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"DonorGate" Is Latest Scandal To Hit Wikipedia

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the who-to-believe dept.

The Internet 274

MSTCrow5429 writes "In the latest of a long train of scandals to hit Wikipedia, the Sydney Morning Herald reports on an accusation that founder and Wikia President Jimmy Wales traded a multi-thousand dollar donation for an article re-write. Jeff Merkey, formerly of Novell, claims that Wales approached him in 2006 and said that for a fee, Wales would personally see to it that the article on Merkey, which had cast him in a negative light, would be re-written in Merkey's favor. Merkey claims that after he donated $5,000, Wales followed through on this quid pro quo. The Wikipedia edit history does indicate that Wales wiped out the article on Merkey, and then personally re-wrote it. The SMH reports that Wales has called the allegation 'nonsense.'" Merkey filed a harassment lawsuit in 2005 against a number of people and organizations, including Slashdot. Slashdot was removed from the suit on 2005-07-20.

Update: 03/12 00:39 GMT by KD : Wikimedia Foundation spokesman Jay Walsh provided this official statement: "Current allegations relating to Jimmy Wales soliciting donations for the Wikimedia Foundation in order to protect or edit Wikipedia articles are completely false. The Wikimedia Foundation has never accepted nor solicited donations in order to protect or make edits to a Wikipedia article — nor has Jimmy Wales. This is a practice the Wikimedia Foundation would never condone."

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274 comments

wikipedia not a wiki? (-1)

stokessd (89903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722802)

isn't the point of the WIKIpedia is that it's a wiki and can be edited again?

sheldon

Re:wikipedia not a wiki? (5, Informative)

Herschel Cohen (568) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722898)

Not if it is locked, as stated at the end of the article.

Following his decision to erase Merkey's entry and start over, Wales placed it under his "special protection". Protected entries can only be edited by Wikipedia administrators.

Re:wikipedia not a wiki? (5, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722930)

The locking of the article for editing by senior editors only is a tad odd.

However, I don't know how common this is. If we are to assume innocence, then it might be that wikipedia was just trying to avoid being a location for mud slinging.
If not, then yup, it's a bit odd.

However, merkey has long been associated with wacko behaviour, so in this light his accusation could b viewed as no more than yet another attempt to keep his name in internet headlines.

Given the absurdity of his previous claims, I'm tended to lean towards this last possibility.

Re: wikipedia not a wiki? (2, Informative)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723102)

The locking of the article for editing by senior editors only is a tad odd.

However, I don't know how common this is. If we are to assume innocence, then it might be that wikipedia was just trying to avoid being a location for mud slinging.
If not, then yup, it's a bit odd.
I don't have time to follow wikipedia closely anymore, but AIUI article locking has become fairly common over the past few years, as a way of stamping out edit wars.

Re:wikipedia not a wiki? (5, Informative)

SirFozzie (442268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723190)

(fair notice: I am an administrator on Wikipedia, same nick)

There's two types of protection:

Semi-Protection: Where all anonymous editors (those without accounts), and those whose accounts are less then four days old (I believe) are kept from editing these articles. This is to prevent someone from registering a new account, and going on a vandalism spree.

Full-Protection: What the JVM article was for a while. That means only administrators can edit the article. This is GENERALLY used only for short periods, where vandalism/edit-wars are too great. This is generally to make the folks take it to the articles talk page and hash things out. In GENERAL (not saying every circumstance, or what have you), when an article is full-protected, the only edits that are done, even by administrators, are either to remove vandalism, material that violates Wikipedia's policies on the Biographies of Living People (Libelous material, etcetera), or things that have full consensus on the talk page.

Once tempers cool down, the article is unprotected. The problem is: There's a great amount of people who take great pleasure in poking Mr. Merkey with sticks, just so they can get a reaction out of him (the Yahoo SCO Message Board took great pleasure in trying to drive him insane, for example). In the ArbCom case that Mr. Merkey was banned from Wikipedia (again), three of his main annoyances, were also banished.

In this specific case, I can understand why the page was full-locked for a while, because these people were taking great pleasure in their attempts to make JVM lose the plot.

Re:wikipedia not a wiki? (0)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723418)

Even when an article is fully-locked, the history is still available, correct? If so, the pre-rewrite history should still be accessible, so I don't really see what everyone is making a fuss about. There's no impact on transparency, in that instance, it just takes a little more effort to see if anything is amiss.

Did you have to white-wash everything negative? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723626)

As I remember, some of the negative stuff about Merkey did not have any evidence behind it, but there was a lot of negative stuff about Merkey that *did* have real evidence behind it.

Wikipedia (after accepting a donation?) white-washed everything.

BTW: you never mentioned whether wikipedia accepted a donation from Merkey - or one of Merkey's sponsors.

Note: I personally never entered anything in wikipedia about Merkey.

Re:wikipedia not a wiki? (4, Insightful)

Patchw0rk F0g (663145) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723560)

Gimme a break. Let's face it: Wikipedia is a forum board that's gone "legit", and out of control, with a proprietary fancy interface that doesn't happen to look like VBulletin.

