Having a biography in Wikipedia is a double-edged sword, as John Siegenthaler Sr. can attest. You get the perks of being in an encyclopedia at the peril that any crank in the world can contribute unflattering or libelous things to it. When I added my own biography in a misguided experiment last August, I didn't realize that some people fight as hard to get out of Wikipedia as others do to get in. I check my entry occasionally to see if anyone has added the reason I was told never to return to Bentley College by a police officer on the night of Jan. 4, 1986.
Who am I kidding? I check it every single day.
Another person obsessively monitoring his own biography is Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, who has edited it frequently, removing references to a credited "co-founder" of the encyclopedia and obscuring the nature of a pornographic web site he once published.
Though some Wikipedia editors believe that it's always wrong to edit subjects in which you are involved, this idea is clearly not shared by Wales. The edit history of his biography reveals that he's made 18 changes with the account Jimbo Wales, most recently on Dec. 2.
On seven different occasions, Wales has altered sentences that gave Larry Sanger credit for cofounding Wikipedia. Sanger, a former employee of Wales whose job was eliminated in 2002, led the project as "chief organizer" from its January 2001 launch and gave the site its name. He described himself as Wikipedia's cofounder in a 2004 Kuro5hin article.
Wales does not share this view.
On Oct. 28, 2005, he changed the text "Wales and Sanger set up Wikipedia" to "Wales set up Wikipedia." He made the change again later that day and repeated it on Nov. 9 and Dec. 1 -- other editors kept putting language back in that credited Sanger.
On Dec. 2, Wales revised "Sanger initially came up with the idea to make the encylopedia wiki-based" to "Jeremy Rosenfeld initially came up with the idea to make the encylopedia wiki-based." He also replaced a line crediting Rosenfeld with the idea for the name, changing it to "Sanger coined the name 'wikipedia'."
Wales used the editors' talk page of his biography to complain about efforts to credit Sanger with the site's founding:
I was there, and I know the history. I set up Wikipedia. I fixed the broad outlines of early policy, and Larry worked under my direct supervision at every stage of the process. The current article, even with my edits, contains considerable incorrect editorialization, it's just that I don't even know where to begin in correcting it.
Another sore spot for Wales has been Bomis Babes, a now-closed subscription service of his company's Bomis.Com search portal that offered nude pictures of women. The site, whose cache used to be viewable on Internet Archive, has been described as "softcore pornography," "pornography," or "erotica" by Wikipedia editors.
Wales changed "Bomis Babes softcore pornography section" to "Bomis Babes adult content section" on Sept. 4 and twice removed references to the nature of the site, replacing "Bomis Babes erotica section" with "Bomis Babes blog based on Slashdcode" (Oct. 20) and "Bomis Babes pornography section with a blog based on Slashcode" to "Bomis Babes blog based on Slashcode" (Oct. 28). (Apparently, it's what's on the inside of a web site that counts.)
When his Sept. 4 edit was removed, Wales reinstated it later that day and put this comment on the edit: "Please do not change it back without consulting with me personally."
Commercial depictions of naked women are not pornography, Wales declared on his biography's talk page:
The correct terminology is 'adult content'. If this is pornography, then so is much of mainstream culture. I do not think we should adopt the definitions of the Taliban or the Southern Baptist Convention.
Update: Larry Sanger responded to this article on Wikipedia:
I must say I am amused. Having seen edits like this, it does seem that Jimmy is attempting to rewrite history. But this is a futile process because in our brave new world of transparent activity and maximum communication, the truth will out.
Sanger's working on Digital Universe, a rival to Wikipedia that will employ experts to review user-submitted content.
Update 2: More on Bomis Babes.
Apparently some folks have been having fun with Adam Curry's Wikipedia biography as well:
His bio has been a battleground ever since the podcasting changes made the news.
Someone's already tried to incorporate my blog entry into Wales' bio. Wikipedians are rapid response editor ninjas.
Cory Doctorow is another self-editing Wikipedia vanity biographer, arguing that, being Cory Doctorow, he is the ultimate authority on Cory Doctorow. He seems unfamiliar with the concept of the unreliable narrator.
(Doctorow's Wikipedia bio neglects to list the four universities he dropped out of, or what he was studying at the time. But it does say 'Like many travellers, he has photos of his preferred haircut that he brings with on extended trips for when he has to visit a new barber while on the road.' That's useful encyclopedia-quality information.)
All of this is pretty funny. If you kept track of all the daily permutations of Wikipedia entries, it would be like keeping track of all the daily soap operas. It's an ongoing battle, really, and I think it's funny as hell.
