Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Ryan Delaney
On Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 8:32 PM, George Herbert <[hidden email]>wrote:

> On Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 7:58 PM, Fred Bauder <[hidden email]>
> wrote:
> >> On 14 July 2010 02:07, FT2 <[hidden email]> wrote:
> >>> The expectations upon admins are the pivot point for that. See [[
> >>> User:FT2/RfA <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:FT2/RfA>]].
> >>>
> >>> Any ideas how we can get somewhere like that?
> >>>
> >>> FT2
> >>>
> >>
> >> Well to start with you could chuck your requirements out of the
> >> window. Your requirements like most at RFA are selecting for 3 things
> >>
> >> 1)some degree of editing skill
> >> 2)Not appearing to cause trouble
> >> 3)A decent set of wikipolitics skill
> >>
> >>
> >> It's two and three that cause the problem. Anyone whith a decent set
> >> of wikipolitics skills is going to archive 2 by playing safe going
> >> along with the flow and not challenging things. Almost anyone actually
> >> passing RFA is going to have got into the habit of going along with
> >> the ah "bad faith combined with mob justice". The people who might
> >> actually try to challenge such things are unlikely to pass RFA because
> >> either they lack the wikipolitics skills needed in order to pass (you
> >> would tend to fail them under the "nor into politicking" clause among
> >> others) or because they are not prepared to use them in a way that
> >> would let them pass.
> >>
> >> Upshot is that we have for some years now been promoting a bunch of
> >> admins who will go with the flow rather than challenge low level bad
> >> behavior by admins and long standing users. The tiny number of rebels
> >> and iconoclasts left are from years ago and have little to day to day
> >> stuff.
> >>
> >> --
> >> geni
> >
> > Yes, that does seem to be the main requirement, a successful candidate
> > must never have taken a stand. This for a job that requires taking
> > stands.
> >
> > Fred
>
> I failed my first try, and could have failed my second if I hadn't
> made a serious effort to ameliorate a negative perception from taking
> a stand earlier.
>
> The edge of the knife that we must balance on is both being willing to
> take stands, and be open to feedback from the community and from other
> admins if we take the wrong stand.  Balancing there all the time is
> very hard.  Being willing to admit you're wrong on something and still
> come back the next day willing and ready to make a hard call on its
> merits is not easy.
>
>
> --
> -george william herbert
> [hidden email]
>
>
Somehow this thread became about RFA standards. What happened?

- causa sui
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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Charles Matthews
Ryan Delaney wrote:
> Somehow this thread became about RFA standards. What happened?
>
>  
True. We seem to be missing the point that the trouble with the
Administrators Noticeboard is at least in part that it is a
"noticeboard", i.e. not a process for which there is a charter, but an
unchartered discussion forum. Any claims that "AN has the authority" to
do anything are complete nonsense, and admins act entirely as
independent, responsible agents whatever thread they are pivoting off from.

I don't see why this has to be the case, and have not done so for around
three years. The community can require more. In fact it should require
more. AN has long been something that should have been the subject of an
RfC.

Charles


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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Fred Bauder-2
In reply to this post by George William Herbert
 Fred

>
> I failed my first try, and could have failed my second if I hadn't
> made a serious effort to ameliorate a negative perception from taking
> a stand earlier.
>
> The edge of the knife that we must balance on is both being willing to
> take stands, and be open to feedback from the community and from other
> admins if we take the wrong stand.  Balancing there all the time is
> very hard.  Being willing to admit you're wrong on something and still
> come back the next day willing and ready to make a hard call on its
> merits is not easy.
>
>
> --
> -george william herbert
> [hidden email]
>

To tie this back to the original post: It is this sort of insight that
enables a person to continue to participate and contribute over long
periods of time. That sort of insight has been developed by people who
have participated in the give and take of making decisions, some of which
have worked out, while some have not. So how can we, in a practical way,
socialize administrators in the skills involved in continuing to
participate effectively in an important project when everything isn't
going as you might like. This happens in all large organizations.

