Project:Incivility on Wikiversity

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  • Abd is currently indef blocked on en.wikiversity, for alleged incivility. (This account is written by Abd.)
  • Dave Braunschweig is a Wikiversity full custodian, for a time almost the only active Wikiversity Custodian, but now there are two others active. There are quite a few who are usually inactive.
  • Guy vandegrift and Marshallsumter are two other active Wikiversity full custodians, both having been mentored by Dave before passing their vote.
  • Jtneill is a Wikiversity custodian and bureaucrat.
  • Leutha is a probationary custodian whose candidacy page fell through the cracks when it was accidentally archived, whose mentor was not willing to recommend him in 2011. Abd had recently discovered this and noted it on the talk page of his mentor, Jtneill.
  • No active custodian has extensive experience with wiki dispute resolution process.


  • In a discussion of wiki process, Guy raised the issue of Dave's knowledge.
  • Abd responded with a comment that Dave "knows almost nothing" about "dispute resolution process."
  • Without warning, Dave blocked Abd for "personal attack" based on this comment about him.
  • An unblock request was up for a week, in which Abd agreed follow any declared restrictions, or refuse them, in which case an unblocking custodian could re-impose the block.
  • There was no unblock.
  • After a week, Abd withdrew the unblock request and is moving all activity elsewhere, as Wikiversity is not safe.

Abd's irony detector is screaming. Dave demonstrated lack of understanding of dispute resolution process by blocking a disagreeing user, instead of following recusal policy and dispute resolution procedures.

Immediate sequence

Just to clarify, I am not suggesting that we go parlimentarian on this wiki -- I was making an analogy to show how a different system deals with such matters. Every organization has to delegate authority, somehow. Dave knows a lot more than me about how it's done here.--Guy vandegrift]] (discuss • contribs) 03:26, 14 September 2015 (UTC)
Dave knows almost nothing about dispute resolution procedures on a wiki. I've been astonished to find that, but it's not terribly surprising, given his history. His high activity in site maintenance would not teach him this. Wikiversity mostly avoids conflict, so one may not gain much experience in this here. Dave started enwiki and Wikiversity activity when the wiki was relatively dead, he started editing in 2012. His enwiki activity remains very thin. Many users there never see ANI, or read ArbCom cases. Consider how Dave became a permanent custodian, who made that happen? (If you don't know, ask!) I work outside the rules, but in line with anticipation of community consensus, which is the real rule. Someone constrained by "the rules" would not have been able to do what I did. [...] --Abd (discuss • contribs) 05:03, 14 September 2015 (UTC)
  • This was in a discussion with, at this point, only all three full custodians (and Abd) commenting. This was in the most public place in Wikiversity, the most-watched page, discussing a proposal by Abd to confirm what had been standard process since Wikiversity was founded, and what is standard process on other wikis, as the English Wikipedia, since this was challenged by Dave Braunschweig.
  • Abd's edit summary was (→‎Comments: high site maintenance activity will not teach dispute resolution process or conflict resolution. And wikis do not delegate authority, but power.)[2]
  • Guy vandegrift responded to the substance of Abd's comment, ignoring what was later alleged as incivility:
This is all very confusing. If somebody is reverting changes to the proposed policy, that implies that there is opposition, and if there is opposition, the parties talk, and if they can't agree it goes to the next step. I am inexperienced with conflict resolution on wikis. What is the next step if there is opposition (or disagreement over reverts). Exactly where does it go? I am probably not the only person who is wondering.--Guy vandegrift (discuss • contribs) 05:36, 14 September 2015 (UTC)

(This report is not an analysis of the arguments. However, Guy had clearly not understood the context, which was opposition, not accompanied by any dispute over proposed "policy" -- the page in question wasn't a policy page, it was a guideline page, and it was known that it needed work --, but over process. I.e., is it necessary to announce every proposed change on the Colloquium, the central Wikversity discussion page. No opposing arguments had been expressed to the actual change, in the case that triggered this request for discussion, and it was reverted only on the basis of not being taken to the Colloquium, which had never been done before for minor changes. So, in fact, a major change to procedure had been created by Dave, without consultation. If Dave was opposed to the change itself, he was not willing to say it. Others had supported it.)

