Wikipedia: COO wanted
December 19, 2007 6:55 AM   Subscribe

It was revealed last week that former Wikipedia Chief Operating Officer Carolyn Doran was a convicted felon, her prior record includes four convictions for driving under the influence, two of check fraud and petty larceny, one hit and run with fatality, one unlawful wounding for shooting a former boyfriend, suspect in a murder case, and some suspicion surrounding the drowning death of her newlywed husband. Senior Wikipedians are "shocked", and the waves are still reverberating as apparently something totally secret and big is going down at the Foundation (that runs Wikipedia) that may radically alter the board for better or worse.
posted by stbalbach (103 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
was is a felon (not dead yet)
posted by stbalbach at 6:59 AM on December 19, 2007


Surprise, surprise, wikipedia drama. I liked Seth Finkelstein's article about how it's like a sweatshop.
posted by garlic at 7:05 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


"He asked me to marry him after I shot him," Doran told The Washington Post on February 22, 1990.

I'm impressed.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:05 AM on December 19, 2007


Huh.
posted by DU at 7:07 AM on December 19, 2007


Coming next: A Wikipedia takeover of Encyclopedia Dramatica.
posted by GuyZero at 7:08 AM on December 19, 2007


felon, schmelon.
did she do a good job running the place or not?
posted by caddis at 7:08 AM on December 19, 2007 [7 favorites]


That's certainly a checkered past, but I have to ask: are convicted felons that have served their time not allowed to have executive jobs?

This is the one thing that troubles me about work-related background checks. Should people not be permitted second chances?
posted by psmealey at 7:09 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


From my reading of these materials, it appears that Doran was promoted from bookkeeper to COO.

That makes about as much sense as being promoted from administrative assistant to CEO.

What an amateur operation Wikipedia is.
posted by jayder at 7:12 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't get the dichotomy of rich vs people who "get it". And why is "skilled" on the side of rich?
posted by DU at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2007


What an amateur operation Wikipedia is.

Thankfully.
posted by DU at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Vandalize an article? The Doranator pays you a little visit and grants you what she likes to call the Death Wish
posted by CynicalKnight at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2007


Should people not be permitted second chances?
Doran was searched and questioned by U.S. Customs agents in Florida after returning from a Foundation board meeting in the Netherlands around June. According to The Register, it was because she violated the terms of her parole by attending the meeting. She was not arrested, but according to police reports, on October 31, 2007, Doran was arrested under a warrant valid for a "nationwide extradition". Doran was then extradited back to Virginia, where she is currently being held in a prison in Staunton.
posted by stbalbach at 7:16 AM on December 19, 2007


Temp agency provided bookkeeper to COO.

And sure, people can change. But, if your person in charge of financial audits has some financial felonies in their past, when it comes to light the response shouldn't be "we never heard that she was a felon", it should be "she's moved past those issues, that we definately knew about."
posted by garlic at 7:16 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is the one thing that troubles me about work-related background checks. Should people not be permitted second chances?
posted by psmealey at 10:09 AM on December 19


Well, it appears that no one did a background check, which is pretty standard at a normal organization when people enter the executive ranks. And in fact, people do get second chances for non-violent crimes like DUI, drug possession, etc. (less so for fraud). The problem is that if you never do the check, you never get to consider the facts or whether its appropriate to give the person a second chance. Then the news hits and it's a PR disaster.

But a person convicted of shooting someone with a gun is usually never given this kind of second chance in corporate America.

Unless you're the Vice President. Zing!
posted by Pastabagel at 7:17 AM on December 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Obviously she is a plant from Encyclopedia Brittanica in an attempt to discredit Wikipedia.
posted by TedW at 7:18 AM on December 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Original Register article
posted by garlic at 7:19 AM on December 19, 2007


I just found out about the Mzoli's Meats saga. Things are getting creepy over there.
posted by gubo at 7:19 AM on December 19, 2007


Mostly my question we more wider application than it was about the specific matter at hand. When your COO has to violate parole to attend a company board meeting, then uh... yeah. Not good.
posted by psmealey at 7:20 AM on December 19, 2007


That's a pretty impressive CV, but it looks like there's no problem as long as you're not dating her.
posted by nicolin at 7:25 AM on December 19, 2007


are convicted felons that have served their time not allowed to have executive jobs?

I think the idea is that, when you're placing someone in a position of trust and discretion in a large organization, you would be better off not choosing someone who has violated the law in some egregious way signified by a felony conviction. A criminal record exists to warn the public about a person, after all.