I keep thinking that stories of our adventures are relevant. That's what
happens in other social situations, building the culture of how
difficulties are coped with. Stories of successes and disasters; I'm
afraid most of that lore has been closely held by insiders and not widely
shared in the administrator community, as much of what when on was
confidential for one reason or another.

We'd like people who get into trouble to work through it and continue to
contribute on a long term basis. That is a different path from someone
getting into trouble, then we're done with them.

Fred


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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Jon Q
In reply to this post by George William Herbert
Hello all,

New here; first post. I'm a longtime Wikipedia user and recent first-time
editor. Had a rather discouraging incident with regard to my first article
on the site, rather an eye-opener as I've attempted to study up on how
things work -- or are supposed to work, and finding out that the loftier
philosophies of the site really don't seem to hold a great reverence within
the system.

This is not just based on my one experience -- I was trying to save the
article I'd written from deletion and trekked around the site looking for
proper reasons it should survive. And I found them! Presenting them --
another matter. I then researched other such situations and found a very
common theme. I also found external articles with numerous examples of
discouraged editors -- and especially former editors.

So on point with this situation, "how do you talk the guy off the ledge" --
naturally that's situational, but after that's resolved, the good question
for prevention is "why did he get there?"  And from what I've seen, there
seems so much room for frustration, and so much room for conflict.  The site
has an article for so many "internal" situations, too -- and it almost
begins to seem like the Bible in that someone can find a section to address
nearly every circumstance. i.e., you can justify both "yes" and "no" some
way or another.  Hard to believe then, that conflicts arise?

The site sounds so wonderful as you enter -- "Come on in!  Start writing!
Be bold!  Break the rules!" and you're heartened by the seeming generosity
of spirit.  Until you actually encounter some experienced editors. The
problem here then becomes something I've seen over and again in my own
career -- people are actually more comfortable with "rules" than with vague
standards which could allow for wiggle room.  They all KNOW about the
pillars and IAR and pay lip service -- but in practice, they have little
real application.  What's surprising is -- administrators seem to behave the
same!

My own philosophy as a supervisor/manager in my own career has been: if
you're only there to make sure the rules are adhered to -- then you make
yourself obsolete. No company needs a walking, talking version of the policy
manual. What a supervisor exists for is more toward making sure the spirit
of several objectives are met, including the policy's intent weighed against
what's actually best for all concerned. If the policy says you close at 6:00
and the customer gets there at 6:01, you can turn him away and be "right"
but suffer loss of goodwill and business for the company -- so how good was
your judgement in that situation?  And would you expect the company's owner
to pat you on the back after that customer gets ahold of him?

This may be overly simple in an interest to keep this short-ish, but it
feels like the starting point of sorts would seem to lie with these
administrators. Maybe they are "just" editors with better tools, but they
have the experience with the site and they are the ones looked to for fair
judgement and good example-setting.  Special attention should be given to
them as they are the de-facto frontline conflict resolution sources, and
their education on how to do that well will serve to stave off larger
conflicts and ALSO keep conflicts from escalating into the laps of the
higher-ups, who would likely rather spend their time dealing with loftier
matters!

I don't know what the actual screening process is here; perhaps it does
contain elements of the higher intentions of the site before approval is
reached. Usually as advancement goes in most companies, a front-line worker
does a good job and expects a promotion -- but everything he learned as a
worker is not geared toward supervision. Soon after that promotion, his
former fellow workers start grumbling and complaining about his "power
trips."  Because -- as a new supervisor, he is overly diligent toward that
policy manual, and tries to gain respect by insisting on his authority.  So
who really trained him on wiggle room and "earning" respect?  Who teaches
them that "real" power is had by knowing how to lead without carrying a
sledgehammer by one's side?

