The following discussion is preserved as an archive. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this page.
Notice:Jimmy Wales has been in contact with Essjay and has asked him to resign from his "positions of trust". Most of the commentary was written before Jimmy posted a notice of this request on his talk page at 6:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC). Subsequently, at 3:17, 4 March 2007 (UTC) Essjay announced that he is leaving Wikipedia. See User talk:Essjay.
In order to remain listed at Wikipedia:Requests for comment, at least two people need to show that they tried to resolve a dispute with this user and have failed. This must involve the same dispute with a single user, not different disputes or multiple users. The persons complaining must provide evidence of their efforts, and each of them must certify it by signing this page with ~~~~. If this does not happen within 48 hours of the creation of this dispute page (which was: 21:21 2 March, 2007 (UTC)), the page will be deleted. The current date and time is: 00:15, 27 July 2016 (UTC).
That didn't do it for me, so I've added the next subsection. I've tried to obey WP:NPOV, but please gently correct any factual errors! ---CH 12:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
There appears to be widespread consensus that Essjay has been one of the most trusted contributors to the Wikipedia, rendering highly valued service as a bureaucrat, a checkuser, a mediator, an admin with oversight privileges, and ultimately as a member of the ArbCom. Until quite recently, Essjay described himself on his user page as holding a tenured faculty position at an unnamed university. Last fall, writing in the New Yorker, Stacy Schiff penned an excellent portrait of the Wikipedia in which she profiled several prominent Wikipedians, including User:Essjay. In her article, Schiff, who apparently interviewed Essjay at some length, described him as a holding a "Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law" and as "a tenured professor of religion at a private university".
One or more months ago, some active Wikipedians became aware that, as part of the process of applying for a paid position with Wikia, Essjay had supplied a quite different biography, and had at least implicitly admitted that he had fabricated his claim to be a tenured theologian. Currently, his user page reads, in part: "Before joining Wikia, I was an account manager with a Fortune 20 company. Prior to that, I was a paralegal for five years, including a three month special position with a United States Trustee and nearly two years freelance, handling special projects", but later on the page includes an apparently inadvertent remnant of his now abandoned claims to be a tenured academic, with the claim "I am a catholic scholar".
It appears that Jimbo Wales hired Essjay to work at Wikia and also appointed Essjay to the Arbitration Committee in full knowledge of this deception, but apparently in ignorance of Essjay's habitual appeal to the fake credentials to bolster his credibility on theological matters, as documented by User:Kelly Martin. The full history of Essjay's user page is apparently currently obscured to ordinary users, possibly by Essjay himself.
Recently, the New Yorker editorial staff became aware that Essjay had in effect, whether by sin of omission or sin of commission, encouraged them to print false information about his alleged academic credentials, and they added a note to that effect (see the end of the article at the link given above). This was soon picked up by slashdot and other blogs. Jimbo Wales was traveling in a remote region of India when the scandal broke, and his initial comment, which was apparently based upon an inadequate appreciation of the seriousness of the situation, seemed to many to suggest that he regarded Essjay's "disinformation" as a mere "pseudonym", apparently implying that he attached little importance to Essjay's deception.
At 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC), Jimbo, who had learned more about the nature of the scandal, clarified his position, acknowledging that Essjay had repeated his false claims to possess academic credentials (frequently) on-wiki and (sometimes) off-wiki. Accordingly, he asked Essjay to resign from his positions, while expressing his personal forgiveness. Most of the comments below predate this development.
At approx 03:12, 4 Mar 2007 (UTC), Essjay announced his retirement from the Wikipedia and requested deletion of his user pages.
See . Copy and pasted below. MER-C 03:22, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
My comments here will be short and to the point: I'm no longer taking part here. I have received an astounding amount of support, especially by email, but it's time to go. I tried to walk away in August, and managed to do so for quite a while, but I eventually came back, because of the many requests I received urging me to return. Many of you have written to ask me to not leave, to not give up what I have here, but I'm afraid it's time to make a clean break.
I ask that the first steward to see this message please remove my various flags from this wiki, as well as from Meta, Commons, and Wikiquote, and remove the bot flags from my bots, which of course will no longer be running. My tools will be taken down shortly. I had planned to delete my user-space myself, but I don't want anyone to think I was going on a rampage, so instead, I ask that one or more administrators who are friends please delete the 288 pages that form my userspace (leaving only my userpage and this talk page).
I've enjoyed my time here, and done much good work; my time, however, is over, and leaving is the best thing for me and for Wikipedia. I walk away happy to be free to go about other things. I hope others will refocus the energy they have spent the past few days in defending and denouncing me to make something here at Wikipedia better.
With love to all who have been my friends here, Essjay(Talk) 03:17, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I have been for several days in a remote part of India with little or no Internet access. I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes. 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. In terms of the full parameters of what happens next, I advise (as usual) that we take a calm, loving, and reasonable approach. From the moment this whole thing became known, EssJay has been contrite and apologetic. People who characterize him as being "proud" of it or "bragging" are badly mistaken.
On a personal level, EssJay has apologized to me, and I have accepted his apology on a personal level, and I think this is the right thing to do. If anyone else feels that they need or want a personal apology, please ask him for it. And if you find it to be sincere, then I hope you will accept it too, but each person must make their own judgments. Despite my personal forgiveness, I hope that he will accept my resignation request, because forgiveness or not, these positions are not appropriate for him now.
I still have limited net access... for a couple of hours here I will be online, and then I am offline until I am in Japan tomorrow morning. I beleive I will have a fast and stable Internet connection at that time, and I will deal with this further at that time.
Wikipedia is built on (among other things) twin pillars of trust and tolerance. The integrity of the project depends on the core community being passionate about quality and integrity, so that we can trust each other. The harmony of our work depends on human understanding and forgiveness of errors.
YES ! I have also recently been the victim of real life harassment because of my involvement with Wikipedia, but have never felt the need to lie about anything to 'protect' myself. Duke53 | Talk 21:23, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Oh my ... I hadn't seen this before. I cannot what it takes to write such a thing, knowing full well that the entire thing is a deception. --Cyde Weys 22:03, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I think this would go beyond poor judgment. Falsification of credentials and/or records is, I believe, a borderline felony.TheGreenFaerae 22:03, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Outright imposture is not anonymity, with or without media exposure - Skysmith 22:06, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Should have just used a pseudonym, not lied. hurt us overall because of this. - Denny 22:13, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, but I lost faith in Wikipedia as a community. Andries 22:14, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
That link is horrible - why is Jimbo allowing this to go on? Essjay has discredited the whole project. Giano 22:16, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. Whatever concerns the professor may have had about the reliability of Wikipedia are probably now multiplied tenfold and rightly so if these are the deceits practiced by those who tout its reliability. -- Antaeus Feldspar 22:18, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Regretful endorse. I have actually referred content disputes to Essjay in the past, because I felt that his background and qualifications as a Catholic scholar would have been helpful. Fabricating an identity to protect oneself online is one thing; using that fabricated identity to add authority to one's words is entirely another. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 22:24, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, with regret. I've immense sympathy for the highly stressful situation that has resulted from these actions, and want to find a positive and helpful way forward, but it is not going to be easy for him to regain credibility. .. dave souza, talk 22:43, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
What Essjay did was plainly not to disguise himself from stalkers, at least not originally (it may have inadvertently served that purpose later on, but on the other hand, the made-up resume actually served to attract attention to him); he gave himself a set of enormously impressive credentials in the same field he actively edited, and used his adopted persona as a leading scholar to his advantage both in getting his way on content matters and in getting ahead within the Wikipedia system (the former is blatant; the latter is a bit more subtle, but I think it's clear enough). He ended up using the adopted persona to mislead the press and thereby a huge number of readers outside of Wikipedia. His excuse only makes things worse: it appears to me that he is trying to get out of a lie with another lie, and moreover we now have to wonder whether he is being honest about his current resume (frankly, I doubt it). Essjay should be reduced to the status of nothing more than a common editor, and he should be barred from placing any information about his employment or academic history on his user page unless it is quite mundane (none of this whiz-kid stuff he's using now)—if who he is really doesn't matter, then he can just not claim anything at all. Everyking 23:15, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree 100%; I have never seen that link. I understand internet security, I understand that you shouldn't give too much info...but there is a difference in just flat out lying...which I for one don't like. And to use "lies" to gain advantage in other areas of Wikipedia is very bad in my point of view. ~ Arjun 01:46, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Especially because there was no need to use bogus credentials. The quality of his work has been very high, & that is what counts--it does not help one's standing that much here to have a PhD, & who should have known it better? The real PhDs and faculty around here tend to downplay or omit their cv. DGG 02:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Knowing what we know now, that letter is cringeworthy, and humiliating to Wikipedia. That he'd go out of his way to assure real professors that well-credentialed editors such as himself carefully vet Wikipedia articles for accuracy, then pointing to his user page upon which those credentials were displayed is very difficult to understand. Should the professor whose name was redacted find the occasion to view these proceedings, in light of the responsibilities to which Essjay has been entrusted, he'd have every right and reason to once and for all conclude the project a fraud.Proabivouac 03:12, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, as per User:Everyking and User:Proabivouac. While it might be acceptable (even prudent!) to withhold information about your IRL identity in order to minimize hassle on and off-wiki, fabricating an entirely fallacious alleged IRL identity constitutes deception. I wouldn't trust a habitual liar to hold my place in line, much less with checkuser privileges. BTW, although I was active at WP from roughly Jun 2005 to Oct 2006, as far as I can recall, I never directly encountered Essjay, so I don't think I can reasonably be accused of being on some personal vendetta! I have seen some comments here which strike me as mean spirited, but the vast majority have clearly come from those who, like me, are deeply troubled by Essjay's actions, by his failure to adequately apologize and explain himself. To repeat something I said somewhere else, I also feel that the community should look beyond Essjay's troubles to draw a wider lesson: much clarified rules are desperately needed, particularly regarding the traditionally ambiguous nature of wikidentities.---CH 11:41, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm glad to see that Essjay's deception is finally being acted upon... after first finding out the extent of his deceptions, I've found that I've become a lot less motivated to edit Wikipedia than before. The letter is a disgrace. It just gives more ammunition for people who feel that Wikipedia is not reliable, and I'm sure that people like Sanger will point to this case as a reason why his pet projects are better than this. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:02, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
An otherwise disheartening situation was worsened by the fact Essjay lied to an established media source while associating himself with the encyclopedia. The ikiroid (talk·desk·Advise me) 20:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. Anonymity and pseudonymity do not require claiming false credentials. Rather, one who really has credentials would do better not to claim them for the pseudonym, if when pressed for authentication one is unwilling to provide verifiable details. The fact that Wikipedians must reveal their true and verifiable identities to the WMF, in order to receive some of the offices of trust Essjay holds, made it seem that the WMF itself had verified Essjay's claims, which now puts the WMF in the terrible position of appearing complicit in this deception. -- Ben 21:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yikes! I couldn't decide how I felt about this until I saw that letter, but that's just going too far. —Mira 22:50, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay's deception successfuly prevented outside influences, which have shown a willingess to engage in extrordinarily and damaging harassment (see User:Snowspinner, User:Katefan0) to those they dislike from acquiring his identity. As a note, while one of those influences did, in fact, finally get him, they had been trying since at least July 2006
... I must endorse this summary as factually accurate but note that it is missing the point. While creating a false persona to throw off would-be harassers is in itself benign, giving that false persona false credentials and worse, trading on those false credentials, is not. -- Antaeus Feldspar 22:09, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
For the sake of completeness, I do have to endorse this—with the same reservations as those noted by Antaeus Feldspar. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 22:25, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
True, but it misses the point, and doesn't reflect that he started the deception from his very first edit, before he sought positions of our trust and before the most prominent of those outside influences were around. GRBerry 22:47, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Support vs. harassment, but all he had to do was be anonymous and not talk about himself/where he's from etc., not this. - Denny 22:51, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Same as Antaeus Feldspar and TenOfAllTrades, I'm endorsing because it's the truth, but I don't think it's even close to the whole truth. Essjay went far beyond preventing harassment and outside influences. ChazBeckett 23:43, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
True. And irrelevant to the major complaint, as detailed above by Feldspar, etc. Also note that Essjay started this charade well before Brandt arrived on the scene, and began with his 4th edit ever, where he used the bogus credentials to bolster himself.Derex 23:58, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
As others have said, this is true, but not the point. You can keep your identity secret without inventing a professorship. --Tango 00:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, technically, per Antaeus Feldspar. I can certainly see this from Essjay's viewpoint: the trick did work, and achieved a valid and desirable end. Even so, in my opinion, that doesn't excuse the means employed, nor make the eventual outcome any less of a clusterfuck. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 01:27, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorsing with caveats of Antaeus Feldspar and Ilmari Karonen. JoshuaZ 02:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, but find it's beside the point. He started that massive deception about his doctorates in theology and his professorship almost as soon as he joined Wikipedia (before he was a target for stalkers), and used these fake credentials when arguing about theology, when writing to a professor, and when representing the Foundation to a reported.ElinorD(talk) 02:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
True, real-world harassment is a horrible problem which Wikipedia has done far too little to address (such as by identifying and ejecting these personalities before they become invested enough in Wikipedia to take it offline.) However, per all above, that has nothing at all to do with inventing credentials of this sort; indeed to hang Wikipedia's reputation upon an appeal to those credentials, as in the letter to the unnamed professor, invites and justifies real-world scrutiny.Proabivouac 03:21, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree technically, per Antaeus Feldspar. It is worth remembering that Essjay established the false identity, complete with bogus credentials, many months before Daniel Brandt had had any contact with Wikipedia. It is also worth noting that the use of these credentials in contacting sources outside Wikipedia, when acting de facto as a representative of the project, cannot be justified as "misdirecting stalkers". Did Essjay fear that Stacey Schiff was going to stalk him? —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 05:51, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Technical agreement, with the caveat first given by Antaeus. Natalie 06:19, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, but that's not the point. Having incorrect details in your biography to deal with stalkers and trolls is one thing, inventing an academic resume and using it in content disputes and !votes is another. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:14, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse the finding of fact, reject the implication. You can create a false identity by claiming you're from Tennessee instead of Kentucky. There is a crucial difference between value-neutral and value-creating false claims. Also, as has been pointed out, the deception precedes any harassment from other users. ~ trialsanderrors 17:17, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay, in stating these bogus credentials to outside parties, has damaged the reputation of the Wikipedia encyclopedia and damaged the reputation of the leadership of the community. Jimbo's apparent endorsement of these actions has made the damage worse. Essjay's involuntary or voluntary departure from those positions would repair some of the damage; involuntary removal would repair more. GRBerry 21:24, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this summary
Absolutely. To the point that my continued participation here may hinge on how this is handled. —Doug Belltalk 21:28, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Yeah and he seems to have shaken up the confidence of many editors by blowing it off. I mean, from the money/brand recognition side, is WP only a high traffic MUD after all? Gwen Gale 21:35, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, especially the part about Jimbo endorsing it. PTO 21:38, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Indeed. Essjay's actions call his own itegrety into question, but Jimbo's apparent condoning of his fraud calls the integrety of Wikipedia as an entity into question. MartinMcCann 21:41, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Partially endorse. The "voluntary" part. Reserve judgment for now on the "involuntary" part. Shimeru 21:44, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed per Doug Bell. This is very bad for Wikipedia and must be resolved in such a way that it does not look like we tolerate academic dishonesty and fake credentials used to gain the upper hand in arguments. --Cyde Weys 22:02, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, with one caveat. I think involuntary departure would be less helpful than voluntary. Otherwise, I agree. William Pietri 22:04, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. The fact that the head of this effort fully endorses this activity for those in positions of high community trust is truely one of the more troubling outcomes from all of this. ju66l3r 23:24, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Although I, too, think that voluntary departure would be more helpful. Sandstein 23:25, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Those positions require judgement and integrity. Essjay has displayed an apalling failure in both. His apology, which Jimbo cites, is totally irrelevant to the issue of sound judgement. Derex 00:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse completely. --Tango 00:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
This fake identity was always more than a "pseudonym", but it was innocent enough to begin with. However it has been perpetuated into the real world, and the consequences there are very real. John Vandenberg 00:34, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Partially agree, but I think voluntary action would be more meaningful than involuntary action. J. Spencer 00:47, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, except for the last bit: I can think of very few situations where sacking would be preferable to a sincere apology and voluntary departure. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 01:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely agree. If Wikipedia intends to stem further credibility loss in light of these unsavory details of Essjay's apparent deceptive utilization of false credentials both on and off wiki something drastic and involuntary should occur to demonstrate to the world the absolute unacceptability of such behavior on Wikipedia. (→Netscott) 02:51, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Partially endorse — I have so far refrained from calling for Essjay's resignation, but I agree that if he were to step down voluntarily from his positions, it would aid the project. I am hesitant to call for an involuntary action, but if a further statement and/or voluntary action is not forthcoming it may become necessary. I also agree strongly with the sentiment that "Jimbo's apparent endorsement of these actions has made the damage worse." For my thoughts on Jimbo's role in this affair, please see WP:CN#What did Jimbo know, and when did he know it? —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 05:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Not too sure about "Essjay's involuntary or voluntary departure from those positions would repair some of the damage; involuntary removal would repair more" but I still endorse this. Majorly(o rly?) 10:35, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, except that Jimbo has now clarified his position and has called for Essjay's resignation. ---CH 12:58, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, but with an emphasis on the involuntary. Jimbo made the executive decision to appoint Essjay to positions of authority, and Jimbo should be forceful in rescinding that. CovenantD 14:51, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, though how Jimbo deals with it afterward might repair some of the damage already done. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:15, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, a false identity to protect yourself on the internet is one thing, lying about your entire life story, making up false credentials, and lying to a national news outlet (therefore the general public as well) is altogether wrong. This whole debacle makes me sick. I'm not suprised many editors want to leave. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 20:18, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse the first sentence only. Jimbo's message of 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC), stating that he has "asked EssJay to resign his positions of trust within the community"... "because forgiveness or not, these positions are not appropriate for him now", repudiates his earlier "apparent endorsement". Jimbo also says, "From the moment this whole thing became known, EssJay has been contrite and apologetic." That leading clause is significant: the contrition and apology followed not the commission of the sin but its revelation by others. Any "Catholic scholar", indeed most ordinary people whether Christian or not, would understand the difference between being sorry for having done something wrong and being sorry for having been caught at it. I think Essjay's voluntary resignation would show greater self-awareness and concern for Wikipedia on his part than his having to be forcibly removed, and might therefore show that those who placed their trust in him were not as entirely mistaken. For this reason, I would prefer his voluntarily resigning over his waiting for involuntary removal, as doing less betrayal to the community's trust. -- Ben 21:30, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Controversial this may be, but I think some users have sensed that Essjay is vulnerable and there's opportunities to grab a seat on the Arbitration Committee, there's gonna be a need for another bureaucrat, and there's gonna be checkuser and oversight permissions possibly up for grabs. I fully understand Essjay has upset some people but I think some people might be making the best of this wonderful opportunity to try and depose Essjay and grab some of his tools. It's also been known for weeks now, I don't understand why now, unless there might just be some ulterior motives at work here. As an aside, as a Chemistry student, I couldn't give a toss about someone faking qualifications on the internet, but if they took a job from under my nose, then I'd be pretty pissed. -- Heligoland 21:41, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay has leveraged his false credentials both in an effort to bolster claims and statements in content discussions on Wikipedia, and outside of Wikipedia when acting in a capacity as a representative of Wikipedia. —Doug Belltalk 21:48, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
This statement directly misleads a trusted admin to cite you in an arbitration case as "Wikipedia's foremost expert on Catholicism", a title which you yourself had the sheer arrogance to re-use to bolster your authority in another matter where you humbly "offer the community" your advice .
