Essjay quits Wikipedia

Well, that didn’t take so long to resolve. A day after Jimbo asks Essjay to resign his positions of trust within the community, Essjay has quit. I suppose the situation is mostly resolved now. However, I’m still worried by a lack of contrition from Essjay right up to the very end. He never really apologized for what he did, rather, rationalized it as a method of keeping the “trolls” unsure about his real identity (looks like that backfired horrendously). His resignation notice didn’t even acknowledge the ongoing situation; he merely said:

I’m no longer taking part here. I have received an astounding amount of support, especially by email, but it’s time to go. I tried to walk away in August, and managed to do so for quite a while, but I eventually came back, because of the many requests I received urging me to return. Many of you have written to ask me to not leave, to not give up what I have here, but I’m afraid it’s time to make a clean break.

A clean break! He thinks this is a clean break! I beg to differ. This is the ugliest break I’ve seen in the history of Wikipedia. Essjay had a distorted perception of reality up to the very end. An apology would’ve gone a long way, but I guess Essjay thinks he doesn’t owe one to anyone. His departure message was basically one grandstanding Good-Bye.

Hopefully this ends the on-wiki issue. Yes, there seems to be a secondary wheel-war brewing over the protection of the Request for Comment on Essjay, but anyone getting involved in that basically deserves what’s coming to them. That should be ironed out relatively soon. In a week, nobody will particularly care about the RFC any longer. One lasting problem that Essjay may be facing, however, is his allegation of lack of journalistic integrity on the part of Stacy Schiff, the reporter who originally interviewed him for the New Yorker. Even in Essjay’s one offered “apology”, he was lying. It’s a sad state of affairs, and it might still have future negative consequences for Essjay, as this claim is potentially actionable libel. Kelly Martin has more analysis on the issue.

This is the last post I feel that I will end up writing on this issue, as it seems to be over, at least on Wikipedia. I do feel kind of bad for “piling on” Essjay in his moment of weakness, but it was necessary for there to be a strong showing of community outrage so that Jimbo would quickly get involved and force Essjay out. Every day that Essjay remained on the project was making us look bad in front of the outside community, and I make no apologies for my role in trying to salvage Wikipedia’s credibility by making it perfectly clear that we do not tolerate this kind of behavior.

5 Responses to “Essjay quits Wikipedia”

  1. Internet Esquire Says:

    While Essjay’s lies about being offered compensation by Stacy Schiff have created a lack of closure, what’s even more of a concern is that Essjay’s apologists — most of whom have administrator privileges at Wikipedia — are still stuck in denial and are censoring all negative commentary regarding Essjay. In a previous blog post, I stated that I would like to see Essjay make a clean break and make a fresh start at Wikipedia under a new anonymous pesudonym. However, given that Essjay still has so many supporters in positions of authority at Wikipedia, he is highly unlikely to retract his statement about Schiff, and a fresh start is also highly unlikely.

  2. Cyde Weys Says:

    I do find it very disappointing that so many Wikipedians are sticking up for him even after the full magnitude of his malfeasance has been revealed, but I can’t say it’s unexpected, either. People tend to run on cliques on Wikipedia. Looking back on my own actions, I see myself sticking up for people when they’ve passed the threshold of what is excusable, but I never went nearly as far as some people are going for Essjay. They just have this mindset that Essjay did all sorts of great work on Wikipedia, and it excuses everything. But it really doesn’t. If not Essjay, someone else would’ve done the work. Maybe two or three other people, but still, it would’ve gotten done. Doing good work doesn’t excuse bad behavior. There are others out there who do lots of good work and they haven’t created a huge liability for the project by lying about their credentials.

  3. Adrian Lamo Says:

    Now the question is whether J. Wales will really clamp down, and cap Essjay at a strict maximum of 10 or so pseudonymous identities in the aftermath.

    … nah, too strict.

  4. Cyde Weys Says:

    Well, it is possible that Essjay might return under a new name, but I don’t see it as so likely. Changing names isn’t going to change the animosity that so much of the community feels at him. If you were Essjay, would you really want to continue on in a hidden identity where the majority of the people hate you? It’s a harsh environment for him. He’ll probably go find some other online community and start over. And hopefully he’s learned his lesson, and won’t lie about himself. Of course, he’ll need to stay anonymous, because his real life identity is now (ironically) tainted from his aborted attempt to “maintain his anonymity”.

  5. Gary Kirk Says:

    I don’t think “the majority of the people hate [Essjay]”. He made a mistake which then, as his Wikipedia career went on, caught up with him and basically ruined him as he cannot – at the moment – be completely trusted. He isn’t hated by most of the community though, for sure.