User talk:Jimbo Wales/Archive 20

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I have blanked my entire talk page to make sure this statement gets adequate attention. Hopefully someone more clueful than me :-) can archive things properly. [Archived]

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.

--Jimbo Wales 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)


"I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes." So you already knew he had false credentials, then made him an administrator and hired him? You need to come out with a stronger statement. I'm afraid you still don't get what the problem is.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 19:23, 4 March 2007.

Too little too late, Jim. Why should I believe you? How CAN I believe you. Your position is that you thought all those qualifications were some super-secret that SJ never mentioned until his ID was blown and so never entered into any disputes he had. That is illogical and simply does not hold water. You're busted. 10:11, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

With deep regret, as I have been very fond of Essjay's work, I have to agree that he should accept your advice to voluntarily resign. I never suspected you would have promoted him if all the evidence was available to you, however, I am convinced he still would have been an excellent arbitrator.--MONGO 06:47, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for the statement. I too have deep regrets, and high regards for his work here. By resigning positions of trust, it will go along way in "taking responsibility" for the situation. I see this as youthful indiscretion -- a situation I think/hope he's learned from and look forward to supporting him as we move forward. Regards. --Aude (talk) 07:00, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

I think the solution you propose is a good middle path. It is rather unfortunate if Essjay did not get a chance to respond of his own accord before you made your statement, but the mix of your schedule and Essjay's relative inactivity perhaps threw a wrench into the works there. I agree that all such situations should be handled with maximum carefulness and respect. Unfortunately 100 people respectfully querying your actions at the same time is bound to feel for Essjay like an inquisition. That number is only scaling up as Wikipedia grows. More thought is needed about how to handle events like this. Regards, Christopher Parham (talk) 07:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

With all due respect, I'm not sure that there is another plausible or responsible course for Jimbo (or the community) to take in this scenario. This is it. I say that as a humongous fan of Essjay's who hopes that he sticks around and keeps contributing. He's given a lot to the project, and he has more to give. He's lost a lot of trust and respect right now, but, judging from his prior work, he'll get it back. —bbatsell ¿? 07:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for the statement. Stepping down from his roles may be hard for Essjay, but it's the right thing to do. And as Bbatsell has said, he can easily gain this trust back. Natalie 07:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Thank you, Jimbo. I sadly believe that Essjay voluntarily resigning from his posts of authority is the best course of action, both for him and for Wikipedia. This affair had shaken my faith in the moral underpinnings of Wikipedia; this statement goes some distance towards restoring it. I hope that now we can all move forward and begin to heal. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 07:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

This is a good decision, and it will answer the community's concerns. Now all we have to do is convince the outside world that this is not the normal way of things in this project. It's the outside world that we depend on for recruitment, support and money, and we have to stop pretending that we're not subject to real-life ethical (and in case of faked academic credentials, possibly legal) standards. Zocky | picture popups 07:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Well said, Zocky. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 07:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Likewise, Jimbo. I do agree with others who say Essjay could earn back trust and meanwhile I leave drawing any helpful, pithy lessons from this to you. So far as "the outside world" goes I think the lines are wholly blurred but you know that. Gwen Gale 07:20, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Thank you Jimbo. I support your decision and in the spirit of reconciliation I have suggested to Essjay that he improve a particular article. DurovaCharge! 07:25, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

If your are still online, a closure of the Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Essjay might be nice to kill it dead. Teke (talk) 07:32, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

I disagree. I think we still need to hear a response from Essjay. I'm willing to move forward, but not without an appropriate statement from Essjay on the entire matter. Closing the RfC now would be premature. —Doug Bell talk 07:43, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I concur with Doug Bell. // Internet Esquire 17:17, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Jimbo, thanks for clearing this up on your end, and thank you for taking the time to reply to my email. I'm glad that you don't condone this. This has been a troublesome period, but hopefully everyone can move on, and Essjay will eventually get what positions he needs back. – Chacor 07:44, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

I find this episode terribly sad, but I agree that you had no choice but to ask Essjay to resign his positions. I too recognize Essjay's positive contributions and while he has fallen a long distance, I too hope that he continues to contribute as an ordinary user. But while I wish to encourage healing the wounds, I just left some comments expressing the hope that by further discussion of how this situation came about, the Wikipedia community can examine what changes may be needed to policies and customs regarding anonymity and other practices which, I fear, tend to promote deception and lack of accountability. ---CH 08:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for moving forward in a sensible and positive way. After trying to contribute to calming this firestorm I reluctantly became convinced by the evidence that Essjay's actions had damaged the trust necessary for responsible work. The whole episode underlines the wisdom of the policies well summarised at User:Uncle G/On sources and content#The Wikipedia model and sources and fact checking. It's reasonable that self descriptions on a user page can indicate careers, but listing credentials and qualifications should be discouraged, in my opinion. It's a great strength of Wikipedia that content is there to be read critically, not accepted as dicta ex cathedra. .. dave souza, talk 11:13, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Attn: New Yorker

Jimbo, you wrote,"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."
This, along with the letter to the professor, is what did it for me, and I have no doubt that, as you say, you were not aware of these when you'd made your earlier statement.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, I recommend that you or someone in your trust contact the New Yorker, and point them to the relevant RfC. It will show them that we well understand - overwhelmingly in fact - the difference between pseudonymity and the abuse of false credentials. One may contrast this with similar examples in academia (see Ward Churchill) which took years to act upon, the responses to which included a great deal more ambiguity and excuse-making than is found here.Proabivouac 07:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
It's a little difficult to square "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." with (on 1 March): "Essjay has always been, and still is, a fantastic editor and trusted member of the community. He apologized to me and to the community for any harm caused. Trolls are claiming that he "bragged" about it: this is bullshit. He has been thoughtful and contrite about the entire matter and I consider it settled." Especially difficult to reconcile in view of the very strong language used to support User:Essjay. The earlier remarks suggest knowledge of at least some of the issues. --luke 08:13, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree. Wales's initial comment to the New Yorker “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it” [1] seems to indicate some knowledge of the duplicity, if not a full realization of its implications for the project. Academy Leader 10:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
So Essjay is "thoughtful and contrite" now!?! But that means nothing, he didn't show much thought when he decided to go out of his way to lie and misrepresent himself as a professor. And it means even less that he's remorseful now he's been caught and punished, who wouldn't be?--All2humanuk 18:29, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I think the professor also needs an explanation and apology, rather than finding out about all this through some other means. Tyrenius 07:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Stopping by

The politics never seem to end. Just wanted to stop in and say hi Jimbo. I'm really impressed with Wikipedia and I've having a blast. See you on the Web 2.0. Mkdwtalk 06:45, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Cautious Thank You

Thanks for the statement - and i'm glad you've put on record your thoughts. However, just for the record really, you mention that essjay was contrite and apologetic at all times, which i'm afraid isn't entirely true - i had tried for a couple of weeks to raise the issue politely and calmly, and felt very brushed off in response - no contrition or apology was offered to me. Hopefully essjay will be able to step back gracefully for a while, and continue the amazing work he does around here - and as I mentioned to him, maybe this is a beginning, not an end... Purples 07:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Considering the nasty way you put everything, I'm not sure you deserve an apology. pschemp | talk 07:50, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
<personal attack by anon removed>,
Though, I consider your remark a borderline personal attack also. Let's all be civil, drop such remarks, and lets please move forward. --Aude (talk) 08:12, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
No I'm sorry. Purples went way beyond just asking questions and into obvious harassment. His self-righteous statement here is a falsehood. This whole thing is bad enough, but for him to be kicking Essjay when he's down is not acceptable and I will not let him do it. pschemp | talk 08:14, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Is it possible that you have lost some of your WP:COOL here? I didn't read any of that in to Purples' statement above. Thanks, William Pietri 08:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
That's because it isn't in his statements above. Its in his repeated statements days ago on Essjay's talk page and in his refusal to stop badgering him. He harassed. Essjay was polite and contrite. pschemp | talk 08:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, but based only upon what I know now, User:Purples (Daniel Brandt or otherwise) was telling the truth. Surely that must count for something? Were it simply a matter of Essjay wishing to conceal his identity, it would be a different story, but it isn't: he took it upon himself to represent the community in his communications with the press and the public.Proabivouac 09:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yow are missing the point. Purples is claiming Essjay wasn't contrite and polite. That's the lie. He was polite, and in the face of harassment. He didn't call him names and rant and rave. Purples does not deserve an apology for anything. pschemp | talk 09:33, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay was certainly polite, and Purples says nothing about his politeness. He is questioning whether he is being contrite, i.e. "feeling regret and sorrow for one's sins or offenses; penitent". That's a matter of opinion, and judging by Essjay's talk page and the RFC, Purples is hardly the only person to question that. He may be unpleasant, but being unpleasant back is not helpful. Zocky | picture popups 10:20, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
(unindent)Indeed. As the person who first asked Essjay about his dual identities, I got a prompt, polite, and (as always with Essjay) thorough explanation. One which I was satisfied with (and come on, you tell a twenty two year old he can be whoever he wants to be on the Internet, he's inevitably going to choose something gradiose), and as far as I was concerned closed the matter. I have Essjay's page watchlisted, and can verify that Purples has been aggressive to the point of harrassment in asking Essjay about his identity - possibly Essjay may have ended Purples' pursuit by linking to my question and his reply instead of asking someone to search through his archives, but no matter.
Like Jimbo, Essjay's misuse of his false identity to win arguments only came to my notice yesterday - and now I suddenly find I can't make myself instinctively trust him the way I used to. I'm sure I'm not the only one that likes Essjay very much but has a niggling "How do I know this is actually true?" in the back of my mind with regards to all claims and edits he has made without external verification. Resignation seems the only way forward, for him and for us. I hope it works. Dev920 (Have a nice day!) 10:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

I don't want to get into a bun fight, but I'll simply ask folk to have a look through my contributions. Essjay was always polite to me, just not contrite or apologetic. I have not lied or harrassed and i think it's rude to say i have. that's all really - Purples 11:34, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

  • Posting the same message, trying to WP:OWN it, and then yelling at the people that tell you that you are disruptive is certainly harrasment in my books. ✎ Peter M Dodge (Talk to Me) 22:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Not nearly good enough


So Essjay has "been asked to resign" (aka fired). Big deal.

The problem of abusive administrators, fake personalities with spurious qualifications (essjay isn't the only one), edit cabals (such as the Muslim guild, or the ones on Israel/Palestine), blatent abuse of Wikipedia for personal gain ... and the overall lousy state of most articles in terms of readability, notability and citations will continue.

Essjay is simply the tip of a much larger iceberg of systematic falsification of the historical record on Wikipedia. It's time Wikipedians stop trying to blame outsiders for the faults of the project. Its time administrators were called to account for their actions and banned from making edits themselves. It's time that some administrators stopped being slapped on the wrists for abusing their powers and actually get thrown off the project.

You could start by requiring all editors to register. You could continue by requiring all editors to register real information about themselves with the Foundation. You could instigate proper root-and-branch reform of the administration of Wikipedia. You could institute proper review of articles before publication.

But I guess you won't.

Throwing Essjay off the parapet won't fix what ails Wikipedia. -- 10:55, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

