Here are a bunch of updates on the fall-out to my open letter to Jimmy Wales.
UPDATE: Jimmy Wales has personally deleted this letter from his user talk page, with the explanation, “Decline to participate, sorry.” Well, I didn’t really expect Jimmy to “participate.” What could he possibly say? I’ll re-add the open letter on his page, and make that clear.
UPDATE 2: I restored the open letter to Jimmy Wales’ user talk page, prepending this:
Note: the following letter has been deleted, restored, and then deleted again. Let me clarify something. Jimmy’s participation in a public debate is not necessary. But I do want to assert a right to place this open letter on his user talk page — he is, after all, the project’s leading light. Besides, it is unseemly to delete an earnest, legitimate, and justified complaint. Openness to this sort of public criticism seems to be a requirement of any leader of such an open project devoted to freedom of speech and transparency. I have some very legitimate complaints about how Jimmy has treated me and my role in Wikipedia, and I wish to be heard — even if no response is offered.
UPDATE 3: there’s now a revert war going on, with some people deleting the letter and others restoring it. Well, I won’t restore it any further myself.
It seems clear that Jimmy and his assistants will not permit my open letter to him to appear here. While I think this violates my rights, and the transparency and freedom of speech that ought to be part of an open project, I can recognize a lost cause when I see one. Therefore, I’ll simply link to a copy of the letter. I can only hope that will be acceptable to those in authority here. –User:Larry Sanger
UPDATE 5: I just noticed that Jimmy Wales deleted not only my open letter, he also deleted an earlier discussion section, titled “It’s a serious question, so let’s stop this fussing.” Here is the relevant part of the exchange:
Jimbo, under established precedent of users being able to re-add edits from banned users if they are willing to take responsibility for said edit, may I please ask the following question, one which has been added and removed from here countless times, causing more “drama” than the actual question.
Many thanks GTD 12:22, 7 April 2009 (UTC)
Looks like a typo.–User:Jimbo Wales (talk) 13:38, 8 April 2009 (UTC)
Are you sure you want to go with that answer, Jimmy? It doesn’t sound very credible.
No, it wasn’t a typo. I recall you referring to yourself as “co-founder” a number times. I remember being ”distinctly annoyed” when, in 2004, you started referring to yourself as ”the” (singular) founder of Wikipedia. If we were to scour other archives from late 2001, 2002, and 2003, I’m sure we would find other instances–to say nothing of the first three official press releases. –User:Larry Sanger (talk) 15:43, 8 April 2009 (UTC)
When deleting this exchange, Jimmy wrote, “declining participation in this debate - not interested, sorry”. And yet, as you can see above, he did participate in it. He apparently changed his mind after I arrived on the scene. These sorts of embarrassing edits have a way of being removed permanently from Wikipedia page histories, so here is a WebCite copy.
UPDATE 6: it is very instructive to watch how Wikipedia’s administrators are reacting to the whole to-do (WebCite copy). No comment necessary.
UPDATE 7: it’s also instructive to watch how rank-and-file Wikipedians are reacting on Jimmy’s page.
UPDATE 8 (April 9): what do you know — the moderators of WikiEN-L let the open letter through. So now the general Wikipedia community should be apprised of it. No replies to it yet. While I think Wikipedians are willing to complain openly, they aren’t so willing to confront him. I suppose they still think that would amount to insurrection.
UPDATE 9: a discussion of the letter has started on WikiEN-L. As is to be expected, the discussion is not about the contents of the letter, but about the appropriateness of my speaking out. I’ve posted one response and will probably do a few more.
I am not fixated on it at all, thank you. Indeed, lots of people seem to want me to talk about it, but I’m not interested. I am being portrayed by some as believing things that I do not, and holding positions that I do not. As I have said many times, I think the entire “controversy” is silly and that Mr. Sanger is too often given too little credit for his work. (Note well that it is well known, though, that Tim Shell was the person who invented the notion of talk pages. Anyone else claiming credit for that now should be pushed hard.) There are a thousand other inventions by a hundred other lesser known early contributors, and a debate about semantics seems a bit absurd to me. Larry didn’t make Wikipedia, and neither did I. It was made by the community, and lots of people played interesting roles.–Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:43, 9 April 2009 (UTC)
I’m sorry to have to say that this is just misdirection. By beginning, “I am not fixated on it at all,” Wales is implying that the issue is simply about whether to apply the word “co-founder” to me and himself or not. As I explained in my letter, that is not the only issue, or even the main issue, with which I am confronting him. The main issue is Jimmy Wales’ repeated false statements about me and my involvement.
By the way, Wales also deleted even a link to the open letter here (permanent copy), along with the discussion that followed. Clearly, he doesn’t want to be confronted in detail. He just says blandly, “Indeed, lots of people seem to want me to talk about it, but I’m not interested. I am being portrayed by some as believing things that I do not, and holding positions that I do not.”
UPDATE 11: an interesting discussion is going on on Jimmy Wales’ user talk page (permanent copy). I’m actually surprised it hasn’t been removed yet, considering how everything else that is unpalatable or embarrassing has been removed.
UPDATE 13: on WikiEN-L, after a few sympathetic messages, a whole crop of self-appointed silencers made a whole series of ridiculously fallacious arguments that I had no right to discuss my concerns on the list. They also took the opportunity to unfairly malign CZ, of course in an attempt to intimidate me into silence. Well, I wasn’t intimidated. But I could see that I couldn’t continue on without causing even more of an uproar. If the moderators were not willing to correct the aforementioned silencers, I could see that my continued presence would just generate heat and no light. I did have this to say: “my impression is that half or more of the people who have weighed in [i.e., Wikipedians on the wiki as well as on WikiEN-L] have said, among other things, ‘I think Larry has a legitimate complaint.’” So, there’s that.
Next stop: Foundation-L. Probably tomorrow, if they let me on the list.
UPDATE 14: I decided to post a response to Jimmy’s answer (above, UPDATE 10), which is all that he left after deleting everything else — including a link to the open letter to him. Here is my response:
Jimmy, have the decency to let me say one thing in response to the above. In the open letter itself, I quote a Hot Press answer from you, in which you said, “I feel that Larry’s work is often under-appreciated. He really did a lot in the first year to think through editorial policy. … I would actually love to have it on the record that I said: I think Larry’s work should be more appreciated. He’s a really brilliant guy.” Here is my answer to that: “This sounds like a fine sentiment. But how could it be sincere? What better way to ensure that I am ‘under-appreciated’ than to contradict your own first three press releases and tell the Boston Globe, just two years later, that it’s ‘preposterous’ that I am called co-founder?”
Please, everyone–I’d like to ask you please to leave this between me and Jimmy. He’ll just delete the discussion, along with my response, if you pile on. If you want to continue the discussion you’re welcome to come to the blog.
Most hopes aren’t high that he, or one of his minions, will resist being able to delete it (or ), so it will probably be gone soon.