I was a Conservapedia Administrator

Philip J. Rayment

Guard Dog

Guard Dog is the name of a program that I wrote to monitor the Recent Changes page on Con­serva­pedia for likely vandal activity, particularly from automated programs ('bots'). It was written in Delphi,1 and designed to run on the computers of the senior administrators. It included the ability to auto­matically block a user suspected of using a bot. However, in addition, it would sound an alert for other suspect activity, allowing the admin­istra­tor to invest­igate and take any necessary action, even if he was busy doing something else, without having to con­tin­ually monitor the Recent Changes himself.

The motivation for writing the program was to eliminate the situation where editing on Conservapedia was turned off overnight U.S. time, which was dis­crimin­atory against editors from other parts of the world, particularly ones with time zones similar to Australia. Although being overnight in the U.S., this was around the most likely time that Autralian editors would be wanting to contribute.

One of the Catch-22 situations on Con­serva­pedia was that in order to qualify for 'night-editing' rights, whereby an approved editor was able to edit even whilst general editing as turned off, one had to prove that one was a legitimate editor, which was difficult to do when editing was turned off at the time they were most able to edit. The reason for the editing being turned off at night was that there were few if any administrators, or even other editors with the ability to block vandals, monitoring the site overnight, and this was an open invitation to vandals to choose that time to vandalise. Of course, more Australian editors would alleviate this problem, but the night-editing restriction discouraged Australian editors.

So before writing the program, I asked for and received an agreement from Andy Schlafly that, if I wrote the program and it worked satisfactorily, he would discontinue turning off editing overnight. So I wrote the program, and did get it working satisfactorily. However, there was one problem. There was an apparent reluctance by the other administrators to actually use it! There could have been good reasons in some cases. For one, it needed to run on a Windows computer, with Internet Explorer installed. For another, it did not work with the enhanced Recent Changes page. An administrator who used and didn't want to give up the enhanced Recent Changes could not use the program. But I doubt that these restrictions would have ruled out many administrators. The only one who did regularly use it was TerryH.

We wanted to be confident that we had 24-hour, seven-day coverage with Guard Dog, but with only TerryH and me running it, and with both of us being unable to guarantee 24/7 coverage, I asked for another couple of adminstrators to also run it.

Another administrator installed it, then asked what to do next. I had supplied a full set of instructions, so didn't understand what he wanted to know further. And when I asked, I got no reply. Another couple of administrators tried installing it, but for unknown reasons couldn't get it working.

Andy also agreed to run it. And this is what prompted his promise to give night-editing rights to editor 'HelpJazz'. HelpJazz had been doing a lot of editing, and had asked for night-editing rights. However, in the typically-suspicious attitude of Andy and the administrators, because his IP address was deemed to be associated with a known location of vandals, Andy wasn't certain Helpjazz could be trusted.

But with Guard Dog running 24/7, he felt comfortable about giving HelpJazz night-editing rights. So without explaining the reasoning, he told HelpJazz that he would give him night-editing rights the following weekend. The weekend was stipulated because that's when Andy was intending to install Guard Dog.

However, Andy was very cautious, and wanted to check out that it was working (even though TerryH and I already had it working) before letting it loose. So he installed it then opened a new account on Con­serva­pedia to use for testing, and used that account to do some vandal-type activity, to see if Guard Dog would catch it. However, the test didn't work.

Because of my different time zone, I wasn't available when Andy needed help with it. So Andy posted a message to HelpJazz to say that there was a delay waiting for an administrator to be available. It took me a while to figure out what the problem was, but I eventually determined it to be that because he switched to the test account, one that didn't have blocking rights, it was effectively trying to block via the test account, rather than the Aschlafly bureaucrat account.

I told him to try it using two different browsers, open with different accounts. However, this didn't work either, because it wasn't the account that the browser was opened with that mattered, but the IP address that Con­serva­pedia's servers were seeing. As long as he was using a test account from the same IP address, it wouldn't work. For some reason, he never pursued the matter so never got it working, with the result that HelpJazz never got his night-editing rights. There was not a word of explanation or apology from Andy. Apparently frustrated at the broken promise, HelpJazz discontinued his involvement soon after, although did return to Conservapedia five months later.


  1. I used Delphi simply because it is the programming language that I'm most familiar with. And apart from the problems explained in the text, there were no problems with using Delphi. It is a versatile language and compiles to machine code, so is quite fast.

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Timeline

22nd November, 2006

Conservapedia is created

17th March, 2007

I join Conservapedia

3rd April, 2007

I am made an Administrator

25th April, 2007

First Admin. e-mail group.

25th May, 2007

Ed Poor proposes me as "template manager".

5th January, 2008

Letter to Andy about wise counsel

28th April, 2008

Bugler joins Con­serva­pedia

around June, 2008

I'm feeling more and more uncomfortable with associating myself with Conservapedia.

11th June, 2008

Bugler gains block rights.

17th June, 2008

I start writing these pages.

20th June, 2008

DanH quits.

31st December, 2008

Bugler loses rights.

1st January, 2009

CPAdmin1 quits.

2nd January, 2009

Bugler outs himself.

22nd March, 2009

I resign