If I'm banned from Wikipeida, as may happen in short order, the biggest reason will be prolixity. Warning: this is long. If it does not interest you, please don't read it, it will only irritate you.

At 10:44 AM 9/3/2009, OrionWorks - Steven V Johnson wrote:
Following up on the recent cnn.com video clip concerning erroneous
entries I decided to revisit the COLD FUSION entry. I was surprised to
discover that at present there doesn't appear to be any disputing
going on. But appearances can be deceiving. Have most CF proponents
given up trying to make it more balanced? I assume Jed has, for valid
reasons. Incidentally, I also noticed that a link pointing to
http://www.lenr-canr.org/ is conspicuously absent, as if its omission
would prevent curious researchers from googling for the location. I'm
sure the link used to be listed here.


I do know a bit about this, having been in it up to my eyeballs from January to June, when I was page-banned from the article. That ended up before the Arbitration Committee, and it's still there, though it may be close to a decision. Right now, the unresolved issues are "remedies," i.e., on the one hand, does the admin who banned me lose his administrative privileges or does he merely get an "admonishment," and do I get admonished, page-banned, topic-banned (anything to do with cold fusion), or site banned, current maximum considered, three months.

At the same time, it's been noted by some arbitrators, that I "raise important issues." But because raising important issues upsets many editors, I'm "disruptive" and "tendentious," so other arbitrators, seeing that I didn't slink into a corner and hide when facing admonishment, immediately went for a three-month ban.

To me, it's all diagnostic of the problems Wikipedia faces; excellent content guidelines, quite good behavioral policies, and lousy implementation, so that editors who try to follow policies, such as reliable source guidelines as applied to cold fusion, are attacked, tag-teamed (where a collection of editors, in this case I've called them the Cab) individually revert contributions, collectively it's repetitive, an action which, if done by a single editor, would clearly be prohibited edit warring and result in sanctions), and, too many times, banned.

Pcarbonn, a knowledgeable editor with a special interest in cold fusion, was banned in December. At the same time, an administrator, JzG, blacklisted the lenr-canr.org site and removed all remaining links to the site. I discovered the problem of the blacklist first, it seemed improper on its face, so I asked JzG to reverse this. He refused. I pursued the matter, and, to make a long story short, JzG was "admonished" for that action. Were it not for the fact that he had years of heavy service to Wikipedia, he'd have lost his administrative privileges. I wasn't admonished, but "advised" to, I don't know exactly what, be more nice? Be more thorough? Don't wait so long? It wasn't exactly clear.

However, JzG was a member of what I called the Cab, a group of editors generally pushing for, and insisting on, and enforcing what's been called the Scientific Point of View, which, as a lot of Wikipedians know, is misnamed. It really means "pseudoskeptical point of view," or often, "majority point of view," where "majority" means "majority of Wikipedia editors who don't research the subject itself, but reject sourced material from others because they believe it's biased, fringe, pseudoscience, or whatever."

Hence the problems with cold fusion. It's a case where a knee-jerk majority will differ from a considered view of experts.

I began researching cold fusion and trying to improve the article. In January, when I found the problem blacklisting, I was skeptical. I think anyone with reasonable general knowledge of science, who was awake in 1989 and paying attention, but who didn't maintain involvement and awareness of the field, would be skeptical. The nuclear physicists really did a massively successful public relations number on the electrochemists!

To Wikipedians, if you try to explain this, it looks like you are trying to use Wikipedia to right real-world wrongs, and that's a big no-no. Wikipedia is suppposed to represent what is found in the best sources, which, for science articles, means peer-reviewed secondary sources. (Not peer-reviewed primary sources, since all kinds of crazy stuff makes it into peer-reviewed journals initially; primary sources don't establish "notability," which means that it's worth covering in an encyclopedia.) Pcarbonn was effectively assassinated because he wrote an article for New Energy Times where he explained, correctly, how Wikipedia works and what he had done to make the article more fair, and, unfortunately, he wrote about "media bias," which are code words to Wikipedians for "fanatic trying to use Wikipedia to push his point of view."

Doing something about Pcarbonn's ban, I saw, as very difficult, even though it had been radically unfair, he was following Wikipedia guidelines. However, when I researched the topic, I found the situation that most of you are quite aware of: a huge violation of normal scientific protocols for how new discoveries are confirmed, disconfirmed, or subject to further exploration.

So ... right now, it's not totally decided, it looks like Wikipedia's loss will be my gain, and, hopefully, the field of cold fusion's gain. The principles of collective decision-making that I was trying to apply on Wikipedia will no longer be openly developed on Wikipedia; if that continues, it will be where I thought it might be necessary to do it, off-wiki, because I'd already seen that many reform projects had been crushed, "salted," and that was possible because the organizing structures were on-wiki.

In forming the company I'm talking about, to market experimental kits to make exact replications of various CF experiments easy and accessible to anyone who can afford what will hopefully be a minor cost, I will at the same time be organizing a segment of the cold fusion community that is interested in being able to cooperate effectively, and in what is often missed, efficiently. Most people can't for example, follow a list like this for very long or very deeply. This is especially true for the best experts, who are already very busy. How can a large community of interest remain connected without being overwhelmed with traffic, noise? It's the Wikipedia problem, but it's also a very generic problem. Had the cold fusion community been organized in this way, I'd infer, by 2000 it would have been all over, and CF would be recognized as a valid field of research, and much more progress would have been made.

The problem is not the nuclear physicists, they were just doing what human beings ordinarily do! The problem is structure, or, more accurately, lack of structure that allows efficient communication, voluntary cooperation and coordination, and consensus formation and revision, to happen when the scale becomes large. As usual, the problem is us, not them. The good news: if we are the problem, we can fix it!

