||[Jan. 23rd, 2011|10:31 am]
The Journal That Speaks Truth to Wikiality
Decade Year In Review
As Dikipedia celebrates its 10th anniversary, a milestone created by our decimal numerical system, there will be much back patting, anal-lingus and looking back on the past decade of edit wars and MUD slinging. So, just to be different (and since in my last entry here I already, basically did that) I'd rather look back on only the last year.
Overall, it was a pretty boring fucking year. Even if I still cared, I'd be hard-pressed to find anything that stood out as truly memorable or meaningful. The only event which came closet to becoming the next Essjay or Marsden-Gate was the porn war on the Commons, and that didn't even take place on WP-proper, though there was a slight bit of spill-over, but nothing nearly approaching BP-levels.
For the uninitiated, the Great Porn War of 2010 had three main causes:
* The existence of a plethora of porn of questionable, encyclopedic value over on the Commons.
* Der Jimbo's continued public belittlement of his former friend, colleague and Wikipedia's co-founder Larry "Goldstein/Trotsky" Sanger. That reached a new high of low on Jimmy's talkpage the previous year.
* King Jimbo's heavy-handed (and ham fisted as usual) lording over Wikiversity a couple of months before.
It basically went down as follows:
Mr. Sanger, butthurt (and justly so) by his mistreatment, after some informal brainstorming with the Ghouls over on WP-Review (moar on them below), brought the fact of the existence of large amounts of "Child Porn" on the Commons to the attention of the FBI and major media. The response from the WMF and the Jimbots was the usual panic, circle the wagons, PR-cluster fuck we have seen before in these situations.
What was unusual was King James hisself, getting his hands dirty by deleting large amounts of the pr0n personally (oh the irony). But the "community" didn't just bend over and take it, this time. On Meta, one of Wikiland's most boring sites (and, again, not WP), a RFC against his Jimness had been filed over his Wikiversity purge a couple months prior. It was dying the usual slow, dull death, with little attention and even fewer supports to curb the Godhead's powers.
But following his actions on Commons, it suddenly sprang to life and transformed into a full-scale uprising. Now hundreds of Wikipedes and Peons from across the political spectrum were saying "Off with his Godhead!" Even more surprisingly, Jimmy Bond, being more like unto King Richard II than Charles I, backed down, and abdicated his self-granted "founder" powers on all Wikimedia sites.
While this might seem a significant victory over petty tyranny, it was really only symbolic and short-term. By year's end, the unstoppable Wiki-love machine was rolling again as if it never missed a beat. This would not have been the case had the English Wikipedia community shown the backbone that those on Meta had. The provinces, the Sun king can afford to give up, but so long as he retains control of the capital, he remains in power. The Wiki-kingdom is a sort of Cerberus in reverse; with only one head but multiple tails, none of which wag the dog.
The lesson here? You can take away Wiki-peons' fundamental rights to question authoritah, but you better not mess with their pr0n!
The only other event of any significance to me, which may or may not be related to the events related above, is the sudden resignation/removal of Mike Godwin as the WMF's Head Legal Eagle. Hours of fun was had discussing whether he jumped or was pushed. Or did his cheeky reply in an earlier confrontation with the FBI over high resolution rights to their logo, have anything to do with it? And was said confrontation, in turn, part of the fallout from the pr0n embarrassment? Or did the crack investigative team of the Flowers By Irene, simply make the common mistake of confusing Wikipedia with Wikileaks? Regardless, the end was still the same; He gone...the deckchairs got reshuffled and the band played on.
Of course, the issue of what constitutes Encyclopedic Porn remains unresolved. And given the glacial pace in resolving the issues associated with biographies of the still living, it will likely remain thus even if WP reaches its 2nd decennial- A ticking timebomb of scandal and embarrassment for some, the gift that keeps on giving for others.
The Review In Review
I have been a member of teh Wikipedia Review for well over a year now. For a long time I was reluctant to take the plunge and join for various reasons, but when I finally did I was pleasantly surprised how much fun it was going from lurker to participant.
I made some cool friends (a few of whom I've been a secret admirer of for sometime), I racked up over 600 posts working my way up to the illustrious title of "UberMember". However, my proudest accomplishment there so far, (aside from trolling producer Don Murphy about the crapfest that is Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen) is starting the topic that will not die on the General Discussion forum.
After a few months, though, the honeymoon began to wind down and the hangover to commence. I started to notice a disturbing convergence between WR and its target:
( Click me if you dare!Collapse )
Within hours of posting the above, I suddenly noticed I had access to a "Sooper Sekret" forum, from which I'd been previously excluded and was now in a new user group-the Regulars (my high fiber diet prolly didn't hurt either). I even received a congratulatory private note from the legendary Poetlister. I had arrived and the honeymoon resumed...for a while.
