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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Blocked by Wikipedia!

My account on Wikipedia has been blocked by some editor named Bbb23 after receiving a complaint from another editor named Praxidicae. Praxidicae has been blocking my attempts to edit articles on Intergenic region, Allele, and Non-coding DNA on the grounds that I am not obeying the Wikipedia rules. She has no expertise in science but she claims to be an expert on proper sources.

I have been removing unsourced statements and correcting incorrect ones. I have also attempted to make the articles more relevant by removing extraneous material. I have added material that reflects the scientific consensus on these topics.

Here's the complaint against me (Genome42) as stated by Praxidicae.

Persistent edit warring and refusal to provide sources, this user refuses to acknowledge that we require sources, not just an assessment by a self proclaimed SME. Discussions across multiple pages with said user have failed, including here where there has been a slow burning edit war, as well as personal attacks against other editors (which you can see in the discussions and his own talk page.) Instead of providing sources, he is just removing them because they are "outdated", though TNT has provided more up to date sources, which they've now removed as well. They've also expressed a desire to get other editors including myself to purposely engage in edit warring to get other editors blocked.

The complaint was posted this morning. Bbb23 apparently believed every word of this complaint and blocked me indefinitely 38 minutes later because ...

Disruptive editing, including edit-warring, refusal to collaborate with other editors, claiming that scientific articles can only be edited by experts, e.g., the user

The immediate cause of being blocked was my attempt to re-edit the Intergenic region article after an extensive discussion that you can see on Intergenic region: Talk. If you want to see a good example of the irresponsible behavior of Wikipedia editors that's a good place to look. There's an even better example on Non-coding: Talk where some other scientists have also attempted, unsuccessfully, to convince Praxidicae.

I'm really frustrated by this behavior and I don't know what to do. I could fight the blockage but I think the cult of Wikipedia editors is pretty tight and my chances are slim. What's really interesting is that I can't even comment on my own 'trial' at (User:Genome42 reported by User:Praxidicae) because I've been blocked!

UPDATE: I appealed the block by saying ...

I have been unfairly accused. I have attempted to debate and discuss the reasons for my edits but the Wikipedia editors refuse to discuss the scientific issues and, instead, make false accusations about a lack of sources and unjustified reasons for removing false and misleading statements from the Wikipedia articles. Check out the Talk section on Non-coding DNA for a good example of other scientists trying to convince Praxidicae to back off.

Another Wikipedia administrator reviewd my appeal and declined it saying, "As you see nothing wrong with your edits, there are no grounds to consider lifting the block."

Any advice? Is Wikipedia worth fighting for?

FURTHER UPDATE: I appealed again ...

I'm confused about the process. Is there no way to have a reasonable discussion about this? It seems like the only way to get unblocked is to admit guilt and apologize. Is that correct?

A new editor named Daniel Case responded ...

Declining since this isn't making an argument for being unblocked.

I think the best thing you could do for yourself right is back off and cool down. I do see where you might have had a point, but you insisted on edit warring when you should have been discussing, and your blog isn't a reliable source unless, say, enough other scientists accept it as one. I admit that it seems Praxdicidae was getting a little too dogmatic, but I haven't had the time to look at the whole argument.

This is still frustrating. It was clearly the editor PRAXIDICAE who started and continued the edit war and who refused to engage in a discussion about the scientific merits of my edits. I discussed, she warred. The only acceptable resolution to this war appears to be that I admit to being wrong and PRAXIDICAE is assumed to be correct. That's what cooperation and consensus means to this group of editors/administrators.

Also, I never suggested using my blog as a reliable source in a Wikipedia article although I did mention a blog post in the discussion (Talk) as a more detailed explanation of my scientific reasons for making an edit.

And isn't it strange that the judge in a "trial" admits to not having the time to look at all the evidence before rendering a verdict? I think that what's going on here is that these Wikipedia adminstrators tend to stick together and defend each other's actions but that's really not in line with what Wikipedia is supposed to be about.


