Jimbo Wales and “lunatic charlatans”

Looking at recent developments on Wikipedia with “fringe” and “quacks,” I’ve found many symptoms of a systemic corruption, and this will show how the project lost its direction, at core and in a failure to honor the original community intentions, it’s become quite explicit. This started with looking at the user page of Roxy the dog. Wikipedia made what may have been a fatal error in not only allowing anonymous edits (probably necessary and highly useful) but also in allowing advanced privileges for anonymous accounts. In this, it deviated widely from academic traditions. It eliminated the “responsible publisher” for itself, creating mob rule.

This protected the Foundation, but not the project. This is classic: organizations are formed for purposes, but their own survival, if it comes into conflict with the purpose, becomes a priority. So if the trial of “community governance” fails — in the absence of clear structures that create responsible actors — nothing can be done. It’s up to the community, not the site owners. Wikipedia is famously not a reliable source. Why not? Precisely because there is no responsible publisher!

The possibility existed for a community project to become more reliable than any such effort in history. That is, in fact, why I worked on Wikipedia as long as I did. But the radically unreliable governance, vulnerable to participation bias (whoever happens to show up in specific discussions, and where some kinds of factional canvassing are allowed, plus the possibly random nature of who closes discussions, where bias in closing could be very difficult to detect, and, if detected, they shoot the messenger), led to a conclusion that the situation was unworkable.

Wikipedia will be replaced by a project that harnesses what Wikipedia has done, but that adds reliable governance and responsibility. This may be for-profit or nonprofit, it could be done either way.

It was clear to me at one point that Jimbo Wales (with Larry Sanger the founder of Wikipedia) was interested in governance reform. However, something was missing, and I’m coming to think that what was missing was an understanding of neutrality. He almost had it, but it’s clear that knee-jerk “popular,” not academic or scientific, responses, very obviously not neutral, took over for him. And this then explains, in part, how “popular factions” came to dominate Wikipedia, as many have noted. They lose, sometimes, their control is not absolute, but it creates a steady pressure and, over time, it’s apparent to me, the project has devolved away from neutrality, and a particular faction has, many times, opposed neutrality and has declared allegiance to a point of view, and they act to push that point of view.

Anyone trained in journalism will recognize the problem, how it infects the language and overall tenor of pages. Blatant violations of neutrality policy, misrepresentations of sources, in favor of attempting to create in readers POV impressions, are, in some areas, practically the rule rather than a transient exception. Revert warring is tolerated, if done by factional editors, who are considered “valuable volunteers” precisely because they work tirelessly for their point of view.

Editors with contrary points of view are isolated and sanctioned and topic- or site-banned. Editors promoting SPOV (“Scientific point of view,” when they go beyond limits in that promotion, may be sanctioned, but also are regarded as heroes. And so if they are actually banned, they often come back. Wouldn’t you?

This is what Roxy the dog has from Wales:

“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.[1][2]

Roxy the dog uses this as I’d expect, to justify a series of claims of being justifiably biased. First, what exactly did Wales say, in what context.?

Wikipedia developed a procedure for creating a neutral project and he is referring to it, but he overspecifies that procedure, narrowing it in a way that favors the bias Roxy the dog displays. Was this merely accidental, incautious?

and, in fact, it’s obvious. From that page:

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a Change.org petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as “lunatic charlatans”, was widely reported on Twitter.

I’ve been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.

In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.

This is common.

There is skeptic organization and this blog is proud of it. But if others point to organization, it’s a “conspiracy theory.”

Indeed, I have seen over-reaction, suspicion that, say, drug companies are paying editors to promote statin drugs and attack cholesterol skeptics. I find that implausible, but this is what happens where there are organizations that operate behind the scenes.

Sheldrake and Chopra have popular support, and people with popular support will be defended by some, often people with no real understanding of how Wikipedia works, and so they violate rules. But wait! Wikipedia Rule Number One, promoted by Wales himself, was “If a Rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it!” (WP:IAR)

I used to point out the Corollary, that if you have never been blocked for breaking the rules, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.

The vision of the original Wikipedians has been lost, and this was practically inevitable (see  Iron law of oligarchy), if protective structure was not created, and it was not.

Wales response was to a petition asking for reform.

As is common with reform efforts, what might be a valid objection to the Wikipedia status quo was mixed with lack of understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and a point of view. The title of the petition shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia and the process of creating an encyclopedia.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

I will list problems with this request:

  1. Wales was not in charge of Wikipedia, he was the Founder, not the Governor. (In the other direction, he remained influential.)
  2. Wikipedia is not a site for “scientific discourse.” Wikiversity was, and could have remained so, but that was demolished, ultimately, by the faction, early this year. It was trivial to create neutral discourse, and it worked for years.
  3. The policies on inclusion were not the problem, the problem was lack of workable enforcement structure. The structure worked, though very inefficiently, for handling vandalism and isolated point of view pushing, but, increasingly, as factions developed power, poorly with factional point of view pushing.

Wales responded. 

MAR 23, 2014 — 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.

The blog claims that the organizers of the petition were “tone-deaf,” because they quoted Larry Sanger, thus, allegedly, irritating Wales. Sanger was quoted in the petition:

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.” 

Sanger’s comment was a simple conclusion matching what many, many, with high experience with Wikipedia, have found. That happens. It happens in all directions, but . . . factions that represent the “fringe” are, by definition, not popular, and that condition in the population will be reflected in the editorial community, so these factions are readily identified and their efforts interdicted, whereas the faction that is biased toward a popular point of view, can operate with far higher impunity, and in the absence of neutral enforcement, that bias can dominate.

This happened to some extent with traditional encyclopedias, but these were generally written with high academic integrity. Wales became confused on this issue, and was, himself, tone-deaf. Many have complained, and the complaints are routine and remain common. Wales only looks at what was wrong with the petition, and fails to practice what he preaches:

to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”

So Wikipedia sails on, undisturbed by self-examination, supporting the “Scientific Point of View,” which is an oxymoron.

Rather, the Pillars of Wikipedia include one that would, if followed, establish journalistic and academic integrity:

Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
We strive for articles in an impartial tone that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence. We avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as “the truth” or “the best view”. All articles must strive for verifiable accuracyciting reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors’ personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.

Wikipedia proposed a solution to crowd-sourcing, to allow it to be verifiable. “Reliable” source does not mean “correct.” It refers to independently published sources, presented with a neutral tone. Stating an interpretation as if fact without attribution is not “honesty.” It’s easy to convert, say, a non-neutral interpretation (which might be found in a reliable source) into a fact by attributing it. “According to . . . ”

Yet there are “skeptical faction” editors inserting their own interpretations as if fact, even about living persons, or entire fields. Because I just noticed it, here is an example, about Gary Taubes:

This is in the lead (current version), which should, by the guideline, be rigorously neutral, enjoying high consensus. The lead has:

Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsisent [sic] with known science surrounding obesity.[3]

The source is a book review, and such a review is the opinion of the author, particularly if it is an off-hand comment. What the review actually has, besides praise for the book (“… has much useful information and is well worth reading “):

some of the conclusions that the author reaches are not consistent with current concepts about obesity.