Here, in response to my own request, you testified as an expert in a debate, implying that what you as a scholar hadn't heard of was unlikely to be true .
Here again you offer 'expert advice' as a scholar of Catholicism again 
This section makes me saddest to read, but I have to agree. For completeness, let me add , where he defends his very first edit on Wikipedia by saying, "This is a text I often require for my students, and I would hang my own Ph.D. on it's credibility.". William Pietri 22:11, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. I don't particularly care what pseudonym an editor chooses to assume, but argument based on pretended credentials does not meet the ethical standard to which we should hold administrators. - Meersan 22:14, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, unfortunately. Note also User:Essjay/Letter (linked as well by Hipocrite below), where he used his false credentials to lend authority to a letter he wrote to a (real) professor. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 22:21, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
For me, this is the crux of the matter. I don't have much of a problem with deception, even to the point of exaggerating credentials (although obviously I would prefer otherwise), but then using those "credentials" in an argument crosses a line for me. Trebor 22:25, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Deliberate addition of misinformation to the encyclopedia is something we give out indef blocks for. The actions above are at only a small remove. —Cryptic 22:46, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Creation of a false identity to protect oneself from harassment is one thing. Using false and inflated credentials to gain credibility is quite another. SeraphimbladeTalk to mePlease review me! 22:52, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
All true, based on evidence... - Denny 22:52, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree in principle. However, as I've pointed out previously, some of the examples are open to interpretation or are inaccurate. For one, the statement "Wikipedia's foremost expert on Catholicism" does not appear in the originals, which read "one of Wikipedia's foremost experts on Catholicism". The statement "This is a text I often require for my students" is, in my opinion, far more damaging: it's not a good idea to exaggerate the others. .. dave souza, talk 22:57, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Definitely agree. Screw the Internet Drama, the fancy powers and offices, the dedicated Wiki-haters and stalkers. As a user and a public face of Wikipedia, he used false credentials to appear more impressive and trustworthy, and to promote the site to others. I don't care why this was done; you just don't do that, and this is why. If he was afraid of stalkers, why didn't he just provide no personal information, or pretend something more mundane? If he'd said he worked at a McDonald's in Fargo, North Dakota, there'd have been no reason to get up in arms. J. Spencer 23:02, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I have no objection to anonymity, or maybe even creating a false biography. It's the use of the false biography in disputes to which I think people should object. --Maxamegalon2000 23:37, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree per J. Spencer. If you don't want your personal information to get abused, just don't post any. --Fritz Saalfeld (Talk) 23:40, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, and this should disqualify him from any position of authority at Wikipedia. Rcade 23:44, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I hadn't seen all of these before. The deception is inexcuseable and unjustifiable. ChazBeckett 23:48, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Gaining adminship under false pretenses is similar to lying on a resume. It is likely that users supported because they put "stock" into his claim of being a tenured professor. His gaining adminship led to other benefits, and he now works for Wikia, for which would be unlikely had he not started with the first step of adminship. That's not to say he wouldn't have passed based on his edit history, but we'll never know now, and everything gained since is founded on a lie. --MECU≈talk 23:51, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse completely. --Tango 00:06, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes. This is the troubling part. I would have no problem had he just put phony info on his user page as stalker bait and then avoided further mention, including avoiding edits to related areas. Derex 00:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Misleading stalkers is one thing, this is another. — MichaelLinnear 00:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
This goes far beyond a pseudonym to protect your privacy. Using a false name/geographic location ... ok ... maybe even a good idea. But using false credentials and leveraging them is very, very troubling. --BigDT 01:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Using real credentials to lend weight to some of those arguments is bad enough. Using fake credentials is worse. -Amarkovmoo! 01:35, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Having checked the links many of these can not be confused with mere posturing. Checking through the users edit history on enwiki article talk shows other troubling evidence of using these academic credentials as authority that hasnt been raised yet. John Vandenberg 01:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, sadly, based on the evidence presented. Acting consistently with your persona, as long as it makes no real difference, is one thing, though I have to wonder when Essjay himself writes that he didn't expect anyone familiar with him to actually believe it. But doing so when you know it'll bias other people's perception of you, even when, it seems, mere omission would've served equally well to hide one's identity, seems to me to be taking it too far. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 01:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. This is what makes it all so disheartening. Snackycakes 01:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Impossible not to Agree, unfortunately. I just don't understand why he did this, it's so unnecessary... Badgerpatrol 02:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree but just a note that User:Kelly Martin was the first to reveal the details of Essjay's utilization of his false credentials in article content discussions. (→Netscott) 02:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I left the backlink to where I copied the example comments from the talk page. If you read there, you will see that Doc collected the comments from elsewhere on the talk page (and I believe added a few). If you continue to trace the lineage backward I think you do in fact eventually get to Kelly Martin as the original source of this observation. I was in no way attempting to claim credit for locating the diffs, simply putting them in the record here. —Doug Belltalk 06:39, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
On February 22, 2007 he added a claim including "I am a Catholic scholar" to User:Essjay/WikiPhilosophy. diff. This page is transcluded onto his user page, so he added this statement to his userpage after he had supposedly come clean. GRBerry 04:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
If he didn't lie to other users on talk pages or edit comments like this, in my opinion there would have been no problem. However the idea that someone who engaged in behavior like this is now an arbcom member is sickening. Seraphim 05:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It's easy to pretend that credentials don't matter on Wikipedia, but they do. Particularly when someone is deliberately using false credential to bolster their argument or reputation. That makes this far more deceptive than trying to hide your identity. Natalie 06:25, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Can't disagree with concrete evidence... MER-C 08:16, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Why would someone with such a good reputation do this. He didnt need to use false credentials and he is part of the ArbCom..No Way..He should resign because eveidences levied against him are hard to deny (what a shame)..--Cometstyles 11:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, not that it requires endorsement, since it's a factual statement supported by verifiable citations. I'll note in passing that Jimbo Wales refers to this same regrettable history in his message of 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC): "I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes." This use is significant, because had the lies stayed strictly on Essjay's user page, people might reasonably have argued they'd had no effect, and "no harm, no foul". But the lies did have effect, and Essjay used them with intention to have effect, and allowed others to cite them on his behalf in nominations with effect. Essjay's lies were used to advance his arguments and promotions. Harm, foul. -- Ben 21:47, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay has failed to properly acknowledge that he acted wrongly. His statement on his actions is completely lacking as a response for his actions. —Doug Belltalk 21:48, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this summary
While a real and sincere apology could help, it needs to be one that recognizes first that the actions were wrong and second the amount of damage that was done. This does neither. GRBerry 22:02, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
His "apology" didn't convince me at all. He tried to pass it all off as some sort of defense about his identity? If so, he shouldn't have revealed any details. But what he did do, make up an elaborate persona with multiple doctorates, and then use it in editorial disputes, was beyond the pale. --Cyde Weys 22:05, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
It was no apology but a series of excuses - Skysmith 22:16, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Reluctantly agree. While I appreciate the effort Essjay put into making his lengthy statements, they have come across as extremely self-serving. "Stalkers and vandals and trolls, oh my!" is hardly a reason to pretend to greater academic authority than he, in fact, possessed. And his confessed surprise at being taken at his word by The New Yorker has all the artlessness of a thief, on being taken to task for a robbery, who tells the magistrate: "It was their fault for not lockin' the door, y'Onor!" I would view the situation in a much different light if Essjay seemed to understand the gravity of the situation. With the outside media involved, this is no longer an internal WP matter that can (or should) be swept under the rug. - Meersan 22:22, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
This is the essence of the matter. If Essjay were truly contrite, he would stop making excuses for falsifying his credentials and blaming his victims for believing him; he would also resign from his positions of trust at Wikipedia and surrender all of his special privileges. // Internet Esquire 00:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Not only was it not a real apology, his claims about his purpose in creating the false persona seems to me almost certainly false, given that he created the persona at the very beginning of his editing career and that hiding one's identity does not in any way require the invention of false credentials, let alone such amazingly lofty credentials. The fact that he used those credentials to his advantage in editing reveals his true purpose. Considering that, one could argue that the worst thing Essjay has done, beyond all the deception of the past, is to lie to the community about the reason for his past actions at this most critical moment. Everyking 00:39, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse per Cyde and Everyking. To slowly build up a persona due to fear of retribution is one thing - to deceive the community from the very start is, quite frankly, astounding. – riana_dzasta 00:46, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
That was not an apology. It was a sequence of excuses, preceded by "I'm sorry you feel that way". -Amarkovmoo! 01:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
This "apology" is not adequate. Especially the part where he is unwilling to discuss it further. Navoubanter / contribs 01:57, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Completely agree. His apology is hollow. Snackycakes 02:00, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Conditionally endorse. In the above quoted diff, Essjay refers to another earlier apology during a conversation with Dev920 "some weeks ago," but I have been unable to locate it. I would be very interested in reading it, if someone can track it down. --Elonka 02:36, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Reluctantly agree. Essjay's statement is inadequate, and fails to address several of the most serious points, most notably the letter. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 05:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
He admits to and apologized for what is not wrongful, as if his use of a pseudonym is what is disputed here.Proabivouac 06:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The excuse is really pretty far-fetched if one sits down and thinks about it. The wish for anonymity can explain a pseudonym perfectly, but nobody would claim false qualifications for the cause of anonymity. Sjakkalle(Check!) 08:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. I sympathise with Essjay: I doubt anyone here has even a remotely correct idea of who actually is on the other end of this computer screen. That is perhaps something I have fostered and from that point of view I can see why Essjay acted as he did. Unfortunately, however, this has gone too far. MoreschiRequest a recording? 09:35, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Though this is true, I am concerned that many people have gone off "Essjay bashing" to a great extent for reasons I do not understand. Captain pandaInvinoveritas 12:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree again. In fact, I've already read this page through once or twice, and I agree with User:Doug Bell's other comments too. Captain panda, to the best of my recollection I've never encountered Essjay, so I can hardly be plausibly charged with bashing him, and I have the sense that very few commentators are here to exact revenge upon him for some past slight (real or imagined). ---CH 13:02, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Reluctantly agree, per Josiah Rowe. The letter and the use of his false credentials in content disputes cannot be justified on the grounds of misleading stalkers. Nor has he explained why he started portraying himself as a professor with two doctorates within weeks of joining Wikipedia. What danger was he in from stalkers then? How could he predict the level to which he would rise in Wikipedia? ElinorD(talk) 15:52, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse: I'm-sorry-IF... and I'm-sorry-YOU-FEEL... are both non-apologies. You/they-shouldn't-have-believed-me is blaming the victim. I-did-it-because-five-months-later-I-started-getting-harassed is not only anachronism, but (even granting psychic foresight) fails to explain claiming impressive credentials rather than, say, claiming to be a garage mechanic in Idaho. Jimbo Wales also noted: "From the moment this whole thing became known, EssJay has been contrite and apologetic." That leading clause is significant: the "contrition" and "apology" (such as they were) followed not the commission of the sin but its revelation by others. Any "Catholic scholar", indeed most ordinary people whether Christian or not, would understand the difference between being sorry for having done something wrong and being sorry for having been caught at it. -- Ben 22:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
A real, sincere apology would help. No excuses, no shallow explanations. Skult of Caro (talk) 00:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay's actions are not the cause of aforementioned 'great harm' to Wikipedia and/or its community. The quick and at times irrational response from the community has caused far more damage to Wikipedia's reputation than Essjay. Essjay should therefore not be pressured or harassed to the point of being forced to step down from any of his current held positions. He is an invaluable asset to Wikipedia, and should not be treated in the manner he has been by a large proportion of users since this matter came to light. (Re: User talk:Essjay). --Sagaciousuk(talk) 22:14, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Hell yes. It makes the Wikipedia community look like a bunch of shallow vindictive bastards at worst and obsessive navel-gazers at best. Wise up, people: Wikipedia is not real life. Nothing here actually matters that much, although we'd like to make it as good as we can. Can I interest anyone in a bit of Wikignoming? Guy (Help!) 22:45, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay has always acted in the best interests of all Wikimedia projects, and understandably felt threatened from some people who have caused the loss of other valued members of the project. This is a mountain from a molehill - Essjay's previous action as an administrator, bureaucrat, check user and oversight user show that there is no reason to doubt his actions. RHBTalk - Edits 22:58, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Fully agree – damage partly arises from the misconception that Wikipedia in some way provides original research by experts. However, sadly this gives ammunition to opponents and enemies in discussions, and it may be well to step back from some tasks until this is resolved. .. dave souza, talk 23:10, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
He made some mistakes, some BIG mistakes, but his heart is in the right place and he has the talent. I don't believe he ever meant to do harm to anyone, and people shouldn't write him off completely because of this incident. I am convinced that he will learn from this and re-earn most, if not all, of our trust back. -- Ned Scott 20:51, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Huge Support per Guy. Dfrg.msc 21:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't think it will be noticed much except by Wikipedia Review and Wikitruth crowds. I think using fake credentials on Wikipedia is fine until you get into a position of authority and Essjay did at some point correct himself I believe, like when he got onto Wikia. I also think that it's necessary for administrators to avoid stalkers. There are lots of people out there that just spend their time stalking Wikipedia administrators. Daniel Brandt has a site dedicated to stalking admins. Essjay says at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Essjay/Archives/52#Profiles_don.27t_mesh... that he did his thing to avoid stalkers. SakotGrimshine 22:22, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
'Angin's too good for 'im! Bannish the baggage to RCPatrol! Gwen Gale 22:51, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
"Take him, take him, let us crucify him! He is death guilty!" Let us crucify him! And so be it that the administrator in making his decision washed his typing fingers and released a pety wiki troll. The passion of Essjay was so intense that someone even offered to carry his shame but nothing could save him from this "Good Friday!" ... But, on Saturday when user:Mary went to check on his user page, the rock to his tomb had been moved. The resurected light of essjay appeared! In the mean time... "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (See: the book of Luke, chapter 23, verse 34, and Theodore Dubois "The Seven Last words of Christ") (Punny intented for those of you that know a little about theology!) --CyclePat 23:43, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree completely!!! Accountability only applies to the little people. There is no cabal. Derex 02:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Really, this whole think could be quickly put to rest by the simple expedient of throwing Essjay in the water. If he floats, he's guilty. Herostratus 05:20, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yeah then stick him with pins. If he stops hollerin' he's guilty (my way of saying that goading an apology or contriteness from Essjay is a bit much, let him say what he likes, if anything). Gwen Gale 08:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'd rather weigh him to find out whether he weighs the same as a duck. MER-C 10:49, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Burn him! Hang him! Crucify him! Or better yet: Feed him to the hordes of angry bloggers, forum posters, journalists, and Daniel Brandts out there. --TBCΦtalk? 07:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The question of his false identity aside, Essjay has been a valued contributor to Wikipedia for nearly two years. His extensive work on behalf of the project should not be forgotten in this discussion. William Pietri 22:25, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
(ec) No doubt, that's what makes this all so sad and shameful. —Doug Belltalk 22:29, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, that is the other side of the story. Andries 22:28, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
How to reflect that is a matter for consideration, and one of the reasons I preferred the straw poll to this format. The damage he did was severe enough, and the behavior pattern sustained enough that the status quo isn't acceptable, but that work is reason that banning wasn't even discussed in the straw poll and that deadminning was certainly not a consensus position at the time I archived it. GRBerry 22:45, 2 March 2007 (UTC) struck, needs more thought by me GRBerry 03:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, absolutely. Nor should serious transgressions be ignored because of his contributions, as D. Gerard seems to wish. Derex 00:20, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse completely, few have put more into the project. But his work does not cancel out such a glaring deception. – riana_dzasta 00:50, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse but conditionally. Essjay has put a lot into this project, and we should not forget that. That doesn't mean we should just forget what he's done in this case either though. SeraphimbladeTalk to mePlease review me! 00:52, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I fear it already has been. WjBscribe 01:13, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse with reservations: neither should his record overshadow the very public revelation of his fabrications or the very real damage thereby caused to the project. DurovaCharge! 01:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, though with the caveat that his valued contributions do not excuse his other more negative actions. I would also point out that the ambivalent nature of this, is one of the things that makes it so painful. When someone's just a troll all the time, it's easy to write them off, and they don't cause us that much emotional anguish -- they're just annoying. The true pain of betrayal comes when you find out that someone you thought you trusted, has acted in ways which invalidate that trust. That's the part that really twists the knife. --Elonka 02:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. That Essjay has been a hard-working and valuable contributor to the project is undeniable. That does not, however, mean that his error in misrepresenting himself to the public should be ignored. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Because as we all so often say, we're just here to create an encyclopedia. -- Natalya 14:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
This is true. His false biography aside, his work overall has been excellent. There are lots of "howevers" I could attach to this, but given that this particular outside view is limited, I won't attach any. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:18, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
No problem endorsing this. Looking through his contributions, I see a lot of signs of dedication and hard work, and also some signs of kindness. ElinorD(talk) 16:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Outside view by User:Sbharris; My own experience with Essjay (exec summary: very bad)
See full note on my TALK page, as I've been asked to abbreviate here. This is reponse to the multiple claims that Essjay has never abused his admin power. He did with me. If I'm too brief, I'll be accused of lack of detail and evidence to back my assertions.
