How to Get Thrown Out of a Wikipedia Conference in Three Easy Steps
The setup was very simple: register under a fake name, take photos and video claiming to be this person (who is a journalist), conduct fake interviews, stay as long as I can, then send the information (photos, videos, notes) back to the guy who requested that I play Secret Squirrel in the first place, and the whole thing is done.
No such luck.
It began simply; I had gotten involved with a message board of ex-Wikipedians (Wikipediocracy) because the allowed discussion of non-Wikipedia online nonsense, and I had gone through a rough time with Reddit, so I brought that up. Unfortunately what I didn’t really know about Wikipedia was that it is an “online dramah” factory, and the people over at the Wikipediocracy message board were the sort of private email poison pen types who took to disliking people pretty quick and making certain they can ban or harass off anybody they didn’t take a shine to. I wasn’t liked for having a life outside of talking about Wikipedia, for taking about things in the “off topics” subforum, etc. My leaving Wikipediocracy was annoying, and in reprisal I started a blog titled Wikipedia Sucks! (And So Do It’s Critics.) I had made friends with Eric Barbour* on Wikipediocracy, he had written a book with Professor Edward Buckner and had this massive treasure trove of Wiki style articles in a private Wikipedia of all the miscreants and he would send me info and leads and I would turn that, plus some minor research angles done by myself, into articles for the blog. After two and a half years, I had cranked out 80-or-so articles on Wiki-pedophiles, ban warriors, sockpuppeters, Jimmy Wales’ goofy attempts to capitalize on Wikipedia, the paid-editor problem**, the war they had over Scientology articles, the smaller war they had on Lyndon LaRouche articles and a LaRouche supporter editor, etc. I had guest writers hammer away at their own targets, and I went off occasionally to deal with Reddit or Tumblr Nazis (yes, Nazis on Tumblr are a thing) and I ironically found out that more people are interested in Tumblr craziness than Wikipedia nonsense, which makes sense because Wikipedia has lost a large part of its pre-Great Recession luster; a lot of the edits are now done by programs called ‘bots, many of the old-timers from the golden period of 2003-2006 have ditched “the Project”, the newer people are constricted by the binding-but-not-binding reams of online “WikiLaw” and unwritten custom.
Mr. Barbour had clued me into the then-forthcoming Wikiconference North America, to be held inside the San Diego public library. Unfortunately, after I had left Wikipediocracy’s message board and started blogging the work of Buckner and Barbour, one of the spookier/ultra-paranoid members, whom we only know as “tarantino” (no capitals) decided that this writer having a blog and being involved with a message board named after the blog (I didn’t set up the forum) was juust a little too much to take, and the scum outed me – my real name, my Wikipediocracy handle, my blog handle, one of my email addresses. The sysop, a San Diegan named William Burns (Wikipedia handle “StaniStani”; WO handle “Zoloft”) did nothing to stop the “leak”, even though I was no longer a member, or in contact with his group. Thus I had the problem of showing up to this conference….but as whom? I kicked around being Greg Eichelberger, a former editor when I worked at The East County Californian, the El Cajon-based successor of the venerable Daily Californian. The only trick was that Eichelberger was hip-deep in the Mormon hinterlands and would have no reason to drive or fly 3,000 - 4,000 miles to a Wikipedia conference in a county he was sick of. And so I came to Joe Naiman, presently a writer at ECC, which was the worst mistake I could EVER make.
Joe Naiman and I had worked at Steve Saint’s East County Community Newspapers chain in the mid-90s; Saint thought that Joe was good at covering water district board meetings and Santee little league baseball games, but he found Joe’s attempts at doing restaurant reviews comical because he focused more on the silverware and wall decor then the actual food. I think Naiman is an extremely hard worker (he writes for three or four small news publications), but blinkered; he lives with his brother and yet gets around by public transportation and bumming rides even though his sibling has a car! Not that he can drive it; the guy doesn’t have a driver’s license! The good thing was that Naiman and I resemble each other (if you have bad vision and are looking at an ID photo of either of us without your glasses); Caucasian, dark hair, dark eyes, he has a beard but I don’t (and I could explain away any differences by saying I had shaved it off). I both left answering machine messages and an email outlining the plan with Naiman, but he never wrote back. I decided to continue the ruse anyway; I set up a fake email account, and Eric Barbour’s girlfriend sent Eventbrite the $25 to cover the full event.