Are “current concepts” the same as “known science”? In fact, Taubes is challenging common concepts, explicitly and deliberately, as not being rooted in “known science,” i.e., known through the scientific method. This has been his theme for his entire career. The editor, however, believes what he has written and so considers that interpretation of the source to be a simple restatement.

The reviewer was not precise. “Current concepts” has a lost performative. Whose concepts? I used “common” as a vague term that would cover what I think is true. The concepts Taubes is challenging became common about forty years ago, through a political process that was only peripherally scientific. Documenting that has been much of Taube’s work.

This begins the lead:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American journalist, writer and low-carbohydrate diet advocate.

Is he? This was there until a few days ago:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer.

To the faction, many examples can be shown, “low carbohydrate diet advocate” is a dog whistle to call skeptical attention to a person, who, in other contexts , might be called a “fad diet promoter,” “quack,” and “charlatan.”

Remember, verifiability not truth. The statement about “diet advocate” is not sourced. It’s misleading. What Taubes has been advocating is twofold:

  • improved public understanding of the history of the lipid hypothesis and the demonization of fat, as well as the evidence of the “diseases of civilization” being associated with high refined carbohydrate consumption,
  • but, more important (certainly to him), the encouragement and facilitation (read funding) of scientific research into diet. Taubes is not a ‘believer,” but he has drawn some conclusions and has been acting on them. That is normal in science. Wales wrote:

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.

First of all, he was misstating the actual policy. “Published in respectable scientific journals” is not the actual standard, and such publication can happen without “replicable scientific experiments,” that is only one aspect of science, and the reliance is not on “replicable,” but on “confirmed,” i.e., actually replicated, as shown in peer-reviewed reviews of a topic, secondary sources. Many facts can be reported (with maximum freedom, by guidelines) if attributed. The attribution should be to a reliable source, but the source may be weaker, though still reliable. The skeptical faction uses their own factional publications, that focus on “debunking” and are not neutrally peer-reviewed by experts in the fields, as if reliable source, it’s been common for years, whereas independently peer-reviewed secondary source reviews are excluded by the faction as “junk” or “fringe believer author.”

These are obvious violations of the neutrality pillar, but are tolerated because of a false opp0sition as reflected in Wales’ defense of Wikipedia.

A paper that was invited by a major peer-reviewed journal of high reputation, with Gary Taubes as one of the authors:

Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance June 13, 2018

This review treats the topic with academic tone. It presents a variety of major points of view. This is what Wikipedia could be like, were it actually supporting science. Instead, it is supporting a highly judgmental and often fanatic debunking point-of-view.

Another example: Wales wanted to see “replicable experiments.” That is not required for notability, Wales is actually substituting his own ideas for the policy, but . . . I was banned from cold fusion on Wikipedia and the claim was made that I was promoting it, and this was often connected with claims that “cold fusion” is “pseudoscience.” In fact, what I was promoting, what was actually important to me at the time, was Wikipedia neutrality and genuine consensus process. However, when I was banned from the topic, I then investigated “cold fusion” more thoroughly, and eventually wrote an article, published in a significant journal, which would, in theory, satisfy the claims Wales made:

Replicable cold fusion experiment: heat/helium ratio

Okay, a review. Check. Peer-reviewed. Check. Describes multiple confirmations of a crucial experiment, that demonstrates that there is a real anomaly, that looks like it could be fusion (but probably not what most physicists would think of). Check.

Okay, is that cited? I don’t know if anyone attempted it. It was cited on Wikiversity. Much older and weaker sources on claims of helium detection (deprecating them) have been cited on Wikipedia, and remain. As I was about to be topic banned for the second time, I put up another review in a journal of very high reputation for consideration on the Reliable Source Noticeboard. It was found usable as reliable source. And after all that, was the source allowed? No. Immediately removed every time presented.

Status of cold fusion (2010)

Peer-reviewed review in a major multidisciplinary journal, Naturwissenschaften. Check. Stronger source than any other source used in the article. If editors think it was a mistake, it could be attributed.

See the arguments against it on RSN. That discussion was narrow and focused but was never “closed.” Consensus was clear. The paper is RS, and as with all sources, to be used with appropriate caution. Just because something is in reliable source does not make it “truth,” it makes it notable. And wikipedia was properly founded on notability, established by what is found in responsible publishers.

So what happened then? I have made the point often that the major problem with Wikipedia has been inefficiency. To establish what should have been accomplished by a reference to policy and guidelines, a matter of a few sentences, took a massive discussion. A responsible publisher would go bankrupt if their editorial process were like this.

There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who understood the policies and attempted to apply them neutrally. They burn out, faced with editors who ignore the policies, are persistent, and who are enabled to continue this, year after year.

removes reference to Storms (2010) based on argument rejected at RSN. Editor: ජපස, who has changed his name many times. He is the one who made the argument about Storms being an editor. That was an attributed reference, clearly neutral. This reverted the edit of Enric Naval.

Eventually, in 2015, the bibliographic reference to Storms (2010), and another citation of it, were removed by JzG, a highly involved factional editor and administrator who had been reprimanded by the Arbitration Committee for his actions with regard to cold fusion. Apparently nobody noticed. Jzg removed the reference to the 2007 book, and the 2010 journal review of cold fusion. His edit summary:

(pruning some WP:PRIMARY, including for example a book review written by a True Believer. We have sufficient high quality sources that we don’t need to dumpster-dive.)

These are the arguments that completely failed to be accepted at WP:RSN. Are there stronger sources by Wikipedia RS standards and the standards for science topics? What was left was weaker, or if not weak, substantially older.

None of these were primary sources, and he’s highly experienced, so . . . he lied, they were all secondary. (2007) was published World Scientific, an academic press, and (2010) was discussed above. The Book Review reference is unclear. JzG also removed material cited in Simon (2002), which is an academic secondary source review (a book), not a “book review”). He did remove from the bibliography one primary source (at least arguably so), Shanahan (2006). There was an appalling discussion in talk, no consensus, and the editor objecting was “reminded” about discretionary sanctions, which was essentially a threat that he could be blocked. This was a blatant and smug display of factional POV editing, and, as usual, without consequence, JzG (and William M. Connolley), sailed on, undisturbed, as they have for years. (In two cases, I took them to the Arbitration Committee, JzG was reprimanded, Connolley was desysopped. But the net effect was, with extensive effort, long term, zero. Discretionary sanctions were established as a result of the second case, (with neutral enforcement, a good idea), but it has only been used to support the skeptical faction and threaten or block anyone appearing to have a different point of view.)

In 2015, Current Science published a special section on low-energy nuclear reactions. It included a number of reviews of aspects of the field, written by major researchers (and one journalist, me). There was mention of this in the article that resisted removal, it’s still there. However, none of those papers are cited in the article, in spite of being recent specific reviews of aspects of the field, on topics discussed in the article.

Wales is either ignorant about what actually happens on Wikipedia, or he’s lying. I prefer the former interpretation, but I also hold him responsible for maintaining his ignorance in spite of complaints. Instead of actually investigating the complaints, or setting up a review process, he smugly proclaimed an extreme interpretation of the policy that then, very clearly, encouraged the SPOV-pushers. I’ve seen a shift since that time, and this might explain it.

