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The only known detractor of EVO

January 7, 2014

A note on updates to this post: The purpose of this post is to document the antics of a known troll seeking to disrupt learning in various EVO-related groups by spamming their hash tags. I have been keeping records of more recent postings by James O’Reilly and what appear to be his alter ego accounts. If interested in seeing updated material, look here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TMUk6SfoHhfOKR9qTlhUJh3YEighVPYmkxStjZ0nLAA/edit?usp=sharing

Howard Rheingold was giving a course at Stanford in 2013 where he was asking on Facebook about people’s using alternative identities on the web. I thought to send him information on James O’Reilly, who has been an online gadfly for certain EVO groups associated with European initiatives, since he sometimes assumes alternative identities, but Howard was looking for positive examples, and I was busy at the time.

2014-01-07_1428alternateIDsonline

But I decided to post my thoughts here as I think it is a legitimate multiliteracies concern, and because the head coordinator of EVO the year I originally wrote this asked me to post to the moderators list what I had posted to the coordinators Yahoo! Group earlier on this topic, as some had already been affected, so I thought I’d just blog it and anyone who wants background on this subject can link to a URL, and perhaps comment here if they have their own instances to report.

I met James O’Reilly online in 2009 at the Webheads in Action Online Convergence that year. He seemed polite and even deferential, I expressed interest in his work, and he showed me some complex diagrams on social networking and virtual worlds, which I didn’t actually understand, so I suggested he should make us a presentation one day to explain more fully.

He must have come across to others as being normal as we headed into EVO 2010 when he joined a group facilitated by Heike Philp and Graham Stanley which met in Second Life, but his narrow agendas soon surfaced in a barrage of unexplained links of no apparent interest to others in the group, and he was eventually banned from the group Ning after repeated requests to stop spamming the group with persistent off-topic postings.

In his mind he associated Webheads with EVO as Webheads had organized the WiAOC and many participants in Webheads are also active in EVO, so he appealed to me to exercise control over the EVO session that banned him on the basis that it was connected with Euro projects but wasn’t meeting certain ISO standards.  There followed a slew of missives on standards, and complaints about how EVO was not meeting them, and though I tried to explain how I had nothing to do with it, eventually in a Skype conversation he showed me where he had been spamming the hash tags of the group he’d been ostracized from in an effort to spoil their use of Twitter as a meaningful aggregator of their learning content.

This shocked me and put me on my guard, but I took no further action until James started creating tension in Webheads. Though I avoided becoming involved, his postings were starting to elicit complaints from those who had encountered him previously, in a group which has been at all other times harmonious. So, though I have never done this to any member before or since, I eventually had to remove him from that group to give us all some peace, and this put me on his list of targets.

I kept some Skype records from long conversations with James.
A sample from Oct 2010 is viewable here

2014-01-02_1644crybabies

One way he has tried to foul our learning experience was to to set up an ersatz Webheads Facebook page called the New Webheads, with the figure above as its original background graphic, http://screencast.com/t/kKFT4nOq, in which he explained that the difference between old and new Webheads was that old webheads were “crybabies”. He managed to decoy several real (i.e. old) Webheads into the group and they invited others to join, thinking it was the genuine Webheads Facebook page. I had not long prior to that created a Webheads group in Facebook, but I had not pushed it on people, so the people who were decoyed had not been aware of the one I had set up, and assumed it was mine.

