Quality RP or plagiarism?

General discussions about the Particracy Classic including role-play planning and suggestions.

Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby Aquinas » Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:57 pm

colonelvesica wrote:I'd like to preface this post with a disclaimer; the conversation and topic of the issue of plagiarism has already been spoken about at the highest levels internally between the Moderation Team and Wouter. This topic is, as far as we are concerned, closed thanks to the steps that have been taken to rectify the matter and ensure it doesn't happen again.

So I'll begin first, by thanking Aquinas for the highly detailed Plagiarism Reports he brought forward with the plagiarized post and showing us how serious and widespread the issue was, and how far back it went. I'd also like to thank James for his dedicated work at removing as many of the Plagiarized posts as he has. The vast majority of the plagiarized posts have been removed and we are in the middle of reviewing a final small number of reported examples before they have been completed.

Now onto the topic at hand; first off I would like to echo the comments already made by James, Moderation has mandated and is now enforcing a total No Tolerance Policy in regards to Plagiarism and we will be ensuring players guilty of it in future are sanctioned should anyone be caught doing so again. The players that were found to be mass plagiarizers have been issued significant sanctions. I will not comment on the sanctions specifically, though I'm sure the grapevine already knows much of the details.

On my word of honour, I did not know how widespread and serious the issue was until it brought to light through the Plagiarism Reports. I was actually shocked at the sheer scale of it and how far back it went. The two players in particular that were outed, Maxington and Luis, had always been known to be very detailed and excellent Role Players, much like Mr. God or Kubrick are, and I did not comprehend at how widespread the situation was.

At no point would I ever say I was "okay" with it. The past can't ultimately be changed; only the future. The issue of plagiarism is something we are taking extremely serious and will continue taking serious into the future. As previously mentioned, we have moved forward with a total no tolerance policy, and as suspicion has been brought up about the rankings, and how much this issue may have tainted them along with other issues that have also been discussed at length, we have moved them to purely an advisory capacity to renew faith in the system itself.

I have personally taken further steps myself, to remove the perceived image of favoritism or partiality towards anyone by removing myself entirely as a Player within Particracy itself, and will instead focus purely on Moderation Duties.


Vesica's post above followed a discussion on the official public Discord server where it was pointed out to him that neither he nor Auditorii had given any response to the questions which have been asked since as far back as June about their role in the plagiarism situation. Vesica had offered to respond for himself on the server, although I encouraged him to respond here on the forum, where I felt it would be more helpful and appropriate.

I was somewhat startled by the words he chose to use to me in the Discord discussion, when he told me "these conversations have already occurred at, with the greatest of respect, at paygrades higher than yours", clarifying this to mean that "These conversations have already happened between the Moderation Team and Wouter". The unmistakable impression he left me with was that as far as he is concerned, he is answerable to Wouter and the other Moderators, but that he feels little serious obligation to respond to issues raised on the forum or to be generally transparent to the wider community.

Nevertheless, he has, albeit weeks too late, finally deigned to come to the forum and make a statement about the plagiarism statement. For this, I am grateful, and give him credit.

Unfortunately, the first two sentences of his statement confirm the aloof sentiment he conveyed on Discord, explaining again that he, the other two Moderators and Wouter have discussed the issue, and instructing us that "This topic is, so far as we are concerned, closed" - the implication being that his words are to be the final word on the matter and that further discussion is not welcome.

The attitude he displays towards the issue of the transparency of Moderators brings to mind an earlier experience I had with him, a few years ago, when I appointed him as a Moderator myself. His very first action, upon being appointed, was to announce to me he had created anonymous accounts on the forum and in the game, and that henceforth, he would be playing the game anonymously, with players having no idea of the connection between his role as a Moderator and his role as a player. I was appalled by this, and immediately put a stop to it, of course.

Earlier today I had a conversation with a player who knew nothing about the incident I just described, but who told me he has a suspicion Vesica is currently playing the game with specific different forum and in-game accounts. Having examined this myself, I am less convinced this is so than he is, but nevertheless, I encouraged him to raise the issue if he felt sufficiently concerned. Unfortunately, he did not feel confident to do so, not even to approach another Moderator about it in private. That in itself speaks volumes about the climate that has been created in this community. To be fair, I am not entirely pinning the full responsibility for that on the current set of Moderators, since this is a problem that has been going on for several years, before any of them were appointed to their current terms as Moderator.

Nevertheless, in the circumstances, I do feel I should pose the obvious questions. Have any of the Moderators been running anonymous accounts? Can we have an assurance "Moderator anonymity" will not be brought back? That really would be absolutely the last thing we would need at the moment.

After having spent the amount of time I have investigating plagiarism on our forum, please believe me, nobody is more keen to want to believe the matter is now concluded than I am. Regrettably, this is not the case.

The efforts made by Moderators to suffocate and close down discussion are not only the biggest part of the current problem, but in fact, practically the entire reason why we got in to this mess in the first place.

Let me recap what has happened.

Moderation decided, without consulting or even informing the community, that plagiarism - which had hitherto always been banned - would now be permitted. It sounds incredible, doesn't it? Exactly when this happened and how this happened is not yet clear, but the evidence it happened is objectively irrefutable. We have the objective evidence of previous rule sets which explicitly banned plagiarism, we have the objective evidence of a series of bungled rules rewrites since (which at some point removed the explicit prohibition of plagiarism), and we have the objective evidence of Auditorii's admission on this very thread that up to June this year, Moderation did not consider plagiarism to be something Moderation needed to move against.