No, if one does research and gets it published in peer-reviewed journals, it is inadequate to shift the Wikipedia balance, because the balance is maintained in the impressions and interpretations of editors, and it’s very well-known that when people have committed themselves to a position (by using language like “charlatan” and “fringe believers” and “crank”) they become resistant to change, and will continue to invent justifications and reasons to continue to believe the same.

Ironically, this is what this faction believes about others, that they are “die-hards” and “pseudoscientific.” If someone calls them “pseudoskeptical” or “pathoskeptic,” they will block or arrange for the person to be blocked, but claims in the other direction are routine and tolerated. Enforcement is biased, creating a long-term pressure away from neutrality.

Wikipedia could be transformed, but what has been created is so highly entrenched that it might take a major event.

I’ve suggested that a new encyclopedia could be created that uses Wikipedia content, routinely, but that creates a filter and process for reviewing it. I’ve suggested that such a site might pay authors and editors, and that it might sell itself as “Wikipedia, but more reliable.” And it would solicit donations, but would also sell advertising, carefully vetted to be reliable, itself, which is quite doable. (The advertising would pay for the writing and editorial work.)

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If you use volunteers, they work for their own purposes. It can be great, but large human organizations pay management, even when they use many volunteers.

Everipedia looks like an effort in that direction, but it utterly fails to attract me, so far, nor does it look like it could attract the kind of massive use and participation that could take it beyond Wikipedia. The Everipedia article on cold fusion is a fork of the Wikipedia article (so far, what I’d expect, but, then, if I read the article, does it invite me to improve it? If so, I don’t see how or where.)

To succeed, an improved project must present something clearly better than Wikipedia, such that users would have an incentive to look up a topic there rather than on Wikipedia. There are also complications, Google being a major supporter of Wikipedia. But a better product does not have to be better in every way, just in some, and it could flag what has been fact-checked and reviewed for neutrality, for example, and what was merely copied from Wikipedia. (Everipedia may do that, I can’t tell, but Everipedia seems to be focusing on selling access to businesses or people who want to control articles about themselves. Not on setting up an expert review process or other structure that would create reliability.)

It would use Wikipedia’s process to create a level of reliability, and then improve it. It would make comparisons with Wikipedia easy, as an example, so that changes to Wikipedia would be imported as (1) automatic if the fork article has not been validated, or as (2) reviewed, as with the contributions of any non-empowered editor on Wikipedia.

The focus appears to be on how to preserve one of the major weaknesses of Wikipedia, anonymity. That’s a double-edged sword. The new project, if linked to Wikipedia, would already have a way for anonymous editors to contribute: on Wikipedia! It could also allow suggested edits on its own versions.

(Wikipedia could also bring in content the other way, through a process that was used on wikipedia when a banned user created an article elsewhere, and then there was a Request for Comment on importing that (radical change) as a single edit. This is actually a far simpler question than the one-edit at a time process Wikipedia follows: “Is A or B better?” )

It would need to have layers of detail. It could have better editorial review tools than Wikipedia. An example of something missing from Wikipedia is an ability to search history, the entire history of the project or of an article, or of user contributions. Now, you can obtain logs, but they are not generally searchable, except primitively. I do it, but by downloading histories (the logs will not retrieve more than 5000 operations), merging them, and then using search in a text editor or in Excel, and that doesn’t give me the editorial text, only edit summaries.

It is possible to search project full-history XML, but it can be incredibly cumbersome.

Everipedia is not showing signs of being well-designed and implemented. The FAQ I find far too complicated. Wikipedia made it easy and quick for anyone to edit. While “anyone can edit” fell apart to some extent, becoming more like “anyone can waste time trying to improve the project,” that ease of use was crucial to Wikipedia’s initial success. Wikipedia failed not from that, but from failure to establish reliable review process, something that is normally crucial for serious publishers.

Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.

(To assist someone who wanted to study the subject, I set up a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, and it actually attracted some notable scientists. But they did not regularly contribute, nor did they watch the pages. That project was deleted early this year when the skeptical faction extended its reach to Wikiversity. Long story. JzG was involved. They also deleted the Wikiversity resource on cold fusion, all based on the action of a single bureaucrat, not supported by the community. Efforts like that had always failed in the past. But the Wikiversity community that had always supported academic freedom and the inclusive neutrality of Wikiversity as distinct from the exclusive neutrality of Wikipedia (i.e., academic standards rather than encyclopedic) was, as usual, asleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

I rescued those resources. Cold fusion. Parapsychology. Wikiversity showed how resources could be inclusively neutral. (A clearer example, where there would have been, on Wikipedia, or any other single-level wiki, edit warring, is Landmark Education.) Parapsychology was neutral, I’d been very careful to set it up that way. Cold fusion might not have been completely neutral, (I’d written most of it) but it would have taken about five minutes, with no harm being done, to rigorously neutralize it. The Wikiversity cold fusion article was often attacked on Wikipedia, but it was open for editing, and it had not been at all disruptive. Real neutrality is not disruptive, certainly not in itself. Real neutrality, with good-faith participants, can normally find complete consensus, even in the presence of major controversies. Wikipedia never understood this.

If I just want to shoot off my mouth, or to enjoy writing, I’ll start a blog, not start up an account on a wiki. It is far, far easier and, believe me, far more fun. And I can actually obtain funding for it. (Thanks!)

As an example, I know much of the cold fusion research community. Only very small number have ever attempted to edit Wikipedia. Met with entrenched hostility, for the most part, the handful who tried it simply gave up quickly. The field needs funding, and funding is not obtained by writing about cold fusion on Wikipedia. The inefficiency of Wikipedia makes it seriously wasteful.

Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax

See http://coldfusioncommunity.net/biography-abd-ul-rahman-lomax/

26 thoughts on “Jimbo Wales and “lunatic charlatans””

    1. Simon can answer if it is not an impersonation. He is a somewhat public figure. If he doesn’t I will probably ask him. But I know him well and the chance that he wrote that post on Kendrick’s blog is about zero. For starters, he does not live in the U.S. “no impersonation” used a probably fake email account here, and the access is through a Tor node. This is someone hiding, typical for a Smith brother. Claiming that I’m lying is also a standard Smith tactic, asserted without evidence. What was the evidence here?

    2. “no impersonation” – have you run a search on “Simon Derricut”? That’s two times r and one t, as on Dr. Kendrick’s blog. You’ll find no other comments by that person, and where you find that spelling it’s someone else referring to me and getting my name wrong (Abd has done that as well). I’m “blessed” with a unique name in the world, as far as I’ve seen in various searches over the years. As such, that’s a sock trying (and failing) to impersonate me. Maybe he/she thought that Abd would treat the reply with more respect than an anonymous comment, but of course Abd can tell the difference in tone anyway.

      Used to be said that you know when you’re over the target because the flak gets heaviest. It seems to me that Abd must be pretty close to the target.