Saturday, October 8. I could have showed up at the Balboa Park meet they had on Friday, but I was busy. Instead I showed up at the library after lunch that day, only to find after I had parked in the basement that the front patio was empty of people wearing Wikiconference lanyards. I tried to take a long shot photo, sans flash, of a Wikipedia speech in a ground-floor conference room by the bookstore but the lighting conditions (high contrast) made the photo a blur. After that, I walked across the courtyard to the amphitheater where a large Woman in Grey was signing in a thin black lady who was wearing “conference semi-formal” clothes: dark jacket, black slacks, white shirt – which was interesting because it was a hot weekend and I was sweating wearing a sportcoat and slacks. When it came to my turn I told the Woman in Grey that I was Joe Naiman, she fumbled around on the table, “fooling around” with the tablet she was using for recordkeeping. She handed over an envelope with the name Joe Naiman – inside were some stickers, a black lanyard, and a plastic nametag to hang off the lanyard. She then told me that a person needed to speak with me. Very quickly the rotund figure of James Alexander appeared wearing jeans and a red-white-blue tartan shirt. Unfortunately the “hidden” pen-camera I had in the front jacket pocket hadn’t come on when I mashed the RECORD-STOP button so I have no recording of our conversation, but it went something like this:
Him: We know you are J---e C----e and not Joe Naiman, please show your ID.
Me: I am Joe Naiman, and I don’t drive! [True for Naiman, not for me.] There’s been a mistake!
Him: We have a letter for J---e C-----e [white envelope with the name in ballpoint pen], here is a copy of what is in the envelope [holds out crumpled sheet saying I was banned and other key things I didn’t completely read].
Me: I’m not J---e C----e!
Him: [Back to the line of questioning like a good cop.]
Me: [More denials of my name.]
….And on it went for at least five minutes. All the while a street-looking guy tried to defend me, with Alexander ignoring him completely. Man’s name is Paul Rollins and he’s allegedly on Facebook. His photo is on my blog.
Pretty much Alexander (in the strongest possible unspoken way) did not want me to go into the library, but I told him I was going in anyway and thus the Great Chase began…. . Wikiconference North America had a small number of Redshirts, docents/unarmed security guards/general flunkies each wearing black pants and the red Wikiconference t-shirts. I saw three Redshirts: the Filipino (?) guy whose name I never got [It was Andrew Lih - S.], the older blonde Sydney Poore (“FloNight” on Wikipedia; she hails from Kentucky), and the brunette Rosie Stephenson-Goodnight. They chased me from floor to floor, trying to get me into a corner where they could “force” me to get into a down elevator and out of the building.Along the way I noticed some of the Wikiconference attendees: the boyish Caucasian man with Downs Syndrome happily flipping through a smartphone, his lanyard signature unreadable; the wandering gangs of rail-thin Indian startup hipsters, all wearing the same dark t-shirts, jeans, and beards; the greybeards who seemed aloof from all of it. Finally I went to the top and went into the Wangenheim “Room” where I ran into Paul S. Wilson, aka “Paulscrawl” prepping for his presentation that day. I kept on saying that I was Joe Naiman and that there had been a mistake. He was completely baffed by the response of the organizers to keep me from attending the conference. After a short conversation he excused himself to return to his presentation prep. I decided to sit down at a table across from the Wangenheim collection and shoot photos with the camera sitting on top of my backpack. Nobody cared because it was a mixed crowd of civilians and Wikipedians. I got to see Karen Ingraffea (“Fluffernutter”) in the flesh, and the event organizer Kirill Lokshin hit the roof with the two female Redshirts after the
Every time I moved floors they followed me, Mz. Poore constantly pleaded “Sir, please follow us to the lobby.” I ignored her, kept on trying to find more vantage points inside the building to take photos of Wikipedians. It didn’t work very well. Also I was on a time deadline; I only had about two hours before I had to start paying for parking, so I was running around like a madman. Remember that this was a public library I was being chased around in; it was a space they didn’t own in a town they didn’t have an office in – it is my town and my taxes paid for the library! At one point I misplaced the camera and had to run two floors up to get it back. It was a hot sweaty grind running and taking photos.