There are ordinary vandals on WIkipedia. However, my ONLY negative experience with a Wikipedia *administrator* to date, in all the time I've been here, has been with *Essjay*.
I'm a scientist, basically-- an ordinary editor who first discovered Wikipedia in Nov, 2005 (5000 edits, about 1000 articles, medicine, chemistry, physics, etc). I'm a physician with multiple qualifications and a long CV of science publications, academic positions, and a patent list, and all these are real, not fake. This is on topic.
Soon after beginning editing here, as a newbie, I found myself locked out of Wikipedia completely, for participating in a legal discussion. I hadn't made any legal threats myself (and indeed at that time was such a clueless newbie I didn't even know THAT was a no-no), but it didn't matter. I found myself locked out by an entity calling itself "ESSJAY". Here is his note and his reason, and the link , which you will find are improper, and were promptly reverted by another admin. In the maintime, I found if you're blocked, you can't appeal to ArbCom. You have to write email to JIMBO or the Lawyer BrianPatrick. Once unblocked, I could take it to ArbCom. Where I did, and where it died. Essay's just too powerful, they let me know. Essjay's on ArbCom, too. On topic.
Here's what Brian Patrick, the Official Wiki attorney, said on personal email to me (paraphrase, since it was personal) "Wow, you certainly picked a really POWERFUL administrator to tangle with". By which time I'm saying to myself "Who (WTF!) IS this ESSJAY GUY??" Wikipedia powers are given by lawyers not handed down from God. I checked and found Essjay flashed on the scene not that long ago, and was immediately given ranks and privileges and powers on Wikipedia at such an astounding clip (and he now has them ALL), that I figured he couldn't be anything other than a founder or Jimbo's father in law. Wrong.
When I see people promoted that fast, for no obvious reason, in any kind of normal non-public business, I assume they're sleeping with the boss. Or there's some relationship between somebody's proboscis and somebody else's alimentary canal which makes for poor respiratory function. Later (like everybody else), I read the NY mag which mentions Essjay as a new and shinny Big-Wig on Wikipedia, and assumed that Essjay's academic robes and caps (which he was incautious enough to claim in print to a reporter, as you see above) and gowns nd whatnot, had overawed everybody (particularly JIMBO) that they made him a "Cardinal." Wrong.
Okay, aside from Jimbo's publicity problem, what's Essjay's problem? This: He's an anonymous youth with too much power, he got it too fast, and he's capable of abusing it. And nobody at Wikipedia really rides herd on him, as I find out from the pitiful note from Brad Patrick, obviously following Jimbo's lead. So.
What do I WANT? I *don't* want Essay banned, as he tried to ban me. I believe in redemption. If he does good editorial work, fine. And if he's dishonest, that's his problem. Say 10 Hail Marys.
More than dishonesty, I hate the abuse of power, and the abuse of ways to attain it. If I caught one of my own employees with a lying CV and caught him abusing A VOLUNTEER by trying to lock him out (like the attempt to block me unilaterally and indefinitely, in Essjay's case), as the boss HERE in my company I'd make sure that first abusive administrator would be out the door so fast he'd have to be opening the locking bar with his butt, inasmuch as his arms would be full of his desk belongings he was holding with both arms, in the cardboard box he'd be carrying out, as I watched him go through the front building door. My employees don't abuse staff, let alone newbies and volunteers.
What I WANT, therefore, is to see Essjay relieved of any power to block nameuser editors (vs. IPs and checkuser IP socks, which he's free to go wild with, for all I care. His good work on that in the past SHOULD count). But if you have a nameuser editor acting up, if he has good history, you have plenty of time for ArbCom. Thus, you don't need Essjay, and his bolts from the blue. (Nutshell: Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition, and Nobody Expects Essjay, either). Essjay's problem is that he just can't handle this with the delicacy he needs for it. IP vandals are one thing. Blocking a new username editor in violation of WP:AGF and certainly WP: DON'T BITE NEWBIES, let alone unilaterally judging WP policy on legal arcane-ia, is quite another.
Yeah, almost a year later, I'm still REALLY angry about it. I don't get how people can engage in Wiki-stalking and other "meatspace" actions which happen for essentially cyberspace infractions. But after my interaction with Essjay, I suddenly, for the first time UNDERSTOOD it. SBHarris 22:34, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this summary
Thanks for the full note on your TALK page and this summary of it. You say a lot that needs to be said. Wikipedia needs greater credibility and accountability in order to get better than it already is. WAS 4.250 23:10, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
(Some of this is redundant to other positions above but I think this is a bit more complete expression of my judgment.)
While the use of pseudonyms is accepted, and fictionalizing non-relevant personal details (location, gender, race among them) is harmless, fabricating academic qualifications is damaging because Wikipedia is an intellectual enterprise and therefore, although we do not privilege those with advanced degrees, academic qualifications are relevant to our work. Essjay's fabrication of qualifications was not limited to his user page, but rather was invoked or alluded to repeatedly by Essjay (, , , , ) in the course of his editorial contributions. Without making a specific assertion about Essjay's intent, his deception of fellow editors is reasonably characterized as irresponsible or foolish and represents a severe failure of judgment. Generally, an atmosphere of honesty and, reciprocally, trust is necessary for our collaborative editing process to work at its best. Essjay's deception inhibits this atmosphere of trust.
Further, Essjay's invocation of these falsified credentials in communication with outside parties was an act of personal bad faith. The eventual exposure of his deception damages Wikipedia in a way that a reasonable person could easily have anticipated. This conduct is especially severe since Essjay's actions in the outside sphere reflect on the integrity of the project as a whole. As a general principle, editors should demonstrate intellectual integrity when editing Wikipedia and when speaking about Wikipedia to outside parties.
Contrary to Jimmy Wales's statement, Essjay's fabricated background cannot be described as a "pseudonym". Further, it cannot be regarded as a matter of no consequence. The events raises serious questions about Essjay's judgment, honesty, and personal integrity, and his current positions of trust should be reconsidered in light of recent events. Whether he continues to hold the general trust of the community will depend partly on his response to queries about his actions, specifically whether he acknowledges and understands that his actions were erroneous and unacceptable. Christopher Parham(talk) 22:37, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
With all due respect to Jimbo, confirming a faked CV to a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter is not a "pseudonym". Gwen Gale 23:12, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Internet roleplay is all well and good, but accountability is essential to integrity. Wikipedia is already considered to be a misguided joke by some academics, misusing a privileged position to perpetuate disinformation does nothing to improve this view. ˉˉanetode╦╩ 23:17, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Valuing the work of a contributor based on the merits independent of credentials is a fine and noble thing. Affirmative misrepresentations of credentials is not. Edivorce 01:19, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes. There's a line, and falsifying academic credentials in communications with outside parties while presenting oneself as a representative of Wikipedia is well across it. Shimeru 04:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Emphatically agree, except for the bit about Jimbo, which was apparently rendered moot by his clarification of his position (which occured after most of the above comments).---CH 13:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree except for the part on Jimbo, now that he has provided a clarification. Falsifying academic credentials would get you fired and blacklisted anywhere else. Whenever I got accepted for a job after graduation, I had to provide copies of my diplomas (though I know that Wikipedia is far different from a paid job for a private or public company). --Deathphoenixʕ 15:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, but without necessarily endorsing (or denying) the bit about "personal bad faith". ElinorD(talk) 16:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay lied. So what? How many people !voted on his RfA/RfB simply because they thought he had a Ph.D? I highly doubt any of them did. While the community's trust in Essjay seems to be shaken/cracked by this set of events, it's not like he used his fake credentials on a continual basis to justify his actions. He wasn't promoted to any of the positions he now holds because of his alleged Ph.D, it was because the community trusted him enough to let him use the tools. Look at all the times Essjay has contributed positively to the encyclopedia. He blocks vandals, sockpuppets, protects people's personal information, gives users admin status and changes their usernames. He helps the community.
Besides the New York Times article and the above letter, have his credentials helped him gain any trust by the community? We promoted him because he was a trusted individual who would do great work with the tools, not because of something he put on his userpage. Yet, everything that he has done for the encyclopedia seems to be forgotten in one incident centered around some false info on his userpage. This incident is no longer about Essjay, it's about why we, as editors, trust other editors in the first place. I'm deeply saddened to see that a great deal of the community appears to have abandoned their prior convictions because of one problem with some false information. People, let's remember what we're here to do, and that's to build an encyclopedia, not to be angry because people lie. It's a basic human instinct; that is, to protect one's identity. My name isn't Alex Rowe, it's just a pseudonym I use to protect my real name. Essjay did just the same, only he crafted, in my opinion, a very well-crafted pseudonym. If Essjay has helped the encyclopedia to become what it is today, then let him keep up the great work he does here. Shadow1(talk) 22:38, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Given that Essjay's contributions to the project have been incredibly valuable, but that he has committed a serious breach of trust, some middle solution needs to be found between revoking all his permissions and just ignoring this (as though that were even possible). ObiterDicta ( pleadings • errata • appeals ) 22:42, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this summary:
(Doh) I had this in mind when I wrote my outside view above, but may not have been clear enough there. And with other endorsements, I can't clarify it now. See the archived straw poll for my specific opinions. GRBerry 22:50, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
This is basically my position in the matter. He shouldn't be run out of town, but he should be removed, or preferably, remove himself from any function with the exception of perhaps admin. ChazBeckett 23:54, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
We should be looking at the value of contributions more than credentials. Hojimachongtalk 00:25, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
This seems almost trivially true. Whatever each of us might feel the proper solution would be, it seems unlikely that it would be either sweeping it all under a rug or banning Essjay entirely. Extreme measures are rarely reasonable. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 02:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. I don't think it would be appropriate to strip him of all permissions including adminship, but there definitely needs to be more action than simply ignoring it. Elonka 02:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm not at all convinced that any functions need to be removed from him. He didn't abuse any of the functions themselves and one can't claim in any persuasive way that his behavior makes us more likely to think he will do so with the possible(unlikely) exception of check-user related issues. Therefore, I would most likely be comfortable with him keeping all his positions that he has. But a discussion of the matter does need to occur. JoshuaZ 02:41, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. From his special logs I can see he is an asset and has a strong vested interest in making Wikipedia great, so it would be silly to crucify him for this. OTOH, some of the positions he holds require the respect of every Wikipedian and increasingly also from those looking in from the outside. John Vandenberg 03:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, per Ilmari Karonen. Ignoring this or revoking all Essjay's permissions would both be bad outcomes. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Comment: While I would like to endorse this statement, I'm afraid I can't until Essjay provides his statement on this RfC. What he has to say would have a tremendous berring on whether a "middle solution" is palatable. —Doug Belltalk 06:49, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Of course. While Essjay's earliest contributions have been founded on a lie, his contributions to the project overall have been positive, so any actions to deal with this cannot be extreme on either side of the scale. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:27, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree there should be some middle ground. Skult of Caro (talk) 00:39, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay could lie about his career, his gender, his geographic location, what have you, to hide his identity. There was no need to invent fraudulent academic credentials and use them to gain ground in content disputes. I am horrified at the lack of official response this is getting. Essjay is a known and proven liar who can no longer be trusted on this project—does this not matter to anyone?
lack of official response - It is, sadly, worse than that. Jimbo's endorsement of Essjay's falsehoods is I believe even more damaging to Wikipedia than the falsehoods themselves. MartinMcCann 23:42, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
This is harsher than I'd word it, but I'm endorsing based on it being true. It does matter to me and it should matter to the community. ChazBeckett 23:55, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Harshly put but pretty much to the point. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 02:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree with statement and the wording of the potent question. Likwidshoe 03:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. With wikipedias stance on citations it seems bizzare that Jimbo feels self-aggrandizing is a valid mistruth. This goes deep to the heart of how wikipedia is run - If we cannot trust our adminstrators - who can we trust? Munta 04:02, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Partial agreement — I would not go as far as to say that Essjay "can no longer be trusted on this project", and Phil's wording is much harsher than that I would use, but the central sentiment is fair. I, too, am horrified by the lack of official response to this. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. Regarding the previous section, it is clear that Essjay need not face additional sanctions beyond having his privileges revoked, but I feel that Jimbo has no choice but to call for his resignation from "positions of trust", presumably meaning his adminship and his oversight, checkuser, arbitrator, and bureaucrat priviliges. ---CH 13:19, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with the first two sentences. The third indicates impatience, but I think this requires an official response as well thought-out as the seriousness of the situation. That Essjay is a known and proven liar is true, and while he no longer commands the level of trust he used to, he still has some. He has done some excellent technical and maintenance work that has nothing whatsoever to do with his falsified academic credentials. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I wouldn't personally use such strong wording, but I agree with the basic sentiments. ElinorD(talk) 16:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It matters -- especially that he used his lies, and let them be used on his behalf, to advance his arguments and his nominations for promotion. Had he lied "about his career, his gender, his geographic location, what have you" (or even his academic standing) only as trivia on his user page, and not to leverage his standing, that at least might be argued to be "harmless lying". Likewise, had it been utterly implausible falsehood for the purpose of humor (e.g. "I'm User:Buckaroo Banzai, a race-car driver, rock star, brain surgeon, and nuclear physicist"), who would have taken it seriously or been deceived, let alone persuaded to grant him extra weight in arguments? However, if he had lied, not about academic standing, but "about his career, his gender, his geographic location, what have you"for the same illicit purpose of winning arguments and promotions -- "I'm an engineer, so I know more about this than you", or "I'm a woman, and women are under-represented in this position", or "I'm right here in River City, and looking out my window I can tell you the Music Man statue is facing WEST!" -- that too would matter. -- Ben 00:09, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
That was put very bluntly and should also go without saying. Skult of Caro (talk) 00:39, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Really this is a "so what" moment. The journo did not verify her facts, so her article was inaccurate. It may be considered unfortunate and even unwise to have chosen this particular identity, but I think we can go little further than that. RichFarmbrough, 23:06 2 March2007 (GMT).
I think that perhaps enough has been said on this matter all over the site in so many places. My view is that there is an overriding consensus of opinion that Essjays conduct has been unacceptable. Perhaps now we should just stop repeating ourselves and wait for Jimbo, or someone who is prepared to take some action one way or the other, to pass comment. This is now (in my opinion) starting to look unpleasant - we now need a view from someone who has the authority to sort the situation. Nothing positive can arise from further comment on the subject, anywhere on the site, from mere editors like us. I suggest now we all give Jimbo and the Arbcom 24 hours of silence to sort this mess out. Giano 22:53, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
(Or perhaps a little longer) --Docg 23:16, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree. Although I don't think Jimbo is the only one who could resolve this. For example, Essjay resigning from all positions of authority would end most of the dispute. Although come another day the pressure to resolve this may increase dramatically. --Gmaxwell 03:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, though a situation this serious will actually require more than 24 hours. Patience is the key. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:34, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I am becoming increasing concerned about the effect all this is having personally on Essjay. Everyone (including me) has had their say. This continuous sniping and shooting that is still happening all over the site is now becoming nasty and unpleasant to watch. Essjay cannot be feeling very happy, or pleased with himself - so what is the point of continuing this? Nothing more can be said that will change things. Let's just now show some humane civilized behaviour and let him lick his wounds in peace, and come to his own conclusions. Giano 17:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. Very well put. I'm not going to endorse any more statements for the moment. It's probably not helpful. ElinorD(talk) 17:15, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It is my understanding that Jimbo is presently traveling in India and may not have ready means of communication at his disposal. Mackensen(talk) 01:46, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Giano, I am sympathetic with your personal concern for Essjay, but I feel that it is in the best interests of the Wikipedia community to discuss the implications of this scandal, and how to best respond to the underlying issues which it raises (see my own statement far below). My own comments here have urged Jimbo to strip him of all his powers, and after sleeping on it, I have concluded that Jimbo must also declare Essjay to ineligible for holding positions of trust in the Wikipedia at any time in the future. Nonetheless, I certainly hope that his friends are taking good care of him and that he realizes that, while this is probably the worst thing he has experienced to date, he can survive it, and while he will need to fight to recover his good name, perhaps in other venues, he has exhibited many valuable "people skills" here and I have no doubt that he will find many opportunities to use them in other venues. This might be a good place to say that I am not unduly perturbed by Essjay's recent silence. He has just suffered a serious reversal of fortune, and he will need some time to sort through his own feelings about what happened and why.---CH 00:04, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I have a few thoughts on Essjay's performance at and contributions to Wikipedia.
Essjay has in general been an enthusiastic and positive contributor to Wikipedia, as an editor and as a functionary.
Essjay became an administrator after an nearly-unopposed RfA (Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Essjay—the only oppose vote was from a now-banned troll). To the best of my knowledge, he has never abused his admin buttons.
Essjay has also been entrusted with adminship on a number of other wikiprojects.
It is legitimate for editors – particularly high-profile editors with access to some of Wikipedia's core administrative tools – to be concerned about stalking and harrassment. There have been many cases in the last few years of nutjobs and fanatics of various stripes harrassing other editors (with varying degrees of success).
Based on the above, I don't think it would be appropriate to pull Essjay's buttons. I note that in general the ArbCom has shown a great reluctance to de-admin users for bad conduct that isn't related specifically to the use of admin tools; I believe that this is a reasonable principle to follow. Withdrawal of admin privileges shoud not be a punitive measure. It would be naive in the extreme to expect anything other than that Essjay's administrative conduct will be monitored very closely for the foreseeable future; should a situation arise where de-adminship might be required, I'm sure that the matter will be raised loudly and obnoxiously on WP:AN/I or WP:RFArb.