"You could start by requiring all editors to register." Coming from an anon - the irony Glen 11:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Not really. Since anon editing is currently allowed, and the above user merely wanted to make a comment, then it isn't unreasonable for him/her to do so without registering first, and this doesn't make him/her a hypocrite for thinking that anon editing should ultimately be done away with. As long as anon editing is allowed, Wikipedia will be, at best, an exercise in "openness" and "anti-elitism", but not a comprehensive encyclopedia. Because of anon editing, Wikipedia is bombarded by a constant stream of vandalism and other nonsense that, while the majority of it is probably reverted and doesn't cause permanent harm, forces more dedicated users to spend time cleaning it up rather than contributing to articles themselves. And as I said, the majority of the vandalism is reverted (mainly that which takes place on pages with a very high viewership), but that which is done to more obscure pages often stays for weeks or even months before being reverted, and I recall one instance in which an IP editor inserted false info into an article on a living person which wasn't reverted until the article's subject saw it. And one last concern is that because most vandalism comes from IPs, IP editors are often looked down upon just for being IP editors (I often see them branded as "anons" or "anonymous cowards"); therefore, allowing IP editing actually encourages elitism.--Azer Red Si? 16:37, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
A tiny point — I don't believe that "anon" is a pejorative term. I often use it to refer to any unregistered contributor, just because it's much less awkward to say "the anon has a point" than to say "122.26.399 has a point". "Anonymous coward" is, of course, a different matter. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 19:37, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
As an observer, I must say it seems really immature to expect any one person to be able fix any of the upteen social problems on this site. It seems, further, like an immaturity of the site's current structural development for dedicated participants to invest final decision making authority on content and user problems in any one person. This situation creates an inherent imbalance of power that seems to me contrary to the popularly promoted goals and aims of the project. If publicly agreed on policies and processes are not held to and evenly enforced by all dedicated users, especially by those at or near the "top" of Wikipedia's administrative hierarchies, it creates the impression among the "rank and file" that corruption is rampant from the top down. To some extent, I think this perception may be a product of any political system with a singular autocratic authority at "the head." As far as this site goes, I think some of the current problems could be mitigated somewhat by strictly limiting the capacity of those involved in foundation or other visible "real world" Wikimedia support or leadership roles to make binding decisions regarding anything to do with the content, policies, or processes of the site itself. This would help to eliminate the cult of personality that seems to circulate around foundation figures, and allow Wikipedia to grow into it's next stage of social and political development, whatever that is. Academy Leader 12:41, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Requiring all editors to register would be potentially damaging. Many a time, I find vandalism to Sesame Street related articles is done by a registered vandal, and reverted by an anonymous passerby. Other times, I often see anons fixing spelling or grammatical errors that I missed, and likely dozens of other registered users reading the article skimmed by. Anons can be a nuisance, but they can also be wonderfully helpful. -- Zanimum 21:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
But the amount of harm that is caused by anon editing greatly outweighs the amount of good that it does. So you pointed out one instance of good anon editing on a single article. But what about the constant stream of vandalism that users have to spend their time reverting every day rather than contributing to the encyclopedia themselves? What about the fact that, because of the huge amount of vandalism that comes from anons, any anon editor is immediately looked down upon just for being anon, thereby encouraging elitism rather than preventing it as allowing anon editing supposedly does? What if a troll gets ticked off by an anon vandal fighter and decides to trace the anon's visible IP and hack into his/her computer? And so the questions continue. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: so long as anon editing is allowed, Wikipedia will be, at it's best, an experiment in "openness" and the "Wiki way", but not a reliable encyclopedia, which I though was its first and foremost goal. Saying something like "Well, the other day, I saw an anon editor correct a typo... etc. etc. etc." does not negate the harm that anon editing causes this project on the whole, and does not change the fact that it must be done away with if Wikipedia is to ever reach its full potential. End of story.--Azer Red Si? 19:28, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Whoa-- first, I meant this has happened in dozens of articles related to Sesame Street, and I expect Sesame Street is a microcausm of the entire project, within any realm of study. I'm not sure if this is true, as I've been focusing on other Wikimedia projects other than vandalism reverting, but I suspect this to be so.
As for anons creating vandalism, just as many vandals create accounts. End of story. I'm pretty sure I've blocked more accounts than IPs in my day. -- Zanimum 21:56, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Well duh, since if an account makes a single bad edit, it can be immediately indef blocked as a vandalism-only account, whereas IPs have usually have to receive four or more warnings before being blocked.--Azer Red Si? 19:35, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
If the Foundation were to require people to send copies of real information to themselves, this would be a nightmare to administrate. Would the records be kept in hardcopy, or digital? Either way, the offices or servers would be a prime target for identity thieves to gather. And believe me, Citizendium's current less intensive structure is prone to anyone with five minutes getting in with a fake ID. -- Zanimum 18:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Sounds reasonable to me your comment Zanimum. As an editor who is not anonymous I would not want to be a part of a system that involved any dangers of identity theft (and I have been a victim of this crime, albeit in the pre-digital era). Wikipedia is the encyclopedia that anyone not subject to arbcom can freely edit and I think were we to change that it could only harm wikipedia, SqueakBox 19:40, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I also agree with the above 2 comments and would add that most anons are not vandals (or at least aren't trying to be). Also, even if we require all users to register, we still won't be a legitimate encyclopedia. The majority of articles will still be edited and created by amateurs. There will still be vandalism, though there would be less. But there would also be fewer of the thousands of helpful anon edits. Closing wiki to anons would create an inclusive atmosphere, almost the opposite of the ideal that Wikipedia and the Foundation was founded on. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 20:04, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Further to the point of not banning unregistered users, I think part of the attraction of Wikipedia is the notion that 'you can edit this page right now'. Banning unregistered users would get rid of this attraction. In addition, 30% of legitimate edits come from anonymous users, as noted here. Hut 8.5 20:18, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes, that's a fantastic stat, to know that so many people are willing to make a little change here, a little change there. -- Zanimum 21:58, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Something I just thought of while on RCP: Forcing users to register in order to stop vandalism, etc. wouldn't be as effective as many people seem to think. This is based on the logic that people register because they want to help the project. I think that vandals don't register simply because, for vandalism, its easier not to register. If we require registration to edit, persistent, bad faith vandals will just get accounts to vandalize. All this would stop is good faith, "test" vandalism, and legit passerby edits like Zanimum mentioned. Mr.Z-mantalk¢Review! 23:05, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree that forcing users to register would not stop a determined, technically savvy vandal. A good example is the notorious vandal User:WordBomb. He turned out to be a corporate official with the resources of a multimillion dollar company at his disposal, pursuing his boss' vendettas on Wikipedia. The company that employed WordBomb also dispatched employees to edit the article on their company, sometimes anon edits displaying the company's IP. The only solution to vandalism and abuse of Wikipedia for personal gain is continued vigilance.--Mantanmoreland 15:58, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
A steadfast strength of WP is its tolerance of edits from anon IPs. Helpful contributions do come from anons and there is some evidence helpful "drive-by" edits would drop a lot if registration was required for any edit. Gwen Gale 16:05, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Well isn't there at least a way that the site could be modified so that IPs are only visible to administrators. With visible IPs everywhere, this site could be a hacker paradise.--Azer Red Si? 19:38, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
This wiki needs more openness and transparency, not less. Gwen Gale 19:40, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Ditto Gwen on openness and transarency, but I also second the motion, for the umpteenth time, that the time is long past due to ban anon IPs outright, and also to officially ban all sockpuppetry outright. If you tally the score, it is very striking how many of Wikipedia's problems stem directly from the traditionally ambiguous nature of wikidentity and the resulting profound inequity of user accountability. These could constitute the first baby steps toward seriously attempting to improve the reliability of the Wikipedia as an information resource. I also feel that a new and more pointed statement of purpose would be invaluable. Wikipedia is at bottom an encyclopedia, right? As I understand it, the MUD is just the technical means of providing the sociopolitical environment fostering collaborative authorship of encyclopedia articles.---CH 00:31, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, and sorry (by Doc)

I, for one, am satisfied by what you have done. If everyone had assumed a little more good faith on your part, then perhaps half the fury could have been avoided. We should have simply waited for your response. You have acted. It is sufficient. Thank you.

As for Essjay, using his credentials in content disputes and parading them in the community was unacceptable. His previous half-apology, blaming trolls for his need to use disinformation, was disingenuous and unwise. However, a 24 year-old, who has treated wikipedia as a bit of a role-playing game, is not to be treated as a criminal. His content contributions, aside from the fraud, have been quite outstanding. And I do credit him as being an expert in his field, if an unqualified auto-dictat. He not pushed an agenda, and has passionately respected our neutrality. His contributions to the administration of wikipedia have also been second to none. Although it has sometimes looked like an intention to accumulate power - power has never been misused, quite the opposite. That he will not be able to continue in these roles, is a loss to Wikipedia. Further, the 'role' he has played has been one of a neutral, friendly, pacifying and wise wikipedian - I do not believe that these qualities are too far removed from the reality of the individual. Despite everything, he still strikes me as a thoroughly decent individual.

Should he resign? Yes. (Although I'd give him back his administrative functions tomorrow should he re-apply.) He has damaged the community. The incident with the reporter was highly inappropriate. But, my reckoning is that things have just got out of hand, and so we should let bygones pass. Further, the penalty of ridicule and abuse he has faced from the community far outweighs the sins committed. There was no malice here. If Essjay now apologises fully, it is time for Wikipedians to rally round and offer support. Again, and this is a favourite theme of mine at the moment, we need to remember that the in-house games can have real-life consequences. Essjay has played a game, but Ryan Jordan is a decent bloke who has got burned in that silly game. My thoughts are with him; and my sympathy fully.

--Docg 11:45, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Hear hear. ViridaeTalk 11:47, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
He used his fictional CV both to sway content and as a nominally official representative of WP to a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter (WP management referred her to him). Gwen Gale 11:49, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Why would you believe that his name is actually Ryan Jordan? WAS 4.250 14:06, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Ok, let's give that a rest now. – Steel 14:17, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Steel, you must recognize that the web of lies here appears to be quite complex. In particular, he has previously claimed that "SJ" stood for his initials. If he were truly concerned about privacy, why would he say that? All I'm saying is that people are not wrong to treat his statements as suspect. He has made a direct statement in contradiction with the possibility that his name is Ryan Jordan. 04:11, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay has played a game, but Ryan Jordan is a decent bloke who has got burned in that silly game - uh... aren't they the same person? And how is being 24 a mitigating factor? Bwithh Join Up! See the World! 14:21, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks, Doc. Well said. .... dave souza, talk 15:53, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Being 24 should indeed be a mitigating factor. Lets not condemn a very young man for ever or try to wreck his career for a silly mistake that from what we can see wont be repeated, SqueakBox 16:06, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Career? Is he getting paid for this? No one is saying he can't be a valuable contributor. It's just he won't be a valuable contributor in special areas of the project that requires a certain level of trust. There are many things he can help with or write about, with special powers. -- Zanimum 21:59, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Doc, unlike Essjay, I have genuine if limited experience teaching in American classrooms, and your comment immediately reminded of something I sometimes heard my undergraduate students say, to the effect that "we're in our twenties, of course we try to cheat on exams!" All I can say is that this is a simply dreadful excuse for misbehavior, unless Americans plan to raise the drinking, driving, and voting age to thirty. As I sometimes heard my foreign-born colleagues say when we discussed such excuses, "talk like this shows why we tend to regard Americans as childish".
Jimbo, there are some important points here which I hope are not being lost.
  1. I agree with those who offer another argument why Essjay is not entirely to blame for this scandal. I think his career amply illustrates one danger posed by offering teenagers the opportunity to lie extravagantly about their identity: some of these young people stay with Wikipedia for years, maturing as they age and acquire more life experience on and off-wiki. Some even come to hold positions of enormous trust and respect within the Wikipedia community. I suspect that there are cases other than Essjay in which admins have come to regret some poor decision they made when they were much younger, more immature and naive concerning the possible consequences of actions such as outright lying. I think this would be an excellent moment to bite the bitter bullet and ban anonymous editing and sockpuppetry, period. Time after time, scandals erupt here because Wikipedia trusts absolutely anyone to edit almost any page here with little if any accountability.
  2. I am particularly disturbed by Essjay's statement that "I was actually under the impression that the stalkers and psychopaths were the only people who actually believed the story", since it seems to imply that he believes, rightly or wrongly, that there is a culture of lying at Wikipedia which encourages admins seeking to avoid retaliation (there is no question that this is a legitimate concern, even for an ordinary user) to go beyond providing minimal "real life" information on their user page to providing an elaborately constructed and plausible but entirely ficticious "real life" persona. I hope you will urge admins and indeed all users to divulge any such deceptions immediately, and in future to offer only truthful information on their user pages.
  3. In thinking over my own experience at Wikipedia last year, I realized that I now seem to have good reason to suspect that some of the admins, mediators, and other users I encountered, who seemed oddly terrified that I might accidently reveal their true identity, may have been sockpuppets for Essjay. I feel that Essjay himself bears a particularly heavy responsibilty to come clean about any sockpuppets he may have employed, since I feel that his statement quoted above shows him trampling on the spirit of WP:AGF.
  4. I feel that you have no choice but to revoke any priviliges held by Essjay which give him access to private information, involve exercise of sound judgement, or require enormous trust within the community, specifically including arbitration and checkuser. Regretfully, after sleeping on this, I also feel that you have no choice but to declare him ineligible for holding such positions or possessing such privileges at Wikipedia any time in the future. But I encourage you, and indeed the community, to continue to offer support to the person, whoever he really is, behind the "Essjay" handle, and if possible to help him find some scope for his considerable "people skills" in some other organization where he can make a fresh start. My sense that the community is eager to offer him the chance to continue to contribute as an ordinary editor, and I concur, but I must demur from any intent to offer him the chance of reapplying for "powerful positions of trust" at WP.
  5. I feel that an essential component of the response by the Wikipedia community to the Essjay scandal should involve moving beyond discussion of how he got himself into this mess to a discussion of the underlying issues raised by his personal tragedy. Please see my own statement for some suggestions about what wider lessons can perhaps be drawn.
It might be helpful to consider giving your support for my restoring the introduction to my self-deleted user space essay on "Digging" (no doubt some admin with sufficient powers can help you find and examine my last pre-deletion version--- IIRC, the internal link was "User:Hillman/Digging"), because that essay made the case for a point which I feel is highly relevant, namely that "anonymity" on the web is ultimately a chimera, and I'd like to refactor the first third of the essay to support this specific contention, for reference in discussion of the implications of the Essjay scandal. To repeat, I acknowledge that privacy concerns are a legitimate concern, and harrassment poses a real threat to legitimate activity by Wikipedians in good standing, particularly admins, but I feel that discussion of how to deal intelligently with that threat must begin with awareness of the technological limitations of putative "anonymity" in the age of Google.---CH 01:20, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Well, Essjay has retired, so this renders discussion of revoking his rootly powers moot. I think it also renders moot the calls by some to re-examine his performance as an oversight admin, bureaucrat, checkuser, and so on. But I do feel that if anyone has knowledge that Essjay employed sockpuppet accounts at Wikipedia, now would be a good time to mention that. AFAIK, I never interacted with Essjay, but I feel that I have some right to know if I knew him under another handle, since to my mind keeping me in ignorance would amount to perpetuating a deception.

If I could make just one plea to Jimbo, it would be this: please, please, do not squander this opportunity to encourage thoughtful discussion at WP of the wider issues underlying this scandal and what to do about them.---CH 04:15, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

not a violoation of trust?!

Are you saying that making up a set of impressive credentials is not a violation of people's trust as long as you don't actively use them in content disputes?

