Friday, March 16, 2007

 

Throwing the Baby out with the Bathwater

Something I just posted to The Village Pump on Wikipedia:

My attention was drawn to an edit on my Talk page, and as I researched the facts around it, I became more troubled at what happened. Maybe I'm behind the times, coming from left field, etc., but I don't like what I have found.

First, I am against spam -- in Wikipedia, in my email, anywhere. No reputable business knowingly uses spam to advertise, pure and simple.

However, it appears that it is far easier for a website to be listed as a spammer than it is to remove it. In the case I encountered, someone on an IRC channel claimed that the website "touregypt.net" was identified as a target of a spammer. Another Wikipedian (who, I want to point out, was acting in good faith) acted on this claim and began to "delink" every link to that website, without regard to who added it; the editor obviously was working as fast as she could. (By "delink" I mean that a nowiki tag was inserted so that one could not click-thru; one could still follow the link by copying the text of the URL into the browser.)

As a result, in several articles, talk pages, and many other places where it was clearly part of the context we lost references (I believe several of these edits have since been reverted).

Note: I have no problem with IRC being used to quickly respond to emergencies. In this case, if a spammer had been obviously adding links to this website in Wikipedia, alerting Admins to this fact would be very much appropriate, but then the site should be nominated on the spam list, and discussion follow before it is added.

This editor was contacted by several established & knowledgable Wikipedias, who demanded an explanation. She explained about the IRC channel, & referred them to this site on meta, where the website had been listed without any sign of a discussion that I have been able to find. This forum for discussion is not well-publicized (unlike, for example, WP:AfD), and a Wikipedian can contribute for a long period of time without even knowing meta.wikipedia.org even exists. However, there is currently a petition by a number of Wikipedians (some who have demonstrated extensive knowledge of Egyptology) to remove this website from the spam list.

In short, four things happened that I think are wrong:
  1. This website was blacklisted on the basis of something said in off-Wikipedia locale. Not every Wikipdian has access to IRC, or chooses too use it. Further, in a recent ArbCom ruling, it was found that Wikipedia IRC channels are not part of Wikipedia. If you want to set policy for Wikipedia, do it on Wikipedia where the rest of us can be expected to participate.
  2. Unless it is clearly the work of a spammer, don't "delink" the links. This is not a subjective judgement call: there are some very simple rules one can follow:
    In short, four things happened that I think are wrong:
  3. This website was blacklisted on the basis of something said in off-Wikipedia locale. Not every Wikipdian has access to IRC, or chooses too use it. Further, in a recent ArbCom ruling, it was found that Wikipedia IRC channels are not part of Wikipedia. If you want to set policy for Wikipedia, do it on Wikipedia where the rest of us can be expected to participate.
  4. Unless it is clearly the work of a spammer, don't "delink" the links. This is not a subjective judgement call: there are some very simple rules one can follow:
    A. All of the edits are made by the same person;
    B. if it's in the "External links" section; or
    C. the link is added without regard to context.
  5. Concerned editors were forced to find out why these edits were made, then forced to find the location (which was unexpected) where they could participate in the decision process.
  6. Lastly, despite obvious clues to the contrary, they bear the burden of proof that the links are ''not'' spam.

As I said above, I admit that I may be out of the loop here. However, I feel that this is a violation of the spirit of Wikipedia -- where we discuss and create concensus upon matters. Some Wikipedians claim that they are smart enough to know when they can safely ignore all rules; in this case, I think it is clear that rules were ignored and stupid edits were made.


Geoff

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Comments:
ha! you leave 246 talk page questions about 'weedconnection.com' additions from a range of IPs and one-use accounts! me, i simply remove em, it isn't too hard to see they are spam. and you list 6 things, not 4.
 
interesting. I actually had the site linked on my userpage, for a totally trivial reason (used as a reference for a hieroglyphic); the diff clearly shows I added it myself in a non-spammy way. She delinked it, but I didn't worry too much one way or the other about this apparent overkill. Interesting how it was done near-robotically and with no apparent understanding of what nofollow means, though. -- brassratgirl
 
Phoebe, she might have been using a bot or a plug-in to her browser like AWB to make the reversions. But allowing for that, I am puzzled that she never paused in her reversions to wonder why a spammer might target those pages.

Geoff
 
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