I hire people who have a lot less power than a COO, and a felony conviction is an automatic disqualifier in my eyes. If that's unfair to people whose "hearts" have genuinely changed, too bad --- I wouldn't take the chance.
posted by jayder at 7:26 AM on December 19, 2007


I don't think Encyclopedia Brittanica needs to try and discredit wikipedia... they are pretty good at that themselves. I swear anymore that site is worthless.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:27 AM on December 19, 2007


Also not dissing any felons but umm this lady is linked to a few deaths and drives drunk on a regular basis. Obviously she is not your run of the mill felon.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:28 AM on December 19, 2007


one hit and run with fatality, one unlawful wounding for shooting a former boyfriend,

So wait, there's a lawful wounding now?
posted by delmoi at 7:31 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


No matter how hard you look, you can't find an 'edit this page' tab on your rap sheet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:33 AM on December 19, 2007 [8 favorites]


I found this quote really telling:

I do not share the same optimism than [wikipedia founder] Jimbo with regards to Knol. It's Jimbo's duty to project optimism. -Ben I think Knol is probably our biggest threat since the creation of Wikipedia.

These people think in terms of threats. They've become so insular and protective that they've gone off the rails into nuttiness. You've seen it from some of the other scandals, too... a couple weeks ago, someone there shut down/banned a great editor because s/he was TOO good, and, thus, threatening.

They've circled the wagons and gone into turff defense mode, instead of realizing a simple truth: nothing can threaten Wikipedia except its own founders. It's open source, Creative Commons, and can't be 'hijacked'; if someone ever tried, it could just be forked. There's nothing to worry about. Knol can't kill it, bankers can't kill it; it's a permanent accumulation of knowledge that will exist whoever is in charge, because nobody is really in control of it.

But to try to preserve the illusion of 'control' and 'safety', it appears the Wikipedia powers-that-be are willing to go very far down the path of paranoia and exclusionism... when editors that are 'too good' are being banned because they might be 'the enemy' (and I kid you not, that's literally the thinking that took place), the encyclopedia as a whole is being badly damaged.

They need adults in charge over there.
posted by Malor at 7:45 AM on December 19, 2007 [13 favorites]


Also not dissing any felons but umm this lady is linked to a few deaths and drives drunk on a regular basis. Obviously she is not your run of the mill felon.

Hey now, technically only linked to one death, the guy (or girl, I guess) she ran over. The guy she shot lived, and the guy that drowned, well that's officially an accident!

I hire people who have a lot less power than a COO, and a felony conviction is an automatic disqualifier in my eyes. If that's unfair to people whose "hearts" have genuinely changed, too bad --- I wouldn't take the chance.

I personally think that's pretty lame. A lot of pretty minor crimes are considered "felonies" these days, especially dealing with drugs. I would certainly want to look at the circumstances. This person seems to be someone who causes a lot of chaos, including getting people killed and fraud. Obviously not someone you would want running a charity dependent on donations, or any other fiduciary role.

But I really don't think you can just dispose of people like they were garbage, not be willing to give them any job just because of some arbitrary designation. (I'm not saying a felony is an arbitrary thing, but in some cases the distinction between felony and misdemeanor can be arbitrary in some cases).
posted by delmoi at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


(I said bankers, but I should have said 'venture capitalists'; the thought was, no matter how much money gets thrown against it, Wikipedia can't be killed.)
posted by Malor at 7:47 AM on December 19, 2007


People who do bad things! News at 11!
posted by doctorschlock at 7:57 AM on December 19, 2007


These people think in terms of threats. They've become so insular and protective that they've gone off the rails into nuttiness. You've seen it from some of the other scandals, too... a couple weeks ago, someone there shut down/banned a great editor because s/he was TOO good, and, thus, threatening.

Details?

that said, I to have a lot of trepidation about the leadership at wikipedia. Now, it's Wikipedia so the leadership doesn't really matter that much, I mean, the site is put together by the millions of people out there who contribute too it.

I think the leadership is the main thing that might cause another site to take it's place. Not that the content is bad, but that the leadership seems like amateur hour. I mean, seriously.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 AM on December 19, 2007


(And of course, thanks to the creative commons, it can be easily 'forked'. New editors can start with the original block of info)
posted by delmoi at 8:08 AM on December 19, 2007


Interesting she doesn't have a wikipedia entry isn't it?
posted by gnash at 8:14 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Since you're not allowed to write about yourself, I assume this means Wikimedia Foundation employees are forbidden from writtng the article on "batshitinsane". The bizarre circling of the wagons and Jimmy Wales's control issues were crazy enough, but the hiring of a financially felonious (not to mention seemingly dangerous) COO is totally off the rails. Does anyone have any inkling what Carolyn Doran's credentials actually are? There's surprisingly little info about her out there.

