Comments: Jimmy Wales Defends Wikipedia New Yorker Article Fabricator

This stream of posts & comments will certainly be fodder for my next Wikipedia commentary. The stuff in Wik. discussion pages is the most astonishing--particularly when one Wikipedian, defending this person's right to misrepresent his credentials, basically says anyone who believes anything related to Wikipedia is a fool.

Which does sort of put the controversy in perspective: If it's all just a MMORPG (or whatever), why is it being touted as an encyclopedia? And if it's an encyclopedia, isn't there some expectation that people involved with it don't tell massive lies about their qualifications, use those lies in letters to outsiders to defend Wikipedia's worth, and--after the lies are exposed--get punished by being hired by the organization?

Just to be clear: I don't give a d**n whether someone uses a pseudonym on Wikipedia. I do give a d**n when they lie about credentials and use those false credentials in supporting the project or their own expertise. And Wales' "who cares? he's great!" response, with the repeated notes in various discussions that, when push comes to shove, Jimbo's Word is Law...well, I don't know what to say.

Posted by walt at March 1, 2007 11:11 AM

Just to put this thing in perspective, Essjay is playing with fire if he thinks he should have been able to get away with this. He said he spent six hours with Stacy Schiff, and two hours with TNY's fact checker.

Stacy Schiff is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and a guest columnist at the New York Times. The New Yorker's fact checker on the piece was Jessica Rosenberg, born in 1982, Harvard class of 2004. She's the daughter of Drew Gilpin Faust, the new president of Harvard. Ms. Rosenberg is a former co-president of the Radcliffe Union of Students.

Okay, I'm dropping credentials here, but unlike Essjay's credentials, these are real. You cannot represent Wikipedia or Wikia if you think that playing games with people like this is useful.

The biggest problem with Wikia and Wikipedia that I see right now is not Essjay, but with the fact that Jimmy Wales hasn't fired him from Wikia, and banned him from Wikipedia. But then, reading between the lines, I think it may have been Jimmy who recommended Essjay to Stacy Schiff. Jimmy's flickr site has a picture of Ms. Schiff:

It's too late for Jimmy on this issue; he's already thrown away any possibility of extricating himself.

Stacy Schiff and TNY were too trusting of Wikipedia, and they have to pay for it in the real word in terms of their reputations. But Jimmy thinks he can fly under the radar. The major media will skin Wikipedia alive unless Jimmy wakes up.

It's not nice to fool Major Media.

Posted by Daniel Brandt at March 1, 2007 12:42 PM

I really dislike apologies for "any harm caused".

It implies the apologizer doesn't believe he did anything wrong.

I'm really sorry if I caused any offense; I can't be sure whether I did, because I have no conscience.

Posted by Travis at March 1, 2007 01:25 PM

Check out the threads regarding the wikipedia at

Posted by at March 1, 2007 01:29 PM

I don't blame Essjay. The fish rots from the head.

Posted by Xed at March 1, 2007 06:13 PM

From the discussion link:

"I've been a Catholic scholar for years, and I couldn't tell you know how many times I've heard this myth, in and outside class."

Compare to:

"I've been a janitor at a Cathlic seminary for years, and I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard this myth, in and outside the classrooms I clean."

Doesn't have the same ring, does it?

Also, would the New Yorker interview a Wikipedia editor who was also a janitor in real life? Jimbo would like you to think so.

Posted by anon at March 1, 2007 06:34 PM

In other news of Web 2.0 utopia gone to hell, I'm sure you are by now up to speed on this thrill-a-minute story, which is rending apart the Digg "community" as we speak...

Posted by Tomas at March 1, 2007 08:06 PM

re: rotting from the head

this isn't the first time Jimbo's shown some very questionable ethics in protecting his valued wiki editors. Especially those who are published authors and former reporters for Business Week that create their own wikipedia entries to self promote books, for starters.

See this:

Posted by Eliot Ness at March 2, 2007 01:00 AM

I've seen extracts from logs of chat forums that demonstrated Ryan Jordan bragging about how he'd fooled the New Yorker. I have no reason to believe that Jimbo was part of those conversations or is aware of those logs. However, he definitely has bragged about it, at least privately.

Posted by Kelly Martin at March 4, 2007 08:06 PM