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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Admins should not be anonymous

SlimVirgin update. I feel like I should be typing this kind of post in a darkened new york apartment with furious clicks and dings, chainsmoking, and sending out a telegram -- yes ! a telegram ! -- to my editor before the morning presses start.

So, Dear Reader, on the Q.T....

Kelly Martin smells a rat.
The exact details of the rumors that are spreading like wildfire now may not be accurate, but I'd be totally unsurprised to find out that SlimVirgin is somehow connected to the the Flight 103 bombings. Why else would she have all of her edits to such topics disappeared?...SlimVirgin, a little advice: the only way out of this situation is to abandon your account. This drama will surround you indefinitely; the only way for it to end is for you to start completely fresh with a new one. You won't be able to suppress all discussion of this indefinitely, and the more you try the more people will be convinced of the truth of the allegations. You've made this bed; now you must sleep in it.

And J.W. (Wales, that is) has commented on the lists:
In this particular case, due to some really spectacular nonsense, this is being treated as evidence that a private person who has been badly harassed by stalkers and lunatics is... a former spy? Please.

Many editors at Wikipedia have been involved in dealing with extraordinarily crazy people. Some of these people are dangerous in real life. Some of them have made direct physical threats. Others have made phone calls to people's employers. Others have done some homemade self-styled "investigative journalism" that any rational and kind person would see as being what it really is: abusive stalking.

I fully support the right of the Wikipedia community to protect itself from those kinds of lunatics by giving support to those who need to maintain their privacy.

I'm going to come out and say that Wikipedia administrators should not be anonymous. Editors, sure. Admins? Absolutely not. Their real names should be listed. Not admins on the Chinese language Wikipedia, of course, or anywhere there's politcal repression. But elsewhere, the police can protect you from crazy people. My name, phone number and address have been online for 5 years, and (to my disappointment) I've yet to attract a stalker.

Admins have tremendous influence within Wikipedia. They were originally intended to be enlightened, ideologically neutral "janitors" whose powers were used only to conduct tasks too tedious for ordinary editors. But where software endows power, no man can take it away. Or, rather more specifically, when the deletion process is a "consensus", not a vote, and admins are the only people who get to decide when a consensus has been reached and push the big red button, guess who has disproportionate sway?

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