Over at Fred Singer we have this conversation. It is an interesting conversation because it demonstrates an extraordinary level of skill at making an argument on Wikipedia. To appreciate the level of skill involved you have to be an experienced Wikipedian but the analysis which follows provides a lot of circumstantial evidence (the only type that a non-checkuser can provide) that William M. Connolley is involved.
While reading the back and forth between Slim Virgin (a long-term seasoned editor) and Freakshownerd (a newbie editor of less than 1 month), I noticed that the pattern and style of argumentation strongly reminded me of William M. Connolley (another long-term seasoned editor) who was recently banned from editing the Fred Singer BLP. Because of Freakshownerd’s obvious detailed knowledge of Wikipedia norms and policies as well as the similarity of their argument style to that of WMC I decided to look into the background of Freakshownerd a bit further.
Editing record of Freakshownerd.
The first thing I look at in these situations is how long this person has actually been editing. Freakshownerd was created on 22 May 2010 at 21:44 which means that they are less than 1 month old. At this point any experienced editor’s Spidy Senses will be tingling well beyond the comfort zone, but are there any signs in the user’s edit stream that suggests they were experienced from the very beginning?
Here is what I found in that regard, although admittedly at varying levels of significance:
- 22:38, 22 May 2010 : The user’s very first edit not only creates a new article, but it is complete with a see also section. I wouldn’t expect that many new editors begin by creating a new article, much less one that includes a see also section in the very first edit. Possible, but unlikely.
- 22:47, 22 May 2010 : By the third edit they are reverting other users to remove tags from the article without any discussion.
- 22:54, 22 May 2010 : By their sixth edit they are leaving messages on other user’s talk pages which indicate that they understand that there are standard deletion processes that should be followed.
- 22:58, 22 May 2010 : By their ninth edit they know how to properly setup page redirects.
- 14:07, 23 May 2010 : Demonstrates that they know the proper naming convention for disambiguated pages.
- 14:46, 23 May 2010 : Demonstrates the ability to properly use templates to request images.
- 00:40, 1 June 2010 : Roughly a week after creating their account the user leaves a message on another user’s talk page complaining about the “usual suspects” like they have a long-term understanding of the political landscape on Wikipedia.
- 16:02, 1 June 2010 : Roughly a week after creating their account the user is already wading into [[WP:ANI]] and making arguments which are clearly knowledgeable of Wikipedia norms and policies based on the points being raised. They also understand the significance of socks and stalking on Wikipedia.
- 17:20, 1 June 2010 : More discussion on [[WP:ANI]] which gives clearly knowledgable advice and use Wikipedia specific nomenclature such as “abusive socking” and “abusive blocking” suggesting they know which points Wikipedia administrators will consider significant.
- 17:20, 1 June 2010 : Already voting in AfD’s and making properly composed arguments based on an understanding of [[WP:NOTE]].
This seems more than enough to demonstrate that this is clearly a sock puppet.
Timing of the Account’s Creation.
As stated above this account was created on 22 May 2010 at 21:44. So I went back and looked into what was happening in that time frame for WMC. Considering that this account is now aggressively editing the Fred Singer BLP in a style reminiscent of WMC I went back to see what the timing of WMC’s ban was and here are the highlights:
- 19:08, 20 May 2010 : The Wordsmith notifies WMC that he is indefinitely page banned from editing Fred Singer’s BLP.
- 15:11, 22 May 2010 : Arbitrator FloNight recommends that WMC ultimately receive a full topic ban from all climate change articles after a consensus can be reached, and an immediate full topic ban from editing the Fred Singer BLP. This likely signals that some sort of topic ban for the Fred Singer BLP is imminent.
- 15:42, 22 May 2010 : LessHeard vanU declares WMC’s appeal successful and splits follow-on discussion (including Flonight’s comments) off into a separate section.
- 21:44, 22 May 2010 : The Freakshownerd creates their account roughly seven and a half hours after it becomes likely that there will be some sort of a ban on the Fred Singer BLP and that ban might actually end up being indefinite. Indeed, if others followed Flonight’s lead he might end up topic banned from all climate change pages.
Similarities to William M. Connolley.
On a totally gratuitous note, the name Freakshownerd is plausibly exactly how WMC actually sees himself … at least as he was growing up. He was likely the classic computer science nerd in school and he still sports the characteristic pony tail and carries his teddy bear in his backpack (see his photo on his BLP). It is also worth noting that people with this background don’t necessarily consider the terms “geek” or “nerd” to be a negative, but rather they wear it a bit like a badge of honor or a status symbol.
