Monday, October 18, 2010

Free culture?

Today I was going to write something serious about encyclopedias, but events have overtaken all that. Today Gregory Kohs has been banned from the mailing list ('foundation-l') run by the Wikimedia Foundation ('WMF'), and I have been put 'on moderation' (meaning my posts are monitored for any 'negative comment'). Our crime? Greg has been making a series of well-argued posts about the potential misuse of funds by the WMF. For example, he questioned the connection between the WMF and a firm it hired for a donor survey. For more about this, and for an excellent summary of why you shouldn't donate to Wikipedia, see his well-argued essay here.

My fault was to make the same sort of comments about Wikipedia and 'free culture' in general as I have been making here, for example about Andronicus of Rhodes - "if Wikipedia now is relying on century-old sources, what sources will Wikipedia be relying on in 100 years time? For Wikipedia has apparently made traditional sources obsolete". This seems to have caused an outcry. Fred Bauder, a lawyer who has close connections to the project, writes "This list is for people who support the project, not those who are actively opposing it . Gerard Meissen says "Mr Damian uses hyperbole to the extend [sic] that you would believe there is nothing good to be found in Wikipedia".

I don't particularly mind - far more people read this blog than the WMF mailing list. In fact, I find it fascinating and I love the absurdity of it. The advocates of free speech and free culture preventing open discussion and critique of the very idea of free speech and free culture. And in any case, actions like these are much more convincing evidence for my views about Wikipedia, than anything I could write about here.

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Blogger Kaldari said...


6:35 p.m.  
Blogger Ocham said...


Ryan Kaldari joined the Wikimedia Foundation in May 2010 as the Front End developer for fundraising. "Ryan joins us from MTV Networks: Country Music Television, where he worked as a web developer responsible for several integration and architecture projects. Previous to that he helped develop Sitemason, an enterprise content management system used by numerous businesses, organizations, and colleges."

7:15 p.m.  
Blogger Kaldari said...

Yeah, and you happened to leave out the fact that I've been an active member of the Wikimedia community for 6 years.

7:17 p.m.  
Blogger Ocham said...

That too :)

7:25 p.m.  
Blogger Kaldari said...

FWIW, I don't really see why you were put on moderation, but Kohs has clearly been trolling the list.

7:50 p.m.  
Blogger Gregory Kohs said...

And, as we ALL know, "trolling" is the worst form of human behavior. Far worse than running a non-profit charity that spends two times more money on things unrelated to its stated mission than on mission-related programs.

You're so wise, Kaldari.

8:09 p.m.  
Blogger Ocham said...

Being pre-internet generation, I've never understood the meaning of the word 'trolling'. I assume it means: someone expressing an opinion that you strongly disagree with, or find difficult to comprehend or rationalise.

8:17 p.m.  
Blogger Kaldari said...

No, I would say the worst form of human behavior is paying other people to astroturf your misinformation campaign for you. Trolling is second worst.

11:20 p.m.  
Blogger Vlad said...

"Being pre-internet generation, I've never understood the meaning of the word 'trolling'."

It's a metaphor, referring to this:

You dangle a provocative line out there in a comment or forum thread, and see who bites.

9:13 p.m.  
Blogger Vlad said...

"Being pre-internet generation, I've never understood the meaning of the word 'trolling'."

It's a metaphor, referring to this:

You go to a forum or comment thread, dangle a provocative or deliberately obtuse line in the water, and see what bites.

9:15 p.m.  
Blogger nascent said...

Interesting, so Kaldari was trolling.

6:37 p.m.  

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