My prediction: Jimmy Wales is going to get ousted. Subsequently, Legal Counsel Mike Godwin will assume control and change his title to Der WikiF├╝hrer, and everything will implode into a black hole.
posted by mkultra at 8:18 AM on December 19, 2007


Yeah, if you don't like it, download the source and make your own pedia. Metapedia. You could do that here, you have the people. Just be more selective with mods. If you don't like the douchebags at Wikipedia (and many of those people are world class douchebags) then do a better pedia.

Wikipedia is uber useful, you just have to realise that it is run by a bunch of cocks. Any article with the slightest hint of controversy, you have to go and do your own research just in case it contains some bullshit. But it's a good place to start.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:18 AM on December 19, 2007


Details?

The Secret Wikipedia Email List
posted by mkultra at 8:19 AM on December 19, 2007


I agree with mkultra's prophecy. But I think it will split into a billion different Wikipedias, like a multiverse of competing realities.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 8:20 AM on December 19, 2007


So wait, there's a lawful wounding now?

Yes, as you're about to find out. *schnick* (that's the sound of a switchblade opening)
posted by NoMich at 8:22 AM on December 19, 2007


If you do make your own Wikipedia, please make a better search function.
posted by drezdn at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


What an amateur operation Wikipedia is.

Management, perhaps. Who knows? (Who cares, unless it affects the product?)

Content, no.

German Wikipedia Outranks Traditional Encyclopedia's Online Version

Wikipedia Foundation may not last, but something like it will supplant commercial encyclopedias completely (if it hasn't already).
posted by mrgrimm at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2007


I personally think that's pretty lame. A lot of pretty minor crimes are considered "felonies" these days, especially dealing with drugs.

Where I live, if you are a first-time offender, even on a low-level felony charge, you would be eligible for alternative sentencing that would result in the charge being expunged from your record upon successful completion of probation.

So, if someone comes to me with a criminal record that includes a felony, that means one of two things:

(1) It wasn't really their first felony;

(2) They had a prior criminal record before getting their felony, that precluded them from expungement options on the felony charge; or

(3) They didn't have enough damned sense to agree to an option that would get the record expunged.

None of which speaks well of them as a prospective employee, in terms of common sense or responsibility.

As a practical matter, though, I have never gotten an application from someone who had a felony conviction who seemed qualified anyway. I would say that, by and large, felony convictions are extremely strongly correlated with lack of job qualifications --- unless you're hiring for a restaurant kitchen or convenience store or sanitation department, you'd reject 99.9% of felons based on their resume, without even knowing about the felony. Doran, in being able to finagle a good job despite her criminal record, is the rare exception.
posted by jayder at 8:28 AM on December 19, 2007


As a WP administrator who no longer does any real work with the project, I quit actively editing because I was becoming just such circle the wagons guy and it was stressing me out. One feels compelled to defend WP against other new, editors precisely because WP is ever-changing, anonymous, and because one has sunk so much work on it.

Say you are interested in a topic like Wisconsin history. You spend hundreds of hours researching the history of Wisconsin, editing the topic, and coming to a consensus on it. You iron out your differences about cheese curds in massive edit wars, RfAs, and achieve some sort of taut balance with the other editors, who will patrol your consensus. And then this brilliant writer comes along and changes everything. Yes, that is supposed to be how it works, but all of your effort is washed away, the old balance is gone, and you are left having to fight all over again to achieve a new one. But now you have influence, and it is so much easier to use that influence to circumvent the editor than to go through the process yet again. I can see how things go off the rails and becomes insular.

So I think the problem is the culture of Wikipedia itself drives people to insularity, and the solution is better moderation and management. Which is clearly missing, as per this FPP.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:33 AM on December 19, 2007 [15 favorites]


But I think it will split into a billion different Wikipedias, like a multiverse of competing realities.

Without warning, the sky exploded into fire. Jimbo-4 fell to the ground, dropping the car he was about to hurl at Jimbo-78. Stalinist Jimbo simply ceased to be - where once he stood, the wind whipping his cape around his black-clad body, there was nothing but a crater.

Jimbo-4 lurched to his feet, ears ringing, eyes aching from dust and debris. He coughed a few times, but then his breath died in his throat. Something was emerging from the crater. Jimbo-4 began to back away.

Eyes blazing with the fire of a thousand edits, Jimbo Prime rose from the pit sheathed in pure power. He hovered there, almost lazily taking in the remnants of the fight around him. The other Jimbos, infinite gods from infinite 'pedias stood as statues, mouths agape. For though they ruled as gods on their own sites, Jimbo Prime was as far removed from them as they were from their contributors.

The last sound that many of them heard was the stark cracking of Jimbo Prime's knuckles.

The Crisis on Infinite Pedias had begun.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:38 AM on December 19, 2007 [10 favorites]


Good lord, mkultra. That article just made me completely reconsider my pro-wikipedia leanings.