Maybe Wales thinks he'll never win a Nobel Peace Prize if his past is in any way associated with pr0n.
So how did you get an entry, Roger? I've noticed that most of the tech guys I know have entries, but hardly any of the women.
The human condition is so pathetic, what else would you expect from an open-source encyclopedia? In a way it's good fun, but I think we have to re-define what authoritative is. Conceivably, it could be the most recent consensus, subject to change tomorrow.
Somehow, I thought that's what wikis were all about.
I edit my own article on Wikipedia pretty rarely, but I did get to mention once that my Dad is not actually a fictional character!
All right, you guys. I read that Wikipedia entry for Adam Curry. So I guess you're not above a sense of humor, huh?
Gordon Keith is a man after my own heart. All of his nicknames are apropos of the good-humored man. "The Student of Eros" is a good moniker for a nut-case like him, and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.
I would like you to vote for Achmed Chalabi.
I liked your previous proposal for a new wiki:
people.wikicities.com--providing a commons where everyone can describe themselves and the people of their acquaintance. Except that your blog already seems like that kind of place.
Jimmy Wales just wants everybody to be jealous. He should be happy. Look at those babes.
I have my own Weakly Pedia page.
With the disclaimer that Cory is a friend of mine, I think the comments above by an anonymous commenter are unfair. (Or rather, not anonymous but signing his comment as "Cory Doctorow", oddly; for someone purportedly interested in transparency, he seems afraid of actually signing a comment with his real name or a an identifiable pseudonym).
The rationale for his edits to his own article is quite well summarized here, from the talk page:
"Frankly it's a little discomforting to have the subject write about himself."
I don't see why not -- it's abundantly clear that I have more domain expertise on things like "Cory Doctorow's views on copyright" and "the commercial fortunes of Cory Doctorow's books" than you do.
Wikipedia being Wikipedia, it's straightforward to find out what edits he actually made and change them yourself if you don't like the result.
Why that process is presumed not to work when one of the editors is the subject of the article is unclear to me, except in those (admittedly numerous) cases where the subject is not notable in the first place. But I don't believe there is any question of notability in this case.
Wales, of course, is a whole other thing, given his relationship with Wikipedia. On the other hand, he's editing using his real account and without apparent technical subterfuge. At least it's transparent.
When I of first saw the home page of 'Digital Universe', I thought I was in for a bunch of hype. It is a little thick with the jargon, but I liked the first sample topic listed on the 'Digital Universe Journal' page:
The viability, or desirability, of 3D on the web.
To me, that sounds like a good starting point.
Talking about the Bomis portal--I really should have known better than to click on that one. It's like clicking on the goods in porno images, right?
Sanger sounds reasonable when he writes about his relationship with Jimmy Wales. I'm just wondering who wrote this:
"This endeavor will create a public-service oriented advertising-free subset of the web (a PBS of the Web) that will over time become the "Encyclopedia Galactica" envisioned by Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov."
Who wrote this folderol?
Methinks they've been brushing up on their Marshall McLuhan (yes, I'm actually that old).
Shelley - he wrote the article himself
Do you want a Wikipedia bio yourself? The notability criteria should encompass you.
The hat with the scrambled eggs is great. Jimmy Wales must have a sense of humor to do this.
Check out this joint google/wikipedia search
thingy I found: www.blinkpop.com.
As Jimmy Wales is the founder Wikipedia, y did'nt he locked his bio. page. Curtain pages should only be edited by editors.
With him being the founder and all, I imagine he easily has the ability to edit entries without it being tracked the normal way, so I'm sure he knew that his edits could be traced doing it the normal way. I think people are probably blowing this way out of proportaion.
I think it's generally in poor taste for people to edit entries about themselves but for obvious reasons I'm sympathetic to their plight, having done it myself. I regard my edits to be minor factual corrections, and of course I have never edited my entry in anything other than a transparent public way, defending my changes on the talk page.
And that's the beauty of Wikipedia: the open dialogue of reasonable people in search of the truth.
A few weeks ago you edited the article about you to remove all references to my role in getting Wikipedia started. You now call ''that'' a minor factual correction.
Gee, thanks, Jimmy.
Is it just me or is Dave Winer and friends trying as hard as possible to stir things up at Wikipedia. It's funny that Roger brought up this issue when he himself created his own article on Wikipedia. At least everyone is equal in the world of wikipedia, Jimbo included.
