BarkingFish has an admirable record as an active contributor to the project. However xe has also been involved in some conflict with community members, in particular over a quickness to block, and as often indefinitely as not. In a recent IRC conversation xe asserted the decision to indef block was solely xyr right, as it was intrinsic to being an admin.
For this reason, and solely this reason, I would prefer if xe no longer had the responsibility for blocking users.
The specific event which pushed this issue to the forefront was the indef block on Ungoliant MMDCCLXIV (talk • contribs (logs) • block (block log)) for 'trolling' in the comments namespace, a portion of Wikinews set aside for the expression of personal opinions. The users non-comments page edits are minor copy edits which improved Wikinews's articles. Prior to being indef blocked by BarkingFish the user had never been blocked, had never received a warning from any community member.
There were, until very recently, two indef blocks by BarkingFish which were not supported in policy (there may be other policy-based justifications not alluded to in the block summaries):
These were hardly the most egregious bad blocks in the history of en.WN, but the response to them is exemplary: BarkingFish blocked without considering policy, and would have left the blocks in place forever if xe had not been called on them. Admins should be trusted to do the right thing the first time, not only when they are 'caught'. I no longer have that trust in BarkingFish's judgement for blocks. - Amgine | t 15:31, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
In my defence against this frankly annoying allegation, I wish to state that prior to the application of this block, I spoke with a bureaucrat (B-R-S), from which conversation went something like this: (abridged to remove comments from uninvolved users and channel bots)
B-R-S If you want to say he's an obvious troll and not really a holder of those views - i.e. just causing trouble - and block him, I won't argue.
BarkingFish B-R-S: Obvious troll is quite rampantly obvious
BarkingFish In the bin he goes.
BarkingFish I'm going to slap an indef on Ungolli...whatever the **** he's called. (that was uncalled for, I know)
BarkingFish He is clearly clearly trolling and doing nothing else.
B-R-S Fine by me, Fish.
I was then highlighted by pizero in #wikinews, enquiring as to the reason for the block.
00:12:21 pizero: BarkingFish: what's up with Ungoliant MMDCCLXIV?
00:13:15 BarkingFish: blocked for trolling on the LQT
00:13:22 BarkingFish: undo it if you think it's wrong
00:13:31 BarkingFish: I considered him to be trolling, I nailed him
00:15:08 B-R-S: He does look like he doesn't really hold the opinions he spouts - i.e. is causing trouble.
A rather heated conversation then followed, during which time Amgine asserted that admins should not indef users, because they don't have the ability to decide that a user has no unredeeming features. At the end of said conversation, during which varying arguments and unpleasant remarks got bandied about, I then posted this to pizero:
01:18:34 BarkingFish: pizero: I'll be frank with you. My work as an admin here, means precisely nothing, when someone tells me I don't have the authority to do what I do. I will be filing a bug on mediawiki and asking for all administrators to have the right to indefinitely ban users removed.
01:23:10 pizero: BarkingFish: You do have the authority. WN blocking policy is saner than any other I've encountered (most of the page is guideline, rather than policy). Which isn't to say there isn't always room for all of us to learn going forward; but yes, you definitely have the authority.
01:25:36 pizero: BarkingFish, I'm not defending Amgine. And I wondered, asked, and was satisfied about the particular block.
I also confirm that I have specific permission from both mentioned users to publish the IRC related material on this request.
01:47:57 B-R-S: Well, I certainly have no objection to you using that bit from me. Transparency & accounability etc. It's only fair that you can quote that. (via PM after showing them the notes)
01:50:42 pizero: BarkingFish: Like BRS, I feel morally I should stand by my comments here, so I give you permission to use them. Which may be needed since the channel specifies no public logging. (user had not seen my notes at this point, but was given a copy after they'd consented, they were viewed and the user did not object to this.)
In short, I see it as my intrinsic right as an administrator to this project to set a block of whatever length I see fit. Indef isn't the end of the world, indef is short for indefinite, meaning "indetermined length" in this case. It could be a week, 3 years, or until hell freezes and satan goes to work on a snowplough. The block was discussed, reviewed after questioning in irc by another admin, and I feel was well within my rights to apply.