It led me to the talk page from the Joan of Arc article. What a load of utter horseshit! Someone raises an interesting point regarding research that has been done on the woman's sexuality (which is something I know I've heard mentioned in at least three seperate graduate courses) and an administrator goes completely batshit crazy on them. Then a whole bunch of little cooing nobodies show up to tell the "administrator" (and what the hell does that even mean, in terms of an "open encyclopedia"?) that she has done such a great job, etc. How abnoxious.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Malor wrote:
"These people think in terms of threats. They've become so insular and protective that they've gone off the rails into nuttiness. You've seen it from some of the other scandals, too... a couple weeks ago, someone there shut down/banned a great editor because s/he was TOO good, and, thus, threatening."
We can call this point in dysfunctional bureaucracy the "shooting the cook tipping point"
"El, you really must try this because it's puerco pibil. It's a slow-roasted pork, nothing fancy. It just happens to be my favorite, and I order it with a tequila and lime in every dive I go to in this country. And honestly, that is the best it's ever been anywhere. In fact, it's too good. It's so good that when I'm finished, I'll pay my check, walk straight into the kitchen and shoot the cook. Because that's what I do. I restore the balance to this country. And that is what I would like from you right now. Help keep the balance by pulling the trigger."
--Agent Sands, Once Upon a Time In Mexico.
posted by Reverend Mykeru at 8:43 AM on December 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


Aaaand blahblahblah's comment pretty much explained it for me.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:44 AM on December 19, 2007


See, this Jimmy Wales person sounded a little crazy, but I just looked him up on Wikipedia, and he actually turns out to be a pretty swell guy. He even tries to use his cell phone sparingly in Europe to save money because of the high charges.
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


The problem, by the way, is pretty simple: community encyclopedias aren't scalable.
posted by koeselitz at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2007


Also, everybody at Wikipedia is a crazy motherfucker. But that's because they all go nuts (from Jimmy on down) trying to cope with the fact that community encyclopedias aren't scalable.
posted by koeselitz at 8:52 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Balrog's unrelated story time:

I remember, once, I saw something so confoundedly stupid on wikipedia that I absolutely had to edit it. It was in the article on Rachel Corrie. I know the right loves to bash on her and it's hilaaaaarious how she was killed by that bulldozer, but I figured the article would be a straightforward timeline of events along with a brief bio.

And then, in the second paragraph, there's this bizarre line about smuggling tunnels connected to Egypt and Rafah. Or something. Completely unrelated to Corrie. So I edited it out, because it's completely out of place. And it came back, with a half-dozen little citations. And I took it out again, not because it's not factual but because it has nothing to do with the issue at hand.

Then there was this huge shitstorm, and I guess I got banned or something - eventually the shrill little dittohead who desperately wanted that line in there won. Because I have a job, and go to school, and had to meet some friends or something, and I forgot all about the whole thing. And I guess that conspiracy-nut nonsense will remain in there forever, because I lack the intestinal fortitude to go to war with people who are so committed to making something concrete out of something that's supposed to be fluid.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:55 AM on December 19, 2007 [9 favorites]


Baby_Balrog --- Ugh, that article is terrible. It shows the perverse dimension of WP's "viewpoint neutrality" policy. It does to the Rachel Corrie story, what would be like giving equal billing to evolution and creationism in a biology article.
posted by jayder at 9:05 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Where I live, if you are a first-time offender, even on a low-level felony charge, you would be eligible for alternative sentencing that would result in the charge being expunged from your record upon successful completion of probation. one of two things: [list of three things]

Well, that's probably true. However, not all locales are the same. But here's the thing, it should be possible to actually find out those things, rather then simply saying 'op felony, won't hire'. I mean I wouldn't hire someone convicted of fraud to manage my finances, but I might consider someone with a DUI or something like that (I don't know if that's always a felony, or whatever).

I would say that, by and large, felony convictions are extremely strongly correlated with lack of job qualifications

Well yeah, since no one will give them a job.

Again, clearly this woman should not have been the COO of wikimedia foundation, but I'm just saying a felony should not be an outright bar from a good job.

Also, I've found the latest wikipedia beg rather irritating. It's swaddled in this "oh, help the poor brown people" shtick that's totally unnecessary. I mean, wikipedia is exceedingly helpful for first-worlders as well as the third world. I mean, if you look at the other popular languages on Wikipedia, it's German, French, Polish, Japanese, Dutch and Italian. Other then French, not really third world languages. It's something that's useful for all people, not just the developing world.