The following edits are clearly consistent with WMC’s style of editing:
- 16:49, 18 June 2010 : “an advocate of the skeptical stance” is classic WMC. He likes to portray the skeptic’s as being out of (what he considers to be) the mainstream and being fanatics. Being involved in advocacy makes him sound fanatic-y and emphasizing being a skeptic puts him outside of the mainstream.
- 16:56, 18 June 2010 : “dean of climate contrarians” is a quote that WMC will be unable to resist because it again emphasizes the same points as above.
- WMC: WMC himself had previously objected to this being in the article, and removed it here which may appear to be a contradiction. In actuality, though, he really only objected to the “Dean of …” part which at the time may have been perceived merely as making the man sound more important or notable than WMC thought he deserved, see his edit summary reference to “journo hyperbole“. It also gave WMC an opportunity to simply object to something that his opponents wanted which is one of his ways of baiting them. I suspect that Freakshownerd including this bit is merely an attempt at obfuscation against socking charges with the intent to later come back and trim the “Dean of …” bit using the same arguments as WMC originally laid out. It is also not like WMC has ever been known to reverse himself, see this and this.
- 17:00, 18 June 2010 : “for a number of years” -> “for many years” may not be that unique to WMC, but it is still an edit he would make to emphasize that Fred Singer has been out of (what he sees as) the mainstream for a long time. It portrays him as being fringe and attempts to minimize his accomplishments and significance which is definitely WMC’s agenda.
- 17:03, 18 June 2010 : “in 2006 was named by the CBC as one of” -> “In 2006 he was accused by the [[CBC]] of being one of” is again exactly the type of edit that WMC makes all the time on this BLP because accused will likely cause the reader to think he is guilty as charged.
- WMC: See minimizing and BLP violations above.
- 17:12, 18 June 2010 : “As an advocate of the skeptical stance in the [[global warming controversy]] for many years” again with the stressing of advocacy and being a skeptic for many years. Also WMC never misses a chance to link to either the scientific opinion on climate change and/or the global warming controversy.
- WMC: See minimizing and BLP violations above.
- 18:21, 18 June 2010 : WMC is a big over linker. He uses it as a means of trying to control the reader by directing them where he thinks they should go.
- 19:30, 18 June 2010 : Adding the POV template over not getting his way on such minor changes as these is 100% standard operating procedure for WMC … but of course he objects when others take the same position on other articles.
- 02:44, 19 June 2010 : And of course Boris arrives to help him with linking to the Scientific opinion on climate change article. Not proof of anything, per se, but perfectly correlated with Freakshownerd just as if he were WMC himself. It’s almost like he knew.
The following arguments are clearly consistent with WMC’s style of baiting and bullying his opponents (a purely subjective assessment on my part based on years of reading WMC’s arguments across multiple pages and venues):
- 17:21, 18 June 2010 : Trying to get the CBC criticism out of the lead is important to WMC because he wants to use more vaguely defined and general sounding accusations there. This argument by Freakshownerd is an attempt to do just that.
- 19:11, 18 June 2010, 19:24, 18 June 2010, 20:02, 18 June 2010 : Freakshownerd repeatedly attempts to force the discussion off of the Fred Singer talk page (where anyone who is likely to object is also likely to have the page on their watch list) onto Slim Virgin’s talk page (where the same people are unlikely to have it on their watch lists since she is not a regular CC editor). It is an attempt to isolate his opponent. We can see the same technique being employed by WMC here and he later did his best to cover up here. Deleting this type of stuff is classic WMC.
- 19:11, 18 June 2010 : Freakshownerd is baiting his opponent on their talk page to try and get a reaction out of her. This is also classic WMC technique.
- 19:24, 18 June 2010 : Note that Freakshownerd complains about SV moving his discussion back onto the Fred Singer talk page just like WMC did when she did it to him.
- 20:02, 18 June 2010 : Freakshownerd demonstrates bluster and arrogance truly reminiscent of WMC.
- 19:48, 18 June 2010 : “If you look through the edits I made, which you obviously haven’t done, you’d see that I did in fact fix that citation with a helpful edit summary that said “fix citations”.” clearly WMC style baiting and sarcasm.
- 19:57, 18 June 2010 : “We’re getting there. Please be patient. Once you’ve taken a turn addressing my objections to your edits and taken the time to explain how your changes improve the article, as I’ve been willing to explain mine, we can move on to the next step.” Again he baits his opponent and also attempts to control the flow of the conversation. WMC always likes to be in control of the flow of the conversation so that he can lead his opponent down a primrose path (from his perspective).
