The French-language WikiPedia (http://fr.wikipedia.org/) is part of the WikiPedia project, using the GNU FreeDocumentationLicense, a neutral point of view policy, and aiming to build a free encyclopedia.
It is one of the medium-sized non-English WikiPedia sites, reaching 20 000 articles in november 2003.
In august 2002, it changed the wikipedia logo to use a green logotype with a dove, different from the other WikiPedia websites. The logo change (for a more colorful design with no english text) caused an uproar in the french community, as it was done without any community concerted action -- other nonenglish wikipedias had already adapted the Wikipedia logo by keeping the same design but changing the text. In fall 2002, the original author of the green logo proposed a slight refactoring of it. It was then suggested a brand new international logo, common to all wikipedias, could be designed. Some thought it was dismissing the right to difference for each wikipedia within what they saw as a confederation. Others argue the bigger english wikipedia would not accept to change an already known logo on the bare suggestion of a sub wikipedia. It was also pointed out that no structure existed that could allow all wikipedians to discuss a common policy on a neutral plateform giving equal footing to all languages. Since no agreement could be reached, no logo change was made.
In july 2003, possibly favored by discussions with AntHere on the reason for the logo difference, ErikMoeller proposed a new logo contest to try to fix the matter of the english language in the initial logo. After a long contest, with many french proposition, a common logo was finally approved on meta. It was widely welcome by french wikipedians in replacement of the dove logo.
The french-language Wikipedia was using UseModWiki software until October 31 2002, when it was upgraded to what is referred to as Phase III software. While under usemod software, some strong disagreements with a user called Mulot led the french to use HardSecurity against that user (7 days ban).
It is one of the medium-sized non-English WikiPedia sites, reaching 20 000 articles in november 2003. Its growth was fastest when its size doubled in two months from 943 articles on July 1 to 2045 articles on August 31, 2002.
On November 18, 2002, with 2718 articles, it was the world's 13th BiggestWiki. Its participants were francophones from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, England, and USA mostly. Half of these users were participants on at least one other wikipedia (Esperanto, Spanish, English), helping to establish strong relationships between the different wikipedias.
For about a week before Papotages was banned, the situation was very unclear as the CommunityDoesNotAgree publicly. Finally, the arguments over wether to apply DissuadeReputation, and how to apply it, have been done by irc, icq and private mail, so the community could finally present a rather united front. However, some editors not included in the private communication or not available on irc, deeply resented the lack of FairProcess and openess to all editors. It seems this was one of the major reason why a TrustedEditor? finally decided to quit Wikipedia.
On the november 11th, Pap'otages was finally banned by the french community. It may be interesting to note that Jimbo Wales, the leader of the wikipedia project did not participate in that decision, confirming the fact the french wikipedia is basically free of any moral leader. However, some french contributors confirmed to him the banning was unfortunately the only option left, after much had been tried. Since beginning of november, french people have to cope with someone "vandalising" the wikipedia, every day, for about 6 to 8 hours a day, which basically prevent doing any other administrative task. Pap'otages using multiple ips, and suspected bot to edit pages, the action that can be taken against him are questionned, favoring again very deep dissent among the community. Some favor just blocking and reverting, some want to contact his isp, other want to publish and publicly attack his RealName. The latter option is controversial since there is no proof as yet that the person on prevensect and the one on wikipedia are the same. Other also argued for private life respect. Among french contributors, this deeply raise the issue of how HardSecurity might be achieved in case of a very insistant vandal. On the 13th of november, several technical options were decided to try to block him; being controversial, these decisions raised disagreement between the non-french developper as well.
It is yet to see which consequences this episode will have in the middle term, but for now, it probably drove several newbies away to see screaming insults in summary boxes, made at least one contributor quit, and raised discord in the whole community.
Likely, it will also promote new jargon and habits.
Those who argued for "do not feed the troll" were favouring DissuadeReputation and DissuadeInteraction. This is just another demonstration that these methods do not work if the CommunityDoesNotAgree - here, others are trying to AssumeGoodFaith and ModelDesiredBehavior, and the split in the community response is more dangerous than the person causing the split.
Anyone using a bot can break SoftSecurity - that's when you need to MeetForceWithForce. Complaints to ISPs may be appropriate, where this is focused to LimitDamage. However, publically naming and shaming is a dangerous application of PunishReputation - it does not directly help the wiki, but hopes to indirectly help it by hurting the person who is hurting you. This approach can have no effect, or worse, be counter-productive - you need a good judgement of character to apply it. However, the negative consequences of applying it are less important than the negative consequences of a community split over whether to apply it.
That edit summaries are untouchable is a misfeature in MediaWiki. At a minimum they should be hidable and unhidable (by anyone, not just sysops) - this would promote ForgiveAndForget and ameliorate the fossilised arguments that can discourage newcomers and demoralise oldtimers.
November 25, 2003
The situation settled down quite a bit for the last two weeks, thanks to a series of TechnologySolutions by TimStarling. First, range and useragent blocks were applied -- these were relatively ineffective. Then, a script was written allowing recent changes to be dumped to IRC. Coupled with client-side alerts triggered by characteristic text in the edit summary, this allowed Papotages to be quickly blocked each time he made edits, often within 10 seconds. Despite this, Papotages was still accused of polluting recent changes with large numbers of edits. To address this, the edits in question were hidden from recent changes after the fact. At first this was done manually by TimStarling using database write access, and later by other sysops with a secret option in the URL. This technique appears to have greatly reduced the inconvenience caused by Papotages' attacks.
