Wikimedia Outreach

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Standing on the edge of the precipice

I learned about the Wikimedia Outreach account creation improvement project from a good friend and fellow wikimedian on Jan. 11, 2011. He sent me a link to Frank Schulenburg, Sep. 18, 2010, presentation on Account creation on Wikipedia and Facebook. Having been dealing with account creation problems on Wikimedia projects for four years, the case for improvement was made very clearly in that presentation. When I read Lennart Guldbrandsson a.k.a Hannibal post to the Foundation-l mailing list, Feb. 11, 2011, on How should we greet newcomers? I was looking forward to see how much progress had been made.

Wikimedia Outreach was launched Oct. 2009 and its main page is very appealing. It welcomes you with "Outreach Wiki needs you." Then, there is a subtle change from Wikimedia "backstage" project, wiki, bookshelf to an unknown first person plural entity whose mission is defined as "to recruit and support new Wikimedians and to build strong relationships with cultural and educational institutions." Renewed emphasis is given to the fact that "they" "need your help in making this collaborative platform bigger, better and more useful." That "if you think you can help, great. There's plenty left to do." "Build the wiki," "Find an initiative," "Attend an event," and last but not least "Discuss the movement." Discuss is nice.

It (or "they") have several initiatives, among them the "Ambassador Program," "Account Creation Improvement Project," "Best practices," "Student clubs," and "Success stories." They all had a personal appeal and they were five out of a total of eight initiatives. That's what it (or "they") said: "Outreach needs you to reach out." by getting " involved in a project (i.e. initiative - confusing nomenclature and nomenklatura seems to come with the territory). While there are eight initiatives, there are nine projects: eight initiatives plus one draft. You are also welcome to "discuss operations with other users at "their" village pump!" Discuss operations is very interesting.

The "community" is also organized according to the users' skills. Language skills came first. Information was a bit chaotic, but there were no speakers of Portuguese of any kind. Other skills listed were "project management," "teaching," "media production," and "press experience level." Professional level in the first three skills, advanced in the forth one. Cool.

On to find out how much progress had been made, by Feb. 11, 2011, on How should we greet newcomers?. This was on the "Account Creation Improvement Project/Testing content" page, available at the time, while one could also "read more about the Account Creation Improvement Project." "Please edit those pages as though they were your own wiki. Make yourself at home on the Outreach wiki." Wrote Lennart. Wow! I was in awe. This project and/or these guys had the right stuff.

The user page

Puppy dog

Sometime around Feb. 21, 2011, I dutifully logged in to Wikimedia Outreach and proceeded to create my user page. The model seemed to have been my user page on Meta minus the user boxes that would not work and the «damage» that I have caused on that project until being immediately blocked (done in three minutes) with an expiry time of infinite. Instead, I gave fair warning of my terrible reputation, since a dear friend of mine, who is a sysop, ex-bureaucrat and checkuser of the, was careful enough to publicize in 12 of 19 edits that I was either banned or blocked in the, while never mentioning a single accomplishment of mine on or any other Wikimedia project.[1] He follows me everywhere I go like a good pet. As soon has I started to participate in this discussion, at 2:19, on March 13, 2011, a little over 24 hours later, at 4:10, March 14, he started editing on the same project, allegedly "to help on vandalism combat," presumably from this vandal. Why does your pet dog follow you everywhere you go? Because they love you and want your company.

There are no public traces of the creation of my user page and its contents. Not in the history of the user page or in the user contributions. It has been "oversight(ed)". Frank Schulenburg, the Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Public Outreach, knows about this. So does Community Fellow, Lennart Guldbrandsson, a.k.a. Hannibal. Neither have done anything whatsoever to undo the oversight which still stands, as of this writing.

Talk:Account Creation Improvement Project

With my user page created, I proceeded to make a comment on the above talk page, under the title "Clueless":

Please forgive me for intruding. I received a message posted by Lennart Guldbrandsson on foundation-l@list and was totally amazed by the pages' titles. They all had in common «Landing page» and that's how Lennart called them but they all contained different versions of the "Welcome message". That is very fine and interesting work, but I thought your project was dealing, as the name says, with "Account Creation". I believe Frank Schulenburg present the case for improvement very clearly in his "Account creation on Wikipedia and Facebook" pdf. It is amazing how people are still finding and clicking on "Create one" on UserLogin, "crear una nueva cuenta." on Entrar, "Créer un compte (facultatif)" on Connexion, or "Pode criar uma." on Entrar. Is this one more case of a project with a clear, well defined and narrow objective going completely haywire?

