Wikipedia Editor Faces Consequences

One of my favorite short pieces of writing is Douglas Adams' pedantic history of the world, a chronology that notes the start of the new millenium. He must have been sorely disappointed when the events of Jan. 1, 2001, did not transpire as expected.

I am a pedant. I once alarmed my relatives in the middle of the night by rearranging their collection of leather-bound Franklin Library Pulitzer Prize classics in the order they won the prize. My brother-in-law, who must also be a pedant, immediately noticed the next morning that the books were no longer in alphabetical order by author's last name. In the ensuing disagreement, a pedantic time was had by all. (Wikipedia, to its enduring shame, lists winners in reverse chronological order.)

As a pedant, I've tried to resist getting sucked into Wikipedia's internal politics, because I know I'll have such a great time I'll completely lose interest in the outside world.

Wikipedia has developed a labyrynthine internal bureaucracy at Internet speed. It's so compelling that some of the most active contributors to the site don't work on encyclopedia entries at all, contributing instead to the endless debates about the production of encyclopedia entries. Masters of the form take it a level deeper, debating the policies that govern these debates.

Bureaucracy's engrained so deep in Wikipedia that there's an official job called Bureaucrat. Twenty-three people have attained this level, a heady rush that must be similar to how I felt when my magic-user reached 22,501 experience points and became a Thaumaturgist before he was eaten by a bulette.

I broke down and posted around a dozen comments yesterday within Wikipedia about Ryan "Essjay" Jordan, the fake tenured professor of theology experiencing a come to Jesus moment after rising to Wikipedia's leadership. He's been pimping his bogus academic credentials since the first edits he made on the site and was promoted by founder Jimmy Wales after admitting the ruse. As a member of Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee, Jordan will judge whether site contributors should be banned for inappropriate or unethical behavior.

If there's any accountability at all within Wikipedia, there's no way this guy should remain in a position of authority. Wikipedia has huge potential for misuse, as any number of biographical subjects can attest, and it depends entirely on the notion that its editorial process can be trusted to produce an authoritative reference work read by millions of people.

As it turns out, I might get my wish that someone be held accountable over this incident. A Wikipedia administrator with 40,000 edits has suggested that I lose editing privileges.

For the past 48 hours, Rcade has made absolutely no contributions to the project except to this discussion. ... There are limits to discussing this subject, and Rcade needs to be introduced to these limits and now.

When I told this to my wife, she was completely in favor of my ouster. I'm glad she doesn't have an account on Wikipedia.


"If there's any accountability at all within Wikipedia ..."

There isn't. Or rather, "accountability" is approximately "Jimbo Wales" (and a few other of similar rank but less prominent, e.g. the venture capitalists who invest in Wikia).

This may open the eyes of a few academic types (i.e. pedantic people), but sadly, those aren't the people who are driving Wikipedia, either in terms of writing it, or even reading it.

Wow. I had no idea that Wikipedia could be so helpful to contributors with such fixations. I'm sure you'll get a lot more done once you're effectively blocked from trying to change or fix other people.

Dave Winer made the same decision for me on his comment blog. I got an extra 5 hours worth of work done after that.

Unfortunately, I discovered "Eye on Winer" and have been way too busy there this week.

Self-restraint is a skill worth developing. Maybe I'll Google it and see what the trick is.

PS> Ryan "Essjay" Jordan has the essential skills that every organization needs to advance: it's typically a function called "sales".

"Tell 'em what they want to hear... or what you want them to believe..."
"But, it should be true."
"Why limit your effectiveness to what is true?"
"So, it's all about what you want?"
"If you want to win... it is."

I'm sure you'll get a lot more done once you're effectively blocked from trying to change or fix other people.

I would of been a good man if it had been somebody there to ban me every minute of my life.

A friendly word to every monomaniacal pedant:

Even the longest lives are finite. If you spend five minutes everyday doing something, in ten years' time you've spent 304 hours, or 38 eight- hour workdays doing that thing.

So it's a value judgement--is it worth it?

I can't find any of the quotes that you seem to be linking to. Are they being erased? You offer this link:

If I go there and search for "For the past 48 hours" I get nothing.

You also offer this link as Jordans "Come to Jesus moment":

If I go to that page and search for "Essjay" I get nothing.

So why are you linking to those pages?

Do offer a bit of a clue for those of us who don't know much about how to use Wikipedia.

After Jordan resigned from Wikipedia and resigned or was fired from Wikia, editors have been revising or deleting pages to remove these discussions. I didn't save copies.

rcade> I am a pedant.

rcade> I would of been a good man if it had been somebody there to ban me every minute of my life.

Now you're just encouraging the trolls, Roger. Shame on you.

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