      1. Yeah. I was originally concerned with the problem of anonymous single-purpose accounts disrupting wiki process, which I had seen for many years. Trolls have learned how to manipulate wiki communities, and it often works. All they need to do is push the right buttons, use the right words to arouse a mob with pitchforks, and nobody looks back to see who started the riot, they just look at the target, who is Bad and Ban the Bad.

        So I started to look at the edits, and found impersonation socking on Wikipedia and I looked at who it could be. The stewards had found some other socks with other edits and that led me to RationalWiki from a Commons image upload. Somehow I made the connection with Anglo Pyramidologist and immediately it started raining trolls attacking the study (which was in my Wikiversity user space, quite obscure). I accidentally used a link that included the name of Oliver Smith (from Rome Viharo’s blog) and there was instant response. The whole study was deleted, but then sanity prevailed and that one edit and link was revision-deleted. Threats that he would get all of my work deleted were made and I then was quite sure I was onto something big.

        They made good on the threat, demonstrating that the problem was much larger than this troll. He was an attack dog for a faction, and they revealed themselves, because that’s what it took to accomplish the deletion — and a very rare Office ban of me, for . . . for . . . for what? I had done what had been done with many sock masters, create a long-term abuse report. I had been told by a former WMF board member that what I had done would not result in a global ban. It was not a policy violation (and that included the very minor doxxing of Joshua P. Schroeder, who proceeded to lie about what I had done.

        When all this started, I was a sysop on RationalWiki. The big banana there, David Gerard, had tried to get me desysopped before and failed, because I was not disruptive and they used to pretend to welcome criticism. When it came to the socks of Oliver and Darryl Smith, no. Mention their names and you were gone immediately. Doxxing anyone considered “pseudoscientific” or a “crank,” normal RationalWiki editing. Mentioning the Smiths, Enemy of The Wiki. David Gerard immediately desysopped me and this time, unlikely before, no other moderator intervened. Nothing had really changed except . . . the Smiths by this time were heavily using RationalWiki.

        How did these trolls get that kind of protection? I don’t know for sure, but it’s likely that they (or at least Darryl) have been supported by a major skeptic organization, because they are useful to them, they get their targets so upset that they can’t see straight, make mistakes, and get banned from Wikipedia.

        And I have never seen anyone realize how Wikipedia could be reformed and become truly neutral. Wikiversity was a part of that, and still could be, if … if people who care about neutrality would organize. Instead if there is any organization, it is around some special interest and it is easily whacked, because most special interests, especially those which are fringe, are, by definition, small. But my opinion has been that two people working together could have a major impact, and if this becomes more than two, it could practically dominate Wikipedia. There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who will support genuine neutrality, but they have mostly burned out, facing an relatively well-organized faction. If someone leads, they will follow and support, if it is done with skill.

        The Arbitration Committee has probably realized that, so they have doled out Exemplary Punishment to any hint of organization. Except some organizations are exempt from this, particularly the Guerilla Skeptics. For far less than what GS has done, others have been banned. The Eastern European Mailing List was a blatant example, chilling.

        The problem can be traced back to Jimbo Wales and his failure to stand for true neutrality. He did understand it at one time, but didn’t know how to create structure that would enforce it (more accurately, to facilitate true consensus, which was considered impractical, too much work, not “wiki,” i.e., quick.) Which is more important, “quick” or “reliable?” Wales, by action and inaction, voted for quick. Setting up quick process created conditions for mob rule, which favor those who know how to manipulate mobs.

      2. “you know when you’re over the target because the flak gets heaviest.” Yes.
        In my training, they said, “If nobody is shooting at you, you are not doing anything worth wasting bullets on.”

        1. What if you get lost in low-visibility conditions, and think you’re in enemy airspace when you’re really still in friendly airspace; and because you forgot to turn on your transponder, your own air defense forces mistake you for an enemy bomber, and start firing flak at you; so you assume they’re the target and bomb them? That would suck.

          1. What if some idiot puts you into a warcraft with no training, and you don’t know where you are and don’t find out, flying blind, and you are such a dumb f that you don’t have your IFF on, but you remember this comment that you read on a blog and so you release your load on your friends because of the flak. Would that suck? Sure, but as a succession of total eff-ups. I suggest you use your brain for better than imagining totally effed up scenarios that are totally useless, inspiring nobody and wasting time. But thanks for your support. If not for that I’d simply have deleted it without comment, because when I see a comment for approval I don’t see the original context. But I decided to look it up. Oh. It was about that, with a mindless literal interpretation about a totally different context.

  1. Abd – may be worth looking at https://infogalactic.com/info/Infogalactic:Introduction where it seems the people there are trying to fix Wikipedia’s problems. Though there’s just a wee bit of ridiculous titles (starlords for the admin people, for example) and a nod to Asimov’s Encyclopedia Galactica when we haven’t even got a couple of planets settled yet, it might serve your aims of taking the good bits of Wikipedia and leaving the bad bits behind.

    1. Well, I looked, and registered. But I don’t have much hope for that project.

      On Infogalactic: https://www.wired.com/story/welcome-to-the-wikipedia-of-the-alt-right/
      Infoglactic on itself: https://infogalactic.com/info/Infogalactic
      Wikipedia gets the founding year wrong. Unsourced. Main page was installed in 2016. First edits in February, 2016. Press Release, October, 2016.
      Bad Sign: The public cannot view Contributions. IG transparency sucks. The core document is the Seven Canons. https://infogalactic.com/info/Seven_Canons

      Not bad. However, implementation? The problem on Wikipedia was not policy, the policies as they became are pretty much what would be necessary for a crowd-sourced project.

      Wikipedia deletionism was not core, it grew out of ideas of notability that assumed black and white notability, instead of creating a knowledge hierarchy. Wikiversity developed excellent practices, to maintain site neutrality, but still ran into the implementation/enforcement problem.

      They are talking about, in addition to fact, context and “ideological spin, framing, and narrative.” I use the term “story” for other than “what happened,” i.e., “fact,” which comes from Landmark training. Reality is reality and is distinct from our models and interpretations, but we can approach reality with “testimony,” and a common device is attribution. “According to,” and then the source is quoted exactly, and verifiable as such. Testimony in court, based on eye-witnessing, is presumed “true unless controverted.” This is totally distinct from interpretation. Courts will allow “experts” recognized by the court as such, to testify as to their professional opinions, but, then, other experts may testify with differing opinions, and the court record will include all of it. The record is rigorously neutral, by design.

      Genuine neutrality is *inclusive*, so Wikipedia practically guaranteed bias by becoming exclusive, well beyond the requirements of verifiability. How will Infogalactic avoid the bias of the editing and administrative corps? It can be done, if the core is dedicated to neutrality and can recognize the distinction between fact and interpretation. Could that come from Vox Day’s role as Founder — apparently user Rifleman?

      Qur’an: From between blood and shit, milk. So maybe. Not holding breath.

      1. Abd – there’s always a story. It’s very hard to find out what the facts are/were unless you were there and unusually observant. When the police have several eyewitnesses to a crime, those witnesses normally disagree as to what happened, maybe to a small extent but small things can be significant. I’m thus not sure of anything I read until it’s been tested in some way. However, Infogalactic may not delete what you put in, and you may be able to upload the stuff that was deleted from Wikipedia, and you also may be able to refer to CFC as a source as well, and thus get the information to more people that may otherwise not have been aware.