Essjay has used his faked credentials to bolster his arguments and enhance his reputation and credibility both on and off Wikipedia. (Various other outside comments have thoroughly covered this point.) He used his deception for more than mere misdirection; Essjay's false identity was used to argue from authority to affect Wikipedia's content. He has attempted to use the reputation of his assumed persona to enhance Wikipedia's reputation. The public revelation that his credentials were fabricated has now had the opposite effect.
Essjay became an arbitrator by fiat. He did not stand for election to the position, and the community did not have the opportunity to comment. Even had he stood for election, there might now be cause for community members to reconsider his appropriateness for the post.
Unlike administrative and bureaucratic actions, the actions of Arbitrators are necessarily subject to fewer checks and in many cases carried out outside the public eye. Arbs are granted significant powers to interpret Wikipedia policy, and to craft remedies where no policy necessarily exists. For the ArbCom to be an effective body, its members must be seen as entirely honest and forthright, and must have the support – or at least respect – of at least a sizeable fraction of the community.
Members of the Arbitration Committee have a high profile as seen from outside Wikipedia. The members of the ArbCom and their conduct reflect on the project as a whole.
Consequently, I would urge Essjay to step down from the ArbCom. His credibility there is in doubt, and his remaining there taints the reputation of the project.
I also note that Jimbo bears some of the blame for this; he really ought to have known better. I hope that he and Essjay will consider how their actions appear, even though they were no doubt taken with the best of intentions. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 23:05, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Hmm... I'm almost persuaded, Ten, but given his deception about his own identity, how can he possibly continue to be granted checkuser privileges? ---CH 13:22, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree with CH. TenOfAllTrades has made some excellent points, and has expressed them extremely well. But . . . what about the checkuser rights? That position requires, if possible, more trust and integrity than an ArbCom seat. ElinorD(talk) 16:17, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
As far as I know, Essjay's deceptions were solely related to his identity. His abuses of trust related to cases where he used that assumed identity to push for content on the encyclopedia, and where he deceived outside individuals (particularly members of the media) to protect or enhance that fiction.
Again to the best of my knowledge, there's been no credible claim that Essjay has abused his Checkuser abilities. I would be calling for his head if he had used his Checkuser privileges – or worse, misreported Checkuser results – to harrass editors who called him on his faked credentials, but I don't see any suggestion that that has happened. His Checkuser reports have been technically accurate and performed under appropriate circumstances, and any cases where he might have had any conflict of interest have been handled by other Checkusers. While there is much less opportunity for community oversight of Checkuser use, there are members of the community who do have access to his logs; I would hope that those members of the community would speak up if there were a problem. On the other hand, I can also understand if those other Checkusers don't want to be in a position where they have to constantly check up on an individual they see as untrustworthy.
Unlike a member of ArbCom, I would tend to suggest that a Checkuser is seen by the outside world as a technical, behind-the-scenes, non-managerial sort of role. Checkusers don't interpret policy or (directly) sanction other editors. The embarrassment to the project associated with a Checkuser who has lied about his identity is (in my estimation) minimal. I can see how there might be several conflicting perspectives on this issue. TenOfAllTrades(talk) 17:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Hi, Ten, I just read your statement again, and indeed, I do agree with everything you said except the paragraph which I took to imply that you feel it would be reasonable to allow Essjay to retain his checkuser privileges. I feel that Jimbo has no choice to strip him of those privileges, and indeed I feel Jimbo must declare Essjay lifetime ineligible for being granted that level of trust again. I agree that I have seen no evidence and have no reason to believe that Essjay might have abused any of his many privileges. But that is not the point, I think; it is basic common sense that someone who has lied about his own identity should never again be in a position of checking up on anyone else's identity. That's just common sense, good business practice, if I might so put it. As a former member of the paralegal profession, I would expect that Essjay would appreciate the wisdom of my argument that he can never again be entrusted with private information on other users. Please see my own statement below for a fuller explanation of the enormous damage which I think this scandal has caused to the entire social fabric of the Wikipedia, where I specifically mentioned the disrespect I believe he shown for WP:AGF, which you tacitly invoked just above. ---CH 23:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Oops, one other thing, a minor point. I've spent some time here and there trying to explain wikiways to puzzled but well educated outsiders, and I am pretty sure that the outside world doesn't "see" checkuser at all, it sees "I have absolutely no idea what these people are talking about" :-/ Outsiders have a very very hard time understanding wikisoftware, and hence, a hard time understanding wikiskills, and hence, a hard time grasping many features of wikiculture or the sociopolical infrastructure of Wikipedia.---CH 02:41, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I think that regardless of whether what Essjay did was wrong or not (and IMHO, as stated above, it was), we need to let the community decide whether it still has faith in him, whether it's his checkuser rights, oversight, administrator, bureaucrat and any other position he may hold. If what he did was okay or "not that bad," the community will easily reassert its faith in him and "reelect" him to his current position(s), if not, he will effectively resign. This should be treated as a normal RFA and should go by the usual RFA rules, if there is no consensus whether Essjay should remain in his positions - then he should resign and if there is consensus for his re-promotion then he should regain his status as x. I think there should be different requests for his different "jobs," as oversight\checkuser are very different in the level of trust they require from administrator\bureaucrat. Yonatan (contribs/talk) 23:08, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't really see much hope that Essjay can win back the remarkable trust he garnered under false pretenses, but sure, if he can run for all those high offices and win election, why not? ---CH 13:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Sure, though once again, patience is the key. --Deathphoenixʕ 15:37, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
People will need time to cool down, but I believe Essjay is able to regain a great deal of trust. Since I feel that it is inevitable I don't really see the need to go through the process, at least not any more than what Jimbo has asked of him. If he does step down from other things, he should have the option of reapplying and demonstrating a re-gained trust. -- Ned Scott 20:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It's going to take some time for Essjay to regain a lot of that trust. Skult of Caro (talk) 00:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
After thinking this through more fully, I regretfully concluded that Jimbo really has no choice not only to strip Essjay of his privileges, but to declare him lifetime ineligible for any privileges which would allow him access to private information, specifically including checkuser privileges (see my comment on Ten's statement above). I have never been an admin, so I am not sure whether "ordinary admins" have significant access to private information, but if so, I don't think Essjay can be eligible to run for that office either. As I see it, this is somewhat as if someone had suggested after Watergate, not merely that former Vice President Spiro Agnew be pardoned, but that he should be eligible for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court. And I say: that's simply not on the table. At the same time, I recall some things said by people-other-than-Lanier (well, Washington and Lincoln) expressing their faith in the wisdom of the people, so if they were here, perhaps they would agree that my judgement is too harsh. Everyone does agree that Essjay seems to have performed his many onerous tasks in a generally responsible and efficient manner. That's so often the tragedy when politicians fall from grace. And yes, I do intend to characterize Jimbo and Essjay as leading wikipolitical figures.---CH 23:58, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Any other user with the interest of Wikipedia in mind (given the same level of administrative access) could fulfill the same quality of work that Essjay has provided. Arguments to keep Essjay in positions of high trust because he's the only person performing a certain duty are false choice. Someone else could accomplish that same quality work. While Essjay's past service may provide mitigation for the degree of his abuse of community trust, any future service could be performed by someone else if Essjay were not to remain in position. Therefore these arguments should not be given much weight in deciding how the community feels about Essjay's continued role in these positions of high trust. ju66l3r 23:10, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
Agreed. No person is irreplaceable on Wikipedia. Someone else (or maybe a group of people) will always step up to take care of things. So what if Essjay did a lot of work and it would take two CheckUsers and two Oversights to replace him — it would still be worth it to have people we trust in those positions of power. There's no shortage of people willing to take on the roles that Essjay would be vacating. --Cyde Weys 23:17, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, including Cyde's clarification. What I've seen of Essjay's work on Wikipedia has been excellent, but it is a truism that no-one is irreplaceable. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 02:14, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Wikipedia will not stop running if he were to leave, or if he were to give back his tools/have them taken away from him. Mike H.I did "That's hot" first! 03:22, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I've made this argument myself. —Doug Belltalk 03:51, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
He's left the project in a huff a number of times in the past and nothing (much) stopped working. --Gmaxwell 03:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, though his history of contributions shouldn't just be brushed aside, either. Shimeru 04:22, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
He was absent last August - November, but Wikipedia continued. There are people to fill technical/administrative roles (of trust). --Aude (talk) 05:32, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. In addition - and the phasing of this is a delicate matter - I would be willing to step forward to fill a gap if additional volunteers become necessary in some specialized role. The community's response to this situation should not be constrained by a perceived shortage of manpower. Although I have no wish to benefit from anyone else's misfortune (if those are even the appropriate terms), all I can say in answer to comments that carry the gist of but he does a lot is to offer my services, and to hope that other Wikipedians whose experience and qualifications exceed my own will also make similar offers. DurovaCharge! 06:21, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree that no person is irreplaceable on Wikipedia, per Cyde. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:16, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Obviously. In particular, RfCU and ArbCom are responsibilities which editors tend to seek, not reluctantly accept.Proabivouac 07:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
If there is anything which this event has made clear, it is that Essjay has lost the trust of a significant portion of the community. If anything, above all, must be true of those with access to administrative, bureaucratic, checkuser, and oversight privileges, as well as membership on the Arbitration Committee, it must be that the community trusts that person's judgment and integrity.
I no longer trust Essjay's judgment or integrity. Placing inflated credentials on his userpage was perhaps a slight lapse in judgment, perhaps not. Using those falsified credentials when involved in a debate on subjects which those credentials would be relevant to was a more serious lapse in judgment, allowing his fellows to unwittingly retell these falsehoods was a serious lapse in integrity.
Essjay then used these "credentials" to speak to a professor, attempting, ironically, to convince that professor that Wikipedia could be a trusted source. I cannot imagine what the professor who received that letter thinks now.
Yet, this too pales in comparison to what has caused the biggest issue here. Essjay was presented to speak on our behalf-all of us-as what a Wikipedian should aspire to, in a publication read by millions. What do those people now see? That this "model Wikipedian" is a liar and a fraud. Unless we clearly and unambiguously state that we do not approve, we will all be tarred with this same brush. He has not even made a real apology for his behavior, though, in the eyes of the vast majority of the world who only read about Wikipedia's internal workings through the occasional news story, it affects us all.
Essjay should stand for reconfirmation of his administrative and bureaucratic position, as well as his Arbitration Committee seat-the community's trust should be reevaluated in light of what we now know. If the outcome of these reconfirmations is unfavorable, he should also step down from his checkuser and oversight positions. For Essjay to do so voluntarily would be an action of integrity, and may help the community to trust him again. He also owes this community an unreserved apology. SeraphimbladeTalk to mePlease review me! 23:37, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
I agree that Essjay should stand for reconfirmation for any position which he wishes to retain. Since this is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point, the best course of action would be to resign and work to regain trust over a period of time. ChazBeckett 23:58, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse summary. I can't really disagree with the overall spirit of the recommendations, as I read it, either, but I'll take a pass on the minutiae of what should be reconfirmed how and by whom. In my opinion such are, really, of lesser importance right now. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 02:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree with all statements and suggestions. Likwidshoe 03:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Although I have reservations about some of the phrasing regarding the need for a better apology, I agree wholeheartedly that Essjay should resign all special privileges and request reinstatement from the community. At this time he may still regain adminship. The longer he waits, the less support he is likely to receive. DurovaCharge! 03:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree that if Essjay wishes to continue in any role without a cloud hanging over him and his actions, he should resign all the way down to buck editor and work back up vote by community vote. If he continues to contribute to the project as well as many believe he has, regaining that trust should not be a problem, and accepting the community's mandate would be the only way to ultimately redeem himself. I do not expect this to happen, but I think the point should be out there. Dhartung | Talk 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with this in principle completely. In practice, I think the checkuser and oversight privileges have to go immediately, not after some "reconfirmation" process. I'm also ambivalent about removal of his adminship, although my ambivalence is being replaced by agreement with every passing hour without a response from Essjay. —Doug Belltalk 06:57, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Per Doug Bell. Jimbo has pretty much confirmed this, but the principle is still relevant. MoreschiRequest a recording? 11:41, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I totally agree with this one and I think that he does need to really apologize. Captain pandaInvinoveritas 12:50, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Emphatic agreement. I don't see why he should be allowed to keep his adminship. I think he should be invited to edit honestly for a year and then reapply. He's been such a respected admin in the past that I imagine that he would have a good chance of regaining adminship, although I think he'll find it difficult to regain all of his other presumably soon to be revoked privileges.
Standing for reconfirmation at the moment would result in huge humiliation, I believe. It would be better to resign checkuser and ArbCom immediately and possibly other positions as well, and work to regain the community's trust. I wouldn't force an apology, either. That would be for Essjay to decide. Endorse the rest of the statement. ElinorD(talk) 17:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
While I wholeheartedly endorse Seraphimblade's first four paragraphs, I respectfully dissent from the fifth and final one to this extent: Essjay should resign these positions without waiting for a referendum, on the basis that his deception was a betrayal of our trust and wrong in itself, not conditional on whatever popularity he retains. If he waits to be removed by anyone else -- whether Jimbo, the Board, or a vote of public confidence -- then he does not accept responsibility by removing himself sua sponte, and he shows even more clearly (if that's possible) that he must never be trusted again. -- Ben 00:34, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, except that the thought of trying to re-examine Essjay's entire career at WP searching for impropriety makes my cranium hurt. Let's hold that thought until the dust settles. It would be really good if we could avoid dwelling on the past rather than examining lessons for the future. ---CH 02:32, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
What is Wikipedia? Is it a social network - MySpace with facts? Or is it an encyclopedia struggling to garner respect in the real world? The reason Essjay wrote the aforementioned letter to the professor was that he seems to view it as the latter, and I agree. The concern, then, is that no one will take Wikipedia seriously if it turns out that we are all basically dishonest about who we are and what credentials we hold. Writing an encyclopedia means taking secondary sources and developing them into a tertiary source - but this is a process that requires attention to academic and scholarly standards (citation, verifiability, etc.). The user of the encyclopedia trusts that the editors did that work with some degree of honesty - that they did not make it up as they went along. Wikipedia's problem in the real world is convincing people that, at the end of the day, the Wiki model will get it basically right, and will be basically honest in its reporting of the facts - that it won't be junk made up by teenagers. The revelation that one of our most respected administrators was dishonest about who he was - and dishonest to the extent that he would have been "fired" in the real world (see, e.g., George O'Leary of Notre Dame) - is damaging to that reputation. The acceptance of that by Mr. Wales and the community would be likewise damaging.
How do we fix the damage here? In a real academic community, the reality is that Essjay would be treated pretty harshly, which sucks. To the degree that we want to present ourselves as a real encyclopedia, we do have to find a way to show disapproval of his actions, but at the same time we have to realize that this is just an online Wiki, not the real world. I don't have a good answer for how we should do that balancing - hopefully we can find one here. One idea is that we could come up with a policy / guideline / essay that basically says "hide your identity if you want - but don't do it in a way that harms the encyclopedia." Unfortunately, resignation from ArbCom also seems appropriate.
Relatedly, though, I strongly disagree with those who cast these discussions as an attack, or view them as politically motivated. It sucks that a good person did a stupid thing here. But discussing the problem, and how the community should react, is exactly what we would do if we really were in a theology department in a university. These discussions are geared towards protecting and improving the encyclopedia - they may be contentious, but they're in very good faith. --TheOtherBob 23:44, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. It would cast greater doubt on the project if we swept this under the rug. Even those who support Essjay should endorse open discussion. The basis for discussion is legitimate. DurovaCharge! 06:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. This sentiment is at the crux of the issue behind my statement earlier in this RfC that my continued participation here may hinge on how this is handled. —Doug Belltalk 07:03, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
By repeatedly asserting bogus credentials to his own advantage, both within Wikipedia and in interactions with outside parties (see #Outside finding of fact by Doug_Bell), Essjay has committed a substantial fraud. Such actions effectively negate much of the trust that the community had previously placed in his judgment. As such, it is appropriate that Essjay resign or be removed from many of the positions that he has held requiring both high levels of community trust and good judgment. Opinion is divided on how far such a relinquishing of power should go (poll), but at a minimum, it is inappropriate for Essjay to have access to sensitive and privileged information (i.e. checkuser / oversight) or to be placed in a position of resolving major disputes (i.e. Arbcom). Given his substantial history of self-serving dishonesty, it is not currently possible to have faith that Essjay will execute such roles in a fair and neutral manner.
Further, it was inappropriate for Jimbo to appoint Essjay to Arbcom under these circumstances. At best, it represents an error in judgment by someone who may not have had a full understanding of the situation. At worst, Jimbo's statement that he doesn't "have a problem with [Essjay's actions]"  can be viewed as an endorsement of intellectual dishonesty of a kind that could substantially harm Wikipedia's credibility and drive away valuable contributors. Dragons flight 23:58, 2 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
As I've already commented, Essjay should step down from all position without the possible exception of admin. A lot of damage has already been done and will continue until the matter is dealt with at higher levels. ChazBeckett 00:00, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree. He should be willing to resign or be removed from all of his current levels of access, even administrator (WP:ADMIN begins by stating it is a position of trust). Jimbo's acceptance, let alone promotion of Essjay, looks to be one of the greater concerns to me and the resignation or removal of Essjay needs to be taken in order to repair the community's concern for its own integrity. ju66l3r 00:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. It is not possible to hold a position of public trust, without the publics trust. Navoubanter / contribs 01:53, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, regretfully, per ChazBeckett. And I'll have to agree with Cyde and Kelly here (and that's something of a first): This is likely to get really ugly pretty fast, and cause serious damage to Wikipedia's reputation. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 02:39, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The only position I could halfway trust him with is adminship. That's it. No Arbcom, no Checkuser, no Wikia, nothing else. He lied to get there. Mike H.I did "That's hot" first! 03:26, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. Admin seems to be the only position I'd trust him in now.--TBCΦtalk? 06:09, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree with almost all, especially the last paragraph. I am still uncertain on whether involuntary removal of Essjay's high positions is a good idea, but if he were to voluntarily step down it would go a long way towards healing this situation. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Aye there's a management role in this. Gwen Gale 06:33, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, particularly with the points regarding Wales. The project necessarily entrusts Wales with a great deal of responsibility, and that trust was abrogated with this instance of extremely poor judgement. --Dhartung | Talk 06:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Reluctantly, I must endorse. I am just going to guess that Jimbo didn't have all the information that we have when he made that statement, and that when he sees this, he he will reevaluate accordingly.Proabivouac 07:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Emphatically agree. I too am concerned about how Jimbo came to appoint Essjay to the Arbcom by fiat, apparently in knowledge of Essjay's false biography. See my remarks in various places arguing that a concern about possible retaliation is best countered by providing, no personal information, not by providing false personal information.---CH 13:34, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse first paragraph (regarding Essjay) only. I think the second paragraph (regarding Jimbo Wales) has been overtaken by events, and should be reconsidered in light of Jimbo's message of 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC): "I have asked EssJay to resign his positions of trust within the community"... "because forgiveness or not, these positions are not appropriate for him now." -- Ben 01:15, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I must admit that I'm neutral on the overall content of this Request for comment, but I feel moved to speak on what I see as a great issue to Wikipedia in general.
