Gateway to Chaos, Confusion, and Complexity

I spent years as a very active Wikipedia editor. My contributions there don’t reflect well the level of work that I did — some users accumulate large edit counts with brief reverts based on immediate appearances, it’s very quick, sometimes even computer-assisted, I once tracked the contributions of an administrator who obviously sat at his computer pressing Save several times a minute for simple edits suggested by a program. He did this for many hours.

You can see the total numbers of my contributions on all WMF wikis on the global account display. Because my “community ban” on Wikipedia has come up recently– the situation being misrepresented in the new RationalWiki article on me — I will cover this on a page here, Wikipedia/Bans/Abd (draft, not complete)

There is a theme, revenge. In theory, Wikipedia is not a battleground. In practice, it is. Continue reading “Gateway to Chaos, Confusion, and Complexity”

An avalanche of sock puppets

The last few weeks I have been investigating disruption on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. This has a peripheral relationship to cold fusion. I’ll get to that.

For years, I was active on Wikiversity, supporting that community to build deep resources on sometimes-controversial subjects. Wikiversity, like all the WMF wikis, has a neutrality policy, but Wikipedia enforces it by, in theory, excluding the expression of points of view by users; rather, Wikipedia depends on “reliable sources,” with editors merely reporting what is in them, with emphasis on the “mainstream view.”

Wikiversity, instead, allows users to create resources and express opinions, and handles neutrality by attribution and framing. It is thus closer to a university library, including lecture notes of seminars and student work, which can be “primary source,” and can include opinion and unsourced analysis.

Some years back, I supported the creation of a Wikiversity resource on Parapsychology, because there were scientists and others interested in the topic.  I designed this to be neutral, and created a subpage for a young user who wanted to create his own list of sources on the topic, this was Ben Steigmann, who had gotten into trouble on Wikipedia and was blocked there. The user happily worked on his resource, and was not, in the least, disruptive on Wikiversity. However, the resource was attacked, a number of times. These attacks were always handled, it is not difficult on Wikiversity, if a resource has been created with care.

(I should add that I’m highly skeptical of many claims called “parapsychological,” but, then again, so are at least some parapsychologists. Parapsychology is a field of investigation, not a body of belief.) Continue reading “An avalanche of sock puppets”

Joshua Schroeder on pseudoscience on Wikipedia

Re: Joshua Schroeder on pseudoscience on Wikipedia

Postby Abd » Wed Oct 04, 2017 7:15 pm

(publication privacy removed November 1, 2017 … originally announced on an obscure fringe science forum, on the date above.)

I thought carefully about whether or not to announce this. Joshua P. Schroeder has taken extraordinary measures to attempt to make it difficult to research his activities, claiming harassment. He was a visiting professor, and his university profile had the office phone numbers removed, very unusual. He has also changed his real-life name and has now published a journal article with the new name. Sites have had articles about him taken down because of claims of privacy and copyright violations.

However, he is still active on Wikipedia in a similar manner as before, and he has never taken responsibility for the messes he created. His Wikipedia faction simply found ways to enable him, in spite of blatant and obvious violations of Wikipedia policy. Further, science depends very much on personal reputations, that is behind the standard trust in scientist probity — which he attacked. Scientists make mistakes, it’s common. But if they lie, fake data, or use grossly misleading arguments, that could be their career, over just like that. He has attacked professional scientists because they state opinions contrary to his, not just their alleged errors. So here goes.

He currently signs his posts “jps,” hiding his monstrously complex user name, and belying the claim he makes that he does not want to be judged by his user name, (since “jps” is broadly recognized as him), See his current user page at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:9SGjOSfyHJaQVsEmy9NS. He has an incomplete list of account names at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:9SGjOSfyHJaQVsEmy9NS/Previous_Account_Names

It is incomplete because it does not include his identified sock puppets. I’m going to track his “legit” accounts back. I am not giving the sock puppet account names because they are largely moot, but the claims in his Wikipedia unblock discussion that he had not socked for two years were false, and known to be false by some at the time.

The tool (for recent name changes):

18:53, 9 January 2017 K6ka globally renamed WoKrKmFK3lwz8BKvaB94 to 9SGjOSfyHJaQVsEmy9NS
15:56, 29 August 2016 Avraham globally renamed I9Q79oL78KiL0QTFHgyc to WoKrKmFK3lwz8BKvaB94
21:01, 5 January 2015 DerHexer globally renamed QTxVi4bEMRbrNqOorWBV to I9Q79oL78KiL0QTFHgyc

before this, renaming was local to Wikipedia, and the old logs are more primitive. Finding the change requires knowing the old user name. So there is another way, looking for Talk edits of the user with signatures. The current contributions log and page history will show the current user name, and signatures show what was current at the time. So this takes me back to
Previously ScienceApologist
Vanished User 314159 from his user page list, no edits. Missing from user rename log. Probably hidden
ScienceApologist
Joshua P. Schroeder is missing from the user rename log. Probably hidden.
ScienceApologist
Joshuaschroeder … is also missing from the user rename log. Probably hidden.

http://outreach.astro.columbia.edu/aboutus/index.html still has jps at Columbia in New York. That is a red herring.
He obtained his PhD in 2014 and was a visiting professor at St. Lawrence University for about a year. He is currently “living and working in Santiago, Chile at the Instituto de Astrofísica — Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.” http://www.astro.puc.cl/~jschroed/, the page is titled “Joshua Tan (né Schroeder)”. Another page on that institution site gives his name as Joshua P. Schroeder, and the credentials match. All this information (and more) is available in public documents.
Schroeder is one pseudoskepic out of many, why has he aroused such outrage? It’s easy to see in his Wikipedia interactions. He did not argue for following Wikipedia policy, he argued massively and at length, over many years, against neutrality policy, and he clearly violated policies to oppose other users, especially civility policy.
He stirred up conflict, often trolling others into reacting and then being blocked or banned, thus warping the consensus process by which Wikipedia hopes to achieve neutrality, and I know of an example where an estimate of damage was truly enormous, with a possible lost opportunity cost from delay in recognizing old errors that could be a trillion dollars per year. Or maybe not, but it is possible.
Those are questions that are being resolved in time, and how important Wikipedia is in this is questionable.
In the mainstream peer-reviewed journals, setting aside a few exceptions (journals that reject articles without review), it’s over. What “jps” considers fringe pseudoscience is accepted, papers are being published, etc., including secondary source reviews that theoretically would be golden as reliable source for Wikipedia.
But the “information cascade” on cold fusion remains for many, and the Wikipedia article is over ten years out of date, repeating “facts” that were true at one time, but that became untrue over the next two decades.
Meanwhile we are each responsible for our own actions, and hiding does not change that. Actually cleaning up the mess can help. Science does not function in the shadows.