The Wikipedia Review: A forum for discussion and criticism of Wikipedia
Wikipedia Review Op-Ed Pages

Welcome, Guest! ( Log In | Register )

 
Reply to this topicStart new topic
> Confidence Games & Pyramid Schemes, There's One Born Every Nanosecond
Rating  1
Jonny Cache
post Tue 21st November 2006, 2:38pm
Post #1


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



I'm Re-view-ing the Sit-u-a-tion …

'Cause there's something fishy goin' on here — my nose tells me that much — and just because I don't know what it is yet — especially because I don't know what it is yet — it is necessary to speculate on the various sorts of games that might be in the mix.

So I want to extract a generic theme that arose in another line of inquiry, and abstract it from the specifics of that particular case, because I think there's a bigger picture, however dimly lit, to keep in sight here.

I started thinking along these lines a few weeks back when I saw yet another story on the local news about some Senior Citizen of the Griftedest Generation who sent $20,000 in cold hard cash by Featheral Xpress to some address in Phoenix because some guy on the phone said she had won $10 million from Publishers' Shearinghouse, and, like she said, "But he sounded so convincing on the phone". I was right in the middle of exclaiming — Wow !!! Just how gullible can some folks be !? — when I reflected for a moment on how much of my time and effort I had been conned into x-spending on Wikipedia, all for the sake of a really good line.

Since that time I've been contemplating the ways that the Wikipedia-Citizendium game seems very much like some kind of Intellectual Pyramid Scheme. A couple of distinguishing marks — if you'll excuse the expression — of a long-lasting pyramid scheme are these: (1) a steady influx of newbies who have yet to tumble to the game, and (2) a mechanism to efflux from the system and to render harmless the marks who have started to ask too many questions.

Jonny cool.gif

A Very Shiny Glossary — Terms of Artful Dodgery

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 7:14pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Mon 18th December 2006, 2:58pm
Post #2


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



The main difference between a con game and a cult is that the cult leader has conned himself into believing his own spiel.

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Mon 18th December 2006, 3:51pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Somey
post Mon 18th December 2006, 4:09pm
Post #3


Can't actually moderate (or even post)
*********

Group: Moderators
Posts: 11,815
Joined: Sat 17th Jun 2006, 7:47pm
From: Dreamland
Member No.: 275



Interesting...

I mean, if all this is in preparation for some sort of manifesto or something on The Inherent Problems of Wikipedia, then I'd certainly agree that it's an intellectual con game, and that the leader has, indeed, successfully convinced himself that he's doing something good for society (note: he isn't), along with the self-delusion that he isn't really in charge of it (he is, though admittedly less so than he used to be). But the most important aspect of a pyramid scheme is the promise of a payoff, and the fact that said promise usually goes unfulfilled. So... what's the payoff? Barnstars up the ying-yang? Becoming an administrator eventually? Or just having someone to talk to about subjects that interest you? All of those seem to be realistic goals for people who are willing to sublimate, or else put aside completely, whatever strongly-held beliefs or opinions they may have (if any) in the pursuit of those things.

Again, that's not to say people aren't being conned... WP is telling n00bz that they're contributing to the "ultimate storehouse of human knowledge," and that they should be proud of themselves for this. Most people in academia, publishing, and the media don't think of it that way at all, but the n00bz often don't seem to realize just how embattled the project is until they're already drawn in. So if they become addicted to it, they soon become insularized against that outside criticism, by necessity, along with all the other kool-aid drinkers - we've seen this time and time again. But that doesn't mean they haven't obtained (or can't eventually obtain) what they originally wanted...

Personally, I think Wikipedia is closer to a rigged poker game than a pyramid scheme, but since I haven't participated in it myself, I'm probably not the best person to judge. I haven't even played poker in years!
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Mon 18th December 2006, 4:46pm
Post #4


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs




    Das Beste, was Du wissen kannst,
    Darfst Du den Buben doch nicht sagen.

    The best that you know,
    You cannot tell the Boys.


    — Goethe, Faust
No, if I had a manifesto waiting in the wings you'd already be wishing you hadn't mentioned it.

