A Wikipedia Reversal
In the recent dustup over a Wikipedia administrator dubbed Essjay who lied about his academic credentials in a New Yorker profile, here’s how Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales responded when The New Yorker recently ran a correction:
Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikia and of Wikipedia, said of Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”
It is unclear from this quote whether Wales was responding generally to Essjay’s use of a pseudonym or the fact that Essjay lied about his credentials. Regardless, Wales’s response struck me, and many others, as stoutly tone deaf.
I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people’s trust. I want to make it perfectly clear that my past support of EssJay in this matter was fully based on a lack of knowledge about what has been going on. Even now, I have not been able to check diffs, etc. I have asked EssJay to resign his positions of trust within the community.
Hmm. Did Wales really not know the scope of Essjay’s deception when he gave the quote to The New Yorker? Did The New Yorker contextually make Wales look more unbothered than he actually was in order to punish him for the original deception? Or has Wales simply seen that the blowback to Wikipedia was greater than he imagined it would be, and decided to reverse course?
(Hat tip: Amit Orit)