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.)

However, a few weeks ago I got an email from Steigmann that his resource had been deleted. I had not been paying attention to Wikiversity for some time, so I looked. He had been accused of abusive sock puppetry on Wikipedia, that referred to the Wikiversity resource, and claimed that Wikipedians could do nothing about it. Like any red-blooded male Wikipedia admin, one, who had been directly challenged, not only blocked a pile of socks on Wikipedia as being Steigmann (“Blastikus”), all without any actual checkuser confirmation of those socks, but went to Wikiversity and requested custodian action against Steignman, and a deletion discussion was opened.

(Wikiversity calls administrators “custodians.”)

A user appeared on Wikiversity, (“Sci-fi”) with no other activity anywhere (this is called a Single Purpose Account SPA, and if the purpose is to attack a target, I call it an “attack SPA”). While one Wikiversity custodian actually blocked that SPA,  for personal attacks, another demanded that he unblock, and when he wouldn’t, actually unblocked the fellow himself (which is called “wheel-warring,” and admins on Wikipedia can lose their tools for doing that).

Then that same admin, who had created the deletion discussion in response to a request for custodian action from that Wikipedia admin, closed the discussion (which is a bit improper as the nominator) and blocked Steigmann. And that is where it stood until I intervened.

At first I assumed that Steigmann had been up to mischief and reprimanded him, by email, for it. No. All those abusive socks were not him. He had done a little socking, the kind that, in the old days on Wikipedia, nobody would have noticed. But it had been noticed, by someone stalking Steigmann. That person, “Michael skater,”  had filed a Sock Puppet investigation on Blastikus.

And when little was being done, he then created an army of sock puppets pretending to be Steigmann. In fact, the Michael skater request was quite obviously disruptive, but his action with the sock puppets diverted attention from that. It worked.

Once I had a theory of what had happened, I went to the overall WikiMedia Foundation coordinating wiki, “meta,” and requested that a steward look at the accounts. “Steward” is the highest level of WMF functionary, and they can see private user information, which privilege is called “checkuser.” Ordinary site checkusers can only see local activity, but stewards can see this cross-wiki, and can even see raw account registrations anywhere in the system of 600 or so wikis.

Bingo. Impersonation socks. Michael skater had created them, and was also “Sci-fi-” the SPA who showed up to argue against Steigmann.

In that checkuser discussion, another SPA, “LadyDragoner” showed up, and also on Wikiversity, bombarding their “friendly custodian” with requests to deal with this horrible Abd monster. He tooka few actions, one of which was to block a user who informed me on my talk page he was sending me an email, and who was promptly “outed” (real life identity revealed) by one of these socks. The custodian’s response to that was to block the user outed and leave the offending sock army alone, and it was growing. The custodian then filed a checkuser request, desperate to keep Steigmann involved so that he wouldn’t be so terribly wrong. It was a cockamamie theory. Steigmann does some harmless socking on Wikipedia, not disruptive, a handful of edits (which he acknowledged), and then he files a checkuser request on himself? To get himself and a resource he worked on for years attacked? Really?

No. not involved. So that custodian finally unblocked Steigmann and apologized. However, he didn’t undelete the resource; it was necessary for me to create an undeletion request. He could simply have undeleted, because the basis for deletion had become completely moot (and a custodian can undo their own action without fuss.). But he didn’t. More socks showed up to scream. Various users removed their comments or tagged them. The resource was undeleted.

And I started a study of “SPA disruption” on Wikiversity, and they really started screaming, and threatened to bury Wikiversity in sock puppets. Charming. Stewards started undertaking enforcement actions on their own.

I filed another checkuser request for many of these.

All the same user. So who was this? Steigmann had long had enemies, that was obvious. Two of the original accounts tagged only had edits on Wikimedia Commons (where images for free use are hosted.) So I filed an admin request there. It was immediately actioned (I have a good relationship with many Commons admins), and an image of John Fuerst was deleted. This then caused a flap on RationalWiki, which links images from Commons; that flap was reported to me and I looked at it.