Sander said...

The administrator would simply look at the report, and see that you indeed broke things like the three revert rule. Since you do not even acknowledge this in your appeal, the ban stands. You do not come out of this looking any better on the discussion page, which just reads like you turning angrier and angrier, mostly trying to intimidate an editor into forcing a large edit through while demanding huge amounts of their time immediately.

Consider all your edits and discussion comments as if they were made by an anonymous internet contributor with no verifiable expertise, and judged by the same. Understand the guidelines and try to play by them, and take it much slower.
Adding a small well sourced sourced section is done easily enough. Removing a sentence with a source is a hard thing to do without significant (slow) discussion. Removing many things at once is just overwhelming to a system like this.

Larry Moran said...


What rules did I violate?

Why did a Wikipedia editor block my edits after I opened a discussion on Talk and waited ten days before making an edit? I didn’t understand her justification for blocking my edit. Do you?

Why did she refuse to engage in a scientific discussion about the merits of the changes I was proposing?

Why don’t you consider all my edits and discussion comments as if they were made by someone who knows what they’re talking about and judge by the same?

Have you considered the possibility that there might be really good reasons to remove a sentence with a source? Have you considered the possibility that the way to justify that is through a serious discussion of the science behind the decision? Have you considered the possibility that someone who is not capable of engaging in such a discussion shouldn’t be censoring the decision and making accusations that get a scientist banned?

Robert Byers said...

Robert Byers
in all these things its showing the great problem in social media that there is a government judging about speech. its true we need ghovernment but its 500 years behind the experience of government in the English speaking world. Its 1500AD again.Its incompetence and wilful censorship. Its everywhere and eventually everyone gets clobbered.

Sander said...

A talk page discussion is largely invisible, so does not attract much attention.
This then started by you removing swathes of text from a page. This would flag up, an editor comes in, sees the edit does not look according to wikipedia standards and explains the rules.
You demand the editor (who as you say is not an SME) engage in a scientific argument, and in the absence of them winning such a debate to your satisfaction, your version should stand.
At no point do you try to make smaller edits, ask for clarification or engage in a way that shows you are willing to play the game according to wikipedia rules, you just get angry and keep demanding all of your edits go through as-is, and NOW.

During this process you violate this and get banned:,part%E2%80%94counts%20as%20a%20revert.

> Why don’t you consider all my edits and discussion comments as if they were made by someone who knows what they’re talking about and judge by the same?

I am merely stating how one should look at the system of wikipedia. It is a place with largely anonymous, unverified contributors. Not that it's perfect. There are (were?) competitors aimed at articles written by SMEs, who verify identities and have articles owned by one person.

You asked for advice, this should all be seen as advice on how you could better understand and engage with this system, not whether it is perfect.

Graham Jones said...


It may be that you are giving good advice, but it seems unreasonably hard for a newcomer to find such advice in the official policies and guidelines.

"When editing, be bold! Most edits make the encyclopedia better, and mistakes can always be reverted or corrected. If you see something that can be improved, improve it, and do not be overly concerned with breaking anything. If the change is in the spirit of improvement and makes sense to others, the odds are good that everything will turn out all right and the change will be kept. If not, it's easy for someone to change it back."

Somebody on the internet:
"Understand the guidelines and try to play by them, and take it much slower. Adding a small well sourced sourced section is done easily enough. Removing a sentence with a source is a hard thing to do without significant (slow) discussion. Removing many things at once is just overwhelming to a system like this."

"If you have a disagreement or suggestion, express it on the article's talk page, and politely discuss the change until a consensus can be reached."

Somebody on the internet:
"A talk page discussion is largely invisible, so does not attract much attention."

It's like there's the reasonable-sounding official stuff, and then there's this secret folklore about how things really work.

Sander said...


> Wikipedia:
"If you have a disagreement or suggestion, express it on the article's talk page, and politely discuss the change until a consensus can be reached."
>Somebody on the internet:
"A talk page discussion is largely invisible, so does not attract much attention."

