Wednesday, 31 August 2022

Why was I banned in English Wikipedia?


The last few days I have been staring into the distance. "Mum got fired from Wikipedia," my child explained to another. What on earth?

Over the weekend, I got banned from the English Wikipedia, which means that I am not allowed to edit there anymore, create new articles, edit existing articles or even their talk pages (where discussions on the topic take place). My user page was destroyed, as was my sandbox. The reason for this was "my incompetence in editing and they way I am pettifogging. It clear they have no interest in listening to valid criticism". (In other language versions, I am allowed to work as usual.)


The rocky road of a paid Wikipedian

I started making paid edits to Wikipedia back in 2010, four years before Wikipedia made rules for it. Over the years, I have attended several international Wikimedia events and talked about my work with Wikimedia activists. They say I'm a rarity, and over the years I've only come across one other paid updater in the English Wikipedia.

You can hear me and my acquaintance William (Bill) Beutler talking about paid editing on a Wikipedia themed podcast.

Beutler and his company do not update Wikipedia articles themselves, but started a decade ago, under pressure, to use the so-called AfC and ER processes, which I describe elsewhere. These processes often involve months of waiting.

While the AfC process has been proposed as mandatory for all Wikipedia editors balancing their interests, no formal decision has been taken. 

This is something I have argued repeatedly: since I had been editing Wikipedia long before they made rules for paid editing and felt that I am able to edit (in Finnish Wikipedia, some of the articles I have edited have even been highlighted as promising articles), I did not want to move to a slower way, which I felt was a waste of time for me, my clients and volunteers alike.

I interpret the recent charge of pettifogging is related to my persistence in insisting on editing Wikipedia articles in the article namespace, despite all the "recommendations" from the opponents of paid editors.

Over the years, I have had various conflicts with volunteer wikipedians. The worst of these so far occurred last year, when a user decided to "shame tag" all the articles I had edited in the English Wikipedia. I could not understand why he was allowed to do so, even though the instructions said that 

if you place this tag, you should promptly start a discussion on the article's talk page to explain why you tagged the article.

(This did not happen.)


This incident was very emotional for me then, so this time I will try to be a little tougher, despite the fact that the punishment I received is much harsher now.

Why was I banned?


The incidents started on Thursday, when I did an article for my client. A user who had previously complained about my editing noticed this and added two tags to the article:
1) the article contains undisclosed paid edit (even though I had disclosed in TWO places)
2) the article should be speed-deleted, because of its spammy language

I went on article to tell why not to speed-delete it:

If a subject is notable and the content could plausibly be replaced with text written from a neutral point of view, this is preferable to deletion.

So articles about notable topics should not be deleted if, for example, the promotional content can be easily removed, and in this case the article could have had the words or phrases that made it promotional removed, or it could have been moved to the AfC drafts where I could have continued working on it. My argument was not heeded and the article was deleted by an acquaintance of the previous user. They started talking about how I should be banned for not using the AfC process like "everyone else" who does paid editing. They had another concern too:

"It seems to me that User:Jjanhone may be making a tidy little living out of editing Wikipedia"

I told I'm ready to start using AfC process.

The threat of a ban was so serious that I also started a discussion on the administrators' notice board. Users who had argued with me about the removed article rushed to the scene.

In the following discussion the user who recommended banning told::

The reason I suggested for banning Jjanhone - it's a combination of everything, leading ultimately to severe incompetence on her part which volunteer editors are spending their valuable time cleaning up. The fact that she's paid certainly compounds that but this would be a significant issue, with the same outcome even if she weren't. PICKLEDICAE­čąĺ 14:23, 27 August 2022 (UTC)


So he claimed that I would have been banned even though I was not a paid editor.

I see.

A) If I had been a volunteer, in my spare time, there is no way I would have been able to edit as much as I have now.
B) I would also have had no reason to assert my right to edit in the article namespace, it would have been my self-evident right.
C) Since my edits would have lacked the mandatory tags of paid editing, there would have been little attention paid to me or my edits


Despite his claim, however, he started the debate by pinging the opponents of paid updates that he knew.

Also pinging those involved in the last few discussion: @Athaenara:@Deepfriedokra:@Beyond My Ken:@Blablubbs:@GeneralNotability:@Joe Roe:. Sorry if I missed anyone. PICKLEDICAE­čąĺ 17:57, 25 August 2022 (UTC)

As they voted against me while I slept, the result was already pretty clear by the time Friday morning dawned in Finland. To make the case even difficult for me, I was also banned by user Athaenara during the night, even before the final banning decision had been made (it takes 24 hours), so there was no way I could defend myself in the debate, let alone correct the false claims made in it. Originally, I was also accused of copyright infringement, but this charge was dropped, thanks to Zache, who defended me in the debate.