By this time, I had also been informed of a probable sock master, and all the pieces atarted to fit together. Interest in debunking pseudoscience, check. Interest in John Fuerst, check. Many other connections started to become visible to me. User uploads Fuerst image to Commons and then adds it to RationalWiki, check. And, something I could do then that I can’t do now: I could read deleted edits, as I had sysop privileges on RationalWiki, first time it was actually useful. The user had accidentally edited by IP, which was quickly concealed by an admin. Looking at Wikipedia editing, that IP had followed up on an article created by an identified sock puppet of the user called “Anglo Pyramidologist” (AP), see the Wikipedia Sock Puppet Investigation page.

And when I started to document AP on the meta wiki, toward creating possible global ban or long-term abuse process, then they attacked in force there, as well. “Force” simply means “a pile of sock puppets,” using hysterically reactive names (the hysterical socks) or names often following AP themes. That documentation was on a user page, not linked from anywhere, only visible to someone tracking my contributions. Many of these accounts were claiming to be independent, not connected as I was so disruptively claiming. (They claimed I had a vendetta against Anglo Pyramidologist, about whom I had known nothing shortly before.) So, another checkuser request. By this time it’s getting boring. All the same user, who routinely lies.

Demolished on meta, but famous for never letting go, the next event was not surprising. An article on me was written on RationalWiki.

This is where it gets more interesting. I had been a RationalWiki sysop since 2012. Because that community is so toxic, I mostly did nothing. Back in 2012, I worked on the cold fusion article there, and ran straight into David Gerard, who, at that time, was beginning to take control of RationalWiki. David Gerard is a long-time Wikipedia figure. He used to be a checkuser until his privileges were taken away, apparently for revealing private data. He mostly avoided serious conflict on Wikipedia, but on RationalWiki users may show more of their true colors, because gross incivility is often allowed. RationalWiki is how the “anti-pseudoscience” “anti-psychic,” etc., faction on Wikipedia can show how they actually think.

When I looked at the Wikipedia Sock Puppet Investigation page for Anglo Pyramidologist, I recognized certain names. Accounts which had attacked people I knew were there.

David Gerard had tried to remove my sysop privileges on RationalWiki, back in 2012, and had failed, because other moderators intervened. However, as someone highly technically competent, he became more and more central to RW operations.

This, then, brings me to a technique that had been used by the faction on Wikipedia. A user is identified as an enemy. An “attack dog,” a user willing to be grossly uncivil, is sent to disrupt that user’s activities. When the user responds as is common, then one of the factional administrators, now having cover, blocks the person. Sometimes the user does not respond, but the excuse is still used.

How it was done with me was that the attacker started revert warring with users on the cold fusion article. (I was not revert warring, just one revert in the sequence). Then he went to Requests for Page Protection to get the page protected to stop the revert warring (and complaining about me). Then he went back to the article, knowing it would take a few minutes for action, at least, and changed the article massively. And it worked. The page was protected into that version (which nobody in later process supported, not even him, it was so bad.) And then, when I began discussions on how to deal with this, a factional administrator showed up and banned both of us from editing the article or talk page. Too much talking, too much “disruption.” (But it was working, actual consensus was being found, the administrator ignored that, and instead changed the article under protection according to his own ideas.)

Eventually, I took this to the Arbitration Commitee, and he lost his tools. However, not specifically for that event, exactly, but for blocking me in the middle of the case raised over his right to ban me and to enforce the ban personally. Since he was a very popular administrator, ArbComm wanted a scapegoat, and with that entire faction (it’s a large one on Wikipedia) screaming for me to be banned, they picked me. Long story, it went on for more years before I was fully banned. By the same people.

(And this is a common Wikipedia problem. Taking an administrator to the Arbitration Committee is often wiki-suicide. They often shoot the messenger, who, not being an administrator, will be considered an outsider.)

That technique still works on RationalWiki. Most users don’t want to take the time to understand what is going on. If Abd is in conflict with many users, he must be the problem. In fact, this was almost entirely one user, but, then, one user with many accounts and supported by David Gerard, as became obvious.

More on that later.


Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


18 thoughts on “An avalanche of sock puppets”

  1. [This post is now thought to be from a troll who is not Axil. –Abd]

    Rumor has it that you (Abd) sock-puppeted LENR forum under the name “Sigmoidal”…

    1. Never heard that one. “Rumor” has it, eh? I have more than one account on LENR Forum, but once I was banned, I never used them except for the facility to filter out “read” posts, or once in a while to send a PM to someone who, I expect, will welcome it.

    2. As somone well familiar with sigmoidal and abd on LF there is no possibility they are the same user. Different style. Different content. stupid Runmour.

      1. [This post is now thought to be from a troll who is not Axil. –Abd]

        Both had an unhealthy focus on the Rossi trial, the rest of his content and rambling style being withheld to avoid detection. Allow Lomax some credit please, he is not stupid.

        The ‘Sigmoidal’ avatar also arrived in the week between Abd’s big blow up and his eventual banning. A classic parachute account.

        1. Axil:

          Sigmoidal was around for a long time, and his analysis was accurate. The Rossi trial was fascinating, and evidence from it made clear the extent of Rossi’s deceit. Focussing on this is entirely healthy for the avoidance of unwise investment, but unhealthy from the POV of Rossi, who no doubt would rather his future investors did not know about the duplicity of his past behaviour.

          Personally, I like transparency, which is why I have been very critical of Rossi’s highly untransparent tests. From Sigmoidal’s comments his motivation seemed pretty similar (though not identical) to mine.

          Your view implicit in the above comment that the Rossi Trial evidence should not be so emphasised is consistent with the idea that somehow the negative evidence about both Rossi’s business behaviour and the integrity of his tests should be suppressed. I don’t agree.

          1. [This post is now thought to be from a troll who is not Axil. –Abd]

            THH, you post above does not refute my central allegation in any way, nor does it offer any arguments as to why it is a ‘stupid runmour’ (sic).

            1. Final warning, Axil. Sea-lioning will not be tolerated here. The proposal was ridiculous, and the evidence you offered was simply incorrect. This would also be the silliest place on the planet to make that claim.

              1. “wiki” means “quick,” and the structure, designed for quick editing, might as well have been designed to create drama. “anonymous editing” was anti-professional, and the structure was anti-bureaucratic, all characteristic of the open-sourced software movement, where products work or don’t work and the collaborating group is small. Experts are commonly blocked on Wikipedia, and much of the community was ontologically and pedagogically unsophisticated. As the wiki grew, the work load for administrators grew, and this attracted obsessives, the work can be endless. And then anyone who is seen as an obstacle to that is an enemy, to be excluded, banned. Which doesn’t work with other obsessives, just as stubborn. The black and white response of Wikipedia administration (block or ignore, largely), which moved away from structured responses (such as mentorship), led to the creation of sock puppets, and the admin response to socking was, again, black and white. With increased — insane — enforcement effort, persistent users learned to evade checkuser, when they wanted to, and only use open, easy access for throwaway accounts. It is impossible, with the given structure, to prevent this.

                The goal diverged from the creation of a free encyclopedia, toward empowerment of the existing dominant group(s). When I found how deeply this autocracy was embedded, and how corrupt it had become, how far from the original ideals it had moved, I abandoned Wikipedia, making, for a short time, a few tests as IP and then with one sock. So, with one actual sock, not disruptively editing (other than violating a “community topic ban”, I was “community site-banned” by a screaming mob, whereas with about 180 socks, plus the recent ones misidentified on Wikipedia (because, again, of knee-jerk, nonprofessional administration), many of them highly disruptive, Anglo Pyramidologist has never been banned, just blocked 180 times or more. The problem is not Anglo Pyramidologist, but the community and structure that empowers such a user, long after the agenda becomes obvious. This becomes highly visible on RationalWiki, which is why I’m studying it.

                There are still intelligent and very well-motivated users active on Wikipedia, but, largely, they have drunk the Kool-Aid. So, the relatively unsupervised structure is vulnerable to “paid editors.” Instead of seeing this as a generic problem, editors with a bias, and addressing that, the focus becomes narrow, on identifying who has been paid and blocking them. In theory, all that is required by the TOS is disclosure of conflict of interest, but this is narrowly interpreted, sometimes — and sometimes not. Most professional editors, apparently, have found that disclosure is counterproductive. This is, again, classic in situations where there is no true dispute resolution, only fast decision. I argued before the Arbitration Committee that any user claiming expertise about a topic should be considered COI (i.e., to have a conflict of interest), and then they would be, not harrassed, but protected. They would strictly be prohibited from revert warring or incivility. They would be trained and supported in that. I.e., if someone is an expert on something, and Randy from Boise makes a stupid edit, they would not call it that, they would be warned if they did, but they would only rarely be more than short-blocked. Experts would be allowed to freely advise the community, and they might be allowed a special account that would be tagged as COI, with the COI explained on the User page.