I don't see these as contradicting. Wikipedia encourages you to edit (which will likely draw attention), then discuss, reach consensus and settle on some changes. Larry started by posting in the talk page without anyone there.

Overall I agree that the barrier to entry has grown with the amount of users and traffic to the site. There are a lot of guidelines, perhaps too many to read at once. But reading the discussion page, the editor seems calm and makes a genuine effort to explain the process, while undoubtedly doing this for many pages at once.

Larry Moran said...

@ Sander

You say, "During this process you violate this and get banned:,part%E2%80%94counts%20as%20a%20revert."

You're talking about the "three-revert rule." Here it is.

"An editor must not perform more than three reverts on a single page—whether involving the same or different material—within a 24-hour period. An edit or a series of consecutive edits that undoes or manually reverses other editors' actions—whether in whole or in part—counts as a revert. Violations of this rule often attract blocks of at least 24 hours. Fourth reverts just outside the 24-hour period will usually also be considered edit-warring, especially if repeated or combined with other edit-warring behavior. See below for exemptions. "

At no time did I break this rule. One of the editors, Praxidicae, started the edit war by reverting one of my attempts to improve an article. (Technically, any change to an article is a "revert" because some other editor put it there.) I restored my edit after a few days' discussion and no attempt by her to collaborate, discuss, or compromise on the scientific merits of the changes. She reverted again. I restored again after explaining my edits on the Talk page. She reverted again.

Praxidicae came closer to breaking the spirit of the three-revert rule by arbitrarily blocking my edits but, instead, she used her bully powers as a senior editor and part of the current clique to accuse me of breaking the rules and having me banned.

Larry Moran said...

@ Sander

You say, "But reading the discussion page, the editor seems calm and makes a genuine effort to explain the process, while undoubtedly doing this for many pages at once."

This was not a "process" dispute although that's how the editors wanted to define it. It was a scientific dispute. Could I provide a reasonable scientific explanation for my suggested changes? Yes, I could.

Could they provide reasonable scientific explanations for retaining false and misleading scientific statements that weren't sourced? No they couldn't.

Let's look at one of the statements I deleted in the article on Intergenic region.

It said, "It [intergenic DNA] is one of the DNA sequences sometimes referred to as junk DNA, though it is only one phenomenon labeled such and in scientific studies today, the term is less used."

There is no source to back up either of the two claims in this sentence so you would think that the editors would be happy to see it go. Nope. My removal of this sentence is a "revert" because some other editor put it there so the onus is on me to back up my claim that it is wrong by providing a reliable source.

I tried to do that by explaining that no knowledgeable scientist ever said that all intergenic DNA was junk but that fell on deaf ears. I guess I was supposed to find a reference in the scientific literature that specifically said, "Not all intergenic DNA is junk." Right? And if I can't do that then the unsourced claim put there by some other editor can't be removed. Right? Is that the process?

What I did instead was post a list of all the functional elements that are known to be present in intergenic regions and give links to other Wikipedia sources where this is explained more fully. But that wasn't acceptable.

I also explained that it's wrong to say that the term 'junk DNA' is 'less used' in scientific studies and any such claim has to be sourced if it's going to be retained. Praxidicae and TheresNoTime refused to supply sources to back up their retention of that ridiculous sentence.

Do you think their behavior was justified?

Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen said...


On EVERY page where Larry attempted to edit he asked to engage the people who wanted to revert his edits, and all he got in response were two-line, knee-jerk, and mindless calls for proper sources.
Larry responds, entirely reasonably, by trying to have a discussion about what should or shouldn't be sourced, and whether the sources already given actually support the statement being made, but he only gets the same mindless calls for proper sources back, and "PRAXIDICAE" just repeats the demand for proper sources in the same mindless fashion while refusing to explain how previous statements were actually properly sourced, and refuses to acknowledge that some statements can be true but there is no single source that makes the claim as the claim is more like a product of an inference from many different experiments. In such a situation you can't really "source" the claim, you have to get the person you talk to, to understand the inference so they too can see that it is correct.