  • 12:25, 14 September 2015 Dave Braunschweig (discuss | contribs) blocked Abd (discuss | contribs) with an expiry time of indefinite (cannot create accounts) (Intimidation, harassment, or vulgar language: Continued personal attacks.)
  • There was no violated warning on User talk:Abd. There was no ignored complaint about the edit. The edit has been said to be uncivil; however, incivility at this level is routine, and sysops are expected to be open to criticism. The edit was not intimidation, harassment, or vulgar language by any stretch of the imagination. It was not a "personal attack," as defined in Wikversity and Wikipedia policies on such. It was mild criticism, if that. It was arguably a fact. Dave had previously asserted that any comment "on the person" was a personal attack, and this was his block rationale, on Abd user talk:
Blocked For Continued Personal Attacks
Personal attacks such as [3] are not welcome at Wikiversity. Please let us know when you are prepared to discuss issues rather than editors. Until then, your account is blocked from editing except your user page. -- Dave Braunschweig (discuss • contribs) 12:24, 14 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Dave had previously conflated argumentum ad hominem with personal attack. It can be that; however, the context here was an argument from authority presented by Guy. Books on debate and argument distinguish ordinary argumentum ad hominem from countering an argument from authority, which was my interpretation of Guy's comment. Further, the context of this discussion was a background of incivility from Dave and Leutha, toward Abd.
  • Wiki traditions, and generally policies, are very clear that it is improper for a sysop to block a user when involved in an argument or dispute with the user. Dave did, in fact, understand this. He had complained, not on my user talk page, but to the wikiversity Request custodian action page]. His filing there was one basis for Abd's later comment that Dave did not understand dispute resolution process. (That he did not first discuss the problem with Abd, but went straight to requesting custodian action, was a sign of that.) The filing on RCA:
Disruption by Abd
User:Abd is disrupting the efforts of an instructor trying to prepare Wikiversity for student use. See [4] and [5]. This needs immediate custodian attention. Based on recent hostility by Abd toward me, I can't respond to the issue without seeming already 'involved'. Please address both the user's immediate concerns regarding this content disruption and the general disruptive approach by Abd as noted at [6]. -- Dave Braunschweig (discuss • contribs) 12:45, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

All three links led to edits by other users, not to actions of Abd. The first two were edits by Dx, an inexperienced user who appears to have been working with Leutha, off-wiki. What had been done on the user's pages had been done, by me -- and by Dave -- with many other users, many times, without problems. Normally, the user does not get upset and continues working happily on their pages. What was called "vandalism" by the user was a classification of a set of subpage links, with removal to the relevant subpage. Easily reversible. Instead, Leutha intervened and complained. A Wikiversity custodian was also involved in editing Dx's pages, and had agreed with or consented to what I'd done. When the user made her objections clear, everyone supported her, including me. My concerns had to do with long-term Wikiversity structure and organization, and that is never urgent, but always needed. It could wait.

The third edit is a request for guidance from Jtneill by Leutha, making a series of allegations about me and asking how to handle them. Notice the edit before it, which shows. I was questioning the continued probationary custodianship of Leutha (which was an obvious problem). Dave followed up on Leutha's comment with [7]. He pointed to [8] (the same as the first diff in his RCA filing) and then he added, "I would warn, but I'm already 'involved'."

His comment showed an appalling lack of understanding of dispute resolution process. He is complaining to the site's most active bureaucrat, who is usually very slow to respond to anything. Abd knows how to obtain his response, and created the response many times, and this is part of understanding how to resolve disputes: make them crystal clear. Jtneill would look at the diffs and not know what was happening. He'd see conflict, all right, but what was the cause? Indeed, since sanctions were being proposed against Abd of some kind, what had he done? All that is presented is a conclusion, disruption. And then Dave says he would warn, but he's already involved.

Being involved does not negate warning. If the warning appears to be a threat to use sysop tools, it's improper, but any user may warn, one level up from a simple complaint or suggestion for better behavior.

The RCA filing went nowhere. Leutha immediately commented, "thinking" that Dave should not step back. It appears from the later action that Dave took that advice, from a probationary custodian, with no apparent experience at handling disputes without tossing gasoline on them. Leutha, then, once Abd was blocked, on User talk:Abd, immediately supported the block, calling up an old promise, that had been retracted, that clearly was no longer in effect, with the obvious consent of the unblocking custodian, who was asked. Leutha has, in fact, brought this up three times, and has never acknowledged correction.

In the RCA discussion, Dx showed up. "and now ABD is lying about me on guy's talk page suggesting i am lying about my internet access." Abd did no such thing. Abd mentioned internet access, because Dx had mentioned it, and it was peripherally relevant to a discussion going on. In the end, Dx calmed down. However, did anyone warn (not to mention block) Dx for incivility? There were actually a series of comments that were uncivil. However, because this was transient, nobody did anything about it. Dx is anonymous, using a Multiple User Name, a Neoist device, so Wikiversitans don't actually know what Dx is up to, whether there are classes in prep or not, but it doesn't matter. Leutha may know or believe this from what Dx has told him off-wiki. The most important thing for Abd was that Dx learn to handle minor "disruption." I.e., someone else editing the user's project. It's not difficult, much less difficult than going to RCA and complaining or even complaining on the user talk page!

