December 26, 2007

Wikimedia COO scandal

For whatever it's worth, a few thoughts out about the article Felon became COO of Wikipedia foundation

By BRIAN BERGSTEIN, AP Technology Writer Fri Dec 21, 1:39 PM ET

The foundation runs that and accepts for donations the online encyclopedia Wikipedia neglected to do a basic background check before hiring a chief operating officer who had been convicted of theft, drunken driving and fleeing a car accident.

Before she left in July, Carolyn Bothwell Doran, 45, had moved up from a part-time bookkeeper for the Wikimedia Foundation and spent six months as chief operating officer, responsible for personnel and financial management.

Sad as the saga of Carolyn Doran is, I think the real story is what it shows about poor management behind the scenes. It's all about marketing and refusal to face responsibility. If you'll note, there's a pattern. Whenever there's a scandal, Jimmy Wales says, paraphrased: Nothing to see here. Move along. Get back to work in the data-mines, publicizing Wikia, - oops, I mean, writing an encyclopedia.

Value-adding echo: From a recent list message by the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation about transparency (and she said this not me):

And radical transparency is not really suitable for us, in most part because we are in the eye-storm of the media interest and that any scandal (or non-scandal actually) is likely to raise the interest of a journalist, and likely to spread at light-speed all over the planet.

Why should we care ? Collectively, we are likely to mostly care because of our economical system. We essentially rely on the goodwill of donators, and donators are heavily sensitive to public displays of disagreements, fights, errors, misestimates, major screw-ups.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on December 26, 2007 07:45 AM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Wales is unfit to manage Wikipedia. He's an effective evangelist and figurehead who inspires people to buy into the premise of an open source encyclopedia, but shows with every scandal that accountability isn't important to him.

In the Essjay debacle, it took hundreds of complaints from within Wikipedia for him to take it seriously. The decision to put the group's finances in the hands of someone with a serious criminal history without a background check is more of the same.

I don't expect that Wikipedia is capable of the kind of internal self-assessment necessary to see the problem. But they should put a real boss in charge of the organization and let Wales focus on the business of separating contributors from their time.

Posted by: Rogers Cadenhead at December 26, 2007 08:52 AM

re: Carolyn Doran

Wow. Amazing comment. But she'd have to have this kind of opinion to get along with Jimbo's gang. Still, I find it rather shocking, given she's a journalist, and also, a Canadian. They usually tend to be a bit more social responsibility oriented. But there it is.

Oh, and it is "donors", not "donators", Ms. Doran

Posted by: DL at December 30, 2007 11:45 PM

Anyone who is interested in guessing when the Wikimedia Foundation's overdue audit is ever going to get released, click on the link in my name below.

This "guess the date" pool will be a fun way to raise a little bit of money for a RESPONSIBLE charity, unlike the WMF.

The management of Wikipedia has become a parody of itself.

Posted by: Gregory Kohs at December 31, 2007 12:50 AM