I appreciate you are finally taking action, but I cannot understand why you didn't check the facts until after the New Yorker published their retraction with your "I don’t really have a problem with it" quote. --08-15 14:23, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Making up a set of impressive credentials is of course a violation of people's trust. It was a mistake for me not to check the facts. It is well known that I am a very trusting and forgiving person... this is part of what makes Wikipedia work as well as it does. I trust you. I hope you will live up to that trust. I am pretty sure you will. I do not think this incident should turn anyone away from that basic standard of human decency and respect. Expect the best of people, and they will almost always reciprocate and expect the best of you. When we live our lives that way, we are better people for it.

It's easy to beat me up for this one. I made a mistake. I am sorry. But after the beatings are over, let's not forget what we are here for, and why.--Jimbo Wales 13:36, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I'm going to ask just one more time, and then I am going to leave it alone, because I have far better things to do, with the launch of the Citizendium approaching. Jimmy, if I may--what mistake, precisely, do you admit to making? Before you answer, let me clarify the question. I know you say, "It was a mistake for me not to check the facts," and "Making up a set of impressive credentials is of course a violation of people's trust." This seems to imply that you did not know that Essjay had made up his impressive credentials, and the mistake you admit to making is this: you didn't bother to check out Essjay's impressive credentials.
If that's your answer, I want to point out some facts. Essjay started as an employee in your company in early January, so his Wikia page history says. Surely you found out about his fraud then. Didn't you? Or did you actually hire him still thinking that he was a tenured professor of theology? (Why on Earth would a tenured professor want to come to work for Wikia?) Look, either you hired him thinking he was a tenured professor, or you hired him knowing he was a fraud. There wasn't a third option.
I think, Jimmy, that people are desperately hoping for honesty and a meaningful apology from you. That will require an explanation of why you hired him and why you put him on ArbCom when you had to know he was a fraud--when you had to know that he wasn't the tenured professor he claimed to be. Otherwise just come out and say this: I really believed that Essjay was a tenured professor of theology when I hired him, and when I promoted him to ArbCom, and when I told The New Yorker that he was just using a pseudonym and I didn't care about that.
This is, I promise, the last you'll hear from me about this. If anyone is going to hold your feet to the flames on this, it won't be me. I have to admit I'm just too disgusted to care anymore. --Larry Sanger 05:31, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
What concerns some is how you reacted before the firestorm broke on this, taking into account how you expressed yourself and what you must have known. There is no question of beatings; some just wonder what would have happened if this was left to internal Wikidiscussion, when it seems entirely feasible from what is known that you would have stuck to your earlier immovable position. Do you see the problem?--luke 14:46, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
No, I don't follow you. I made a mistake initially, and I have apologized for it. But the firestorm that concerned me most was very much the internal firestorm. If you are asking what would have happened if the internal firestorm had not occurred, i.e., had the facts of the matter not been outed by research by good people in the community, well, I don't know. I guess it is possible that I would have never known all the details that I know now.
I misjudged the situation, and for that I am sorry. But whatever various things people might legitimately criticize me about, sticking to a mistake with a passion is not one of them. When new facts come to light, we must reason in light of those new facts. When there are no new facts but we re-examine what we thought before and find an error, we must correct that error. I am a human being, and that's the only way I know how to live.--Jimbo Wales 14:53, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
One thing I always liked about the sociopolitical environment provided at WP was the sense of a community working toward a common goal. Unfortunately, when Essay wrote said that he had assumed that only the baddies believed what he wrote on his user page, I feel that he trampled upon WP:AGF, and considering that this came from one of the most trusted users in the history of WP, it seems clear that this guideline needs to be re-examined. At the very least, I'd suggest
  1. implementing an efficient internal policy/ArbCom_ruling/guidelines/essay search tool,
  2. instituting new policies for vetting candidates for senior leadership: sure, these might be volunteer positions, but that's no reason not to ask for a resume and to check stated personal information and to call up some character references,
  3. ensuring that some guideline offer suggestions to new users, strongly enjoining them not to misrepresent themselves at WP, and pointing out that if they decide to stay and scale the ladder of wikipolitical success, they must expect to pass increasingly vetting
I'm trying to suggest that a spirit of trust is well worth saving, but that Essjay's deceptions show very clearly that, particularly when it comes to the leadership, verification is essential.---CH 00:46, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

No "sorry" from Wales

It seems that Jimmy has a pattern of reacting immediately to incidents, based on his impression of the facts of which he's (all too briefly) availed himself, rather than the facts that the community has painstakingly gathered. I won't cite the many examples -- maybe someone else could offer theirs below this comment. The biggest problem I see here is that nowhere in Jimbo's current response to the situation do we see the words "I am sorry" or "I apologize". I think this reflects Jimmy's attitude that even when he is wrong about something, he owes nobody an apology. He's assured that the "new facts" (which were there all along) will explain his rationale for having made a mistake, and that should be good enough for everyone to get back to work. In fact, on top of the absence of a personal apology, there is almost always a general admonishment of the people who "started all of this". If you can't see this pattern, I hope that others will take the time to point out some examples below this comment. This was a great start at reconciliation; but, given the inherent management and personality traits that I've pointed out above, Wikipedia is crazy if it thinks this will be the last (or largest) of these kinds of incidents down the road. -- 14:53, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

That is a strange interpretation of my history, my ip number friend. To be clear: I made a mistake here, I am sorry, and I apologize for it. I should have looked into this in more detail, sooner. I offer as an explanation, not an excuse, that I was on a journey to India, visiting slum schools to learn how our work might or might not be helpful to people strugging to get an education in adversue conditions, as the facts were being discovered.--Jimbo Wales 00:33, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

given that finding the new facts would have involved digging through 10s of Ks of edits it is not unreasonable that he didn't know about them.Geni 15:22, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I'd assume good faith here on Wales' part. What's more, for all of Wikipedia's dreary flaws and mind-numbing, fingernails-on-the-chalkboard inefficiencies, take Wales out of the loop and one has likely lost the one thing, the knack, which has built this site into a mega traffic, social networking MUD which also happens to've thrown off several thousand more or less helpful, alphabetized articles with high rankings on Google. Editing here can be a big docking drag sometimes, don't know why I do it half the time and sure as sunshine I don't tell my co-workers about it but the outcome speaks for itself doesn't it. Give him time to respond further, as he said he would. Gwen Gale 15:52, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
The fact that Wales reacted to the situation in the manner he did indicates to me that he is not properly letting his subordinates handle issues. At his level he should NOT be personally getting involved in a situation like this. At best he would endorse the recommendation(s) of those below him. The fact that he jumped to conclusions shows that there is poor communication between Wales and those immediately below him. SarcasticDwarf 00:04, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
who else is there? stewards have the technical abbility but not the authority. Arbcom might have the authority but no one really wants to go through arbcom and after that you are back to people at board level. Essjay is on arbcom. Board memebers are about the only people who can pull rank.Geni
Good God, if anyone deserves WP:AGF around here, it's Jimbo. He reacted appropriately once he knew the full situation, what else does anyone want? Seraphimblade Talk to me Please review me! 00:36, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I'd say that he has reacted appropriately now, which is good. However, the initial response of saying everything was fine instead of perhaps promising to look into it was inappropriate, given the nature of the problem. Just a thought really, since I work for a company which is astronomically bad at PR these days and it seems like that particular disease is catching! —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 00:49, 4 March 2007 (UTC).
Jimbo has been traveling the past week, he has had limited access to even post his comments above, let alone to dig through Essjay's history. Corvus cornix 01:33, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Geni, you refered to Jimbo as "the one thing, the knack, which has built this site into a mega traffic, social networking MUD". I've been away for some time, so I don't know whether I am overinterpreting what you wrote. Is it really true that, as your comment might seem to suggest, the WP community has now agreed that Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia but a MUD? If so, does Jimbo agree with that? ---CH 01:37, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
no that was Gwen Gale.Geni 08:10, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Yeah it was me and yes Wales knows it's a MUD. WP works because its mind-boggling inefficiencies are carried by free, more or less enthusiastic labour. I mean, Essjay threw his life into Wikipedia in effect because he had lots of free time and got sucked deep into a MUD. I don't think WP could fly otherwise. It's a marvel of social engineering, with hooks both in true life and in fantasy for those editors who want it that way (and many do), so meed cuz it's thrown off several thousand more or less free and helpful encyclopedia articles. Gwen Gale 08:33, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Hush it now?

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 17:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Endorse the above 100%. Thanks Giano.--Docg 17:10, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes. For my part I must say, I hope Essjay makes his way back into the fold fast. For me, it's all about the wider worries. Essjay has my best wishes. Gwen Gale 17:12, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree. Thank you for pointing that out, Giano. ElinorD (talk) 17:17, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agreed by me too and well stated, SqueakBox 17:24, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree completely with this. Of course, things can't go back to the way they were. I fear now that, if Essjay gains the trust of the community (he has mine), the death threats would be more substantial, and probably much scarier. Wikipedians, by some sort of freaky coincidence, are humans, and I hope that Essjay as a Wikipedian will only improve from this incident, and that Essjay as a person will possibly do so also. GracenotesT § 18:54, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
If he's 24 years old - and I, for one, would assume a certain level of maturity at that age - and yet builds a good part of his life on lies, then I think he deserves to not be 'feeling very happy' about that. Silly 'stalking' excuses and Wikipedians' disturbing allowance of these affairs aside, this problem is his fault, and Wikipedia's reputation is tarnished due to it. 09:45, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I don't think anyone desires to banish Essjay to the wilderness; even the straw poll that was taken yesterday showed a majority of respondents wishing for Essjay to retain his adminship. A Train take the 17:27, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

While I would like to see Essjay rejoin the fold as a rank and file Wikipedian as soon as possible, the fact that Jimbo had to ask for Essjay's resignation from positions of trust on Wikipedia leaves this matter unresolved. To wit, many people who supported Essjay probably think that Jimbo has acted too harshly, just as there are no doubt many people who think that Essjay should retain his administrator privileges. Assuming that Essjay is truly contrite, a final statement from him on this matter wherein he voluntarily surrenders his administrator privileges would provide some much needed closure. // Internet Esquire 18:25, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Jimbo is the boss and his actions should be judged in that light. Power is a difficult and lonely road, SqueakBox 19:08, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Oh please don't start again in this section - lets have some peace from it Giano 19:07, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
If Essjay ought to be an administrator, it's a simple matter to set up an RfA. Dev920 (Have a nice day!) 18:31, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Hi. The only thing I can conclude if someone supports his continued adminship is that this person is not aware of the complete extent of Essjay's misdeeds. Please do some more Google searches on the subject and read about the seriousness of his transgressions. He has, apparently, also committed libel in accusing the reported of offering to pay him for his time.
Are all of these things just unimportant? Just because he "seems to be nice and fair"? He's not fair. He used false credentials to sway content disputes. He's not nice, because he tricked people. I don't understand how any person can justified his continued adminship when he, when caught lying, lies again in his apology that the reporter offered to pay him, apparently committing libel in the process.
I mean, come on. Read:
Xiphoris 08:02, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I strongly agree with Giano at this point. Newyorkbrad 20:48, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

And as I said on Essjay's talk page, I think that Giano has shown a lot of wisdom and compassion in his comments. I endorse them and thank him for them. Metamagician3000 22:52, 3 March 2007 (UTC)
Agree with Giano, 100%. Guy (Help!) 00:07, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
My impression that Giano is one of the most thoughtful Wikipedians has been affirmed by his actions recently. Endorse totally. Daniel Bryant 01:46, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Personal sniping is bad, but discussion of how to remedy and prevent future problems is good. Some instances people have gotten carried away, but this must be discussed. Lying about or misrepresenting qualifications is a very serious issue.
Out of this whole event, I asked myself why pay people who don't have credentials to edit material? Why not pay respected historians and scientists to work on articles (or at least review) that are fundamental to their fields? Why not give a scholarship to science graduate students to work on wikipedia?
Or have a section on wikipedia where experts (I mean credentialed people who's idenities are known and thus are accountable) could be summoned to ensure quality.
That would lessen the criticism and show critics wikipedia is serious about quality. Arbustoo 02:22, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Ditto Arbustoo ---CH 04:08, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I hate to be the naysayer here, but the reason that so many people are talking is because the implications transcend Essjay's personal connection to Wikipedia. Like it or not, the opinion of most (those not associated with Wikipedia) is that this situation represents a significant question as to the legitimacy and quality of internal processes at Wikipedia. If you will remember the situation where the Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk faked laboratory data on cloning, you will recall that significant discussion ensued not just relating to his personal involvement, but of the wider implications. There are wider implications that are, and rightly so, discussed about why The System has allowed this to happen in the first place. I am not necessarily saying the system has failed (in either of those two cases), just saying that that conversation is worth having too. That it is uncomfortable for the subjects is an unfortunate consequence of their actions; the greater good of the community far outweighs their discomfort. And, like it or not, I think these conversations need to take place for science or Wikipedia to be taken seriously. Burying the issue harms legitimacy. Future prospective liars would do well to learn from this situation. Xiphoris 04:20, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Giano has it exactly right... Thank you very much, Giano, for saying something very needful here. ++Lar: t/c 15:07, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Ditto Xiphoris. I too was utterly appalled to read about Essjay's further insinuations regarding Stacy Schiff, which are highly offensive and seem to be utterly without foundation. ---CH 00:48, 5 March 2007 (UTC)


True leadership in difficult moments are measured by statements like this. Thank you. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 20:13, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

That quote is rather laughable coming from the head of a project that treats newcomers like terrorists. Uggh 04:27, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree that it is very disingenuous. It's a wonderful attitude to have; I wish Jimbo had it. Everyking 06:12, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I ignored that one, mostly. Politics, a platitude. Lots of editors want to hear, listen to and believe that stuff, so he says it. I don't blame him for it much. Gwen Gale 06:22, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
"True Leadership" is measured in ability to spout pc content-less soundbytes ? --Eivind Kjørstad 12:06, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Folks have varying outlooks, interests and abilities. This sort of talk appeals to some. Jimbo is a leader, a salesman, a spokesman and so on. Hence, many editors look to him for cues so he gives 'em the easy stuff they like to hear. So far as sincerity goes, as he might personally define understanding and forgiveness I'd guess he's sincere enough. Anyway that's part of the politics of running this wiki. IMHO there's nothing to see here, move along, move along. Much more to the pith is how he might truly respond to widespread credential fraud on WP user pages, successfully weaving a helpful fix into WP's widely known appeal as a MUD. It's not easy. Gwen Gale 12:14, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
The obvious answer is to forbid it. If a Wikipedian wishes to claim credentials, he should provide proof of these to the Foundation at which point he may post them with a certificate from the office. Otherwise, he may not post them or appeal to them in arguments..Proabivouac 12:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
True, my thoughts are alike there, but that would chavel the appeal for many editors who go too far with WP's MUDness. This would be a big step for Wikipedia and an implementation could be botched. Wales knows about all this stuff by the bye. It's understandable he's conservative about change, this is all new social ground with little documented history or theory behind it. Gwen Gale 12:29, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Your statement is troubling

I agree with your statement, in that it prescribes the right course of action going forward. As an explanation of what transpired, I find it troubling. Are you saying that after Essjay admitted to the falsehoods in his bio, you found no reason to look into the issue any further? Or have somebody else look into it, at the very least? That you did not consider the possibility of him having abused those fake credentials? Not even before making your first statement, which seems to say, "It is okay by me, whatever happened, and that is what counts"? Taken at face-value, it demonstrates a very cavalier attitude towards a potentially very damaging issue. How you saw this as a matter of pseudonymous identity is beyond me.