I think we should all be able to agree that just because a sentence has a source doesn't mean, logically and scientifically, the source actually supports the claims made in the statement? And it gets worse when we also know that there is some knowledge that isn't explicitly stated in a paper, but is the product of an inference concerning many different sources.

One point of editing a wikipedia article is to actually try to determine, when and if one has the qualifications to do so, if the sources given are correct and really do support the statements being made. But it here seems like such edits cannot be made to wikipedia, because it has a clique of bully-like editors who get to uphold a scientifically incorrect status-quo in various articles because of some combination of their ignorance of the subject matter leads to them not understand that already existing statements are improperly sourced, correct statements that should replace them are the product of an inference from many sources that would take knowledge and effort to understand, an unwillingness to engage in a discussion that could potentially bring them up to speed, and a sort of "we-came-first-so-have-priority" bias.

Sander said...

You seem to be arguing that wikipedia is not the perfect system for writing a science textbook. I agree, but my posts are largely on how to engage within the system and make some impact regardless. I must say I personally do not have the patience to do very much of this, but some people may have more time. Do you have any better advice?

Larry Moran said...


I understand that the best advice is for scientists to not bother trying to correct Wikipedia.

The second-best advice is that scientists learn certain tricks in order to avoid attracting the attention of the Wikipedia bullies. I know about those tricks and that's why I was able to make a lot of changes to several articles in the last three months.

I also learned them ten years ago during my first attempts to fix Wikipedia.

I guess I'm too much of an idealist because I sincerely hope that it's possible to correct the worst faults of Wikipedia and establish better procedures for scientists to feel welcome.

Here's an example of a hypothetical message that I might have received a few days ago.

"Dear Genome42,

I notice that you have been editing a number of scientific articles over the past few months. I'm concerned about three of the changes you made yesterday because I think they might have violated some of the Wikipedia rules concerning reliable sources.

Before reverting your edits, accusing you of disruptive editing, and getting you banned from editing, would you be kind enough to explain the reasons for your edits? Keep in mind that I know nothing about the subjects so you should explain your reasoning in a way that I can understand.

Hoping that we can co-operate and collaborate in the interests of improving the science article on Wikipedia.



Wouldn't that have been nice?

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

Well it would have been nice, but however obvious it may be, she's never going to write "I know nothing about the subjects". Apparently she doesn't seem to think that matters. More worryingly, Sander doesn't seem to think so either.

Larry Moran said...

@Athel Cornish-Bowden

Thank-you for keeping up the fight now that I have been banned. I see that Rumraket38 has just added the following to the Intergenic region article.

"Phylostratigraphic inference and bioinformatics methods have shown that intergenic regions can—on geological timescales—transiently evolve into open reading frame sequences that mimic those of protein coding genes, and can therefore lead to the evolution of novel protein-coding genes in a process known as de novo gene birth."

The reference is to a 2021 paper.

This is irrelevant material in an article like this whose main purpose is merely to explain what an intergenic regions is. We don't need to open a discussion about the origin of de novo genes.

But this is one of the problems. Random editors are free to add their favorite factoids to an article. In some cases, we know that it's the authors on the papers that are making the edits in order to promote their own work.

There's no easy way to remove that sentence without running afoul of the Wikipolice. As a result, the science articles on Wikipedia tend to be choppy and incoherent with no consistent storyline and there's no coordination of the material in different articles. Thus, the article on human genome may conflict with material in the article on 'gene.'

It's sad.

The Rat said...

What the buggeration is "self proclaimed SME"? Self Made Expert? If so, send them a copy of your degree. Maybe she works for the Discovery Institute on the side.

Dave Bailey

Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen said...

On a related note why is the commenting now so borked on blogspot? You no longer reply directly to specific posts. Terrible format.

