Jimbo Wales asks Essjay to resign

It looks like the Essjay situation is finally coming to a resolution, after generating enormous levels of fallout. Jimbo Wales, founder of Wikipedia and resident God-king of the English Wikipedia, has asked Essjay to resign. Here’s the text of his statement:

I have blanked my entire talk page to make sure this statement gets adequate attention. Hopefully someone more clueful than me :-) can archive things properly.

I have been for several days in a remote part of India with little or no Internet access. I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes. I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people’s trust. I want to make it perfectly clear that my past support of EssJay in this matter was fully based on a lack of knowledge about what has been going on. Even now, I have not been able to check diffs, etc.

I have asked EssJay to resign his positions of trust within the community. In terms of the full parameters of what happens next, I advise (as usual) that we take a calm, loving, and reasonable approach. From the moment this whole thing became known, EssJay has been contrite and apologetic. People who characterize him as being “proud” of it or “bragging” are badly mistaken.

On a personal level, EssJay has apologized to me, and I have accepted his apology on a personal level, and I think this is the right thing to do. If anyone else feels that they need or want a personal apology, please ask him for it. And if you find it to be sincere, then I hope you will accept it too, but each person must make their own judgments. Despite my personal forgiveness, I hope that he will accept my resignation request, because forgiveness or not, these positions are not appropriate for him now.

I still have limited net access… for a couple of hours here I will be online, and then I am offline until I am in Japan tomorrow morning. I believe I will have a fast and stable Internet connection at that time, and I will deal with this further at that time.

Wikipedia is built on (among other things) twin pillars of trust and tolerance. The integrity of the project depends on the core community being passionate about quality and integrity, so that we can trust each other. The harmony of our work depends on human understanding and forgiveness of errors.

–Jimbo Wales 06:42, 3 March 2007 (UTC)

So there you have it. It looks like Jimbo simply wasn’t aware of the magnitude of the lies that had been thrown around, and was prepared to accept Essjay’s false identity, but not the way he used it to his advantage in content disputes. Jimbo’s a very busy guy, and he can’t really keep up-to-date on internal wiki matters too well. One thing that worries me, however, is this statement: “I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people’s trust.”

I’m going to have to disagree on that mark. Even if someone wasn’t using fake credentials in content disputes, I still think it’s wrong. The possession of PhDs automatically gives you a higher level of respect on-wiki even if you don’t throw their weight around, and claiming to have degrees that one doesn’t is wrong no matter the situation. If you’re worried about protecting your identity, either don’t reveal any personal information at all, or make up something discreet, like, “I’m a plumber in Florida.” I could live with someone lying about being a plumber. I can’t really accept someone lying about being a professor.

One thing I was saying yesterday was that Essjay should tender his resignation immediately before he loses the chance to do so. Well, it would appear that that window has closed. If he tenders his resignation now, it won’t be of his own recognizance, but rather, because Jimbo forced him to do it. And if he still doesn’t resign he’s simply going to find himself fired.

Update: See here for a follow-up post; Essjay has resigned.

One Response to “Jimbo Wales asks Essjay to resign”

  1. Darmok Says:

    I agree with you absolutely. It is completely unnecessary to give any personal information on Wikipedia at all. And if one is fabricating an identity, inventing advanced degrees, whether used directly or not, is out of the question.

    At this point, his reputation is damaged enough that I doubt he could accomplish anything substantial at Wikipedia. If he wants to continue, he’ll probably have to leave the project and return under a new identity.