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Wikipedia Founder Has “No Problem” with Fraud

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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 “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.” 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 Wikia—a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia—as a “community manager”; 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 Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

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 doesn’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.

/rant off.

More from the Freakonomics post:

For me, a more interesting question is the degree of Schiff’s error: should she, e.g., have insisted on some verification of Essjay’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 subject’s religious background — 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 Brin’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.

**update 2:02pm**

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.

NBR has several other posts in Wikipedia that can be found here, here, here, and here.

My original update below for all to see.

Continue Reading

Wikipedia Founder Has "No Problem" with Fraud

Author:

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 “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.” 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 Wikia—a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia—as a “community manager”; 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 Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

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 doesn’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.

/rant off.

More from the Freakonomics post:

For me, a more interesting question is the degree of Schiff’s error: should she, e.g., have insisted on some verification of Essjay’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 subject’s religious background — 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 Brin’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.

**update 2:02pm**

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.

NBR has several other posts in Wikipedia that can be found here, here, here, and here.

My original update below for all to see.

Continue Reading

If you were a teacher and porn popped up on your classroom computer….

Author:

What would you do?

Imagine you know next to nothing about computers. You’re a substitute teacher for a seventh grade class. There’s a computer in the classroom and, knowing you’re going to be sitting there for a while, you ask a fulltime teacher if you can use it. He logs you in with his password and tells you not to shut it off because you couldn’t get back on.

Not that you have a clue about this stuff, but that computer is running Windows 98 and the outdated Internet Explorer 6.02. Its filtering and anti-virus software have expired, and it has no anti-spyware software.

You step out of the classroom for a moment. When you get back the kids are clustered around the computer, checking out hairstyle websites. But one is actually a link to porn sites, and it loads a Trojan onto the unprotected computer.

Suddenly, pop-ups start appearing — X-rated popups.

You start to panic. You’re not supposed to shut the machine and you don’t realize you can just shut the monitor. You try to block the screen, but — like normal seventh graders — the kids are curious and pushy.

You run to the teacher’s lounge for help. Finally you get some and the crisis ends. But the kids have seen the porn. They tell their parents. The parents tell the school.

You tell the school administrators what happened, but they don’t bother (or don’t know how) to check the computer for the adware you described. Instead they fire you.

You have to read the whole very strange article at USA today.

USA today reports after being convicted of multiple felony charges Ms. Amero is awaiting sentencing and facing up to 40 years in prison. I do not know the facts of this case so I am willing to be convinced otherwise but 40 years for accidentally downloading porn on a classroom computer sounds like something out of a crazy dream or bad movie, not to mention far beyond excessive.

What I will say is that a person lacking basic computer skills is unqualified to be a middle school teacher in today’s world.

On a side note Ms. Amero’s husband and friends have their own blog set up for her legal defense fund.

Download Squad says the school Principal and Superintendent :

should both be charged with criminal negligence for allowing the Kelly Middle School’s lack of Internet-security to ruin the life of an innocent woman.

State V. Amero blog has more.

Where do you stand on Net Neutrality?

Author:

Professors David Farber and Michael Katz have an interesting piece in The Washington Post today. While it appears they are somewhat in favor of regulating, and in some cases charging for delivery of certain internet services (something I am generally against), they do make some good arguments as to why it might be a good idea.

Traffic management is a prime example. When traffic surges beyond the ability of the network to carry it, something is going to be delayed. When choosing what gets delayed, it makes sense to allow a network to favor traffic from, say, a patient’s heart monitor over traffic delivering a music download. It also makes sense to allow network operators to restrict traffic that is downright harmful, such as viruses, worms and spam.

Blocking premium pricing in the name of neutrality might have the unintended effect of blocking the premium services from which customers would benefit. No one would propose that the U.S. Postal Service be prohibited from offering Express Mail because a “fast lane” mail service is “undemocratic.” Yet some current proposals would do exactly this for Internet services.

I can certainly agree with their conclusion in that government law makers should hold off on passing any new legislation until we can better determine the effects it would have on the wild west of the internet.

The legislative proposals debated in the 109th Congress take a very different approach. They would impose far-reaching prohibitions affecting all broadband providers, regardless of whether they wielded monopoly power and without any analysis of whether the challenged practice actually harmed competition. If enacted, these proposals would threaten to restrict a wide range of innovative services without providing any compensating customer benefits.

Does this mean we believe that we should place all our trust in the market and the current providers? No. But it does mean we should wait until there is a problem before rushing to enact solutions.

If you are a new media content creator then I strongly urge you to read the whole thing, and learn as much as you can about net neutrality. Legislation will be passed one way or the other, and it will definitely affect you.

Where do you stand on net neutrality?

Others blogging: The Tech Beat from Business Week:

One oddity of the current fight is that many of the advocate of neutrality portray themselves as opponents of a corporate takeover of the democratic Internet. But the fight is being bankrolled by the likes of Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.com, big corporations if I’ve ever seen them. A lot of what;s going on is really a struggle for economic advantage between two groups of big companies, neither of which are much concerned about openess or democracy.

Hands Off the Internet:

Few people understand the Internet better than Carnegie Mellon Prof. and “Godfather of the Internet” David Farber. And Michael Katz was Chief Economist at the FCC during the Clinton Administration.

So when these two team up to tell the world that Net neutrality regulations would hurt efforts to curb “viruses, worms, denial-of-service attacks and zombie computers,” prudent lawmakers ought to take notice.

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