In my view perhaps the greatest challange to Wikipedia's academic validity is also its greatest source of strength: the fact that anyone can edit articles and make contributions. In light of this, greater contribution from 'experts', especially in specialized fields, is critical to the ongoing growth of the acceptance of Wikipedia as a valid, reliable, truthful and neutral academic resource. The often-stated view (Examples from a Netscape editorial, and statements by several of my professors; one of whom left with project in disgust after his own experiances with trying to contribute to his field) is that Wikipedia discourages participation from people that are truely knowledgable in their subject fields or that those contributions are lost in the masses of users.
On Wikipedia people must stand by and on the quality of their edits and the insight they bring to the project. This Request for Comment, and the incident it is predecated on present us a crucial challange as Wikizens: how do we deal with those that claim expertise in an online environment where identity is so mutable? In my opinion the use of 'expert' status as a debate-terminating assertion is troubling, as it both contributes to the problem of expert advice being mistrusted and looked down on and raises an important question of how to deal with those who assert credendials that may or may not exist. In the end I feel we must look to the quality of the discourse the user provides and the strength of their contribution.
Another issue also at stake here is a simpler one: do Wikizens have a right to expect a greater degree of disclosure and a higher standard of conduct for those we have entrusted with greater powers? In that regard I must respond with a resounding 'yes', People supported for adminship and higher things are essentially our elected representitives, our trustees in the semi-democracy of Wikipedia, as such they ought be bound by certain standards that validate our trust. As to the overall RfC, I'm not sure what should be done, but I feel it important to deal with certain core issues that transcend the behavior of one user. Wintermut3 00:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Pseudonyms are acceptable for Wikipedia, in part to protect our contributors. There have been noted examples of contributors being harassed in real life for their contributions here. But the use of a whole invented identity is not necessary, and as we have seen, potentially harmful to the project. It is possible to maintain anonymity without having to make stuff up. Indeed, in my case, I use my full real name, and through simple omission have been left completely alone despite being on Brandt's hit list.
We are trying to build an encyclopedia, and we need to attract and value those editors with advanced degrees in specific fields. If Essjay had made up some other identity that did not play on our need for legitimacy, if he did not use his fraudulent credentials as a bludgeon against other users, and if he did not perpetuate his lie in a national magazine, we would not be in this position.
That so many have protected themselves despite being a target of trolls and paranoid activists makes Essjay's explanation of self-protection and proven track record of using his falsified credentials very troubling. That Jimbo has written off Essjay's deception as the harmless use of a pseudonym ignores the harm caused by falsified credentials on a project trying to legitimize itself daily. That the Foundation has rewarded such behavior is troubling, in the least. Jimbo has since asked Essjay to step down, but only three weeks after the news came to light and only after the uproar here. I applaud Jimbo's decision, but I also question why it had to take so long and why it had to be so public.
Despite the belittling comments of some of those above, the reaction to this situation is appropriate. This is a case of potential harm turning into actual, realized harm, and it needs to be frankly and objectively addressed by the Foundation and Essjay. --Jeffrey O. Gustafson - Shazaam! - <*> 00:32, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
Agree with Jeffrey. Pseudonyms are OK. Leaving false clues about your identity might be OK. Fake academic credentials are, in my opinion, not OK, at least not for an arbitrator, and not when they end up in the mainstream press. —Ilmari Karonen (talk) 02:51, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes. But it brings up a larger issue, which is that Mr. Wales has never had much respect for academic credentials in the first place, which is the whole theme of this place. Anybody can edit, even IP vandals. In such circumstances, what does it matter of "Essjay" is some kid, working on parents computer from home, vs. full professor of cannon law at a major Catholic University? It's all the same, right?
I don't know if this is a real "lesson" which Jimbo learned too well from the failure of Nupedia, or if it's a general feeling of his own about academics, or some of both. But it's one reason we still don't even have people with academic vetting given ANY special treatment here. And it's a reason why specialists like user:Hillman simply went away-- as Ph.D. mathematicians they found their articles on general relativity being edited by high school students and finally couldn't take it any more.
All of which makes the veins in my neck stand out even more, inasmuch as I got blocked indefinitely by Essjay (detail above, more than you want to read) over some legal issue which who knows if "Essay" even understood, but in any case, had gotten all the authority and control to decide, directly from Jimbo. Whose OWN lawyer seemed to be in awe of Essay's Wikipedia administrative powers. Is that pathologically surreal, or what? Ironically, I actually *have* a lot of the academic credentials Essay claimed. And I edit under my own name. But I've never met Jimbo at a party. That seems to be important. And (as you can tell) I'm really no good at sucking up, at all, so it's probably just as well.SBHarris 01:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Comment on the comment
I blinked in astonishment to unexpectedly see my own user name mentioned here. Unfortunately, that's also my real name--- see my remarks elsewhere about harrassment. I guess this makes two points: First, this affair is seen as a notorious scandal outside the Wikipedia--- it was enough to bring me back as a kind of wikizombie! Second, from my own experience, I am all too familiar with the ugly harrassment which Essjay says he wished to avoid, yet I cannot countenance inventing an elaborate false identity in attempt to throw Brandt off the trail. My advice would be: by all means register under some pseudonym and avoid divulging any information about your RL identity, but concerns about harrassment don't give anyone the right to deceive his fellow Wikipedians! By the way, I don't think the editors who drove me out were high school students; I think they were adults and I know they behaved badly, for example by returning under assumed identities after being permabanned for disruptive editing or legal threats, in order, as far as I could tell, to pursue personal vendettas arising from such sanctions. Banning anonymous edits, efficient antisockpuppet measures, and efficient ArbCom enforcement would help tremendously. Unfortunately, effective "policing" might be too intrusive for most editors to tolerate. I don't have any simple solutions for such conundrums. Sadly, I cannot recommend that serious scholars edit the Wikipedia in their areas of knowledge; however "obscure", "pure", "apolitical", and generally "unobjectionable" you might think any given subject, sooner or later, a crank or troll or vandal will come along and ruin all your effort. It's just so much easier to destroy something good than to make it in the first place. I can't suggest who could edit articles on general relativity (or the other subjects I know just as much if not more about, such as dynamical systems) if not those with extensive knowledge of the relevant research literature coupled with the academic background required to properly understand that literature, however. Again, I can offer no easy solutions. ---CH 14:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I have seen Essjay do many good things for Wikipedia over the years, and I am confident that he can continue to do good things in the future. But to lie so blatantly about something so important, and then to have so little remorse about it, this concerns me greatly. It's one thing to choose to remain anonymous, to make small exaggerations about one's accomplishments, or to establish an innocuous fictional identity to protect privacy. It's another to create detailed fraudulent credentials as a way of boosting credibility in an academic environment. Essjay didn't make up an identity like, "Father of 4 in Ohio, working as an insurance salesman." He made up an identity that was designed to maximize credibility within this culture. And further, he referred to that identity as a way of establishing his credentials to outside parties. I am, frankly, appalled at this lack of judgment. I am also greatly concerned that Jimbo seems unconcerned about this kind of fraud. Leaders set the tone in a culture, and that's why it is so important that they themselves project a high standard of ethical behavior. When fraud is condoned by those in power, that attitude can pervade the entire community. If Jimbo wants Wikipedia to have a reputation of intellectual integrity, then he must lead by example. To condone Essjay's behavior, and to further promote such an individual within the Wikipedia hierarchy, sends the wrong message.
The Wikipedia Arbitration Committee should be composed of the wisest and most trusted members of our community. Essjay, who never even ran for ArbCom in the first place, has now further lost the trust of many Wikipedians, and caused damage to Wikipedia's public reputation. He should resign from ArbCom, and Jimbo should then choose a replacement from one of the other candidates who did run for the position. Essjay can then declare candidacy for the next round of ArbCom elections in December 2007. If trust is rebuilt and community consensus can be achieved at that point, I would have no trouble with seeing him resume ArbCom duties at that time. But it should be a community consensus decision, not a dictated ruling by Mr. Wales. --Elonka 01:12, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay ... should resign from ArbCom, and Jimbo should then choose a replacement from one of the other candidates who did run for the position: absolutely. I saw the appointment and was confused since I thought that was the point of the community vote. Dhartung | Talk 06:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Strongly agreed. And, as anyone who recalls the recent ArbCom case in which Elonka and I were both involved can attest, me publicly agreeing with Elonka is no small matter. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It is my feeling that Essjay's false statements were a betrayal, and calls for a much more supplicating apology, as it reflected badly on the community.
However, there is no evidence of any abuse of power by Essjay as a ArbCom member, as a bureaucraft, as an administrator, and as a CheckUser user. I believe that removing him from any of those positions, unless he voluntarily wants to leave those positions, is inappropriate. --Nlu (talk) 02:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
I endorse your statements. My online persona has sometimes changed depending on the project or atmosphere I am in. To protect myself I have always given out the most minimal details, and sometimes untruthful - but identities do not matter in intraspace - it is your actions that denote your character. While I am not fully aware and versed on the issue with Essjay, upon reading many of the comments left here, I find myself agreeing with yours. Crafting a false online identity in no way alters what he has done or can continue to do for Wikipedia. Those are my .02 cents. --Ozgod 03:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. Bad things have been done, but removing Essjay from these kinds of things hurts us more than it "helps". -- Ned Scott 02:59, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Nlu, I take the point that there is apparently no persuasive evidence that Essjay abused any of his privileges, but can you clarify what sanctions would be appropriate, in your view? I think I have to agree with all those who feel that because Essjay has misrepresented his own IRL identity for such a long period, it would be absurd to have him continue as a checkuser, for example. Similarly, it seems to me that it is clear from this page that he has lost the trust of the majority of the community, and therefore cannot serve effectively on the ArbCom either. I feel that Jimbo has no choice but to revoke all his privileges. I even feel that Essjay should resign his adminship, voluntarily if Jimbo doesn't revoke it. I repeat that I would support offering him the opportunity to continue to edit as an ordinary user, and to reapply for adminship after say a year if he still desires it.---CH 14:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I believe that what would be appropriate would depend on whether Essjay then does issue a more sincere and apologetic statement, as I called for. Whether that statement showed sufficient remorse and sufficient guarantee of non-reoffense will be key.
However, I still do not think that the revocation of checkuser privilege is relevant at this stage (and my mind can change later depending on whether he issues a statement that I called for or what he says in the statement), because misrepresenting oneself in public, while clearly wrong and unacceptable, is not the same as sockpuppetry to circumvent Wikipedia rules. In the "real world," the former is clearly more wrong. In "our world," sockpuppetry is more wrong because it is an offense that offends the pillars of Wikipedia. (My thoughts would be very different if Essjay, in the "real world," lied under oath, committed a crime of moral turpitude, or lied to gain a pecuniary advantage. None of these is so far shown to be true.) --Nlu (talk) 17:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with your point that all too many others have done far worse things than anything Essjay stands accused of doing. I feel that the reason for the extraordinary interest shown in this latest scandal (I see that even User:Larry Sanger showed up to comment over at User talk:Jimbo Wales) is due to the extraordinary trust placed in Essay by the community, and the fact that he was chosen by the leadership to serve as spokesperson for the "millions of watchful eyes", by being interviewed by Stacy Schiff. ---CH 02:55, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Much has been said of the troublesome nature of Essjay's academic fabrications, and rightfully so, yet an additional shortcoming deserves attention: his excuse that he faked his qualifications because of a need for personal privacy. That appeal cheapens the very real security concerns that are daily realities to some people.
I speak from experience. Eight years ago both I and my disabled and dying father were covered under a criminal restraining order. As my father's sole caregiver I had personal safety concerns that no human being should ever face, nor would I wish on anyone the events that led a criminal judge to issue a court order for our protection.
Frivolous and self-serving assertions of personal security concerns, such as those articulated by Essjay, drain from the shallow pool of sympathy upon which people who face genuine danger depend for their physical safety and even their lives. The statement which Essjay has delivered not only fails to explain his misdeeds or to atone for them, it exploits one of society's most vulnerable segments.
Essjay has neither demonstrated understanding of the seriousness of his original fabrications, nor acknowledged his leveraging of those falsehoods to his own advantage within the project, nor demonstrated actual contrition by resigning any of his several special positions of trust. He compounds these misdeeds by erroneously and inappropriately exploiting a desire for privacy. My own far more serious secruity concerns have always been satisfied online by not disclosing too much information and being truthful about the things I do tell. It strains credibility to the breaking point to suppose any genuine need for safety compelled him to act as he did. DurovaCharge! 02:32, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
Here here. Some may point to this ordeal as justification of Essjay's deception, but all this came to light (three whole weeks ago, actually) only when Essjay revealed the truth himself. People will only know what you tell them, and simple omission is far better than deceptive fabrication. --Jeffrey O. Gustafson - Shazaam! - <*> 03:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree, especially the lack of acknowledgment for actions regarding the leveraging of lies for advantage within the project. That part deserves some explanation from the user I think. Navoubanter / contribs 03:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. This raises a further point: Essjay seems likely to have been untruthful in his apology. With his 4th edit ever, he used his bogus credentials in an edit discussion stating "This is a text I often require for my students, and I would hang my own Ph.D. on it's credibility." I have a hard time understanding why a paralegal on his 4th edit (well before D. Brandt arrived) would be so fearful of stalkers as to concoct that particular deception. The simpler explanation seems to be that he made a deception early on for prestige or to gain an advantage, which would be no big deal and entirely forgivable for a newbie. However, he stuck with it & burnished it and at some point it did become useful as anti-stalking disinformation. But it seems unlikely that's how it began, so his apology for lying, which claims a false excuse, is just a slap in the face. Derex 03:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
That post also highlights "Gwen's 1st trip for the wary": He used an apostophe in the possessive neutral pronoun, a common and often telling mistake of CV puffers. Gwen Gale 10:25, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The statement which Essjay has delivered not only fails to explain his misdeeds or to atone for them, it exploits one of society's most vulnerable segments. Exactly. -- tariqabjotu 04:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Exactly! Well said, Durova, this is the point I was making, also, sad to say, speaking from experience. Courtesy of CyclePat (see the next statement), I can now quote Essjay's former user page: "I am a tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern United States; I teach both undergraduate and graduate theology. I have been asked repeatedly to reveal the name of the institution, however, I decline to do so; I am unsure of the consequences of such an action, and believe it to be in my best interests to remain anonymous." In his best interests, indeed! The truth was apparently, that he was covering up a deception, using an excuse which cheapens both genuine security concerns and genuine privacy concerns. ---CH 14:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. Endorse. ENDORSE! Counterfeit currency devalues genuine currency. Essjay has counterfeited everything from his credentialed expertise to his victimhood excuse to his (non)apology. Durova, you pegged it on the Community Noticeboard, and here you have driven the peg three feet deep. Essjay is still playing us all for willing suckers. I'm-sorry-IF... and I'm-sorry-YOU-FEEL... are non-apologies. You/they-shouldn't-have-believed-me is blaming the victim. And I-did-it-to-mislead-stalkers is utterly unconvincing. He could have claimed to be a street sweeper in Los Angeles to mislead stalkers. He just couldn't have used that false claim to win all those arguments; he couldn't have leveraged himself into position after position because people were so impressed with his academic standing sweeper-of-the-year awards. The lying continues with such flimsy excuses and such bogus "apologies". Yes, he's hurting genuine victims by devaluing their plight. If anyone thinks Essjay actually cares about that, then try explaining why he does it. -- Ben 02:16, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Would you refactor that in milder terms? I wrote the view before Jimbo posted his statement and I would prefer that Essjay and the community follow this thread without bitterness. There was considerable discussion a few weeks ago when one disturbed editor called an administrator's workplace to harass the administrator. Part of the point I wish to make is how - for some people - receiving that sort of phone call is the tip of the iceberg. No one should have to endure any of that treatment, but effective prevention requires far less than what Essjay did. DurovaCharge! 02:59, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
In short: Funny and all but that letter doesn't really disprove that he wasn't a "tenured professor of theology." But, we don't really have proof either. Given the "trusting position" he hold as a bureaucrat perhaps such a statement should be removed from his page if he doesn't want to proove it. Oh wait! It was and prior to him ever being given the trusty position.
Now I shall make some calculated assumptions: Essjay's user page says he was an "account manager with a Fortune 20 company" and "a paralegal for five years including a three month special position with a United States Trustee" and "nearly two years freelance, handling special projects." Wow this guy is impressive for a 24 year old! Okay lets do the math... As an account manager he must have done at least (1 year) + the paralegal and US Trustee (5.25 years) + Freelance (1.75) = 8 years. Add to that the he had to have studied at least 4 years for an undergrad in in religion = 12 years. (That's not including the the fact that to be a prof they usually only hire people with masters or doctorate so add another 4 years) = 16 years. Humm! I don't know but when I was 24 - 16 = 8 years old I don't remember being permitted to go to University let alone accross the street!