But yeah, at this point I'd say that wikipedia is succeeding despite it's leadership and it's preposterous bureaucracy.
posted by delmoi at 9:12 AM on December 19, 2007


I love wikipedia, it's the first real car crash of a web site I've had the pleasure of watching explode. Lovely
posted by fatfrank at 9:13 AM on December 19, 2007


I did some editing and writing work on Wikipedia a couple of years back. Eventually the dysfunctional underbelly -- with edit wars, angry admins defending their intellectual turf, screeching and incessant nuclear infights about the smallest and most ridiculous minutiae -- became nauseating, and I withdrew from active involvement. Wikipedia's "About" page reads, "Visitors do not need specialised qualifications to contribute, since their primary role is to write articles that cover existing knowledge .... Anyone is welcome to add information, cross-references or citations, as long as they do so within Wikipedia's editing policies and to an appropriate standard." But in practice, it is admins and other higher-ups in the hierarchy who decide what the "editing policies" are and what "appropriate standards" are, so both of those things are constantly moving targets.
posted by blucevalo at 9:17 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Like nearly all commenters at the time, I thought Jaron Lanier's Digital Maoism article seemed a bit silly. But watching what's happened to Wikipedia, as petty little mods become tyrants and the mob supports the dirty stuff, I realize just how prescient he was. There is no magic bullet to fix the human desires that turn normal people into fascists, and unless you are particularly aware and wary of that natural tendency, you're going to end up with a shitheel community like Wikipedia's mods.

</inevitable derail about how crappy Wikipedia's community has become>
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:19 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Well, at least the management around here is squeaky clean..... right?
posted by R. Mutt at 9:21 AM on December 19, 2007


I haven't had much patience with Wikipedia since they deleted the entry about me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:30 AM on December 19, 2007


If any of you assholes criticize my hero Carolyn Doran I'm gonna get drunk, mail you a bad cheque, steal your wallet, run over you in my car, start going out with you, shoot you, marry you and then drown you.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:31 AM on December 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


Current revision (12:37, 19 December 2007) (edit)
designbot (Talk | contribs)
(NPOV - removed critical implication regarding MF admins)

Well, at least the management around here is squeaky clean!

Revision as of 12:21, 19 December 2007 (edit)
R. Mutt (Talk | contribs)

Well, at least the management around here is squeaky clean..... right?

posted by designbot at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Jaron Lanier's Digital Maoism article

It's no accident that Maoist China egalitarian peasants ruled the day, in theory, but was actual run by petty tyrants. Same in the USSR. Same with Wikipedia admins.

For the non-admins, Wikipedia is based on an honor system, which creates a "Culture of Honor", and Cultures of Honor are beset by violence and conflict as there is no central authority, everyone has to constantly fight for status.

These two aspects, the contradiction of egalitarianism and admins, and the conflicts inherent in honor systems, have created a culture of Wikipedia that is not so fun to hang out. And that is its greatest "threat", people stop hanging out there because of poor community. Knol really does address most of these problems.
posted by stbalbach at 9:40 AM on December 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Man, this shit is fascinating.
posted by cortex at 9:43 AM on December 19, 2007


Hmm, according to one of the Wikipedia talk pages the ban was actually 6 hours, not 75 minutes. One of the most annoying things about Jimbo Wales is his "aaaay, relax guy" attitude about everything that goes wrong. He just says nothing is a big deal. Well, if a high-level mod is outright making things up to ban a user and doesn't lose her status, that's a serious, serious problem

(I'm talking about the 'secret mailing list rocks Wikipedia' article on the register).
posted by delmoi at 9:49 AM on December 19, 2007


I realized I left out a couple points in my comment, since it sounds like this happens because of editor's unwillingness to take into account other views. I actually believe it is the structure of WP itself:

First, of all, note that Wikipedia works like any online open source community, as noted by Karim Lakhani at Harvard, most good ideas come from the periphery, the occasional users who have something to add to an article because they know something useful. Most work, however, including integration of these ideas, is done by the core, a few people who run the project and do much of the work. Usually the core has power and prestige, think Linus and Linux, and get to decide the direction of the project. Wikipedia, however, removes all privilege for the core, however, and says that they have to work extra hard to integrate any viewpoint from the periphery. Even ignoring politics and personal feeling, this is untenable, requires constant work, and virtually demands that editors take short cuts.

Second, realize that every administrator, including myself, becomes devoted to certain viewpoints as they edit, even if they never cared before. It is very hard to remain neutral on a topic you have devoted forty hours too, regardless of how trivial it might seem (see the Danzig vote), and the typical flamewar dynamics of online communities make it worse. You can't edit an article on cheese curds without caring, just a bit, about your work, and being annoyed at, just a bit, anyone who changes it. Now change cheese curds to anything controversal, and it gets much worse.

That is why Wikipedia depends on fresh bodies who are willing to work to become core members and who later flameout. Once the core decides to stick around, they will inevitably try to maintain the status quo.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I won't speak to wikipedia specifically, but I've never understood the obsession people have with people's criminal backgrounds, particularly when they are not directly relevant to the work that they are doing.