To save us all some valuable time, if you don't like these kind of questions and only welcome praise and pats in the back go ahead and block me to infinite right away, that will be fine with me for all I care.

Best regards,

Virgilio A. P. Machado

Vapmachado (talk) 00:45, 21 February 2011 (UTC)

Again, there are no public traces of me having made that comment. Not in the history of the talk page or in the user contributions. It was also "oversight(ed)", and again Frank Schulenburg, the Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Public Outreach, knows about this, as well as Community Fellow, Lennart Guldbrandsson, a.k.a. Hannibal. Neither have done anything whatsoever to undo the oversight which still stands, as of this writing.

Deletion and redacting

When I revisited Wikimedia Outreach, my user page had been deleted, my own name suppressed from my message and replaced by (Redacted).[2] An user that goes by the name of Mono had deleted my user page and my own name from my message, replacing it with (Redacted). Mono is a strange choice of user name if your mother tongue is Portuguese. It means monkey, an ugly, somber, stupid, unskilled individual, outdated merchandise, and also rag doll. He had been very active in the project since the beginning of the year. The project owed him a great deal for all his volunteer work, I realized that Wikimedia Outreach was just another typical Wikimedia project, and I wasn't willing to participate and get involved in another one of those. I deleted my comment, left (Redacted) in its place and moved on. There are no traces of this edit for the reasons already explained.

Hannnibal strikes back

Community Fellow, Lennart Guldbrandsson, a.k.a. Hannibal

Community Fellow, Lennart Guldbrandsson, a.k.a. Hannibal decided that he should be the one to decide where I should comment or not and undid my deletion of my own comment, with the argument "let's try to keep the discussion." adding a few lines, under the guise of answering my question.

Later that evening, Mono was busy fixing his previous work and creating my user talk page to let me know that "I have suppressed your user page, due to inappropriate personal information, such as phone numbers, home addresses, workplaces, etc. If you have any questions, please contact me. Mono (talk) 19:00, 21 February 2011 (UTC)".

Sue Gardner as special guest

On March 1st, since I wasn't allowed to deleted my own comment, I crossed it all out adding "Sorry. My mistake. Wrong project. Vapmachado (talk) 03:37, 1 March 2011 (UTC)" and summarizing my action as "Withdrawal of comment with apologies". This is the first action that is pubicly visible as my user contributions.

I proceeded to "Thank (Mono) so much for a job well done", writing "If you have any answers you would like to give someone, give them to Sue Gardner [3] :

Sue Gardner, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

"It's particularly hard to assess new editors' motivations and likelihood of sticking around productively when they don't have a userpage or their userpage doesn't have much information on it."

"I'd say that it'd be a service to all editors, if we could persuade new editors to offer at least some basic information about themselves. Premise being, even the act of providing the information would help us understand the new editor is serious (probably not a vandal, probably not a prankster), and the information that they give us might help us coach/orient/support them."

"To that end, I think it would be helpful for us to ask new editors to (optionally) tell us their gender, their age, the country they live in, and perhaps a little about their interests. We might also ask them to self-identify if they have expertise in a particular subject-matter. All that information would help Recent Changes Patrollers identify new editors who are non-vandals and non-pranksters, and it would also enable experienced editors find people they could usefully coach and support."

"I have also been thinking about whether we might want to encourage the use of userboxes or templates for new editor userpages, identifying those editors as new (and therefore calling for special leniency and encouragement), and possibly identifying them as members of groups that are underrepresented on Wikipedia (ie., women, editors outside Europe and North America, older editors, etc.). Userboxes/templates like that might already exist, in which case I think it might be a service to automate placing 'new editor' labels on new userpages, and to make 'underrepresented group' labels easier for new people to find and put on their pages."

Sue Gradner had written all this on a comment just before my question on the same talk page.

My farewell message to Mono: "Go ahead. Make my day. Do to Sue Gardner what you did to me. This is her "main user page": User:Sue Gardner. What an opportunity to show how a gutsy person you are.

Enjoy yourself. Virgilio A. P. Machado Vapmachado (talk) 03:57, 1 March 2011 (UTC)"

Messages were left to Frank Schulenburg, the Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Public Outreach and Community Fellow, Lennart Guldbrandsson, a.k.a. Hannibal: "For your information"

"You'll need to have a look at everything that "has been removed from public view" to get a full picture. Please remember to drop me a line that all has your full approval. You might not want to upset one of your more dedicated volunteers. On the other end it might be time to remove that line "Outreach Wiki needs you." It sounds so out of place. Have fun. Virgilio A. P. Machado. Vapmachado (talk) 04:12, 1 March 2011 (UTC)".