Two players, Luis and Maxington, are now revealed to have plagiarised on an enormous scale, going back quite some time, especially in the case of Maxington. I did not personally know they were doing this until more recently. Others, however, did. It is evident from conversations I have had with other players that there were people who knew what was going on, but did not want to rock the boat, because they were worried about facing the all-too-familiar accusations which get bandied about in this community of "creating drama" or "being toxic". Others here will be able to attest to this too, from their own conversations and experiences.

And that reaction - of not wanting to rock the boat - whilst disappointing, is understandable. Luis and Maxington were both very much grandees of the game, part of the in-clique. Both became Moderators. Both were involved with the various incarnations of the RP Team and the GRC. Both not only maintained prominent positions for their nations in the economic and military rankings, but indeed, at times had a direct role in being responsible for actually determining those rankings for the entire game. Both were considered prominent role-players on the forum. And both - and I am confident of this, having researched through so many of their posts - had significant RP interaction over a period of years with two of our current Moderators, Vesica and Auditorii, and also had significant in-game interests which were wrapped up with the interests of those two Moderators.

It does not take a genius to discern that the problem here was not that Moderation failed to sufficiently suppress and stifle discussion about the game, or that Moderation was too transparent and responsive to feedback. The problem, overwhelmingly, was that an environment was created where discussion about the game was made unwelcome, where Moderators felt little need to be accountable, and where certain individuals had become unchallengeable. There is no other way to explain a situation where the game's policy on plagiarism was changed in secret, and where some players knew or strongly suspected prominent members of the community were plagiarising but felt unable to speak up about it.

This community was not always like this. For some years, we had Moderators who were much more grown-up, transparent and relaxed about legitimate discussions about the game. It is a matter of regret that there has been a shift in around the last 3 to 4 years, and it is difficult not to conclude that this contributed to the fiasco we have experienced with the plagiarism situation.

In his statement above, Vesica writes "On my word of honour, I did not know how widespread and serious the issue was until it brought to light through the Plagiarism Reports". It seems plausible he did not realise quite how widespread the plagiarism was, since nor did anyone else I have spoken to, apart from maybe the plagiarists themselves. He does not, though, indicate how much of the plagiarism he was aware of, and notice his statement does not even attempt to deny that he was aware of some degree of plagiarism going on.

Auditorii and Vesica are both intelligent people, with an awareness of current affairs and who I would assume probably read a newspaper or a current affairs magazine at least from time to time. Having been through the experience of combing through post after post of Luis' and Maxington's, going back a significant period of time, and having seen how much their RP has intersected with that of Auditorii and Vesica, I feel a responsibility to put on record that I find it very difficult to believe Auditorii and Vesica did not either know or strongly suspect that the plagiarism of real life news and current affairs articles was going on at the very least in the case of Maxington.

Even by the most generous interpretation, the plagiarism situation has not been handled well by Moderation; indeed, it was handled so badly that for some time Moderation knowingly and willingly allowed it to be performed unchallenged on our forum. After the rule was introduced outlawing plagiarism in Particracy, I was hopeful we had turned a corner, but even then, progress was sluggish. No effort was made to remove the posts identified as plagiarism until around a month later, when I pushed for it. Nor was there any attempt to seriously investigate how widespread the problem was, despite the fact this was so obviously necessary. In the end, I ended up doing the investigating myself. This was a tedious and depressing task which frankly I resented performing, but I did believe it needed to be done, and I cared enough about Particracy as a creative project to be willing to put the effort in to doing it. For undertaking this utterly thankless process, I was repaid with calumny and abuse from a section of the community, both in public and private.

I also had to endure the frustration and humiliation of knowing that whilst I was in the middle of carrying out an arduous task I felt should properly have been done by the Moderators, the two Moderators who had allowed the plagiarism in the first place, Vesica and Auditorii, were larking around in a rival spin-off project to Particracy organised by one of the plagiarists and two other individuals who have been trolling me and vociferously supporting the plagiarists both on the forum and on Discord. The Discord server associated with this project was used to spread lies about me and launch personal attacks about me, and anyone who objected to plagiarism in strong enough terms was booted off of it. Only in recent days, I understand, have Vesica and Auditorii removed themselves from this server and this project. Naturally, I credit them for having done so, although I question their sense of judgement, as Particracy Moderators, in going there in the first place and involving themselves there to the extent they did and for as long as they did.

I will now turn to some of the things which, in my view, need to happen next.

(1) Wouter should provide a public assurance that he is opposed to plagiarism in this community, and that he will convey his position on this to any future Moderator he appoints.

I have come under strong personal criticism and at times unfair pressure, both publicly and privately, for asking for this previously, but it needs to be asked for, and it needs to be asked for loudly. Wouter bears ultimate responsibility for this project. He has already (unknowingly?) appointed two Moderators who turned out to be plagiarists, and also at least another two Moderators who knowingly allowed plagiarism on the forum. No stance by Particracy against plagiarism is credible unless Wouter is committed to it. Moderators, as we know, come and go, but Wouter has been responsible for this game since he launched it in 2005. If Wouter is not serious about tackling plagiarism, and if he is in future going to appoint Moderators without caring whether they are serious about tackling plagiarism, then there is little hope left.