The same problems of moderation, rewrites, bitching, whining, favouratism and hidden motives and agendas... all go on on Wikipedia, just as they do on lesser boards. The problem is, Wikipedia involves "real-world" problems, and affects people in very concrete ways.

I was recently involved in a tussle on a board regarding a female member being stalked by another board member. Through-out, the arguments were wide and ranging, but almost invariably involved the "virtual" world vs. the "real" one.

If people understood the implications of having such a widely-[mis]regarded source cited as a credible fount of information, and the impact that could have on the real world, I think we'd all be better off, and relegate this misbegotten site to its real impact: a forum that has blown to momentusly dangerous proportions, and taken its adolescent behaviour to the masses.

Let's not fool ourselves. It could be porn reviews, or celebrity photos. No... it's Wikipedia.

Where there is smoke.... (3, Interesting)

sk8king (573108) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722812)

there is fire. It seems that Mr. Jimmy Wales is the subject of a lot of news articles that don't paint him in a positive light.

Where there is smoke... there is smoke & mirro (4, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722878)

Perhaps the news articles reflect the increasing importance of WikiPedia, and the desires of some people to control it.

Quote from the Slashdot story: "Merkey filed a harassment lawsuit in 2005 against a number of people and organizations, including Slashdot."

Maybe someday Slashdot will be important enough that there are a lot of accusations.

Re:Where there is smoke... there is smoke & mi (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723278)

If you read the article closely, you'll see there really isn't a whole lot of fact, merely a bunch of accusations.

The thing that kept running through my mind as I read the article was that [citations were needed].

Bottom line: This article is definitely not NPOV, and none of the assertions therein have been substantiated.

Wikipedia is still one of the best bargains in the world. You get an amazing amount of valuable content for no cost. Should you use it as a sole source for a PhD dissertation? Of course not. Is it the best place to go if you're not a mathematician but would like a little background into combinatorics, are looking for some quick background into the War of the Roses, or want biographical data on the "father of alkali", James Muspratt, or the structure of the Dominant 7th chord? Fuckin' Aye.

When most of the conceptually anemic Web phenomena like Twitter are forgotten, Wikipedia will still be a valuable tool for people who want to look stuff up, and will be remembered for making the most of a brilliant idea and basically changing the way people use the Internet and facts.

Naturally, you're going to find twerps like Merkey who are pissed that the world doesn't recognize their brilliance and so get pissed at someone who they believe has garnered the adulation rightfully their own. Despite his best efforts and the insatiability of a zillion web news aggregators, Merkey will continue to be nobody.

Re:Where there is smoke... there is smoke & mi (4, Interesting)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723400)

Wikipedia is still one of the best bargains in the world.
Could you explain this to me? Never mind the editing part. Why does Jeff Merkey rate a Wikipedia page at all? I know him as a guy who makes wild drunken posts to lkml from time to time.

Anyway, having an entry on Jeff Merkey sure brings new meaning to "You get what you pay for".

The Merkey article *was* white-washed (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723574)

That much I know for certain. I saw the Merkey article, and I saw the white-washed article.

Somebody on the yahoo scox message boards, who claimed to Merkey, and certainly seemed to be Merkey; bragged about having the negative information removed, in exchange for a "donation" and for Merkey dropping his harassment lawsuit.

Re:Where there is smoke... there is smoke & mi (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723632)

"Is it the best place to go if you're not a mathematician but would like a little background into combinatorics"

No. I've never read a maths article on wikipedia that wasn't written without regard to the ability of the average reader to understand it. Any time I try to read one I see an enormous chunk of long words, pages and pages of meaningless symbols and precious little explanation - whatever level they're written for, it's above me - and I have a degree in theoretical physics!

Re:Where there is smoke.... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22722960)

there is fire. It seems that Mr. Jimmy Wales is the subject of a lot of news articles that don't paint him in a positive light.

[Citation needed]

Re:Where there is smoke.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723580)

Citation provided by Merkey firm: Merkey Research
Statistics provided by Slashdot Staff statitician: Marge N. Oferror

Re:Where there is smoke.... (0, Redundant)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723056)

It could very well be that Jimmy Wales is being swiftboated [wikipedia.org].

Likewise, the governor of New York is being called to resign because he allegedly saw a hooker. This has nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to govern the state, but sharp political rhetoric is being flung about nevertheless. The Bill Clinton affair also springs to mind.

All this means is that Jimmy Wales has some political opponents who are willing to fight dirty. He might be no saint, but Wikipedia seems to be doing pretty darn well for the most part.

Re:Where there is smoke.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723188)

Likewise, the governor of New York is being called to resign because he allegedly saw a hooker. This has nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to govern the state, but sharp political rhetoric is being flung about nevertheless. The Bill Clinton affair also springs to mind.

In both cases, the issue is hypocrisy.

The NY governor did not advocate the repeal of prostitution laws. He did not even openly flout them as an act of civil disobedience. Instead, he publicly acted like the unjust law was ok, while secretly breaking it.

