March 10, 2008

Sex, Lies, And Wikipedia Scandals Of Jimmy Wales

I go back and forth between thinking the lid is finally coming off the extremely seamy underside of the cult of Wikipedia, and a sympathy backlash when I see some of the severe errors which have been made in the reporting of the various scandals. I can't decide if it's all ending up as rough justice where multiple attention-mongers deserve what they get from each other, or if many wrongs don't make any right.

Here's one specific example from "The Sydney Morning Herald"
More woes for Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales

Earlier, an ex-girlfriend, Rachel Marsden, leaked instant messaging transcripts that purported to show Wales using his influence to improperly make changes to Marsden's Wikipedia entry so he could continue "f---ing [her] brains out".

In fact, that's a direct lift of phrasing from sensationalist blog ValleyWag, self-described as "Silicon Valley's Tech Gossip Rag", which has

While they were together, Wales promised Marsden swift action on edits so he could "continue fucking [her] brains out."

That phrases it as if Wales stated a quid-pro-quo, of edits for sex. But he didn't say that. The whole quote in context is: right so the way it is told now, hang on a second
let's actually do this right now
because the last thing I want to do is take a break from fucking your brains out all night to work on your wikipedia entry :)

Note there's no "continue" in the real quote. That is, he basically said he wanted to get the work done so it doesn't interrupt play, not that he's trading edits for trysts. The word "continue" shows that the _Morning Herald_ got it from ValleyWag. So an inaccurate gossip blog post has been reputation-laundered into a far more prestigious venue. And henceforth an edits-for-sex accusation-cloud is going to follow Jimmy Wales around forever.

Live by media manipulation, die by media manipulation?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo , wikipedia | on March 10, 2008 10:50 PM (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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Resurrection by blogospheric elucidation?

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at March 11, 2008 03:31 AM

Seth is trying on a principled approach to how the issue is being reported.

But does Jimmy Wales, or Wikipedia for that matter actually deserve such even-handedness?

Wikipedia editors play dirty; and the techno-utopianism Wales peddles is either snake oil, or the sugary veneer on digital share-cropping, depending on how you look at it.

On the other hand, if you deplore the "cult of the amateur" and the "four legs good, two legs better" hypocrisy Wikipedia embodies, maybe a little street-fighting is necessary to push the pendulum back towards sanity.

Though it lookes like the rotten edifice may soon collapse of its own accord.

Posted by: anon at March 11, 2008 05:28 AM

Too bad for Jimbo that karma is a real bitch. Looks as if everything he and Wikipedia have always done to other people is now coming all the way back around and biting him in the ass.

The gist of what Valleywag said is bang-on though. He was editing her article, through his proxies, while he was involved with her (as evidenced that he was talking about "fucking her brains out" while discussing proposed edits). So essentially he's getting sex for edits, that's the net effect.

Posted by: Yeptomundo at March 11, 2008 06:19 AM