientists and academics who did not sign a petition bearing that name.