The former president did not advocate courtroom reform, to keep irrelevant questions from being asked in court. Instead, he acted like the status quo was ok, and then secret lied under oath.

If the law is unjust, then say so. Don't profit from the law or declare to uphold hthe law in your public life, while breaking it when you think no one is looking. Have some balls. The NY governor and former president didn't have balls. That why they have to get off by squirting into the mouths of whores and starry-eyed fangirls. A real man wouldn't need to do that. So I say, yeah, shame and embarrass and mock them. If you can embarrass them out of office, so much the better. They earned disgrace.

Re:Where there is smoke.... (1)

hpavc (129350) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723194)

I would tend to agree, edits for cash is one thing, edits for donations seems to beg a lot more research before this gets anywhere near a 'gate'.

Re:Where there is smoke.... (1, Informative)

ptbarnett (159784) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723216)

Likewise, the governor of New York is being called to resign because he allegedly saw a hooker. This has nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to govern the state, but sharp political rhetoric is being flung about nevertheless. The Bill Clinton affair also springs to mind.

Ah, the "it's only sex" brigade is already out in force.

Spitzer was under investigation for "structuring" transactions to stay under the $10,000 limit for reporting them to the IRS. The bank reported them anyway, and the IRS brought in the FBI when they were concerned that he was being blackmailed. This is also a known tactic for laundering money either collected or spent for illegal purposes. Spitzer knew that as AG, and prosecuted some of his targets for doing the same thing.

Ironically, he also prosecuted the operators of a couple of escort services while AG, allegedly while he was utilizing the services of this one. That's spelled H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E.

Re:Where there is smoke.... (4, Insightful)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723556)

It could very well be that Jimmy Wales is being swiftboated.

Likewise, the governor of New York is being called to resign because he allegedly saw a hooker. This has nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to govern the state, but sharp political rhetoric is being flung about nevertheless. The Bill Clinton affair also springs to mind.

All this means is that Jimmy Wales has some political opponents who are willing to fight dirty. He might be no saint, but Wikipedia seems to be doing pretty darn well for the most part.
Your comparison is wildly off the mark. If a politician sees a hooker, that has very little to do with his ability to govern the state. If Jimmy Wales takes money to edit an article on Wikipedia, then this goes directly to the heart of Wikipedia.

The second part is devoid of any logic. If, for example, TheRegister publishes such damning accusations, then (1) that does not make them "political opponents" (Are you seriously claiming that Wales has "political opponents"? I think the editors of TheRegister just can't stand him; that has nothing to do with politics). Second, it doesn't "only mean they are willing to fight dirty". There are quite a few possibilities, and four of these possibilities are: 1. They fight dirty. Or 2. They are mistaken. Or 3. They are exaggerating. Or 4. They are exactly on the mark.

But it's Jeff Merkey (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723088)

He's long since lost [scofacts.org] any semblance of credibility [corante.com].

Good for the occasional internet soap opera though.

Re:But it's Jeff Merkey (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723604)

He's long since lost any semblance of credibility.
Jeff Merkey never had any credibility to begin with. He's always been a kooky guy who sometimes like to post drunk. Oh and that was his own admission on lkml after a particularly bizaare rant. That was around 1996 or 1997.

Re:Where there is smoke.... (4, Informative)

CatherineCornelius (543166) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723388)

This is the only Slashdot account I could remember at short notice (all the other ones are lame Ian M Banks ship names). My name is Tony Sidaway and I've been a Wikipedia editor about three years.

Like the "Jimbo ordered people to fix Marsden's bio" thing, this is a non-story. Jimbo has frequently taken the initiative in stubbing down crappy articles and asking editors to start afresh. Good practice. Nice of Jeff to give a donation, but stubbing down a bad biography is standard practice.

The reason for temporary protection (locking the article to stop edits by some users) is given by Wales as "an attempt to keep trolling to a minimum during an experimental rewrite" which is pretty sensible.

One thing that does look very odd is that the protection was not removed until this story broke. We're as partial to kool-aid as the next guy, so we do tend to defer to him perhaps more than he would like. :/ But this did NOT stop anybody editing the article, and I'll explain why.

There are two main modes of protection on the open source mediawiki software on which Wikipedia operates, usually called semi-protection and full protection, and in addition to that, protection applies to both editing and renaming/moving (because a common form of vandalism used to be to rename an article to something nasty). In the edit summary of Jimbo Wales' edit timestamped 20:58, 23 May 2006 , you'll see "[edit=autoconfirmed:move=autoconfirmed]". This indicates normal semiprotection ("autoconfirmed" users are those who have registered a username and waited about three days--there's nothing more to it than that--no vetting, no human intervention at all). So anybody patient enough to wait three days could edit that article.

So it's really a non-story. We protect articles against people who want to write "WEE WEE WEE JACK IS GAY!" all the time and this is precisely the mode of protection we use for, say, "George W. Bush"

Any Wikipedia editor with an account over three days old could edit that article for the whole of its post-Jimbo existence.

thats fine (3, Interesting)

KevMar (471257) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722814)

Im all for it if the details of the purchase is added to the page.