The question still tickles my brain. Given that a tenure professor is generally someone that will remain with the University for 7 or more years perhaps, the assumption of a "false statement", could be well interpreted here. Or maybe at (8 years old - 7 years) = 1 years old Essjay was in fact a highly gifted University student! When looking into userpage history it is carefully masked by many templates. One template which may be of interest, but is deleted may be User:Essjay/Professional Life. You may see his "professional life" as stated around January 2006, right here on his user page history. There he states he is a prof at a private University. It sugests that he had a profesional life as a professor. If you do the math he was probably around 22 years old in 2005. Okay! So the skeptical in me is saying... he's Dougy Housard and graduated at 16... did everything in enriched programs Hum! Okay maybe. has been teaching since he's 18 and has all these other jobs! Humm...
I don't know if this helps but there is someone with a similar real name of Essjay that has studied at the University in religion . Usually though, Universities put up the names of people that attend and that are prof's. (ex.: University of Ottawa Current Students) So he's obviously not teaching there, as he said, he's at a private university and doesn't want to say where he teaches! He doesn't have to either. But personnaly, at this point, to keep his credibility he should say something or wikipedia should ask for him to resign from loss of "confidence."
So I took upon me to go to the next option... to find a thesis or document he must of had to publish to become a professor. Thanks to handy access to a billion dollar database of databases at the University of Ottawa... or just go to Proquest. Couldn't find anything by his real name. I call this a person caught in the middle of a lie! For someone that is in a bureaucrats position I think he should resign. As per my afformentioned support "Let us crucify him!" and let him get what he deserves. --CyclePat 02:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Comment: Essjay no longer claims a college degree, let alone a Ph.D. So, all your calculating is moot. 04:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Comment: Good work anyway, CyclePat! ---CH 14:19, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay has always been a variable admin, b-crat and checkuser. I was a little shocked recently when Jimbo elected him to arbcom a week ago with conterversy brewing over Essjay identity. He should have never accepted that role, and that's the main reason why an hellfest started brewing in his talk page and now here. Essjay lying to the New Yorker and to many users over the years is just plain wrong. Now it got to the point that most admins, including me lost complete trust on Essjay. Cases like this ruin wikipedia crtibilty. I understand the harrasment issues, but just don't say anything in the userpage and people won't find out. We should close this RFC and wait for Jimbo response to this, and that Essjay should step down from arbcom, but not nothing else til Jimbo decides. Thanks Jarandawat's sup 04:00, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this view:
Agreed, we need to wait for Jimbo to respond to this incident.--TBCΦtalk? 07:06, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, except that I think Essjay could be helpful by resigning all his positions, giving up all his privileges, and giving up his adminship. I certainly am not calling for sanctions other than his being reduced to the rank of an ordinary user. The Wikipedia community is forgiving, maybe too forgiving, so it is not impossible that he might eventually seek and win adminship again. But I think he needs to do a lot more explaining of how this all happened. So does Jimbo, wrt appointing Essjay to the ArbCom. ---CH 14:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
There's realization and there's rationalization. Unfortunately, Essjay has done the latter; I do not feel he fully realizes the impact of this incident. Most notably, the first two sentences of the second paragraph of his apology suggests that his regret extends to the fact that some people might be hurt by this rather than to the flagrant action itself. Wikipedia has enough trust issues as it is with people saying that because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, the content is not reliable. And then here we have Essjay orchestrating a lie on his userpage, and using it as a tool in content debates (mentioned by others somewhere on this page) and, ironically enough, in responding to a letter about Wikipedia's credibility. To say that he still feels what he did was the right thing to do to protect yourself is either naive or selfish. Most (or at least many) on Wikipedia feel their privacy is paramount; I myself like a bit of privacy. But there is a very simple remedy to this issue: don't give people information. He did not need to make up phony credentials and mislead the community. His insistence that this lie was the only solution is the naive. Although he states he had no knowledge beforehand of The New Yorker's choice to print the offending information, he did know after it was printed. Question: would Essjay, one of Wikipedia's most trusted users, (a) tell The New Yorker, a respected publication, that it had told its readers something that was incorrect or (b) ignore it and hope that no one says anything? Clearly we know the answer to that. I fear Essjay took that undesirable option (b) hoping he wouldn't have to stand the flack from the ensuing debacle. Regrettably, he has merely delayed the reaction by seven months and amplified the severity of the infraction due to his inability and unwillingness to do the right thing when he had the opportunity. As others have mentioned, I feel the best thing for Essjay to do is to resign from one or more of his positions of authority on Wikipedia (especially that as a member of the Arbitration Committee). This incident is not good for Wikipedia. This is not good for our publicity. This is not good for the people with honest credentials on their user pages who now will get second glances. This is not good for anyone, and I'm afraid the only reason Essjay issued his apology is because he now understands this is not good for him. And that is the selfish. -- tariqabjotu 04:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm not inclined to assume Essjay's apology to have been cynical - he may been more contrite then he was prepared to let on (see shame) - but besides this, I endorse. To wit, Wikipedia should inform the public, never mislead it.Proabivouac 07:29, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse. But note carefully one sentence from Jimbo's message of 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC): "From the moment this whole thing became known, EssJay has been contrite and apologetic." The "contrition" and "apologies" (such as they were) only began once "this whole thing became known"; not from Essjay's awareness before then that he had deceived people, but only after others had made the matter public. Is that regretting one did wrong, or is it regretting one was caught out? And such "apologies"! I'm-sorry-YOU-FEEL-hurt? I'm-sorry-IF-you-feel-hurt? You/they-shouldn't-have-believed-me-anyway? Those-stalkers-made-me-do-it? None of these are apologies. None of them even accept blame; instead they pass blame on to others, even to the victims' feelings, or to the happenstance of consequences -- all detached from the wrongfulness of one's own actions. At best they're excuses or evasions. None of them unequivocally say "What I did was wrong, plain and simple, I should not have done it, and I have no excuse; I accept full responsibility, I hereby resign the offices of the trust I betrayed, I will make whatever other amends I can, and I willingly submit to whatever penalties are due; I have no right to ask for anything in return, even your forgiveness, though I will hope to receive it someday if you so choose." Didn't everyone here learn, even as children, the difference between an authentic apology and a blatant counterfeit? -- Ben 03:29, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm sure Jimbo's inbox is swamped, so he may not see the e-mail I sent him on 2/28. It sums up my view on the situation.
Daniel Brandt digging up personal information about Wikipedians and posting it is absolutely disgusting and malicious.
But, if the "Editor's Note" in this New Yorker piece is correct (seems to be), regarding Essjay, it also disgusts me. I'm absolutely willing to forgive people for such errors of judgment and immaturity. But, my trust in him is severely diminished. I have high regard for Essjay's contributions to Wikipedia, and perfectly okay with him remaining an administrator and maybe a bureaucrat. However, Checkuser and oversight permissions that deal with personal information should not be given to someone like him who I and other Wikipedians can't trust. I'm also not comfortable with him as arbitrator.
It's fine to not disclose information about oneself to protect one's identity on Wikipedia and maintain a pseudonym. But to misrepresent one's credentials, with expertise in some topic, is academic dishonesty. I am really bothered by him being in positions of trust on Wikipedia. It's a real shame, because he has done good things for Wikipedia but I don't trust him.
Although I haven't verified this yet, the contributions of the alleged sockpuppet shows that he most likely edits under his IP adress, as evident by this comment. Regardless, the user was not being dishonest per se, as the previous voter had forgotten to update the tally .--TBCΦtalk? 05:33, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It's the vote itself, not the tally update, that worries people if it was actually an Essjay sock. 05:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but it's best to assume good faith and not to jump to conclusions without some sort of verification. Although I personally don't think there's enough evidence to do so, you could always file a CheckUser request (which would be somewhat ironic, considering that Essjay is one of the few admins trusted with CheckUser abilities).--TBCΦtalk? 06:06, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
99.9% of the time, I do assume good faith. However, in light of Essjay's fabrications and use of them in that letter, in speaking to the New Yorker, and in content situations cited by User:Doug Bell and others in the past few days, I find it (regretfully) difficult to assume good faith and trust Essjay. Anyway Robbie31's last edit was in October. Log records are not kept around that long, so checkuser is not an option. --Aude (talk) 06:20, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Oh please. This is pure sensationalist drama mongering. Robbie is not an Essjay sock and never was. His vote made no difference in the RFB anyway. pschemp | talk 06:34, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I've read every one of that account's edits and I can't conclude that it's a sockpuppet. If somebody wants to know why I'll go into the details, but the account's claim to be Essjay's partner appears credible to my eyes. DurovaCharge! 06:37, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The other way is to just ask. Since Robbie is Essjay's gay partner, and Essjay is actually straight, it's kind of hard to AGF on this. Certainly, the account is a deception of some sort. Might be his girlfriend, playing along though. (see below) Some will point out that Essjay easily passed in the end. I will point out that the threshold for bureaucratship is about 90%, and Robbie's vote put him there at that time. So, I don't think this is really a trivial matter of no harm, no foul. Derex 06:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Why do you say that Essjay is straight? I haven't picked up that bit of information. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:43, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay is most definitely gay. Where on earth do you have proof he's straight? pschemp | talk 06:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Do you have personal knowledge of that? I ask because how else can you know this? Certainly not on Essjay's say so. —Doug Belltalk 09:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
You are determined to take this to absurdity aren't you? Have fun. pschemp | talk 09:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay's final count was 143 support, 16 oppose which is about 89.9% and rounds up to 90, without Robbie's vote it becomes 89.8% which still rounds up to 90%, but the point is that it was very close. Conceivably Robbie's vote could have mattered. That said, even all we have seen here, I have trouble believing that Essjay would have used a sockpuppet in this fashion, and even if he had, the sock was so blatantly not a regular user that I doubt any closer would have had it influnece the outcome anyways. JoshuaZ 06:43, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Good question. I definitely read this somewhere. But, I can't find any evidence of Essjay saying that. So, retract with my apologies for not fact-checking. Derex 06:50, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
You did read it. Essjay deleted the page that contained that statement in November. —Doug Belltalk 10:03, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Derex is claiming he read a page that claimed Essjay was straight. Essjays's page said he was "Gayer than Christmas" however. Please get your facts straight Doug. pschemp | talk 10:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
No, sorry to be unclear. I definitely read someone's remarks a few days back that Essjay had confessed that as one of his deceptions. I never saw such a confession personally. I definitely shouldn't have repeated it without first-hand knowledge. I didn't question it, because it fit with the rest of the pattern and my source probably got confused for the same reason. At any rate, Essjay's got enough well-documented stuff to deal with that it's probably not helpful to pursue this. Derex 10:18, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay's actions are being scrutinized, as they should. However, insufficient attention is being given to the effect of Jimbo's comments. In publicly endorsing Essjay's misrepresentations, Jimbo has damaged the reputation of Wikipedia. Although we all respect Jimbo's authority and vision, it is important that the Wikipedia community voice its disapproval of Jimbo's apparent attitude in this matter. I've said more on this subject here. I hope that this was merely a lapse of judgment on Jimbo's part, and not an indication of the true moral standards of Wikipedia. —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 06:41, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Strongly endorse. As a sysop I experience a small fraction of what I suppose Jimbo faces: the worry that somewhere I'll misstep among the many situations that call for my attention, often while I'm in the middle of something else. Nobody bats .1000. I hope Jimbo reads this RFC thoroughly and responds with what I have come to trust is his characteristic wisdom. DurovaCharge! 06:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Strongly endorse. Josiah, I was considering an outside view of my own, which would have concentrated solely on Jimbo Wales's actions and statements. I could not decide on how to word it. I have read many of the site's critics and try to have a pragmatic view of our strengths and weaknesses, but I don't really get into the Brandt et al. mindset, so I did not want to come off that way. But even taking into account his newest statement I am hoping for a greater sense of accountability here. We as a community have little choice but to trust Jimbo, and I feel this showed astonishingly poor judgement, both in terms of how Essjay should be treated (promoted instead of demoted) and how the reputation of the project should be protected. Jimbo was many times too cavalier about the deception. My experience with professional liars is that they do not lie in just one or two things, but are truthful in all others; no, they lie all the time, and they lie about everything. Uncovering this "front" should have been a major antenna-activator for anyone who works in business, and there should have been a formal investigation, even if only to satisfy the pre-judgement that he had done no harm. Jimbo has failed to protect the project in this instance and we deserve a recognition of the seriousness of this and an understanding that such things as an out-of-process ArbCom appointment are not merely potential problems, they are certain problems. This can be a lessons learned, but we need a restoral of confidence. --Dhartung | Talk 07:15, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I've read Jimbo's statement, but still want to go on record as strongly endorsing this view. —Doug Belltalk 07:22, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, and that strongly. Jimbo initially called this one very badly wrong by appointing Essjay to the ArbCom after he knew - if I'm wrong someone please correct me - of Essjay's liberties with the truth. Particularly when Essjay didn't even run in the latest ArbCom elections in the first place! I should also point out that the current setup gives Jimbo far too much direct control over ArbCom, a body which should be more accountable to us: not some personal fiefdom for Jimbo. MoreschiRequest a recording? 11:33, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed, and emphatically agree with Dhartung and Moreschi. I would add that the Wikipedia PR team really should work out a better response for Jimbo to offer when he's not near a good Wifi point or whatever (maybe "no comment" or "please give me X hours to acquaint myself with the facts?"). Unfortunately, I feel the editors note in the New Yorker makes WP look very bad indeed, and it may be too late to fix that.---CH 14:32, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Endorse, begrugingly. I believe that Jimbo's prior statement was too weak and this statement was too strong, as were the sanctions. --Nlu (talk) 17:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I do not dispute that what Essjay did was wrong. He lied about his background to a well known media outlet, inflicting damage not only in the community's trust towards Essjay, but on Wikipedia's integrity and credibility as reliable source as well. In fact, as I mentioned above, what's shocked me perhaps even moreso than Essjay's falsifications is—as Elonka mentioned— his lack of remorse towards the entire incident. Yet, as much as I disapprove of Essjay's actions and excuses, aren't we to a certain extent, "making a mountain out of a molehill"? As Jaranda said, the best thing to do now is to close this RfC for a while and wait for Jimbo's response.--TBCΦtalk? 06:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
On a vaguely related sidenote, I find it intriguing how shocked we all are that people tend to sometimes lieon theinternet.--TBCΦtalk? 06:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
But Essjay in effect had been granted absolute trust to go anywhere and see anything, and to do anything. Or just about. So when it turns out that he has apparently gone to considerable lengths to prolong a deception, for no very good reason that those of us with real security concerns and real privacy concerns can discern, his actions assume the character of a massive betrayal. In addition, in a position of great responsibility for the welfare of the entire community, he chose to recklessly lie to the press, even at a time when he must have known that this lie could not remain unexposed for much longer. What are we to make of this? Am I the only one who is reminded of the betrayal of Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames? Nothing here is literally on a par with actual treason in the literal sense, of course, I simply mean that Essjay was given ultimate trust and now we discover he was lying to us. I think he still has much explaining to do. ---CH 14:37, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users who endorse this summary
Very much agree. AfDs, interviews, and Wikipedia can be important, but they are far from "holy". There's a reason why our critics stab at one of our major flaws.. WikiDrama. He made a bad choice in some discussions and AfDs, as well as that interview, but forgive me for not finding it evil. -- Ned Scott 02:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I'll try to keep this concise, and I am not seeking endorsements or oppositions. This is merely my rambling opinion.
Perhaps I've been on the internet too long, and perhaps because most of my formative internet years were spent in particular places that shaped my views that I'm about to express.
I was neither shocked nor surprised to learn that Essjay is a 24-year-old college drop out from Kentucky. This is not the first and will neither be the last instance of an online interaction I've had with someone who's personal life claim was something it was not. I've read the diffs of where he used his proported academic position for levity, and I have decided to forgive as a stupid, selfish mistake. I read Essjay's Wikipedia CV back when I was a new regular contributor, and I was impressed. However that never once, like other users we have of high societal stature, the basis of my opinion of him or his status on Wikipedia.
I consider that to be the penultimate reason for his deception. I am not a psychologist nor claim to be one, and this is in no way speaking for him: I think that he is insecure. He created Essjay to be important. But then he became important not because of a Doctor in Canon Law, but because he is a Wikimedia machine and the most knowledgeable, civil and helpful user I could ever run across. I stopped believing he was who he claimed long ago for many different deductive reasons, and that never once changed my opinion of him or his value. Blame him for trapping himself in a web, blame the reporter for not doing homework, blame Jimbo, blame ourselves for believing our screens, blame the process not having a solid way of dealing with this. None of this will change the fact that tomorrow we will still log on and edit and build the encyclopedia. Revocation of rights and the community outcry... as Sagaciousuk said above, this is what kills the community.