All I have now is a lot of questions — What's driving the plot? What's behind the screen?

But some of the factors you mention, or report out of the myths of den Buben, may point the way toward the light.

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 7:15pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Tue 19th December 2006, 2:05pm
Post #5


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



Incidental Musement

Alas! I babel on, but find no petard with umph enuff to hoist these fardels off my baktrian's bak … and there are times when even free association fails to trump the trick … so here's a factoid of desultory diversion to wile away the mean time —

My German Lit professor in college was fond of observing that the German edition of Reader's Digest was then called Das Beste. He was quite certain that some wag at the German publishing house had chosen this name in deliberate allusion to Goethe's aperçu, a saying that would have been all too familar to the ordinary German, who is spoon-fed Goethe from an early age in the same way that English-speaking children have Shakespeare dinned into them long before they are old enough to understand what the Hecuba the Bard was talking about.

That was such a fine metaphor for Wikipedia that I once used Goethe's quip as an epigraph for the Wikipedia's article "Lie-to-children". Guess what happened? Yes, even Das Beste was far too good for them.

What this illustrates rather perfectly is the point where the Wikipedia way turns from non-elitism to anti-knowledge and anti-learning.

They call it "the gift of knowledge" —

There's a double meaning in that.

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 7:10pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Tue 26th December 2006, 7:37pm
Post #6


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



The secret spring of the confidence game is an unmet need of the mark, the catch being that the need is unmeetable, mostly on account of its deriving from infantile fantasies.

Human beings are such simple critters at root that the whole vast sea of their insatiabilities boils down in the penultimate analysis to these few possibilities:
  • Love
  • Power
  • Wealth
Things like Fame are an obvious disguise for Love — you could argue that Wealth is not desired for its own sake but for the sake of the Power that it brings, and you could probably argue the reverse just as well — but this short list is a convenient stopping place for now.

The confidence man — somehow political correctness seems out of place in this demesne — takes the mark into his confidence, and confides in him, beyond all hope of (reasonable) expectations, a confidential way of meeting his unmeetable need.

And for the chase of that will-o-th-wisp, the mark will incrementally and exponentially sacrifice all of his real assets.

That is no manifesto, that much we know …

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 6:20pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Thu 28th December 2006, 3:23pm
Post #7


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



We come to the question:
  • What is the infantile wish that binds the uncritical mass of the Wikipile together and keeps it humming its la-la-looney tunes in the face of every critical reflection?
It could of course be a congeries of wishes, but there are dynamic factors that weigh strongly against that possibility. The pyramid scheme crystallizes best that encrusts itself about a single seed. This is partly due to the property of confidence games that they turn on a definite lack of awareness, deliberation, and self-knowledge on the part of the mark. But the discomforts involved in negotiating the claims of competing desires are frequently enough to stir the inattentive consciousness back into play — "Thanks, I needed that", as they say in the movies.

Consequently, we may well expect to find a single pre-eminent phantasy swaddled at the core of clone acts like Wikipedia and Citizendium.

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 6:22pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Thu 8th November 2007, 5:44pm
Post #8


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



Hauled my Alnico Magnet out of my BlueGenes Pocket — now y'∀ know what I had in my pocketses — and extracted this Rutsy Needle from the Mouldy Haystax of The Wikipedia Revue Argives on account of its Newfound Revelance to the Casualities of Rube Mechanics.

Jonny cool.gif

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 5:46pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Moulton
post Thu 8th November 2007, 6:38pm
Post #9


Anthropologist from Mars
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 10,220
Joined: Mon 29th Oct 2007, 9:56pm
From: Greater Boston
Member No.: 3,670

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



Now that nearly a year has gone by for your question to incubate, and now that many more memes have floated by the river's overlook, what do you nominate as the most likely fears and wishes, needs and nudges, that draw participants into the game?
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Thu 8th November 2007, 7:04pm
Post #10


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



QUOTE(Moulton @ Thu 8th November 2007, 2:38pm) *

Now that nearly a year has gone by for your question to incubate, and now that many more memes have floated by the river's overlook, what do you nominate as the most likely fears and wishes, needs and nudges, that draw participants into the game?