Obviously, I would be concerned with someone who had a felony record in extortion or fraud working in my finance department, but someone with a DUI from their college years in charge of my database administration doesn't bother me a bit.

I get that there should be a certain amount of disclosure up front, but if it wasn't asked by the employer up front, then it should not be relevant if it comes up later.

[on preview; what everyone else has already said]
posted by quin at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2007


So wait, there's a lawful wounding now?

Of course there is.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2007


stupid edit failures: too many uses of the word 'people', and 'up front'. I hate that.
posted by quin at 9:55 AM on December 19, 2007


This kind of reminds me of the story of Emperoress Wu, who ruled china for a while. Apparently she was an evil Bitch who took power through a variety of ways and at one point cut off the feet of a romantic rival. However, at the time she was in charge, there was so much inertia in the bureaucracy that the rest of the country ran fine.

So Wikipedia, one of the largest and certainly one of the most useful appears to be completely bonkers at the top. But it has so much inertia that the basic system seems to be working, without effective governance. Or something.

But as cortex says, it is pretty fascinating to watch from a distance.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 AM on December 19, 2007


You wanna see a batshitinsane article? Here. All that crap about "milks-eagerly" is nonsense; lacessit just means 'provokes.' But I'm not going to bother trying to correct it, because I just know whatever idiot put all that in believes in it passionately and will fight tooth and nail for it. You have to pick your fights.
posted by languagehat at 10:01 AM on December 19, 2007 [5 favorites]


oh shit needs citation what drama needs citation
posted by nervousfritz at 10:33 AM on December 19, 2007


You wanna see a batshitinsane article?

Heh. Double-heh.

At the bottom they have, as a reference:

  Noli me tangere ~= You Can't Touch This

Nice. From the lips of Jesus to the mouth of MC Hammer in one fell swoop. Which is about as good as the idea that the motto is about the place of lactating women in Scottish society.
posted by GuyZero at 10:36 AM on December 19, 2007


"Pie Hole" redirects here.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:36 AM on December 19, 2007


The amusing thing about lacessit to me is that if one assembled a blue-ribbon panel of scholars: linguists, historians and etymologists, chaired by Queen Elizabeth; to answer the question, they'd eventually be excluded from even discussing or voting on the issue, since they haven't made enough edits. Whereas the way to actually get it settled is to use back channels to convince some admin to summarily ban disagreeing users as sock puppets and open proxies.

I had wondered by the upper echelons of the foundation allowed such a "playground at recess" environment to flourish unchecked, and now I suppose I have my answer. The top of the food chain is the same way: "We like her, so that's all that matters."
posted by tyllwin at 10:45 AM on December 19, 2007


I'm with fatfrank on this. What a delightful scene.

May a thousand wikipediae bloom.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:46 AM on December 19, 2007


Watching fascism implode onitself due to fractally growing bureaucracy and cabals and such is so very much fun.

o/8254; o/8254; o/8254; Schadenfreude, making me feel glad that I'm not you ... o/8254; o/8254; o/8254;
posted by WCityMike at 10:47 AM on December 19, 2007


You know, those looked much better in preview where they were overscores.
posted by WCityMike at 10:48 AM on December 19, 2007


So, seriously, what's the "totally secret and big" thing?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:01 AM on December 19, 2007


languagehat, I really can't tell if you're being ironic or not, and it's beautiful.
posted by mkultra at 11:03 AM on December 19, 2007


Will someone please get Encyclopedia Brown on the case?
posted by jdfan at 11:10 AM on December 19, 2007


I was asked, in MeMail, for a link on the editor that was banned for being too good.

This is part of the Secret Mailing List Cabal scandal from a few weeks ago. mkultra also links to this up above, so you don't need to read it again if you already have, but I wanted to emphasize that it shows how dysfunctional the Wikipedia staff has become. Quite a bit of depth available there.

Again: they shut down an editor because s/he was too good, and therefore might be the enemy... the fear is that people who disagree may gain power through raising their edit counts.

The whole idea of ranking people's opinions through how many edits they've made is insane. I've been in one WikiArgument, and someone went through and literally inserted "This user has edited X times" to EVERY PERSON IN THE THREAD. Just crazy. They don't argue based on facts; they argue based on who's making the argument. You could be the woman who invented a subject, but if you don't have 5000 edits, your opinion is worth less in your own field than some random guy in a garage.

By and large, most articles are still good, but with this culture behind the scenes, how long will that last?
posted by Malor at 11:12 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Will someone please get Encyclopedia Brown on the case?

Not open source enough; they've got Wikipedia Brown on it instead. He may not be able to prove Bugs Meany framed Doran but he will be able to settle if she's ever been mentioned in an episode of Family Guy.