                That would be a creation of structure to supply what is missing, at least one piece of it. So someone has a COI on Monsanto, being employed there. Their opinion is important. But articles must be based on what is in reliable source, and the ultimate judge of that should not have a COI. The article should be generally readable, and the judge of that would not be experts, but ordinary people — or very skilled editors, still not topic experts.

                Could this be done? Of course it could! I demonstrated it, resolving conflicts on Wikipedia; that activity was prohibited by ArbComm with an indefinite ban without any showing of any prior disruption. Why? It’s obvious: they don’t want conflicts actually resolved, and we can suspect it is because conflict is their raison d’etre. The “cabal” then deleted the evidence of what I’d done. That just happened on RationalWiki, where it is all more in the open and more blatant, but similar tactics were used on Wikipedia, but what amounts to the same faction, those promoting “SPOV” as distinct from “NPOV.” Scientific Point of View — vs. Neutral Point of View. (On RationalWiki, they also explain SPOV as “Snarky Point of View”) Scientists actually tend to write from NPOV, at least the best, the most professional, “Academic tone.” in any case. They are aware of the difference between fact (observational reports) and interpretation. The so-called SPOV takes a body of interpretation, called “scientific knowledge,” and de-legitimates anything that appears to contradict it, i.e., the unknown. This is also called “pseudoskepticism.” RationalWiki, in general, laughs at that word, claiming that it is only the frothing at the mouth of “pseudoscientists,” to attack sanity, i.e., their point of view. In fact, that term was brought into common use by Marcello Truzzi, a skep;tic’s skeptic, one of the founders of CSICOP. To him, “scientific investigation” meant actually testing paranormal claims, not merely figuring out excuses for dismissing it, which “debunking” is, too often. (Reporting fact is not debunking, per se, but cherry-picking facts, and excluding evidence, might be.)

                1. Abd – as you noted, this structure comes from the open software movement, which is small groups of people who share ethics and trust each other (or at least the people they are actually working with). This structure, when the people are suited, is very productive as regards both volume of work and its quality. When I worked in such a design group at Xerox, our productivity was greater than a more-traditional structure with more than 4 times the number of people. It was also great fun. It does however depend on the size being pretty small, and probably starts to break down once the number of people in the group exceeds 15-20, and can be screwed up by bad management. It only takes one bad apple to sour the rest.

                  It’s thus unsurprising that trying to expand this to all comers was going to cause problems.

                  Cherry-picking facts is something humans do, whether by accident (not knowing enough) or design (knowing the counter-evidence and ignoring it). Sometimes people take the same underlying idea and give it a new name, and thus produce a fork where people disagree for no good reason. I can’t see a difference between the idea of Aether and Einstein’s space-time, for example – they both define an underlying *something* that fills space and can be distorted, and a lot of the properties coincide (as they have to since what we see is experimental fact). Whereas the logical response is simply to use the theory that gives the better answer until we can distinguish which one is experimentally wrong in its predictions, instead people choose to believe in one or the other and thus stand a greater chance of being wrong than right, since there are other possible structures postulated and there’s no guarantee that any of them are actually right. Following majority consensus (Einstein’s space-time) will likely give the most-confirmed predictions, but as with all theories it can be disproved by one experimental result. Note that the famous Michelson-Morley experiment was logically doomed to produce a null result, whether or not the Aether was moving or space-time was anisotropic, since the light moved exactly the same distance forwards and backwards in each leg of the interferometer. Unless there is a second-order (or higher) effect the fringes wouldn’t move.

                  Arguments between people who believe things that are incompatible can develop into fights or full-scale battles. The SPOV should avoid believing in theory and simply accept it as the best we know so far, and subject to change as new evidence appears. Not enough people retain that level of uncertainty, which is one reason why Cold Fusion has the problems it does.

                  1. Yes. What became, for me, my primary and continual study — still — is how the brain works (and doesn’t work). And then, how this affects social interaction, there are collective effects, and how what actually works may be harnessed for transformation.