Last chapter

Later that March 1st, Mono had this much to say:

"The views expressed by Sue Gardner do not necessarily reflect the standing consensus on Wikimedia projects. I have restored your userpage, but please keep in mind that actions I took reflect the idea that the safety of Wikimedia contributors is a top priority. Thank you. Mono (talk) 20:48, 1 March 2011 (UTC)"

Restored my user page he had, just a few minutes before, 20:44, 1 March 2011, with this quite amazing summary: "restoring per request, it appears this user intended to out himself, removing personal address".

Frank Schulenburg, the Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Public Outreach

While Frank Schulenburg, the Wikimedia Foundation's Head of Public Outreach, was doing his best to stay out of the fray, it was left to Community Fellow, Lennart Guldbrandsson, a.k.a. Hannibal, to try to make amends, with some standard fare and a couple of lines addressing the situation that had developed or in his own words "background and answer":

"Hello, Thanks for your input. I have looked this situation over, and while I do not control this wiki any more than anyone else, I can tell you what my experience is in these kinds of situations: after more than ten years, Wikipedia and its sister projects have developed such a complex universe of opinions and policies that no-one can really be said to follow every guideline at any point. One editor may focus more on quality, and another on users' feelings. No-one, and both, are right. But since we need to co-exist here, we should each of us, take pains in understand the other one before we make drastic decisions. And I think that Sue concurs with me.

Let me rephrase it a little bit for clarity's sake: the first years Wikipedia existed, the goal was simply to have articles on every subject and people tried to get as many edits as they could. Then another phase came along, where most everybody was concerned with quality: they added more and more sources, and tried to get more scientists to contribute. Around 2009, the third phase started to grow, but it wasn't until 2011 that it has really come into full effect, and it is still not the dominant way of thinking, namely that we should focus on the users. After all, it's the users that create the content. We are right now in the process of trying to get more women to contribute to Wikipedia and its sister projects, for instance, At the same time, there are users who have been present since the beginning, and we shouldn't ignore their needs and wants either. And the compromise here is very difficult - for everybody. Not just for the newcomers who come into a culture that is well-established and complex and yes, a little rough sometimes, but for the veterans, who have seen every attempt at change Wikipedia before, and who have had good results with their present methods. Sue (and I) represent those who have looked at the developments here, and try to see how Wikipedia should (and need to) evolve in the upcoming years.

In conclusion, now that Mono has restored your user page and explained his/her reason for removing it in the first place, I trust that the situation has resolved itself, and that we all can get back to being productive both here and on other Wikimedia projects. Good luck//Hannibal (talk) 08:55, 2 March 2011 (UTC)

End of story

Let's get back to Mono's summary of 20:44, 1 March 2011, with this quite amazing text: "restoring per request, it appears this user intended to out himself, removing personal address".

I made no request for my user page to be restored. Allegedly, someone did (your guess is as good as mine) and was obeyed, making it sound more like an order than a request.

A most outlandish, gross, out of place and inappropriate comment was made ("it appears this user intended to out himself"). My user page did not out me, neither was that my intent. The same kind of information is available all over the Wikimedia projects and on the Web in general. I write my comments using my professional name (Virgilio A. P. Machado), an imperfect printed form of my signature of some 50 years (Vapmachado) and I've been a public figure for more than 35 years, with information about me in print and, more recently, in the Web. I've been "outed" a long time ago, and was never a closet anything.

P. O. Boxes, by Joe Mabel

Still eager to pick on something, Mono decided that "Apartado 313, 2826-801 Caparica" is my personal address, which he promptly remove while restoring my user page, leaving his famous mark "(Redacted)" in it's place. Well I regret to have to let you know that "Apartado 313, 2826-801 Caparica" is not my "personal address". It's one of my many mailing addresses. "Apartado" is the Portuguese word for Post Office or P.O. Box, and I can assure you that I never lived there. I hope to contribute to someone's knowledge of Portuguese, by leting you know that there are several ways to write "Apartment" in Portuguese, including "Apartamento", but again "Apartado" is not one of them. Furthermore if you want to know my address, I'm in the book, the phonebook, and if you want my number(s) all you have to do is call information. When you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, there's no need to hide yourself. Besides, I happen to live in a civilized country, a bit on the poor side, but civilized.

Moral of the story

There is no way I'm going to participate and get involved in anything where I have to put up with that kind of behavior from people that have a final say on anything I write. The same people that are holding hostages those that should and probably know better but don't have the guts to "fire" a volunteer. As long as he or she is slaving it out, they can keep collecting their fat paychecks.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."--Matthew v:3.

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