- 20:05, 18 June 2010 : “You are the one who has defaced the article. That’s what we’re trying to get corrected. Until your attacks on the article content are fixed, it violates various policies and doesn’t provide an NPOV account of the subject.” More obvious baiting, the hallmark of the WMC technique. “… why the global warming section of Fred Singer’s article needs a subheading that says “Fred Singer’s views” in it?” Why would anyone focus on this heading? I can tell you why WMC would. He wants the content under a heading that just says “Global Warming” because then he will pull out the old canard the NPOV and WEIGHT are being violated as a means of getting counter material into the article to rebut Singer. By having the “Singer’s Views” heading this is much harder to do because all of the material he wishes to push into the article aren’t Singer’s views. Of course in the Singer BLP it seems only appropriate to have a section detailing his views, no?
- 20:12, 18 June 2010 : Pure bluster to bait his opponent; no substance. Very similar to many of WMC’s comments on talk.
- 20:42, 18 June 2010 : I can absolutely guarantee you that by this time in the conversation WMC would be foaming at the mouth for making no headway and being so easily out maneuvered. And as if on cue Freakshownerd is showing the same tendency. See the last part of this comment.
- 21:10, 18 June 2010 : Freakshownerd’s blood pressure continues to rise, just as WMC’s would no doubt after be bested so easily in this exchange. After SV addressed Freakshownerd’s POV concern he simply reiterates it again with the totally lame “the section still begins “in constrast to the majority scientific postion,”. In addition to be being pretty freaking obvious, that certainly wouldn’t be something I would label Singer’s position, and is something we’ve already hit the reader over the head with repeatedly right from the opening paragraphs.” Then he reveals his true purpose in complaining about the “Fred Singer’s views” heading: “If we we can leave the section under the broader title of Global warming, perhaps we can work it in more appropriately and approach a reasonable level of consistency.” The bolded part is obvious WMC-speak for he wants to load it up with rebuttal’s to Singer’s views, which he knows he can’t right now for the exact same reasons he is complaining about the header in the first place. As I said above, this would be WMC’s reason for focusing on that header. Note the rising frustration and hypoerbole in Freakshownerd’s closing of this comment.
- 21:54, 18 June 2010 : “In fact the quote I added notes that he is known in some circles as the “dean of contrarians”.” And there we have it: “See, I’m not a POV pusher.” Could never have seen that coming … or could we? But finally he reveals his true purpose in all of this: “I strongly favor a clear sentence in the lead that states the crux of the criticisms of Singer and his work, as discussed in the article. Something along the lines of: His research findings and conclusions are widely disputed and the objectivity of his work has been questioned by critics who claim that he and his groups have received funding from corporate energy companies.(modified)” In order to justify that statement he has to add a bunch of material to the article under global warming, but he can’t because that material would not constitute Fred Singer’s Views on the subject. Neat, huh? And there is no doubt in my mind that WMC wants this.
Edit Times for Freakshownerd
There is one bit of evidence that suggests this may NOT be WMC, or at least WMC acting on his own: the edit times associated with Freakshownerd are in line with someone on the East Coast of the US rather than in Britain. This is NOT an ironclad exoneration of WMC, however. He knows that this is the type of evidence the check users will look at and it is easily spoofed. Simply don’t edit during the hours when someone on the East Coast would be sleeping.
There is currently a 4 hour difference between UTC and EDT, so 12AM UTC is actually only 8PM EDT on the East Coast and 4AM UTC is actually 12AM EDT. Using the WikiChecker tool I obtained the following graphs (which I captured as a snapshot).
Freakshownerd: The all 795 edits 22/5/2010:1st – 21/6/2010:Latest
William M. Connolley: Recent 800 edits 19/5/2010 – 21/6/2010:Latest
The most obvious thing to note is that the vast majority of Freakshownerd’s edits are easily within WMC’s normal editing times.
That the sleep times are cleanly offset is readily apparent. So this could mean the Freakshownerd actually IS on the East Coast (and therefore NOT WMC), but WMC is certainly smart enough to recognize that manipulating the edit times is a trivial means of throwing off a check user assessment. Not editing as Freakshownerd before 11AM UTC time would be trivial for WMC to accomplish. The problem comes in for those edits that lie between 12AM and 4AM UTC which would be difficult for someone to sustain on an long-term basis. Remember, my premise is that WMC created this sock when he believed there was a good chance that he would be indefinitely blocked from the Fred Singer BLP, and possibly from all Climate Change articles.