For basic facts Wikipedia ain't bad, but it will likely become less popular/reliable as more and more of this "cliquepedia" crap comes out and people realize that some edits are "worth" more than others.
posted by Challahtronix at 11:34 AM on December 19, 2007


Wikipedia Brown.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:46 AM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


mkultra writes "The Secret Wikipedia Email List"

Wait, so there is a Cabal?

jayder writes "unless you're hiring for a restaurant kitchen or convenience store or sanitation department, you'd reject 99.9% of felons based on their resume, without even knowing about the felony."

Cite? Or are you doing background checks on people you already rejected?
posted by Mitheral at 11:51 AM on December 19, 2007


Nitpick: Wikipedia is not Creative Commons. It's GFDL. Similar ideals, incompatible implementations.
posted by eritain at 11:52 AM on December 19, 2007


eritain, they should not be incompatible for very much longer. They are modifying the GFDL to make it compatible with CC-BY-SA. http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:License_update
posted by fings at 12:06 PM on December 19, 2007


goodnewsfortheinsane: Wikipedia invades Poland.
posted by rusty at 12:12 PM on December 19, 2007


Hmm. Someone just mentioned this thread while editing the Rachel Corrie thread. Not sure that's going to go down well.

That bit about the tunnels definately doesn't belong there though.
posted by Artw at 12:30 PM on December 19, 2007


But as cortex says, it is pretty fascinating to watch from a distance.

Yes, in a sort of "come and see the violence inherent in the system" sort of way. At least that's the vibe I get from reading about Wikipedia.
posted by never used baby shoes at 12:37 PM on December 19, 2007


The problem with Wikipedia is that there are enough articles about things that I'm something of an expert in that I say something ranging from "well...that's a pretty biased presentation" to "wow...that's just plain wrong" that I cannot look at an article on a topic I'm not familiar with and not immediately think "how much bullshit am I being fed here".

It's a broken system run by broken people with broken rules made worse by their total inability to see or admit that there's even a problem.
posted by kjs3 at 1:04 PM on December 19, 2007


My first thought was, "Wow, I wonder if she's single."

*sigh*
posted by sidereal at 1:08 PM on December 19, 2007


"...some suspicion surrounding the drowning death of her newlywed husband." [citation needed] ;-)
posted by hyperizer at 1:15 PM on December 19, 2007


Reading that blog entry makes it sound as though the reason they didn't do a background check was that they were essentially just giving their office manager a fancy title.
posted by delmoi at 3:08 PM on December 19, 2007


Yes yes yes this is all very interesting, but it still doesn't explain how Kate and Jack got off The Island.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:10 PM on December 19, 2007


Language Hat, isn't that translation attributed to Scots also wrong? Sounds more like Old or Middle English (I don't know the dates of English but "wi me" doesn't sound like anything the Scots would produce. Here:

In the Scots language, the motto is often rendered as "Wha daur meddle wi me?"[2] which, in standard English, literally means "Who dares meddle with me?".

posted by etaoin at 4:33 PM on December 19, 2007


What possesses a grown man named James to continue going through life as "Jimbo"?

I suspect that contained in the answer to that question, like an acorn, is the explanation of most, if not all, of Wikipedia's problems.
posted by jayder at 4:47 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


Noli me tangere ~= You Can't Touch This

That's brilliant.
posted by painquale at 5:07 PM on December 19, 2007


What possesses a grown man named James to continue going through life as "Jimbo"?

Objectivism.
posted by stammer at 7:16 PM on December 19, 2007 [3 favorites]


kjs3: "[a bunch of very pretty words organized into lovely sentences which made some kind of sense to people.]"

When I go to Wikipedia it's to read about something I don't necessarily know much about, so since I'm not an expert I don't immediately write off the source. My responses range from "oh that's very interesting" to "i didn't know that" to "there are many people in this world much smarter than me and isn't that nice?" I cannot look at an article on a topic I am not familiar with and presume I'm being fed anything other than pretty words organized into lovely sentences which make some kind of sense to people.

By the same token, while I take Wikipedia not with a grain of salt, I do not take it as gospel either. Research via Wiki is done regarding issues that are not of major prominence. Recently I've been catching up on what the DC universe has done to itself in the past fifteen years cuz I stopped collecting comics due to finances and intelligence, but what I am reading in Wiki right now is like a trainwreck and I can't stop rubbernecking.

Did you know Nightwing and Oracle have been dating? What the hell is that about? What happened to Starfire? I am so beside myself! Now, I could go buy the comics and get it straight from the source, but Wiki's cheaper. It's not an important issue.