Blaming them makes us powerless, victims. Not a great idea.

To return to the post to which I was responding.

I was surprised to
discover that at present there doesn't appear to be any disputing
going on.

That's because those who might dispute have been banned. The good news on this is that the current arbitration case will place cold fusion under "discretionary sanctions," which, paradoxically, will help, probably, because enforcement of those sanctions, involving warnings and page bans, will be in the hands of neutral administrators, where those trying to make the article more true to the sources will, if they understand Wikiepdia guidelines on sourcing and text, be able to prevail. Without that, the Cab and a handful of adminstrators working closely (and in violation of policy) with Cab editors, have been able to exclude material from the best sources, while including material from weak sources, such as text that says that every cold fusion theory has been "ad hoc." And much more.....

 But appearances can be deceiving. Have most CF proponents
given up trying to make it more balanced?

Yes. However, in fact, the decisions at Cold fusion should be made, as all Wikipedia decisions, not by "proponents," but by neutral editors, and, ideally, these editors would review arguments and evidence prepared by proponents, opponents, and neutral aditors. I argued extensively in the arbitration case that experts should actually not make the decisions; rather experts should advise, and by banning experts (like Rothwell, banned by JzG in a blatant violation of policy that was nevertheless never corrected, it effectively remains), Wikipedia was warping the *advisory* process, thus warping the outcomes. This is all part of my political theory, confirming Montesquieu's separation of the judicial and executive powers, which I apply very generally to all community process. Advice is disconnected from control, because control corrupts advice; give advisors control power, they will become corrupt (which means biased, in this case, for very human reasons, inevitable except for the most extraordinary people, and we can't count on that.) Freeing advice from control allows it to be fully unrestrained, limited only by noise control. Don't you ever wish you could easily get advice that you can trust? On the other hand, have you ever had an idea that you thought could make a big difference, if only people would listen or you knew to whom you should talk? Trying to solve these problems, which I see as one problem, has been my work for almost thirty years....

 I assume Jed has, for valid

He stopped editing the article in 2006, confining himself to Talk. However, Jed is, shall we say, blunt, which sometimes translates into Wikipedia understanding of "uncivil." I find him easy to deal with, a pleasure, really, but then, I not like everyone. Jed doesn't tell me I'm full of shit, literally, but he does so figuratively from time to time. Some people mind that very much. He wasn't actually banned for that, he was banned (last December) for a series of bullshit reasons, but I didn't try to appeal it because, politically, the incivility argument would probably fly, and I was already dealing with what was probably too much; plus, most importantly, Jed didn't care. Wikipedia can't stop him from commenting; what happens is that people who don't like it or who think that bans should be enforced strictly revert his comments. They are still there in history, though, so some who want to read them do. I've also linked to them sometimes, where I thought them useful, as they usually are. That was one of many many "sins" asserted; like a lot of this stuff, the policy is changing and it is becoming clear what I was saying all along: content isn't banned, editors are. If any non-banned editor is willing to take responsibility for something contributed by a banned editor, the non-banned editor may revert it back in if it's removed.

The real complaint of the Cab about me was that I was being effective, and they saw that as a danger, even though, I sure, many of them tell themselves that it's for other reasons, mostly all those walls-of-text which he writes, and they believe that my effectiveness is merely by wearing out other editors. They don't bother to look and notice, for example, that I have almost no participation in the current discussion on the policy page that is confirming, with wide consensus, what I'd been claiming about banned editor contributions.

 Incidentally, I also noticed that a link pointing to
http://www.lenr-canr.org/ is conspicuously absent, as if its omission
would prevent curious researchers from googling for the location. I'm
sure the link used to be listed here.

It was removed before December, even, though there were still links to individual papers at the time of the blacklisting. I've managed to get a series of individual papers whitelisted, and was working on delisting the site. It would have been eventually successful. Once the Cab is involved, or similar cabals, progress can be excruciatingly slow. Just yesterday, the Britz bibliography was removed, but editors who had opposed me on content issues had been made very aware of the Britz bibliography, by me -- I think I'd been the one to restore it, I'm not sure -- and Britz lists lenr-canr.org at the top of his home page. I also created an article on New Energy Times, which seems to have survived so far, and linked it. That may have been taken out after I was page-banned.

There are other editors who will work on the article in a positive way, but they don't have the extensive knowledge that I gained over the more than five months I was active, they don't automatically recognize the implications, they may be busy elsewhere and not notice, etc.

Anyone is welcome to work on the article, but be careful. I'd be happy to advise anyone by email on this. If you know how to do it and you are patient, you can fix articles that violate guidelines even when there is serious semi-organized opposition, but knowing how to do it can take some years of Wikipedia experience. Don't expect to do it overnight, more than one change at a time, or you will be quickly banned. It's also possible to work on a version of the article elsewhere, but that's never been proven to be effective except in one recent case, with Optics, where a banned editor developed the article elsewhere and it was ported back to Wikipedia. That editor was ScienceApoligist, a Cab editor extraordinaire, so he had lots of support. Including mine, by the way. He did an excellent job. That he was a disaster with the Cold fusion article is irrelevant. (He, by the way, was also banned at the beginning of this year, but not for cold fusion edits, though that was covered by the ban, as "fringe science," but for general contentiousness and incivility and just way to much blatant POV-pushing, thus becoming simultaneously a hero and a scapegoat for the Cab. That's what they do: support an editor, vociferously and profusely, in what they wish they could do themselves, but they know they'd be dinged for it, then tsk tsk when eventually this editor goes too far.)

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