Your statement reminds me of Essjay's much criticized take that he thought everyone knew about this and he did it all for the good of Wikipedia, anyways, and he is sorry if anyone in the community was hurt by his decision. Spin, to put it bluntly. He sounds like someone who is sorry not about the incident itself but about it having been exposed.

I hope when you get a chance to think about what happened in more detail, you find it appropriate to issue an apology yourself about how you chose to handle this situation before it became a news event outside of Wikipedia. --QuiTacetConsentiret 20:25, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, folks, but I find Jimmy's statement troubling too. Essjay shows no sign of actually being contrite or genuinely apologetic, and Jimmy makes no attempt to explain several fundamental points that got people worked up in the first place. What did he mean in telling The New Yorker "I have no problem with it"? When did he learn of Essjay's duplicity? And why did he ignore the obvious moral implications of that duplicity--to the point of giving him a job and appointing him to ArbComm--until now? Jimmy needs to answer these questions convincingly, if he can. --Larry Sanger 23:18, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

I told the New Yorker that I have no problem with people using pseudonyms, and I don't. I said in my statement when I learned of it. Why did I appoint him to ArbCom and give him a job? Because, as is universally acknowledged, he has been a fantastic editor and community member who had unanimous support from the rest of the Arbitration Committee. (As always, before appointing, I asked.) To answer QuiTacetConsentiret, I think it fairly obvious that I made a mistake here in not looking into things more closely. It is just a natural outcome of my trusting nature that this happens sometimes. I apologize for it, but I also strongly defend the idea that we should all begin with trust. --Jimbo Wales 00:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Yes. Jimbo solicited the opinions of those of us on the Arbitration Committee, and no one expressed any objections to Essjay's appointment. In my own case, although I had grave reservations, I remained silent. In so doing I did Jimbo and Wikipedia a serious disservice, and for that I'm very sorry and I apologize. Paul August 04:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Paul: I see you had concerns back on the 11th of February: [2] so I guess I have to wonder, If you had serious reservations then, why didn't you speak out then? If you didn't speak out then, why did you find it necessary to make this statement now? It seems somewhat like you wanted to have it both ways, but that just could be my perception. It's not what I believe those that supported you for ArbCom were looking for in an arbitrator, I think it's expected that you can make the hard choices and say the difficult things, not just go along. ++Lar: t/c 15:02, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I did bring that thread you point to to the attention of ArbCom mailing list. But I did no more than that — I should have — it was a bad mistake. Even worse, when Jimbo asked for opinions on the ArbCom mailing list, I remained silent. Your criticism is apt, I have no excuse. I am sorry and I apologize. Paul August 18:09, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
You guys have got to communicate better. For example I was upset that Jimmmy appointed someone to arbcom in a highhanded fashion. It turns out that it wasn't in a highhanded fashion - that he solicited input from leaders (eg arcom) in the community. Its important you guys make sure this information get out. Anything to do with who has power has to be seen as being aboveboard and not just actually aboveboard. WAS 4.250 19:18, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
For what it's worth I think far to much stuff like this gets talked about on IRC and other back channels. Gwen Gale 19:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
..but given that Jimmy is out of the loop at the moment, I think we should cut him some slack. It seems likely to me that essjay told jimmy of his 'persona' - and jimmy took him at face value and forgave him, hence the 'no big deal'. As soon as he became aware of the more serious truth of the matter, he responded properly and promptly (and is probably very pissed off and aware of how silly this has made him look..) - I feel sure that when he's had a chance to digest all the facts we'll be getting a fuller response. It's unfair to expect that immediately - Purples 23:26, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Jimmy, to call yourself a tenured professor, when you aren't one, is not a "pseudonym." It's identity fraud. And the full question is not why you appointed Essjay to ArbCom, but: why did you ignore the obvious moral implications of the fact that he had fraudulently pretended to be a professor--ignoring those implications even to the point of giving him a job and appointing him to ArbCom--until now? The problem isn't just that he won arguments on WP by citing his false credentials. It's that he got into positions of authority in WP that way, he was interviewed by The New Yorker that way, and played make believe that he was a professor for six hours straight to a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. And you had to know all of this before this morning. Your claim, "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," seems disingenuous. You fully knew that he was impersonating a professor and you had to know that he had gotten advantages as the reward of his duplicity; and, despite knowing this no doubt last January, you gave him a job and appointed him to ArbCom anyway. --Larry Sanger 01:36, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I have to say that I have yet to see what I would consider an acceptable explanation of an ArbCom appointment which appears to me utterly incomprehensible. I hate to sound like Judge Sirica, but I think we need to know a bit more about what you knew and when you knew it. If you knew when you made the appointment that Essjay had failed to correct the so-called "misdirection" on his user page during his interview with Schiff, thereby in effect lying to Schiff and to the readers of the New Yorker, I think you have some serious additional explaining to do. I'd also reiterate my call for, at the very least, a new guideline strongly suggesting that all users should avoid making misrepresentations on their user pages. I can certainly understand why one might wish to avoid on and off-wiki harrassment, but adopting a pseudonym and providing no personal information at all seems a much better idea, although certainly not an ultimate cure for the problem of protecting users and especially admins from harrassment.---CH 04:27, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree with Larry's notion about why what Essjay did is such a worry. I've said rather much the same thing here. Speaking only for myself, with the understanding that Wales built this thing as a social network and MUD because he quickly learned that's what drew the traffic, I wouldn't be too hard on him for past botches like this one, so long as he does something about fake credentitals on WP now. Yes, a ban on fake credentials would be helpful. Ask editors to either say nothing meaningful at all about their educational and employment backgrounds, or be prepared to verify such assertions publicly, something along those lines anyway. Gwen Gale 06:32, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I concur with Mr. Sanger. What Essjay has done far passes the use of a pseudonym. He actively participated in the creation of a completely false alter ago, which he used to influence the outcome of content debates. That's about as serious as any issue could be on Wikipedia. It seems impossible that you would have met with this 24-year-old and not realized his claims to having multiple degrees were illegitimate. It feels to me as though this issue is only being recognized because it became public but not because it was wrong in the first place. As somewhat of an outsider here, and based on limited experience, this is the impression I am starting to get -- that serious problems are ignored until someone finds out about them.
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Wikipedia, and more importantly, I love the idea behind Wikipedia, and what you've done with it. But in order for the abstract goals to remain possible, legitimacy must be preserved. This means that anyone, anywhere on the Wikipedia must be truthful at all times; and that if anyone in a position of authority is found to be lying about something, appropriate action must be taken. Action must not be taken merely because the press finds out.
To echo Mr. Sanger's implicit question -- how did you hire this guy and meet him in person without realizing that he had seriously lied about his credentials? I am sure you know he has contributed highly to Catholic articles. Isn't it a little strange falsely he claims to have multiple degrees in that area? No red flags?
Essjay's behavior is very, very serious. I am sure you have other pointers to the matter, but I will provide one here. In one example, Essjay stops a debate by saying:
If you'd like to start an RfC on the matter, I'd be happy to offer the community my evidence; I have, after all, been declared one of Wikipedia's foremost experts on Catholicism." [] -- Essjay Talk 04:10, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)
He links to a web page where someone gives him that title. On that page, he is quoted as saying:
I've been a Catholic scholar for years, and I couldn't tell you know how many times I've heard this myth, in and outside class. Essjay Talk 05:29, Jun 19, 2005 (UTC)
In this situation, someone mistakenly believes he's a "scholar", declares him an expert, an Essjay does all he can to reinforce the notion by using that as weight in later arguments. This is not being taken out of proportion at all. This guy used his false credentials to win content debates. I don't know what situation could possibly be more serious in light of this being an encyclopedia.
Anyway, thanks for all the work you've done to make Wikipedia a great place. Xiphoris 04:34, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Taken as criticism of Essjay's actions, I think this is moot because of Essjay's vanishing (although I sure wish I could be confident he never had any sockpuppet accounts here). Taken as an attempt to ensure that Jimbo fully understands the seriousness of Essjay's deception, not only of the entire Wikipedia community, but of the readers of the New Yorker, I concur. ---CH 04:47, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I agree, and I do think that Jimbo does fully understand the seriousness of this situation now. But what I don't know is whether he still would have considered it serious without the media frenzy; had he privately realized it himself, would the same action have been taken?
I am concerned that the perceived seriousness of this by the Wikipedia administrators comes from media recognition, and not the incidents themselves. In other words, how is Wikipedia going to prevent it from happening again? How can we know it's not happening elsewhere?
Regardless of the disclaimers of its credibility, Wikipedia needs to address these issues. Xiphoris 07:12, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Jimbo, take a look at this, reminiscent of the recent Zoe/Tim Peirce situation, but combined with the ongoing credentials deception. "When I was head of my department..." Wow. At the very least, let's get a handle on how those invested with authority are representing themselves and Wikipedia to the press and to the public. No lies and no threats (explicit or implicit) would seem an appropriate minimal baseline for such interactions.Proabivouac 09:20, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Wow, indeed. I have to say that in edits like this, the person behind "Essjay" seems to be intoxicated with his own lying. It's terribly demoralizing that a habitual liar could have risen so fast so far in the Wikipedia political structure, because it seems to me that lying is at all times and in all circumstances fundamentally incompatible with the stated mission of the Wikipedia. ---CH 00:56, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Wikinews article

Here is a Wikinews article, for your review. -- Zanimum 22:27, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

Assume Good Faith

Maybe it's time to introduce a new one: Assume Clue. If I may paraphrase Jimmy's statement: "Oh, hey, that's bad, we'll fix it". Sure. And that was always on the cards, but some people seem unwilling to assume that others have the slightest trace of Clue. Guy (Help!) 00:14, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

To be fair, Jimbo's earlier comments (in the New Yorker piece, and his first comment about the situation on this page) did not give any indication that his later decision was "on the cards". Furthermore, in his subsequent comment he stresses that he did not have all the facts about the situation. Given these two facts, earlier attempts to clue Jimbo in on the seriousness of the matter were appropriate. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 00:42, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Have you ever met a 24 year old with four advanced degrees, including a Ph.D.?
I think that this "having a clue" notion would imply that, upon Jimbo meeting Essjay (we will assume he had had read Essjay's user page, and knew a good amount about him since the ArbCom appointment, etc), Jimbo might have suspected the seriousness of his false persona? Having a pseudonym is very different than (1) claiming to have a PhD in Catholicism (2) participating in tons of content debates about Catholicism.
I think a lot of questions on the page stem from the good-faith assumption by people that Jimbo did have a clue: namely, that Essjay was lying about something very important. It seems difficult to overlook. Can you think of any companies that would hire someone who is 24 and not notice his B.A., M.A.R., Ph.D., and JCD degrees? Wouldn't it come up in an interview? Or somehow? Xiphoris 04:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Yes I have, actually, and I've met people with those degrees who looked 24 but were actually older. One of the latter is now a full professor and author of the standard undergraduate text in his field, he is now 40. But really the question is whether Jimmy would have known that the fake persona had been used to gain advantage in content disputes - that is the real issue, to my mind. That was certainly not obvious. What was obvious is that a lot of what Essjay did, he did exceptionally well. Guy (Help!) 09:42, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Essjay's past use of false credentials to gain advantage in content disputes may be "the real issue" as regards his conduct on Wikipedia. But I am puzzled that users such as Guy fail to recognize that Essjay's use of false credentials to gain status in conversation with a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, and to gain status in correspondence with actual college professors, both while speaking as a representative of Wikipedia, are even more problematic. Sometimes it seems that some Wikipedians are blind to any action that can't be pointed to with a Wikipedia diff.
I say this not to excoriate Essjay, but to point out that some Wikipedians still seem to be missing the point that when Essjay misrepresented himself as a tenured professor while speaking as a Wikimedia-recommended "trusted member of the community", he did the entire community a grave disservice. This is not to deny that he also did the community an even greater amount of service in his time on Wikipedia, but merely to regard his transgression with an appropriate weight. If we say that only his actions on-wiki matter, we are ignoring a major part of the issue. —Josiah Rowe (talkcontribs) 19:53, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

That's nice.

