Wikipedia Irony: Jimmy Wales Edits His Own Entry

Wikipedia.jpgA story in Wired reveals that Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has been editing his own Wikipedia entry:

Public edit logs reveal that Wales has changed his own Wikipedia bio 18 times, deleting phrases describing former Wikipedia employee Larry Sanger as a co-founder of the site.

The changes were reported Monday by technology writer Rogers Cadenhead on his blog, Workbench, spurring Sanger to launch a dialogue on Wikipedia about revisionist history.

In an interview with Wired News, Wales acknowledged he’s made changes to his bio, but said the edits were made to correct factual errors and provide a more rounded version of events.

While he said that Wikipedia generally frowns on people editing entries about themselves, there is no hard and fast rule against it.

“People shouldn’t do it, including me,” he said. “I wish I hadn’t done it. It’s in poor taste…. People have a lot of information about themselves but staying objective is difficult. That’s the trade-off in editing entries about yourself…. If you see a blatant error or misconception about yourself, you really want to set it straight.”

According to technology writer Cadenhead, who ferreted out the record of changes, Wales has altered sentences that gave Larry Sanger credit for co-founding Wikipedia seven times.

Recently, Adam Curry got shamed across the blogosphere for editing part of an entry pertaining to himself.

Should people be editing or creating entries for themselves in Wikipedia?

On the one hand, people’s self-interest might prevent them from editing objectively. People also might use Wikipedia as a kind of vanity press of sorts, creating entries about themselves filled with praise. I’m actually surprised that there isn’t more of this going on, as it can be quite flattering to have an entry for oneself or one’s organization in Wikipedia.

One the other hand, who knows better about Jimmy Wales than Jimmy Wales? If the people actually involved in various entries are shamed into not being able to edit them, we lose a valuable source of information.

Related Posts:

1. Wiki Thyself

2. Other posts about Wikipedia are collected in the Wiki Category Archive

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. John Armstrong says:

    who knows better about Jimmy Wales than Jimmy Wales?

    You already rebutted this point when you mentioned self-interest. Go back and read Huis Clos (No Exit) again: the only way we can know ourselves is as reflected in other people. Jimmy Wales (and anyone else, for that matter) cannot know himself objectively.

  2. Mike says:

    One the other hand, who knows better about Jimmy Wales than Jimmy Wales?

    Eh, well, that’s the issue about self-editing, isn’t it? Many of us have inflated views about ourselves, and are quick to minimize the contributions other’s had in our success. We tend to view minor obstacles we’ve overcome in life as having been nearly insurmountable. I’m not sure I’ve met a person who can “objectively” apprise himself. Most of us are unduly down on ourselves, or up on ourselves. Anyhow, that someone would be compelled to edit a Wikipedia entry about himself might indicate some levels of narcissim.

  3. It is relatively easy for people to work around a do-not-edit-self restriction — just have a friend do the editing.

    It would seem to be more honest for Wales to just edit himself (and for people to see that he, in fact, was the one editing), than for him to get some friend or employee to do it for him. If the former, people could assess the information in light of the potential self-interest; in the latter, people have little ability to assess it.

  4. Mike says:

    Someone who self-edits non-defamatory aspects of a Wiki really needs to get a life. So an entry is not “nuanced” enough… Who really cares? Mom?

    To self-edit is really amusing, since the self-editor is writing under the (mistaken) impression that someone actually cares to pour over every detail of the subject’s life. (“Oh, my. He grew up in SoHo. I never know that. Wow.) That in itself in an act of narcissim. Excluding a few celebrities and government officials, I can’t think of anyone important enough to self-edit.

  5. anon says:

    Yawn. Who cares? He wants to maintain his reputation? What corporation doesn’t do that?

  6. Timothy Scriven says:

    While minor edits to a page would be okay, larger edits are a bit tricker. As a rule I’d say you should avoid edits that might be in some way connected with your reputation, but I can’t see an arguement against, say, a scientist or philosopher correcting a misrepresentation or misunderstanding of one of their theories.

    An intresting question, could one get a court order to stop wikipedia hosting an articile on you, if you could prove that the articiles created were consistently libelous? ( I know you couldn’t sue them, as writers on the web don’t count as publishers, but this might be a little different.)