Against, Jjanhone has been transparent on her paid editing and easily well enough if the paid editing is allowed all. [...] (I think that the COI presented was not problematic as presented but needed some actions, copyright violations presented were close paraphrasing of short texts or not even that) [...] However, it is not much else that the editor can do than start discussions that are felt as disruptive and Wikilawyering. --Zache (talk) 10:23, 26 August 2022 (UTC)


Thanks for striking it. About the rest, I think that situation is more complex than just pettifogging and incompetence. [...] Paid editing, however, is complex least to say and I agree that if one does paid editing then it is the writer's responsibility not to leave articles to be fixed by volunteers. If the editor fails to do so then the community has the right to limit the editing. However, A permanent full CBAN feels like the wrong tool in this case when the editor is a good faith editor and personally I would just give a topic ban not to do paid editing in enwiki. Ban could be reconsidered after two years if the user has proven that the editor can write proper articles. etc. -- Zache (talk) 19:27, 26 August 2022 (UTC)

So Zache was against a total ban, which he and a couple of other wikipedists considered a very harsh punishment.

  • While the conclusion here is foregone, the ban seems entirely punitive. A block from main space would be enough to reduce wasted volunteer time while also forcing her to go through the requested methods to edit as a paid contributor (edit requests on talk page and AFC). Isabelle ­čĆ│‍­čîł 23:23, 26 August 2022 (UTC)[reply]
    • I second this notion. It would have been enough to block her from creating or editing mainspace articles. JIP | Talk 03:06, 27 August 2022 (UTC)


On my own discussion page, I expressed the wish that I could continue my work by using the AfC and ER processes, but my request was ignored - you can't do it properly anyway, you've had enough time already.  

Am I incompetent then?

Let's see what this competence means.

What is meant by "Competence is required"?

Basically, we presume that people who contribute to the English-language Wikipedia have the following competencies:

  • the ability to read and write English well enough to avoid introducing incomprehensible text into articles and to communicate effectively.
  • the ability to read sources and assess their reliability. Editors should familiarize themselves with Wikipedia's guidance on identifying reliable sources and be able to decide when sources are, and are not, suitable for citing in articles.
  • the ability to communicate with other editors and abide by consensus.
  • the ability to understand their own abilities and competencies, and avoid editing in areas where their lack of skill and/or knowledge causes them to create significant errors for others to clean up.


1. I think my language skills are at a sufficient level for Wikipedia. I'm not a native speaker, but I got "A" (in Finland it is L for laudatur) from my final exam and used it as my working language for 11 years in Nokia and then elsewhere. However, since I write about my clients' professions, the articles have special vocabulary that I have been helped with. After the ban, I discovered that I had not correctly identified the people involved in translating the articles. This was perhaps an even bigger setback for me than the ban itself, because where the ban decision felt a little arbitrary to me, I was, for example, accused of things for which I had already been punished and alleged to have made the same mistakes again, without evidence. However, I consoled myself that this was not even mentioned in the instructions for translating Wikipedia articles - I had managed to invent a new way of using Wikipedia, a way that had not occurred to others. There you go again, a pioneer in this area too.

2. The sources - yes, I believe I am very familiar with them. In English Wikipedia I mainly use well-known Finnish media sources and avoid using my clients' websites as sources almost to the last.

3. Quite a tough requirement indeed - to reach a consensus with people who are fundamentally opposed to your work, paid Wikipedia editing.

4. In the articles I have written about my clients, the facts have been correct. I have done my work independently, using reliable sources, and they have corrected the terminology and ensured that I have interpreted the sources I have used correctly (yes, even quality journals can have errors and things may have changed since the articles were published). Yes, now that I think about it, my content differs in one important way from the content produced by volunteers: we all use reputable sources, but I also ask the subjects of articles to check for any errors of fact or interpretation - as a proper journalist should do.

I have occasionally been criticised for the neutrality or impartiality of my articles, for example, but I have not paid much attention to the matter, because the appropriate remarks are lost in the basic complaints. Is this another one of those who object to paid updates in general, or did he also have a valid point of feedback.  

As I only have a limited amount of time, I may not have the time or the inclination to explain all the aspects of the issue, which may be obvious to an enthusiast who has been following the issue for a longer period of time. The language and structure of the articles could be refined endlessly, and better sources sought to replace non-neutral ones. But if different users join their forces, some really great articles can be produced! That's what Wikipedia is at its best!

What am I doing next?


Getting banned was of course a devastating setback, but very quickly I started to see new opportunities. I'm lucky to have a lot of supportive people around me who gave me the belief that I'll get through this and "you'll find something else".

