Archive for the ‘Jimbo Wales’ Category
How can you trust the truth of Wikipedia’s articles if you can’t even trust the truth about their own history?
If you are like most people, you aren’t quite sure about how Wikipedia started. So you start off by checking out Wikipedia’s own entry on History of Wikipedia. You would assume that it would be correct, because they should know their own history. Then we get the question of trust. Do we trust that Wikipedia is accurate about itself? They have a policy on Neutral Point of View, so in theory we should be able to trust them. But at the same time, would we trust anyone when talking about themselves? A little research will uncover that Larry Sanger considers himself to be co-founder with Jimbo Wales, while Jimbo Wales considers himself to be the sole founder. Wikitruth, who seems to know a lot about such things, highlights how important that issue is. So you might be led to believe that that is the only issue, and that, thankfully, it is now listed in some form at least, in the article about the history of Wikipedia.
The problem is that there is more to it than that.
To borrow from the “Brady Bunch” theme song, here’s the story… of a man named Jimmy…
Wikimedia Foundation Board of Directors includes: Jimmy Wales (Chairman Emeritus) and Michael E. Davis (Treasurer). Wikimedia Foundation also enjoys the services of a former Board member, who remains a member of the Communications Committee of the Wikimedia Foundation and also chairs the Foundation’s Advisory Board: Angela Beesley.
Contrast the above list of individuals with a list of key players at the for-profit Wikia, Inc.: Jimmy Wales (co-founder), Michael E. Davis (Treasurer and Secretary), Angela Beesley (co-founder and vice president for community relations).
Non-profit and for-profit board members and accountants both have fiduciary duties to act in the best interest of their organizations. By various laws and governance principles they have to recuse themselves or avoid involvement when there is a conflict of interest. Even a perceived conflict can be corrosive to governance and is sometimes prohibited because donors and volunteers lose faith. Someone who is on the board of Wikimedia Foundation or prepares its finances and also has a financial stake in Wikia should be very careful about taking positions within Wikimedia properties that could benefit Wikia by directing traffic there, banning things from Wikipedia so as to distinguish it from a commercial site, making Wikipedia less attractive to constituents than Wikia, etc. Actions that seem to raise a conflict might include hiring personnel from the volunteer Foundation to work at the for-profit corporation, installing Wikia, Inc. employees into positions of power within Foundation properties, selectively banning some commercial links while allowing others, travel and speaking engagements for the Foundation that are also used to drum up support for the for-profit venture, etc.
It would appear that all of these warning signals have been played out in reality at the Wikimedia Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »
This post was submitted by The Review’s resident Newshound, Kato.
The latest discussions on Wikipedia Review regarding Holocaust denial and Wikipedia - have served the purpose of triggering some reflections on my part on the nature of history, and the threat that Wikipedia’s model provides to our understanding of the past.
Some time ago I spent a period analyzing holocaust denial as an example of how history and truth is impacted by the distance of time. Since the end of the war, holocaust survivors and others have consciously stressed the importance of personal, lucid testimonies to counter what they rightly predicted would be a gradual debasing of truth. The level of diligence to this noble premise is quite unique. Spielberg’s Shoah foundation is just one of many examples.