Finally I figured that I had done what I could so I let them escort me to the lobby in an elevator filled with Wikipedians suffering halitosis. On the ground floor Poore and Stephenson-Goodnight told me to wait….and Kirill Lokshin stormed up with James Alexander in tow. Kirill tried to “forehead press” me by taking his head and trying to press it against my forehead so he could menacingly state into my eyes and close range***, but I was wearing a baseball cap and he mashed his forehead into the brim. I was sarcastic the whole time while Lokshin was furious, and Alexander dour-faced. I can’t remember what I said, but they wanted me to LEAVE IMMEDIATELY and claimed they were “close to calling the police” even though there was a security guard less than 100 feet away and Sydney Poole was still there. After a lot of back and forth that I wish I had on tape they literally walked me to the metal detector like some Scientologists throwing and undercover reporter out of a special event; Lokshin and Alexander mad-dog stared at me until I was out the door. As Poole stalked away I yelled “The money will run out! The VCs [venture capitalists] and the fanatics will stop giving you people the money!” Sydney gave me this smug smile and walked away; Lokshin and Alexander had already faded into the crowd.
While walking to the garage from the outside there was this short man wearing both suspenders and a belt, bringing to mind that line by Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West “…the man can’t trust his own pants!” He was talking to this tall, tall guy dressed in black – of course that short guy was William “Monty” Burns. I shook his hand and said “I send greetings from the Man in Hell. I am not him.” Then I walked off, leaving him perplexed.
I called up Barbour and read the letter, a letter drafted by James Alexander which bans me from any editing of Wikipedia websites foreign or domestic, bans me from using the Wikimedia Foundation’s computers, and bans me from attending any Wiki-meetings in (implied) perpetuity. No mention of Wikipedia Sucks!, no long list of crimes, no claims that I was this handle or that sockpuppet – which makes perfect sense, because I never edited Wikipedia once. On Monday I called Joe Naiman and he was in, which is a rarity. I asked him if he had told Wikipedia that I was coming and he said “You went?” Pretty much he was obsessed that I was going to do something that would ruin his reputation, said “I don’t do undercover work – you do the undercover work” among other whinges and dodges. I sarcastically responded “thank you for nothing” and hung up.
* This is the Eric Barbour of Metasonix, the rack-mounted tube distortion and tube synthesizer company. he got sucked into the wooly world of Wiki-criticism dealing with the idiot kids editing articles on radio tubes (British readers call them “valves”) and other technical subjects Barbour knew something about (he has a degree in Electrical Engineering). He does not suffer fools gladly, unless they are buying his equipment. In bulk.
** One of the many “crimes” on Wikipedia is to edit articles, usually articles on corporations or the biographies of famous/”notable” people, for pay as a ghostwriter. Wikipedia critic Greg Kohs has admitted to doing such editing, while people like Edward R. Fitzgerald have tweaked articles to the breaking point in order to promote their bosses (in Fitzgerald’s case it was off-Broadway dancer/choreographer David Gordon of the Pick-Up Performance Company, which employs Ed Fitzgerald as a stage manager.) Things that would be thrown out of a real encyclopedia for crossing lines of notability are included in Wikipedia under the insane concept that it isn’t a paper encyclopedia. More serious is the issue of Wiki-pedophiles hanging around the website trying to “groom” 10-year-old-boys and using the image subsite “Commons” for exchanging child pornography, but the WMF and Wikipedia have been desperately burying that sordid activity.
*** I wish that stupid pen camera had worked well. I should have turned the other camera over to video mode, and just let the chips fall where they may.