Too bad you lack the cajones to flat out fire him. Let's be plain; Essjay, from the start, was using his false credentials to win Wikidebates and puff up his reputation. You became good ol' buddies with him, and so when the truth emerged about his real background, you felt bad about hurting a friend and disguised it with some "it's just a pseudonym" bullshit. Meanwhile, you swallowed Essjay's tall tales about "online protection from the big bad internet" hook, line, and sinker. You've been called out for being a dupe twice, and Essjay's been called out for a false persona and continued denial of wrongdoing. Even after Essjay's continued dishonesty, you're still reluctant to just fire him like any sane manager, because you shared a beer with him at some point. Why? These thinly-disguised "buddy privileges" are reminiscent of the Bush administration. Face it: you were fooled twice. Shame on you. 01:40, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

This is moot, but I think your "shaming" would have more force if you weren't editing as an IP anon, What's good for the goose is good for the gander, eh? ---CH 04:32, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I find it the height of hypocrisy that Essjay's defenders on the one hand seem to assign zero value to academic credentials, but on the other hand whenever someone posts with an IP address then suddenly their lack of crednetials matters more than the content of the post. 05:27, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Once again, we see yet another reason why IP editing shouldn't be allowed. IP editors are immediately branded as second-class just for being IP editors. Apparently allowing IP editing doesn't discourage elitism as it purports, but rather encourages it. Go figure,--Azer Red Si? 22:16, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
CH hasn't defended Essjay in that manner. Please check the available facts before insulting a user's integrity. DurovaCharge! 05:47, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Re: "we should all begin with trust" comment

I do not mean to voice my opinion on this particular case, but I just needed to state that I believe trust is not a good thing to start with in general. My reason is being that in general, trust has always been the thing that the bad guy goes after; therefore with all due respect I fail to understand what Jimbo means here. Furthermore, I strongly believe that the the fundamental axiom of all rules, guidelines, and policies on Wikipedia is not trust, but WP:DICK. Whenever I see questionable user behavior on Wikipedia, I always have to ask myself if this axiom is being violated. Of course, this discussion has made it to the front page of Slashdot. Regards, Tuxide 01:51, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

No. Trust is a good thing to start with and forgiving the "bad guy" is just as important. See who wins at the iterated prisoner's dilemma. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Abu badali (talkcontribs) 15:49, 4 March 2007 (UTC).

An award

Working Man's Barnstar.png The Working Man's Barnstar
I, Steptrip, award you this barnstar for having to put up with a wide spectrum of issues and making sure that this encyclopedia runs smoothly.  ~Steptrip 02:04, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

It's Funny

When someone shows emotional distress like Yanksox, you immediately use your dictatorial powers in punitive actions; yet when someone calmly betrays the trust of everyone with no remorse like Essjay, you "ask" him to "give up" his privledges.

In my opinion, your role at the helm of Wikipedia is detrimental to the project and you should only focus on technical issues, you seem to show no ability for fair judgement. I hope you prove me wrong once you return from India and instead of this nepotism, treat Essjay no differently than Yanksox or the many others you trusted you in the past who you decided to throw away.Just Heditor review 02:30, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Wow. And you volunteered for editor review? --AnonEMouse (squeak) 04:16, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Yeah. Apparently honesty isn't a quality that's appreciated on Wikipedia. Just Heditor review 04:27, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
From the above comment, we see that it is wrong ever to question Jimbo Wales. Thanks for the insight. Uggh 04:24, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I've been away for a while, and was fairly stunned by both the "wheel war" and then by the "Essjay scandal". I would like to see some explanation of these apparent inconsistencies. Unlike, it seems, some editors, I am not rushing to judgement.---CH 04:36, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Essjay has retired

As per his talk page. He will be missed. Tuxide 03:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

And Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Essjay has closed. I've left Essjay a message saying the door remains open - I'd welcome him back if he returned. DurovaCharge! 04:18, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Much Ado About Nothing

I haven't edited Wikipedia for a while, for a variety of reasons, but I think I'll throw my two cents into this discussion.

Point one. The Pseudononymous Identity of EssJay was clearly a fictitious character to anyone who had ten percent of a clue.

Point two. The New Yorker was in error, for printing statements about a completely anonymous person as facts, without bothering to insert so much as a perfunctory "who claims to be" periodically.

Point three. Failing to step out of character when administrating disputes was perhaps a minor faux pas, but we all know what appeals to authority are worth in argumentation, and people who use the Internet should be smarter than that. The solution to this problem should be a Wikipedia policy clarification, not disembowelment.

Point four. Jimbo was correct in the beginning to say this was all no big deal, and wrong to later reverse course 180 degrees and sacrifice EssJay in an attempt to do damage control. Jimbo should stop waffling on every "What Will The Neighbors Think" issue involving Wikipedia's reputation.

So now Jimbo is ass-covering. Essjay's feelings are probably hurt, and Wikipedia has lost a valuable resource. The opinions of people who think Wikipedia an inaccurate and unauthoritative cache of whatever was typed into it five minutes earlier haven't changed. Jimbo's reputation has again decreased by epsilon.

Same old. Same old.

Hermitian 04:44, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Hermitian, I have to disagree:
  1. I was fooled, although I probably would not have been had I been "digging". Why? Because I saw no reason not to assume that someone known to me indirectly as a reputable user was being truthful on his own user page. I am outraged to be informed that I was a clueless idiot for assuming good faith.
  2. Stacy Schiff and the readers of the New Yorker had a right to assume that someone recommended to Schiff as a spokesperson for the Wikipedia leadership would not misrepresent himself as something he is not. This was not Schiff's fault; it was Essjay's fault. Journalist's can't be expected to assume everyone is lying all the time; that's just ridiculous. At some point, they have to trust their sources, and Essjay abused that trust in his six hour plus interview with Schiff. In so doing he has done possibly irreparable harm to the reputation in the wider world of the Wikipedia and particularly of its leadership.
  3. Wikipedia does not exist in a vacuum. Academic credentials do matter in the real world and thus they do matter at WP. Perhaps they should not, but they do. In addition, lying is always and in every circumstance fundamentally incompatible with the encyclopedic mission.
  4. Far from dismissing this scandal as a minor glitch, Jimbo must recognize that he still has considerable damage control left to perform.
CH 05:00, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
You raise a number of interesting points. However, I must point out that your example of irreparable harm from the New Yorker interview was information known to Jimbo prior to his initial defense of the EssJay brouhaha as no big deal.
Verified academic credentials do matter. Anonymous claimed credentials in ones .sig file, on the other hand, do not.
Wikipedia is a unique creation, enabled by the digital age, which has never before existed. Its properties are still being determined. Defending it against what people want it to be that it isn't, is a fruitless waste of time and resources.
Hermitian, Doctor of Internetology 05:11, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
It's a shame. I once set about making a list of Ph.D.'s here with the intent of setting up an expert review panel to lend guidance in content disputes. That wasn't intended to overrule any of the normal policies, but as additional helpful tool upon request. There are several hundred claimed Ph.D's here, myself among them. I would bet well over 95% are legitimate. In a role like I had in mind, such expertise could be enormously beneficial here, while remaining entirely consistent with usual policies. Unfortunately, probably over 80% of claimed Ph.D's use pseudonyms, and that's now a very clear problem. Derex 05:38, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Derex, I agree, it is absolutely sickening to learn that some Wikipedians feel it is common practice to lie shamelessly about who you are IRL on your own user page, specifically to enlarge your academic achievements and attempt to trade upon a fraudulent doctorate in talk page discussions and even off-wiki discussions, and simply outrageous that the same people evidently feel someone like me is a credulous fool for trusting that some user I don't know is presumably being truthful in whatever information he chooses to provide about himself. As your Ph.D. project shows, deception such as that promulgated by Essjay always has unexpected deleterious effects, and in fact persistent lying about something that important is nothing less than poisonous.
It seems that by closing the RfC without providing a venue for discussion of the underlying issues, the leadership has deliberately chosen to once again muff an opportunity to take stock. To my mind, this failure of leadership is far worse than Essjay's missteps.---CH 05:48, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I think the close of a discussion centered specifically on Essjay was reasonable and meant to be humane. I agree with you that there needs to be a continuing discussion on the underlying issues in another venue that doesn't focus specifically on one particular user. The bottom line is that legitimate credentials should carry some weight, consistent with the usual policies. There are multiple viewpoints on most topics, including fringe and crackpot viewpoints. Ultimately, we must use our judgement to sort out what weight to place on these, and that's where relying on experts makes some sense. The other side is that experts are simply going to stop editing out of frustration if they continually have to fight users who clearly know nothing but believe they do. I very seldom edit in my area of expertise, ever since spending 3 days struggling with some very well-intentioned but fundamentally uninformed person on a game-theory topic years ago. My guess is that we will now continue to muddle on as before, except losing whatever tiny shred of deference was previously accorded to experts. It's a shame, because it's a grossly inefficient use of scarce resources. Derex 06:12, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Hermetian, if what you say is true, and his "pseudonym" is obviously known to be false, why would he refer to it in content disputes? I think you are speaking falsehood when you claim everybody knew his identity was false.
In fact, there is an absolute ton of evidence that directly contradicts your point. There is instead evidence that heaps of people were deceived by his false identity into believing that he was, in fact, a scholar with greater insight to topics. Here is an example from []:
If you'd like to start an RfC on the matter, I'd be happy to offer the community my evidence; 
I have, after all, been declared one of Wikipedia's foremost experts on Catholicism." [] 
-- Essjay Talk 04:10, Jun 23, 2005 (UTC)
The "foremost expert" quote itself is a link, to another page, where he is described by another as this expert and quoted as saying:
I've been a Catholic scholar for years, and I couldn't tell you know how many times I've heard this myth, 
in and outside class. 
Essjay Talk 05:29, Jun 19, 2005 (UTC)
It is pretty easy to see from this, and many other of his contribs, that you are speaking falsehood. Many people genuinely believed the things he said.
Why are you doing this? It is hard for me to believe you have reviewed any specific incidents if you hold this view. Or, why are you pushing this view if you have not reviewed the evidence?
If you still genuinely believe that everybody knew about this false persona, why is he acting in a debate capacity by referring to his credentials, and pointing out that people on Wikipedia believe them? Are you claiming in good faith that the person Essjay made that quote to knew he was... I don't even understand what you would claim that is. A tongue-in-cheek, facetious joke? "Ha ha, I'm a scholar?".
You can't credibly claim that quote is anything but straight up, no-holds-barred, "I'm going to do anything I can to push my views" deception. And that's just one incident among many. Perhaps he really does know more about Catholicism than anyone else on WP; that may be the case, I can't say. But he should let his knowledge speak for himself, and not rely on appeal to some abstract, false, invented authority that he has degrees or is a "scholar".
So.... everybody knew? Yeah, right. He deceived people to win content debates.
Yep. Gwen Gale 07:40, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I didn't say that everyone knew his bio was invented. I said it should have been obvious to any clueful person who took time to think about it.
Experts are a two-edged sword. Wikipedia was designed to be a level playing field. An encyclopedia 'anyone can edit,' where persuasive arguments and consensus determine content and everyone's perspective counts equally.
Given that one of Wikipedia's major issues is that it tends to cache conventional wisdom over fact on subjects outside math and the hard sciences, and that it tends to exclude true facts that are not widely known or believed, deferring to credentialed 'experts' in woo-woo fields like Bible nonsense or spoon-bending can only serve to amplify this undesired effect.
Would we, for instance, wish to consider the opinion of a genuine "Doctor of Theology" as carrying more weight than the opinion of someone with less formal education like James Randi, on the subject of whether Sylvia Browne communicates with angels?
Should we have all articles on child sexual abuse written by PhDs who support the current hysteria and moral panic?
In the final analysis, EssJay was not claiming to be a Oxford Cosmologist. He was claiming to be a Doctor of Canon Law and (guffaw) a Catholic Scholar. In point of fact, I have a quite lovely Doctor of Canon Law diploma dispenser in my bathroom at this very moment.
What we're seeing here, is that people who get fooled, when they should have been smarter than that, like to exaggerate the magnitude of the offense, and seek to hurt the person who fooled them. It's human nature. No one likes to be shown up as an idiot. This goes double for Jimbo.
Hermitian 16:40, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want to set a precedent wherein every person in a content debate might actually be subtly lying about their credentials. Editors on Wikipedia already have plenty to worry about; it should not also be their responsibility to play detective. People who "thought about it" have no way to obtain information one way or the other about his degrees. They would never know.
Indeed, I don't regard every person I meet on the Internet with such suspicion. Wikipedia is based on the idea of assuming good faith. It's a contradiction to assume also that everyone might be lying about their personal life and it's our job to figure it out for ourselves whether they are or not.
Regardless of what you claim, it was not obvious even to people who thought about it quite a lot, which is why this is making news in the first place.
Also, I resent the implication that people are upset about this because they feel "tricked" by him. I have never interacted with Essjay, nor even edited an article that he also has. I think anyone has the right to be legitimately upset about this. It's horribly damaging the reputation of Wikipedia.
You know what's even more damaging? All the more apologists, like you, who claim that it's peoples' own fault for believing what an administrator says as truth. These messages now create an atmosphere that, appears to outsiders as though Wikipedia thinks this is okay. It's definitely not okay. It should be responded to exactly the same way it would in Academia: harsh, immediate measures.
There is no reasonable legitimacy to the claim that everyone should regard assertions by administrators as possibly being fabricated lies. His lies were clearly not obvious to many people who did interact with him, despite them having thought about it.
"I said it should have been obvious to any clueful person who took time to think about it." -- and what about people who hadn't thought about it? You seem to be implying that people who didn't think about it deserve to have been tricked. Remember, this guy was an administrator, with an existing reputation as being important. Someone just casually interacting with him while editing some article would certainly have been deceived. Are you saying it's peoples' own fault if they were deceived by not taking the time to think about it? I disagree that both:
  • Thinking about it necessarily guarantees anyone would've realized he was lying. It seems to me lots and lots of people didn't know he was lying.
  • That it's okay for him to deceive people who didn't think about it. This is still completely inappropriate
Xiphoris 20:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Saying in hindsight the lie was so lame folks shouldn't have been taken in doesn't make it ok. Gwen Gale 20:54, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Let me phrase this in simpler, more easily understood terms. If Wikipedia admins are known to Wikipedia, and have resumes in Wikipedia's HR department, then people can take what administrators say, and their claim of credentials, seriously.
If Wikipedia permits anonymous administrators, then of course those administrators may be fictitious characters created for the purpose of playing on Wikipedia. This is no different than anonymous personalities on Usenet, or on mailing lists, or in any other online venue that permits anonymous contributions.
One wonders how loud the laughter would be if someone visited sci.math, and took great umbrage at the fact that resident crank Ludvig Plutonium wasn't a real credentialed mathematician.
You folks need to decide if you want your admins to be real identifiable people, using their real meatspace identities, and submitting verifiable C.V. in order to be admins on Wikipedia. It seems to me that such vetting of contributors violates the fundamental egalitarian principless upon which Wikipedia is based. If that is the case, then you need to simply advertise the fact that fictitious personalities may participate in Wikipedia, and that claims as to their accomplishments should be taken with a grain of salt.
In any case, the flagellation and bloodletting here is vastly out of proportion to the offense committed, and is in my opinion, a huge waste of time better spent. Hermitian 21:13, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
It's also worth pointing out that he made further lies in his "apology". He lied by saying that Ms. Schiff offered to compensate him for his time as a source. Believe who you want, but Ms. Schiff (Pulitzer-prize winning author) denies it as nonsense. So, Essjay is seemingly guilty also of libel: . Xiphoris 07:56, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Hermitian, you still don't get it. Misrepresenting your professional credentials in-wiki is fundamentally incompatible with WP:AGF. Why? Because lying is the very opposite of acting in good faith. ---CH 03:24, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