Kevmar is a stand up guy. He speaks his oppinion yet heardly flames anyone, even when they do mock his spelling.

this post was brought to you by Kevmar for no charge

Don't confuse allegations for fact. (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723122)

This story does not add up, except as a part of a smear. If Merkey had the emails, he would have posted them. You just can't do some people a favor.

Dinner is on me! (5, Funny)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722828)

Slashdot was removed from the suit on 2005-07-20.
Turns out Taco just had to take him out for an evening of dining and dancing, followed up with a night of naval gazing.

-Rick

Re:Dinner is on me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22722888)

Watching ships after dinner, how romantic!

Re:Dinner is on me! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723528)

followed up with a night of naval gazing.
Is this anything like submarine races?

Of all the people to trust... (2, Insightful)

cachedout (522334) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722858)

...I can't imagine that Jeff Merkey would be high on anybody's list. I'd like to the Wikipedia article for full details, but, well....

Re:Of all the people to trust... (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723014)

Ahem. Absolutely. One of the reasons why I unsubscribed from Linux kernel. Could not take any of his drivel any more. The man is a walking flamebait.

Citizendium to the rescue! (5, Interesting)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722862)

Citizendium [citizendium.org] can be the answer to many of these problems...

Also Wikitruth [wikitruth.info] sheds a lot of light on ol' Jimbo Wales and his shenanigans

Re:Citizendium to the rescue! (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722974)

Wikitruth? Isn't that the site that thinks racial genocide would be described using the same terms as a self serving Wikipedia article?
But the other site, Citizendium, sounds like an intriguing idea. You have to be an expert on the subject and you have to use your real name. That must be why there is no listing for 'pornography'.

Re:Citizendium to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723424)

Anyone who used the internet before 1998 is an expert. There was nothing else on here before then.

Re:Citizendium to the rescue! (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723004)

they can do no harm because they promised to do no harm... if you can create a wiki and give others the power to edit that wiki you're essentially not limited in what you can do.

Re:Citizendium to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723022)

Uggh.. the guy hooked up with Rachel Marsden? That pretty much cements it: he's a nutter.

Re:Citizendium to the rescue! (2, Insightful)

tehniobium (1042240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723070)

To be honest there really isn't any content on citizendium. The concept is great...but they should concentrate on quickly copying as much as possible from wikipedia...coz until they do that noones gonna think "hey, I'll look that up on citizendium"!

Also the name is too hard to spell...and not that catchy in my opinion.

Re:Citizendium to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723242)

Citizendium is shit, though. An "open meritocracy", they say. No chance for anonymous editing, and casual contributions are like toilet paper.

Fuck that shit, fuck it in the ass.

donorgate... (2)

Elsapotk421 (1097205) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722870)

am I the only one who's getting annoyed at any sort of unsavory behaviour being referred to as something-gate

Shocking! (2, Interesting)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722882)

So this guy is a power-hungry freak. Wow... did anyone not see this like a year ago, when Jimmy Wales was basically telling the world that he was here to save us all?

Hopefully he'll be selling timeshares again soon.

Can't we stop using the word Gate ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22722884)

It's pointless and stupid, IMO ;-)

Jeff Merkey and lawsuits (4, Interesting)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722890)

Jeff Merkey filed suit against me, and against PJ, some years ago. His family eventually convinced him to withdraw the suit against me, I don't know how his suit against PJ was resolved. The legal opinion I had at the time was that the suit would never see a hearing, but it was still a nuisance.

Jeff mostly just wants to be listened to. He can be grandiose and can get somewhat separated from reality.

Any article about Jeff on Wikipedia that relates events around Novell, SCO, and other stuff in 2005 would be a liability problem. I am not the slightest bit surprised that Wales had to re-write it. I don't think this has to be connected to a donation.

Bruce

Re:Jeff Merkey and lawsuits (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22722912)

*He can be grandiose and can get somewhat separated from reality.* So you to are more alike than you would like to admit?

Sounds about right, to me. (2)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722928)

MOD PARENT UP, of course.

Re:Sounds about right, to me. (0, Offtopic)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722954)

Oh you are so sucking up.

This message was brought to you by 'someone who wasn't jealous at all, no really....'

Re:Sounds about right, to me. (4, Funny)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722992)

So, instead of hearing from the horse's mouth, you'd rather hear from the other end of the horse?

Re:Sounds about right, to me. (2, Funny)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723374)

I mentioned sucking, and you retort with 'the other end of a horse'.

Urk.. the resultant mental association doesn't make me feel too well, I think I need to go lie down for a while.

He also tried to buy Linux, didn't he? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22722988)

Didn't he also offer to pay $50,000 if they'd BSD-license Linux or something? I remember some crazy scheme mentioned, but I thought he mostly vanished after the suit against PJ went away. I'm reasonably sure that Groklaw was dismissed from the suit, but PJ quit talking about it once it was filed except for one update which I think was the suit being settled.

