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> Who is Essjay?, Probably he's Ryan Jordan
Daniel Brandt
post Wed 26th July 2006, 4:35pm
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Who is Essjay? I would love to ID this guy. I think he's notable enough for his own biography.

He says that his username derives from his initials, S.J. That would suggest that his first and middle name, or first and surname, start with S and J. But it hasn't helped my search.

He's between 30 and 45, and teaches theology to undergrads and grads. He's a tenured professor. He says that he teaches at a private university in the northeastern U.S., but I have my doubts about this also.

He says he has these degrees: Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies (B.A.), Master of Arts in Religion (M.A.R.), Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology (Ph.D.), Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD)

I've searched on his degrees, and I've looked at religion-department faculty lists in the northeast by using this resource. No clues.

He keeps to himself, and has been a Wikipedian only since February, 2005. Previous email addresses are essjay-wiki AT hotmail.com and essjay AT pacbell.net (some doubt about the latter).

He specializes in Roman Catholicism, but is a liberal non-Catholic. He's an elder in the Disciples of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination. He's probably had essays on social issues published in obscure, liberal religious publications within the past ten years.

He is gay, and his live-in partner is a lawyer named Robbie (username Robbie31). Essjay owns and operates http://countervandalism.org/wiki/VCN but the service provider registered the domain for him and I don't see any clues there.

He and his partner have a cat named Mia and a lab retriever named Ami. Years ago, Essjay was a cantor at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky.

He keeps to himself. The recent New Yorker article mentions him. He had a wikiaddiction to the tune of 14 hours a day, and sometimes he brings his laptop to class so that he can play Wikipedia while his students are taking a quiz. He will not be going to Wikimania, and he told the reporter that he has never met another Wikipedian.

If I could get even an IP address for Essjay or Robbie31, it would narrow the search to perhaps several universities instead of dozens. That would be a big help.

Essjay is probably more powerful than SlimVirgin, because he doesn't piss off too many people, and he appears to have some technical chops that come in handy for vandal-fighting through the use of bots. But I think he needs to be outed -- he spends too much time on Wikipedia and I'm sure it's bad for his health and warps his mind.

Can anyone help?
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Somey
post Wed 26th July 2006, 8:33pm
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Interesting -- earlier today he desysopped almost everyone on the Counter-vandalism wiki:

http://countervandalism.org/wiki/Special:Log/rights

So now there's just him, Firefox, and BookofJude. Perhaps he's finally discovered an effective way to curtail abuse?
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Poetlister
post Thu 27th July 2006, 9:45am
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I personally have nothing but praise for Essjay. He was very helpful to me over the [[Seamus Heaney]] edit war. I still think that if I'd gone back to him rather than Jayjg over the List of Jewish jurists, it would have been better all round.
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Sceptre
post Thu 27th July 2006, 12:37pm
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QUOTE(Somey @ Wed 26th July 2006, 9:33pm) *

Interesting -- earlier today he desysopped almost everyone on the Counter-vandalism wiki:

http://countervandalism.org/wiki/Special:Log/rights

So now there's just him, Firefox, and BookofJude. Perhaps he's finally discovered an effective way to curtail abuse?


Or rather, he reassigned permissions for users.

I agree with Poetlister, I can't find any fault with Essjay.
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Somey
post Thu 27th July 2006, 6:39pm
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I don't see much of anything wrong with him either, but I do have to say that something still doesn't add up. He really does spend a huge amount of time on Wikipedia, to the extent that it's difficult to believe that he even has a job at all, much less a tenured professorship somewhere.

Believe it or not, I've known quite a few tenured professors, and while they generally don't work quite as hard as the ones who are still on tenure-track, the idea that one of them could be that heavily addicted to Wikipedia and still do everything the job normally entails really does strain credibility a little bit.

Maybe he never sleeps?
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Daniel Brandt
post Thu 27th July 2006, 10:51pm
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If I was incompetent, and in charge of propaganda for an incompetent intelligence agency, I'd hire SlimVirgin to sling my spin on Wikipedia.

If I was competent, and in charge of propaganda for a competent intelligence agency, I'd form a small, tight committee to sign up under a single username, and avoid alienating everyone. (Essjay says, "I avoid controversy onsite whenever possible.")

Since his first Wikipedia edit in February, 2005, Essjay has climbed through the ranks. Everyone loves him. Currently he is:

administrator, en-wikipedia
administrator, wikiquote
administrator, meta-wiki
administrator, wikimedia commons
checkuser (he runs a "large percentage" of these)
oversight
bot approval group
handles user renaming requests
bureaucrat
official Freenode group contact
owns and operates Vandalism Control Network
chairman of Mediation Committee
election official, Board of Trustees 2006 election
17,000 edits

His user page pushes all the right buttons: he's gay, he's liberal, and he also has a deep respect for Roman Catholic ritual and tradition. There is nothing to object to, that isn't counterbalanced by something else. He is Wikipedia's EveryManWoman.

