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Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007, 01:32 am
swisscelt: Now what?

So now that EssJay has [apparently] left Wikipedia, and a cadre of administrators, stewards, and the like are doing their level best to sweep the whole incident under the rug, what's left to do? We're being told to discuss this on the Village Pump, but I see nothing there. On the Community Noticeboard, an ad hoc (and highly disorganized, IMO) discussion is brewing, but already people are calling for its closure.

I've said it before: This is serious. We can't just pretend that because this is happening on Teh Intrawebz it won't be taken seriously in the American media and, ultimately, American and other national societies. How Wikipedia deals with this is as crucial to the continuing survival of this enterprise as any corporate scandal was to their respective companies. It's time we ALL grew up: This is the real world, people.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 06:53 am (UTC)

He quit Wikia as well.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 07:21 am (UTC)

I'll be honest: I had no prior dealings with him, and thus I don't know what kind of Wikipedian he was. But what he has done is on the record, and so what we do in response must be on-record as well.

It's not about him anymore.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 07:25 am (UTC)

I just thought it was really interesting that I'm apparently stalked because I used my real name. I've been an admin for a long while now, so it must be really frustrating to my stalkers that I still haven't noticed their existence.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 07:59 am (UTC)

the thing is - one's pseudoidentity on Wikipedia is not nearly as significant as you make it sound. when these types of scandals happen to large corporations, it's usually "XYZ faked his resume to become a high-placed government official" (true story) or something - that is, the faked identity was really significant.

if, say, I'm lying about being 16 years old, and I'm actually 50 years old, who cares? if some board member on a corporation fakes his age by 34 years, that's a big deal.

somehow I don't think this problem will affect societies as much as you seem to think it will. the fact is, most of Wikipedia's core "audience" (high schoolers, college students) - that is, the people who *use* Wikipedia, not necessarily *edit* it - won't care.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 08:11 am (UTC)

Once the story was picked up by the US media, it became a big deal. Wikipedia has a credibility gap as it is. This doesn't help, to say the least.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 08:10 am (UTC)

Do you really think it's a giant conspiracy? It seems that whether or not it's EssJay or, there are going to be people who skeptical of Wikipedia's reliability.

An identity like EssJay's is ultimately expected by the skeptical public. Before EssJay's exposure, Wikipedia was ridiculed by comedians, and criticized by traditional journalists and historians.

Ultimately, it's bad publicity, but it's not shocking to outsiders and I doubt it'll have any stronger impact than any other obstacles that have been faced.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 08:13 am (UTC)

So Wikipedia is shit, and it doesn't matter?

There's no conspiracy, unless of course you speak of a conspiracy of apathy. Otherwise, what we're really dealing with here is good ol'-fashioned coverup. It doesn't take a conspiracy theorist to see this.
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 08:43 am (UTC)
caitriona_nnc: anonymity = lack of accountability = lack of credibility

I think these sorts of problems will happen as long as Wikipedia allows anonymous editing. I don't see the Wikipedia community ever changing to require users to use their real names. Therefore, there will always be an accountability gap. I edit as myself, but have been seriously considering changing that due to some stalking and harassment. I don't have an easy answer to this.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 09:45 am (UTC)
caitriona_nnc: Re: anonymity = lack of accountability = lack of credibility

Looking over the debate some more, I'm realizing that the usual issues concerning right to privacy are irrelevant. I'm thinking especially of Durova's summation in the RfC. Essjay didn't just edit anonymously, he lied to the Wikimedia Foundation, to whom he was required to reveal his verifiable identity. He also used his fake credentials as leverage in disputes. This is much more serious than I realized.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 09:50 am (UTC)

Essjay himself is neither here nor there, however what it does illustrate is a significant error of judgement on Jimbos part.

If Kyle Whatsisnam was hired by Wikia for his online facilitation and leadership skills, which he clearly is in possession of, then there would have been no need to operate under the Essjay nym. Given the likelihood of exposure, and probable college drama reaction, then it would have been reasonable to come up with another nym and let the Essjay identity die quietly over a couple of months.

Of course the real cynic might imagine that Jimbo did think about it and recognised that the publicity might be a good thing, but I have to say the handling has merely highlighted, and confirmed, the absence of leadership skills which are required for the project to become established on a more professional footing.

A common problem with these kind of things is founder syndrome, the founder is the charismatic type of person needed to get things off the ground and moving. Many enterprises fail because the founder can't recognise when it's time to move on and hand off leadership to someone with the skills in a larger organisation. Of course that's made more difficult when contribution is an entirely discretionary activity.....

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 10:06 am (UTC)
_omega_man: Exit Essjay... Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Agreed; this will do little to change the perceptions of the outside world that wikipedia is the Infobahn's largest truckstop restroom wall. What it does do is shake the foundations of the foundation, namely the cult of personality Jimbo has constructed around himself as the self-proclaimed ''sole founder'' ( http://wikitruth.info/index.php?title=Jimbo_Found_Out ) and ''god-emperor''. Even the hardcore faithful who habitually tote the party line till it breaks, called Jimbo's judgement into question on this and called for Essjay (or rather RJ) to resign: http://www.cydeweys.com/blog/index.php/2007/03/01/how-to-deal-with-liars-on-wikipedia

Look! The emperor is a nudist! and one of his cardinals is too!

We ''outsiders'' have long known and been saying this, but now the ''insiders'' are noticing as well.

This is why you shouldn't drink the Kool-Aide(tm) folks...you never know what's really in it.

I'll post more about it later on wp_fnord if anyone is interested...if not, then back to shouting in the wilderness:)

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 06:16 pm (UTC)
b_phil: Re: Exit Essjay... Here Comes Mr. Jordan

This is why you shouldn't drink the Kool-Aide(tm) folks...you never know what's really in it.