(2) Auditorii and Vesica should step aside from their positions. In Particracy's post-plagiarism era, there can be no place for Moderators who have enabled plagiarism. Sentiment cannot come in to this; it is a question of doing what is right for the integrity, the credibility and the future of this project. It goes without saying that I bear no ill-will to either of them, and I am grateful to them for the many positive things they have contributed to this game, and I hope they will remain as part of our community as valued members.

(3) Auditorii, Vesica and any other Moderators involved with permitting plagiarism within Particracy should give a full account of when and how the decision to permit plagiarism was made, and also the full details of the plagiarism they were aware of.

Much has gone on in the shadows. We, as a community, need to know what happened so that past mistakes can be learned from.

(4) The era of suppressing legitimate discussion about the game needs to come to a definitive end, so that the mistakes of the past can be avoided. Civility must be maintained, but the role of Moderators should be to facilitate discussion, not suppress it.

(5) Steps need to be taken to raise awareness of the fact plagiarism is no longer tolerated. For those of us who follow the forum closely, this may seem unnecessary, and some of you may even be wishing we were talking about plagiarism a little less, but the fact remains, we need to get the message out there to everybody - including to those who frequent the forum less regularly, and to new and future players.

Some specific suggestions to consider:

- The creation of a stickied thread in the Moderation sub-forum, dedicated to plagiarism reports. This would underline the fact plagiarism is being taken seriously. Technically the Inappropriate Real-Life/Ridiculous/Offensive Variables or Moderation Queries and Feedback threads would suffice, but as I say, the creation of a dedicated thread for plagiarism reports would send out a clear and positive message that plagiarism is now an issue being treated with some priority.

- The FAQ, Tutorial and Random Facts should include references to the fact plagiarism is not allowed in Particracy. Consideration should also be given to requesting Wouter to amend the creating a new user page, to include mention of a prohibition against plagiarism.

- The RP sub-forums, particularly the International News one, should feature a stickied post at the top with a title reading something like "***PLAGIARISM IS FORBIDDEN***".

(6) Following on from the recent experiences, it would be helpful for some official Moderation advice to be provided to players who have been found to have committed plagiarism within Particracy. The Moderators, who will have had their own conversations with the plagiarisers, will doubtless have their own thoughts on that, but as examples, I would suggest the following:

- Be careful not to mislead Moderators when you are asked to outline the scope of your plagiarism, as if you are believed to have been dishonest, this may lead to your offence being considered more serious than it already is. Please also consider the possibility that if you have held a casual attitude towards plagiarism and have been RPing for a significant period of time, you may yourself not immediately be aware of the full scale and precise details of the plagiarism you have committed. It is your responsibility to provide Moderation with as accurate information about your plagiarism as you can, and to work conscientiously with Moderation to identify and remove all of the plagiarism you have uploaded on to Particracy.

- If, after your plagiarism has been exposed, you are permitted the privilege of continuing to play the game, please be aware you have a personal responsibility to conduct yourself in a way which allows both Moderators and community members to believe you are now taking the issue of plagiarism seriously. Please bear in mind it is not easy to identify every act of plagiarism, and also that it is not fair to expect someone to plagiarism-check every single post that you write. This means, by definition, that if you are allowed to continue RPing after having been found guilty of plagiarism, you are asking both Moderators and the community to trust you. If, through any reckless behaviour on your part, you abuse the privilege you have been granted by doing anything to undermine this trust, then the responsibility will be entirely and solely yours if your playing rights are revoked.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby jamescfm » Fri Aug 07, 2020 6:59 pm

Let me begin by stating the obvious, which is that I can only answer on behalf of the current Moderation team and myself. My appointment to the team happened about six weeks ago and in the immediate aftermath of the revelation that certain players had engaged in plagiarism. As you mention we have had a number of different individuals on the Moderation team over the past four years, so it would be difficult for any one person to be held accountable for the decisions that have been made however it should be clear that the three members of Moderation at the moment are entirely responsible for any decisions taken in the past six weeks.

On the specific question of Moderator anonymity, I can offer my total assurance that this is not even something that we have considered. Personally I have never played the game at a time when Moderation operated in an anonymous manner but I do not think that it would be beneficial to the functioning of the game to bring this system back. Like you say it creates significant problems relating to accountability and transparency.

Likewise I have never operated anonymous accounts in the game and certainly I am not at the moment. On a couple of occasion in the past, my in-game name has not been clearly linked to my forum name (for example, when I played in Rildanor) but even in these cases I was still posting about these parties with this forum account so there was no attempt to hide my identity. As far as I know, no Moderator has run anonymous accounts in the game while I have been part of the team.

Moving on to the specific subject of plagiarism, I will endeavour to give an account of my own experience and action related to the issue, the response that we have taken as a Moderation team since I joined as well as a broader explanation of the extent of plagiarism within the community. In this thread and in the "plagiarism reports" thread, I have endeavoured to provide updates on the process of dealing with plagiarism as it has happened but the significant nature of the task has made this difficult.