I think he also filed an anti-GPL lawsuit alleging anti-trust concerns that was dismissed for, IIRC, failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (i.e. even if everything he'd claimed was true, there was nothing wrong with the GPL). So, the lawsuit actually did unintentional good by having a judge who was an expert in anti-trust law vet the GPL and rule that there was nothing wrong with it.

In other words, while I'm not sure about his motives, his antics have been mostly harmless except for some nuisance lawsuits that in one case actually did a little good.

Re:He also tried to buy Linux, didn't he? (4, Informative)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723012)

Didn't he also offer to pay $50,000 if they'd BSD-license Linux or something?
Uh-huh. He vastly underestimated the value of the code and the difficulty of getting that kind of license change done. Most folks took the offer as an insult.

I think he also filed an anti-GPL lawsuit
That was Daniel Wallace.

Oops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723210)

>> I think he also filed an anti-GPL lawsuit
> That was Daniel Wallace.

You're right! I had my kooks confused, sorry :)

Re:He also tried to buy Linux, didn't he? (2, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723270)

He vastly underestimated the value of the code
It's a common mistake. They are giving it out for free, after all.

Re:He also tried to buy Linux, didn't he? (2, Insightful)

Bruce Perens (3872) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723332)

It's a common mistake. They are giving it out for free, after all.
You mean they were sharing it with rules. BSD is a gift, GPL is sharing with rules.

Re:He also tried to buy Linux, didn't he? (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723434)

No, I mean giving it away for free. "Sharing it with rules and no cost" is a form of giving it away for free.

It wasn't the value of Linux, but legal hurdles (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723358)

Re-licensing Linux as BSD has the same hurdles as trying to relicense Linux under GPL3. It cannot be done without the permission of all the contributors (of whom there are thousands). Linus only owns 10% or so of the code and the rest of the code is owned by its authors (or designated owners). Only those code owners can change the license. In theory it is possible to hunt down all the contributors but in practice this is impossible. I saw a very small project (less than 10 contributors) try to change its licensing and that was challenging enough.

Re:Jeff Merkey and lawsuits (3, Interesting)

MadMidnightBomber (894759) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722998)

Wasn't there a big Merkey-related blow-up on linux-kernel way back? Oh yeah, "On October 4, 2004, Merkey offered US$50,000 on LKML, the Linux kernel mailing list, to anyone able to provide him a version of the Linux kernel that was not licensed under the GPL for his project". Well, you can imagine how well that went down- and of course he would have needed the explicit permission of every single contributor.

Didn't strike me as a particularly balanced individual during that episode. More I can't say.

Some editors are more equal than others (5, Interesting)

nyet (19118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723126)

For the sake of posterity (these things do tend to disappear quietly from WP quite often). Key points are in bold. They often occur right next to a statement saying the exact opposite. i.e. "treat everybody equal" but in the same breath "some people are more equal than others"

Dealing with Major Financial Contributors of the Foundation who Edit Wikipedia (by Jeff V. Merkey)

In general, major financial contributors who edit Wikipedia should be treated the same way and with the same level of courtesy as anyone else who edits Wikipedia and they should be required to follow the same rules. These rules also apply to admins, who, by ARBCOM precedence are expected to adhere to the highest standards of civility. Financial contributors to the Foundation contribute more than their time to the project. Some of them donate or invest in Wikipedia Projects each year many times the life savings of an ordinary person. Saying this does not matter is inaccurate and a breach of fiduciary duty owed to the Foundation by those who have been granted administrative or other privileges. It DOES matter. Not ony do these people donate their time, they pay for hosting costs, personnel costs, equipment, and other critical areas where the Foundation needs support, and not everyone is equal in this regard, their contributions are important as well. This does not entitle them to claim special treatment, but it does entitle them to the same high level of conduct and professional stewardship expected from any admin involved with the project. They should not be subjected to the same treatment the project reserves for troll or vandal accounts.

If you find yourself in a situation with a major contributor editing Wikipedia who is problematic, do not threaten them, argue with them, or debate with them about who is helping Wikipedia more -- from the Foundations point of view, both parties are contributors, and more so of a person donating both time and money. Some serious problems for the project may be created if an admin threatens, argues, or attempts to ban a major financial contributor from editing. These situations are best handled by more mature members of the community or of the Foundation, without ever resorting to threats or implied threats of action. It is said you cannot argue with a customer in a business setting and the same is true of a major financial contributor. Be polite. Ask polite questions about their concerns and try to listen to them, without loosing your temper. Some of the problems mishandling contributors are:

        * The contributor may feel they are funding a usenet project or trolling site and discontinue support.
        * The contributor may have significant contacts or influence in the public sector, and either intentionally or unintentionally influence other groups to withdraw support.
        * The contributor may have business interests or projects the Foundation has time or financial investment into that the general community is unaware of, the you may damage or destroy months or years of important relationships with a thoughtless act.
        * If a contributor is also in the same business space as the foundation, banning a Financial contributor or posting ban notices may interfere and harm not only their business enterprises, but the Foundation and Wikipedia Projects as a whole, with negative results for everyone involved.