My guess is that Essjay could shut down someone like SlimVirgin if he approached it intelligently. That's what separates successful operatives from amateurs in spookdom. Essjay is a sleeper and a mole at the same time. He can just laugh off the SlimVirgins and the Kelly_Martins, because with a few strokes of the keyboard, they're history. But he has bigger plans, so there is no need to worry about people like Gerard, Sidaway, SlimVirgin, or Kelly.

The problem I have with this whole thing is that it doesn't compute. He's so busy on Wikipedia that he makes SlimVirgin look lazy. His user page is full of detail, but absolutely nothing can be verified externally so far. He's cloaked up to his eyebrows whenever he's online. He never screws up and shows an IP address. He does not get people mad enough to start wondering who he is. He has never even mentioned my name, as far as I know.

Essjay is too slick to be true. I say he's a competent, professional spook who manages several employees to help him out on Wikipedia. Jimbo probably doesn't even know who he is.
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Somey
post Fri 28th July 2006, 3:41am
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QUOTE(Daniel Brandt @ Thu 27th July 2006, 5:51pm) *
Essjay is too slick to be true. I say he's a competent, professional spook who manages several employees to help him out on Wikipedia. Jimbo probably doesn't even know who he is.

I have to say, the comedic potential of this is almost beyond any kind of conceivable measurement!

Still, I have to admit, in my various researches on Wikipedia user/admin behavior over the last few months, there have been instances, especially with Mormons and one or two other sectarian religious organizations, that I've gotten the distinct impression that I was looking at the work of a committee - people who'd go from semi-rational, well-written arguments one day to childish, grammatically-embarrassing sniping the next. I generally prefer to ascribe this to psychological reasons, but that's only because I'm me, i.e., not someone with an intelligence-agency background.

But for the less conspiracy-minded, I think you have to grant that there are lots of other possibilities, other than that he's exactly what he says he is - the dude could have inherited a lot of money, or scored big in the stock market, or won the lottery, or whatever... then quit his job in order to blow the rest of his life on Wikipedia, which you have to admit is much easier than traveling the world or getting involved in some worthwhile cause or other. He might even be physically incapacitated in some way, unable to travel or go hang out with other people or even play golf, which is what I generally do, when I have time.

I guess there are lots of reasons why an intelligence agency might want to obtain power on Wikipedia, though, especially since it can involve the ability to see people's IP addresses. I wonder how many tax dollars that would cost? And assuming it's American intelligence, would it really make the US safer from, let's say, terrorism than something like, I dunno, capturing Osama bin Laden?

This post has been edited by Somey: Fri 28th July 2006, 3:42am
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MARMOTFACE
post Mon 21st August 2006, 7:38pm
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QUOTE(Daniel Brandt @ Wed 26th July 2006, 5:35pm) *


If I could get even an IP address for Essgay or Robbie31, it would narrow the search to perhaps several universities instead of dozens. That would be a big help.





Beg and thou shalt receive.
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Somey
post Mon 21st August 2006, 7:51pm
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QUOTE(MARMOTFACE @ Mon 21st August 2006, 2:38pm) *
Beg and thou shalt receive.

O great MARMOTFACE, we beseech thee in thy everlasting glory to take pity on these faithless wretches, underserving of thy great beneficence, and bestow upon us the knowledge (and specifically the IP address) we seek, whereby in return we shall forever refrain from making fun of thy username, and never again respond dismissively to thy pithy one-sentence reply-postings which, in expectation of these bestowals, shall be surely proven then to be the greatest of all wisdom?

(I took a college-level course in begging, so I figured I'd give it a shot!)
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IronDuke
post Mon 21st August 2006, 9:05pm
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You know, as he was obviously interviewed for the Atlantic Monthly piece, and the above-mentioned academic credentials were listed there, I'm going to wager that they are real. Unlike Wikipedia, the Atlantic Monthly employs actual fact-checkers, and has a standard of journalistic ethics. However, you could always write Marshall Poe and enquire about his methods of verifying what he was told.
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Backfire
post Sun 27th August 2006, 2:23pm
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Hmm. S.J. Could this be a Jesuit reference instead of his initials?

Doctorate of Canon Law is another giveaway, and his specializing in Roman Catholocism.

There are 11 Jesuit colleges and universities in the Northeast: http://www.ajcunet.edu/tier.aspx?bid=55

This might help narrow it down
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Daniel Brandt
post Sun 27th August 2006, 9:41pm
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From someone's talk page:
QUOTE
Jondel: Thanks for the note on my Talk page...Although I have great respect for them, no, I am not a Jesuit, as I'm not a priest. I'm a Catholic scholar at a secular university in the U.S. "Essjay" is the spelled-out form of my initials, S.J. (no, not "Society of Jesus") as well as my patron saint, Saint Justin. It was a nickname I picked up in graduate school. Thanks for the interest. --Essjay 04:18, May 9, 2005 (UTC)

He says "secular university," which precludes Jesuit institutions.