Based on the reports that we have received (primarily from you, Aquinas), Moderation has identified and confirmed approximately 120 instances of plagiarism on the forum covering a period between July 2015 and June 2020. Explained in this manner the extent of the plagiarism is genuinely shocking and at this point, anybody trying to pretend that this is not a major problem for the game is either outright lying or seriously deluding themselves. At the moment all of the plagiarised material that we know to exist on the forum has been removed or amended (in cases where the removal might be confusing such as World Congress resolutions) but there is still a case that relates to plagiarism within the game that we have not had time to properly review yet.

As I have already stated the decision not to immediately remove the plagiarism was taken on the basis that doing so while the discussion around plagiarism was ongoing might have appeared suspicious. When it was brought to our attention that not removing the plagiarism might cause problems for the game, the posts were removed as soon as possible. Despite the assertions that you have made in the past I believe that there was a reasonable argument in favour of leaving the plagiarised posts up at that time. Numerous players have attempted to downplay and discredit the extent of the plagiarism, immediately removing the offending posts would have left us with no evidence to refute these claims.

The suggestion that we did not investigate the extent of the plagiarism is untrue. In this thread there were around a dozen instances of plagiarism that were identified initially and in the wake of my appointment as Moderator, we discovered around half a dozen more by searching through the recent post history of the players known to have plagiarised. I think it is useful and beneficial that you were able to identify the wider extent of the problem but I do not accept that it would have been a valuable use of Moderator time to be searching through posts dating back five years, nor do I believe that failing to identify these posts would have had significant consequences for the game.

The vast majority of the plagiarism (somewhere around 80%) was conducted by Maxington and Luis1p. Based on the plagiarism that has been identified, no other player came close to the extensive, mass plagiarism conducted by these two players. In almost all of the other cases, the plagiarism was limited to excerpts of a larger text. As I have mentioned before plagiarism of this kind is still wrong but it is not on the same scale as the kind of plagiarism that the two aforementioned players were involved in.

In terms of my knowledge of plagiarism, I think it is fair to say that certain players within the community either knew about the problem or suspected that it was happening for a significant period of time. The evidence of this goes back to the first instances of broad-scale plagiarism in 2015 by Maxington, which were publicly noted by Kubrick at the time, and Auditorii noted a couple of months ago that he knew players were plagiarising. Personally I became aware of plagiarism towards the end of May this year, when another player shared evidence of a plagiarised article with me. At the time I did not think it was a recurring issue but frankly I do not know why I didn't report it.

Over the next week or so, we will hopefully make some changes relating to plagiarism and will consider the suggestions that you have made. I hope that this has clarified any lingering uncertainty about our position and action with regard to plagiarism. Apologies that it is a rather lengthy and unfocused response, if there is anything that I missed then please let me know.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby colonelvesica » Fri Aug 07, 2020 7:49 pm

I'd like to state for the record, firmly and completely; this is the only forum account I possess in any capacity, and I currently hold no active in game accounts what so ever. Like James I've utilized multiple usernames for my in game accounts that didn't have Vesica in it, but thats about as close as I ever came to it.

Aquinas is correct; I did consider running an anonymous account during my short initial tenure as a Moderator, something that Aquinas rightfully shot down and I never again considered it. If he hadn't remembered I doubt I would have remembered I had ever contemplating doing so in the first place.

Directly responding to one specific comment; I suspected yes. I suspected very deeply, since before I was a Moderator. As not many comments were ever made publicly about it by the Moderation Teams at the various times, I had assumed it was a practice that while grimy, was simply accepted; Kubrick's comment in July of 2015 went essentially unanswered and unacknowledged by the Moderation Team at the time.

I "found out" or rather had my suspicions confirmed approximately six months ago when a particular article was "written". I can not recall precisely when and it's since been purged, that explicitly mentioned the European Union and the United States. I had assumed that a piece of particularly interesting article of a real life story that had managed to fit the narrative of a particular Role Play. I had assumed a sentence or paragraph at most been pulled. I was not aware that entire articles were being pulled and mildly and sometimes sloppily edited before being pushed back out.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby Aethan » Fri Aug 07, 2020 8:40 pm

For the record, I’d like to personally apologize to Aquinas for my previous behavior. I like to think about myself as a dedicated RPlayer of this game, and being accused of plagiarism after using a few sentences of some articles (two or three posts) infuriated me. However, after seeing the scale of the problem, I take full responsibility of my actions. Although I still don’t know at what extent should using one or two sentences for an real-life article be considered as “plagiarism”, my way of expressing it was not the best
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby Aquinas » Mon Aug 10, 2020 11:24 pm

jamescfm wrote:On the specific question of Moderator anonymity, I can offer my total assurance that this is not even something that we have considered. Personally I have never played the game at a time when Moderation operated in an anonymous manner but I do not think that it would be beneficial to the functioning of the game to bring this system back. Like you say it creates significant problems relating to accountability and transparency.

Likewise I have never operated anonymous accounts in the game and certainly I am not at the moment. On a couple of occasion in the past, my in-game name has not been clearly linked to my forum name (for example, when I played in Rildanor) but even in these cases I was still posting about these parties with this forum account so there was no attempt to hide my identity. As far as I know, no Moderator has run anonymous accounts in the game while I have been part of the team.


