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?