In relation to the accusations that I'd "not considered policy", the block on 5starlegacyfoundation was applied because they were writing articles about an organisation which they appeared to be directly involved in, which in a news site, created a conflict of interest in my opinion. I trust that we don't let organisations spout about themselves here, and applied the block to stop them from promoting their own organisation's work.
The Xtzou block was because the account was marked registered here, and it was a KNOWN sockpuppet of another user, indefinitely blocked on another project. The indef was precautionary to prevent them from using the sock here.
In the past, if others have considered my blocks to be wrong, I have sometimes discussed them, I have sometimes compromised. But on some, I won't do that, where I consider that the block is required. I justified the block on Ungoliant MMDCLXIV after Brian McNeil lifted it, and you can find that on the Admin alerts board.
The ball is now in your court. Hit it however you wish. BarkingFish (talk) 17:54, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Comment BarkingFish went about this thoughtfully. Disagreement on the part of other admins is always a possibility, and applied in this case. (Ungoliant has apparently slipped smoothly back into participation in comment space following the incident, BTW.) Note also that WN:Blocking policy is not a mass of red tape; on the contrary, the explicit instructions to admins are:
It is up to admins to use their discretion to decide when to block, and how long for, however for guidance: ...
(emphasis added) followed by the rest of the page. As I remarked in the above quoted comment, an extraordinarily sane policy. (Wikipedia, to its misfortune, needs far more bureaucracy because it has such a large number of cats to herd.) Since BarkingFish did consult with another admin intimately familiar with the case, I can't see this incident as representative of any fundamental fault with BarkingFish's judgement that would warrant de-admin.
(I do think, in line with my earlier comment about learning going forward, that it's practically always desirable for the block notice left on a user's page to specify how to request unblock — including indefinite block. We might want to make that part of the indefinite block template, with —perhaps— a parameter that can be used to explicitly suppress the instructions.) --Pi zero (talk) 18:23, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Comment To adress the blocks, in order:
Xtzou - sockpuppet investigations are by nature sometimes crosswiki and for this reason there exist private channels of comunication between them. Therefore, cross-project evidence is certainly acceptable to me.
5starlegacyfoundation - Eek! I was genuinely surprised to find this not covered in WN:E; I've probably done such myself (and am informed I have); however, I do note that spamming is a valid block reason. I understand there is an issue of "what the user does, not what they're called" - to counter, choosing a certain username is something they do and having a promotional username is advertising in its own right.
Ungoliant MMDCCLXIV - WN:BP is guidance-only, as noted above, but does expressly state troublemakers can be blocked. Now, I would never have blocked unilaterally. However, when another user (BarkingFish) agreed, I was then comfortable I was not imagining things. There are two conflicting pieces of 'policy' here - WN:BP, and the community consensus not to censor the comments namespace no matter how objectionable the content. There is an unresolved issue here; I'll come back to that. I have previously cited, and will do so again, the example of the interview I conducted with the head of the US National Socialist Movement - which is a legitimate political party. A Nazi candidate - the interviewee - stood against Obama &c. Now, this interview was reposted on the party's official forum and probably elsewhere among neo-fascist circles; naturally, it attracted a ot of attention from the man's racist supporters. It would be utterly wrong to deny these people the chance to defend themselves from the onslaught of negativity by other readers who were appalled by Nazi idealogy.
Coming back to the unresolved issue: we've talked about this properly for legitimately held opinions. We have never discussed how this applies to (real or perceived) trolling in which the opinions are not legitimately held. I think it hugely unfair to try to remove a user's rights for breaching a policy we haven't written yet.