undelte Essjay's user page history

Please undelete Essjay's user subpages or otherwise allow access to his user page history.

I understand that this was done for Essjay's protection and at his request. The intent was good, the effect is VERY bad. It looks like we are trying to cover up an embarrassment. Further it is hypocritical for us to argue that our transparency is a safeguard against inaccuracy and fraud when we delete the records of an embarrassing situation.

That this was done (as I understand it from IRC) according to the unalienable "right to leave" is disturbing - since that right is never articulated in a wikipedia policy page, but on a separate site, meatball wiki. I don't understand how the right to stop participating in a community translates into the right to erase all traces of your existence, especially after you've become a public figure through your own misdeeds.

This is going to hurt us. There are some very senior editors who are laughing at the prospect of significant PR explanations. I hope those users will reconsider the wisdom of putting Essjay's interests before the interests of the encyclopedia when this story hits the news wires and we are lampooned again on the Colbert Report.

We have a crisis in credibility. It didn't start with Essjay, it has been brewing for some time and we have been publicly taken to task in some of the most influential publications in the world. We need to take this seriously and we need to be a lot smarter in how we handle the damage control. Jimbo's comments to the New Yorker and the deletion of Essjay's user page history demonstrate quite clearly that our attempts to build credibility for ourselves in the mainstream media and to respond to negative press are very, very flawed.

GabrielF 04:51, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

They were deleted under CSD U1: User request. Personal subpages, upon request by their user... (continues, see link). This is spelled out in the Speedy deletion policy Prodego talk 04:55, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
His user page history is still present (which it appears is one of the things you've asked for). Oh, and right to vanish is not a meatballwiki thing, it's a Wikimedia thing (not policy, but a "best effort" of sorts). —bbatsell ¿? 04:56, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I think the community needs to balance Essjays right to vanish with the needs of the project. I agree that WP is facing a grave crisis, but right now I don't see why it is terribly important to keep his user pages. I doubt that most outsiders will even notice that they are missing, or attach much important to this fact if they do. I do feel a need to ask Essjay or whatever I should call him one question, however: Essjay, did you have any sockpuppet accounts? ---CH 05:03, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Oh please. He quit. Leave it. It makes no difference if he did or not since he's not banned. pschemp | talk 05:07, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
His user page history was not accessible when I started writing the above. Maybe it was fixed because I complained about it in IRC, more likely someone else realized that it was a problem. Either way, I'm glad its back. GabrielF 05:06, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
His user page history is not publicly accessible, because he archived everything before march 1, 2006 into a page that's now deleted, and everything since is based on transcluded pages which have been deleted. It really comes off as a coverup, because it keeps people from going back to the May 10, 2005 revision where he claims right from the start to hold advanced degrees and be a tenured professor. Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 18:04, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

No, there is a m:Right to vanish on meta; it's not just based off of MeatBall. Hbdragon88 06:53, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Yep. There is nothing untowards about Essjay bamfing out of sight from this wiki. This was never about Essjay anyway. Gwen Gale 06:54, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Pschemp, I made it clear in the RfC that while I feel Jimbo had no choice but to revoke Essjay's rootly powers, I saw no reason to ban Essjay from contributing as an ordinary user. I also said that to the best of my knowledge, I had not interacted with Essjay. Later I recalled other users who seemed oddly terrified that I might accidently reveal their IL identity, and now I'm wondering whether the person behind the Essjay accounts owns other accounts, possibly even admin accounts, possibly even with access to private information. That's the nature of my concern, and while I can see this is a difficult issue (assuming that there is some substance to my fear, for which I have no evidence, only a gut feeling), I hope that the Wikipedia leadership will find some way to address it.--- 04:21, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Internet Access in India

You write: "I have been for several days in a remote part of India with little or no Internet access." Do you mean to say that Chennai, one of the major cities in India couldn't provide you with a decent Internet connectivity? 06:39, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I thought that was odd as well. Everyking 07:17, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Jimbo was in Chennai last weekend; according to news reports, he's been traveling elsewhere in India since then.--The Fat Man Who Never Came Back 07:24, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Hi From Chennai, Jimmy moved to Varanasi and possibly to other regions of India. In Chennai, he remained hardly for 24 hours, and spent all his waking hours at the Wikicamp or with their participants. I can vouchsafe from my own personal experience that internet access is difficult in many regions of India including Varanasi, a city which I have visited many times during my stay (1993-1999) in Patna and Gaya. Even in Chennai where I had lived for around eight years (July-1999 to November-2006), you will not find any shop (called internet or cyber cafe here) open after 11 pm. We should not expect Jimmy to be waiting in a cyber cafe (in Chennai, Varanasi, or elsewhere) for his turn to access the internet or accessing internet instead of participating in the meeting at Wikicamp (Chennai) where wi-fi was enabled. I have so waited myself umpteen number of times when my home connectivity used to remain down, but urge to edit wikipedia kept me inside the claustrophobic cubicles of Chennai Cyber Cafes sometimes for long hours. Everyking, there is nothing odd in Jimmy's assertions. I think that I have explained the reality of the situation to clarify any doubts. Regards. --Bhadani 09:08, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
No Mr. Bhadani, your arguments are not convincing. Varanasi of 1993-1999 is ages apart. We are talking of Internet, Sir. There are ISPs providing wireless connection there. Almost every decent hotel provides Internet for their clients. Neroburner 10:07, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I know my dear Sir! And, I do agree with you - Varanasi (or India of 1993-1999) has changed as far as availability of internet connectivity is concerned, and I was not arguing at all :) I was trying to dispel unnecessary doubts and imputations of motives ([3]). I do not think that a person having heavy commitments shall be able to remain connected to internet for long hours while he is away from home and office with tight schedules in a foreign land. --Bhadani 10:24, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Thank you, Bhadani. If necessary, I could offer the testimony of my travel companions, and even film footage of the difficulties I had in getting Internet access. It is very interesting to me that some people's desire to attack me is greater than any degree of reason or attention to facts.--Jimbo Wales 13:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
WRT your last sentence, I would say that those individual's reactions are understandable. Please don't misunderstand me - I don't condone them, or agree with them in any way, and I think that now that Essjay has quit - which, unfortunately, may well have been the only way to draw a line under the issue - we need to stop the recriminations and decide what lessons will be learned from this whole sorry saga. Nonetheless, a large number of people have been experiencing a range of emotions from disapointment to blind fury, and in the most extreme of those circumstances humans have a tendency to lash out at the most convinient target. An unfortunate tendency to "engage mouth (or keyboard) before engaging brain", and very regrettable, but an understandable part of human nature nonetheless. MartinMcCann 13:43, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Assuming good faith

From looking through the comments on this page it appears that many people seem to lack the ability to assume good faith. Jimbo says he has limited internet connectivity yet people think this is a falsehood. Why? The man is obviously very busy. Not everyone is able to connect to the net 100% of the time.-Localzuk(talk) 12:48, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I, for one, do not understand "assume good faith" to mean "suspend disbelief in the face of all common sense and damning evidence." WP:AGF isn't meant to absolve trolls, nor should it be cited to ignore corruption and incompetence. Uggh 14:35, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Right. And common sense and damning evidence proves that I have a 10 gigabit wireless satellite connection wired to my spine, so that the fact that I was provably in a remote place with no net access is irrelevant, and anyone who says anything to the contrary is corrupt and incompetent. Look, I am sorry I was unavailable. But I was doing something that I think in the grand scheme of things was pretty damned important.--Jimbo Wales 14:46, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Given that finding the difs would have involved digging through an awful lot of edits I don't think you could really have been blamed even if you had had net acess.Geni 17:35, 4 March 2007 (UTC)


I think you've got a great site going, Jimbo. BuickCenturyDriver (Honk, contribs, odometer) 13:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

The most bothersome thing about the essjay situation

The most bothersome thing for me is that when I was posting on his talk page about it a month ago, half the posts about it were deleted without reply as being from a banned user, despite coming from an anonymous IP. Why the hostility to criticism? Night Gyr (talk/Oy) 18:08, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

There's a difference between criticism coming from just any old banned user and this particular one. You can contact the admin who removed the comment (or me) via e-mail for details of that. Ashibaka (tock) 18:37, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

We need a PR firm

If this incident shows anything, it is that Wikimedia needs to hire a PR firm to get our message across better to the mainstream media.

The media is clearly fascinated by what we are doing. I would never have imagined that an article about a Middlebury professor's campaign to ban citing wikipedia would make national news, but it did. Unfortunately, the mainstream media doesn't really understand what we're all about and the tone of too many recent articles about us has been negative.

Because we're working on a model that is different from anything most people have experienced, telling our story is difficult. Jimbo does a great job when he's on the lecture circuit - I recently took my Dad to hear lecture he gave, and my Dad, who knows nothing about the Internet was really inspired. Unfortunately, Jimbo's initial comments about the situation with Essjay demonstrate that we need a better strategy for countering the widespread attacks on our credibility.

Given the degree of recent negative press coverage of wikipedia, I think that if we don't start a major campaign to rehabilitate our credibility with the public we risk limiting our future growth. Most people who follow technology have probably used wikipedia enough to form their own opinions. Our potential growth is going to come from people who don't use technology - people whose main source of information is the mainstream media which is now making us a laughingstock. I don't think that we know how deal with the media effectively, its not our thing, that why I think we need to bring in some outside help.

GabrielF 19:08, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

the best way to rehabilitate our credibility is to be credible. I do not think Wikipedia needs to be wasting our money on spin doctors. This situation stemmed from one person's mistakes, and whatever mechanisms are in place, one can't legislate for people making errors of judgement. I don't see any problems stemming from how Wikpedia presents itself to the media, to be honest. Badgerpatrol 19:12, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Exactly. Wikipedians should work on making an encyclopedia. Trying to influence Wikipedia's media coverage will be about as successful as trying to keep the tabloids from printing stories about Princess Diana. Wikipedia exists. People find it to be a useful resource. There is no bigger picture, and overanalysis of Wikipedia's position in the grander scheme of things, and of how fairly or unfairly it is treated by meatspace opiners, just wastes time that might be better spent writing new articles and improving existing ones. The mainstream press rarely gets anything about the Internet right, so why should we be shocked that Wikipedia isn't the sole exception to this pattern?
None of this matters. Time to move on.
Hermitian 19:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
This is the price we pay for being successful, and having a policy that allows anonymity. It it a price worth paying? You bet it is. ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 19:24, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
This is a great idea. Wikipedia wouldn't be able to concentrate on being an encyclopedia if we are always fighting and arguing about a certain user's credibility. --Hojimachongtalk 19:30, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Wikipedia isn't concentrated, it's all of us. We don't need PR, we have to be as straightforward as possible – Jimbo's statement as reported by the New Yorker appears damaging, but I'm sceptical enough of the press to wonder if that's exactly what he said. We should be encouraging a "ban" of students citing wikipedia, at the same time as encouraging them to use this as an invaluable resource to find what's worth citing, and what the disagreements are about an issue. If anything, we could have a policy of discouraging users from claiming credentials on their user page, but it would need a lot of discussion about where to draw the line. As everything does ;) .. dave souza, talk 19:44, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I think I can extract some common elements from the suggestions above:
  1. Wikipedia's best answer to press criticism is to improve the reliability of the encyclopedia,
  2. Reforming and streamlining policies in the manner I suggest will, as a secondary benefit, go a long way toward contentions by outsiders that Wikipedians form a leaderless mob,
  3. Jimbo should probably carry a reminder card with him at all times giving stock responses for those times when he is partially out of touch; the key element is such responses should probably be "I'll need time to study the issues".
CH 03:52, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

"I only learned this morning..."that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes."