That's part of the goal then -- to get rid of the sledgehammers so that
people don't keep getting clobbered.
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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Ryan Delaney
In reply to this post by Fred Bauder-2
On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 2:15 AM, Fred Bauder <[hidden email]> wrote:

>  Fred
> >
> > I failed my first try, and could have failed my second if I hadn't
> > made a serious effort to ameliorate a negative perception from taking
> > a stand earlier.
> >
> > The edge of the knife that we must balance on is both being willing to
> > take stands, and be open to feedback from the community and from other
> > admins if we take the wrong stand.  Balancing there all the time is
> > very hard.  Being willing to admit you're wrong on something and still
> > come back the next day willing and ready to make a hard call on its
> > merits is not easy.
> >
> >
> > --
> > -george william herbert
> > [hidden email]
> >
>
> To tie this back to the original post: It is this sort of insight that
> enables a person to continue to participate and contribute over long
> periods of time. That sort of insight has been developed by people who
> have participated in the give and take of making decisions, some of which
> have worked out, while some have not. So how can we, in a practical way,
> socialize administrators in the skills involved in continuing to
> participate effectively in an important project when everything isn't
> going as you might like. This happens in all large organizations.
>
> I keep thinking that stories of our adventures are relevant. That's what
> happens in other social situations, building the culture of how
> difficulties are coped with. Stories of successes and disasters; I'm
> afraid most of that lore has been closely held by insiders and not widely
> shared in the administrator community, as much of what when on was
> confidential for one reason or another.
>
> We'd like people who get into trouble to work through it and continue to
> contribute on a long term basis. That is a different path from someone
> getting into trouble, then we're done with them.
>
> Fred
>
>
>
This is good stuff and I think it's a good thing for people to learn how to
cope with adversity in general. Mistakes and stressful situations are
inevitable, and working in an administrative capacity is inherently more
likely to attract "flak" when people don't like the decisions you make. I
developed a pretty thick skin doing RCP, for example. I was harassed and
received death threats as a result of blocking vandals or protecting pages
on The Wrong Version during a content dispute. It happens all the time. Some
people don't deal with that well, especially when they're also getting
second-guessed by the community, and the project would be well served if
administrators had psychological tools available to them to handle the inner
conflict.

The other side of that coin is that when there are systemic problems that
necessarily reduce in stress or even abusive treatment of administrators,
you ought to be identifying and correcting that. Right now, you have exactly
such a situation. Working toward identifying and correcting whatever
cultural aspects of Wikipedia community compound rather than relieve the
stress and suffering caused to administrators doing their jobs is an
important priority not to be "crowded out" by the thinking that we need to
learn to deal with oppressive bureaucracy or a culture of mob justice.

With that in mind, there is a diplomatic pitfall to the approach you
suggest. In same cases, focusing on helping administrators learn to "cope
with the pressure" inherent to the jobs they've volunteered to do is going
to come off patronizing. I certainly heard it that way when people made this
kind of suggestion in real-time, because it was another example of someone
telling me what *I* needed to be doing differently. I didn't feel like the
problem was that I needed to learn to accept that I was being treated badly;
it may well have been better for my peace of mind if I had, but that is not
a solution that is going to help the project.

So from a strategic perspective (retaining human resources) it's perilous,
but also it might lead you to develop blind spots to real and solvable
problems. You don't want to get into a situation where any time a problem
comes up you recall that "Stressful situations are inevitable, we need to
[take a break and cool down / come back later / apply whatever other
therapeutic technique we've prescribed]" because then you'll not do what you
need to do to fix a serious cultural problem that necessarily gives rise to
administrator "flame out".

My skin was already plenty thick. A lot of the people who have burned out or
resigned as a result of this were experienced editors who knew what it was
like to be under pressure for making a decision someone didn't like. You
can't do everything right, but you can recognize problems and take steps
toward addressing them. Helping people learn to cope with stress may be one
prong of your attack, but it can't be the only one -- not here.