The first consequence of the ban of Papotages is that a big discussion started on administrator nomination
In november 2003, Mulot (blocked in summer 2002) came back, and soon after, a new user Stuart Little started participating. Both were very quickly considered to be only one person, by those who had known Mulot back in 2002. As soon as january, some conflicts erupted on several articles on religious topic. Following a request for mediation from a user in conflict with Stuart Little and Mulot (both supporting each other or taking turns in the conflictual pages), AntHere asked TimStarling to make an ip check on SL and Mulot, which revealed identical ips (the ip numbers were not puclicly revealed). It was then asked that SL and Mulot stop supporting each other in conflicts, as SockPuppets? are accepted, but it was thought unfair to have several identities in one conflict. Mulot disappeared (to appear on the spanish wikipedia).
This precluded a three month time, during which SL went on in edit war on several religious articles, or on consensus article, and on several meta topics, mostly against sysops and sysop status. Soon enough, a good dozen people were in conflict on various topics with SL. In March 2004, a decrease of 30% of editing was observed on encyclopedic articles, most participants being in conflict on meta pages, sysop abuse issues, polls and votes. Most of this trouble was about words, sophisms, opinions and/or profanities use, rather than basic issues of copyright or NPOV infringment.
The commmunity became divided on two topics. Most of the community was calling for a ban on Stuart (upon the fact he was spreading conflict among the community, by lying, by stirring up any issues in particular) while others supported that SL had not done anything factual, that could grant banning (ie, facts like vandalism, npov or cp infringment). Most of the first group was represented by rather old participants, while the second group was rather represented by new participants. Second, SL split the sysops and non sysops, by pointing out what he thought to be bad policy, and actions he thought sysop abuse. While some of the comments had basis, many were just aside the point.
A point of no return was reached when SL made comments on the international scene (ie, tried to spread french internal political issues in a place where readers could not judge situation by themselves). At this point, the french policy for banning was wide community approval (ie, consensus with no veto opposition), which had been sufficient in Papotages case. In this case, any sanction was impossible to take, as there was a couple of people strongly opposing any sanction. AntHere decided to begin to apply some SoftSecurity measures, in particular to move all detrimental and trolling comments made by SL on SL talk page. SL objected to it claiming that this was censorship first, and second that the CommunityDoesNotAgree. However, no one reverted the moves. To make the point that the community agreed there was a problem, a poll was started to try to clarify editors opinion on the topic. It resulted on an edit war on the poll, by one editor, R, who claimed the poll was not following a FairProcess, as well as the starting of a parallel poll by the latter. In spite of the confusion, it became clear the community was fed up with the conflicts and though SL a huge part in them. In spite of no existing procedure, user:Ryo proposed to attempt mediation as part of the ConflictResolution process, between Stuart and the nearly dozen of editors he was openly in conflict with (either on encyclopedic articles, or on meta pages, or for accusation of sysop abuse). The mediation was public, and led nowhere, but to more pain and accusation.
In the following days, two things occured. First, two separate voting pages were started to decide what to do with Stuart, by Amaury and Fred. Second, two TrustedEditor? (with developer status, Shaihulud and Hashar) blocked Stuart within two days. The blocks were cancelled by User:Ryo. Three voting pages were started to unsysop three sysops (these resulted in no unsysoping).
In parallel Anthere and Aurevilly worked on a new blocking and banning policy. Within about 10 days, this new policy was organised, and voted (with very wild approval, and no veto, provided that the policy would be reworked soon on a couple of points). The sanction/banning policy is organised with two steps, one proposing first a temporary sanction (such as restriction of edition on some parts of the wikipedia, or blocking of edition on only one page), the second is plainly about banning (but can't be reached until the first step has been decided and applied for at least one month). This is meant for the sanctions to be progressive, and to ensure no final decision is made too quickly. Decisions are not taken by a committee, but by most participants (no vote for very new participants and anonymous ips).
It is worth noting that User:Aurevilly made a very bold proposition on the french mailing list. He proposed to take the role of a GodKing and judge the case of SL himself. This proposition was met by very few comments, which seem to indicate french contributors are not ready to accept this type of proposition. Following this proposal, Jimbo Wales indicated publicly he would authorise AntHere and YannForget to take any action considered appropriate (ie, blocking) to cool down the situation if necessary, for the time before a vote decide of the community decision.
Anthere proposed a voting page in april 2004, after several days of brainstorming on IRC. The propositions on Wikipedia were reworked by editors during 4 days, before the vote was open. In may 2004, a restriction of edition was voted by 88% support by french participants. SL is forbidden to edit all meta pages, and participants user space for a full month. He may still edit encyclopedic pages, and his user space. This is a sanction will not be inforced by technical means, but rely on the willingness of the user to accept it. Accepting the sanction will be seen as a sign of the goodwill of the participant to follow CommunityExpectations. Infringment of it will probably lead to the second step though (banning vote). Following the decision, all pages related to the issue (but the vote) were blanked, and delinked from most meta pages, to promote in time ForgiveAndForget.
Worth to mention, user:Gem, a 4 month old contributor made an attempt to "vandalise" the voting page, and created a miror "detrimental" voting page, calling the vote on SL a stalinian putsch. Gem was immediately blocked by User:Med (a TrustedUser? very favorable to blocking and banning). The block was very quickly reverted, but no call for sysop abuse was done. Gem reaction is another sigh of the split of the community opinion on what to do with Stuart. Gem did not make any comment before that day, which appears strange to some editors. A few mentionned that many of the favorite editing pages of Gem were the ones which were edited by Papotages...
On the first day following the vote, SL started editing under a new SockPuppet name. It is not clear what the commmunity response will be to enforcing the decision on a sockpuppet. SL fought a lot the accusation of him being Mulot, insisting that common ip, common topics, common editing habits, common behavior were no proof of common person. His comments met some feedback.