Ah, well this is great news, right?
Jimmy Wales, ‘the genius behind the Wikipedia’ is coming to Romania on 22 March within the McCann/Thiess Conferences, informs a release.
During the conference, Jimmy Wales will unveil the philosophy behind the Wikipedia and how he managed through this platform to revolutionise the way in which people from around the world have access to information.
The English sucks because every single citation is from a shitty translation of this Romania state media article using British spelling.
But minor quibbles over grammar aside, good news! The “genius” Jimmy Wales is coming to Romania. And everything you need to know is included in the second paragraph. The genius is going to share his wisdom with Romanians! So awesome.
And according to the more complete Romanian-language press release, the event is sponsored by Vodafone. So anyone attending can get a deal on their mobile phone plan! Two-for-one special here, folks so if you’re in Bucharest in two weeks, you know where to be.
Wales isn’t coming to Romania because he’s a kind-hearted world traveler interested in sharing his “genius” with people in eastern Europe. He’s coming because he’s getting a fuck ton of money to be there.
If you speak Romanian, you can read this rewritten press release from 2015 about how two other impressive speakers officially labeled as AMERICAN HEROES (no joke) came to Romania to speak about “leadership” for the same company that’s paying Wales to speak in two weeks.
The two AMERICAN HEROES were Robert O’Neill and Scott Moore.
Robert O’Neill became famous in 2014 when a Fox news program revealed that it was O’Neill who had allegedly shot Osama bin Laden point blank. Or maybe he didn’t. It all depends on whom you ask.
In you ask other soldiers who were there, they think O’Neill is a pompous asshole trying to make money:
Jonathan Gilliam, a former Seal, condemned the actions and motives of Mr O’Neill, who draws on his special forces experiences in his well-paid appearances as a motivational speaker.
And this “hero” is being investigated by the military for leaking classified information.
Meanwhile Scott Moore is another retired soldier who boasts about having led teams that fought in Panama in a war condemned by the United Nations as a FLAGRANT violation of international law and as part of the murderous assault on the city of Mogadishu (better known to most people as Black Hawk Down). Just those two flagrantly illegal actions alone led to a minimum of a thousand civilians killed, to say nothing of the American soldiers who died.
So this is the type of “leadership” conferences that McCann-Thiessen likes to hold in Romania, paying two egotistical killers who speak not a word of Romanian to share their wisdom with Romanians who probably have no idea who these guys really are.
Bogdan Enoiu, the director of the Romanian branch of the global marketing firm McCann, and the same guy who got 50 newspapers to reprint his press release about Jimmy Wales, said this in 2015 about these two “heroes”:
The AMERICAN HEROES conference will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see and hear from some of the most influential and honorable men of the modern era, the men who write history. The speakers will demonstrate using examples drawn from personal experience just how important it is to make good decisions when you cannot afford to make a mistake.
I swear to god, I am not making that up.
The Genius Jimmy Wales
Aside from coming to Romania because to make a lot of money as a corporate shill, he’s still a genius, right? I mean it’s not his fault that he’s working for the same guys who hire killers. And he did invent Wikipedia, which we all use.
Back to Bogdan Enoiu’s press release about Wales’s visit to Romania:
Each month, over 80,000 worldwide volunteers contribute to creating over 7,000 new articles a day accessed by over 500 million unique visitors. Currently, the Wikipedia comprises more than 36 million articles, available free of charge in over 280 languages.
And that, right there, is the problem. Because if you think of Wikipedia, the above paragraph is EXACTLY what comes to mind. Yes, it is true that there are some 80,000 volunteers who write the vast bulk of what is on Wikipedia. And yes, those people are amazing and do incredible work. And yes, it is awesome that one of the top sites on the internet is the collaborative result of people all over the world donating their time, intelligence, and energy.
Note – While I’ve never “edited” (written) for Wikipedia, I contributed to some of the information there years ago concerning the curious case of Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot the Pope in 1981. Other than that, I have no connection whatsoever to the site or anyone who works/volunteers there.
The problem is that Wikipedia and Jimmy Wales are two different things. Wikipedia is actually somewhat good, despite some hoaxes and other scandals.
Jimmy Wales started Wikipedia in 2001, this is true, but he did something far more important in 2003, which was to create Wikimedia. And understanding the difference between the two is key to separating the human goodness of Wikipedia and the rampaging dictator that is Jimmy Wales.