                    I just ran across a statement allegedly from Jimbo Wales, often called the founder of Wikipedia, though it was actually co-founded with Sanger — who became a strong critic for all the obvious reasons.

                    It’s not just individuals who are subject to harassment; entire fields of scientific and medical research are being targeted [e.g. Dysfunction at Wikipedia on Homeopathic Medicine, Huffington Post]. In 2014 the ACEP went so far as to create a formal petition demanding changes to Wikipedia policies which 11,519 people signed. How did Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, respond to all these people?

                    No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful. Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

                    What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

                    One might argue that Jimmy Wales is simply ignorant of the facts or in denial of the sickness that’s taken hold of his creation, but the tone and content of his response falls right in line with the disruptive, head-in-the-sand, bully editors which inspired this petition in the first place.

                    Wales’ arrogance, assuming he actually wrote that, stands out, and I’ve seen this before from, say, professionals in a field faced with a challenge. He assumes that “policy” has anything to do with the complaint. Wikipedia does have excellent policies, but something is missing: reliable enforcement. I have not looked at that petition, but I have seen — and regularly see when I look at disputes on Wikipedia — that policy goes out the window, particularly when an editorial faction that includes administrators is involved. (And there is actually a policy that supports that, WP:IAR, which then punts to definitions of “improve,” which are subjective.) Jimbo isn’t what he wants others to be: honest, factual, truthful.

                    To be fair, he likely believes what he said, the failure is hubris, the ready assumption that over 11,000 people are ignorant. They might be. But did he carefully consider the complaint? Did he look for how it might have a factual basis? I have never seen that he has been willing to look at the core Wikipedia Problem, preferring instead to stand with the trope that “the community will handle it.” Yet, as structured, “the community” is often little more than a mob, shouting down dissenting voices, or, at best, ignoring them.
                    He could change this, if he were to wake up and smell the coffee. It would not be easy. The entrenched would scream bloody murder. However, power has shifted to the WMF Board and the Office has been intervening of late. It’s not necessarily an improvement, but there are possibilities that did not exist before.

                    1. Abd – as always, the first thing you have to do to get a problem fixed is to get the people in charge to admit that there is indeed a problem. That can take a while, even when everyone at the sharp end knows that the problem is there.

                      Fairly early in my time as a Failure Analyst, we had the pretty large (and embarrassing) problem of copiers being effectively DOA when the optics drive failed on first switch-on by customers who installed it themselves. The reason was that they didn’t RTFM and remove the pin that fixed the optics carriage during transport, and so there were other logical ways to fix the problem, but since we made the board that failed it was our problem. I showed that the current-limiting circuit actually pushed the drive transistors out of SOAR, and that removing one resistor would solve the problem since the power-supply was well-protected and the firmware gave up driving after a fairly short time if it didn’t see the carriage move. It took around 2 years to get the design group to admit that the current-limiting circuitry was the cause of the problem and to stop adding the sense-resistor in, and thus make the problem go away.

                      On the other hand, a problem with bottomside pad-design on one board that gave us around a 2% failure rate of flow-solder was never acknowledged as a design problem. I re-laid the board and showed that the problem went away, but the design group never did update their pad library, and so that problem will continue to occur on new boards – whereas the old pads worked OK-enough with Tin-Lead solder, the Lead-free solders required different criteria and shapes of pad to do the job right. Incidentally a 2% failure rate is massive where <300ppm is the target.

                      If people don't acknowledge that there's a problem, it will continue. Reality just is, whether you believe it or not.

                      There are always problems in real life. In business, where there are computable benefits to fixing them, making a list of the problems reported and costing them to give a hit-list in order of what to attack first is a good strategy. Still, it's necessary to admit there's a problem first.

                    2. Sure. In fact, my long-time habit, encountering what claims to be “community-run” is to ask about the actual power structure. Often members of the community have no idea what actually is going on. They simply trust the defacto management. On a wiki, in theory, the “community” is in charge, but actual practice can be quite different. There are, in fact, animals that are more equal than others. But many in the “community,” including those with defacto power, deny this. Almost always, those with long experience — and intelligence — come to see it, and often they retire in disgust or simple realization that they will always be pushing the boulder up the hill and it will always run down, and only by continued effort can anything be maintained. That is not how to build a reliable encyclopedia! It was how to build one quickly. Wiki-wiki. An unmanageable monster was created, and sooner or later, someone is going to eat their lunch. It’s not difficult to imagine how. Just harness Wikipedia to build saleable content. It’s all been designed for easy re-use. Then add a superstructure with paid editing that cleans it up, using expert review. Fund it with targeted advertising that would also be “reliable.” Goog;e is already reselling Wikipedia content, effectively.

