I first heard about this story this morning. /HT Infothought. The basics; A wikia employee (a for profit entity related to Wikipedia) who calls himself Essjay on Wikipedia and claims the following academic credentials â€œa tenured professor of religion at a private universityâ€ with â€œa Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.â€ turns out to be 24 year old Ryan Jordan who now admits to having no advanced degrees and never having taught anywhere (has he even graduated anywhere) in his life.
Ok so the guy is a fraud and so every entry he has ever made at Wikipedia now needs to be questioned. Fine. Frauds come along and scam very smart people all the time. I questioned Wikipedia’s hiring practices in the comments section over at Infothought and Hacking Cough.
Do they do any kind of background checks on the employees? A cursory call of his references would have outed young Ryan.
Who is their CPA? A bookie who always dreamed of being an accountant?
Ok so they have some lax business practices so did Enron, and WorldCom and lots of other companies.
Here is the straw that broke this camels back. From the New Yorker article:
He was recently hired by Wikiaâ€”a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipediaâ€”as a â€œcommunity managerâ€; he continues to hold his Wikipedia positions. He did not answer a message we sent to him; Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikia and of Wikipedia, said of Essjayâ€™s invented persona, â€œI regard it as a pseudonym and I donâ€™t really have a problem with it.â€
Excuse me? The guy is a fraud and you have no problem with it? He is your employee and you have no problem with it?
Ahhh that is exactly one of the things that is supposed to make new media different from old media. Self correction and all. Any new media CEO who goes around covering and making excuses for frauds is no better than Ken Lay.
Wikipedia is definitely a new media trail blazer, we would love to have them as part of our event but Jimmy Wales needs to rethink his position on this one pretty damn fast.
This small bit from Freakonomics:
This is hardly a felony, but it does make you wonder about what else happens at Wikipedia that Jimmy Wales doesnâ€™t have a problem with.
I am no attorney (nor have I ever claimed to be one on TV or otherwise) so I have no idea if what Ryan Jordan did constitutes a felony or not, (any legal experts want to weigh in?) but in the world of journalism and media what he did is certainly one of the highest crimes imaginable. He claimed to be someone he was not, claimed to be an expert on subjects he is not, claimed credentials he does not have to give weight to his positions, numerous entries on Wikipedia and misrepresented himself as such to several people outside Wikipedia.
Game over, any legitimate local newspaper let alone encyclopedia would fire him immediately and begin researching everything he ever wrote for them.
More from the Freakonomics post:
For me, a more interesting question is the degree of Schiffâ€™s error: should she, e.g., have insisted on some verification of Essjayâ€™s credentials, or at least omitted his academic claims. This illustrates, if nothing else, how journalists get lied to, pretty regularly.
Also, FWIW, has anyone else noticed that Wikipedia entries often exhibit a rather serious interest in a subjectâ€™s religious background â€” particularly if the subject is Jewish? It turns out that Sergey Brin of Google has also noticed this. (I am about to get on a plane so I do not have time to look, but I am curious to know how Brinâ€™s Wikipedia entry has changed since the article linked above was published.)
I don’t know anything about anti-Semitism or anything else at Wikipedia but that is exactly the danger of allowing a fraud to live among you, let alone protect him. Everything you say must now be questioned and taken with a very skeptical eye. Your integrity is ruined until you cut it out and come clean.
I jumped the gun a bit when reading Kelly’s comment. It looks like we agree completely on this one. here is an excerpt from kelly’s post at Nonbovine Ruminations:
Quite frankly, a man who would lie about his academic credentials, and then use those credentials to add undue weight to his own opinions in debate on Wikipedia, does not deserve to even be allowed to edit Wikipedia, let alone sit in judgment over those who do.
Over the past few years, a number of people with included false claims on their resumes or CVs have lost academic leadership posts (for example, Eugene R. Kole, former President of Quincy University, who resigned when two of the degrees he listed in his biography were found to be fictitious). It is startling and telling that Essjay, after revealing similiar lies, is not only not censured, but in fact elevated to one of the highest positions of responsibility that Wikipedia has. Clearly Jimbo has decided to demonstrate just how much unlike academicia Wikipedia is.
My original update below for all to see.
Commenter Kelly had this to say:
Just to make something clear: Wikipedia didnâ€™t hire Essay. Wikia did. Wikia is not related to Wikipedia in any direct way, although both were founded by Jimmy Wales. The Wikimedia Foundation, which publishes Wikipedia, didnâ€™t hire Essjay, at least not yet.
Oh, and until a few months ago, the closest thing they had to a bookkeeper was a biologist who dabbled at bookkeeping for them in his spare time. Nice guy, but definitely not an accountant. But then again, Jimbo prefers to hire nice guys, whether or not they have the skills or the talent required for the job.
While I appreciate the background it does not mitigate Wikipedia, Wikia, or Jimmy Wales actions.
Jordan still works for Wikia.
Even as a volunteer it would be incumbent on Wikipedia and Wikia to sever ties with him.
When he is on the payroll, that is a poor reflection on their hiring practices. Then when Mr. Wales defends him it is a reflection on Mr. Wales and the organizations as a whole. By his actions or lack thereof (Mr. Wales) and his words he is endorsing fraud.
Neither organization can have any credibility as long as they continue their relationship with Mr. Jordan let alone endorse or make light of his actions.