Thank you for your assurance about the issue of Moderators playing the game anonymously. To be clear, I personally accept your assurance on this, and I also personally accept Vesica's assurance he has not been playing anonymously whilst being a Moderator.

Unfortunately, though, I do not feel you responded to this in quite the way you ought to have done. In my previous post, I explained I had spoken to a player who has a suspicion Vesica is playing the game with a specific in-game account and forum account, but that he did not feel comfortable to raise the issue himself or even to approach one of the other Moderators privately. I hoped you would each have responded to this by giving an assurance that you want players to feel comfortable to approach you, and that if a player for whatever reason does not feel comfortable approaching you, you would hope they would feel able to approach another Moderator, or if it was felt necessary, Wouter. This did not happen.

Secondly, I expected you would privately inquire of me about the specific forum account and in-game account which are suspected to be linked to Vesica, so that you could perform a meaningful investigation. Again, this is not something that happened. It would, by the way, have been my personal preference to have taken the initiative to provide you with this information privately myself (I would not have wanted to do so publicly, since in a case like this, assuming Vesica was "innocent", raising the suspicion publicly would be unfair on the other player). I did not do so, however, because the person who gave me the information asked me not to do so, as he wished to test whether you would even be bothered to ask me. I had told him I was sure you would. He was doubtful. Regrettably he, in the end, was proved correct, and I was proved wrong. You essentially made no effort to investigate.

As I say, I personally happen to accept Vesica's assurance he is not playing the game anonymously, and for this reason, I feel he is probably the main "victim" in this, because it is now the case that even if another Moderator investigates whether the specific suspicion is true or not, the credibility of the exercise will be somewhat undermined by the whole way the issue was handled in the first place. If you cannot be relied on to investigate whether a co-Mod is playing the game anonymously, how can we have confidence in you, for example, if we ask you to investigate whether he is running an unauthorised second account, nation raiding or godmodding?

What I hope this incident underlines is the importance of Moderators responding to concerns with complete probity. Players need to be able to feel comfortable to come forward if they believe someone is breaking the rules - whether it is plagiarism, or unauthorised multiple accounting or whatever the case may be. They need to feel comfortable to come forward even if the person in question is a Moderator, or a prominent member of the community, or someone who is seen to be "pals" with one or more of the Moderators. We already know that for a significant period of time, some individuals knew plagiarism was going on, but did not feel comfortable to report it. Lessons need to be drawn from this, and one of these is that Moderators need to make sure that when concerns are brought to them, those concerns are handled in a correct way.

jamescfm wrote:As I have already stated the decision not to immediately remove the plagiarism was taken on the basis that doing so while the discussion around plagiarism was ongoing might have appeared suspicious. When it was brought to our attention that not removing the plagiarism might cause problems for the game, the posts were removed as soon as possible. Despite the assertions that you have made in the past I believe that there was a reasonable argument in favour of leaving the plagiarised posts up at that time. Numerous players have attempted to downplay and discredit the extent of the plagiarism, immediately removing the offending posts would have left us with no evidence to refute these claims.


It was not a matter of you wanting to leave the posts up for a few days or a week - you in fact had no intention of removing them at all until, as you told us (in those credibility-shattering words I will not easily forget!) "The plagiarised posts were removed as soon as it was brought to our attention that their existence on the Forum might cause problems" (!). Your responses when you were challenged as to why you had left the plagiarised posts up for so long displayed, to put it gently, a degree of ineptitude on your part. Those issues have, though, already been covered by me earlier in the thread, so I will not retread them for the moment. What I will state here, though, is the obvious point, which everybody or almost everybody will know, that on this forum, as with other forums, Moderation has the ability to move posts/threads between the "public" part of the forum and the "private" part (ie. where only Moderators and Wouter can see), and that this would have been an obvious option available to the Moderation Team when it came to dealing with posts which featured plagiarism. That way, the Moderation Team would have maintained the ability to provide samples of evidence of plagiarism, either privately or publicly, if it was deemed that would be helpful.

jamescfm wrote:The suggestion that we did not investigate the extent of the plagiarism is untrue. In this thread there were around a dozen instances of plagiarism that were identified initially and in the wake of my appointment as Moderator, we discovered around half a dozen more by searching through the recent post history of the players known to have plagiarised. I think it is useful and beneficial that you were able to identify the wider extent of the problem but I do not accept that it would have been a valuable use of Moderator time to be searching through posts dating back five years, nor do I believe that failing to identify these posts would have had significant consequences for the game.


I believe I only searched posts going back 5 years in the usual case of Maxington. I maintain it was blindingly obvious a more thorough investigation of plagiarism was necessary than the very cursory one Moderation performed. The fact you are even disputing this brings in to question how seriously you take the need to remove plagiarism from the forum. I also maintain it was most unhelpful and also disrespectful that whilst I was doing all of that work to investigate plagiarism, your two co-Moderators, instead of assisting in the investigation, were hanging around in a rival Particracy spin-off project run by our community's most vociferous pro-plagiarists, where I was being personally trashed because of the work I was doing. It was particularly regrettable that Auditorii made certain comments on the pro-plagiarist server which mocked the concerns myself and others have expressed about the phenomenon of players plagiarising in order to try to boost their nation's status in the economic and military rankings. In particular:

Imma spray you with Ranking Boosting and itll never be more toxic


At least I can rb here in peace


Screenshots can be provided on request. Please note there has still been absolutely no apology or expression of regret by Auditorii or Vesica about their involvement in the pro-plagiarist server.

jamescfm wrote:In terms of my knowledge of plagiarism, I think it is fair to say that certain players within the community either knew about the problem or suspected that it was happening for a significant period of time. The evidence of this goes back to the first instances of broad-scale plagiarism in 2015 by Maxington, which were publicly noted by Kubrick at the time, and Auditorii noted a couple of months ago that he knew players were plagiarising. Personally I became aware of plagiarism towards the end of May this year, when another player shared evidence of a plagiarised article with me. At the time I did not think it was a recurring issue but frankly I do not know why I didn't report it.