"I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes."

This statement is as troubling as anything in this whole sordid saga.

Even if this statement is true, what you "only learned" is what use he made of his false credentials. You didn't learn of the existence of false credentials. Hence you knew he had false credentials before making him an administrator and hiring him.

I'm afraid you still don't get what the problem is. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 19:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC).

This is a valid point. -- 22:18, 4 March 2007 (UTC)


I suggest the leaders here help nudge the conversation in the direction of "What should Wikimedia/Wikipedia do to improve accountabilty?" To that end I suggest that perhaps we should begin a process that will result eventually in all Wikipedia administrators having a known identity to the wikimedia foundation and perhaps to arbcom. Some suggest public evidence for credentials. I think that if administrator identities are known by accountable people at the foundation level then we have made progress and maybe that is enough progress with regard to identity data. WAS 4.250 19:42, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

It can be made not-compulsory, WAS. Those that are willing to provide their details (to be kept private and in trust with the Foundation), will be appreciated by the community in a different light that those that do not. Let's start a discussion at Wikipedia:Administrators accountability or another page, shall we? ≈ jossi ≈ (talk) 19:57, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Heavily seconded. Let us INDEED discuss these issues of the connection between the cyberworld and the real-world, for both admin-accountablity, and expertise-credibility, because they are closely connected. And they both lie at the very heart of Wikipedia's current problems. SBHarris 21:28, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
There is no way that most people would take on the job of an administrator if their real-life identities were easily discoverable by every vandal or troll that they have to deal with. Indeed, I do think it is reasonable that if you are going to take up a position of trust - anything from admin up - to tell all to Jimbo himself, or to some very trusted person nominated by Jimbo who is a known real person on the Board of the Foundation, or employed by it in a responsible position (such as its legal officer). "All" would include your real-life identity and any secondary accounts you have ever used, and for what reasons/purposes. I would not expect anyone to have to give such personal details to anyone less reputable and accountable than that. I do not believe it appropriate for arbcom to know such things - the arbcom members are not real people who can be held accountable for how they use information (though obviously there are real people "behind" them); they are just usernames, like Essjay, with good records so far. Anyway, this is probably not the right place to discuss it. Metamagician3000 23:50, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I'll say no more about it here than this: a milder approach still would be to make the confidential register voluntary for mere admins (like me) who can do relatively little damage; but you have to be on it, with the details I've mentioned, to run for/be considered for positions of higher responsibility such as bureaucrat and up. Do we have a proper place to discuss this? I'll go and discuss it on the talk page of Wikipedia:Administrators accountability. Metamagician3000 00:17, 5 March 2007 (UTC)


An example of our effort to improve Wikipedia as a result of the shortcomings of wikipedia that this episode has exposed might be to make sure that "Assume good faith" is not used to shut someome up who questions another's claimed credentials. WAS 4.250 21:03, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I've only now finished reading up on this unfortunate issue, and that brings up a point I hadn't seen yet; the questioner deserves every bit of WP:AGF as does the claimant, until either/both demonstrate/s otherwise. RadioKirk (u|t|c) 21:08, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Separation of powers

Separation of powers has long been used to good effect in various organizations. Essjay had many separate positions of power. Perhaps some thought should be given to not combining certain positions : arbcom, checkuser, admin, and so forth. WAS 4.250 21:11, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

In an organization based on getting people to do uncompensated labor of great monetary value to Jimbo for for no tangible reward, such a policy is probably a no-starter. :) Hermitian 21:19, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Fantastic trolling! Good show! Although it would be a little more effective if it were not so well documented that Mr. Wales draws no direct financial benefit from Wikimedia. --Gmaxwell 21:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Fine. I fixed it. Hermitian 21:31, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
I have not seen any evidence that his combination of rights caused any harm whatsoever. Separation of powers is more important when people have the sole ability to act unilateral within a given domain without oversight. We don't really have too much of that. Some people complain that there is no oversight, but their complaint is really just a dolled up version of "Waaa. I'm not personally given oversight over this". --Gmaxwell 21:21, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
we have de-facto separation of powers. Devs have a hard time makeing it to admin let alone above that.Geni 21:37, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Hey, I am an admin with svn access, I guess its not as hard when you start with admin first :). Voice-of-All 22:12, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

I must admit I am surprised by the number of reputable news sources that have picked up this story. The bibliography at the end of this article lists such publications as The Chronicle of Higher Education as having covered it. Hermitian 21:52, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Regarding separation of powers, I don't think that is the issue. I think rather it may be a matter of candidates for jobs receiving less scrutiny once they've achieved a certain level of trust. At some point Essjay became the standard of trustworthiness and that may have led us to stop giving him the same scrutiny that we'd have applied to newcomers. -Will Beback · · 22:05, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Indeed, once one becomes a crat or arbcom member, they can pretty much get any new rights upon request from then on. Voice-of-All 22:13, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

It makes sense for permissions such as checkuser and oversight to be conferred on the users in whom the community has expressed the highest level of trust. We already spend a great deal of time on procedures such as requests for adminship, requests for bureaucratship, and the annual Arbitration Committee elections. It makes total sense that the oversight and checkuser rights are generally conferred on ArbCom members and bureaucrats, who have already received strong (typically >90%) votes of confidence in their judgment and discretion from interested Wikipedians. Newyorkbrad 22:25, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Agree. As User:David Gerard put it "On Wikipedia, the reward for a job well done is another three jobs. When a new task comes up, people look for someone they already already know is competent and clueful." It makes sense that if you trust someone with (say) oversight, you'd trust them with checkuser. I also don't see how separation of powers is an issue here. Trebor 22:49, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Indeed, trust is the issue here. We had Jimbo Wales elevate Essjay to what is considered the most trusted position on en.wikipedia only a few days ago even though he must have known that Essjay successfully hoaxed the New Yorker and was going to make Wikipedia look like an ass once the information was public. Just to top it out, Essjay gets fired not for being a hoaxer but for "faking his credentials in a content dispute" or something. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)
Hi, Hermitian, IMO you shouldn't be surprised! Scholars take the notion of truth (and professional credentials) very seriously. It seems to me that by its very nature, any encyclopedia is at bottom a scholarly enterprise, although I must agree with Schiff that in choice of material and balance and other editorial judgements (one of Wikipedia's peculiar and more damaging "innovations" was blurring the distinction between authors and editors), every encyclopedic project involves some tincture of politics. It has long seemed to me (Schiff and other "outside commentators" make the same point) that Wikipedia's populist values inherently conflict with scholarly values, and I guess your surprise might reflect that. ---CH 00:05, 5 March 2007 (UTC)


Essjay might seem like the most important issue this week on Wikipedia.en, but look over here. The Hindi language Wikipedia has fewer than 9000 entries, yet the language has 490 million native speakers and nearly 800 million total speakers. Browse the Languages of India entry and compare the country's regional languages against Meta's list of Wikipedia language versions to see how severely underserved that country of over 1 billion people is by Wikimedia projects, relative to Wikipedias in European languages: the Basque language Wikipedia, which serves a language that has barely 1 million total speakers, is larger than the Bengali language Wikipedia, which serves 230 million total speakers. I have a hunch that Jimbo's visit to India had something to do with addressing that imbalance and that his available time was quite limited. In that larger picture, the particular issues surrounding one editor look pretty minor. Let's demonstrate a fair measure of respect for the man who built this project. DurovaCharge! 23:22, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for putting it that way Durova. Meanwhile for me this hasn't been about one editor at all, but a wider lack (though a good faith one) in WP's trust model. Gwen Gale 23:47, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Durova, you are conflating the project with its leadership. The project is admirable, but this unfortunate appointment deserves no respect at all.

Suggested policy change page on accountability started

Okay, I've actually gone ahead and created the suggested page on Wikipedia:Administrators accountability suggested above. Of course, it's only a proposal, and it's just a start-- a few ideas thrown out for amplification. It may not even be appropriate for the mainspace. Perhaps somewhere else? If so, could somebody move it?

Much of the tone will be wrong, since this is a proposed policy change page, and it's written as if it were already policy. I fantasized (sue me). And it's a springboard for a discussion only. But read what I've started out on the TALK page first, before you land on me with both feet. These problems of accountability for actions in our world are not new. They are basic to integrity and being an adult. Ignore them and you get an encyclopedia which reads like it was written by the children on the island of the Lord of the Flies. SoFIXIT. SBHarris 23:46, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Two comments:

  1. Unfortunately, I have to agree that because of Essjay's position of trust in the community, this scandal does raise serious questions about naive application of WP:AGF to those whom WP places in positions of power and trust, and I think that, if the entire system of policing/governance here at WP is not to be thrown into complete disarray, a discussion of these questions is urgently needed. However, I feel it would be better for everyone if a user who has not had any conflicts with any admins led this particular discussion. IMO, any policy discussion should focus on general issues and should avoid personal grievances. Regarding the general issues, I have some specific questions in mind which I feel have been raised by the Essjay scandal and which I feel still need to be answered, incidently.
  2. I wish to participate in a wider discussion of accountability generally. I feel that the wider issues underlying the Essjay scandal include
    • the traditionally ambiguous nature of wikidentities,
    • the resulting inequity in accountability among users in general, and also of users versus,
    • the obscure, disorganized, ambiguous authority, and mutually inconsistent nature of such rules of behavior as appear to exist,
    • the cumbersome existing procedures for governance and policing (although I can see there has been substantial improvement here since I left last year, I am sure that further improvement is both possible and desirable),
    • the ludicrously inefficient traditional procedures for proposing policy changes,
    • the perennial obscurity and ambiguity of the Wikipedia mission statement

Any thoughts, anyone? ---CH 00:21, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Sorry, Jimbo, but not buying it.

Hi Jimmy --

It's been a while, but I still remember the days when I had to defend myself against accusations of all kinds of people -- including other sysops -- because I claimed to have a PhD in Ancient and Medieval History, even though I wasn't even using a pseudonym, just my initials. Wikipedia's credibility sank rather rapidly in my book when I realised that credentials meant nothing here. At about the time I left, many of us early adopters also left, many because we felt that our expertise was discounted in favour of populist philosophy.

Over time, I have seen a bit more respect given to people who are experts in given areas. Not all of those experts are PhDs -- some were very talented undergrads, others very well-informed amateurs and auto-didacts. They produced many very good articles, and encountered the same kinds of arguments from non-critical thinkers with axes to grind as I did. But, as I said, it appeared that real expertise was gaining more support from you and the sysops.

Essjay's little scam may not be important to you, but it is to a lot of people, including longtime contributors, I'd wager. A pseudonym is just that -- a false name. It is not the same as making up false credentials. Had Essjay written good articles and been a respected member of the community on his own merits -- which as far as I can tell, he could have been -- it would have been yet another feather in Wikipedia's cap, proof of your populist aims, if you will. As it is, Essjay has built a reputation on a lie.