        2. Sigmoidal registered on LENR Forum, October 31, 2016. My last post there was written December 8, 2016, when I declared a boycott. I was banned immediately, very little delay, which I thought was utterly hilarious. (You can’t quit, you’re fired!)

          Perhaps Axil has in mind the earlier short ban, which I thought was an error at first and for which there was an apology because it actually was an error, apparently. That earlier ban was immediate for a post on November 19, 2016. Axil, Your user research sucks. There was no “week” and there was no “big blow-up.”

  2. I do not understand the complicated Wikipedia machinations you describe, with sock-puppets, committees and so on. However, it sounds like a waste of time. It seems clear to me that the people in charge do not want you to contribute. They don’t want your input. From your description, the structure of these Wiki sites leaves them open to disruption by sock puppetry and other techniques. So I do not understand why you want to contribute. The Internet is large. You can contribute to other web sites, such as this one, which are not open to politically motivated attacks.

    I understand that Wikipedia attracts a lot of views. Perhaps Wikiversity does as well? It would be nice if we could edit such sites. I have not reviewed the Wikipedia cold fusion article in many years, but in the past it was garbage. I wish we could fix it. But we cannot, any more than we can fix the version of cold fusion in Scientific American or Nature. That’s a shame, but life is too short to worry about such things.

    I once made a tongue-in-cheek attempt to add a cold fusion article to Wikipedia. I knew it would be deleted as quickly as I wrote, so I preserved the text in my computer. Ludwik Kowalski kept a copy:

    1. Jed, I have positive contacts with the owner of Wikipedia (the WMF). I have never attempted to use them. The Wikipedia structure is massively dysfunctional, vulnerable to domination by factions, under some conditions, which occurred with cold fusion and more than a few topics.

      Wikiversity does not attract many views. I get more than an order of magnitude more views from my Quora Answers. Much more, I think. Better cold fusion articles can be written on Wikiversity without a problem, and it is possible that they could replace the Wikipedia article, but I’ve been suggesting this for years and nobody has cared enough to do more than occasional editing on minor subpages of the Wikiversity resource.

      Basically, the faction is vulnerable, but it would take community action to overcome their resistance, and what appeared of that was always feeble and too little. Basically, it would take people who know and understand Wikipedia policy and how to work within the system. There is a skeptical group, “Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia,” which knows some of this, though my opinion is that they also might be violating policy, or supporting some who do, and have merely gotten away with it. That is connected with the sock ring I’ve been confronting.

      Realize that to do this, I needed to raise steward attention. I have years of experience with this, and what I did was totally within policy and within political reality. And anyone could do it, if they knew how. On Wikipedia, the faction managed to get the experienced users interested in cold fusion banned, even though they had not actually been disruptive. Pcarbonn, for example. (It is all plainly visible if one cares to read the history, but wiki history can be incredibly complex.) That success was political, knowing how to run a mob (including an Arbitration Committee process, which is only a little better than pure mob rule, too often). Those who show up on the cold fusion article to improve it — against the problems that are obvious to anyone who knows the field — generally don’t know how Wikipedia works, what “reliable source” actually means, etc., and they are easily picked off by the experienced faction.

      “We cannot” is a story that fully disempowers us. I don’t accept it. We can, but will we choose to invest what it will take?

  3. Abd – not a lot of relevance to cold fusion, except that the machinations of sock-puppetry apply to a lot of the posts on CF too.

    It seems to me that anyone using sock-puppets is up to no good. I can understand the need for anonymity on the net, though it’s nicer if you know who you are talking to. On the other hand one person/entity having a lot of identities seems to have no valid purpose except to try to swing opinions by having a lot of apparent voices agreeing. The same thoughts apply to the bots putting up “opinions” on other social media platforms.