Then the discomfort began to return with a vengeance. And now with the added convergence point of an exclusive, semi-secret group with privately posted proceedings. I guess, like my hero Groucho, I don't want to be part of a club that would have me as a member.
But for us Wiki-dissidents seeking eyeballs, quality critical discourse and a place to blow off steam, there really is no substitute for The Review now. My beloved and oft-cited WikiTruth now exists as a "dead" site that can only be accessed via the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The once vibrant Wiki-critical Blogosphere scene has all but dried up too (With the notable exception of Seth Finkelstein's Infothought). Even Cade Metz and the gang at El Reg rarely turn their critical eyes at WP anymore.
This is a disheartening state of affairs, and one likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future. The Review is just another fucking forum at day's end, with a shitty signal/noise ratio, spotty coverage and more than its share of toxic personalities. A monster fighter increasingly captured by that which it purports to battle and now appears to be tearing itself a new one.
Or to wax Clausewitzian; Wikipedia Review is merely a continuation of Wikipedia by other means. But unless Encyclopedia Dramatica suddenly grows a brain, grows up and gets a modicum of class (he said 'cum' huhuhuhuh), or much more likely Akahele or The WikiTruth suddenly spring back to life,
The Review's successor site Wikipediocracy is it for our likes, dear reader.
The Reviewer In
I was a dedicated Wikipedian for 6 months, a disgruntled Wiki-Peon for a year and I've been a rabid but ribald Wiki-critic for nearly four years now.
So what have I learned in that time? The only bigger, more pathetic time-sink than contributing to Wikipedia, is bitching about it from the sidelines.
At best, such activity is a catharsis...at worst, a waste of precious time you will never get back. This blog community, for instance, has managed to change exactly one mind to my knowledge-my own. I once thought this was a worthy and useful, if not always enjoyable or fruitful, endeavor...now not so much. It has taken me years to come to the realization of what a fool I've been; of the ill-spent hours I've wasted.
And what has it all accomplished? Zilch, zero, nada, rein and captain kangaroo jack shit by my reckoning. The best I can hope for is that some distant future internet archivist/archeologist will dig up WP_FNORD and find it a slightly interesting record of a confused and troubled mind in confusing and troubling times. So to you, in the future, from the time of Little Big Jimbo, the politeness police and OTRS I send greetings, in what is most likely my final post here.
Please try and learn from our mistakes...please try and build a better world!
Since this blog has now become a time capsule, I shall make some predictions for your future amusement. The Wiki-empire will continue its slow decline and be overshadowed by the "Next Big Thang"(tm). It will come to be seen as a largely forgotten relic of "Web 1.5". The first big sign of this will come when its Alexa rankings begin to slip. At first, the zealots will deny it's happening and shoot the messenger, by poo-pooing Alexa and how unreliable she is (oh pot meet kettle...glass house meet rock!). But when WP falls from her top 10, expect a great wailing and gnashing of keyboards. Followed by a plethora of wholehearted and half-brained attempts to reform the Wikidom's governance. But these will come to naught without a corresponding change in the Wikidum's culture, and even then twill be too little too late.
The next great scandal to rock WP and its environs, will not be of the types we have become used to and this blog has chronicled. It will involve someone stupid and ill-informed, doing something stupid based on something stupid they read on Wikipedia. This could take many forms-Bad medical, diet or legal advice, etc. and result in said consultant coming to or causing harm...maybe even death, either to themselves or others. Regardless of the details, it will hit WP in one of its two Achilles' Heels-Its reliability and accuracy, in much the same way EssjayGate wanged it in its credibility heel. And just as Essjaygate marked the beginning of WP's long decline, this scandal(s) will send it into high gear.
In the meantime, once Jimmy has had enough, he will sell out or be pushed out by those who want to, and Wiki Media will be bought by Google if it's lucky, by Microsoft, Apple or maybe even FacialBook if it isn't.
And if I'm wrong, hey I'm not claiming to be Carnac the Magnificent or Negrodamus here...I'm not nearly as funny.
As for WP's epitaph, there will be many to choose from, but my favorite has to be: Mostly Harmless. Because to the overwhelming mass of humanity, that's exactly what it is. It only harms the few who are unwell, unwise, or unlucky enough to find themselves sucked into its event horizon. And even then the harm it causes is more emotional/psychological than physical or monetary. For we already have, you see, the "sum of all human knowledge"...It's called the Internet. The 'Pedia, is merely a selective snapshot thereof...a Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Nerdiverse. Anything you find on there is only as good as the last hands to have touched it.
WP is simply the latest attempt to come to terms with the vast amount of information out there. And it CAN be useful, if used carefully and skeptically. The problem is, of course, that too few do. The desire for quick information is usually greater than that for reliable information. Tis all part of the rich pageant that constitutes the human condition. So...Hey, give em what they want!