In short, I see a community (and the framework in which it exists) working well together to both reach decions carefully and maturely, and to check these decisions properly. Blood Red Sandman(Talk)(Contribs) 20:00, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Well and thoughtfully commented. Would your reaction be an indef block, no account creation, with autoblock? Should it, perhaps, have been a talk page warning, or a less-than-24-hour block with warning? - Amgine | t 20:13, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
(actually, the text needs copyedited, but I'll let it stand how it is, typos, poor constructs and all) Well, autoblock - and hence account creation block - does expire within 24 hours so I'm quite liberal with use of it. As for length (or warning first), I note that indef is not permanent. I'm not saying I would indef - I'm not altogether sure, right now, especially in light of the unclear community viewpoint now established - but I am saying it does not concern me greatly. Blood Red Sandman(Talk)(Contribs) 20:27, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
Functionally, an indef block is a ban. There is no logical argument to distinguish the two. Attempting to do so is a sad attempt at apologetics. Admins should not ban users. Especially, admins should not ban as the default. - Amgine | t 22:29, 29 April 2011 (UTC)
On the contrary, I make no apology for indefinite blocks. It is impossible for one person to ban by definition. Blood Red Sandman(Talk)(Contribs) 13:09, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
Name any technical difference between an indef block and a ban. - Amgine | t 18:24, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
They are, then, both indef blocks. Technically identical. - Amgine | t 21:08, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
You're greatly over-narrowing the definition. "Ban" is a concept covering far more than merely the measure used to enforce it. Really, the issue here - now I'm quite clear where you're going with this - is not about the differences between blocks and bans, however. It's about interpretation of WN:BP; let us focus on that. Before I scream at a conversation going round in circles. Blood Red Sandman(Talk)(Contribs) 21:22, 1 May 2011 (UTC)
You may have a nuanced concept of ban. Functionally, anyone indef blocked is "banned", the only difference is there has been no process determining a ban is the best response to the situation. It is for that reason no admin should indef block. This admin indef'd 21 out of 49 block actions (including unblock actions and block alterations), each an unwarned initial offense block without any attempt to use any other tool in the admin box. The admin has made clear xe plans to return to exactly this M.O. as soon as this request for xyr bit fails. - Amgine | t 01:42, 3 May 2011 (UTC)
That's rather a shift from what's presented here. The obvious question to me: How many of these are users who have showed up and instantly either unambiguously vandalised or blatantly SEOd? These accounts will never, ever be used productively and the only possible re-use for such an account would be more such behaivior. Of course, autoblock dies off 24 hours after last login, so any user attempting to come back would be fine, and the chances of collateral damage are negligibly small within such a small community. Thus, I view those as a reasonable exception. Excluding those, what are we left with? These are the critical block actions to examine. (Also, how many individual blocks a) are among these actions b) would you say were inappropriately handled?) Blood Red Sandman(Talk)(Contribs) 17:54, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
Strawman. Admins should not use the indef block as a first choice of response, especially for initial offenses. Vandal accounts and spambots generally do not get re-used ever, primarily because they do not record the passwords used. Any brief block will render the accounts harmless. Only when truly necessary should an account be indef blocked. - Amgine | t 18:12, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
On the contrary, I have not presented any full argument other than one for dismissing one (possible) part of these actions; any response to the rest is pending me finding out what the rest involves. I would be loathe to comment on information I do not have. Blood Red Sandman(Talk)(Contribs) 19:21, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
Oppose. Live and learn. Espousing views you do not hold is a well-respected debating tactic; it should not be forbidden in Comments: namespace. As said elsewhere, these are the Wikinews "trolling" pages. If, short of clear libel, or incitement to illegal acts, it improves readership, it is serving its purpose; no matter how much people hate LQT. Just keep out of there Fish. If you spot something you find really objectional, ask someone else to act on it. --Brian McNeil / talk 21:12, 27 April 2011 (UTC)
weak oppose/neutral I don't believe the list of faults is serious enough to warrant removal of privileges. Usually admins should be warned they've messed up before being nominated for removal of privileges like this. However, I have sometimes found BarkingFish to be hard to work with, which can stem from his refusal to even listen to points of view other than his own. An administrator should be open-minded and listen to all sides of an issue fairly. Please don't take this personally, just as a constructive comment from a fellow editor. Tempodivalse[talk] 20:14, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
Oppose, sound rationale and logic by BarkingFish. -- Cirt (talk) 19:03, 4 May 2011 (UTC)
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