My experience is that the folks who have a lot personally invested in being "the expert" or "the source" on a given topic tend to be the ones most opposed to things like wikis.
Only a moron would think that wikipedia contains anything more than unverifyable BS. Therefore, who cares if someone decides to change the information contained within?
Honestly, the Technorati Circle Jerk crowd spends so much time gazing at their collective navels...
It is funny to see all these internet personalities battling over the accuracy of various bios, and the legitimacy of the whole process.
1) Are Bios of Dave Winer, Adam Curry, Jimbo Wales, etc the most valuable information on Wikipedia?
2) Are Bios produced in a traditionally controlled manner any more accurate, especially when produced for the express purpose of casting a person in a positive light? (Like corporate bios.)
3) Here we have a place where all manner of opposing viewpoints can battle out edits of information on a subject, with imperfect systems in place to track changes and promote conflict resolution, and now more controls are in place for hotly disputed topics. Is this worse than letting only one side tell a story?
It's funny. So many people profess a faith in democratic processes until things don't go their way.
A rule suggestion: In the same way as bloggers at Bloggercon are discouraged from making vendor pitches, paritipants in this event should be discouraged from talk about entries on Wikipedia in which they are personally involved. (Including biographical entries or those for books or computer programs they have written.) Make the subject Wikipedia itself and its processes.
Hmm. Like "one man's terrorist is another's freedom-fighter" - One person's "minor factual corrections" is another's "History is (re)written by the victors."
Note "the democratic process" can be "which person has more fans, or more patronage to give out" - not a very good way of getting to objective truth (but a great way for the decisions of an extremely powerful few to be claimed as The Will Of The People).
Is it just me or is Dave Winer and friends trying as hard as possible to stir things up at Wikipedia.
I love how everything I do is now perceived as an extension of Dave. You spend one summer afternoon on the beach pumicing the guy's corns and people never let you hear the end of it.
Dave dislikes Wikipedia. I love Wikipedia. If you're sensing that I'm trying to bring it down, you're sensing wrong.
It is much more intelligent to get a friend to write your entries and you write hers...
Just kidding. Ever since I talked about the Weblogs.Com project we worked on, I get described as your Waylon Smithers on blogs all over the place.
To me, even an "unconference" suffers from the problem where the participants either need to be employer-funded (i.e. fat chance) or self-funded (i.e. VC Lotto winners).
How about hosting that "unconference"...
on a wiki. (!)
"Life is so dog-gone unfair. Joe's a proud father and grandfather, and do they call him "Joe the family man"? No. Joe's been a regular at the local church for 30 years, and do they call him "Joe the Christian"? No. Rotary club for 25 years, and do they call him "Joe the community pillar"? No. He's carried this company on his back for 20 years, pulling us through thick and thin, and do they call him "Joe the brilliant businessman"? No.
BUT JUST ONE LITTLE SHEEP ... "
What makes an expert an expert?
Wiki is here to stay so get over it.
Wow....and here I thought Wikipedia was the end all be all source of complete and unfettered knowledge. I'm agog.
Enough Already said: "What makes an expert an expert? Wiki is here to stay so get over it."
First off, experts are people deemed by the greater community to have an exceptional level of knowledge on a topic and to have applied that knowledge in a functional way.
In technology we're littered with people who spruik themselves as experts and have done nothing except trying and commercialise the knowledge of experts and are maybe adept at raising VC funding. To my eyes, those people aren't experts, they're marketing people.
Secondly, because something like Wikipedia has built up a user base and may stand the test of time (nothing lasts forever) doesn't mean you shouldn't debate the value, validity and merit of it.
In fact, I question whether it is actually "here to stay". The internet is transient, if something is perceived to no longer add value or something else is more valuable then people will go somewhere else. Ask Alta Vista or the people who used to run online games via Telnet or the libraries that you had to contact via Archie protocol.
Note "the democratic process" can be "which person has more fans, or more patronage to give out" - not a very good way of getting to objective truth (but a great way for the decisions of an extremely powerful few to be claimed as The Will Of The People).
"The objective truth" is a term fraught with philosophical interpretation.
I don't see how something like Wikipedia can be attacked for at least arriving at a concensus version of reported information. Even the freedom fighters can get their side of the revolution into the record.
A well written entry on any subject can easily report different versions / point out conflicting opinions on a topic.
As far as I can tell, people unhappy with Wikipedia take issue with the fact that someone can write something they don't like. In otherwords, they don't like the democratic aspect of it, and furthermore they seem disinclined to avail themselves of the opportunities in the system to correct things they view as wrong. (Kind of like people who refuse to vote because they think the opposition to their candidate will win.)
