Raw Thought

by Aaron Swartz

(The Dandy Warhols) Come Down

Well, the Wikipedia election has finally ended. The good news is that I can now talk about other things again. (For example, did you know that Erik Möller eats babies?) I have a backlog of about 20 posts that I built up over the course of the election. But instead of springing them on you all at once, I’ll try to do daily posting again starting Monday. (Oooh.)

The actual results haven’t been announced yet (and probably won’t be for another couple days, while they check the list of voters for people who voted twice) but my impression is that I probably lost. Many wags have commented on how my campaign was almost destined to lose: I argued that the hard-core Wikipedia contributors weren’t very important, but those were precisely the people who could vote for me — in other words, I alienated my only constituency.

Aaron Swartz: Why is he getting so much attention?” wrote fellow candidate Kelly Martin. “The community has long known that edit count is a poor measure of contributions”. Others, meanwhile, insisted my claims were so obviously wrong as to not be even worth discussing.

Jimbo Wales, on the other hand, finally sent me a nice message the other day letting me know that he’d removed the offending section from his talk and looked forward to sitting down with me and investigating the topic more carefully.

And for my part, I hope to be able to take up some of the offers I’ve received for computer time and run my algorithm across all of Wikipedia and publish the results in more detailed form. (I’d also like to use the results to put up a little website where you can type in the name of a page and see who wrote what, color-coded or something like that.)

As for the election itself, it’s much harder to draw firm conclusions. It’s difficult in any election, this one even more so because we have so little data — no exit polls or phone surveys or even TV pundits to rely upon. Still, I’m fairly content seeing the kind words of all the incredible people I respect. Their support means a great deal to me.

The same is true of the old friends who wrote in during my essays along with all the new people who encouraged me to keep on writing. Writing the essays on a regular schedule was hard work — at one point, after sleeping overnight at my mother’s bedside in the hospital, I trundled down at seven in the morning to find an Internet connection so I could write and post one — but your support made it worth the effort.

I hope that whoever wins takes what I’ve written into consideration. I’m not sure who that is yet, but there are some hints. I was reading an irreverent site critical of Wikipedia when I came across its claim that Jimbo Wales had sent an email to the Wikipedia community telling them who they should vote for. I assumed the site had simply made it up to attack Jimbo, but when I searched I found it really was genuine:

I personally strongly strongly support the candidacies of Oscar and Mindspillage.


There are other candidates, some good, but at least some of them are entirely unacceptable because they have proven themselves repeatedly unable to work well with the community.

For those reading the tea leaves, this suggests that the results will be something like: Eloquence, Oscar, Mindspillage. But we’ll see.

The let-down after the election is probably not the best time to make plans but, if I had to, I’d probably decide to stay out of Wikipedia business for a while. It’s a great and important project, but not the one for me.

Anyway, now everyone can go back to vandalizing my Wikipedia page. Laters.

You should follow me on twitter here.

September 22, 2006


Wikipedia is big; it contains multitudes. There are people who spend all their time on the mailing lists, and people who mostly edit talk pages, and people who copyedit, and people who debate mathematics and write about train stations. I haven’t gotten the impression the community’s against you — one of the tenets of the internet is that the loudest voices get heard vastly disproportionately. I mean, it’s the /internet/. I’ve gotten strange, insulting comments on a blog entry I posted about shoppening malls, and I’m not particularly visible or controversial.

(Also, I don’t see anything wrong with Jimbo endorsing candidates — again, wikipedia is huge, and it’s difficult to get a feel for all the personalities at play. Wales probably knows more about Wikipedia’s human aspect — its flesh-and-blood organizational and beaurocratic mechanics — than anyone, so his suggestions are helpful.)

posted by Ben Yates on September 22, 2006 #

Let’s concentrate on what’s really important, here. I hope your mom’s okay, and I wish her the best of health.

posted by Mike Sierra on September 22, 2006 #

“I assumed the site had simply made it up …”

Umm, why would you assume that? [rhetorical question!]

Teachable moment: What have I been telling you all week? About the structure of Server Farm Revolutionary Commune, and the classic pitfalls thereof.

Anyway, family and health are indeed what really matter.

posted by Seth Finkelstein on September 23, 2006 #

I don’t disagree with your conclusion; in fact, I’ve been saying the same thing all long. Although I do not have stats to prove it, I suspect that the majority of article editing is done by people who are unaware that the community exists, and certainly by people who take relatively little interest in governance issues, at least not until they run into someone they feel needs to be more governed than they are.

And I do admit that I misunderstood the nature of your analysis; I now realize that you’ve just replicated the IBM history flow research, which, sadly, does not add new information to the analysis, either.

posted by Kelly Martin on September 25, 2006 #

Good read, I can’t say I agree with everything you say though.

posted by Darmowe gry on September 20, 2007 #

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