        Again, a lot of maybes. As with going to see a film (movie) you’ll need to pay up-front and only then can you find out whether it was worth the entrance-fee. I hope it’s worth your time, but you’ll need to decide that. It’s a lot less effort than setting up your own alternative, but more effort than maintaining CFC. At least you’re aware of it as a possibility, which could be useful.

        1. No, it is not hard, but we are not trained to distinguish fact from interpretation. “Crime” is, for example, an interpretation. There is no actual disagreement in true witnessing. “I saw X.” “No, I saw Y.” Both can be totally truthful, once we understand seeing as seeing rather than as interpretation.

          What happens is that we interpret what we remember of what we saw. “Significant” is about interpretation, always. Where there is consensus, we don’t worry about what might be called “sensory recognition.” But when there is disagreement, and assuming no willful deception, it can be resolved by careful inquiry.

          We normally pay little attention to how we know what we know. You can be quite sure about what you read, and you can also be wrong. Hence if it is possible to check, and you check carefully about what you read (not the “truth of it,” which is an interpretation!), then you can have as close as we get to certainty, and it is often verifiable by others.

          When people strongly disagree about fundamental witnessing, someone is lying or someone is arrogant.
          I saw John shoot Jack.
          John was at my party, a hundred miles away, at the time.

          Is someone lying? Not necessarily. Conflict is an interpretation. If we look at each of the statements, there is an interpretation: the person saw someone. How did they know it was John (in either case)?, or the times, as examples. In court, the witnesses will be examined and cross-examined, and the jury will assess their probity. There is no such thing as absolute certainty about anything, so the standard, in a criminal trial, is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there isn’t that level of evidence, there will be no judgment of fact as to interpretations of the testimony.

          I have high wiki experience. It is much easier to write and gather information here. Wikis are good for collaboration, and, for that, the people matter. I did not write the Wikipedia article on cold fusion. I worked on it for a little while, that’s all. I wrote the Wikiversity resource, and it is all copied to the coldfusioncommunity wiki. So far, nobody has asked for editing privileges. I could open it up, but my experience is that one immediately deals with hosts of spammers, vandals, and then to some extent, trolls.

          Thanks for pointing to Infogalactic. They are doing, though clumsily, what I’ve suggested, years ago. What they set up was relatively easy, but also relatively dumb, compared to what is possible. I don’t see that they have identified what processes would accomplish the goal of creating a Galactic Encyclopedia. They do have some ideas about what they are wanting to create, but not much about efficient, functional, and neutral-by-design organizational process, as far as I can see.

          I hope they find their way. Meanwhile, I have other fish to fry. Yum! Fried fish! Actually, I broil salmon filets, after sprinkling them with Parmesan cheese.

        2. Simon, you have been impersonated. I’ve been covering on Skeptic from Britain, the most recent shenanigans of Darryl L. Smith, who is the troll behind my WMF office ban. It is almost certainly him, commenting on the blog of Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, and he just added two comments using your name. Here, and here. This guy lies, using anonymous accounts, though his patterns are clear enough that I’ve been able to identify hundreds of them — and there may be thousands. This is the brother of the original “Anglo Pyramidologist” (it is not likely to be Oliver), and he has claimed to be paid to write by a “major skeptical organization,” and Oliver confirmed this “to my knowledge” about his brother. This is life-and-death stuff. Dr. Kendrick is a brilliant physician who has been for some years studying the problem of the etiology of heart disease, and he has the best analysis of it that I’ve seen, from a medical point of view. From a scientific point of view, it would be Gary Taubes. Both are actually skeptics, not believers in some wild theory.

          1. Thanks Abd. Not sure I can do anything about it, and in case you didn’t notice he also spelt my name wrong. I don’t comment on many sites, and the medical stuff here is outside my knowledge so I wouldn’t, and of course you’ll have noticed that that isn’t the way I write either. Also signing off as “Simon Derricut (life long atheist and skeptic from USA).” is a giveaway, not least because I would have written sceptic since I’m English. You wouldn’t be aware , but I’ve also never taken statins and would avoid them. Oh well…. AFAIK there are no other Simon Derricutts (or Derricuts) in this world, or at least none turn up in searches.

            Socking continues, and there’s likely no way to prevent it without losing the benefits of anonymity which can be critical in some circumstances. I’ll put up a note on Dr. Kendrick’s blog.

              1. Lucky guess. It is always possible that some RWidiot shows up. But Darryl is known to impersonate other RW users as well. Not on RW, generally, since they’d whack him immediately. Unless he is actually impersonating an enemy impersonating them, and then they often actually believe it. He has lots of tricks that can fool the naive. This guy has done enormous damage to wiki neutrality, while disguising himself as mainstream.

              2. Yes, obvious obvious. I did a Google search for what is inside brackets: [“Simon Derricut” -Derricutt]. There are only 7 hits, all errors as you pointed out. The use of a mispelled name for an impersonation has been done before by the Smiths. And then they claim that because the name is “different” it is not an impersonation. Even though it later became completely clear that the impersonating account was Oliver (in a specific example I have in mind), and the one impersonated was known to Oliver, they still claim it was harmless. Darryl impersonated that same person on Wikipedia, creating a series of highly disruptive and defiant accounts, creating a reaction that accomplished what they intended, for a reputable Wikipedia to go to Wikiversity and attack. In other words, they have learned how to weaponize communities, through knee-jerk responses.

                It can be seen how elements within the low-carber community fell for it, and repeated the trolling fake facts as if true. That community is not generally sophisticated or experienced with Wikipedia. Announcing “you can vote” on the Kendrick Article for deletion discussion was a classic dumb move. First of all, it is not a vote and numbers of votes don’t count, what counts is arguments and, specificaLly, for an AfD, citation of sources meeting “reliable source standards,” and none of the sources I saw cited met those standards. They were all what non-Wikipedians might think were usable. The existence of a pile of SPA (single purpose account) votes would tend, on Wikipedia, to generate the opposite result, because a closing administrator, who makes the actual decision, will be irritated by having to read a pile of useless argument.

                Skeptic from Britain encouraged that by making the “fringe” claim in the nomination, which was irrelevant. In the Fat Head deletion discussion, also started by SfB, Jimbo Wales actually showed up an called him a “POV pusher,” which, if formally found could have resulted in his ban. It was obvious from his early edits, but the affair shows up what has been clear for many years, the existence of a whole faction, including some administrators, of pushers of the same point of view, which they call the “scientific point of view,” and, in spite of contrary Arbitration Committee decisions, they are almost never sanctioned, unless someone like me is crazy enough to commit wiki-suicide by filing an arbitration case. That faction has legs, many legs. SfB, early on, put an affiliation box on his user page, which refers to an essay by JzG, based on the subject of this blog post. Jimbo Wales has encouraged a faction that is very much not neutral, and has never taken steps to set up the kind of genuine consensus process that would restore neutrality. The existing process paralyzes the larger community; he knew that setting up the adminstrative community would create a “cabal.” Later, if one used the word cabal, one was in danger of being blocked for failure to “assume good faith.” Just how much “good faith” was Wales assuming in his “lunatic charlatans” comment. How encyclopedic was that comment? I expect to see words like that in a tabloid newspaper; if in an encyclopedia, if used at all, it would be in an attributed quote from a named source, not presented as if fact. Yet it’s routine to see conclusions like that presented as fact by factional editors. Or fact-shunning editors. Hey, that’s a neat nickname for them. The “fact-shun”. This is a blog and posts are blog opinions, attributed to the author.

