SOS Wikipedia

Original post

I’ve been working on some studies that involve a lot of looking at Wikipedia, and I come across the Same Old S … ah, Stuff! Yeah! Stuff!

Wikipedia has absolutely wonderful policies that are not worth the paper they are not written on, because what actually matters is enforcement. If you push a point of view considered fringe by the administrative cabal (Jimbo’s word for what he created … but shhhh! Don’t write the word on Wikipedia, the sky will fall!) you are in for some, ah, enforcement. But if you have and push a clear anti-fringe point of view — which is quite distinct from neutrally insisting on policy — nothing will happen, unless you go beyond limits, in which case you might even get blocked until your friends bail you out, as happened with jps, mentioned below. Way beyond limits.

So an example pushed against my eyeballs today. It’s not about cold fusion, but it shows the thinking of an administrator (JzG is the account but he signs “Guy”) and a user (the former Science Apologist, who has a deliberately unpronounceable username but who signs jps (those were his real-life initials), who were prominent in establishing the very iffy state of Cold fusion.


Aron K. Barbey ‎[edit]

Before looking at what JzG (Guy) and UnpronounceableUsername (jps) wrote, what happened here? What is the state of the article and the user?

First thing I find is that Aron barbey wrote the article and has almost no other edits. However, he wrote the article on Articles for creation. Looking at his user talk page, I find

16 July 2012, Barbey was warned about writing an article about himself, by a user declining a first article creation submission.

9 July 2014, it appears that Aron barbey created a version of the article at Articles for Creation. That day, he was politely and properly warned about conflict of interest.

The article was declined, see 00:43:46, 9 July 2014 review of submission by Aron barbey

from the log found there:

It appears that the article was actually originally written by Barbey in 2012. See this early copy, and logs for that page.

Barbey continued to work on his article in the new location, and resubmitted it August 2, 2014

It was accepted August 14, 2014.  and moved to mainspace.

Now, the article itself. It has not been written or improved by someone with a clue as to what Wikipedia articles need. As it stands, it will not withstand a Articles for deletion request. The problem is that there are few, if any, reliable secondary sources. Over three years after the article was accepted, JzG multiply issue-tagged it. Those tags are correct. There are those problems, some minor, some major. However, this edit was appalling, and the problem shows up in the FTN filing.

The problems with the article would properly suggest AfD if they cannot be resolved. So why did JzG go to FTN? What is the “Fringe Theory” involved? He would go there for  one reason: on that page the problems with this article can be seen by anti-fringe users, who may then either sit on the article to support what JzG is doing, or vote for deletion with opinions warped by claims of “fringe,” which actually should be irrelevant. The issue, by policy would be the existence of reliable secondary sources. If there are not enough, then deletion is appropriate, fringe or not fringe.

So his filing:

The article on Aron Barbey is an obvious autobiography, edited by himself and IP addresses from his university. The only other edits have been removing obvious puffery – and even then, there’s precious little else in the article. What caught my eye is the fact that he’s associated with a Frontiers journal, and promulgates a field called “Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience”, which was linked in his autobiography not to a Wikipedia article but to a journal article in Frontiers. Virtually all the cites in the article are primary references to his won work, and most of those are in the Frontiers journal he edits. Which is a massive red flag.

Who edited the article is a problem, but the identity of editors is not actually relevant to Keep/Delete and content. Or it shouldn’t be. In reality, those arguments often prevail. If an edit is made in conflict of interest, it can be reverted. But … what is the problem with that journal? JzG removed the link and explanation. For Wikipedia Reliable Source, the relevant fact is the publisher. But I have seen JzG and jps arguing that something is not reliable source because the author had fringe opinions — in their opinion!

What JzG removed:

15:48, 15 December 2017‎ JzG (talk | contribs)‎ . . (27,241 bytes) (-901)‎  . (remove links to crank journal) (undo)

This took out this link:

Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience

and removed what could show that the journal is not “crank.” There is a better source (showing that the editors of the article didn’t know what they were doing). Nature Publishing Group press release. This “crank journal” is Reliable Source for Wikipedia, and that is quite clear. (However, there are some problems with all this, complexities. POV-pushing confuses the issues, it doesn’t resolve them.

Aron Barbey is Associate Editor of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Nature Publishing Group journal.[14] Barbey is also on the Editorial Board of NeuroImage,[15] Intelligence,[16] and Thinking & Reasoning,.[17]

Is Barbey an “Associate Editor”? This is the journal home page.

Yes, Barbie is an Associate Editor. There are two Chief Editors. A journal will choose a specialist in the field, to participate in the selection and review of articles, so this indicates some notability, but is a primary source.

