Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Saturday, December 15, 2007

So apparently Carolyn Doran, the Wikimedia Foundation's chief operating officer from january to june, is a felon.

"Doran's criminal record includes four convictions for driving under the influence, two of check fraud and petty larceny, one hit and run with fatality, and one charge of unlawful wounding for shooting former boyfriend Philip L. Brown in the chest in 1990"

Geoff has more.

There had better be a big fucking shakeup in the next board election.

I know, I know -- the board is overworked. Tough shit. This is beyond unacceptable. Quick question: is it worse for Wikipedia to rake in millions of dollars by running text ads on its search pages, enough money to hire some real administrative help (nevermind programmers), or for the board to be ideologically pure and untainted by the evils of adsense (because god knows google's money has just killed firefox) but so sleep-deprived that they appoint crooks to high positions?

It's becoming increasingly apparent that things cannot go on as they have. More in the next post.


GerardM said...

I wonder how you all can sit in the seat of judgement knowing so little about the circumstances of what exactly happened. Why is it that you cannot accept the message from the board, the legal council of the WMF?

The organisation of the WMF has never been better organised. It is better placed for supporting our projects. And this crying wolf only serves in making our community less relevant. You do not have the right to know everything the only right you have is to take the digital content and try to do better elsewhere.

What do you hope to achieve by claiming that the organisation will fall apart?

This year, the work of the WMF has become more relevant and it seems to me that you do not recognise this in your, in my eyes, irresponsible behaviour.

Robert M said...

"Why is it that you cannot accept the message from the board, the legal council of the WMF?"

Well I can't speak for the person who owns the blog but for me it seems stranger to me that you _would_ accept the word of a board who appoints convicted felons to positions of authority.

And this isn't exactly the first time the wikipedia foundation has appointed people to positions of responsibility without checking their history isn't full of bad things or made up of whole cloth is it?

Credibility is a coin that you can't keep speaking forever with nothing to show for it, you know. And Wikipedia is rapidly heading into sub-prime mortgage territory there if you'll permit me to stretch the money analogy a little further.

And what "crying wolf" are you referring to? The little boy who cried wolf was *making it up*, these convictions are *a matter of record*.

Dan said...

Things must really be getting bad for Wikipedia, if a blogger whose last posting said that the sky was not falling and attempted to downplay recent scandals now is using some of George Carlin's seven words you can't say on the air in the course of insisting that major change is needed now. And it's already brought a predictable response from the establishment calling the blogger "irresponsible" for saying it, just as the WikiElite have been denouncing critics, reporters, and anybody else who doesn't toe their party line.

GerardM said...

The process has changed; there is now a process whereby newly hired people are checked out. You are wrong that a "convicted felon" was hired. A person was hired that turned out to have a past.

Where you say that this is not the first time something like this happened.. I do not know of it.

The analogy of the sub-prime mortgage business is wrong because this does not affect the quality of the WMF projects at all nor does it affect the ability to bring our information to the world.

As to crying wolf, a week is not good without someone saying that Wikipedia is going down the dumps. This whole sorry saga is nothing but a storm in a tea cup.

Robert M said...

Gerard: Employee problems around the wikipedia project? How about Essjay?

My subprime mortgage comment was straining analogy too far perhaps. I'll have another go:

1) Credibility can sometimes be thought of as being like money in that you have to work hard to gain it in order to spend it.

2) Given these employee troubles, the "secret mailing list" thing ( and a few other incidents, Wikipedia is currently spending credibility money that it doesn't have.

Any one of these incidents could be, as you say, a storm in a teacup. Once you look at everything, it starts to look like you must have a very large teacup indeed to claim this is still the case.

The hiring issues should be especially worrying given how serious an impact mistakes here can have on the business of running wikipedia, and that people don't seem to be learning from where they've made mistakes in the past.

Dan said...

Why should the people in charge of Wikipedia / Wikimedia ever learn from their mistakes, when they can keep on blaming everything on others such as trolls, banned users, attack sites, irresponsible journalists, ignorant critics with personal grudges and conflicts of interest, people repeating harassment memes, and so on? That approach worked a couple of years ago when the public and media were still enthralled by Wikipedia, but that's worn off now and they'll have to learn how to constructively engage critics instead of blowing them off.

GerardM said...

It is nice that they do, not that they should.

CComMack said...

I think that both our host and GerardM are mistaken.

I think this is an explainable error of a young and clueless organisation, not a sack-the-board-now incident. (Any board members who would have lost my vote over this have already done so.)

That said, Gerard's assertion that criticism is irresponsible is absurd. This was a screwup on the part of the WMF, and open criticism is necessary to reassure everyone: Foundation, community, and donors, that it doesn't happen again. Prickliness is even less helpful than hyperbolic worry.

Jawuan Miguel Meeks said...

The organisation of the WMF has never been better organised.

I believe you. But Wikipedia lives and dies on its ability to attract and retain good contributors, so it has to be run with a bit of spit and polish. This [major scandal] is the opposite of spit and polish, and it's going to send the together people that we want to attract running screaming away.

Notice how I didn't accuse the board of being incompetent or evil, just overworked. If I'm right (maybe they're no longer overworked?), this is solvable.

Ben Yates said...

Oops -- that last post was me; I'm logged in on my friend's computer.

Dan said...

Maybe they should be spending less on trying to give the superficial appearance of "spit and polish" (like by moving from a cheap, low-key office in Florida to a fancy, expensive one in San Francisco) and more on getting some actual decent organization.

Ben Yates said...

I don't think the move is superficial -- it's really important, actually, because it puts them in the center of the tech world where (for example) they'll be able to find a million willing COOs without criminal histories.