If you have strong feelings about the editing of a major financial contributor, be polite, do not threaten them. Many of these people will take great offense at being threatened by admins or users since they may feel you are doing so on servers and equipment they purchased to support the project.

In summation, they should be treated the same way everyone else is treated who edits. With the same high level of civility and stewardship expected from an Admin when dealing with any editor or member of the project. And certainly not subjected to threatening language.

Re:Jeff Merkey and lawsuits (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723104)

Any article about Jeff on Wikipedia that relates events around Novell, SCO, and other stuff in 2005 would be a liability problem. I am not the slightest bit surprised that Wales had to re-write it. I don't think this has to be connected to a donation.


Actually, not a legal liability problem, except perhaps for the person who wrote an article that lied about Merkey (or somehow created other liability like violating some contract, breaching some trade secret, etc). Wikipedia is not liable for what it publishes in its site when that content is written by someone else (like practically all its content), because it doesn't moderate it. Though it could be a "frivolous lawsuit target" problem for Wikipedia, as you were. Did you stop doing what you were doing that ticked Merkey off?

OTOH, by rewriting the article, Wales became responsible for what he wrote. If he used an account that has any privileges that people not on the Wikipedia editorial staff don't have, then he was making Wikipedia responsible for what he wrote. And since he was thereby moderating the Merkey article, he was thereby making Wikipedia responsible for the article.

Now, it's by no means clear that a court would have found that editing out article parts that Merkey complained about would make Wales/Wikipedia liable for what had been deleted. Though just the act of moderating content for any other reason than something like "clear and present danger" (or technical problems) could indeed be argued that "Wikipedia does moderate, it is therefore responsible for all content". Not necessarily a winning argument, but in fact Wales' editing likely created liability that didn't exist until he edited that article.

Now, it's all moot because Wales dropped his complaint. And perhaps he dropped his complaint because Wales made those changes. But Wales did probably increase his liability (from practically zero) by doing it. And he might have even produced evidence that "Wikipedia moderates content", which could make Wikipedia liable for all content. Including later complaints by Merkey. Including if someone else changed it back to the old version. But also including any other person who wants to complain, who could now hold Wikipedia liable for all content, because it does moderate.

Again, not a clear case. But not quite a frivolous one. Therefore increasing the risk by the action, if only in the longer term. But a serious change.

The real question is why didn't Merkey just edit it himself - that's what Wikipedia is for. Conversely, why didn't Wales have someone outside the Wikipedia org edit it, so the liability would be harder to prove.

And of course the ultimate question is whether Merkey did indeed pay Wales $5000 to make the change. If there's real evidence of that, things become clearer, but not better. Probably including Wikipedia's liability for all its content, to say nothing of its credibility.

Incomplete post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723308)

You forgot the conspiracy theory involving conservatives. Or preservatives.

Re:Jeff Merkey and lawsuits (1)

rahvin112 (446269) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723292)

Wikipedia shouldn't have to edit anything. As they don't create anything (everything being publicly generated) they are only responsible in an order to remove, not for any sort liability for statements made.

It's not good to say they would be liable, the MOST he could do is get a court order to force removal of certain phrases, not a rewrite to a positive light and then he has to prove it's defamatory and NOT opinion (when the every wikipedia page includes a note that this it everything is generated by the public.

Can you blame him? (1)

Farakin (1101889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722894)

He can't get enough money! IMHO, I don't think individuals that are unimportant need to have a WIKI. Leave it to historical figures, world leaders, sports figures and the like. Some asshat wannabe CEO doesn't deserve the time or effort.

Re:Can you blame him? (1)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723218)

Leave it to historical figures, world leaders, sports figures and the like

Well, mister, I see that you're the author of this Wiki entry [wikipedia.org], so I think you need to better define your criteria.

I'll bet Rachel Marsden is kicking yourself now... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22722902)

"What?!? I could have gotten him to rewrite my bio for only $5000?!? Man, did I ever get screwed!" -- Rachel Marsden

Re:I'll bet Rachel Marsden is kicking yourself now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723066)

She isn't kicking me about getting screwed.

hmmm (1)

nickname29 (1240104) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722906)

Wikipedia definition: a public forum for slander and copyright infringement.

Since anonymity is guaranteed, you can not sue anyone.

Do not tell me that people with slanderous profiles should remove itself. This is not how the world works. The same with copyright infringement - copyright holders should not have to search Wikipedia to see where there copyright was infringed.

I am all for Wiki's where the author's name is known. Three examples - Citizendium, Scholarpedia (excellent articles on some subjects) and Knoll.

Since anonymity is guaranteed? (3, Informative)

Itninja (937614) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723048)

Most peoples' edits are anonymous on Wikipedia only to the most surface of observations. Even minimal digging can reveal an IP, and then the Virgil scanner [virgil.gr] can do the rest. Of course, there are a some folks out there that can purposefully hide their IP identity. But still, I wouldn't call Wikipedia edits "anonymity guaranteed"

Should we even worry for Wikipedia? (1)

TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722946)

I mean, how could wikipedia possibly die? Even when the founder turns out to be a hypocritical individual with character flaws, isn't the software and the ideal all that matters?