    Since Google (and others) have ways to identify a single computer or phone by the OS and apps on that machine, and there’s also a unique processor ID on a lot of high-end boxes now, then identifying someone by their IP address alone is old hat and was always a bit unsure as well (log off the ISP and log on, and you normally get a fresh IP address). These days, therefore, if you use the tools available (though I don’t know where you’d get those tools from), you can identify socks as belonging to one machine and then decide what to do about it. Personally, I’d ban someone who used socks as being untrustworthy. One person, one voice. That user can put in as many comments as they want, but it’s identifiable as one person’s opinion.

    The use of socks is like trying to get more votes in politics, so that your opinions have more weight than others. Most people don’t have enough spare time to get involved in politics, of course, so there it’s only the people who have strong opinions who tend to go into it in order to get into a position where they can control what others do. They Know What’s Best For Us. Most of us, as far as I can see, don’t give a damn what other people do provided it doesn’t affect us – they can have any religion or sexual mores that they desire and providing they don’t expect us to join in it doesn’t matter. If instead they want to run our lives according to their ideas, that’s another thing altogether.

    Socks are trying to shout louder than anyone else, and I dislike people that shout.

    1. There is more relevant to cold fusion when I continue the story. if you look at the article created on me, (apparently as retaliation), currently the fourth google hit for “Abd ul-Rahman Lomax,” you can see it. As well, behind this — or using it for his purposes — is a prominent Wikipedian, and there are connections to a Wikipedia faction that has been sitting on the Wikipedia cold fusion article for years. This particular sock master is not directly connected with that, he is a loose cannon who pretends to be a skeptic, but the more general issue would be pseudoskepticism as a belief, impervious to evidence (often denying that any evidence exists on a topic, that what they call “pseudoscience” is all “woo” and no evidence).

      The sock master knows nothing about cold fusion, simply asserts what he has seen pseudoskeptics claim. In the full story, this will be shown.

      However, this topic is arcane. That happens when one studies a subject for many years, as I have studied cold fusion — and as I have studied and experience wiki process. Under those conditions, communication can be difficult with people who are not familiar with it. This is not going to be explored in depth as blog posts, but rather with pages with only occasional reference to them in blog posts. There is enough relevance to justify that, but not to allow domination of the blog, which is front-page.

    2. As to sock identification, anyone with access to server logs can gather IP and user agent information (which includes details on the machine, but not machine identity, per se.). The MediaWiki checkuser function provides that information through a user interface, and the WMF requires real-life identification to have checkuser access because of privacy concerns. I know a great deal about how that works, about policies and how they have been abused, etc., and how checkuser fails — in both directions.

      Checkusers on WMF wikis do not disclose much of what they can see, and report results about comparisons between users. In my most recent request, there was a user they were not sure about. The user was probably using an open proxy, which will, then, shift IP. It is also possible to spoof user agent information, there are tools for doing that. However, with throwaway accounts, which the SPAs are, the user may not bother. My guess is that this remaining account was created to attempt to evade checkuser. It didn’t work. On discussion, the stewards decided to consider the connection for that user likely (and the account was globally locked). Exactly what evidence they relied on, they are not going to say. Behaviorally, this was the same user. It is very possible that this is not literally the same person, but a member of the same family, sometimes using the same internet access and/or computer. However, in the family of socks I have examined, there appear to be distinct sets of interests and behavioral patterns. And then there are cross-overs, where one of the users with a distinct set of interests characteristic of one pattern, then edits disruptively — or even non-disruptively — within the another pattern.

      A user might be taking precautions and then slip. It only takes one slip.

      (There is no specific computer identification, see this site with information:

      At this point, I cannot clearly distinguish between the two alleged brothers and a sister claimed to be distinct people, and a single person pretending to be one of two brothers and a sister. My suspicion is inclining to multiple family members who sometimes blame the others, and who sometimes help each other out. Real families can be like that!

      At this point, Wikipedia admins have blamed an innocent user for recent disruptive sock activity, not his, which was the purpose of that activity. They were naive, gullible. Happens. Eventually, I will act to see that this is corrected, — I began that process — but it is not urgent because, on Wikipedia, that relatively innocent user was blocked and has no right to edit there, and currently no interest in it. What I did was intervene when the damage went cross-wiki, and targeted Wikiversity, which is the bastion of academic freedom in the WMF wiki family.

      That academic freedom is important to cold fusion.

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