January 28, 2015


Supplemental to: InfamousThoughtlessCareless

The Wikimedia responds to “Infamous” with a call for civility, illustrated with a picture of a bunch of US Navy personnel framing a house. It seems the girls and their friends should be nicer, never mind the rape threats, the murder threats, the pictures of dead dogs, the anti-Semitic cartoons, the pictures of the software engineer’s dead sister. And the Gamergate people behind all this should be careful to avoid strong language, too, at least on Wiki. Let’s be fair and make sure everyone is civil!

The Wikipedia Arbitration committee responds to “Thoughtless” with an unprecedented press statement filled with procedural detail and nothing else.

Jimmy Wales takes to Twitter, from Davos or somewhere, to say I’ve got the facts wrong or that I’m a liar or something. After the statement, he says nothing. (No link: you had to be there.

Update: I posted this, then The Verge picked it up and that went viral. That led Jimmy to approach me again on Twitter, to lecture me on how I was mistaken and Wikipedia is perfectly even-handed and to demand this update. But at least there’s dialogue, for some value of dialogue

Still: no thought for volunteers who have been mercilessly harassed and hounded by braying, taunting gangs.

And not a single word of care for victims against whom Wikipedia has been and is being weaponized.

Majestic Indifference

The toothless plank of the Arbitration Committee’s decision that defines (but does not prohibit!) harassment, added as an afterthought and mentioning only Wikipedia editors, not victims against whom Wikipedia is used as a weapon, apparently failed to attract support from 4 of the 14 editors. What’s that about?!

Wikipedia in its majesty equally:

It’s all good, it seems, provided no one sues the Foundation and no one loses their temper – or worries that endless discussion of false rumors about a blameless software engineer’s sex life, or unending speculation that rape and murder threats might conceivably be faked, do real harm to real families.

Those middle-school girls looking on are sure to get the message: this is what happens if you study computers. They’re listening. That’s the goal of one faction: the faction Wikipedia even-handedly nurtures.

They’re Just Not Very Good At This

I’m a computer scientist and software developer. Before I wrote “Infamous,” my most widely-read essay was probably “Ten Tips For Writing The Living Web,” an early primer on the art of the weblog which was for some time among the most popular issues of A List Apart and which found itself anthologized in some high school and college writing manuals. One of those ten tips is, make good enemies.

A problem here is that Wikipedia/Wikimedia are just no good at this, and an inept opponent is not a good enemy. Seriously, this is too easy. (Hint: when you want to show people cooperating, you might want to rethink that US Navy photo.)

Tips for Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation Press Office

Attacking me does little good; I’m the messenger.

Arguing for balance does no you good at all. One side is toxic; the closer you get to people who want to punish women in computing, the more muck gets on your clothes.

Having Jimmy Wales rush onto Twitter, call me a liar, and then run away does little good; I’m just the messenger and it wastes your asset. Putting out talking points that try to play down my credentials does little good, either; anyone who cares can go read the papers or use the software. Your move here is to show lots of respect and formality, to demonstrate how deeply you respect the opponent while, naturally, you disagree. This also gives you a better endgame.

Attacking The Guardian over a minor reporting error – one which, today or tomorrow, will no longer be an error at all – does little good. The Guardian has built a record over 194 years; you’re not going to move that dial.

Quibbling over who is or isn’t a real feminist is fun, but it’s not going to help you either.

Remember that GamerGate has a press operation too. I’m not saying that you’re coordinating with GamerGate, but unless you get some daylight between you and GamerGate– and quickly – people will notice the similarity.

Attacking is the wrong move anyway. Apologize, demonstrate thought, and show care. Sure, that might look like losing: as you say, it’s not a battleground.

What’s wrong with you?