You can't have it both ways, you know. Wikipedia can either be a useful and trusted source that deserves financial contributions, or it can come off as just another scam. What you can't do is condone actions that bring into question the ethics of major contributors, sysops, and editors. Well, you can, I suppose. But is it worth doing if you can't uphold some sort of standard that users can respect? JHK 23:58, 4 March 2007 (UTC)

Well, it is important to me. I don't know why you would suggest that it isn't.--Jimbo Wales 07:59, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, because you don't anywhere express a sense of outrage, nor did you fire his ass right away? So, perhaps it doesn't seem important enough, at least not in comparison to trying to be nice. What Essjay did was dishonest and brought your baby into disrepute. I suppose it depends on the point of the Wikipedia -- if it's to create a place where anyone can contribute, even if it's under false pretenses or bad information, all in the spirit of openness and cooperation, then fine. But if it's also to build something that is reputable and reliable, and show that people can work together towards that end, building their own sets of rules, etc., well, it doesn't seem to be working. WIkipedia can only be as good as its reputation, and that's suffered another hit. I listened to the Andrew Schlafley interview today on BBC4, btw. He's oh, so wrong in so many things, and yet, he is right about there being a cadre of people who tend to get their way on editorial matters. Perhaps that's part of the social engineering experiment that is part of Wikipedia. But when a member of that cadre has clearly abused his position based in part on lies he told to get that position, and the cadre circles wagons ...? JHK 00:23, 8 March 2007 (UTC)
Perhaps we disaffected former Wikipedians with terminal degrees should form a Ph.D.up Club? In the spirit of MUD slinging, where better than at Wikipedia? ---CH 02:35, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Or you could just join Citizendium. -Amarkov moo! 02:36, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
This might make you laugh or it might make you cry, but check out my interactions here with User:Haisch and User:Larry Sanger (suggest google plus search terms rather than internal search). So no, I sense that joining Citizendium is not an option!---CH 02:38, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
LOL. Starting with the ugly and horridly immemorable name, Citizendium is rather a microcosm of inability to work and play well with others. I once tried to give Mr. Sanger some advice, and got the response that 1) he couldn't verify my identity so he couldn't figure out HOW to talk to me, and 2) he knew so much more than I did that it wasn't worth talking to me in any case. Made me smile all day. SBHarris 03:08, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
One of the many ironies here is that Sanger's friend Haisch came to grief by adding, as a WP newbie editing as an IP anon, links to his new book dozens of articles, such as Religion, where the link was probably inappropriate, plus a few where it was probably an appropriate citation (point being that given the tens of thousands of books on the subject of "religon", Wikipedia needs to choose at most a few dozen of the very best and most appropriate). Yet one more illustration of my contention that a large fraction of WP's bad press arise directly from the failed policy of encouraging IP anon editing. Another irony is that, despite Sanger's curt treatment of us both, it seems that we both agree with him that one of the fundamental problems here is the inherent conflict between Wikipedia's populist values and the scholarly values which appear far more appropriate to a project with the stated goal of building an encyclopedia. ---CH 03:32, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, in fact, we're so far doing a pretty good job of getting to work. We're making excellent progress and, with our four new servers, will be launching publicly in a matter of a few weeks. I have no idea who Sbharris is and I honestly can't recall anything like what he says. There are a lot of people who give me advice, at very great length, and it would take all day for me to reply to it if I wanted to. As to the name "Citizendium," it's grown quite well on me and many others in the project, and I now like it quite a bit. Lots of people said equally unflattering things about the name "Wikipedia"--another of my coinages--back in 2001. As to CH, he went out of his way to write bigoted and libellous, or borderline libellous, things about a respected scientist (Bernard Haisch), and proceeded essentially to require Dr. Haisch to defend himself against his silly and uninformed claims, at great length here on Wikipedia--or else live with a wildly misleading article about himself, the #2 Google hit for a search on his name. Dr. Haisch eventually wrote a Los Angeles Times Op Ed about his run-in with the judicious CH. That CH would now wear this as a badge of honor means to me that he is not the sort of collegial and fair-minded person we want on CZ. --Larry Sanger 03:26, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
For the record, I am not wearing anything as a badge of honor and I feel your characterization is deeply unfair (and also might be taken to flirt with WP:NLT, although I'm sure you didn't mean any such thing). Larry, you can take up the Haisch affair with me elsewhere if you absolutely insist. Everyone, let's try to keep this discussion on topic.---CH 03:40, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
You brought it up, CH. The very last thing I want to do is revisit it. As to "deeply unfair": pot, kettle, black. --Larry Sanger 03:46, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Fine, let's drop it; clearly, I should have chosen a less contentious example. My point was actually an elaboration of a point I made in the RfC, that the tradition of encouraging ambiguous wikidenties has gotten many into trouble because they didn't recognize the short or long term implications of something they were doing. My hope is that as a tertiary benefit of a thorough policy reform at WP, this community will experience far fewer problems of all kinds. Because, it seems to me, many of them eventually can be traced back to allowing edits by IP anons and failing to guide newly registered users in wise ways of building a trustworthy wikipersona, while protecting their RL privacy.---CH 04:01, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Were Essjay obliged to come clean earlier on - e.g. as a prerequisite to requesting adminship or further privileges - he would have had an occasion and an opportunity to correct the disputed behavior before it became a significant problem for him or for the project.Proabivouac 04:21, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Well put, Proabivouac. This illustrates the point I am trying to make about reforming both the rules for behavior here and the way in which they are presented to wiki users. I decry some of Essjay's statements which appeared to attempt to shift some of the blame for what happened onto Stacy Schiff, but at the same time I do feel that the current system unfortunately makes it all too easy for newbies to make seemingly minor mistakes which later have severe consequences. I stress again that I feel that the majority of such mistakes derive from the ambiguous nature of wikidentities. ---CH 06:20, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

The Jimbo Problem

I think it's appropriate to use an Operating Systems analogy here. You might be able to speed up a computer program by having the kernel use a look-aside table in user space as an alternative to an exhaustive search of its own data for a piece of information. But unless you want your kernel to crash, it had better verify the user space information before using it, because it is untrusted.

That goes for pretty much anything on the Internet. You can find stuff quickly on the Internet, but you had better check it against something authoritative, in case it is complete nonsense, before trying to use it in real life.

Otherwise you might find yourself the victim of someone who thought it would be funny to make a realistic looking page claiming that drinking bleach cures stomach cancer.

Wikipedia is no different than anything else on the Net. It has the advantage of updating in almost real time due to breaking news. But you don't know if what you are reading was edited five minutes earlier by a troll.

You can talk about "Scholarly Values" all you want, but the bottom line is that Wikipedia is a far different creature than a peer-reviewed published scientific journal. It is neither authoritative, nor citable, although it can be a great way to find things that are.

The reason Academics are on Wikipedia's case is because Jimbo tries to represent Wikipedia as something it is not. An authoritative respository of all the world's knowlege. Wikipedia is at most an untrusted cache of sometimes true material. That's all it needs to be, and that's all it should claim to be.

Jimbo started this whole mess by running around saying that Wikipedia wanted to achieve "Britannica quality, or better." Of course people are now slinging arrows at the large target he has painted, and are gleefully pointing out the EssJay festivities as a prima facia example of how wrong Jimbo is.

While EssJay claimed to be something he's not, the real problem here is Wikipedia claiming to be something it's not. It's unfair for EssJay to serve as the poster boy for a larger disconnect between what Wikipedia actually is, and how Jimbo represents it. Hermitian 00:39, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

There's nothing wrong with Jimbo's admirable goal. The question is how to set up institutions which achieve it. Of course, a real-time editing system will never be more trustworthy than the last editor. Howver, there's no reason at all that frozen 'stable' versions of articles cannot eventually be reliable. We have plenty of experts, plenty of fact-checkers, plenty of copyeditors. Your complaint is that Wikipedia is not yet reliable, but that's a reason to innovate, not a reason to embrace the current situation. Derex 01:04, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Interesting analogy, Hermitian! I think Jimbo will protest that in recent years he has tried to stress in press interviews that Wikipedia should be treated as only the first stop (in all likelihood) on the puzzled seekers's journey to enlightment, if I might so paraphrase, but I agree that such remarks are insufficient: despite the odd warning here and there, many people, particularly students, but also many who should know better, like jurists and, yes, journalists, often do tend to treat WP as authoritative when it is not.
Wikipedia has thus far failed to fulfill its enormous promise to offer free and reliable information on everything to everyone. To the contrary, in some ways, Wikipedia is beginning to appear to some with a scholarly background (unlike Essjay, my own pretense of scholarship has some basis in fact) as a danger to the world, in that it unthinkingly promotes conflating "easily found information" with "good information". Like Derex, I'd still like to try to redress the balance and reaffirm the goal of building a free, on-line, comprehensive and reliable encyclopedia, by thoroughly reforming and streamlining the entire sociopolitical system in order to foster that goal. I have been convinced for a long time that this will require the painful sacrifice of such traditions as "welcoming anonymous editing", because reliablity requires accountability, which in turn requires a fixed identity. Jimbo, I hope you will drop your longstanding opposition to this proposal.---CH 01:11, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
You make excellent points, Hermitian. However, it is going to take radical, systemic change, not a simple tweak as disallowing anonymous editors. Essjay was not an anon. I suspect you'd agree with what I have said. C.m.jones 02:11, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Just to make sure I am not misunderstood: I am calling for a thorough examination of the wider issues underlying the Essjay scandal, which include but are not limited to the issues of IP anons and sockpuppetry. ---CH 02:32, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

I am sure Jimbo is going to take plenty of time during his stay in Japan to think this over, and make a much stronger statement about the identity of Wikipedia editors when he comes back. Ashibaka (tock) 02:58, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Happy Spread-the-funny and-slighty-random-love day!

:) pschemp (talk) 00:48, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

A House O'Cards

Jimbo, I've spent the past year studying deception among a core group of WP admins and their friends, and about seven months trying to do something about it. A couple of months ago, I decided to stop worrying about helping Wikipedia save itself.

Many of us have known about Essjay for some time. It became a bit of a joke in some circles. You may or may not be surprised to learn that his case is relatively mild, compared to many others that will inevitably come to light soon. Maybe not surprisingly, it's those who are most jealous about their identities who have also gone about committing the majority of what many in Wikipedia exile communities have termed "atrocities." These are your primary liabilities and the ones whose falls will shake this project most.

Wikipedia is a beautiful and soaring house, Mr Wales, but ultimately it is a house of cards. I'm afraid the world will now watch as this project reaps that which it has sown.

Best of luck to you. --Monkey One Million 01:45, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Your exciting mish-mash of metaphoric imagery aside, you could do the project a service by posting what you have. Otherwise, it would probably be reasonable for someone to dismiss your message. - CHAIRBOY () 02:36, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Yeah, what's all the secrecy for? Are you going to have a press release one day, or are you collecting files on all the admins just for your own amusement? Ashibaka (tock) 02:39, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Nothing would make me happier than to lay it all out right here. However I learned early on that the great Catch 22 of Wikipedia is that revealing certain infractions is itself treated as an infraction, for which the nuclear option of "oversight" is frequently and eagerly employed. In other words, the only way to keep record of the accusation in existence is to offer no evidence at all. :( --Monkey One Million 03:32, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Then please mail it to the wikien-l mailing list, where plenty of people will see it. Thanks, William Pietri 06:26, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Well, will you email me via anonymous remailer, then? I'll lay it out there if I think it has any merit. Vague insinuations serve no purpose; if you have evidence of serious malfeasance, let's see it, please.---CH 03:34, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Wikipedia's Reputation

I really couldn't understand why Larry, the head of a competing project (, would get so involved with a Wikipedian issue but then found this on his blog at

"As you might know, I haven’t interfered with Wikipedia’s “internal affairs” for a long time. But the Essjay situation isn’t just an internal affair, because this is an existential, standards-defining, precedent-setting event that could affect Wikipedia’s reputation for years to come. So on this, we need to hold Wikipedia’s feet to the flames, and make sure that they do the right thing."

I guess he's worried about Wikipedia's reputation?  :-) 03:45, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Read closer. Sanger makes it clear in his blog posts that since leaving the project he has still been an ardent supporter of Wikipedia, while also criticizing it. He says he will withdrawal all support if Jimbo does not take a higher level of responsibility over what he did and did not know and when concerning this Essjay scandal. Given that Wikipedia's core policies (e.g., NPOV, No OR, etc.) are very largely Sanger's brainchild, that is not something to sneeze at, IMO. 06:22, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Larry and I are within our rights to "return from the dead" to comment here on a widely reported scandal at WP (as I verified early yesterday with an admin), and as experienced former users we are well qualified to do so. ---CH 03:53, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
Hi, CH Hillman, who are you? I know who Larry is. Were you a Bomis partner? SakotGrimshine 03:58, 5 March 2007 (UTC)
I am Chris Hillman; see also this and this and this for some of my attempts at web-pedagogy. I don't know Larry Sanger or Jimbo Wales IRL and I have never been involved with Bomis. I am only addressing them on a first name basis because I am being informal; sorry for any confusion this might have caused. ---CH 04:29, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Shouldn't you,Mr.Wales, resign since Essjay told you about this long ago and you still hired him at Wikia?

and why didn't you at least tell him to correct the info on his wikipedia pages?

Wikinews has an article with a link to captured Essjay talk pages where he claims he told you and Angela and others about the ruse BEFORE you hired him;

"Once I accepted a position with Wikia, I was in a safe place to "come out," and I did. Before I accepted the position, I provided all my real details to Angela and Jimbo, and immediately provided the same information to Brad Patrick; I also placed it on my Wikia userpage, from where I expected it would fairly quickly make it's way back to Wikipedia. The stalkers picked up on it immediately (but couldn't believe that a 24 year old had fooled them), but nobody here seemed to notice, which I didn't find particularly odd, since I expected that everybody here knew what was going on....

Awww, what a nice thing to say. :) One nice thing about being "out" is that now I get to hang out with the rest of the cabal in real life; I had dinner tonight with Jimbo, Angela, Datrio, and Michael Davis. All I can say is, I love my job! Essjay (Talk) 05:25, 6 February 2007 (UTC)" 06:22, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

In the real word, and if the Foundation Board has any integrity at all, that is exactly what will happen. Then again, this place is far from the real world. I suspect things will be business as usual and Wikipedia slowly dries up for lack of funding. 06:32, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

If you read the userpage, you will understand that Essjay did, after disclosing the information to Jimbo, "fix" his userpage.

--K.Z Talk Vandal Contrib 06:52, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

He fixed"Wikia" not wikipedia. 07:00, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

And he assumed that it will pass back to Wikipedia, and it did. Although he didn't say it, he editted his userpage on wikipedia a few hours later. --K.Z Talk Vandal Contrib 07:40, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Now that the New York Times has carried the story, it's going to grow legs outside of the blogosphere. The Foundation should hire a temporary outside counsel to interview top people and write a report for publication. Wikipedians need to know who knew what, and when they knew it. If any Wikipedians decline to be interviewed, that's their right but it should be noted in the final report. 07:49, 5 March 2007 (UTC)

Ah, ignorance. You see, Jimbo had only known about Essjay lying to the press, at the time, which really wasn't the real issue. The real issue is that Essjay used this lie in discussions on Wikipedia to gain the upper hand. When Jimbo found out about this, he asked Essjay to step down, and he did. You might want to do a bit of research before trolling and making a fool of yourself. -- Ned Scott 09:03, 5 March 2007 (UTC)