I'm just not that concerned, should I be?

Re:Should we even worry for Wikipedia? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723152)

no what really matters is the community.

The software is free software and there are plenty of alternatives anyway. The main data is freely downloadable (the images aren't downloadable en-masse anymore unfortunately due to thier huge size but I doubt a serious fork operator would have that much trouble getting hold of them all) and released under a free license..

but without a community of users large enough to effectively maintain it you just have a huge body of mostly static information that is getting steadilly more and more outdated. Think of the problems of forking a large peice of open source software and getting a sufficiant team that the fork doesn't rot. Now understand that the number of contributors to wikipedia is huge compared to even very large open source software.

Jeffrey Vernon Merkey: Whackaloon (5, Informative)

SirFozzie (442268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722962)

Let's not forget this was the person who wanted to buy Linux because the GPL would be its doom, so he could re-issue it under a Cherokee license.

This is the person who demanded that all homosexuals recuse themselves from dealing with the ArbCom case the last time he was banned from Wikipedia.

He demanded special treatment the last time he was on there, because he was such a big donor. (didn't get it mind you, but he wanted it, real bad).

This is a person who:"In 1998, the Fourth Judicial District Court of Utah found that Merkey "regularly exaggerates or lies in his comments to others about events happening around him. It is as though he is creating his own separate reality" (From SCOFacts)

JVM is a smart guy, no one denies that.

But he's also nuttier then a fruitcake.

Re:Jeffrey Vernon Merkey: Whackaloon (1)

nyet (19118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723148)

But he's also nuttier then a fruitcake

According to the WP:Cabal, only anti-Merkey SPAs feel this way :)

Re:Jeffrey Vernon Merkey: Whackaloon (1)

SirFozzie (442268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723220)

Oh, a lot of people feel the same way.. They're just too polite to use the same words I did. Most of the pages dealing with the whole situation have been courtesy blanked, to avoid being picked up by Google Spiders and the like. ;)

Re:Jeffrey Vernon Merkey: Whackaloon (1)

nyet (19118) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723256)

Oh, a lot of people feel the same way.. They're just too polite to use the same words I did. Most of the pages dealing with the whole situation have been courtesy blanked, to avoid being picked up by Google Spiders and the like. ;)
FWIW I was very impressed with your handling of the situation. In retrospect, I should have done much more observing, and a lot less commenting.

I know better now; I've forsworn the WP RPG entirely. Any edits I do are from anon-ips and are generally anti-vandalism or minor grammatical fixing.

Re:Jeffrey Vernon Merkey: Whackaloon (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723592)

SirFozzie's obersvations are absolutely correct. If anyone cares, here is a link to where Merkey claimed he was being subject to persecution because he was heterosexual and demanded that any gay ArbCom members recuse themselves from the case: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Jeffrey_Vernon_Merkey/Workshop&oldid=147695621#Motion_to_Recuse_Self-identified_Gay_Arbitrators [wikipedia.org] . Merkey made repeated legal threats against the English Wikipedia and editors there. When he was blocked repeatedly for such threats he then switch his tact to claiming that unnamed other individual associated with the Cherokee tribe would sue Wikipedia if Wikipedia did not conform to his definition of who counted as Native American. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_arbitration/Jeffrey_Vernon_Merkey/Proposed_decision#Jeffrey_Vernon_Merkey [wikipedia.org] as well as http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Cherokee&diff=prev&oldid=131420490 [wikipedia.org] , http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Cherokee&diff=prev&oldid=136934917 [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Cherokee&diff=prev&oldid=136932731 [wikipedia.org] . He went so far as as to make his own template (now deleted) to place at the top of article See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Templates_for_deletion/Log/2007_July_12#Template:NativeWarn [wikipedia.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Talk:Cherokee&diff=prev&oldid=131434937 [wikipedia.org] The claim that he is making in this case is particularly interesting because he tried repeatedly to claim earlier in a (now deleted) essay that if Wikipedia blocked any user or IP addresses for making personal attacks, legal threats, or any other behavior that that would result in any donor being able to sue the Foundation. He made other related claims about donors having special rights (I don't remember the precise details. I'll try to see if I can track down a copy of the essay). Thus, the claim that he is making now is well within the unique way that Merkey views Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation. That by itself is strong evidence against Merkey's viewpoint. There is the serious additional issue that frankly $5000 isn't that much to the Foundation nor is it that much to Jimbo Wales who is independently wealthy. The idea that the Foundation or Jimbo would be influenced by a donation of that size is laughable. Overall, Merkey is crazy and is once again making claims that are divorced from reality.

Inside Edition (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722984)

Wales had a brief relationship with Rachel Marsden [wikipedia.org], aka "the scariest women alive".

This does not speak well to his judgement. Guilty as sin, I say.

Re:Inside Edition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723230)

Did Wales cheat on his wife, or is he not married ???