I'd be more concerned with the issue of vandalism in wikipedia than anything else.
Finally: not sure about the placement of "experts" on a pedastal. The last few decades have seen the emergence of the knowledge and decision making power of the masses, improved and enabled by easier access to knowledge and communication.
It is normally the established "experts" who are undermined by this new pedestrian expertise.
Experts have their place, but they are not without their own agendas.
Regarding: ""The objective truth" is a term fraught with philosophical interpretation."
Absolutely. It's tough, difficult, deep, complex, whole treatises have been written on it - which is exactly why facile invocations of "democracy" are so meaingless (that is also a term fraught with philosophical interpretation).
Now, this is an ancient political argument, so there's little point in doing it at length. Being less than thrilled with mob rule is not the same as being a royalist.
There's very little new to be said about truth by old appeals to demagoguery.
I think John Williams is speaking good sense here.
I also think Dave Winer's UNCONFERENCE suggestion is a goodie.
Considering what Seth Finkelstein said about OBJECTIVE TRUTH - could there be a way for a wikipedia contributor to self-claim EXPERT status (see John Williams's last post)?
This way, having claimed expert knowledge on the article, the rest of us can enter into what I think is the intented contributive and democratic aspect of wiki, having a clear idea of who claims to know more than most?
The sheer arrogance of thinking that a panel of A-list blogger types like Winer and Searls chatting away in some part of America should be even considered as a resolution to the future of the Wikipedia project simply astonishes me.
It's absolutely nothing to do with Winer and his friends, its about those who created it, refined it, and use it everyday. Since when does anyone remotely care about Dave Winer's biography on a wiki. Or who invented podcasting. That's when all this blew up: its personalities and fake celebdom.
Nature, which I think you'll agree is a far better provider of academic rigour and thought than an outline designer, found that on scientific articles, Wikipedia was as good as the Britannica. It might surprise Winer et. al., but that's what the bulk of searches on Wikipedia are about...people around the world aren't searching for that elusive biography on a man who claims to invented a few XML dialects.
Sheesh, someone get a pin and pop these people's egos.
Phil, you're commenting on a post about Jimmy Wales's bio. The clues are all over the place, matey. Love & Kisses, Sherlock.
> It is much more intelligent to
> get a friend to write your entries
> and you write hers...
he's too clever, by half,
that's for sure... :+)
meanwhile, i'm off to
create my own "bio"
on wikipedia. the spin
will be that i'm an asshole
with far too many opinions.
i'm certain that many people
will eventually confirm this,
but why stand in line to do it
later?, go now before the rush!
it doesn't matter if you know me
or not. c'mon, it's wikipedia! :+)
p.s. i love the comment preview
on the same page _in_real_time_!
oops! forgot to sign my post!
and the link didn't come through:
with the http thingee in front of it, of course...
i also put it in the "website" box, so you can get to it by clicking the "link" link below...
Sorry Bowerbird IGM, it seems those flawed systems of Wikipedia, that anybody can wreck, have correctly deduced your entry as trolling and removed it.
"Freedom of speech" advocate Alan Dershowitz has been blanking his own article at Wikipedia.
To be clear, the idea of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people, was entirely Jimmy's, not mine, and the funding was entirely by Bomis. I was merely a grateful employee; I thought I was very lucky to have a job like that land in my lap. Of course, other people had had the idea; but it was Jimmy's fantastic foresight actually to invest in it. For this the world owes him a considerable debt. The actual development of this encyclopedia was the task he gave me to work on.
Oops. Sorry for losing the link for the above quote.
Up to 9 months ago we financially contributed funds to Wikipedia but no more, for we thought that it was a good idea and where its thinking was in unison with our own at that time - using knowledge for the good of humankind. When we as novices tried to place our Swiss charity within Wikipedia we were absolutely savaged by the editors. They in fact blocked our right of reply, which is documented by themselves.
Thereafter we even sent our registration documents via email to the then executive director of Wikimedia, the holding organization, to prove that our international group was registered as a Swiss charity. He did nothing at all. A few months later he resigned with another top Wikimedia executive, 'Jimbo's second in command. The greatest problem with Wikipedia that we now find is that they are highly selective in who should place information and where therefore they will never really have a web-based encyclopaedia that is unbiased and totally factual. It is totally at the whims of the few enlightened ones who control what should be a great reference. Unfortunately we now see that it is not.