- causa sui
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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Bill Carter
In reply to this post by David Goodman
Hi Mr. Goodman,

I think you are talking about me when you mention the genius that sometimes
accompanies valuable and important people who unfortunately tend to put on
displays of individualistic irascibility that are unacceptable. As Manhattan
Samurai, I was one of the best at this. I'm fortunate that I was eventually
kicked off the English Wikipedia and most of my work progressively deleted.
You'll now find my bibliography of William Monahan much improved at Squidoo,
along with a web page about Dining Late with Claude La Badarian:

http://www.squidoo.com/William_Monahan_Bibliography
http://www.squidoo.com/Claude-La-Badarian


I even have a blog:

http://nypress-studies.blogspot.com/

Keep on truckin'

Bill





________________________________
From: David Goodman <[hidden email]>
To: English Wikipedia <[hidden email]>
Sent: Wed, July 14, 2010 2:06:03 AM
Subject: Re: [WikiEN-l] Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk
people down off the ledge?

Frankly, I see that as unwarranted pessimism. The sets of people who
want to change things and people who want to cause trouble are not
identical, though there is a substantial intersection. Admins who have
the lack of judgement to try to force their desired change into policy
by using their arbitrary power of their ability to bully people, are
at least as much a problem as the over-conformist. Indeed, I think it
my role as an admin to be a conformist, and do only what is generally
supported. When I want to work to get something different, that has to
be done without the presumed immunities and special power of an
administrator.

To a certain extent the role does require tolerated the other admins,
but that is just analogous to the requirement that an editor tolerate
other editors. In both cases, the difficulty is that we have no usable
sanctions until things become outrageous. Mild disapproval over the
distance of the internet is very easy for someone to ignore entirely,
until they have gotten themselves into an impossible position.

My personal view remains that we should not tolerate insult even from
the best and most established editors or administrators. A more
civilized environment in these respects will help us get many addition
new good editors and administrators to replace the ones who can not
work in an acceptable fashion. Joining in a collective work is not the
place for displace of individualistic irascibility, even when
accompanied by genius--such people are very important and very
valuable, but they should be working creatively-- and independently.



On Tue, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:54 PM, geni <[hidden email]> wrote:

> On 14 July 2010 02:07, FT2 <[hidden email]> wrote:
>> The expectations upon admins are the pivot point for that. See [[
>> User:FT2/RfA <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:FT2/RfA>]].
>>
>> Any ideas how we can get somewhere like that?
>>
>> FT2
>>
>
> Well to start with you could chuck your requirements out of the
> window. Your requirements like most at RFA are selecting for 3 things
>
> 1)some degree of editing skill
> 2)Not appearing to cause trouble
> 3)A decent set of wikipolitics skill
>
>
> It's two and three that cause the problem. Anyone whith a decent set
> of wikipolitics skills is going to archive 2 by playing safe going
> along with the flow and not challenging things. Almost anyone actually
> passing RFA is going to have got into the habit of going along with
> the ah "bad faith combined with mob justice". The people who might
> actually try to challenge such things are unlikely to pass RFA because
> either they lack the wikipolitics skills needed in order to pass (you
> would tend to fail them under the "nor into politicking" clause among
> others) or because they are not prepared to use them in a way that
> would let them pass.
>
> Upshot is that we have for some years now been promoting a bunch of
> admins who will go with the flow rather than challenge low level bad
> behavior by admins and long standing users. The tiny number of rebels
> and iconoclasts left are from years ago and have little to day to day
> stuff.
>
> --
> geni
>
> _______________________________________________
> WikiEN-l mailing list
> [hidden email]
> To unsubscribe from this mailing list, visit:
> https://lists.wikimedia.org/mailman/listinfo/wikien-l
>



--
David Goodman, Ph.D, M.L.S.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:DGG

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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Fred Bauder-2
In reply to this post by Ryan Delaney