Mikkel Rumraket Rasmussen said...


I agree it's technically irrelevant (as it is already covered in the article on de novo gene birth), but it's a hell of a lot better than the sentence I replaced(the even more irrelevant mention that someone has synthesized protein coding DNA using intergenic DNA), as it puts the concept of intergenic DNA into an evolutionary context.
One could make a section on the evolutionary consequences of intergenic DNA being mostly not under selection, probably nonfunctional junk, and tie the mention of de novo gene birth together with that.

Call it an editing strategy.

Larry Moran said...


I changed the format of the comments because the former embedded style required third party cookies and this made it impossible for some people to comment using their preferred browser.

Even I couldn't comment on my own blog from time to time.

I'm going to try this out for a while to see if there's a net benefit.

Larry Moran said...

@The Rat

I guess I must have known what an SME is at some point since I self-proclaimed to be one.

But I'm old, I forget things. :-)

Anonymous said...

SME is subject matter expert. (Larry is one.)

Tony said...

I don't know too much about Wikipedia but I do know there's a complex web of unwritten protocols and social mores that help in making edits stick. Perhaps try reaching out to Susan Gerbic's Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia group. They give hints and training for people who want to edit pseudoscientific content to more science-based and rational articles.

Larry Moran said...


We all know about the complex “rules” that are selectively enforced to prevent changes on Wikipedia. And I’m not surprised that there’s a group set up to help people avoid the attention of the Wikipolice.

But why not try and fix the problem instead of just giving advice on how to work around it? It’s clear that the science articles that I care about are in horrible shape because of bad Wikipedia editors who care more about “social mores” than scientific accuracy. How do we change this?

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

I registered as an editor in June 202O after I realized what horrible shape the article "List of Biochemists" was in (no mention of Fritz Lipmann or Dan Koshland or about 70 other people you've heard of, but inclusion of crackpots of various kinds). After working on this for a bit I was blocked (for a week) by an editor who noticed that I had committed the vicious crime of using hyphens instead of en dashes for date ranges (1900-1975 rather than 1900–1975) and making "hundreds of test edits". The editor in question (Ohnoitsjamie) refused to revise his decision and eventually said he was too busy to discuss it. I was so depressed by this episode that I withdrew altogether from Wikipedia for a couple of months. Ohnoitsjamie, like bbb3 and Praxidae, says absolutely nothing on his user page about who he is and what qualifications he has -- maybe he's just good at spotting hyphens.

Larry Moran said...


One of my friends tracked down Praxidicae so I know who she is.

You'll be shocked to learn that she's not a scientist.

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

I also tracked her down, so I knew that she was primarily a writer of chick-lit. (Maybe I should write "they were", as Praxidicae is plural in Latin and there were three of them). Check out Chrissie Anderson at Amazon. "CHRISSY ANDERSON spends her life doing exactly what she always wanted: doting on those she loves. A former fashion executive, she is a writer, wife and mother whose own life events inspired THE LIFE LIST. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with the love of her life and her beautiful daughter.*

DK said...

Sounds horrible but I find the incident to be hilarious. Larry, just like all other good liberals, does not understand that Wikipedia is a microcosm of how the "democracy" ultimately works. So then they get totally gobsmacked to discover totalitarianism emerging from it. And after that, ~99% of them still never quite figure out the connection.

Michael A Peterson said...

My wikipedia user name is franchisemichael. Check my user talk page. See my ban, significant effort to get it lifted, and take strong heed to my final words.

Or, here's a TL;DR
1. As a subject matter expert, you are used to the idea that being 'right' is important. It has literally 0 weight on WP. What matters is:
a. Who follows the rules better
b. Who sounds like less of a dick
c. Who has been around longer
(not necessarily in that order)

2. You likely, at a minimum, approached the subject with the idea that wikipedia rules exist. They don't. It's mob rule, period. If you are not the popular editor (because you are new, because you reacted to an almost-personal attack with a personal attack, etc.) you are going to lose in any wiki-combat, which will result in a ban for you.
3. If you make an edit, and someone changes or reverts, walk away. Period. The end. No other options. If you want to understand the why of that, again see my account history. I happened to be lucky enough to be on the right side so it only took 2 months to get unbanned.