                1. Abd – I see your thrust as trying to dig down to what the facts are and what the truth is, and this is what resulted in you being involved with LENR in the first place since you saw the truth and facts being deleted by fact-shuns.

                  It seems depressingly easy to weaponise communities and to produce a consensus opinion that is based on mis-truth. Social media has memes passed around that may have a very loose connection to the truth. Not quite the same as a demagogue raising a crowd of people to an emotional climax, but a modern equivalent of that in our digital age where a large proportion of people have their mobile phones and are “always on”.

                  If a lie is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as being true and the counter-evidence is overlooked. For example, there’s the statement that “socialism will work, but it just hasn’t been applied correctly yet”, and the current poster-child of that is Venezuela which really ought to be very prosperous. The reality is that if a human gets the rewards anyway, they won’t put the effort into doing a good job let alone an excellent one. A few people will of course try to return more value than they receive, but the majority will be quite happy to get more than they give, and so the system decays into poverty after an indeterminate time of a generation or three. Since I’m living in France, I can see that France ought to be extremely prosperous. Great farmland, and hard-working people who are generally well-educated and clever. Instead, it’s weighed down with too many regulations and red tape, and too-high taxes that are being slowly increased (boiling the frog slowly). The truth about the Laffer curve has been known since at least Roman times, yet somehow the politicians think that raising taxes further will bring them more income, whereas all it does is slow the economy and reduce the tax-take overall. That’s the reason for the link to this subject that might look to be off-topic – beliefs are more-easily accepted than the facts are, and this seems to be human nature and thus not amenable to logic. After all, raising the tax from 5% to 10% gave twice as much tax-take, so raising the tax from 67% to 70% should give more as well.

                  Having the “consensus” facts written on the page, and not allowing those inconvenient truths to appear, also seems to be a human need. The more people subscribe to your version of events, the more secure you feel that your view is indeed correct and you don’t need to learn new stuff or do that most-difficult task of changing your opinion. There’s thus a good sociological reason for the factions, and if the leadership isn’t willing to do anything about it then it will continue that way. Yes, that means Jimmy Wales and his co-leaders. If you can’t get them to change, then the rest won’t happen either. They first need to admit there’s a problem, and then need to decide they want to do something about it. I figure it’s likely that attacking the leaders here will simply get you banned, since they don’t want to hear what you’re saying.

                  1. I’m already banned. Years ago on Wikipedia, and then last year as an “Office ban.” No warning or reason given. No appeal allowed. It had nothing to do with Wales, I doubt he even knows about it.

                    1. Abd – the problem is to get a description of the problem in front of the eyes of people who can actually do something about it and would want to change things if they realised that there was indeed a problem. They will need to recognise both the credibility of the threat and the credibility of the person stating it. A bit tricky given your personal status, since the trolls have done a pretty good job of tarring you (based on what I’ve read on LF) and thus unless the person you approach is willing to do some work and digging to validate what you say, the number of socks against you would give an impression of a disgruntled POV-pusher who was (rightly) stopped. You need to reach someone higher up in the organisation. This seems to me to be the difficult bit, given that I see the majority as firstly unwilling to put the effort in to confirm your analysis and secondly putting their own status on the line to push it up the pyramid.

                      This is of course a viewpoint of someone who’s never been involved in the wiki universe. I think the strategy of reaching someone who can actually change things is however valid, if you feel that it is possible to change a large and largely-anonymous organisation by changing its rules. Complex rules will have loopholes and can be misinterpreted to advantage, and simple rules are often seen as unfair and insufficiently flexible.

                      Of course, there’s also that problem of belief to get over. The people in those factions most likely believe they are right to trim out the woo and flim-flam from the popular human knowledge-base. In the same way, Parks thinks he’s right to cut grants from LENR research and divert it to things he thinks have a chance of succeeding because they are based on the theory he believes is correct. People from JREF will likewise tell you that there’s no point in paranormal research because it’s all fraud and no-one has ever proved any claim (that million dollars remains unclaimed and is no longer on offer). If we point out that a lot of the major advances in science were initially rejected as woo and flim-flam then we’d probably get the answer that the science is now settled…. As you’re finding on Dr. Kendrick’s blog, though, some people appreciate your input and are looking at the data and not the consensus viewpoint.

                      Very few of the manuals and text-books I’ve used in my life haven’t needed correction (why it’s useful having paper books since CDs are harder to annotate). I think the only ones that didn’t need correcting were those on resistors and ceramic capacitors. Processor manuals were always wrong somewhere. Maintenance manuals had updates. Our knowledge is not complete, and maybe never will be. Having the wiki being wrong in major and minor ways may not be a large barrier to progress, after all, given that better information is available to those that dig deeper. Of course, having true information in the various wikis would be beneficial, and may lead to more people thinking about the puzzle of things such as LENR, paranormal and other weird/fringe subjects. People attracted to that side of things may however not use the wikis at all except to check on what “settled science” says. I’m more interested in settled technology – stuff we know works. Also anomalies, where theory doesn’t precisely describe what we see to happen. It’s always the unsettled bits of science that are more interesting, after all.

            1. And, of course, I see the IP and email address from the real Simon, and I don’t think he will mind if I mention that we have had email correspondence, and what we have talked about he has blogged about elsewhere. For years. This is the real Simon, as if that was not not already obvious. “Simon says . . .” batten the hatches, there is stuff falling from the sky.

              1. Abd – I’m certainly not ashamed of saying that I respect your contributions here and in other places, or that it’s been very helpful to me in my work.

                The people using so many socks want their viewpoint to be the consensus view, and thus the comfort of a lot of people believing the same things – even if that belief is unjustified. Back when Einstein produced his Theory of Relativity, 50 scientists similarly tried to form a consensus that it was wrong, but as Einstein said, if it was wrong it would only take one of them to prove it. Science doesn’t run by consensus, it runs by experimental proof. Though these days there are some experimental anomalies that hint there’s something beyond Einstein, the theory has basically stood the test of time so far.

                Given the experimental evidence for LENR, trying to reinforce the consensus that it’s theoretically impossible and that thus the experiments were “wrong” in some undefined way is anti-science. That’s trying to treat current theory as holy writ that cannot be challenged, and that it’s heresy to try. LENR is difficult, and we don’t know why it happens, but it does happen and trying to stop all research and interest in it would, if successful, be a great disservice to humanity.