>
> The other side of that coin is that when there are systemic problems that
> necessarily reduce in stress or even abusive treatment of administrators,
> you ought to be identifying and correcting that. Right now, you have
> exactly
> such a situation. Working toward identifying and correcting whatever
> cultural aspects of Wikipedia community compound rather than relieve the
> stress and suffering caused to administrators doing their jobs is an
> important priority not to be "crowded out" by the thinking that we need
> to
> learn to deal with oppressive bureaucracy or a culture of mob justice.
>
> With that in mind, there is a diplomatic pitfall to the approach you
> suggest. In same cases, focusing on helping administrators learn to "cope
> with the pressure" inherent to the jobs they've volunteered to do is
> going
> to come off patronizing. I certainly heard it that way when people made
> this
> kind of suggestion in real-time, because it was another example of
> someone
> telling me what *I* needed to be doing differently. I didn't feel like
> the
> problem was that I needed to learn to accept that I was being treated
> badly;
> it may well have been better for my peace of mind if I had, but that is
> not
> a solution that is going to help the project.
>
> So from a strategic perspective (retaining human resources) it's
> perilous,
> but also it might lead you to develop blind spots to real and solvable
> problems. You don't want to get into a situation where any time a problem
> comes up you recall that "Stressful situations are inevitable, we need to
> [take a break and cool down / come back later / apply whatever other
> therapeutic technique we've prescribed]" because then you'll not do what
> you
> need to do to fix a serious cultural problem that necessarily gives rise
> to
> administrator "flame out".
>
> My skin was already plenty thick. A lot of the people who have burned out
> or
> resigned as a result of this were experienced editors who knew what it
> was
> like to be under pressure for making a decision someone didn't like. You
> can't do everything right, but you can recognize problems and take steps
> toward addressing them. Helping people learn to cope with stress may be
> one
> prong of your attack, but it can't be the only one -- not here.
>
> - causa sui
>

Yes, we need to address the problems, not blame the victims and help them
cope with nightmares.

Fred



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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Ryan Delaney
On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 1:04 PM, Fred Bauder <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> >
> > The other side of that coin is that when there are systemic problems that
> > necessarily reduce in stress or even abusive treatment of administrators,
> > you ought to be identifying and correcting that. Right now, you have
> > exactly
> > such a situation. Working toward identifying and correcting whatever
> > cultural aspects of Wikipedia community compound rather than relieve the
> > stress and suffering caused to administrators doing their jobs is an
> > important priority not to be "crowded out" by the thinking that we need
> > to
> > learn to deal with oppressive bureaucracy or a culture of mob justice.
> >
> > With that in mind, there is a diplomatic pitfall to the approach you
> > suggest. In same cases, focusing on helping administrators learn to "cope
> > with the pressure" inherent to the jobs they've volunteered to do is
> > going
> > to come off patronizing. I certainly heard it that way when people made
> > this
> > kind of suggestion in real-time, because it was another example of
> > someone
> > telling me what *I* needed to be doing differently. I didn't feel like
> > the
> > problem was that I needed to learn to accept that I was being treated
> > badly;
> > it may well have been better for my peace of mind if I had, but that is
> > not
> > a solution that is going to help the project.
> >
> > So from a strategic perspective (retaining human resources) it's
> > perilous,
> > but also it might lead you to develop blind spots to real and solvable
> > problems. You don't want to get into a situation where any time a problem
> > comes up you recall that "Stressful situations are inevitable, we need to
> > [take a break and cool down / come back later / apply whatever other
> > therapeutic technique we've prescribed]" because then you'll not do what
> > you
> > need to do to fix a serious cultural problem that necessarily gives rise
> > to
> > administrator "flame out".
> >
> > My skin was already plenty thick. A lot of the people who have burned out
> > or
> > resigned as a result of this were experienced editors who knew what it
> > was
> > like to be under pressure for making a decision someone didn't like. You
> > can't do everything right, but you can recognize problems and take steps
> > toward addressing them. Helping people learn to cope with stress may be
> > one
> > prong of your attack, but it can't be the only one -- not here.
> >
> > - causa sui
> >
>
> Yes, we need to address the problems, not blame the victims and help them
> cope with nightmares.
>
> Fred
>
>
>
>
What do you propose?
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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Fred Bauder-2