Kubrick's response to Maxington's post on the Trigunian news thread in July 2015 came at a time when the Moderators would have been Amazeroth and myself (although I would only very recently have been appointed at that time). It is, as you might imagine, a matter of pain and frustration for me that I did not see this at the time, and it was never reported to me. If his behaviour had been challenged then, perhaps we would have been spared another 5 years of it. I can absolutely and categorically assure you that if Amazeroth and I had been aware of what was going on, we would have stopped it. Amazeroth, I recall from my personal experience of playing in Dranland, had intervened against plagiarism on previous occasions. The rule set I introduced only a month later, in August 2015, included a prohibition against plagiarism.

Thank you, by the way, for your acknowledgement you became aware of plagiarism in May this year "but frankly I do not know why I didn't report it". Unfortunately, from my conversations, this is a recurring pattern...people either knew or strongly suspected plagiarism was going on, but for whatever reason, did not raise the issue.

colonelvesica wrote:Directly responding to one specific comment; I suspected yes. I suspected very deeply, since before I was a Moderator. As not many comments were ever made publicly about it by the Moderation Teams at the various times, I had assumed it was a practice that while grimy, was simply accepted


It is true that until recently, there have been few cases where a player has been "caught out" plagiarising. To my knowledge, these cases have always been rare. Before recently, I believe the last case may go back as far as 2013 (although there may have been cases since then - I am not sure). In the light of what we now know, I - as a former Moderator - would accept, and I suspect other former Moderators would probably also accept - that there should have been more general awareness about the issue than there was. I sorely wish, for example, that I had monitored RP posts more closely, and had been more adept at "spotting" the signs of plagiarism.

Nevertheless, it is most definitely not the case that plagiarism can ever be considered to have been acceptable; to say that would be to go completely against both ethics and common sense. I would also remind you, Vesica, that the rule set which was in place when I appointed you Moderator included a prohibition of plagiarism. You were asked by me to read the rules carefully and ask me if you had any questions, both when I first appointed you to the RP Team (as it then was) and again when I appointed you Moderator. This is something I asked of every single Moderator and RP Team member I ever appointed. I am sincerely struggling to understand how you did not recognise plagiarism was problematic. I am also sincerely struggling to understand why, if you really did believe plagiarism was "simply accepted" in Particracy and you essentially knew it was going on, you did not resolve to do something about it when you became a Moderator and had an obvious opportunity to act decisively.

Similar questions pertain to Auditorii, who has avoided answering questions about his role in regards to the plagiarism. What he did tell us, back in June, was this:

Auditorii wrote:As for the issue of using real world articles and replacing information, I only know of a handful of players who have/who do it and from my understanding it is limited. I don't really think that the rankings are at all "problematic" or "corrupted" in any way because I can tell you that a vast majority of people that are in the "senior" spots in the rankings simply don't do that. With that being said however, we'd be willing to broach the issue and discuss it. I'm not certain that this is the appropriate topic for it, perhaps a new topic to address such matters.


Despite repeated pleas for transparency on his part, Auditorii has refused to tell us the identities of the "handful of players" who he knew were plagiarising. This raises the question of whether those players have even been identified yet, and whether their plagiarism still needs to be removed from our forum. I think we can also safely say, by this point, that nobody who has been following events closely enough seriously believes Auditorii was unaware plagiarism was being carried out by players RPing nations in the "senior" spots in the rankings.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby jamescfm » Sun Aug 16, 2020 12:48 am

Before anything else, let me just restate my previous disclaimer that this post was not ignored, I had some technical problems that prevented me from properly accessing the game from last weekend and clearly this is the kind of feedback that deserves a considered response.

I totally reject the characterisation of my actions that you outline in the beginning of this post. In your previous post you claimed a player suspected colonelvesica was "currently playing the game with specific different forum and in-game accounts". I spoke to colonelvesica about the matter and performed routine checks to confirm that this wasn't the case then I relayed the information to you in my response.

The idea that players are setting "tests" for Moderation in order to see the particular course of action that we take is frankly ludicrous. If you have a legitimate concern or query then you should bring it forward, if not then you cannot expect us to act upon it. The notion that the failure to investigate links between my co-Moderator and a hypothetical account from an anonymous player reflects an unwillingness to enforce the Game Rules is just absurd.