And JzG mangled:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience.[36]

was changed to this:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.[35]

JzG continues on FTN:

So, I suspect we have a woo-monger here, but I don’t know whether the article needs to be nuked, or expanded to cover reality-based critique, if any exists. Guy (Help!) 16:03, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

“Woo” is a term used by “skeptic” organizations. “Woo-monger” is uncivil, for sure. As well, the standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is not “reality-based” but “verifiable in reliable source.” “Critique” assumes that what Barbey is doing is controversial, and Guy has found no evidence for that other than his own knee-jerk responses to the names of things.

It may be that the article needs to be deleted. It certainly needs to be improved. However, what is obvious is that JzG is not at all shy about displaying blatant bias, and insulting an academic and an academic journal.

And jps does quite the same:

This is borderline Men who stare at goats sort of research (not quite as bad as that, but following the tradition) that the US government pushes around. Nutriceuticals? That’s very dodgy. Still, the guy’s won millions of dollars to study this stuff. Makes me think a bit less of IARPA. jps (talk) 20:41, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

This does not even remotely resemble that Army paranormal research, but referring to that project is routine for pseudosceptics whenever there is government support of anything they consider fringe. Does nutrition have any effect on intelligence? Is the effect of nutrition on intelligence of any interest? Apparently, not for these guys. No wonder they are as they are. Not enough kale (or, more accurately, not enough nutritional research, which is what this fellow is doing.)

This is all about warping Wikipedia toward an extreme Skeptical Point of View. This is not about improving the article, or deleting it for lack of reliable secondary sources. It’s about fighting woo and other evils.

In editing the article, JzG used these edit summaries:

  • (remove links to crank journal)
  • (rm. vanispamcruft)
  • (Selected publications: Selected by Barbey, usually published by his own journal. Let’s see if anyone else selects them)
  • (Cognitive Neuroscience Methods to Enhance Human Intelligence: Oh good, they are going to be fad diet sellers too)

This are all uncivil (the least uncivil would be the removal of publications, but it has no basis. JzG has no idea of what would be notable and what not.

The journal is not “his own journal.” He is merely an Associate Editor, selected for expertise. He would not be involved in selecting his own article to publish. I’ve been through this with jps, actually, where Ed Storms was a consulting editor for Naturwissenschaften and the claim was made that he had approved his own article, a major peer-reviewed review of cold fusion, still not used in the article. Yet I helped with the writing of that article and Storms had to go through ordinary peer review. The faction makes up arguments like this all the time.

I saw this happen again and again: an academic edits Wikipedia, in his field. He is not welcomed and guided to support Wikipedia editorial policy. He is, instead, attacked and insulted. Ultimately, if he is not blocked, he goes away and the opinion grows in academia that Wikipedia is hopeless. I have no idea, so far, if this neuroscientist is notable by Wikipedia standards, but he is definitely a real neuroscientist, and being treated as he is being treated is utterly unnecessary. But JzG has done this for years.

Once upon a time, when I saw an article like this up for Deletion, I might stub it, reducing the article to just what is in the strongest sources, which a new editor without experience may not recognize. Later, if the article survives the AfD discussion, more can be added from weaker sources, including some primary sources, if it’s not controversial. If the article isn’t going to survive AfD, I’d move it to user space, pending finding better sources. (I moved a fair number of articles to my own user space so they could be worked on. Those were deleted at the motion of …. JzG.)

(One of the problems with AfD is that if an article is facing deletion, it can be a lot of work to find proper sources. I did the work on some occasions, and the article was deleted anyway, because there had been so many delete !votes (Wikipedia pretends it doesn’t vote, one of the ways the community lies to itself.  before the article was improved, and people don’t come back and reconsider, usually. That’s all part of Wikipedia structural dysfunction. Wasted work. Hardly anyone cares.)

Sources on Barbey

Barbey and friends may be aware of sources not easily found on the internet. Any newspaper will generally be a reliable source. If Barbey’s work is covered in a book that is not internet-searchable, it may be reliable source. Sourcing for the biography should be coverage of Barbey and/or Barbey’s work, attributed to him, and not merely passing mention. Primary sources (such as his university web site) are inadequate. If there were an article on him in the journal where he is Associate Editor, it would probably qualify (because he would not be making the editorial decision on that). If he is the publisher, or he controls the publisher, it would not qualify.

Reliable independent sources
  • BRADLEY CORNELIUS “Dr. Aron Barbey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Emotional Intelligence  APR 27, 2013
  • 2013 Carle Research Institute Awards October 2013, Research Newsletter. Singles out a paper for recognition, “Nutrient Biomarker Patterns, Cognitive Function, and MRI Measures of Brain Aging,” however, I found a paper by that title and Barbey is not listed as an author, nor could I find a connection with Barbey.
  • SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE David Noonan, “How to Plug In Your Brain” MAY 2016
  • The New Yorker.  Emily Anthes  “Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy” October 2, 2014 PASSING MENTION
  • Liz Ahlberg Touchstone “Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds” July 25, 2017

“Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology” (reliable sources make mistakes) Cites a study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, … published in the journal Scientific Reports. N. Ward et al, Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention, Scientific Reports (2017).
The error indicates to me that this was actually written by Touchstone, based on information provided by the University of Illinois, not merely copied from that.

Iffy but maybe

My sense is that continued search could find much more. Barbey is apparently a mainstream neuroscientist, with some level of recognition. His article needs work by an experienced Wikipedian.

Notes for Wikipedians

An IP editor appeared in the Fringe Theories Noticeboard discussion pointing to this CFC post:

Abd is stalking and attacking you both on his blog [25] in regard to Aron Barbey. He has done the same on about 5 other articles of his. [26]. He was banned on Wikipedia yet he is still active on Wiki-media projects. Can this guy get banned for this? The Wikimedia foundation should be informed about his harassment. (talk) 13:30, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This behavior is clearly of the sock family, called Anglo Pyramidologist on Wikipedia, and when I discovered the massive damage that this family had done, I verified the most recent activity with stewards (many accounts were locked and IPs blocked) and I have continued documentation, which Wikipedia may use or not, as it chooses. It is all verifiable. This IP comment was completely irrelevant to the FTN discussion, but attempting to turn every conversation into an attack on favorite targets is common AP sock behavior. For prior edits in this sequence, see (from the meta documentation):

This new account is not an open proxy. However, I will file a request anyway, because the behavior is so clear, following up on the activity.

I have private technical evidence that this is indeed the same account or strongly related to Anglo Pyramidologist, see the Wikipedia SPI.

(I have found other socks, some blocked, not included in that archive.)

I have also been compiling obvious socks and reasonable suspicions from RationalWiki, for this same user or set of users, after he created a revenge article there on me (as he had previously done with many others).  It’s funny that he is claiming stalking. He has obviously been stalking, finding quite obscure pages and now giving them much more publicity.

And I see that there is now more sock editing on RationalWiki, new accounts with nothing better to do than document that famous troll or pseudoscientist or anti-skeptic (none of which I am but this is precisely what they claim.) Thanks for the incoming links. Every little bit helps.

If anyone thinks that there is private information in posts that should not ethically be revealed, please contact me through my WMF email, it works. Comments are also open on this blog, and corrections are welcome.

On the actual topic of that FTN discussion, the Aron Barbey article (with whom I have absolutely no connection), I have found better sources and my guess is that there are even better ones available.

JzG weighs in

Nobody is surprised. Abd is obsessive. He even got banned from RationalWiki because they got bored with him. Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here though. Guy (Help!) 20:16, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This is a blog I started and run, I have control. Guy behaves as if the Fringe Theories Noticeboard is his personal blog, where he can insult others without any necessity, including scientists like Barbey and a writer like me. And he lies. I cannot correct JzG’s lies on Wikipedia, but I can do it here.

I am not “banned” from RationalWiki. I was blocked by a sock of the massively disruptive user who I had been documenting, on meta for the WMF, on RationalWiki and on my blog when that was deleted by the same sock. The stated cause of the block was not “boring,” though they do that on RW. It was “doxxing.” As JzG should know, connecting accounts is not “doxxing.” It is revelation of real names for accounts that have not freely revealed that, or personal identification, like place of employment.

“Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here.” Really? That IP is obviously the same user as behind the globally blocked Anglo Pyramidologist pushing the same agenda, this time with, likely, a local cell phone provide (because the geolocation matches know AP location), whereas with the other socking, documented above, was with open proxies.)

Properly, that IP should have been blocked and the edits reverted as vandalism. But JzG likes attack dogs. They are useful for his purposes.

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


2 thoughts on “SOS Wikipedia”

  1. Abd – I was wondering where you’d gone…. It seems Wiki is unhappy about anything controversial, and of course any new science will be controversial for a while since peoples’ beliefs get challenged. It took quite a while to change from Ptolemy’s epicycles to a Sun-centric view of the solar system, and it looks like Wikipedia (if it had existed then) would be in the forefront at deleting all references to the Sun being the focal point of the orbits of the planets.

    In the case of Aron Barbey, it seems pretty obvious that if he’s trying out new ideas then until they’re fully proved and accepted then all the references will be to his own papers and publications. Leif Holmlid faces the same problems, after all. People need to be convinced enough to try the ideas out, and that takes a while and some solid data. It took a while for Freud to become accepted, too.

    The point about new ideas is that they are new, so won’t have a venerable history. It’s hard to separate out the puffery and attempts to make the data sound better than it is when the person putting the idea forward is competent, and writes the article themself. The critics just don’t have enough real knowledge to distinguish what’s really true and what is exaggerated to some extent – it’s only when someone drops large clangers (like Rossi did) that it is clear-cut what’s truth.

    To me, it looks like a reasonable way through this would be to state that Aron Barbey wrote the article as an autobiography, so that the truthfulness of what’s stated may not be of the best quality. Still, sometimes we happily accept autobiographies as being the truth (see Samuel Pepys) and they have become unquestionable sources even though (like any witness) they could be mistaken.

    1. “Autobiography” is a red herring. As a Wikipedia editor, I’ll say that the article sucks. It’s informative, but the wiki-encyclopedia issue is the coverage of the person (this is a biography, after all) in “reliable secondary sources.” “Truth” is a red herring, Wikipedia’s standard is not truth but verifiability in reliable secondary sources. “Reliable” is a Wikipedia term of art, it does not mean “truthful,” necessarily. It means that the publisher is independent and has a reputation to maintain. Looking around, I can see why JzG might go ballistic about the publisher, which is open-access. Once publication is funded by author fees instead of by readers, responsibility can be lost. It’s a generic problem with open-access, and it’s ironic, because the Wikipedia community is big on “free knowledge.”

      But Barbey does not own that journal. He is merely an Associate Editor there, not even a chief editor. JzG has shown, in the past, that he has no understanding of the realities of scientific publication. He just makes up whatever suits his purpose for the moment, and he has many axes to grind.

      What I did not see, looking over the article, was reliable secondary sources covering the person. That is not about “truth,” it is about notability. Primary sources generally cannot be used, because interpretation is required. A secondary source will include information the publisher considers of interest. “Notable.”

      From looking at the article, I don’t know of Barbey is “notable” or not, and the writers did not seem to realize that secondary RS was necessary.

      I’ve seen way-crazy discussions of this on Wikipedia. I have seen a person and his work be very well-known, to multiple Wikipedia editors, but because there was nothing other than “passing mention” in secondary sources, the article was deleted.

      What always amazed me was how intensely fanatical some editors can become, attacking what was called “cruft” or “fancruft” or “vanity publication.” This often inspired hostile response by … the fans! Who would then be blocked.

      I managed to identify and show sock puppetry for an anti-cruft editor, and he was blocked. He proceeded to demonstrate that he did, in fact, have multiple computers and multiple wireless connections…. and he bragged that he had an administrative account. That account was neverfound, if it existed. It could have (and still might). But … his behavior was a bit like JzG’s, and the location was perhaps similar. I never fully investigated this. It takes a huge amount of time and there are few tools. But I might develop one, I have ideas, and there may be money for this.

      Wikipedia could do a much better job of detecting socks. For years, one could not get checkuser information (which is onlypart of what would be available in raw logs) based on weak suspicion, it had to be strong. That gradually shifted to the point where an anonymous editor could trigger an investigation or blocks without himself being checked, which is what happened earlier this year. I could not do anything about this on Wikipedia without violating policy, but because this was cross-wiki, involving Wikiversity, I could, globally, and I ended up demonstrating how it had been a Joe Job, attacking an enemy. And then I was massively attacked, with an army of sock puppets.
      So now that puppet master is globally locked through many accounts, and is blocked on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and meta, and so is amply eligible for a global ban.

      I don’t know where all this will go. I’m just looking and seeing what I find. With that person (or possibly, small group sharing common access) doing everything he can to try to stop me. Stupid, unless he actually wants to be investigated.

      The trope on Wikipedia is that they don’t vote. Discussions are to be closed by a neutral administrator, based on the strength of arguments, not numbers of votes. Yet many deletion discussions, one can easily see, are closed based on numbers, a majority decision; with the closing administrator not explaining the deletion reason or taking any personal responsibility.

      If closes were actually as claimed, sock puppetry would be irrelevant! (The big offense for a sock is multiple voting in a poll like AfD).

      The real operating condition for Wikipedia, and wikis in general, is “quick.” Detailed studies are avoided, and if someone does it, they call it “writing too much.” It is as if people are forced to read long posts, when it is trivial to skip them if not inspired, or to ask for a summary, and long comments can be “collapsed,” it’s done all the time. There are deep contradictions in standard wiki thinking.

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