Essjay's real identity has been on his userpage for a month and now he's been "outed" as a "fraud"? Because of slashdot, blogs, and the New Yorker professional not doing background research on a direct source? 6,000 images for deletion backlogged because we're too busy being angry and caught up in our wikidrama. A far worse cause of death then being lied to by a kid from Kentucky. Teke(talk) 06:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agreed with about two-thirds of the outside comments thus far, but this is the only one that I agree so strongly with that it compels me to note this. Johnleemk | Talk 08:46, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
In reviewing pages like this one, I've seen several comments like that of Teke just above ("the New Yorker professional not doing background research on a direct source") which suggest that Stacy Schiff (or a New Yorker fact checker) is somehow to blame for this mess! I have to say that I find this an utterly outrageous suggestion. By Essjay's own account, as I recall, Stacy Schiff interviewed him for more than an hour, and he never told her his user page described a fabricated identity. This mess isn't Stacy Schiff's fault: it is Essjay's fault. Although I elsewhere have somewhat softened that stark judgement by shifting some of the blame to the Wikipedia leadership for continuing to insist upon encouraging ambiguous wikidentities. (I have to bite my tongue to avoid adding "now we know why", because in truth, since Essjay has not-- at the time of this comment--- really and truly spoken, we don't know why.) Sadly, I must agree with another of Teke's comments: "this is not the first and will neither be the last instance of an online interaction I've had with someone who's personal life claim was something it was not." But we can't let this obscure the important point, the violation of the trust the Wikipedia community had placed in Essjay. To repeat something I've said elsewhere, I don't think Essjay should be banned from editing the WP, but he should certainly be removed from any position of responsiblity, and I see no reason why he should be allowed to reapply for adminship, much less higher positions, in the forseeable future. ---CH 11:28, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I think it is being used inappropriately as well, which was the point of my blame comment. The second use was contextual to that the retraction is what brought this to the community's attention at large and many are reacting (appropriately) as this was sprung upon them. What I'm saying is that the information was already there. I would like people to use good sober judgement on the foundation of their (mis)givings, how it is expressed and with what degree of passion is a different story and to each his/her own in that case. Completely good point that it makes Wikipedia look bad to have the retraction posted. What can we say about our own reliable sources policy when the New Yorker can't be bothered to do background? The ironies are many and run deep. I still like all of you and this place needs some new carpeting and maybe a nice china hutch in the corner over in that corner points. Teke(talk) 21:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
"Essjay's real identity has been on his userpage for a month" - OK, so what exactly is his "real identity"? You say he is a "24-year-old college dropout", yet on his user page it says something about being a paralegal for 5 years (!) and an account manager with a Fortune 20 company (which strongly implies at least a relevant college degree, not to mention some sort of genius ability if he's achieved all of that by the ripe old age of 24). I personally don't know this guy from Adam and do not care if he is the King of Siam, but if a person wants a position of responsibility on Wikipedia (over and above Admin, at least), they should at least be prepared to provide real ID and proof of credentials. AdorableRuffian 20:39, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Wow, Teke as perfectly summed up how I also feel about this situation. I could not agree more. -- Ned Scott 02:50, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Now that Essjay has been asked by Jimbo Wales to voluntarily resign his positions of trust in the community, and in the likely event that he will indeed do so, I am hoping that those who feel the most betrayed or angered by Essjay's apparent misrepresentations will let this now be the end of things here. If Essjay adheres to Jimbos request, I can't see any reason to prolong this affair and am hoping all will not seek further retribution, either by way of personal attacks or by taking this to arbcom.--MONGO 07:06, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
(3xEC) Well, in addition to the resignations, this still depends on what Essjay has to say in this matter. I believe that Essjay was—to be charitable—less than truthful in his "apology" and that issue still needs to be addressed directly by Essjay. But otherwise, yes I agree with moving forward. —Doug Belltalk 07:26, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Indeed, I wouldn't have made the post I did had I seen. Let us all learn lessons. Teke(talk) 07:28, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm good with what has been said. I will not trust him again, but I know that I won't personally try to seek further "retribution," if you will. Mike H.I did "That's hot" first! 08:14, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Amen to that. Guy (Help!) 09:35, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Thankfully, this should be the end of this aspect of the affair. There's still a need to learn lessons for procedures, and to do our best to repair any damage that may have been done by past actions. .. dave souza, talk 10:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree with Seraphimblade. But I do hope that discussion will continue of what I see as the underlying issue: the continuing harm caused to Wikipedia by tolerance of deceptive practices, such as a hyperelastic notion of wikidentity and an inequity of accountability. ---CH 14:52, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed. What Essjay did was not the end of the world (WP:NOR means nobody's credentials, real or fake, can significantly impact articles). But Essjay did lose some of the community's trust by misrepresenting himself in content disputes, and resigning would be the most appropriate response. Despite the mistake, Essjay has and and hopefully will continue to substantially improve the encyclopedia, and the matter should be laid to rest once he resigns. --Interiot 18:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, thanks. I would like to hear something from him for some closure but it's time to let it play out on it's own. RxS 19:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I am sorry, but I do not have room in my heart to get angry about lies like this. There are already morethanenoughterriblethings in the world. Lying really doesn't make my list. And if Essjay's false identity protected him from getting hurt by some stalker, that's one less thing for me to be sad about.
Essjay has done a lot of great things for Wikipedia. He has invested a lot of time into helping Wikipedia. He has helped other users. In one of my first interactions with Essjay, I sort of messed up. Rather than criticism, which would have been deserved, Essjay helped me to forgive myself. I would like to return the favour. Since then, he has given me great advice.
I do not know how much Essjay is affected by things like this. However, for some people, lack of forgiveness can lead to veryunhappythings. I don't want any of that to happen. : (
I would just like to add that for me, trust has absolutely nothing to do with honesty. I trust someone if I feel confident that they shan't intentionally hurt me, even if I deserve it. Admittedly, data-mining/stalking aside, there is a limited amount people can do in that regard over the internet. Still, I trust Essjay much better than most people I have met online. — Armed Blowfish (talk|mail) 08:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
[ec w/ MONGO's staement] Since Jimbo has now weighed in and asked Essjay to resign "his positions of trust", I think that a lot of the concerns expressed here are less urgent. So can we perhaps stop thinking about individual hurts, and instead think about putting this behind us? People make bad decisions, but Essjay isn't the only person on Wikipedia with a complex fake identity. What's done is done. No matter how bad what Essjay did may have been, this sort of pile on isn't helpful. Try to put yourself in his position for a second - how many of us could take this level of criticism? How much must it suck to read this sort of stuff over, and over, and over. We all do dumb things. Luckily, for most of us, the dumb things we do don't (a) result in a retraction by the New Yorker, and (b) don't get slashdotted. The (fairly reasonable) aim of getting Essjay to resign from positions of trust seems to have been achieved. The (hopefully unintentional, for most of us) aim of totally humiliating a person who many of us saw as a friend has also been achieved. So can we move on? Guettarda 07:11, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I would like to see positive action taken from this. Spokespeople for Wikipedia must be vetted for skeletons in the closet before assuming positions of trust. Their identity must be known by the foundation. John Vandenberg 07:18, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Closing discussions while they're active only moves them to other, less appropriate settings. Essjay and everybody who considered him a friend have to accept that actions carry consequences, even if there was no malicious intent, and all this criticism is a consequence of Essjay's actions, not people's wish to humiliate him. Let this RFC continue until it's closed regularly. Zocky | picture popups 07:39, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
We should wait for Essjay's response before we consider what to do next. MER-C 07:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Any humiliation experienced was self-inflicted. And at this point, Jimbo has only requested his resignation. And anyone who has a problem with out-of-process actions by Jimbo is not really mollified by just hitting the backspace key. --Dhartung | Talk 07:47, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Guettarda is right. In fact, we should have waited before piling in. What was the hurry? Essjay is licking his wounds, understandably, and the project was in no pressing danger while he considered his position (or indeed while Jimbo considered it). The debate thus far, if one could call it debate, comes under the heading of "noise and fury signifying nothing". Why should we make changes to policy based on a single incident? Where is the evidence that this is a problem likely to happen often enough to require policy changes? I don't even think that it was necessary to have a mob to get Essjay to resign - calm discourse with Essjay and Jimbo would have ad the same effect. The baying mob makes Wikipedia look bad, just as much as Essjay's error makes us look bad. Actually to anyone who knows Wikipedia, Essjay's error reflects mainly on him, whereas the mob reflects mainly on the rest of us. It is said that the lesson politicians needed to learn from Chappaquiddick was not to drive over narrow bridges when you're drunk. Same here. The lesson we learn from this is not that we need loads of additional processes, but that if you are going to have a pseudonymous identity, don't make it a bogus identity. Because you will probably, sooner or later, get caught out. In a reputation-based community, that is never going to be good. Guy (Help!) 09:30, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Um, the last thing Essjay said was disingenuous at best. Why is it that we're supposed to sit on that and wait for Essjay's next fabrication? Sorry to be harsh here, but the "licking his wounds" plea isn't resounding with me at the moment. Also, would you mind being clearer about what policy proposals you're talking about? I think in all of this I've seen two policy issues discussed at all—and neither of those here on the RfC. There was a discussion about requiring checkuser, oversight and ArbCom users having to provide their real IDs to the foundation and there was a discussion about a guideline regarding use of false credentials and false personas. What else? I really object to your "mob" description—it's insulting. —Doug Belltalk 09:41, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The mob description is a personal attack. Meanwhile we'll see if Jimbo is swayed into doing something about the wider worries this sad tale brings up. Gwen Gale 10:47, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Guy is completely wrong here. The community has every right to voice its discontent. Essjay is one of ours and we should always take care of our own, but that doesn't always mean unconditional forgiveness and positive reinforcement. I'd rather be a "baying mob" than a cynical army of robots. A Traintake the 14:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Why so impatient? I'd rather see a carefully considered statement rather than something rushed out under extreme stress. We should all be taking our time about getting this right. ... dave souza, talk 14:36, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
No, I don't think I'm wrong. In real life, something like this happens, you think about stuff, you wonder, but you don't start buying tar and feathers until you've at least talked to the person concerned. At least not where I live. Guy (Help!) 23:28, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'm not being impatient, I'm simply taking exception to Guy's repeated characterizations of the discussion that has been taking place here and elsewhere over the last couple of days. This was a discussion that absolutely needed to happen. If all of Wikipedia had sat silent and gone about its business as if nothing had occurred, despite the play that the New Yorker correction got in newspapers and online media, it would have been tantamount to the imprimatur of the community on Essjay's actions. A Traintake the 17:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.
I am closing my own motion, snowball. Derex left me a note on my talk page of a better way to deal with this, so I will follow the advice. A new header on the page coming regarding the discussion and what's happening. If you'd like to invite discussion raised here, please start a new header. Teke(talk) 08:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
MONGO's post points at it, but I'd like something official. There have been 1142 1143 edits in 24 hours or so, and I'd like myself of another admin to close this discussion should this motion meet a minimum 30 supports at 2/3 support percentage. I know that this is out of process for RfC, but short of Jimbo closing it I don't think that IAR will result in anything but a wheel war. Teke(talk) 07:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay is not required to respond to this. The press doesn't give a crap about anything anyone says but Jimbo. This is a useless pileon at this point. Close it. pschemp | talk 07:52, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Comment Essjay hasn't even posted to this RFC yet and it has been open for less than a day. Jimbo's statement relieves the urgency on the matter, but this ought to remain open while Essjay composes a statement and other editors evaluate and respond. DurovaCharge! 07:50, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Better to discuss it all here than flooding the other boards (AN, CN, etc.) with this issue. Hbdragon88 07:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Not really. Jimbo has spoken. Its beating a dead horse at this point. Is this community so spiteful that it insists on kicking people when they are down? pschemp | talk 07:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely oppose until Essjay responds. —Doug Belltalk 07:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Oppose until response. MER-C 07:57, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Also Jimbo hasn't had a chance to review all the evidence due to his access issues. He may have also been so busy that he didn't realize Essjay didn't have to deceive to maintain privacy. Anynobody
I oppose as well. I discourage people from piling on. I think it's important that we deal with Essjay with compassion, but I think it's also important that people have a place to discuss this. Part of the value of an RFC is in the community coming to consensus, and that's something even Jimbo can't achieve by fiat. It's something we have to do together. William Pietri 08:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay isn't required to respond here. Keeping this open is just another villiage mob. I am so dissapointed in the bloodlust being displayed here. Its disgusting. The man can respond where ever he wants. pschemp | talk 08:02, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Comment - Pschemp raises a serious moral question, and I share in this discomfort. However, we also must consider that Wikipedia's reputation is at stake. Do not underestimate the hesitation with which some may have entered into this process. Kicking someone when he's down sucks, no question about it. But ask, if we wait until there are 1,000 editors instead of just 100 here expressing disapproval of the appeal to falsified credentials by a pillar of our community to influence content and to misinform the public, does that reflect well upon the project, or poorly? It's worth asking.Proabivouac 08:03, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Again, if you think the press cares about anything but what Jimbo says, you are sadly mistaken. They'll never even look at this RFC. pschemp | talk 08:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yep, he's the only one who could address this and it seems he's begun doing it. Gwen Gale 08:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
(ec) I'm sorry, but the outcry here is peanuts compared to what many people face in real life for their stupid decisions. The community is owed a suitable response from Essjay, period. If Essjay is deserving of the community's forgiveness (and I believe he is) it starts with him. No apologists required. —Doug Belltalk 08:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Is it possible to close the discussion temporarily, with the caveat that Essjay is invited to respond and the RfC may be reopened if and when he does? —Josiah Rowe (talk • contribs) 07:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't see the point in that. This is a request for comments. People who haven't seen this yet may still want to comment. Now they can do so in light of Jimbo's statement, but there is no reason to shut the RfC to comments. —Doug Belltalk 08:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
A much more sensible solution. pschemp | talk 08:02, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.
There are plenty of sections I could endorse above. Essjay has indeed embarressed himself, but IMHO, no-one else. Wikipedia will not be tarnished - most of the universe will never hear about what is, on the scale of things, a much smaller offence that the good he has done. I expect he'll resign from pretty much all his positions. Personally, and I know there are a few people who would agree, I would still trust him to be an admin, if he wants the role. Regards, Ben Aveling 09:33, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Ben, I have to disagree. Essjay had been granted positions of the highest trust in the Wikipedia community, including checkuser, then it turns out he has been actively misrepresenting his own IRL identity for years, both on and off-wiki. This makes an absolutely awful impression on the outside world--- I've been out there for some time, so I think I can somewhat straddle the in-wiki and out-wiki perspectives. The editorial comment at the end of the Stacy Schiff article is in my view simply devastating to the Wikipedia's credibility. A nice example of execution employing a adroit twist of the knife, actually. The New Yorker is good at that when they are well and truly mad at someone. ---CH 15:09, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
"There are times that rules should be broken and times when rules should be followed. I wish you luck in your quest to work out which is which". BenAveling, you made the above statement previously; who do we trust to tell us when the rules should have been followed? Duke53 | Talk 15:46, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't think he needs to resign from anything, but I do agree that I think this will all blow over. Many times Wikipedians forget that they are not the center of the universe, let alone one user of Wikipedia (even if he was well known). -- Ned Scott 20:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
All of this argument and infighting over what to do with Essjay can and probably will harm Wikipedia in the long run. Wikipedia has enough trouble trying to prove its accuracy without all this argument and conflict of opinions shaking everything up. Many people I know doubt the accuracy of Wikipedia already. Will this massive argument make anything better? Perhaps the community should try to calm down about this and quiet down the matter. Captain pandaInvinoveritas 13:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Absolutely. As a a source to look to to satisfy idle curiosity, Wikipedia is excellent. As a source when conducting genuine research on a topic its inherent instability and the fact that it is written by the general public and not by specialists makes it at best inappropriate and at worse utterly useless. MartinMcCann 15:12, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Given what we're now being told about Essjay's "real" identity, it appears that he was still being dishonest with the Wikipedia community as recently as February 2, 2007. In this post (06:07, 2 February 2007 (UTC)) to his user page, when asked about the profile discrepancy, he perpetuated the myth that his initials are "SJ" despite claiming to have "come out."
Furthermore, he exhibited a lack of judgement when stating, "I was actually under the impression that the stalkers and psychopaths were the only people who actually believed the story" about his false identity. Wikipedia editors who viewed his user page based on their interactions with him as a trusted Wikipedian mediator/admin/checkuser would have had no reason to doubt his claims to authority. I should know - I fell for it. CovenantD 16:43, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users endoring this view:
I had noticed and have also been wondering about this descrepency with the initials. The other part I believe is covered in my view above, although this is a further statement in support of it. At this point, unless someone from Wikia comes forth and says that his employment history and references have been verified, I'm not putting any faith into his current claims such as "I was an account manager with a Fortune 20 company, where I worked on a ten person team that managed roughly $500,000,000 in annual sales." That claim seems to defy the logic of his credentials, or at the very best is worded to deliberately inflate the importance of his role and responsibilities, so yes, I have concerns that the same character defects that motivated him to elevate his image and credentials the first time are still there. I guess it is this concern of mine, that there is more to the reasons behind Essjay doing what he did than he has come forth with to this point, that has made me take up the cause of calling for some true disclosure from Essjay on the matter before this can move forward. —Doug Belltalk 17:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Got your facts wrong again Doug Bell. His real initials are RSJ. Keep holding that torch long enough and it will burn you. pschemp | talk 19:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The "SJ" issues relates to only the first sentence above where I say I wondered about it. Read the rest—it has nothing to do with his comment about "SJ". I know this is an emotional issue for some, but please try to stay civil. —Doug Belltalk 02:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I endorse the second paragraph, but not the first. The other things that he did (misrepresenting his qualifications, &c.) were not acceptable. I find it insufficiently problematic that he misrepresented his initials. That is a matter of personal privacy. --Nlu (talk) 17:12, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
His last initial is J. It could just be that he is named Ryan S. Jordan or S. Ryan Jordan. There's no real reason to not believe that to be the case especially since the person he was replying to was well aware his Wikia profile and his name given there. --BigDT 17:20, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
In fact you are correct BigDT. His real initials are RSJ. What a disgusting display of pathetic grasping sensationalism and bloodlust this is. pschemp | talk 19:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I was just going to say, R.S.J. is likely. Note that he used his actual name here on January 18, so to make an inaccurate claim about his username two weeks later would make no sense. Ral315» 19:33, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
We have long since passed diminishing returns. This has to stop. Please see Giano's comments on Jimbo's page here. Newyorkbrad 22:38, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I haven't looked the edits which are being questioned, because it seems clear that even if these suspicions are true, this would only reinforce a point which has already been established, that Essjay knowingly perpetrated a deception during the entire course of his career at WP. I agree with those who urge that discussing these charges is pointless in the current context; this discussion should focus on the wider implications of what Essjay is already known to have done (which is quite bad enough), and on what measures the community can take to address the underlying problems which enabled Essjay to get himself into this jam. And I agree that Essjays statement that "I was actually under the impression that the stalkers and psychopaths were the only people who actually believed the story" is outrageous and offensive to those, like myself, who treat WP:AGF and other policies with respect.---CH 23:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I've been baffled by this story ever since I became aware of it, and I still don't know what to make of this. Much of what I will say has probably already been said by others, but I would still like to share how I feel about this. I trusted Essjay. I believed him. I rated him very highly. I believed he was a very good editor, a very good admin, a very good checkuser, etc. I don't know in what way his fake credentials played a role in his activities as admin, checkuser, etc. But it has become clear that he has misused his fake credentials to come across convincingly and with some degree of authority on articles related to religion and theology. He has lied to us, but it's much more important that those lies have probably had an influence on the content of this project. That is very serious.
