Friday, February 29, 2008

Jimmy and Rachel, Sitting In a Tree

Well, Danny already beat me to it, but here's the hot news for today: Our dear cult leader Jimmy Wales is now purported to be having an affair with Rachel Marsden. In related news, rumor has it that Jimmy's wife Christine has filed for divorce. Now, frankly, I could care less who Jimmy has sex with or how his wife feels about that; I'm not a prude and really that's a private matter between Jimmy and the rest of the people in his life.

But Jimmy is also the Founder of Wikipedia, and exercises reserve powers over it. Back in November of 2006, the ArbCom considered the case of Marsden's biography, and issued a ruling that basically gave Marsden what she wanted. Now, we have no way of knowing, at least not yet, whether Jimbo influenced that case, or when the affair actually started. But there's a bit of a piscine smell here.

And then there's this little tidbit. One of my quiet little friends passed me a note the other day. It had on it this undated snippet of Jimbeauality: "In the past week or so we have struck up something of a personal friendship, and I offered to meet with her and give some feedback on her website design and business model. As such, at least for the time being, I may have a sufficient COI regarding this case that I should not edit the article or do anything "official" in my Jimbo-ness :)." In that quote (which comes from one of the Foundation's internal mailing lists), "we" refers to Jimmy and Rachel. The impression I got is that that message was relatively recent, like within the past month. Maybe around the time he started to fall out with her? The comments on ValleyWag suggest a falling out, to be certain....

So, Jimmy, how long have you been dipping in her well? And did you wield your "Jimbo-ness" to her advantage while you were doing it?

This makes the Essjay affair look like peanuts. And not just because it involves Wikipedia's most prominent member having illicit sex with a Fox News babe. Although that does help.

Update: Jimbeau has posted a "statement" on this sordid affair on the English Wikipedia. His statement, if true, suggests that this particular episode is just Jimbeau showing that he has phenomenally poor judgment regarding his private life, but ultimately that's his problem and not anyone else's. Of course, I've seen Jimbeau lie too many times to trust anything he says on face value anymore, and there's still a lot of other stuff in Danny's comments that remains unexplained at this point. Time will tell, I suppose.

Second update: Rachel's leaked some more IM conversations that are, at least, difficult to reconcile with Jimbeau's statement. Rachel's not known for being the most stable bean on the shelf, but who has more to lose here?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Just what is a bureaucrat, anyway?

I've noticed that hits on my blog are up a bit despite not having posted anything in a while. Digging a bit, I see that my blog is getting hit from the request for admin page, which seems odd because I don't know what my blog would have to do with adminship as I haven't had much to say about that lately. And what do I see down near the bottom? My old friend, Riana, is running for bureaucrat. And various articles on my blog have been linked from her request, as some sort of evidence of her disqualifications to be a bureaucrat.

Now wait a minute. What does some nonsense I wrote about Grand Lady Durova have to do with Riana's qualifications to decide on administrative promotions? Apparently a lot, for some people. It seems that some people feel either that she was duped into nominating me somehow, or that nominating me shows some grave defect in character that disqualifies her from being a bureaucrat.

Well, I won't speak to what the character qualifications are to be a bureaucrat. It's well-known that the Wikipedia community has absurd standards for its admins and bureaucrats, and I'm not going to waste time analyzing this election to reach the same conclusion. As to being duped by me: I'm not that smooth an operator. Riana's a smart cookie, far smarter than most of the idiots voting for (and against) her. She knew exactly what the score was when she came to me to suggest a nomination. I didn't ask her to do that; I certainly didn't dupe her into it. If you think she was "trolled", then the person who has been actually trolled is you.

At this point it appears likely that her candidacy will fail, because a handful of people who really really dislike me wish to punish her for supporting me over people like SlimVirgin, Jayjg, and Jossi (all of whom, you will note, have opposed her nomination). You'd think, what with all the harsh language and demonization, that I had eaten Jimbo's baby, or something.

So vote for her, or against her, as it moves you. But if you think her participation in that little bit of political theater from last fall is in the least bit relevant to her qualifications, then you will surely reap the rewards of your vote, whether it be in support or in opposition.

Wikipedia as declining empire

Danny Wool's new blog today has a very good article that draws parallels between Wikipedia and various declining empires through history. Few people have Danny's depth of experience with Wikipedia, and his unique history with Wikipedia gives him a special ability to see long-term trends that others with shorter experience or memories might miss. Do check it out.

Friday, February 08, 2008

For your daily dose of irony...

... there is no better source than Wikipedia. For today's dose, we examine Jossi Fresco, a Wikipedia admin and major architect of Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy. Jossi, according to our good friend Cade Metz over at the Register, is employed by an organization related to Prem Rawat, a cultish religious figure from India. He also assiduously polices the articles about Rawat, a clear and obvious conflict of interest. I'm not going to waste a lot of time repeating what Cade has already said (and if you want there's also a Wikipedia Review thread on the same topic which is quite interesting as well). That an admin who has spent so much time crafting the conflict of interest policy would, at the same time, flaunt it so obviously and, apparently, even seek to pretend that there is no conflict, is the sort of delicious irony that Wikipedia excels at creating.

Of course, our old friend SlimVirgin, herself no stranger to conflict of interest, seeing as how she wades knee-deep in them all the time, has also had quite a hand in both shaping and enforcing that policy (even commenting on how it should be interpreted and applied over at the Wikback). Those familiar with Wikipedia (and Wikimedia) politics are, I'm quite sure, familiar with other examples of overwhelming irony in Wikipedia over the past few months; I've touched on this issue here and here.

It seems obvious, therefore, that the primary purpose of Wikipedia is actually to create irony. This is actually a good thing; after all, we all heard after 9/11 that "irony is dead". Well, we have Wikipedia to thank for keeping irony alive. Good job; do keep up the good work. It's nice to know that Wikipedia can at least excel at something.