>>
>> Yes, we need to address the problems, not blame the victims and help
>> them
>> cope with nightmares.
>>
>> Fred
>>
> What do you propose?
>

Personally, what I'm going to do is participate more on noticeboards.
Adapting that to a general solution would involve experienced
administrators paying more attention to the give and take on the
noticeboards and jumping in more when something seems to be going wrong.

Fred



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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Ryan Delaney
On Wed, Jul 14, 2010 at 1:47 PM, Fred Bauder <[hidden email]> wrote:

>
> >>
> >> Yes, we need to address the problems, not blame the victims and help
> >> them
> >> cope with nightmares.
> >>
> >> Fred
> >>
> > What do you propose?
> >
>
> Personally, what I'm going to do is participate more on noticeboards.
> Adapting that to a general solution would involve experienced
> administrators paying more attention to the give and take on the
> noticeboards and jumping in more when something seems to be going wrong.
>
> Fred
>
>
>
>
Good luck to you, then. I hope you can help turn it around.
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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Charles Matthews
In reply to this post by Jon Q
Jon Q wrote:

> The site sounds so wonderful as you enter -- "Come on in!  Start writing!
> Be bold!  Break the rules!" and you're heartened by the seeming generosity
> of spirit.  Until you actually encounter some experienced editors. The
> problem here then becomes something I've seen over and again in my own
> career -- people are actually more comfortable with "rules" than with vague
> standards which could allow for wiggle room.  They all KNOW about the
> pillars and IAR and pay lip service -- but in practice, they have little
> real application.  What's surprising is -- administrators seem to behave the
> same!
>
>  
You make some good points. Of course Wikipedia isn't utopian - nothing
is, and even less so on the Internet with no screening of editors.

Translating from the "world of wiki" to the "world of work", as you do
later in your post, what we really lack in admin selection could perhaps
be summed up as a "standard psychological test" that could reveal who
would show up in tense situations with an understated, reasonable, but
firm approach. This thread originated in an issue where there must have
been some failure to observe such standards, and not just on one side.

I don't think there is any consensus as to what should be done. I'm of
the school that thinks that admins should get on with editing and
routine tasks, and only get involved with issues as they crop up (but
should never duck those that do). The trouble with the other, more
authoritarian approach typefied by AN is that it produces both wrong
outcomes and an adverse reaction that now reveals itself as nay-saying
in the community. My two cents.

Charles


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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen
In reply to this post by Fred Bauder-2
Fred Bauder wrote:
> It is likely the reason he got into trouble was because he wasn't
> confident that others would back him up, so he did it himself. Which is,
> of course, the third rail. What is missing is the knowledge that
> sometimes, even if you are "right", others will not, for one reason or
> another, not back you up and you will fail. And can't do anything about
> it.
>
> Fred
>  
IOW, Wikipedia isn't a suicide pact?


Yours,

Jussi-Ville Heiskanen



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Re: Admin / experienced user flameout - how do we talk people down off the ledge?

Fred Bauder-2
> Fred Bauder wrote:
>> It is likely the reason he got into trouble was because he wasn't
>> confident that others would back him up, so he did it himself. Which
>> is,
>> of course, the third rail. What is missing is the knowledge that
>> sometimes, even if you are "right", others will not, for one reason or
>> another, not back you up and you will fail. And can't do anything about
>> it.
>>
>> Fred
>>
> IOW, Wikipedia isn't a suicide pact?
>
>
> Yours,
>
> Jussi-Ville Heiskanen

Ideally, Wikipedia is a life-long avocation.

Fred



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