Not even the cherry Kool-Aide(tm)? Cause that's my favorite flavor.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 10:32 am (UTC)

blah blah blah. How else do you expect an organisation that lets anyone edit to operate? the world is not ending. people will continue to accept imperfect sources of information and the comforting illusion of authority.

you sound like you want a solution like everyone has to be video-interrogated for three hours to make sure they're not telling any lies about themselves.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 11:04 am (UTC)

And you sound like you have something to hide. ;-)

In all seriousness, I don't care about editors. Credentials don't matter when everybody is asked to provide verifiable sources. But you'd think someone in as high a position as Essjay was would be at least interviewed, and perhaps told to drop the fake identity for one more in line with what his actual achievements are.

Come on, this is common sense. You don't hire a VP who falsely claims to have a degree from Wharton, and you don't hire a high-level administrator who falsely claims to have a ThD. And I'm sorry, but by continuing to use the name, Essjay continued the hoax.
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)

The point is less that Essjay fucked up, but that Jimbo fucked up.

Given the likelihood of that happening again, as it has done in the past, there is a clear obstacle to the development of the project.

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 06:18 pm (UTC)

OK, so what DID EssJay do? This is coming from a guy who's biggest Wiki contribution consisted of putting an infobox on the Iron Eagle article. Can someone give me the Spark's Notes?

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 09:39 pm (UTC)

Andrew Lih's summary:

Wikipedia crisis in 60 seconds

and the follow up:

Essjay's Third Transgression

Sun, Mar. 4th, 2007 07:37 pm (UTC)

This isn't a big deal to Wikipedia-as-encylopedia, it's a big deal to Wikipedia-as-social-phenomenal. Quite bluntly, I spend a lot of time caring about the first, and no time at all giving a shit about the second. Wikipedia will never have the credibility that Brittanica has. So what?

Mon, Mar. 5th, 2007 02:49 am (UTC)


Mon, Mar. 5th, 2007 12:37 am (UTC)

Gee funny you say grow up

Yes we can let it die.. It happened Shit happens... To drag it out is to prolong a bad chapter. Learn from it and let it go.

Lord if you aren't stirring shit up here its somewhere... Dude heed your own advise and grow up

Mon, Mar. 5th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)

Thanks for the ad hominem. Now, realizing that it takes two to tango, I expect you'll either drop this and be gone, or stand convicted of stirring the shit yourself.

Besides which, I haven't the foggiest idea who you are, troll.

Fri, Mar. 9th, 2007 10:11 pm (UTC)
yajsse: Essjay's Response Soon After The Controversy Broke Out!

I would like to clear up an oversight on my part. I was, until this morning, under the impression that in my initial post on this subject (in response to a question from Dev920 made some weeks ago) I had made an apology for anyone who felt they were hurt by my decision to use misinformation. In speaking to various different people, including Jimbo, I did make it known that I was sorry that anyone felt hurt by my actions, and I believed I had done so in my initial statement. On re-reading that, I find I did not; it was a rather lengthy statement I had been thinking about for some time, and I seem to have left out a rather critical element of it. So, I rectify that now, with further apologies that it was not included originally, as I pointed people back to that statement in the belief it was complete.

I *am* sorry if anyone in the Wikipedia community has been hurt by my decision to use disinformation to protect myself. I'm not sorry that I protected myself; I believed, and continue to believe, that I was right to protect myself, in light of the problems encountered on the internet in these trying times. I have spoken to all of my close friends here about this, and have heard resoundingly that they understand my position, and they support me. Jimbo and many others in Wikipedia's hierarchy have made thier support known as well. I'm also sorry the New Yorker chose to print what they did about me; there seems to be a belief that I knew they were going to print it, and that is not the case. I spoke with Stacy Shiff for over eight hours; in that time, she asked me about a variety of subjects related to Wikipedia and I have her much to write on. (Those who know me will know I am rarely ever brief in my comments.) That she chose to focus on two rather trivial reverts to [[Justin Timberlake]] and what my userpage said came as a complete surprise to me; it was, quite honestly, my impression that it was well known that I was not who I claimed to be, and that in the absence of any confirmation, no respectible publication would print it. I did not have an advance copy of the article, and indeed, didn't even get the complimentary print copy that others were given when it was published; I asked Stacy to send it to the Foundation for thier use instead. Further, she made several offers to compensate me for my time, and my response was that if she truly felt the need to do so, she should donate to the Foundation instead.

For two years, I have poured my life into making this site a better place. That many people feel hurt by my decision pains me greatly, and to them I am genuinely sorry. To the stalkers, the trolls, and the vandals, I am not sorry; they are abusive, hateful people, and they have done far worse things than those whole of the Wikipeida Community, myself included, have ever thought about doing. Now, I am going back to what I have always done: Making Wikipedia a better place. (In the immediate present, I'm going to bed, as I've been up for quite a long time.) Tonight, I will be back to my normal routine: Blocking vandals, closing RFAs, tending to the mailing lists, etc. I have no intention of going anywhere, because to do so would be to let the vandals, trolls, and stalkers win.

I have no doubt that others will continue to debate this matter; I have no intention to say anything further, as I have made my statement complete. If anyone needs me, look where the work of keeping the encyclopedia running is being done, and you'll probably find me there. [[User:Essjay|'''Essjay''']] [[User talk:Essjay|(Talk)]] 16:06, 1 March 2007 (UTC)

Here is the website address below to verify the text:


Sat, Mar. 10th, 2007 04:57 am (UTC)
swisscelt: Re: Essjay's Response Soon After The Controversy Broke Out!

Interesting journal name, sir or madam.

Thanks for your contribution.