I am not going to repeat what I have already said on numerous occasions regarding the removal of plagiarised posts. Moderation has removed over one hundred instances of plagiarism from the forum and did so as soon as it was brought to our attention that their continued existence on the forum might cause problems. As it happens it is likely that they would not have caused problems given that plagiarism has existed on the forum for half a decade already. Nonetheless we heard the concern from players and removed the posts anyway.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby Aquinas » Mon Aug 17, 2020 12:16 am

jamescfm wrote:Before anything else, let me just restate my previous disclaimer that this post was not ignored, I had some technical problems that prevented me from properly accessing the game from last weekend and clearly this is the kind of feedback that deserves a considered response.


And I appreciate your having let me know privately about those issues as well, so I understood the reason for the delay. I am not agreeing with you on every issue that has come up in this discussion, James, but along, I think, with most others, I believe you are genuinely making an effort, not only with regards to the plagiarism, but with regards to Moderation responsibilities generally. Regrettably, though, I do have to say I feel your two co-Moderators and Wouter have not been as forthcoming as I had hoped they would be, as will be evident to anyone who has read through this thread.

jamescfm wrote:I totally reject the characterisation of my actions that you outline in the beginning of this post. In your previous post you claimed a player suspected colonelvesica was "currently playing the game with specific different forum and in-game accounts". I spoke to colonelvesica about the matter and performed routine checks to confirm that this wasn't the case then I relayed the information to you in my response.

The idea that players are setting "tests" for Moderation in order to see the particular course of action that we take is frankly ludicrous. If you have a legitimate concern or query then you should bring it forward, if not then you cannot expect us to act upon it. The notion that the failure to investigate links between my co-Moderator and a hypothetical account from an anonymous player reflects an unwillingness to enforce the Game Rules is just absurd.


Nobody is suggesting Vesica broke anything in the formal text of the Game Rules. What is in question is whether he broke the established etiquette that Moderators should play the game transparently, with players being aware of the in-game and forum accounts they are using.

In order to credibly investigate a suspicion Vesica was running anonymous accounts, it would have been necessary to identify the in-game and forum accounts that were in suspicion, so you could examine factors such as writing style, playing patterns and interactions. Running checks on whether other accounts were using the same IP address or registered email address as Vesica would not by itself have constituted a satisfactory investigation. IP checks can be fooled by using alternative IP addresses or proxies, and registered email checks can be fooled by using alternative email addresses. Vesica, as you must surely be aware, has performed multis checks on players as part of his responsibilities as a Moderator, and knows all about the usual ways in which links between accounts are established. If, theoretically, he really were to try to deceive you by running an anonymous account, it is surely unlikely he would be naive enough allow his activity to be detected by IP address or registered email address.

There has been one previous case where a Moderator tried to conceal his anonymous in-game account from his co-Moderator, and this involved Auditorii/Farsun/Rapax, during his first period as a Moderator. On that occasion, he used a proxy server and registered with a different email address to his usual one.

Upon learning a suspicion had been raised that Vesica was doing this, as part of "due diligence", it was surely your responsibility to inquire as to the accounts that were suspected. Conclusions are being drawn from the fact you did not do this, and also from the tone of some of the language you have used, which will not be reassuring to those who have already been made to feel uncomfortable about approaching Moderators.

jamescfm wrote:I am not going to repeat what I have already said on numerous occasions regarding the removal of plagiarised posts. Moderation has removed over one hundred instances of plagiarism from the forum and did so as soon as it was brought to our attention that their continued existence on the forum might cause problems. As it happens it is likely that they would not have caused problems given that plagiarism has existed on the forum for half a decade already. Nonetheless we heard the concern from players and removed the posts anyway.


This is painful to read, because what it seems to indicate is that the presence of plagiarism on our forum is not in itself a particular problem for you, and that you are only concerned about it insofar as, for example, it negatively affects Particracy gameplay by giving giving an unfair advantage to certain players, raises a risk of legal repercussions or raises a risk search engines will de-list Particracy.

As a creative writer with a leadership role amongst a group of creative writers, I had hoped you would take a stronger and more principled position that plagiarism, the passing off of other people's work as though it is your own, is something that goes against the ethics of authorship and is something that needs to be taken seriously on that basis. There are, of course, other reasons to avoid plagiarism, but this is the one which I, as an amateur creative writer myself, care about the most.

This is an issue that goes to the heart of the integrity of Particracy as a creative writing project. I wrote about this subject previously here. I continue to believe that without Wouter's public and private support, efforts to take plagiarism seriously in this game risk being undermined in the long run. James personally, to his credit, has done some of the things which really needed to be done, and I really am very genuinely appreciative of that, but it does become apparent in discussion that even he is not entirely "getting" the issues that are at stake. His two co-Moderators, of course, are the ones who knew plagiarism was going on and chose to treat it as though it was an acceptable part of Particracy RP...

*

A further question which needs to be raised is about to what extent plagiarism has taken place on the Wikia. I have made no personal attempt to investigate the Wikia for plagiarism, partly because I do not use Wikia much and do not know my way around the Particracy Wikia very well, and partly because frankly I feel I have already contributed more than my fair share of the work with the plagiarism investigations I have run on the forum. Needless to say, some effort to investigate the Wikia does need to be made. Bear in mind also that if the plagiarism there was to be on a serious enough scale, we would be running a risk that this would put the Particracy Wikia in to trouble with its hosts, Wikia/Fandom itself.

*

Following the restoration of various threads surrounding the rules rewrite in early 2018, it is now possible to establish this was the point where the prohibition of plagiarism was excised from the Game Rules document.