                People who need to deliver a product know that changing the scale of production up or down often brings up new problems. This even applies to cooking – you can normally scale a recipe to double the quantity or half the quantity, but beyond those limits the recipe will most likely need changing in order to produce the same taste and texture. Scaling up from lab-scale to mass-production likewise always needs debugging. All the rules we use have a range of applicability, beyond which a different rule may apply. For LENR, the conditions are different than hot fusion, so it would be short-sighted to assume that the same rules apply and that the rules for plasma physics (where we only deal with 2 bodies) won’t appear to be broken.

                I don’t see the sock-masters managing to stop research, though they have likely made it more difficult to get research funds and have thus wasted time. Luckily there are still people around who self-fund and do good work (such as Alan and Russ) outside the reach of the funding-dragons. Things are looking good for the future in various ways.

  2. “Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.”

    Abd – I think that’s really the core of the problem. In the same way as in politics the people who want to impose their POV on everyone else and so put in far more time in the legwork, Randy from Boise probably has a set of beliefs that he’s certain are true and so, if given the capability, will edit any dissenting view out of the published work. What you’re bound to end up with is what is generally accepted to be truth, whether that happens to be that the Earth is flat or that nuclear reactions can’t happen at low temperatures and energies. Bringing up muon-catalysed fusion won’t affect that belief – that’s an exception that proves the rule, and anyway it’s not practically useful. La, la, la, we’ll delete all the evidence that our beliefs might be wrong….

    Wegener’s ideas on tectonic plates took IIRC around 70 years to be accepted as reality. If Wikipedia had existed at that time the theory would have been edited out of the sum of common knowledge, and anyone looking at the data would have found the inconvenient bits such as common fossil layers either side of an ocean and the shorelines fitting uncommonly well to have been removed. Luckily, though, the fringe continued digging and Wegener’s idea got accepted after he died.

    At the moment, you’ll find very little dissent on the causes of Global Warming in the mainstream publications. Questioning the orthodoxy is somewhat risky to anyone’s scientific status. I’ve just come across a theory that’s been out a few years but seems far more firmly based in real physics (see https://revolution-green.com/climate-theory/ ), and it seems even the people at WUWT didn’t like it because it shows that the CO2 level makes very little difference. They were thus attacked from all sides, yet their idea predicts the average global temperature to within just over 1°C for all the rocky planets in this solar system they’ve applied it to. Nope, it’s not in Wikipedia….

    In the UK there’s a TV program called “QI” that used to be hosted by Stephen Fry (now Sandi Toksvig). Bits of fact that are “quite interesting”. They’ve found however that over the 16 years or so they’ve been running that a significant proportion of their facts have proved to be wrong as knowledge improves. There’s also a section of, not general knowledge, but instead general ignorance, where “what everyone knows is right” is shown to be wrong by current knowledge. Even to the point of (last night) showing that in the carol “the twelve days of Christmas” where everyone knows it’s “4 calling birds” it’s actually “4 colley birds” or blackbirds. Of course, even this general ignorance is subject to change over time, as well.

    This is a strange time to be alive as regards information. There’s far more of it and it’s far easier to find than at any other time before, and both the quantity and the ease of access are improving quickly. There’s also the problem of errors in experiments, where a while back I read a study that said that around 50% of the authors or peer-reviewed papers could replicate their own data. So, a lot more data around, but the certainty of any of it actually being right seems to have reduced. The wikis have definite POVs on their subjects, based on the beliefs of the most-prolific editors. Almost certainly a proportion will be wrong, and will be seen to be wrong somewhere down the road. Consensus is a lousy way to run science, but as with politics it doesn’t matter who votes, but who counts the votes.

    On Cold Fusion, I doubt if the wiki will start to tell the truth until it’s been available at your local hardware store for a while. I expect that people who want to dig deeper will find Jed’s library and your blog/information resources and will be able to get the information they need. Providing the search engines don’t shadow-ban you and Jed then I don’t see any gain from trying to fix Wikipedia. The rot is too deep, and is rooted in anonymous edits and common beliefs. They regard themselves as gatekeepers of the truth, and don’t realise that the truth changes over time – not the truth itself, but our descriptions of it. The more we push the limits the more we find anomalies that didn’t show up earlier, so our descriptions need to change to say that what has been seen to happen is actually possible and is allowed to happen. There are lists around of quotes by famous scientists of their time saying something was impossible, so that at least isn’t something that’s only happening in modern times. Better to hedge the bets and say “impossible according to current theory” if you’re going to do that. I’m figuring that the next decade will see several “impossible” things become commonplace, with Cold Fusion being one of those.

    As such, running this resource is a far better use of your time than trying to fix Wikipedia. I doubt if they want to be fixed, anyway. After all, they know they are right….

    1. Zeller and Nikolov made two decisions that could be negatively impacting the reception. They quote, in this 2017 article, a previous paper (reference 1) that they authored under pseudonyms (names spelled backwards), presenting their own current paper as if a confirmation or discovery of the older paper. And then they published in an alleged “predatory journal,” basically pay-to-publish.

      They had their reasons, and the affair could point to the existence of defacto suppression.

      That doesn’t mean that they are right, but there are really two issues here.

      They present a model that appears to work to predict planetary surface temperatures based on certain characteristics, rather than the greenhouse effect. Is the model valid? In my book, models are not reality, they predict results, and successful predictions with only a few data points does not prove the theory behind the model. The model stands on its own as a model, it is useful or not.

      However, those who don’t like possible implication will then attack the model, instead of simply considering it a piece of evidence. They are arguing from conclusions, in fact, though they will surely find excuses. There is always somethin’.

      The paper is not going to be cited on Wikipedia, because of the source journal’s reputation. It will become citable if it is reviewed in reliable sources. If it is cited, without more reliable source, that will be removed and there could possibly be sanctions if a user insists, as is very possible.

      1. Abd – agreed that Zeller and Nikolov used *unconventional* methods to get their ideas out. Though I’ll need to check their calculations for planetary “average temperatures” without atmosphere, I agree with their contention that the standard way of taking the average temperature and then using Stefan-Boltzmann to calculate the radiated energy is basically wrong because of the 4th power dependence on temperature of radiated energy, and thus that the actual atmosphere-free average planetary temperature would be a lot lower than is normally asserted. As such, their assertion that downwelling IR is insufficient to supply the required amount of energy to keep the Earth at its measured temperature also looks valid.

        They are pointing out that the emperor has no clothes, when most people believe he’s fully-dressed. We won’t really be able to tell if their predictions work for planets in other solar systems until we can measure the surface temperatures on them, which may be some time in the future. However, what they did was look at the data available without too many preconceptions of what it meant, and tested multiple relationships that were dimensionally valid in order to find one that gave them a good fit. Such a curve-fitting process may produce a fit for the wrong reasons, but may also later be validated by working from first principles once it’s realised that the relationship could exist. A bit more publicity may be useful.

        The requirement for a reliable source for Wikipedia really means that there’s a consensus amongst the acknowledged experts that the ideas presented are correct. That requirement would of course have disallowed Einstein’s theory of relativity from getting on Wikipedia, if it had existed at the time, since there were those 50 scientists who were publicly against it. Einstein of course said that if he was wrong, it would only need one who actually showed it was wrong. Though it would appear that the requirement for a reliable source should be a good thing, it can also be seen as something that tends to stop advances by denying publication of ideas that go against the paradigm. Given the number of famous scientists of their time that have pronounced things as impossible that were later shown to be possible, it ought to be pretty obvious that we aren’t always correct about what is impossible. Being a distinguished scientist with a high reputation isn’t a guarantee of being right.