Administrators, bureaucrats and other positions above the level of regular editor require credibility and authority. Credibility requires honesty and truthfulness, particularly about the basic facts. One may hide some facts about his or her real-life identity, but exaggerating, lying and asserting fake credentials go way beyond that. One may decide not to share everything with the community, but one may never lie about such basic things. This is probably the hardest thing I've had to say in the 3 years I've been on Wikipedia, but Essjay's credibility is out the window. The person who contributed to Wikipedia, who attained the positions, who we engaged with and accepted as our colleague and as our friend, is a myth, a fictitious persona created by Ryan Jordan. I believe Essjay should accept Jimbo's request to resign. And I believe we need to find out whether Robbie was Essjay's sockpuppet. If this is the case, a community ban might be in order. AecisBrievenbus 20:34, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Users endorsing this view:
I agree with everything but the last two sentences. I agree that if Essjay doesn't voluntarily resign his positions as oversight admin, bureaucrat, checkuser, arbitrator, or whatever, his privileges must be revoked, probably by Jimbo himself, since Essjay sits on the ArbCom. I'd prefer to see Essjay then voluntarily come clean about any other misconduct he might have engaged in, such as possibly using sockpuppets to "protect" his original deception, rather than initiating yet another long and painful RfA, particularly since Essjay would at that point be a former ArbCom member, if only briefly. At this point, I'd prefer to assume that there is little or no substance to the charges that Essjay ever abused any of his many powers or privileges, but I'd suggest that anyone who feels otherwise should postpone pursuing this until Jimbo gets back and the question of exactly what remaining powers Essjay might have here has been clarified.---CH 23:16, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I believe it would be an appalling act of ingratitude for the hours Essjay has put in to consider a community ban. As Jimbo said, "the harmony of our work depends on human understanding and forgiveness of errors". Sam Blacketer 22:35, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree that Essjay has put in many hours of volunteer service at WP, but his personal tragedy is that all his good deeds have been permanently shadowed by his decision to engage in a long term and ultimately pointless deception of the entire community. (As I said somewhere else, I doubt that Brandt was fooled, but I was, and I certainly wasn't stalking or harrassing Essjay. As someone else said, neither was Stacy Schiff. Nor were the readers of the New Yorker.) Sad to say, I feel that at this point, the only gratuity the community can offer Essjay now is a speedy resolution via Jimbofiat of his current status here, rather than a long, painful, and embarassing RfA involving a former (correct, yes?) member of the ArbCom itself. While we can and should acknowledge Essjay's service, we cannot forget that his own choices over the entire course of his career here are the primary reason why he has landed in the situation in which he currently finds himself embroiled.---CH 23:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
A community ban is getting a bit ridiculous. Should we not have his confession, humiliation, and demotion and be done with it? Captain pandaInvinoveritas 02:18, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
"Community ban"? What's that? I don't think anyone is proposing to ban Essjay from the WP, if that's what you mean, only to strip him of his admin with oversight powers, his checkuser powers, his bureaucrat powers, his seat on the ArbCom, and any other positions which require absolute trust on the part of the community. ---CH 03:09, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
The more I think about this episode, the more upsetting it seems.
If I might interject a personal note: all I ever wanted to do at WP was to write articles like those I collected in User:Hillman/Archive, and that's how I'd like to be remembered at Wikipedia. But by trying to restrain the bad behavior of others (obstructive editing, wikishilling and similar non-NPOV editing, etc.), following the time consuming and sometimes tortuous procedures demanded by various policies and wikicustoms, I got sucked into spending more and more time trying to comment in proceedings like this one, to my growing frustration. Last year, attempting to channel my frustration into something which would benefit the community, I tried hard to write some essays presenting my concerns about various quality control concerns at Wikipedia, all sharing the common theme of exposing as clearly as possible the evils that flow from the elastic nature of identity and accountability in Wikipedia society, plus the chaotic, obscure, mutually inconsistent, and disorganized nature of the rules of conduct here-- such as they are-- and the woefully inefficient nature of "wikipolicing" and "wikijudicial" procedures. All of these things, I feel, tend to drive out honest and "expert" editors, which cannot be in the best interests of the project.
And I must say, I went through sheer hell being harrassed by users (sockpuppets and IP anons apparently representing various individuals who had actually been banned by ArbCom or Jimbo, or severely sanctioned the ArbCom), and I endured sometimes hysterical criticism from users in good standing who were terribly upset by an important point I was trying to establish in my essays, and who badly wanted to suppress said point--- some users in good standing (or were they sockpuppets?) specifically told me they felt personally threatened by my discussion of general vulnerability of "anons" to being unmasked. And what was that point? Precisely this: "anonymity" on the web is in the end just about impossible.
Now I certainly have no wish to reopen old wounds, and I'd like to keep this discussion on topic--- as I see it, that topic is discussion of the Essjay scandal and its wider implications for the Wikipedia community--- but it seems to me that this point is extremely relevant to discussion of the wider implications of Essjay's missteps. Because I feel that any discussion of the implications of what Essjay did should focus on the thorny problem of how to balance the legitimate needs of editors to protect their privacy, so far as possible, with the equally legitimate needs of the project in pursuing the goal of constructing a reliable, well-balanced, up-to-date, unbiased and freely available encyclopedia. Ultimately, I feel, the needs of the project must trump those of editors, but clearly Wikipedia must strenuously avoid creating an environment in which few persons would feel comfortable performing administrative or even content-creation tasks! I do not pretend that the neccessary balance would be easy to achieve, but I feel that a thoughtful and open discussion of the problem is long overdue.
I briefly recounted my tale of woe here so that I can address Jimbo and Essay directly: don't you see how terribly offensive it is to me that, as I see it, the Wikipedia leadership offered me inadequate protection from user page vandals and harrassment by sockpuppets of permabanned and ArbCom sanctioned users (the proof that the protection was inadequate is that early last year, I stopped contributing to articles on technical topics I am familiar with--- surely the one place where an "expert" [in wikisense] could provide the greatest service to the project!), yet apparently that same leadership allowed, perhaps even encouraged, Essjay and perhaps other admins to concoct and continue to build over time elaborate false identities, i.e. to engage in behavior which would be discouraged if exhibited by unpriviliged users, all in a misguided attempt to throw off harrassers? As I and others could have told you, outright deception was the worst possible response to the genuine problem of vengeful persons seeking to harrass admins who have acted contrary to their own personal agenda here, because in the end it won't work and the "cure" will then prove worse than the "illness", as has happened in this case. Not to mention the point that, to my mind, lying is at all times and in all circumstances fundamentally incompatible with the stated purpose of the Wikipedia.
As as just one example of the enormous "fallout" from Essjay's deception, now I have to wonder: were any of those users who expressed such concern about possibly being unmasked themselves actually sockpuppets for Essjay? Jimbo, if you see this, one of the things I feel Essjay absolutely must do at this point, as part of the long and painful process of attempting to win back some degree of trust in the community, is to come clean about any sockpuppets he may have created! And I feel that any other admins who may have perpetrated similar deceptions on their user pages should also take this opportunity to step forward. I expect that will hurt both deceivers and deceived, but best to get it over with now, I think. Perhaps Jimbo can declare some kind of one-day amnesty for those who confess sockpuppetry and user page "misdirection" a la Essjay?
I would like to add that I strongly feel that if I'd been protected from harrassment and been allowed to complete my essays, the community would have found them extremely apropos to the present discussion. Since I was not, the community will have to take this statement and my unsupported claim above about the chimerical nature of "anonymity" on the web, for what it is worth, if anything.
In fact, I would go a bit further: I feel that Wikipedia would have benefited both from my being allowed to continue to work on articles, and from my being allowed to complete and elaborate my user space essays without undue interference from anon IP vandals and others of that ilk. Unfortunately, with the entire wikiadministrative system now in disarray and with paranoia running rampant--- with good reason, given the deception by one of Wikipedia's most trusted users--- I don't know whom to approach about possibly taking the obvious step of restoring the less controversial first third or so of my deleted essay on "Digging", since now I find myself questioning the user pages of other Wikipedians holding positions of high trust, whom I would be obligated to approach for guidance. At a time of crisis, mistrust of those who hold power at Wikipedia is most unhelpful. I suspect that as the implications of Essjay's deception continue to sink in, the mistrust that I feel is likely to become rather widespread.
I'd also like to say that I find Essjay's statement "I was actually under the impression that the stalkers and psychopaths were the only people who actually believed the story" personally offensive, because guess what? I just might have acquired the "rep" of being, as I think one critic put it, "the most active digger at Wikipedia", but I believed Essjay when I came by his user page once or twice! Why? Because I had no reason not to! At least, not then. I am not surprised when I come across a user page offering little or no personal information about the RL identity of the owner of the account, but certainly comes as news to me that, if Essjay's tacit insinuation is correct, some large fraction of Wikipedia user pages might contain outright misinformation. By some twisted feat of "logic", Essjay appears to have convinced himself that those in positions of power and trust at Wikipedia, far from being held to a higher standard of honesty, as I think most of us lesser beings would expect, should feel free to be dishonest about who they are. I think that attitude is simply outrageous, and aboslutely poisonous for the entire Wikipedia social structure. To mention just one aspect, Essjay's argument appears to make a mockery of WP:AGF. And this from someone who was recently appointed (not elected) to a seat on the ArbCom!
Is anyone else here has appalled as I am by the implication of Essjay's statement, that it might be "common practice" at Wikipedia for admins and others in positions of power and trust here, to concoct elaborate false identities in a (surely bootless) attempt to throw Daniel Brandt off the track?
I stated above that I feel that in the end, when balancing the needs of editors and the needs of the project, ultimately, the latter must trump the former. I would like to add that two further points. First, all editors are volunteers here; if they can't take the heat, they can do what I did and leave (although I wish fewer felt forced to choose that course of action). Second, since the stated goal of the Wikipedia is to provide a free, on-line, reliable, up-to-date, well-balanced and comprehensive encyclopedia, one fundamental value should trump everything else, perhaps even the very existence of the Wikipedia itself. I am referring to truth itself. Essjay seems to have presented a self-serving, specious, and in fact offensive argument that he had no option but to lie in order to save the mission of providing truth. If that were really the case-- which I doubt that anyone here believes for one microsecond--- then wikipedia.org should shut down its servers and we should all just go home.---CH 22:30, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
This situation rapidly escalated from a very controlled tempest on Essjay's talkpage into a raging firestorm across the project within a space of about two days. At this point, several hundred editors, and various outsiders, have reviewed and criticized many aspects of Essjay's statements and actions. No matter how strongly any editor may feel about any one or more of Essjay's actions or statements over the past two years, there is little more that remains to be said. Meanwhile, behind the persona of Essjay, is a real human being, with flaws but who clearly loved Wikipedia and Wikipedians, who has fallen from the top of the world to what he must find a very much lower place in a very short span of time—and as I observed last week in a very different context, an individual's mistakes and embarrassments that are captured in an online forum now follow the person for the rest of his or her life. No useful purpose can be served by piling on further criticism and, consistent with Giano's comments above, I urge that everyone immediately cease from doing so. Newyorkbrad 00:15, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree - let's give Essjay a little bit of space. I'm sure he'll do the right thing. Metamagician3000 02:50, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Well said. The Wikimob is a scary monster that will easily turn on you, even though you are just human. -- Ned Scott 03:05, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
This issue, however you characterise it, will not be solved at a community level, especially given Jimbo's recent input. How about we stop this...[insert negative word]...now and get back to, you know, writing the encyclopaedia. Daniel Bryant 03:14, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree that, assuming Jimbo promptly clarifies the question of what powers if any Essjay still holds or might be eligible to reapply for, further discussion of Essjay's actions appear counterproductive. Brad raises a good and disturbing point: assuming SJR is Essjay's honest-for-true real name, it is possible that this episode could have serious long-term consequences for him. But let's keep our eye on the ball. In my own comments on this page, I have consistently urged everyone to move beyond discussion of how Essjay got into this situation to a discussion of the underlying issues raised by the scandal, and how the community may best address these issues. I would have no objection to moving that discussion to another place, but I would oppose locking this page unless someone like Jimbo moves the discussion of the underlying issues elsewhere. I reiterate that a humane impulse demands that we try to avoid inflicting unneccessary further anguish upon the person, whoever he is, who uses the handle Essjay (for his sake, I can't help hoping that SJR is only a new false identity), but I have to say that I have only spotted a handful of truly mean-spirited comments on this scandal. I don't see any blood lust, here, just sadness, dismay, and yes, some anger, but no-one is really enjoying this, that I can see. As far as I can see, the vast majority of comments have been responsible and certainly not intended in any way to add to Essjay's cup of woe. But we can't lose sight of the fact that, if any ultimate good is to come of this scandal, it will be a renewed dedication to the encyclopedic goal and a thoughtful reexamination of policies and procedures in the light of the issues underlying this scandal, which appear to center around the currently elastic nature of wikidentities.---CH 01:54, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Hmm... just noticed the new stuff at the top about "evidence of disputed behavior", and all that. While the original structure of this RfC was a bit unusual, I think I'd support removing all that before people start filling in the blanks. As per WP:BOLD, I removed the stuff which did tend to suggest this RfC might be more about bludgeoning Essjay than looking for solutions to the underlying issues. ---CH 02:20, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, Doc reverted me. For the record, I wished to keep this RfC confined to discussing the underlying issues which led to this situation, rather than searching for more possible misbehavior by Essjay. I did write the "background", but I didn't wish to hound Essjay with a more conventional RfC, especially at a time when so many Wikipedians are so upset by his known betrayal of trust.---CH 02:50, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
It seems that Essjay has just announced his wikiretirement. I find that outcome extremely sad, but while it seems to me that his action renders moot any further discussion of possible misuse of his powers during his long wikicareer, we should not drop the ball and fail to discuss the underlying issues which played a central role in this tragic story. ---CH 03:24, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I wish people would stop playing holier-than-thou; it's getting kind of obnoxious. I agree we should be getting back to business, but I'm going to punch my head through a wall if I read another comment attune to the lone voice in the crowd saying stop the fighting! can't we all just get along? Okay, we get it; no need to subtly rail everyone who has voiced strong opinions. Isn't speaking out against something one feels is wrong just as much a part of human nature as forgiveness and making a mistake? -- tariqabjotu 02:12, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Let me help your head then. Speaking out is one thing. Kicking people while they are down is another. Its just as holier than thou to rant on about one guy's mistakes when the ranters aren't perfect people either. pschemp | talk 02:45, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps. For the record, the only reason I (and perhaps others) spoke out as I did was because it looked like it would take a lot to convince Essjay to abandon the mentality expressed in his most recent statement and (originally) endorsed by Jimbo. Judging by Jimbo's change in position, what we have here should be sufficient. -- tariqabjotu 03:09, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Pschemp, I usually respect your opinion, but your phrasing here is both inaccurate and somewhat uncivil. There may be some among the people here who want to "get" somebody out of some sort of malice or whatnot. But the vast majority are discussing an issue and problem important to them - disapproval and discussion is neither "ranting" nor "kicking someone while they're down." Sure, no one is perfect - but unless Ignore All Rules means "have no rules," there's a serious question of whether Essjay's conduct was harmful to Wikipedia and how we should react. That his conduct was not harmful is a legitimate counter-view. That the people who want to talk about it are therefore malicious and acting in bad faith seems to me not to be. If we take ideas like "community" and "consensus" seriously, then attacking people (as I respectfully think you are) for discussing issues seems badly out of place. Further, this discussion seems to be peacefully winding down - attacking people for having it only serves to create additional tension and ill-will, and I'd encourage you to stop. --TheOtherBob 03:14, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Except you forget that this rfc means nothing. Its Jimbo's request that matters in the end, and people here certainly are ranting. They are using this and Essjay's talk page to vent, rather than do anything constructive. Not a single consensus community action has come out of this. No attempt to resolve a dispute has been made, and ultimately nothing said here means crap to the press. They only care what Jimbo says. Therefore it is useless. Wikipedia does not exist so people can express their feelings and make themselves feel better while continuing to kick someone who made a mistake. If you need to express your feelings, user your talk page, or blog, or a therapist. pschemp | talk 03:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
No RfC has ever "meant anything" - no one in any RFC process holds the ability to take any action, and consensus to take a specific action rarely results. RfC is the process of discussing as a community - it's a request that the community comment, not that the community have the power to do anything. Discussing (which you want to call "venting" and "ranting") is constructive - it's a core tenet of what we do here. You could describe any dicussion as "venting" and "ranting" if you wanted - but you shouldn't, because both terms assume bad faith and discourage debate, and are therefore uncivil. You seem to be upset, and understandably so, but you should take it out offline rather than railing against and attacking other wikipedians (particularly by suggesting that they see a therapist). Being uncivil and making personal attacks is just as much "expressing your feelings" as anything you've seen here. Please stop. --TheOtherBob 03:35, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Let's close this with dignity. DurovaCharge! 03:39, 4 March 2007 (UTC)In addition, request refactoring the motion and respose statements per WP:AGF. DurovaCharge! 03:44, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
The only plausible outcome, given the circumstances. Jerry lavoie 03:40, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Close. Disputes with the individual editor are moot. Any perceived underlying policy issues can be addressed on policy pages after a reasonable cooling-off period. Newyorkbrad 03:42, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
The sooner the better. --Wizardman 03:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Oppose if this means shutting down discussion of underlying issues (see my comment below). ---CH 03:38, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Opposing this for a user who quit is pure spite. pschemp | talk 03:39, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't think there's a "pile-on". Essjay was one of the most trusted Wikipedians in the history of this project, and his deception touches everyone who ever loved this place. I absolutely agree that that we should not set out to re-examine every admin action he ever took (that way lies madness), and I applaud Essjay's decision to end the agony (while he could have chosen a less drastic route, I think I can understand the purgative nature of deleting his user pages, and I hope he can move on; to repeat something many have observed, he clearly has valuable skills and I have no doubt he will find employment for them). However, I feel that we should by all means continue to discuss the underlying issues which led to this mess, and how the community should address these issues. I hope the final act in this tragedy is not that the Wikipedia community fails to learn any larger lessons from what happened to this one user who rose so high and fell so fast. ---CH 03:38, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
The above discussion is preserved as an archive. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page, such as the current discussion page. No further edits should be made to this page.