I became aware of this only when one of those who had been duped into joining the “new” group added me. I remained a member because I wanted to see what was going on there, and so I can send messages to people whom I think have been ‘honeytrapped’ one of James’s frequent buzzwords, into landing there.  That is, if a known Webhead posts there, I send them a private message to inform them of the situation and ask them if the group they are looking for is this one here
https://www.facebook.com/groups/webheadsinaction/.
It used to be if you scrolled thru the posts at New Webheads, you’d notice that James was the predominant poster there. The sad thing is that it was an interesting collection of posts, but it doesn’t cohere into a message, and that’s always the problem with James. He sends repeated messages and links that distract your group from its current discussion, and once he has your hash tag in his list of targets, then he uses his twitter accounts to robo-spam you so his posts clutter and drown out your legitimate efforts. There are screen shots of some of these posts, now removed, further down in this blog post.
James has since cleaned up the New Webheads Facebook page from the one whose banner appears in the graphic above. He has given it a much milder, respectable appearance. He has removed ALL his posts, so that those that remain are from people who have thought that this was the recognized Webheads group, which, sans screed, invites other posts. It’s not a bad place to visit at this revision (Nov 2015) but the problem is, it’s purpose was to deceive members of our community into believing it to be the ‘official’ group and to thus place yet another disruptive wedge in the’old’ Webheads community.
If you want to know if the FB group you are in is the real thing or not, examine the descriptions of each group.  One description starts out friendly but devolves into a rant into links to James’s pet peeves and interests; e.g. groupthink, cyberbullying etc. The other description explains that this is the page of the group that formed as an EVO session in 2002 and ends with a request not to post on topics that are not in the group’s interests, a caveat which was put there due to our experience with James.
One of his Twitter accounts is called Collaborative, https://twitter.com/Collaborative. Be sure and vist that link to see how James is posting to this day on tags he is clearly spamming, It should be clear that no thought goes into these posts which are obviously meant to clutter the searches on victim hash tags.  Users of the dozens of tags affected have on occasion mounted campaigns to report that account for spam, a clear violation of Twitter’s terms of service (but the account appears to still be posting; if you wish to remove it from your view of Twitter, you can block him from your experience, http://screencast.com/t/zPEsOddwJ, but he’ll still appear in unblocked aggregations, such as
https://www.tagboard.com/evosessions).
Shortly after James was banned from Webheads, he created an O’Brian Twitter account with a simpleton avatar and used it to dialog with his more menacing Eurominuteman (searching Twitter, I don’t see either of these accounts; perhaps Twitter have finally caught on :-). On a similar note, colleagues of Graham Davies managed to track down his IP address and have it blocked on Wikipedia because he was going in and trashing Eurocall’s articles there.
My wife did some research and found that James had also become involved in a couple of Minecraft groups and was sparking predictable dynamics, with some miners lobbying to get rid of him and others counseling that he had a right to be there and they should give him a chance.  I have no idea how it came out.
I think this all makes a fascinating story.  There are two ways of looking at it. One is to become frustrated and discouraged by such inimical behavior, especially when it is directed at you or at entities you support that are trying to improve the lot of humanity, but that leads nowhere.  Another way is to take it in stride as one of the many downsides of an interconnected world.  Fortunately there are more than enough upsides in that world, many happy and serendipitous affordances that make the occasional hiccup worthwhile.
So if James O’Reilly interferes with your learning, take it as a hiccup, don’t get upset, block him where you can, report him if possible.  And be flattered; he goes after the best educators in the world, so to get on his radar you must be doing something right.

Twitter is on the case (sort of)

Someone who reported him on Twitter recently got this back in response:
The Twitter Trust & Safety team will review your report and take action if the user is found to be violating the Twitter Rules (https://twitter.com/rules). We may follow up with you if we need further information. What else can you do? • Do not respond to the user. We have found that responding to someone who is intentionally attempting to aggravate you or others encourages them to continue their behavior. • Block the user. You can block the user using the blocking feature described here:https://support.twitter.com/entries/117063 • Learn more about how to deal with abusive users: https://support.twitter.com/articles/15794 • Learn how to flag inappropriate media here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/20069937

A glimpse inside the echo chamber

Here are posts and comments made by the almost sole contributor to the New Webheads Facebook group as EVO was about to get started in January, 2014
2014-01-09_1950evorant2014-01-09_1952rant22014-01-09_1953rant32014-01-09_1954rant4
And here is the text, in case you’d like to judge for yourself the relevance of links posted here to the true purposes of EVO. This also might serve to indicate what your group is in for if you allow him to join as one of your participants

Original posting by James O’Reilly on his Facebook group, January 6 at 2:09pm

To whom it may concern, EVO’s strategic and operational un-quality failures http://evosessions.pbworks.com/w/page/10708567/FrontPage

