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Sanger controversy reignited, Limbaugh libeled, and more
Calacanis and Sanger cry foul
The longstanding debate over Larry Sanger's role in the foundation of Wikipedia (covered in Signpost issues April 13, 2009, May 11, 2009, August 7, 2006 and April 2, 2007) was reignited recently when Internet entrepreneur Jason Calacanis and Sanger alleged that Jimbo Wales has downplayed Sanger's role on Wikipedia for financial motives, according to this report.
The controversy began with Calacanis stating in an interview on the Internet Evolution web radio (section starts around 19:42) that Wales was "a fraud" who erroneously claimed to be the creator of Wikipedia in order to attract funding for Wikia:
[Wales] just got a bunch of people to give him a bunch of money thinking, 'Oh, this is the guy who created Wikipedia.' Well guess what? He didn't create Wikipedia. Larry Sanger did.
Calacanis' outburst prompted an IE reporter to contact Sanger for comments. Sanger was Wikipedia's first employee from 2001 to 2002, during which time he proposed using the wiki software to advance Wales' encyclopedia concept. Sanger has decried his omission before; he was called co-founder as recently as 2004, but afterwards forgotten, sometimes with the help of Wales' own edits as reported by a Workbench blogger and later the New York Times. Sanger believes the motivations are financial:
In 2004, at just the time when he was leaving out any mention of me in discussing the history of Wikipedia, he was starting Wikia...That's also when the star of Wikipedia really began to rise and started to enter into public consciousness. Jimmy Wales had a real financial motive to portray himself as the brains behind Wikipedia.
When solicited for a response, Wales stated that "I think very highly of Larry Sanger, and think that it is unfortunate that this silly debate has tended to overshadow his work." He saved his ire for Calacanis, calling him "a showman" trying to "generate easy publicity for himself."
Calacanis and Wales had had a much-publicized earlier fallout in 2006 after Wales rejected a proposal by Calacanis to introduce advertising on Wikipedia, see Signpost issue October 30, 2006. The recent comment about Sanger was made in a similar context: Asked by the interviewer why he expected his human search engine project Mahalo.com to succeed despite Wales' failure with his similar project Wikia Search, Calacanis retorted that "there is a big misconception that Jimmy Wales is some huge genius", arguing that he lacked business acumen:
[To make Wikipedia a non-profit] was the worst business decision in the history of business. Not since the Indians sold Manhattan has somebody made a stupider move in the history of business. Literally. The 11 or 12 dollars that the Indians got for Manhattan was a better deal than what Jimmy Wales did. Jimmy Wales would be a billionaire right now. Wikipedia would be worth 25 to 50 billion dollars and Jimmy Wales would own 80, 90 percent of it. He'd be in the top 50 richest people on the planet ...
Conservative U.S. talk show host Rush Limbaugh has lashed out against false information on Wikipedia, Wikiquote, and many newscasters who have relied on them as sources. Limbaugh's online blog called numerous reporters "professional scum...responsible in many ways for the deteriorating standards and quality of journalism" because they attributed unsourced quotes to him that were taken from Wikipedia. The quotes in question were first added to Wikiquote by an IP address that blogger Trapdoc traced to a computer at the law firm Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, as reported by The American Thinker blog. The row comes in the wake of Limbaugh's failed bid to buy the St. Louis Rams professional football team.
"No reason for China to use Wikipedia"
CNN profiled the user-created Chinese language encyclopedia Hudong this week in "It's tricky for wikis and online encyclopedias in China". Hudong was started in 2005 but already has over 3 million articles; in comparison, Chinese Wikipedia launched in 2002 but has less than 10% as many articles as Hudong.
Explaining Hudong's success compared to Wikipedia and to competitor Baidu Baike, Hudong's founder Pan Haidong said "We know the market better. That is why we can get a bigger share of it." Chinese Wikipedia had also been blocked in mainland China for most of its existence, although it is no longer blocked. The article quotes Baidu chief scientist William Chang: "There's, in fact, no reason for China to use Wikipedia, a service based 'out there'. It's very natural for China to make its own products."