"A Random List", said the Snark, but not without Alice a4thought …
  • Fear Of Uncertainty (FOU)
Hm³ … I wrote a few others, but on 2nd or 3rd thought they all spring from that.

Sources of critical insight that leap to mind are these —Jon Awbrey

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 8th November 2007, 8:12pm
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Moulton
post Thu 8th November 2007, 7:16pm
Post #11


Anthropologist from Mars
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 10,220
Joined: Mon 29th Oct 2007, 9:56pm
From: Greater Boston
Member No.: 3,670

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



The Quest for Certainty in an Age of Uncertainty would seem to be a core attraction for participating in a venture to compile the Definite Sum of All Human Knowledge.

In the presence of Uncertainty, one cannot avoid a certain amount of Anxiety. Who among us would not prefer the Confidence of Certain Knowledge to the Anxiety and Insecurity of Uncertainty?

So in terms of the Emotional Axis in play, I'd nominate as my first candidate the Anxiety-Confidence Axis.

FORUM Image
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Thu 8th November 2007, 7:48pm
Post #12


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



Six dimentia ought to be room enuff —

We'll just have to see about the time …

By way of historical matting, so far as Greco-Roman Westling goes, it may be well to dispell a few rumours about the grip and the stance of our common co-funder, Aristotle. How quickly they forget that one lone dude gave us our first playbooks in logic, psychology, rhetoric, and all things theatrical, just for starters.

But, speaking of breaks …

Jonny cool.gif
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jonny Cache
post Thu 20th December 2007, 3:44am
Post #13


τα δε μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 5,100
Joined: Sat 9th Sep 2006, 1:52am
Member No.: 398

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



Part of my desultory studies in the art of the con last year included watching all the films I could find whose plots moved forward on big or little con feet.

Here are three of the DVD's that I can still find around the house:
  • Confidence ¤ Edward Burns, Rachel Weisz, Andy Garcia, Dustin Hoffman
  • The Grifters ¤ John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening
  • Matchstick Men ¤ Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell, Alison Lohman
Confidence was far and away the smartest, the sexiest, and the most instructive in the finer points of the confidence art, or so it made me believe. The Grifters delivered a rock solid cinematic thriller-chiller, but it exploited the confidence game theme more as a metaphor for deep dark psychological issues. Matchstick Men was not very convincing in its cutesy contrivances and its inability to tie up loose ends, but it did have its moments of irony and wit and the underlying structure of the meta*con was clever enough.

There was also a very classy scene in Confidence where the conman Jake Vig (Edward Burns) and his protege shill Lily (Rachel Weisz) take a mark by the name of Mr. Lewis (Robert Pine) based solely on the desire of the latter to be the proverbial Nice Guy.

Jon Awbrey

This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Thu 20th December 2007, 3:52am
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
WhispersOfWisdom
post Thu 20th December 2007, 4:33am
Post #14


Lee Nysted
*****

Group: Regulars
Posts: 543
Joined: Wed 8th Aug 2007, 12:58am
Member No.: 2,310



QUOTE(Jonny Cache @ Tue 21st November 2006, 8:38am) *

I'm Re-view-ing the Sit-u-a-tion …

'Cause there's something fishy goin' on here — my nose tells me that much — and just because I don't know what it is yet — especially because I don't know what it is yet — it is necessary to speculate on the various sorts of games that might be in the mix.

So I want to extract a generic theme that arose in another line of inquiry, and abstract it from the specifics of that particular case, because I think there's a bigger picture, however dimly lit, to keep in sight here.

I started thinking along these lines a few weeks back when I saw yet another story on the local news about some Senior Citisen of the Griftedest Generation who sent $20,000 in cold hard cash by Featheral Xpress to some address in Phoenix because some guy on the phone said she had won $10 million from Publishers' Shearinghouse, and, like she said, "But he sounded so convincing on the phone". I was right in the middle of exclaiming — Wow !!! Just how gullible can some folks be !? — when I reflected for a moment on how much of my time and effort I had been conned into x-spending on Wikipedia, all for the sake of a really good line.