I could believe that a sufficiently motivated individual, which WMC obviously is, might be willing to stay up late a few nights to skew the statistics in the short-term, but not for the long-haul. So, there are two plausible ways that WMC could spoof this data: (1) staying up late in marathon sessions every so often, or (2) having a friend on the east coast make some edits for him between 8PM and 12AM EDT. The first would require some sacrifice of sleep, the second would require an accomplice.
So, I took a look at the edit times of Freakshownerd to see if they had anything surprising to tell us. I imported the data into an Excel spreadsheet and then converted it into a Google Spreadsheet for use in this post. I was most interested in the edits that occurred between 12AM and 4AM UTC for the reasons stated above. I figured that any sufficiently motivated individual would be willing to stay up an hour or so late every so often to give his sock some plausible deniability, but not necessarily 4 hours. So I color coded those edits between 12AM and 1AM as yellow, and those edits between 1AM and 4AM as orange. A survey of these color coded edits turns up the following observations:
- 0:40 Tuesday, June 1, 2010: This is an isolated edit which could easily have been made by WMC or an accomplice. Note the large gap in editing times just before this edit suggesting that either could be the case.
- 0:21 Wednesday, June 2, 2010 thru 1:00 Wednesday, June 2, 2010: Another set of isolated edits found within the timeframe required to skew the apparent timezone. Again, there is a large gap in the edit times preceding these edits.
- 2:15 Thursday, June 3, 2010: Again, a single isolated edit with a large preceding time gap. I believe that this is unlikely behavior for an editor on the East Coast but would be exactly what we expect to see with two people coordinating to run this sock (i.e. the accomplice is editing within a specific time frame but not in coordination with the main editor).
- 0:02 Friday, June 4, 2010 thru 0:25 Friday, June 4, 2010: These appear to be the continuation of a normal editing session for a single user and well within the extra 1 hour that any motivated individual would likely be willing to invest.
- 0:12 Saturday, June 5, 2010 thru 2:38 Saturday, June 5, 2010: Same as above but they run much later. Note also that these occur on a Friday night thus leaving the editor free to potentially sleep in a bit on Saturday morning.
- 0:02 Thursday, June 10, 2010 thru 0:16 Thursday, June 10, 2010: Again these appear to be the continuation of a single editing session but they only go over WMC’s normal stop times by about 16 minutes. For a weeknight that wouldn’t bee much sleep to lose, actually.
- 0:02 Friday, June 11, 2010 thru 0:51 Friday, June 11, 2010: Another obvious continuation of an editing session, and again no more than an hour past WMC’s normal stop time.
- 0:06 Saturday, June 12, 2010 thru 2:11 Saturday, June 12, 2010: Probably another weekend marathon but with the two hour gap just before these edits it may be an accomplice as well. Either is plausible.
- 1:13 Sunday, June 13, 2010 thru 2:33 Sunday, June 13, 2010: The seven hour gap preceding these edits suggests to me that they were most likely made by an accomplice, but they were also made on a weekend which would have given WMC the opportunity to sleep in the next morning if needed. Either way the editing pattern is disjoint at this point.
- 3:14 Tuesday, June 15, 2010 thru 3:30 Tuesday, June 15, 2010: Another set of isolated edits, this time deep into the required time frame to make a convincing show. If this is a sock of WMC as I suspect, then these comprise strong evidence that he is, indeed, working with an accomplice to skew the statistics.
- 1:40 Wednesday, June 16, 2010: Ditto previous comment.
- 0:00 Friday, June 18, 2010 thru 0:47 Friday, June 18, 2010: Another late night session. Easily WMC.
- 2:57 Saturday, June 19, 2010 thru 3:02 Saturday, June 19, 2010: Another isolated set of edits suggesting an accomplice was involved if this is a sock of WMC.
- 0:42 Sunday, June 20, 2010: Just another late night edit in the continuation of a single editing session. Easily WMC.
None of these edits would be difficult to spoof. This is a minor amount of effort to put into fooling a checkuser assessment.
Now, note also that the Fred Singer edits in question began about 16:48 Friday, June 18, 2010 UTC and finished around 22:39 Friday, June 18, 2010 UTC which as the above histogram shows is prime WMC editing time.
Is this evidence irrefutable proof that this is WMC? No, and no such ironclad proof could ever be provided but lots and lots of socks and their masters have been indefinitely blocked based on far less than this. I am believe that this is a WMC sock puppet, but of course this is all circumstantial with varying degrees of significance. For this reason I state that it is only likely to be WMC because we can’t truly know for certain.
There is absolutely no doubt that Freakkshownerd is a sock and should be blocked.
I do want to congratulate SlimVirgin for a truly impressive exchange here. It was quite masterful and a joy to watch. She definitely made short work of her dim-witted opponent.