Why not an aura of amateurishness?
It's fun being a Wikipedia watcher. Rarely is there a dull moment, as one of the
world's most popular web sites gingerly skips along from controversy to controversy.
The battle lines were drawn long ago, and only rarely do we see anyone who crosses
those lines, becomes a turncoat, or, for that matter, actually raises any particularly
new issues. For a few years now I've been getting a weekly update via Google Alerts
for items that mention the Wikipedia, and that being the case, I usually notice
each of these new controversies as they unfold. Among the latest of these was the
coming out of Essjay who supposedly disgraced the encyclopedia by fibbing
on his credentials. Though he claimed that he had a doctorate, it turned out that
he was a 24 year old college drop out.
Frankly, the story isn't that interesting. Essjay was perhaps the "highest
ranking" Wikipedian to be outed, but it had happened before, and it will
undoubtedly happen again, and the lessons learned were totally predictable, depending
on whether you think that the Wikipedia is a danger to organized knowledge or
its savior. But I find it particularly interesting that what seems to me to be
the most intriguing aspect of this issue seems to have gone totally unnoticed
(at least I didn't notice anything written about this): Though the Wikipedians
take pride in the fact that non-academics are able to contribute to this vast
resource of human knowledge, proof that you don't have to have a doctorate to
know something, Essjay, rather than claiming that he was an autodidact who had
gained his knowledge through non-professional means, still found it necessary
to drape his edits with an aura of academic authority. Being a college drop out
has, over the past generation, become somewhat of a badge of honor, the sort of
honor which we might expect that Wikipedians would want to proudly display. To
my mind, a certain delight in slumming, rather than claiming unearned credentials,
would seem to be the proper Wikipedian stance toward promoting one's qualifications.
I continually find myself wondering whether there are active
Wikipedians with doctorates out there who on their user pages write about
themselves as high school dropouts in order to earn brownie points within the
Go to: Just who do you think you are?