When I'm diagnosed with something terrible like prostate cancer or terminal hangnail disease, I might go to Wiki out of convenience or just for jollies, but chances are my first source of information would be the doctor who diagnosed me, second would be the second doctor I'd use to confirm the first, then maybe a trip to the library, then maybe an investigation to websites that are confirmed from multiple sources to be dependable, and then maybe online message boards populated by people who have been diagnosed before myself, to find out how they coped with the discovery of a terminal illness.

Wiki would be pretty far down on the list of pertinent sources for information regardin something that matters, as it should be, but for things that DON'T MATTER, it's great. Even if it's wrong. That'd just make life more interesting.

...what do you mean Nightwing and Oracle haven't been dating? It says so on Wikipedia! It says they were engaged to be married even. Can you believe this?? Who's writing DC comics now? The cast of All My Children? Well, I never!
posted by ZachsMind at 7:45 PM on December 19, 2007


Malor: it's a permanent accumulation of knowledge that will exist whoever is in charge, because nobody is really in control of it.

In theory. In practice, quite a lot of information is actually destroyed by the Wikipedia admins themselves, due to their very narrow "notability" guidelines. Something like 5,000 pages a day are permanently deleted, and although most of them may be contentless or garbage pages, quite a few of them represent significant amounts of effort by contributors. And there doesn't seem to be much in the way of archiving; stuff that's deleted is really gone, completely wiped out of the database. (I've never understood why they can't just do some sort of logical-delete to pages with notability problems; something that would move them out of the namespace -- protecting the namespace seems to be the reason for notability deletions in the first place -- but keep the GFDL content around for other people to use.)

Wikipedia is protected from everyone except for the Wikipedia administrators themselves. And as the series of recent scandals has shown, they seem to be anything but stable and interested in the good of the community.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:27 PM on December 19, 2007


And there doesn't seem to be much in the way of archiving; stuff that's deleted is really gone, completely wiped out of the database

That's completely false. Stuff that's "deleted" is hidden from the public but not wiped from the database. Ask the deleting admin to transfer the deleted article to your user space and they'll always (in my experience) do it. Stuff in user space exists outside of notability guidelines.

For example, I've snatched the Captain Obvious and List of Planets in Futurama articles from the jaws of deletion.
posted by Tlogmer at 8:38 PM on December 19, 2007


That List of Planets in Futurama article is pretty sweet.
posted by delmoi at 9:05 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


As the image of a rational consensus untroubled by the passions of willful human action, it was conceived, on the one hand, as the very antithesis of the dangeroun play of political passions [...] and contrasted, on the other, with the direct exercise of political will in the ancient republics. Construed as rational, universal, impersonal, unitary, it took on many of the attributes of the absolute monarchical system it was replacing, just as it prefigured many ambiguities of the revolutionary will to which it in turn gave way. The idea of party divisions and conflicting political interests was as antithetical to the rationalist conception of a unitary public opinion as it was to be to the voluntarist conception of a unitary general will.
Who would have thought Keith Baker's explanation of the French Revolution would apply so neatly to 21st century internets sites.

I laugh when people say history doesn't teach you anything.
posted by winna at 9:29 PM on December 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's the 'dangerous play of political passions'. I can't type, though I can read.
posted by winna at 9:30 PM on December 19, 2007


was is a felon (not dead yet)

Wikipedia is was great.
posted by davejay at 11:52 PM on December 19, 2007


"wi me" doesn't sound like anything the Scots would produce
Hmm. I'd certainly say "way me", and I've heard "wee" in the Highlands
posted by bonaldi at 12:09 PM on December 20, 2007


Fortunately for languagehat, User:Groganmcfartypants hasn't been around since October. Too bad, I would have enjoyed the edit war. ;-)

On the other hand, Durova helicopter parenting the Joan of Arc article is a little more concerning. She really has no right to exclude sources on the basis given. Not sure what to do about that. A well-cited paragraph placing the speculation in context certainly seems necessary.

As for the COO, it's right up the same alley as the Essjay business. And there certainly was a relevance of her criminal record, as one charge seems to have been larceny. We had something similar around here where a person with a few petty theft and forgery misdemeanors was hired as the bookkeeper for a school district, and proceeded to rob the place blind with cash receipts/check deposits sleight-of-hand. I'm not sure I'm going to really come down hard here since there apparently was no crime committed, but the caliber of the people on the board really should have had somebody twigging the background check question. And the Moller job switch is just so cliquey and non-transparent. Yes, the place is being run poorly, and that reflects well on the power behind the throne foundation. Wales is a great cheerleader for the project but he can't seem to manage worth a rat's ass. Maybe the Big Secret™ thing is that he is going to be sidelined somehow.

I feel the project does continue to largely hum along despite all this, but the optimism one has is certainly sapped.
posted by dhartung at 10:48 PM on December 20, 2007


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