Before this time, the section on real-life variables read as follows:

5. Real-life variables.

Particracy is set in the fictional world of Terra, which mirrors the real world of today and yet is not quite like it. Role-play must reflect this, and as examples, the names of the following should not be used:

5.1 Prominent real-life persons. This includes references to philosophies featuring the name of a real-life person (eg. "Marxism", "Thatcherism", "Keynesianism").

5.1.1 Real-life quotations may be used, but the real-life speaker or author should always be referenced in an OOC (out-of-character) note alongside the quotation.

5.2 Real-life organisations, unless they are simple and generic (eg. "National Organisation for Women" is allowed).

5.3 Real life-life nationalities, cultures or ethnicities (eg. "German").

5.4 Real-life religious references. Terra has its own religions, many of which mirror real-life ones. For more information, see here.

5.5 Real-life places.

5.6 Official national flags of real-life nations or flags which are very prominent and recognisable (eg. the flags of the European Union, the United Nations, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union or the Confederate States of America).

5.7 Real-life brand names (eg. Coca Cola, McDonalds, Microsoft).

5.7.1 In the case of military equipment brand names it is permitted to use simple number-letter combinations (eg. T-90 and F-22) borrowed from real life, and also simple generic names, like those of animals (eg. Leopard and Jaguar).

5.8 Real-life fictional references (eg. Gandalf, Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker).

5.9 References that seem to belong to the world of fantasy, science fiction and futuristic speculation.

Afterwards, this was changed to:
4.
Using or referencing a real-life character, figure, nation, place, religion, organisation, nationality or other Real-Life variable in Particracy is strictly forbidden unless it is mentioned out-of-character.

This also applies to Real-Life fictional references (for example Cinderella, Narnia or Lightsabers)


The Moderators of that time, Fin/FPC, Polites and CM, may not have intended to declare plagiarism "acceptable" when they revised the rules, but this, at least in the long-term, is what appears to have ended up happening. A large majority of the discussion about this rules revision centred around a controversial plan to abolish the Cultural Protocol system and impose a centralised, redrawn "Cultural Map" on the game. Nevertheless, concerns were expressed about the rest of the rules rewrite as well, particularly by me, both privately to Fin, and in annotations on the rules draft Google document (which are now no longer visible). I also made some comments on the forum, including about the real-life equivalents section, although so far it has not been possible to find these (I suspect they have either been deleted or are still "archived" somewhere).

Along with a number of others, I was surprised when the proposed draft rules were implemented, because the document was so obviously inadequate and still needed more work. I had been under the impression from Fin that more time would be given to revising the document, but this did not happen.

There is clearly a lesson to be learned from this experience, which is that the Game Rules document needs to be treated with a great deal more care than has been the case in recent years. Some assurances from the current Moderation Team on this issue would be appreciated.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby jamescfm » Thu Aug 20, 2020 2:15 pm

Without any credible information to indicate that colonelvesica is operating secret accounts there is nothing more I am able to do unfortunately. As I have said already it is impossible for me investigate an account that isn't shared with me based on second hand rumours or gossip. If there are players who suspect that any Moderator is behaving in an inappropriate manner then they are welcome to raise their concerns with another Moderator or directly with Wouter if they feel the issues affect all members of the Moderation team. If they choose not to do this then it is unreasonable to expect action to be taken. Players are welcome to draw whatever conclusions they please from that.

I am afraid I have very little else to say on the matter of plagiarism. Players who have followed the discussion of the matter will understand that I have taken it extremely seriously and have made it a personal priority from the moment that I was appointed to the Moderation team. If you read this very thread then you will find I have been a vocal advocate of taking action against plagiarism. I find it sad that you would accuse me of "not getting it".
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby Drax » Thu Apr 22, 2021 4:07 am

Want to address a small part of the issues being discussed here. That is drafting basic treaty documents and agreements.

What government lawyers and bureaucrats do in drafting contract agreements, regulations, loan closing documents, title opinions, pleadings for litigation, divorce settlements, legislation, deeds, security agreements, financing statements and mortgages is use what they or a colleague have already done in a similar matter and adapt it. If something is done a lot an office generally has forms for that type of case.

Not suggesting this is a justification for plagiarism. What I am suggesting is for a number of standard type of treaties we could have approved prototypes. That way somebody could easily just cut and paste and produce a document. Imagine this is what most are doing anyway.

For instance the Seleucia Diplomatic Treaty has mutual diplomatic recognition for all signatories, the Deltarian one is between any signatory and Deltaria not other signatories. Some standard things in many many agreements ae free trade clauses, non aggression clauses, diplomatic immunity, mutual defense provisions, as well as promises of communication, sharing intelligence and diplomatic immunity.

The concept is already present in the game - as the variables in legislation.
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Re: Quality RP or plagiarism?

Postby jellybean » Mon Apr 26, 2021 5:53 pm

I would like to ask for some clarification about Moderation's stance on plagiarism, please.

Is it acceptable to copy and modify real-life treaties provided that an OOC source is identified, or should in-game treaties be wholly original works?

Thank you!

For myself, I would support allowing real-life treaties to be used with an OOC source. However, I do think Moderation should reserve the right to veto a treaty that is too close to the original, or to restrain a user who is copy-creating treaty after treaty.
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