Wikipedia vs. Wikimedia
Wikipedia is the site that many people (including me!) use every day. It may be quirky, sometimes unreliable, sometimes biased and sometimes poorly written, but by and large it’s a great place to start research into anything. It’s also far more than just text, as it has a dictionary, travel site (which helped me big-time when I entered Ukraine in 2014), thesaurus, audio (including how to pronounce words, very useful). stock photos and much, much more.
I even use Wikipedia as a kind of translator, looking up obscure plant or animal names in one language and then clicking on a different language version of the article to learn the name in a second language.
Wikipedia is pretty awesome, warts and all. But Wiki-Pedia is not Wiki-Media. And when you think you’re donating to Wiki-Pedia, you’re actually donating to Wiki-Media.
Rolling in Cash
Wiki-Media is a non-profit organization, which is more of a tax definition than a statement of fact. And Jimmy Wales founded Wiki-Media and serves on its board.
Every December, the top of Wikipedia is plastered with ads begging users to donate to “keep the lights on”, heavily implying that without user donations, the site will go offline and then all that information will disappear.
The only “problem” is that, as even the Washington Post acknowledges, Wiki-Media has a ton of money. In fact, it has more than enough money to keep on operating for a long, long time without any new donations at all.
Lots of people have asked the same question. If it costs Wikipedia about $3 million to pay for servers and engineers and software people to maintain the site, why does it need $60 million? Well, Jimmy Wales answered that question. Sort of.
Our reserves vary throughout the year but are generally around 1 year of revenue. The typical recommendation for stable and successful nonprofits is to have between 6 months and 2 years of reserves. Our reserve amount is therefore perfectly sensible. It would be extremely unwise for us to run with very small reserves.
Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Having a little extra to tide them over “just in case”?
Except that $60 million (the latest figures I could find) would last them about 20 years for basic operations, and that doesn’t even include the interest gained on all that money.
So how did $30 million become a “year’s worth of reserves” if they only pay about $3 million to “keep the lights on”? And why doesn’t their own fundraising page mention any of this? All you see there is that they need money to “provide the best possible site experience”.
Where is all the rest of that money going?
The More You Have, the More You Spend
The discrepancy in monies is because Wikipedia’s expenses have increased exponentially concomitant with the increase in popularity (and donations). For example, Wikipedia spent $23 thousand in 2003, $5.6 million in 2008 and $52 million in 2014. So where in the world is all that money going? Remember, roughly $3 million is all it takes to keep Wiki-Pedia online.
Well, a huge chunk of that money goes to paying professional fundraising companies to set up each year’s campaign… to raise more money. That began in 2007 with the installation of a woman named Sue Gardner as head of Wiki-Media. That’s when travel expenditures for its staff equalled about $2.5 million a year, roughly the same as what it costs to keep the site online.
In fact, here’s an article from Forbes about Sue Gardner (the original is hidden behind a paywall):
When she arrived at Wikimedia, the nonprofit behind Wikipedia, in 2007, the organization had under 10 employees and was raising less than $3 million dollars annually. In 2011, Wikimedia’s number of donors had increased ten times over, raising $23 million.
Some of that money bonanza went towards paying the executive director’s salary. Her official salary was $200 thousand but of course Wiki-Media paid for her travel, entertainment and numerous other benefits.
In 2014, Gardner was ousted due to complicated reasons relating to the internal politics at Wiki-Media that I won’t get into here. She was replaced by Lila Tretikov, who just resigned for no discernible reason. Except of course that there was a good reason, which you can read in great detail here.
Short version: tons of qualified and good people keep getting hired by Wiki-Media and then quit, citing the chaos and bullshit infighting going on in the “non-profit” organization. Here’s an explanation from yet another senior person who quit recently:
In the last year more the half of the directors are no longer at the organization, and most of the rest had their positions changed. Anyone with access to my spreadsheet (every manager in engineering and product after I left as well as the incoming ED and VPE) can see the implications of it if they have even a base level of competency in management. If they are responsible for significant changes and this has created an unusual amount of unanticipated attrition at the WMF in the last year, they have nobody to blame but their poor planning.
So now you know that the non-profit Wikimedia is spending tons of money on incompetent managers, many of whom do little but spend money on travel, massages, and rolling funds over to chapters, whose job it is to “promote Wikipedia”. Between fundraisers, “competitive salaries”, “raising awareness” exercises, travel and entertainment, 90% of the money they raise goes towards something other than keeping Wikipedia online.