        I use Wikipedia from time to time, since where it’s technology that’s already in use it’s generally pretty good. I need to remember though that the theory they put forward as immutable may in the future change. If you don’t know otherwise, going with the consensus is normally a good option, but don’t regard it as the last word. When it come to the bleeding edge of physics, it probably won’t be.

        Personally, I see Wikipedia as generally a good source as regards history, but untrustworthy when it comes to looking forward. For what is coming in CF/LENR, somewhere like CFC is far more useful as a guide and also is far more careful about getting the history right. Wikipedia isn’t built to look forward, and I don’t see a way that such a structure that depends on consensus knowledge can really do that anyway. Randy from Boise can edit out the stuff he doesn’t agree with, after all. He can’t do that with CFC.

        1. From my point of view, unnecessary. I would have suggested something more direct. I would have documented rejections of a paper under their own names, from a few journals. Then, if rejected, a pseudonymous submission could have been made, and using stupid names spelled backwards was a very Bad Idea, which could have backfired. (apparently it didn’t.). Then I’d have suggested informing the journal before the publication, requesting that their real names be used. (or if pseudonyms were used, it would be announced as such. But much better that the paper have real names.
          Because they didn’t do that, then, they wanted to cite their paper in their next paper, and they did so, without noting that this was their paper. That was unethical in a way that the original pseudonyms were not.
          They have set up their paper to be read with prejudice, when there would already be resistance.
          (If Springer had retracted approval of the paper, then they would publish it elsewhere and also publish their experience. One can then get the information out in traditional ways. I don’t think they improved matters by what they did.
          None of this is a judgment on climate change. I tend to trust the consensus (on this and many other things, but am aware and keep in mind that even a genuine consensus can be wrong, much more so a faux consensus, which also happens.

          1. Abd – I’ve been digging a little deeper on this and it seems to me that there is some truth in what they are saying, but that they are wrong to assign all the effect to one cause. As such, I don’t expect that their formula will apply in other solar systems – it is too simple to describe the real complexities. They are correct that the average global temperature would be far lower than is normally stated without an atmosphere and that thus the mass of atmosphere is important, but have not produced a good reason from first principles to say why. They have produced a mathematical relationship without physics to back it, and we can always find a mathematical relationship for a set of data points.

            The consensus is thus a bit wrong to not include the atmospheric mass and gravity effects, and to totally reject the idea. N+Z are somewhat more wrong to use two exponentials of the same variable (pressure at ground level) to produce their fitting curve, and to provide no explanation of any physical reason for the relationship they posit. I think the reason may be the effect of the gravitational field in producing a thermodynamic equilibrium in which the temperatures are not equal, but it would take quite a while to work this out from first principles given the mixing of the layers that we see experimentally from the actual versus calculated lapse rate.

            There has been a lot of discussion on this, and there’s a split into two basic camps where some think it’s a good explanation and others totally reject it. I think the answer lies between those two positions. It’s probably part of the answer, but isn’t a complete answer, and far more work needs to be put in.

            “I don’t think they improved matters by what they did.”
            I agree. I’m however not sure that there is an easy way to change consensus. The evidence would have to be far stronger than they present, and would need to have a reason that people can see is reasonable, and they haven’t got that.

            Still, where we started here was about Wikipedia, and their requirement that articles agree with the consensus. New discoveries and ideas won’t be consensus, and so won’t get mentioned on Wikipedia until they become so. New ideas must find a different route to get seen by enough people that rough edges get knocked off and a consensus can be formed. arXiv and Vixra are luckily available, to provide that public dissemination of new science as well as crackpot ideas, but there’s a lot of them and finding the gold there is not easy. I’m not sure there is a solution for sorting the wheat from the chaff. Making it easier to have more brains thinking about the ideas would seem to be useful, though.

            I also trust the consensus on the whole, except where I’ve got a good reason to think it may be wrong. For Global Warming/Climate Change, the data shows that CO2 level is not the problem even though that appears to be the consensus view. The Mediaeval Warm Period shows both the disconnect with CO2 concentration and that a few degrees warmer will be far more beneficial overall than a few degrees cooler than now. To paraphrase Feynman, if you have data that shows your theory is wrong then that theory is wrong. The simplistic “one knob controls everything” idea about CO2 is thus almost certainly wrong. If I had to choose a main control knob for the Earth, I’d choose water instead, but of course there’s obviously going to be a large dependence on the energy we get from the Sun, which is variable and depends on celestial mechanics as well as the Sun itself. It’s complex….

            Discussion of new ideas seems to me to be essential in sorting out the logical or description problems. Your input on my ideas, even though they seemed totally wrong to you at the start, has enabled me to modify the descriptions and to find acceptable published experimental evidence in support. Though my conclusions may be rejected by most as impossible based on axiom, I’m happy that at least they are now explained well-enough. It remains to change that theory into a useful technology. You were the only person to really engage with the idea and pick holes in it, which has been very beneficial.

            I still think Wikipedia is looking backwards. Useful to get information about the past, but not so good (and maybe a negative overall effect) when it comes to cutting-edge science. A bit like walking backwards on a city street – you know what you’ve stepped in afterwards, and aren’t looking ahead to avoid it. There is probably no such thing as a neutral point of view, no matter how hard you try to achieve that. The best you can achieve is a balance between the two extremes, but you can’t be certain that the extremes aren’t both biased in the same direction. I expect I can find statements in older versions of Encyclopedia Britannica that have changed over time, and there’s far more care taken there than in Wikipedia to make sure that what is written is actually true according to the best science of the time.

            With CFC, what you write can’t be trashed by someone who doesn’t have your background knowledge. It will remain on the net, and hopefully on the archives as well. It seems to me your time is better spent on CFC than trying to fix Wikipedia, where the problems are to a large extent built-in at the start and have had a long time to get entrenched. Wikipedia is based on communist ideas of everyone being equal, and like communism the practice doesn’t match the ideals and there are groups of people pushing their own POV and breaking the rules with a large amount of impunity. It’s possible that you could start a new organisation with a better set of rules, but some people are very good at subverting rules. You’ll need watchers, and who watches the watchers? Human enterprises work very well up to around 20 people, and up to around 150 they work while everyone knows everyone else and the bad apples are identified. Beyond that, it’s got a lifetime that it will work well and beyond which it will go bad, because that’s human nature. Those numbers may change in future, but maybe not in our lifetimes since they have been pretty reliable during known history. About 1 in 20 people are leaders (for good or bad), so there’s a natural pyramid organisation that works with small subunits that have a single purpose and are coordinated from higher up. Flat organisations sound great, but don’t work for long once they’ve exceeded the 20-150 people mark.

            “God grant me the strength to change what I can change, the fortitude to put up with the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”. I can’t remember who said that in the first place, but seems pretty accurate.

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