James OReilly left a comment In its fun-running in circles on sidelines, EVO represents a core lack of Transparency, Integrity, and Accountability, thus is stubborn to comply and benchmark with Transparency International’s requirements to combat Education Corruption > Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report on Education available for order http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415535496/ Global Corruption Report: Education (Paperback) – Routledge http://www.routledge.com Corruption and poor governance are acknowledged as major impediments to realizing the right to education and to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by 2015. Corruption not only distorts access to education, but affects… January 6 at 2:15pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is furthermore stubborn to comply with ERIC Database 5,717 results for Language Learning Outcome Accountability http://eric.ed.gov/… ERIC – Search Results eric.ed.gov ERIC is an online library of education research and information, sponsored by th… See More January 6 at 2:16pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is furthermore stubborn to assess + include empirical and statistical raw hard data from valid sources, like those from Google Trends (Language Teaching, Language Learning, Virtual Worlds http://ht.ly/niT8L ) and EU Surveys (European Survey on Language Competences ESLC Key Findings: Outcome of foreign language learning in EU is Poor http://ow.ly/i48R4 > ESCL Website http://www.surveylang.org/ > Final Report http://ow.ly/i0I7f > Executive Summary http://ow.ly/i0Iah ) Google Trends – Web Search interest – Worldwide, 2004 – present http://www.google.com Explore Google Search trends with Google Trends. January 6 at 2:16pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is also stubborn to comply with EU’s Constructivistic Requirements for Outcome-based Education OBE > New EU Outcome Requirements http://ow.ly/hFtwT How many Youth Jobs and Return-on-Investment is EVO really good for? How do all those bandwaggoned Inputs translate into Constructivistic Outcomes (Outputs)? EUROPA – PRESS RELEASES – Press release – Commission presents new Rethinking Education strategy europa.eu Europe needs a radical rethink on how education and training systems can deliver the skills needed by the labour market. January 6 at 2:17pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO is a philosophical failure to embrace Aristotle’s Causa Finalis > Causa Finalis outranks Causa Efficiens since the days of Aristotle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes https://www.facebook.com/groups/outcome.based.education/ Four causes – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia en.wikipedia.org Four Causes refers to an influential principle in Aristotelian thought whereby causes of change or movement are categorized into four fundamental types of answer to the question “why?”. Aristotle wrote that “we do not have knowledge of a thing until we have grasped its why, that is to say, its cause… January 6 at 2:34pm · Like
James OReilly left a comment EVO furthermore violates UNESCO’s Education Inclusion Policy Guidelines by censoring and excluding these Scientific Method approaches http://de.scribd.com/…/UNESCO-Education-Inclusion… Exclusion has been outlawed in international treaties since years! EVO suffers from Groupthink http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groupthink UNESCO Education Inclusion Policy Guidelines http://www.scribd.com I’m reading Medium Raw on Scribd… UNESCO, Education, Inclusion, Policy, Guideline, groupthink #ReadScribd January 6 at 2:55pm · Like

This subject was also discussed in a Hangout on Feb 18, 2013

It has come up in one of the EVO management group lists in Nov, 2014, to which I contributed …

Both Webheads Facebook groups have almost 400 members (almost 500 each as of this writing, Nov 2015). I see that James has added a constellation of ‘webheads’ probably by manually doing so from his friends list. I have added a lot of members to the real webheads but never by selecting them from my friends list  and manually adding them. All in the real webheads group have asked to join and I have approved. If you wish, you can go to this group and join it https://www.facebook.com/groups/webheadsinaction/ (the real one) This is the link to James’s creation: https://www.facebook.com/groups/webheads.onlinecommunityofpractice/.
Before just now, I hadn’t visited there in a while. Whenever I go there I feel I am wasting my time. To me it’s an interesting study of what a troll can do to a social network, a case-study worth being aware of. I see however that no one has posted to that group since 2013
(I later added this correction in the paragraph below)
Just to keep documenting here, today March 23, 2015, I find that James was added to the normal webheads FB group by one of its members two hours ago (when I discovered this, all posts were marked two hours ago). Upon being added to our list he posted 11 posts to the Webheads group. This is clearly not an attempt to communicate with the list, but to spam it. I’ve blocked him now but checking out his New Webheads list I see that he has cleared all his own posts from that list and left in only the posts from people who have been ‘honeytrapped’ into that list. I know most of them so I could get in touch with them and find out from them why they are posting there (and I’ll follow up here so that what is posted here will remain accurate). His group now looks quite normal and now that the clutter is cleared from there, I can see there were indeed 14 posts from people other than James between Jan and Nov 2014).
Included in the removal were the posts whose screen shots are documented above (the glimpse into the echo chamber).To have a record and corroboration I have posted my view our webheads list here https://www.facebook.com/groups/webheadsinaction/ at the link below
or not …

More updates from March 2015 on persistent trolling from James O’Reilly

This is a screenshot from James’s attempt to intercede in learning taking place in the EVO Minecraft mOOC by disrupting its Twitter stream. These tweets appeared at
https://tagboard.com/evomc15/search
2015-03-16_1409trolloreilly
In addition one of my colleagues alerted me that she had received the following message when she logged on to Second Life just now. Apparently there is one awaiting my login. Here is the text of the email my colleague sent:
<begin quote>
Dear Vance,
I have just gone to SL, and found this message. Maybe you have it already but just in case:
Criminal Webheads Defamations
Monday,16 Mar 2015 08:15:32 GMT
#‎eltchat‬ I read about @marisa_c @vances ‪#‎webheads‬’s criminal energy & defamations without reverse burden of proof to fact-findings presented
#eltchat Criminal defamations from @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads will face criminal & civil charges in Germany, my lawyer rubs his hands 🙂
#eltchat How about sticking your nose into deductive evidence @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads before you drift off into criminal energy
More Criminal Defamations
Monday,16 Mar 2015 08:16:06 GMT
#eltchat Teacher thinking is not a law of nature > Especially not from false & criminal @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads
Of course, they were sent by James O’Reily
No idea how he sent it to me when I had blocked him. <end of email text>