Abd responded on Jtneill talk: [9]

Dave filed a WV:RCA report over a "conflict" that I was unaware of, opposition to two edits that appeared last night, and the report was filed before I could even see them and handle the problem (which I have now done with both issues). Dave has become reactive, and is obviously looking for "something wrong with Abd." As always, I will welcome your advice. However, Dave has gone off the rails. Always, previously, he was amenable to advice, so I assume you could also advise him. Thanks. --Abd (discuss • contribs) 14:50, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

Leutha followed up: [10]

The situation is rapidly deteriorating. Please see Wikiversity:Request_custodian_action. Thanks Leutha ([discuss] • contribs) 18:22, 1 September 2015 (UTC)

There were a number of other preceding issues or conflicts that had arisen that will be examined, together with the above, on the subpage /History.

Dave added an additional comment to RCA:

I again ask for custodian intervention into this matter. Per Guy vandegrift above, 'We need less talk about behavior and policy, and more writing of content.'. Abd continues to make disparaging remarks against multiple users. These personal attacks constitute persistent harassment and must stop. See [11] and [12] for recent examples. -- Dave Braunschweig (discuss • contribs) 12:23, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

The first diff points to a discussion on User talk:Guy vandegrift. It mentions Dx and Leutha. The "remarks" are not disparaging or personal attacks, and they are not harassment. (Dave has probably seen very little actual harassment. His own actions have, however, amounted to harassment, and they have contributed to driving users away, very clearly. That will be covered elsewhere. Commenting on some issues of user behavior on a custodian talk page, and not requesting action, but only sharing background, is definitely not harassment. If the user does nothing, nothing happens. Deleting user's pages, blocking them, or tagging their work for deletion could be harassment. So, then, the issue is "is it necessary," and, for a custodian, "is it use of tools while involved in a dispute?"

The second diff is again on that talk page, a section Abd started to answer Guy's question that had been asked on User talk:Dave Braunschweig. Dave had made it clear that he did not want comments on his User talk page for questions asked. That was already a problem for a custodian, who should generally be open to comment from the community. However, it's Dave's right to ask for others to stay off his page. So I did. The edit was very long. this is it, open the collapse for Template:Contrib-using. The edit Dave pointed to is then in the section "Criticism of comment here."

This was about the core of the conflict. But it was long. What was uncivil? Dave does not distinguish between personal attack and normal criticism of sysops or users. Especially when he is being criticized! However, he is not shy to criticize Abd!

Jtneill did not respond on his talk page. He did, however, show up on RCA, after Abd pinged him there. His response:

Thanks for the pings alerting me to this "conflict". From a quick review, Abd is correct to conclude that I'm somewhat "non-plussed". Abd, if folks are not appreciating your well-intended help, then I suggest just leaving it alone and letting them get on with creating content. I didn't see any inappropriate content being added? Leutha, in my experience, Abd is thoughtful and well-intentioned but can be somewhat tendentious in his procedural commentary and there is a real risk in dealing with his comments of spending IMHO too long on talk/admin commentary and too little on content creation. So, my advice is to not allow this to derail your content development efforts. I am not saying ignore feedback (respond politely and in good faith). If there is a specific aspect that I've missed and someone thinks it warrants my opinion, feel free to let me know. Sincerely, James -- Jtneill - Talk - c 21:24, 3 September 2015 (UTC)

The RCA filing produced no other result. Abd was not warned or blocked. The only clear support for Dave's complaint was Leutha, who was himself involved.

Efforts had been made to define recusal policy, see the present draft, [13]. See the [ earlier draft.

Unblock request

Withdrawal of unblock request

Abd has withdrawn the unblock request. An active request is stressful, he has found. Arguments continue to arise in his mind, and distract him from other useful work. Being blocked caused him to focus elsewhere, with many immediate benefits. What was important to him on Wikiversity was building a community where it was safe to "learn by doing" and to create content. That blatant recusal failure was allowed to stand led him to realize he had failed to create the necessary community and structures to make it safe. (On en.Wikipedia, a block like that would lead to rapid desysop, and, even with that rule, enwiki is not safe for free educational content development, for other reasons.)