December 03, 2007
There Is A Wikipedia Cabal (or at least a Secret Mailing List)
_The Register_: Secret mailing list rocks Wikipedia
I've been following this whole scandal myself, and my own column about it
will be available on the Guardian website on Wednesday night. I have a
different, more "sociological", take on the matter than the article above.
I should note, given the hyper-vigilance these days, that my article
was written and filed before the above one was published. There's a few
similarities in jargon that appear (e.g. "admonish") because we were
both summarizing the same primary sources. But we used different
Jimmy Wales quotes.
I feel bad for the administrator who set this all off. I agonized in
my own writing to be fair on action yet respecting the person, and even not
to do anything which would create Google-baggage for her. At least I won't
be piling-on personal criticism.
Here's an item I can use for blog-fodder:
I was thinking of asking Jimmy Wales a question, but from Seth-the-geek
rather than Seth-the-journalist. I would have liked to write him
"Jimmy, we both know what you're going to say in reply to this
mailling-list topic. You're going to claim that a mailing-list hosted
at your commercial venture-capital company [Wikia] is no different
from a mailing-list hosted at Google Groups or Yahoo Groups. That's
been the party line throughout. However, we both know that's not
correct, since your company [Wikia] has tax-law "self dealing" issues
which you need to be sensitive about (not that I'm accusing you of
anything here - however, it is a simple fact that the subject
exists). Given now we both know about the conflict-of-interest
problem, what in the world goes on in your mind when you say that?"
But I decided that was living dangerously and would just make him mad at me.
I don't know how White House reporters stand it. It's got to be extremely
corrosive to have a job where people are lying to you and treating you with
barely-concealed (sometimes even unconcealed) contempt every single day.
By Seth Finkelstein |
posted in wikipedia
on December 03, 2007 11:12 PM
Even beyond any secret e-mail lists, I've always been annoyed that known e-mail lists are used to discuss and arrive at consensus on major policy issues. All discussions should be open on on-site, not off on some external e-mail thread that I don't have the time to follow.
> But I decided that was living
> dangerously and would just make him mad at me.
Yeah, and posting that mail on a public blog instead will ensure Jimbo never reads it :)
Do I understand the story right, Wikipedia admins used a private mailing list to discuss stuff? Is there a huge scandal in there? I'm not sure I get it. But, I also never thought in the first place that Wikipedia administration was without power structures or social networks or anything.
It's not only that a secret mailing list exists, but that it seems to have been used to alert like-minded admins of wiki-related political action items. If you're on any sort of activism list you've received mails of this sort: "Urgent action needed!" and such.
So to me, like any cabal, there's nothing outright *wrong* with it, but there is an added level of organization present that doesn't exist on the other side. Here's a topical example:
The subject of that email is directly referenced in a message circulated on the secret list regarding the recent block of !!:
Sorry to perhaps be a little cynical, but could anyone above confirm if this is being discussed elsewhere, perhaps IRC? The block notice, followed by several 'supports' seemed to arrive somewhat quicker than the concerned responses below.
On the other hand, if one reads the evidence against !!, it actually does appear somewhat suspicious.. I think if I'd been privy to its initial secret circulation that I would have concurred with the now-scapegoated admin, though I would not have supported an indefinite block. Instead, more surveillance was needed, though unfortunately that group apparently wasn't used to acting with much restraint.
Michael: It's also IRC, that's another can of worms.
Philipp: I would have been surprised if Jimmy read my blog, though maybe today he followed the links to the story. But of course, the living dangerously was more at personally bothering him about it, which I haven't done. One part of the scandal is that while you may know there's power structures, the media is still figuring out that Wikipedia isn't one big happy commune.
Jay: Part of the problem was that there was no incentive to critically examine the evidence, until it all exploded.
I don't know how White House reporters stand it. It's got to be extremely corrosive to have a job where people are lying to you and treating you with barely-concealed (sometimes even unconcealed) contempt every single day.
Two things: remember the Chinese proverb: "if you sit by the river for long enough, all the bodies of your enemies will float by." Active verb there: sit. It just takes patience. Then you get days when you can say "Mr President, your own intelligence agency says Iran has given up its nuclear ambitions. Why do you continue to insist it's a threat?" And watch him squirm. Or his spokespeople squirm.
Revenge, of course, is a dish best served in cold newsprint.