For anyone interested further on how Wikipedia editors work, the full account including all emails will be part of our next web newsletter 'Scientific Discovery'. It will be on-line by the end of July 2007. Overall, It is time we feel that Wikipedia looked internally at itself and that they concluded that they have major problems with the way they treat new entrants. This analysis should especially be directed towards the attitude of their editors, who remove the right of reply and delete super-quick for reasons not based on evidence but only hearsay. By the way also, the Wikipedian Editor Zoe who first blocked us and the initial instigator of all the basic trouble, fell out with 'Jimbo' and where she as well left a few months later. Apparently she had made a vendetta against a certain professor according to 'Jimbo's' opinion. Thereafter she took her bat and ball away and has never been seen since. I believe she also threatened the embattled professor at the time - the web link is 184.108.40.206
Dr. David Hill
World Innovation Foundation Charity
For some reason, it appears that Dr. Hill believes that if he provides the Wikimedia Foundation with money, then his charity will be automatically guaranteed a spot on Wikipedia. I am happy to say that this is not the case. While I have nothing personally against World Innovation Foundation Charity, Wikipedia's neutrality and impartiality is very important.
I have reviewed the original article. There are absolutely no references in the final revision before it was deleted. The main reason that it was deleted was because we didn't believe that the organisation was notable enough to be listed on Wikipedia. This was done through articles for deletion - I will let the reader judge whether this was a fair process. I should also note that if someone believes and can demonstrate that they are notable, then there is a deletion review process.
Dr. Hill should also be aware of our suggested guidelines that deal with potential conflict of interest. Though it isn't prohibited on Wikipedia, it is clearly a conflict of interest to write about your own organisation. It is thus frowned upon. I think that given the goals of Wikipedia, this is pretty reasonable.
Personally, I don't believe that Wikipedia editors or the Wikimedia Foundation has anything against this charity. In my dealings with Wikipedia and the WMF, I have always found that they welcome contructive dialogue with organisations and individuals.
Chris Sherlock - Ta bu shi da yu
Dear Chris Sherlock - Ta bu shi da yu,
I posted a further reply to your entry a couple of weeks ago but it has not been published. Can you please let me know why? In a democratic society one has to allow the two sides of the coin to be seen and indeed both sides told. I hope that you are not invoking CIA tactics to enter into the argument and censorization?
Dr. David Hill
CEO, The WIF
Jimbo changes his own entries in order to cast himself in the best light?
No one should be suprised at that. The guy's human and all.
In many ways reality is a consensual event upon which consensus has yet to be reached. Wiki's existence underscores that point quite nicely thinks Spud and also points out the handicap to traditional "authority" based encyclopedias. Namely the fact that at least with Wiki you can see the war of the meme take place in the changes made and attempted. Like when that Diebold CEO tried to change his entry to disinclude the informaton that he was a big Bush Backer. He made the change. It got changed back and the attempted change provides a very instructive foot-note to the process.
Wot others see as a hug flaw fer Wiki Spud sees as it's biggest long term asset. These disputes over where the truth really lies ultimately just help bring that truth in sharper focus and expose the players of the game in the process.
PS: Wot is "blanking"? New term fer Spud.
Jimmy Wales is a pompous scumbag. How ironic is it that the self appointed arbiter of the "people's voice" turns out to be a conniving, lying weasel who edits his own biography by breaking the rules of his own site. Hahahahahahahahahahaha, what a pathetic hypocrite
I would have to say is my favorite part of this whole spin is the part where he said he was clarifying history and how he feels enough credit isn't due. talk about backpedaling. All I can really say is.."are you really surprised?"
Although I completely agree everyone else's arguments against Jimmy Wales and his "angle" on how he "leads" wiki. I am going to see him speak Feb 13th and see how is plans to grow the "future of Free Culture"...somehow free and jimmy just doesn't roll of my tongue. In any case I am looking to get a little more insight to his business, which will only solidify my feelings of how a company should be run. great write up and comments.
Our company (Biograph Company) has been under constant internet harassment by Wikipedia and its editors/administrators since 2004. Attempts to discredit us and our company have been unsuccessful, but the 'Misinformation' article is still up.
Ironically, we posted a 'Disclaimer' on our website, this listed ALL of the problems, and soon after our website was 'Hacked' removing the page and inserting a text page rebutting us. This is a federal offense and was immediately reported to to Los Angeles FBI. So far, no more hacking incidences...
Please check out our disclaimer page at
I'm sure is will be interesting reading for you.
Jimbo Wales is still at it, trying to manipulate content on "his" article on Wikipedia: