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Tumbleman, it was revealed, was Rome Viharo, who has written extensively about his experiences on “WWHP,” his blog, Wikipedia We Have a Problem. This is also covered elsewhere, and there is an extensive attack on Rome Viharo on RationalWiki.
Right off, I notice the block log.
Even setting aside the obvious stumbling incompetence of the admin blocking indef, this was an unusual block log. Normally, a user will be blocked for a series of offenses, shorter blocks, gradually reaching to indef. If we look at the Talk page, there will be warnings, generally before blocks.
What happened? There is reference to an AE discussion. On the face, the filing was outrageous, grossly uncivil, relied on off-wiki activity (doxxing!) and consensus was not obvious. Tumbleman was not permitted to defend himself. But I’ll come back to that. What was the background?
Tumbleman was not an experienced editor when he dove in to Rupert Sheldrake. His first contributions, in 2005, were adding links to his own concept or site, OS 0 1 2, and then to the deletion discussion.
(the discussion refers to it being “spammed all over the wiki.” Contributions show three links placed. To some editors, that is “all over the wiki,” but this was, quite simply, an unskillful user, who did not yet know how to sign comments, nor what was appropriate for articles and deletion discussions. Very common for noobs.)
(“OS 1 2”) article on another wiki, written apparently by Tumbleman. I can now see that he was headed for a conflict with Wikipedia culture, which nominally seeks consensus (the only measure of neutrality is the level of consensus found; organizations use lower than 100% as a practical measure, but if the wiki actually valued true consensus, it would recognize anything short of 100% as less desirable; however, “wiki” also means quick, and while full-consensus process was developed extensively in the twentieth century, it requires much discussion, which the wiki tends to avoid and even sanction. Full consensus process works in small groups, so larger groups require some kind of representative process, and time for feedback and broader communication, all of which Wikipedia, in its naivete, suppressed.)
Edit counts by month shows no activity until July and August of 2006, a burst then, (still not highly active), sporadic for a year, then almost nothing until August, 2013.
In 2006, his user talk page bloviated about AfD process, based on his very limited experience. He thought in terms of “winning” and “losing.” Apparently he had recreated the “OS 1 2” article — a newbie mistake — and it was deleted. He filed a Deletion review (that’s proper process, but the article was doomed, even though enough supported undeletion to allow it.) So the second AfD was created procedurally. Tumbleman argued extensively. That’s a losing strategy on Wikipedia. The way to get an article kept is to show adequate independent reliable source showing notability, but Tumbleman had no concept of this, he was thinking in terms of what people might be “interested” in. (and a user changed his vote in the DRV because he found the article “interesting”). The second AfD was a mess. He still didn’t know how to sign a comment. He was not informed until 2013.
With very little experience, Tumbleman “explained” to experienced Wikipedians how Wikipedia worked. He thought. He also was reactively uncivil. Was Tumbleman warned? No. Too bad. Tumbleman was a bright guy who had thought a lot about group process, and had strong ideas about what Wikipedia should be. People like this often run into trouble, if their ideas don’t match the editors they interact with. Wikipedia can brutal with these. Efforts to create a welcoming culture that would educate new users, mentoring them, were mostly crushed.
So, Tumbleman returned in 2013 and used his User page as a discussion page. He did not realize that what he was writing could be reliably predicted to be used against him. Even a much less explicit suspicion of using Wikipedia as an experiment has resulted in community rejection. Wikipedia is not generally open to new ideas and “outsiders” coming in with ways to improve the project are commonly treated with hostility. He was naive and did not actually study how Wikipedia worked before diving in.
When I became involved with Wikipedia governance,attempting to support balance and informed consensus, I also did a great deal of Recent Changes Patrol, and participated in many and widely varied processes. Tumbleman simply did not know what he was doing, and he was diving into what was, by that time, a quite firmly established editorial faction. How did he handle it?
The place to express personal ideas would be in a user space essay (subpage), if you are going to do it. Then people may comment on the attached talk page. Tumbleman did respond appropriately to the helpful criticism that appeared — which matched more or less what I wrote above.
Tumbleman moved that discussion to the Talk page. The talk page ended up being Archived here. But there was a previous archive (I call that “archiving to history). It is invisible to the Wikipedia search facility, which is why it’s not such a good idea, unless one wants to avoid the content showing up in searches.
I saw this conversation with vzaak (renamed to Manul):
I accept your olive branch and I can assure you I am quite serious about my role maintaining a WP NPOV. I did notice that you took your page down, I undid it without viewing this first so please feel free to take it down once more. If you remove your page, I shall remove this page, and we can return to a purely NPOV conversation on the Sheldrake page when I get back to editing. Sound fair? The Tumbleman (talk) 19:30, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
Thank you Vzaak for your honorable resolution to this issue and I look forward working with you again maintaining WP NPOV. See you on the page! The Tumbleman (talk) 19:44, 4 September 2013 (UTC)
The faction does not support NPOV, often explicitly denigrates it. I’ve seen user essays promoting what was called SPOV, or Scientific Point of View (Joshua P. Schroeder used to have that on his user page, as I recall). That, of course, means “mainstream.” When push comes to shove, with wide community attention, the faction loses. And “Scientific point of view” is an oxymoron. The whole point of science is to move beyond “point of view.” “Purely NPOV” would mean, legitimately, “purely detached.” Not going to happen. The skeptical faction is explicitly dedicated to promoting “rational skepticism,” or “fighting pseudoscience.” Yet they get away with it.
Tumbleman was a noob and was slaughtered. A noob with a skeptical (more accurately, debunking) point of view would have been protected by the faction. We will see that Tumbleman made many mistakes, but they are very common newbie errors. His stated goals were noble. There were some who recognized this and who argued against the indef block. They were outnumbered.
How does that happen? It’s easy, factional coordination is facilitated by watchlists. By 2013, there was also increased off-wiki communication. As well, any factional “member” — it’s not necessarily formal — will be protected if any sanction process starts, and enough supporters will show up to prevent anything like a consensus from being formed, even if behavior was outrageous.
So in that discussion with vzaak is a clue to conflict. What are the “pages” referred to? I don’t think they were pages, they were talk page sections. And this could be it.
Vzaak outs Tumbleman as Rome Viharo. One basis was the OS 0 1 2 history, plus off-wiki research. Not legitimate. The other was linked without explanation. This was all a blatant personal attack, not an attempt to communicate with Tumbleman.
Tumbleman’s response was too-typical noob. He tells Vzaak that what he is doing could be sanctioned. It’s a normal knee-jerk reaction, but it is similar to the childhood “I’ll tell!” No, for outing, the standard response is to privately message an administrator to get it revision-deleted. (And the admin might decide to warn or block.) Instead, Tumbleman argued. Vzaak denied “revealing personal details.” That strongly reminds me of later denials of the obvious obvious by his friends. (or him?)
Notice the diff of Tumbleman’s first response.
He accepted the default edit summary with the section title. Responding at all was a blunder. Basically, at that point, STFU and get help. Now, Vzaak claimed that Tumbleman had “identified himself on WP by real name.” The argument about the deleted article was not adequate, it took off-site research to put that together. Basically, that public records establish an identity (say, by reasonable inference) is not consent to reveal or argue based on off-wiki evidence. Where did Tumbleman identify himself? vzaak pointed to the edit. Looking at the diff: “[[User:Tumbleman|Rome Viharo]] ([[User talk:Tumbleman|talk]]) 20:02, 31 August 2013 (UTC)”
One minute later, Tumbleman corrected that, so this was clearly unintentional. Now, we know that Tumbleman was Rome Viharo, that’s water under the bridge. However, that was not a wilful revelation of the connection, and Rome, as a noob, did not realize that he could have requested revision deletion of that version. It would take an admin a minute, if he sent the diff.
… and nobody protected him.
Dan skeptic (declared alternate account of Goblin Face, later blocked as an AP sock) made the claim here, a few days later. Did anyone warn vzaak or Dan skeptic? No (other than Tumbleman himself).
This is certainly not the complete Tumbleman story. But looking for that incident — which shows that those are deceptive who continue to argue that Tumbleman was not “doxxed” — has also shown me what I had seen some years ago. The Tumbleman affair was a factional hit, one of many. Many familiar names show up. And Dan skeptic argues like Oliver, in fact, but so might Darryl. The interest, from prior information, would be Darryl. And then there are the factional editors who slobber over Dan skeptic. And when I mentioned Manul/vzaak in the original AP study, with no accusation of any wrongdoing, AP socks went ballistic. The lady doth protest to much, methinks.
The suspicion that arises from the protest is not that Manul was an AP sock, though that is possible. Rather it would be that Manul was an asset to be zealously protected, even overprotected, because that calls attention to possibilities. Dan skeptic was an AP sock, that’s well-established. Which brother? Who cares?
The story of Viharo’s supposed voluntary self-outing has been oft repeated by AP socks, and then, perhaps, by others. It started with vzaak/Manul, apparently.
A fuller review would look at the factional editing, and the very rough treatment accorded Tumbleman, in spite of a few voices opposing that. Those voices, as I’ve seen happen many times, gave up. A faction with as many as a few dozen editors can be wiki-suicide to confront, and I saw an admin resign when he realized that another admin was going to ignore policy and get away with hit. The sane people walked away, over and over, so what was left?
Not purely left, because some sane people, with time to devote and a lot of patience, remained. Increasingly outnumbered, though, because the community, in spite of many opportunities, refused to face the structural problems that facilitate all the incredibly inefficient disruption, and that create defacto factional domination unless someone invests the enormous effort involved in filing an Arbitration case. To overcome this requires quite what the GSoW have done: cooperation. A faction cannot be defeated alone. At least not easily!!!