February 12, 2015

Back Flip

Wikipedia continues to lose its collective mind over GamerGate.

On the talk page of Wikipedia Chief Jimmy Wales, a correspondent was complaining about Wikipedia’s continuing clumsiness, this time with reference to Overland’s new article, “Are Misogynists Running Wikipedia?” One Wikipedian wants to defend the “integrity of the project” and punish Overland, a storied Australian journal, by declaring them Unreliable and purging them from the encyclopedia.

In passing, another editor mentions ArbCom’s press release, which he pointed out was not remarkably informative and which announced that no one would be banned, after which ArbCom changed its mind and banned someone.

I am particularly not seeing any integrity of the project being upheld when the ArbCom bows to pressure from the Foundation to issue a “press release” in the midst of an ongoing case

Jimmy Wales himself replies:

“…the Foundation pressured the ArbCom into making a press relaase”[sic]- this is nonsense.

Unfortunately, Wales is here breaking either the first rule of press relations ("Don’t lie to me. Evade, dissemble, mumble, spout nonsense: OK. Don’t lie.") or the first rule of spokepersons ("Know what you're talking about.")

We know Wales is wrong because an Arbitrator — indeed, one of the authors of the infamous draft decision – had written a few days earlier, that

In fact the impetus for the ArbCom (not Wikipedia, ArbCom) statement came from the WMF[WikiMedia Foundation]. User:Roger Davies

Davies subsequently tries to paper over the contradiction with bluster and evasion: perhaps an impetus is not pressure.

“Now with less infamy!” is not the best of messaging, but you go to the press with the messaging you’ve got. Adding more infamy won’t help.

the Army of Mordor is not idle

The multiple GamerGate protest threads regarding my Southampton lecture topped out around 200 messages. Lord knows what they sent privately to the Dean.

Meanwhile, the GamerGate tag team continually derails the Wikipedia discussion above to say that “Infamous” was “the artificial shit storm stirred up by Mark Bernstein on his blog, which presented a false, demonstrably false, spin on the ongoing Arbcom case.” Another editor – the charming fellow who was outraged at my slanderously describing a Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute as “right-wing” and who elsewhere complained that I was “conspiracing” – wrote that Wikimedia Foundation should immediately contact the University of Southampton about my lecture “to check if any further inaccuracies were spread.”

The wikis[sic] reputation is damaged with inaccurate/opinionated statements…While MarkBernstein might be an expert on the technicalities (software) of a wiki he isn't an expert on the social dynamics of wiki conflicts. Therefore he might lack the required knowledge of how internal wiki disputes occur.

Remember: this is published in the encyclopedia that cares about Civility and holds its rules sacred — rules like No Personal Attacks. Interesting how these rules are applied, isn’t it?

Some of this has now been erased from the Wiki. That’s great: that was always the plan. Also erased was yesterday’s offhand remark about how tired an editor was of reading about how many men some game developer had slept with. Again, I shouted, and again its gone — but it was there for plenty of time, and now even more people know that someone thinks ______ is a whore, while some other people have no opinion one way or another. Wikipedia in its majesty...

In all modesty, to the extent this wicked world has experts on the social dynamics of wiki conflicts, I think I do rank among them, thank you very kindly. If not, why do I get asked to referee so many papers? I’ve been watching Wiki conflicts since the Great Wiki Mindwipe, and before then the TechnoCulture flame war and the alt.hypertextual joys of Jorn Barger. Sure, there are plenty of people who've done great work in the area – danah boyd, Ward Cunningham, Jill Walker Rettberg, Scott Rosenberg, and lots more – but still.

And in any case, last time I looked, the University of Southampton is still free to invite whatever speakers interest them.