Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Not a bang, but a whimper.

Recently, I was banned from Conservapedia. Specifically, I was banned from Conservapedia for five years. Oddly, however, I do not feel proud, or triumphant, or even wryly amused. I actually feel ever so slightly embarrassed.

To understand why, you need to know a few things about my history with Andrew Schlafly's beast. Back when Conservapedia got off the ground, I found myself compelled to track its odd behavior. This gave rise to what I have half-jokingly referred to as my Conservapedia addiction and, likewise, to a seemingly endless series of posts on same. Early on, however, I found myself tempted to poke the beast with a stick now and then, which is why I decided to try and become a regular editor for their page on atheism. This didn't last long, however, as I was forced to eventually admit defeat. The nutters over there are just too persistent for me, and they have the ability to lock pages. So, I was forced to bid adieu to the slightly prejudicial page that was there back in the day and gradually say hello to the ravenously hateful train wreck that exists now.

For a long time after that I was able to refrain from editing Conservapedia. Oh, I would leave the odd comment now and then, but I made no attempt to contribute to their actual "articles." Amazingly, throughout this period I managed to evade getting smacked with their "90/10" rule which requires that 90% of your edits be to articles and only 10% to talk pages. Sounds like a good idea, but it's used primarily as an excuse to get rid of people they don't like. In any case, I managed to avoid making article edits until I discovered their article on correlation.

Now, for those who are unaware, the correlation coefficient, aka Pearon's r, is a statistic used to determine whether or not two variables are related to each other. That's the short, simple version anyway. The long version involves a lot of caveats and a certain amount of math. It's a basic, simple statistic that is often taught in high school or college statistics classes. Now, what I discovered was that the Conservapedia article on correlation had no actual math in it. None at all. This is an issue since the correlation coefficient is, you know, a quantity defined by certain equations. Given that I know Schlafly uses Conservapedia as a resource for home school children,* I frankly found this state of affairs to be entirely unacceptable. So, being stupid, I went ahead and produced a major overhaul of the page. If my effort was imperfect,** I was content since it at least contained math. Since then people have edited my efforts in various and sundry ways. Schlafly himself, for example, added a confusing morass of conservative propaganda and a heading.*** Later, Ed Poor deleted all the math citing it as "distractions and propaganda," which was a new one on me. He then produced his own version, commenting that there was a "right way and a wrong way to do this." Sadly, the "right way" apparently did not include any math. HSpalding then "restored the maths," which is to say, restored what I had written in the first damned place.

And this brings us to the present. I recently checked in on the correlation article and discovered that the intro was poorly written and confusing- particularly since the first bloody sentence of it implies pretty strongly that correlation=causation. So, I spent a little time trying to clean up the intro into something accurate and informative. If you're curious, you can see pretty easily what I did. I should note that I made every effort to use much of the introduction that was there previously. And afterwards I was promptly banned and my edits reverted. How promptly? Well, take a look at this "recent changes" log from Conservapedia:

To sum up, I made my first edit at 16:23 and followed up with a second at 16:24 to correct a spelling error I missed. The editor TK then reverted my work at 16:45 and blocked me for five years at 16:47. So, basically, the changes made it about twenty minutes. The reason for my blocking? Well, his explanation was- and I quote: "(Troublemaker/Prevaricator)".

Now, on the one hand, there is a part of me that is happy to have finally earned a multi-year block from Conservapedia. At the same time, though, I didn't earn it for any of my random arguments with Schlafly or even for making snide remarks about creation scientists.**** No, folks, I managed to get banned from Conservapedia for making a reasonable and good-intentioned edit to an article about math.

And if that doesn't sum up what is well and truly screwy about Conservapedia, I don't know what will.

* If this doesn't scare the crap out of you, you haven't spent enough time reading conservapedia.

** And it was. Seriously imperfect, actually, but I was trying to provide detail without sounding so much like a scientist that I'd draw suspicion.

*** Like a dog, Schlafly feels the need to constantly mark his territory by pissing all over everything.

**** I did earn a short ban from that (about a month) but it was totally worth it.

As a final side note: for anyone who is concerned for my career- I do not spend hours on conservapedia during working hours. I do sometimes check-in for a five minute break between projects, however. I don't know how your brain works, but I find it hard to switch between papers/grant proposals/presentation writing/whatever without a brief mental cleansing of the palate first.

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Blogger Doyu Shonin/Risa Bear said...

Good effort. But it is, you know, a bit like shoveling sand at the sea with a trowel ...

Monday, July 27, 2009 10:05:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

How interesting that one of their taglines is "The truth shall set you free." Apparently, trying to actually post any truth will set you free for a whopping 5 years.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009 3:41:00 PM  
Anonymous alan said...

Five years?! Over-react much, Conservapedia? I mean, in five years that wingnut welfare website will be long gone and we'll all be getting to work with jet-packs and taking food pills. Sheesh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 9:16:00 PM  

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