I still have something to contribute to the English Wikipedia, one way or another! 

I am not allowed to edit in English Wikipedia but I can teach it to others. (I'm still allowed to edit in Finnish Wikipedia as well as on other languages.) Perhaps the time freed up from editing the encyclopaedia will eventually lead to more and more people contributing relevant content.


In defending me, Zache came to share his thoughts on what I have done for the Wikimedia community:

[...] Jjanhonen has been editing for 14 years and at that time she has organized workshops, written articles about Wikimedia for newspapers, volunteered in Wikimedia events, been active in social media communication of Finnish Wikimedia groups, etc. As long as I have known her (I met her first time 2013 on Open Knowledge Foundation's tour when she did a Wikipedia presentation) she has been an open data and open source enthusiast. She has also been very open that would try to earn living from it. I think that she is genuinely trying to figure out what the best practices would be. [...] -- Zache (talk) 19:27, 26 August 2022 (UTC)

Thank you for this! The Wikimedia community has become very important to me over the years. My personal Wikimedia missions include not only bringing information about Finnish issues to the world through the English Wikipedia, but also adding experts to Wiki(m/p)edia.

This is also the underlying reason why I am now, so soon after what happened, going public with my ban: I am concerned about the future of the English Wikipedia and I want the general public to understand how the most important (like most read, the one with most articles) Wikipedia in the world works. So do me a favour and educate yourself by reading another one of my blog posts

PS. If you have any ideas on how I could use my skills from English Wikipedia to a greater extent, I'm all ears.


9 comments:

  1. You got banned by pickledickhead, one of the worst abusers on the site. Sorry that happened to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for commenting! Do you have list of abusers? Who else would you raise in it?

      Delete
  2. Becrying a lack of "Competence" is the latest tactic by a certain sect of (ironically) socially incompetent Wikimedians.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, interesting to hear your insights. For years I've been talking about the game some Wikipedians play in "hunting the paid editors". And of course there are several hunting tactics and even trends as you say!

      Delete
  3. There's an "Elitism" in the Wikipedia communities.
    Those are the most powerful in the communities, who have more contribution for the "collective good" i.e. more edit counts and page creations. See: https://www.dw.com/en/worldwidewikipedia-whos-feeding-the-hive-mind/av-61989219

    Though this principle is quite "innocent" at the first look, it has a serious flaw in it. "Bosses are not always right", but in the wikimedia communities, they are. "Bosses" decide what will be done and what not, they'll decide how they'll control their playground.
    It is said that Wikipedia works through consensus, but to do so, you'll have to give everyone spaces to raise their voices which isn't being practices here. The talk pages are rude, meta talk pages are full of hatred, mailing lists are a war zone. How a simple person who wants to contribute there will raise their voice?
    As a result, underrepresented communities are being more "underrepresented", a few "elites" are taking over those places and they are tagging themselves as the "whole community" and of course, no one can do anything without any community consultation lol
    enwiki is too much "autocratic", a lot of people say that. People don't get enough pace to defend themselves and paid editing has always been a "taboo" which needs to be solved asap. Proper rules need to be introduced to take care of paid editing. Actually thousands of people do paid editing without revealing, just go to the freelancing sites and search "wikipedia". Only those people who follows the rule and reveals themselves accordingly, becomes the easiest target for attacks!
    Then why someone will follow the rules?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Rafi for commenting and opening my eyes for more problems in the community!

      Delete
  4. I used to do lots of adding of references to wikipedia, but after got called out for using too much one single source, i gave up editing altogether. Didn't want to go whole discuss and negotiation route, just for the potential drama it would incur. It is just easier to silently walk away, so thanks for speaking out! There are still e.g. zooniverse.org projects where one can help out.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you anonymous for commenting. Looks like there is so much drama everywhere which makes me sad. The point should be about improving the content, not about scaring volunteers / specialists away. I watched the document Rafi was linking and it mentions that you "need to have a thick skin to edit on Wikipedia". That's so silly!

      Delete
  5. The English Wikipedia is complicated. There are "strong recommendations" for paid editors to use only discussion pages for suggestions and to create only drafts, not articles. You are strongly discouraged to post articles yourself and to make changes in articles yourself. I myself, as a paid editor, follow these rules after initially ignoring them.

    The main problem for paid editors who follow the rules is: Their drafts or suggestions are viewed with the highest skepticism, as if paid edits always push "advertising". The "critics" of paid edits infer the quality of the content from the sender of the content. Wikipedia admittedly has a completely different claim: anyone can participate and is welcome. In reality, "advertising" is often simply assumed without checking the content. The "critics" are subject to genetic fallacy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_fallacy).

    Piet, Germany

    ReplyDelete

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