The exchange below is funny. It's from the #wikimedia channel on freenode. Brion is Brion Vibber, Wikimedia Foundation's lead developer. They're talking about the upcoming election for a new trustee to replace Angela. Candidates have to be at least 18 years old under Florida law, and the candidate has to identify themselves to at least one election official.
QUOTE
2006-08-11 02:30 < brion> hrm
2006-08-11 02:30 < brion> "Candidates will be required to identify themselves fully to Essjay, Aphaia, Datrio, or another designated individual"
2006-08-11 02:30 < brion> isn't Essjay one of those who refuses to identify him/herself?
2006-08-11 02:44 < cimon> brion: somebody should run, and find out how he could identify himself fully to Essjay...

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karmafist
post Mon 28th August 2006, 2:18pm
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Daniel, i'd slightly disagree with you on Essjay.

You're right in the fact that when he's on, he's a force to be reckoned with, but when he's not, he's a wreck.


He had a big hissy fit in late 2005 where he deleted everything he made for Esperanza and did some other strange things because he wanted to leave Wikipedia forever and eventually was brought back after a big sympathy orgy.
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Daniel Brandt
post Mon 28th August 2006, 3:57pm
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It's possible that he has made up all of his biographical details. He's too busy on Wikipedia to be a full-time professor, maintain a relationship with Robbie, and eat and sleep too. His checkuser skills do not impress me (block them all, you might even hit someone), and his entire counter-vandalism site is probably next to worthless.

Yes, his hissy fit at the end of November was rather immature. I think we know why Essjay stays away from controversy -- it's because he can't handle it.

Wouldn't it be fun if Essjay and SlimVirgin started attacking each other? SlimVirgin would eat him alive, even though she's a vegetarian. But then Essjay would call up Jimmy, and Jimmy would remind Essjay that they're making all the world's information available to all the world's people, and why not just send a couple more laptops to African children and forget about SlimVirgin?
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karmafist
post Mon 28th August 2006, 6:30pm
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QUOTE(Daniel Brandt @ Mon 28th August 2006, 11:57am) *



Yes, his hissy fit at the end of November was rather immature. I think we know why Essjay stays away from controversy -- it's because he can't handle it.


I'd disagree, he stays away from being in the limelight of controversy, he can't handle it when he's in someone's focus, but I don't think that's the case when he's an outside bulwark to the controversy.

Nobody can get as high up in Wikipedia as Essjay has without putting in frequent insights into dispute ridden situations.


QUOTE(Daniel Brandt @ Mon 28th August 2006, 11:57am) *

Wouldn't it be fun if Essjay and SlimVirgin started attacking each other? SlimVirgin would eat him alive, even though she's a vegetarian. But then Essjay would call up Jimmy, and Jimmy would remind Essjay that they're making all the world's information available to all the world's people, and why not just send a couple more laptops to African children and forget about SlimVirgin?


lol. I can see him now. "Everyone, let's gather some 'genuine human feeling', ok?"
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Somey
post Thu 11th January 2007, 3:48pm
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Apparently the mystery may have been solved for us - Essjay has been hired by Wikia Corporation. There's even a photo:

http://www.wikia.com/wiki/User:Essjay

I always thought he'd look a little less monochromatic than that, though.
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Poetlister
post Thu 11th January 2007, 4:43pm
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I think that we should always ignore skin colour, or lack of it; it's what's inside that matters. I have often been described as white when in fact I'm pink.
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Daniel Brandt
post Thu 11th January 2007, 5:12pm
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I'm not convinced that the mystery is solved. I just did some clicking around, and Ryan Jordan, tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern U.S., with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology (Ph.D.) and a Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD), an expert on Roman Catholicism, with the initials S.J. (where is the "S" in Ryan Jordan?), has a zero footprint in the search engines. The only connection is that Essjay says he used to be a cantor at the Cathedral of the Assumption in Louisville, Kentucky, and now this Ryan Jordan is back living near Louisville.

I'd say that unless and until there is confirmation from Gil Penchina, CEO of Wikia, that this is the real identity of this new Wikia staffer, we have to assume that this is just more smoke.
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Jonny Cache
post Thu 11th January 2007, 6:03pm
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I thought SJ meant Society of Jesus, that is, the Jesuits.

Shades of the Eliminati !!!

Jonny cool.gif
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Somey
post Thu 11th January 2007, 7:01pm
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QUOTE(Daniel Brandt @ Thu 11th January 2007, 11:12am) *
...Ryan Jordan, tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern U.S., with a Doctorate of Philosophy in Theology (Ph.D.) and a Doctorate in Canon Law (JCD), an expert on Roman Catholicism, with the initials S.J. (where is the "S" in Ryan Jordan?), has a zero footprint in the search engines.

Interesting... I guess I wouldn't put it past him/them to hire Essjay under an assumed name. Makes perfect sense, in a way. But it's hard to imagine Essjay handing over his account to a completely different person - it has to be the same guy, even if that isn't his real name.

One possibility is that Essjay is on a one- or two-year sabbatical from whatever University he's tenured at, and this is basically a temp job for him. If that's the case, he wouldn't want that University to know that he had another job - that's usually considered a no-no for an Associate or Full Professor. IOW, he's probably supposed to be writing a book or working on a documentary or chairing some sort of prestigious international academic organization, something like that. That would certainly explain his not wanting to use his real name, and their willingness to go along with it.
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