Then on March 16, 2015, this …

2015-03-16_1434troll
Here is the complete text:
Dear Mr. Vance Steven: I read your blog and about your false blog claims, you make flat false inventions and allegations without reverse burden of proof. May I point out that you violate my personality rights and perform defamations. Please cease and desist these actions, and delete the blog article. I reserve the right to file criminal and civil litigation. Best regards, James O’Reilly
2015-03-16_1705trollattack
James has been firing off spam directed at defaming innocent and altruistic educators without ‘reverse burden of proof’ for a long time now. The people he has impacted are many, and this post is simply an effort to provide reverse burden of proof and document honestly what is really the tip of an iceburg in an attempt to get the problem out where all can see it.
Here is a recent example of a flurry of spam replicated from Virtual Worlds & Language Learning, as reported on this YahooGroup thread (and this list contains extensive documentation of transgressions against a long-suffering community of educators perpetrated by someone representing himself as James O’Reilly)
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/evonline2002_webheads/conversations/topics/31675:
Group Notice From: Virtual Worlds & Language Learning, Eurominuteman Jameson

#‎eltchat‬ I read about @marisa_c @vances ‪#‎webheads‬’s criminal energy & defamations without reverse burden of proof to fact-findings presented

#eltchat Criminal defamations from @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads will face criminal & civil charges in Germany, my lawyer rubs his hands 🙂

#eltchat How about sticking your nose into deductive evidence @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads before you drift off into criminal energy

Group Notice From: Virtual Worlds & Language Learning, Eurominuteman Jameson

#eltchat Teacher thinking is not a law of nature > Especially not from false & criminal @Marisa_C @VanceS #webheads

The many defamatory attacks by James O’Reilly on educators undeserving of such abuse are a matter of extensive public record. This post simply brings some of this to light. All that is written here is true, much of it supportable by evidence in the public domain, and experienced by many who would ask James to kindly desist wasting his and our time on petty vendettas. I leave it to the reader to judge.
As noted at the head of this post, if interested in seeing updated material since my last annotation of this blog post, look here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TMUk6SfoHhfOKR9qTlhUJh3YEighVPYmkxStjZ0nLAA/edit?usp=sharing
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5 Comments
  1. Hi Vance, sad to hear about the return of the Webheads most infamous troll – re. the Twitter accounts, what really works is if you encourage a reasonable number of the users of a hashtag to report and ban a user then Twitter does remove an account, although it does take time. I successfully orchestrated this with a number of accounts that James O’Reily used, including the ones you mention above.

    During the thick of it, James also took his personal vendetta across the Internet and wrote some particularly nasty untruths on Wikipedia (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Virtual_world_language_learning/1) as well as in forums on other sites, etc. Heike Phelps, Graham Davies and myself were targetted in particular for standing up to this cyber-bully.

    I had thought that he must have calmed down, but I can see that he just shifted his sights – he clearly gets a kick out of making other people’s lives a misery unfortunately.

    • Thanks for taking the time to reply to this Graham, and to point us to that very interesting thread on Wikipedia/talk. I’m glad Twitter finally responded to us; I must have reported him dozens of times. I’m not sure exactly what happened most recently but I have the impression he moved against someone in EVO using Facebook as his tool. Perhaps we’ll get more specific information added here. I would advise people to proceed with caution in this matter, though, you’ll be happier without attracting James’s attention. But if you do attract it then our best course is to band together over it and pool information and resources.

      • ssnhillyard permalink

        Excellent that you are both keeping tabs on this intruder and helping to save the EVO face ….at least, as far as I can see, many of us do not know his antics so maybe it’s a matter of staying aware and not taking too much notice…..
        Best
        Susan H

  2. Vance and others, in case it is relevant, let me record I have known about James O’Reily, (Europaminuteman?) for several years. Several years ago he falsely accused me of removing messages of his from the original EduNation site created in SecondLife by Gavin Dudeney, Although I have kept no record I did register that on several of the EVO sessions with which I have been associated over the past 4 or 5 years he often posted misleading or disturbing posts. I recall his being banned more than once. Dennis

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