Only weeks after Wikipedia editors from around the globe gathered for a happy and uplifting Wikimania 2014 rally in London, many long-time active editors of Wikipedia are expressing their rage today, August 29, on the Talk page of Wikipedia’s co-founder, Jimmy Wales. At the Wikimania summit, unaware of the soon-to-be ironic angle of his comments, Wales gave a closing speech that dreamt of building the Wikipedia “community up into a more fabulous, fun-loving environment”, and cherished “love of each other, love of the project, love of life; love of the spirit of what we’re trying to accomplish”. Today, that spirit of love seems entirely gone from the discussions swirling around Wales.
The source of anger
Hundreds of the most active Wikipedians are in a state of near-revolt over a MediaViewer software feature that the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) implemented on Wikipedia recently. It opens photos on a black background that hides much of the meta information that Wikipedians typically want to see about an image. The MediaViewer had so many bugs and caused so many problems for active editors, some Wikipedia administrators began to take steps to override the software extension. That prompted the Deputy Director of the Foundation, Erik Moeller (who has his own curious history pontificating about child pornography), to install a sort of lock on Wikipedia’s software called “Superprotect“. This enraged so many Wikipedians that even the German Wikipedia community (Moeller is a native German) voted six to one against the Superprotect installation.
Yesterday, Jimmy Wales tried to calm everyone down by expressing his unfailing support for MediaViewer, but that just rattled users even more. They called Wales to task, saying things like, “Sorry Jimbo, but the only religious dogma I see here is your conviction that the future involves [MediaViewer] enabled universally and by default”, and “Stop thinking like Ayn Rand or whoever on LSD and begin living in the real world”, and even this comment from a volunteer who has contributed over 150,000 edits to Wikipedia across years of service:
“You [Wales] seem to have lost track of what this project is nominally about, so let me give you a clue. It’s not about software or creating an ever-increasing bureaucracy at the WMF. …perhaps you’re the one who shouldn’t be here at all Jimbo. Has that ever crossed your mind?”
Dishing it out
For all his talk of fabulous, fun-loving environments, Jimbo Wales is able to dish out the insults just as easily as his former followers. While he tells one editor, “you are completely mistaken”, he tells another editor, “you are mistaken on every point”. He told a former WMF employee to “dial back the rhetoric”, in response to a petition against the Wikimedia Foundation that now has nearly 700 signatures.
And Wales’ response to that 150,000-edit volunteer?
“If you want to just piss all over everything with the view that people (me?) are lying, then I have a good idea for you: find another hobby and leave the community…”
It’s not exactly a shock that even the most dedicated Wikipedians would eventually begin to view their spiritual leader as someone who bends the truth. Indeed, there is an entire message board discussion about how often Jimmy Wales is caught “contradicting himself”.