Larry Moran said...

@Michael A. Peterson

I understand everything and I agree with you that you should just walk away when challenged by a Wikipedia administrator or one of the aggressive editors.

One the other hand, the problems are so obvious and so fixable that surely we can band together to make Wikipedia better? I just don't know how to do it.

ray said...

I've just stumbled across this conversation as I've been blocked unknowingly (my IP apparently is within a range somebody decided to block enmasse). It's very disheartening to discover how dysfunctional Wikipedia has become beneath the surface.

Athel Cornish-Bowden said...

Sorry, this is a bit long, but I needed to quote it in full to indicate how sensitive some established editors to anything they peceive as personal attacks on them. In this caseI could have just undone the edits I din't like, but I thought it more courteous to enquire the rationale. Big mistake!

I sent this to an editor who had made some changes to an article on Victor Henri

You have made what you call "a light edit of the entire article" on Victor Henri. Light, maybe, but pointless in many cases, and at least once creating an error. Some people like a comma before "and"; others don't. Either is OK, and there is no justification for adding a comma because that's what you prefer. "over" → "more than" OK; your version may be better. Delete "but" from "but if born in France would be a French citizen" introduces an error, as now you have two sentences with only a comma separating them. If you must eliminate "decided to travel" you need "travelled", as the article is not written in American English. Clearly you don't like "mothers" in the plural, but why? Henri had a biological mother and an adoptive mother, so what's wrong with "mothers"? (It was that change that alerted me to the need to check the whole History, as I was sure it didn't say "the two women" previously.) "Henri was graduated": ugh! that's American, but the article isn't written in American. Why have you reversed the order of Michaelis and Menten? They used that order in their paper. "as they collaborated" confuses more than it clarifies: who did they collaborate with? If you really think it matters you can put "Henri's work was taken up by German biochemist Leonor Michaelis and his collaborator the Canadian physician Maude Menten." What's wrong with "et al."? Can anyone tell by looking if . is italicized or not? Can you? Athel cb (talk) 11:00, 23 June 2022 (UTC)

83d40m replied as follows:

Personal attacks, trolling, and baiting are out of place here. As a relatively new editor at WP, Athel cb, you might benefit from contemplating our principles of assuming good faith and working in collaboration to create the best articles we can for our readers. Our editors do not own articles, nor are they expected to spend their time criticizing edits without errors in the fashion you have taken. If you can not abide these principles, WP might not be the place for you—your talents and intensity might be more useful in other venues—I suggest that you refrain from personal posts such as this and stick to collaborative work on articles. I have replied to your post only to encourage you to become a better WP editor. I have no intention to participate in a petty editor's war, and will not engage beyond this. _ _ _ _83d40m (talk) 14:01, 23 June 2022 (UTC)

I replied with this (and nothing further):

I don't see anything in my comment that could be called a personal attack. There was no intention to offend you. Athel cb (talk) 15:58, 23 June 2022 (UTC)

Can anyone see anything resembling a personal attack. In common with many of the editors we have discussed 83d40m says absolutely nothing on the user page to indicate real name, interests, qualifications etc.

Like other editors we have discussed, 83d40m says absolutely nothing of the user page to indicate real name, qualifications, interests, etc.

Larry Moran said...


I've been getting lots of advice from other Wikipedia users so I think I understand what "personal attack" means.

It means that you are disagreeing with the opinion of another editor who's been around long enough to become a bully. If the editor is also an administrator then any criticism is automatically a personal attack.

This is what happened to me. I made the mistake of trying to argue scientific facts with an administrator who knows nothing about science but does know a lot about being a Wikipedia bully. I was banned permanently for "personal attacks."