But surely all of this is separate from Jimmy Wales, right? A genius founder can’t be held responsible if his creation is going through some growing pains.
Meet the Real Jimmy Wales
Such a friendly name, eh? Jimmy. Also known as “Jimbo” to his fans. But his real fans are the super rich.
Jimmy Wales is closely allied with Tony (and Cherie) Blair, the two weirdos who converted religions in adulthood for no discernible reason, to say nothing of their role in murdering a few million people in Iraq (also for no discernible reason).
Wales married a woman named Kate Garvey (his third wife) in 2011. And it is Wales’s wife who does key work for Tony Blair, including running his non-profit organization. Since Blair’s retirement, both he and Wales have both traveled the world as paid speakers, often appearing at the same events.
And just to show you how much he loves the democratic openness of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales personally banned people on Wikipedia from talking about his friendship with Tony Blair. Nice, eh?
In 2015, Wales entered in the fray about a scare concerning European Union modifications to copyright protections, prompting one British newspaper to write How do you know Jimbo is lying? His lips are moving.
In 2013, Wales visited Kazakhstan to support a local version of Wikipedia that sounds noble and generous until you realize that Kazakhstan is a dictatorship and the head of Kazakhstan’s Wikipedia chapter is Karim Massimov, one of the dictator’s most powerful henchmen. Wales was in the country to “clean up” information about Kazakhstan and work to improve its public relations image.
More recently, Jimmy Wales has offered his personal services to clean up and protect Hillary Clinton’s online image, including the information written about her on Wikipedia.
And if his lavish speaking fees and salary plus perks from Wiki-Media weren’t enough, Jimmy Wales has also been connected to last year’s blackmailing scandal wherein mysterious but powerful Wikipedia editors were charging businesses and famous people in Britain money in order to clean up and protect the information written about them on the site.
And lest we forget, Jimmy Wales used to operate porn sites before starting Wikipedia and was a real creep to his girlfriend in 2008. And several other unrelated published emails shows he’s not a very nice guy at all.
One of his most famous stunts continues to be his claim that he was the sole founder of Wikipedia when in reality other individuals used to be listed as co-founders on Wikipedia itself. So nice.
Wikipedia Going Down the Drain
What Bogdan Enoiu and his lovely press release also failed to tell you is that visitor numbers to Wikipedia are steadily going down. I’m sure some of it has to do with the blackmailing scandals and the general disgust about Jimmy Wales as a person, but a lot of it has to do with the increasing unreliability of the information on the site itself.
There’s an oft-cited myth that most Wikipedia editors are selfless and altruistic human beings, seeking only to objectively document all the world’s knowledge, regardless of subject. Take a bit of time to really look at Wikipedia, though, and you’ll discover that the opposite is typically the case. Most Wikipedia editors have a reason for editing what they do, and that reason often intersects with their own personal or financial interests. One nearly-completed study of 100 random Wikipedia articles about businesses found that perhaps 35% to 40% of them have either been created or heavily-modified by authors who are benefiting financially from the company’s direction.
In fact, the site is replete with proof that people are being paid (by corporations or individuals) to write information for Wikipedia and that most of it gets through unmodified. And this is even after Wiki-Media modified the rules to require that writers have to post their “conflict of interest” when “editing” articles.
Despite all this, Wikipedia remains incredibly popular, largely because Google uses Wikipedia entries as “cards” that pop up whenever you do a search (potentially) related to content on Wikipedia. Google is a major benefactor of Wikipedia, donating money to the charity (Wiki-Media), getting a substantial tax break (and Google HATES to pay taxes) and then subsequently using Wikipedia’s information for free to boost Google’s business model. Nice, eh?
In fact, Google’s search is so intertwined with Wikipedia that it’s almost impossible to do a Google search about Wikipedia. If you type in keywords + Wikipedia you get a ton of links to articles on Wikipedia’s site, and those are obviously all flattering to Wikipedia itself. Seriously, type in “scandal + Wikipedia” on Google and watch as you have to scroll down a ways before you get to anything not posted on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia’s reputation, once billed as a “free and better British Encyclopedia” (the former gold standard) is now so bad that most schools, news sites and commercial blogs refuse to accept any research, cites or links to Wikipedia.
So yes, a sleazy profiteering pornographer scumbag is coming to Romania to make a ton of money while shilling out for a marketing firm that represents mass murderers and a multinational phone company in order to share his “genius” with the people of Romania.
Don’t forget to book early to reserve yourself a seat!