Since that time I've been contemplating the ways that the Wikipedia-Citisendium game seems very much like some kind of Intellectual Pyramid Scheme. A couple of distinguishing marks — if you'll excuse the expression — of a long-lasting pyramid scheme are these: (1) a steady influx of newbies who have yet to tumble to the game, and (2) a mechanism to efflux from the system and to render harmless the marks who have started to ask too many questions.

Jonny cool.gif

A Very Shiny Glossary — Terms of Artful Dodgery


Pretty much like the old commercial says: You asked for it, you got it Toyota!

Now you are thinking like a wonderful capitalist. Thank you Google!

You will benefit greatly as will other scholars, by taking back your works and presenting them in a forum that will reward you for your time and brainpower. You will also have a very strong partner.

Let the kids at Wikipedia show their true worth by doing what kids do...get pregnant at age 16.
Now that is real wisdom! Like Britney like sister. Block everybody that disagrees with the cabal.

Promote people like Durova and JzG. Yeah, that's it!
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Moulton
post Thu 20th December 2007, 12:53pm
Post #15


Anthropologist from Mars
*********

Group: Contributors
Posts: 10,220
Joined: Mon 29th Oct 2007, 9:56pm
From: Greater Boston
Member No.: 3,670

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



There is more than one dominance hierarchy in play here, because there is more than one axis along which players climb their self-defined ladder of success.

For some, it's business success and making money.

For some, it's political power and calling the shots.

For some, it's academic success and scholarly reputation.

For some, it's gaming the system, for the sheer fun of it.
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jon Awbrey
post Sat 12th June 2010, 12:36pm
Post #16


τὰ δέ μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Moderators
Posts: 6,783
Joined: Sun 6th Apr 2008, 4:52am
From: Meat Puppet Nation
Member No.: 5,619

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



I was looking for these refs just the other day …

Jon Image
User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post
Jon Awbrey
post Fri 14th September 2012, 3:20pm
Post #17


τὰ δέ μοι παθήματα μαθήματα γέγονε
*********

Group: Moderators
Posts: 6,783
Joined: Sun 6th Apr 2008, 4:52am
From: Meat Puppet Nation
Member No.: 5,619

WP user page - talk
check - contribs



Bumping this up for the sake of a current discussion elsewhere ...

QUOTE(Jonny Cache @ Tue 21st November 2006, 10:38am) *

I'm Re-view-ing the Sit-u-a-tion …

'Cause there's something fishy goin' on here — my nose tells me that much — and just because I don't know what it is yet — especially because I don't know what it is yet — it is necessary to speculate on the various sorts of games that might be in the mix.

So I want to extract a generic theme that arose in another line of inquiry, and abstract it from the specifics of that particular case, because I think there's a bigger picture, however dimly lit, to keep in sight here.

I started thinking along these lines a few weeks back when I saw yet another story on the local news about some Senior Citizen of the Griftedest Generation who sent $20,000 in cold hard cash by Featheral Xpress to some address in Phoenix because some guy on the phone said she had won $10 million from Publishers' Shearinghouse, and, like she said, "But he sounded so convincing on the phone". I was right in the middle of exclaiming — Wow !!! Just how gullible can some folks be !? — when I reflected for a moment on how much of my time and effort I had been conned into x-spending on Wikipedia, all for the sake of a really good line.

Since that time I've been contemplating the ways that the Wikipedia-Citizendium game seems very much like some kind of Intellectual Pyramid Scheme. A couple of distinguishing marks — if you'll excuse the expression — of a long-lasting pyramid scheme are these: (1) a steady influx of newbies who have yet to tumble to the game, and (2) a mechanism to efflux from the system and to render harmless the marks who have started to ask too many questions.

Jonny Image

A Very Shiny Glossary — Terms of Artful Dodgery

User is offlineProfile CardPM
Go to the top of the page
+Quote Post

Reply to this topicStart new topic
3 User(s) are reading this topic (3 Guests and 0 Anonymous Users)
0 Members:

 

-   Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 30th 4 17, 9:12am