I wonder if Wales reported to the IRS the $5,000 as income !!!

Re:Inside Edition (1)

lantastik (877247) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723238)

Damn, she's only 33? That picture on her wiki makes her look like she's 53. I'm not even half way kidding about that.

Re:Inside Edition (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723512)

Well she's had a hard life, bouncing from job to job and man to man. Actually that's a poor picture of her. She's kinda hot, at least on television. Check this out. [favoritepart.com]

This was about 10 years ago. She had it taken as she was charging her swim coach with sexual harassement, which says something about her mindset.

It's interesting that Wales got involved with her when she approached him about "correcting" her Wikipedia entry, much the same theme as the current story. Except rather than an exchange of money, there was perhaps an exchange of bodily fluids.

Beware populists (1, Troll)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22722996)

I learned a long time ago that you can almost always count on someone who talks about the "little guy" or the "wisdom of crowds" or some other populist crap to be trying to angle for something in the process. Populists are almost always out to manipulate someone and get something.

Hence I am not surprised in the least by this. The warning signs about Wikipedia have been there for a while now.

Cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22723010)

IF this really happened, $5000 would be a bargain. So I really doubt it.

The fundamental rub here (1)

metalman (33387) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723046)

This of course adds more light to the question posted earlier today [slashdot.org] about advertising on Wiki.

Regardless of whether or not the allegations are true, the problem in general is how to maintain the integrity of such a community-centered project in light of funding needs and greedy hands. Unfortunately the answer seems to be that anytime money-making concerns creep into the picture democratic, community-oriented organizations are threatened.

How can this fundamental rub be resolved? Organizations such as Wiki strive to put informational democracy over money, but is that even possible? What sort of oversight could be put in place to keep a project like Wiki from being steered off the cliff by overly self-interested editors? I don't know if this sort of abuse can be prevented.

Re:The fundamental rub here (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723532)

Money is only one of any number of threats to the integrity of such an organization. People inside the organization subverting resources to their own ends, building little zones of control, and so on. You deal with them all the same way -- by operating as openly as possible. If people can see where the money is coming from, they can make up their own minds about its influence.

Ehm...confusing? (2, Informative)

tehniobium (1042240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723160)

Go to mr. Wales' blog [jimmywales.com], scroll right to the bottom and press the "powered by wordpress" link.

I get "therightpills.com" (tested on 2 computers, so i doubt its adware). Has the self proclaimed dictator of history been hacked?

:P

Re:Ehm...confusing? (1)

the-amazing-blob (917722) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723372)

I get it too. Confirmed hacking or he's getting something out of it.

Re:Ehm...confusing? (1)

tehniobium (1042240) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723476)

He's probably thought of a new project which more closely resembles his thought about where wikipedia should be going:

A Pharmacy Articles Directory written by experts with links to loads of cool "partners" on the internet.

...or something along those lines.

Worrisome (1)

melted (227442) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723346)

I've been donating a few hundred bucks to Wikimedia Foundation each year (with my employer matching my donation dollar for dollar). I won't be donating this year unless I am sure beyond a shadow of doubt that my money is being properly spent. Sorry folks, if I wanted to burn the cash, I'd do it myself.

Weekly World News = more truthful than Jeff Merkey (1)

Antaeus Feldspar (118374) | more than 6 years ago | (#22723498)

I made the mistake of thinking from the headline that this was an actual story. But if only the Sydney Morning Herald had done due diligence and checked out who Jeff Vernon Merkey is, they'd realize that it's no more of a story than "Homeless man pushing shopping cart insists that Vatican implanted electrodes in his pancreas for mind control." The SMH story mentions at the very end of the article that Merkey has been in several lawsuits; one wishes they'd looked more closely at the Novell v. Timpanogos Research Group, Inc. [groklaw.net] suit where Merkey was a primary defendant. The judge's findings of fact include that Merkey had "copied whole cloth ... the work of Novell" (71) and falsely represented it as "prepared "starting from 'a clean piece of paper'"" (81); had "spent two hours describing the Tapestry technology and ... explained how Novell had invested $15 million in their new company ... all aspects of this presentation were essentially dishonest as the technology was Novell's Wolf Mountain technology not TRG's and Novell had not invested any money in the new company" (84); had falsely represented to an investor that "70 senior architects and developers at Novell had resigned to join TRG" when the truth was "it only hired a handful" (100); had offered contradictory testimony as to the location of a laptop computer whose hard drive was believed to show evidence of Merkey's misappropriation of trade secrets (112); had offered no less than four different explanations of how the hard drive of that computer came to have been smashed to bits (116); and concluded as a Finding of Fact that "Merkey is not just prone to exaggeration, he also is and can be deceptive, not only to his adversaries, but also to his own partners, his business associates and to the court. He deliberately describes his own, separate reality." (124). I highly suggest reading the whole thing to get a good feel for just how readily Merkey lies, and how little anything he says can be expected to reflect the truth.

Calling this claim "the most damning [against Wales] yet," as the SMH does, ignores the fact that it is coming from a thoroughly untrustworthy source.

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