Posted by: captainfalcon | March 9, 2010

What’s Hawaiian for “slow”?

I Akahele

I urge all of the Lured to pay a visit to Akahele. My weirdo-meter™ was at nine-alarms when one of its administrators – Gregory Kohs – got all ecscitable on Christoph’s penultimate post. Anybody else detect that it was about Larry Sanger, Jimbo Wales or how Wikipedia is utter shit? Me neither. But Kohs did.

And speaking of whales, did you know Wikipedia is responsible for the February 25th attack at Sea World? Kohs points out that a January 2, 2010 revision of Wikipedia’s article on Tilikum (the orcinus orca* who killed a Sea World employee) added, as a parenthetical, “He is in fact very docile.” How “darkly amusing,” as Kohs would have it, leaving it to commenter Timothy Usher to tease out the implications:

The prevailing view among “responsible” Wikipedians is that misinformation isn’t particularly harmful, so long as it doesn’t appear in a biography of a living person. This example illustrates that misinformation about any subject has the potential to harm readers in unforeseeable ways. Who knows if our deceased trainer consulted the Wikipedia article to determine whether she was at risk?

A troubling possibility, rendered less so when the fragment is put in context: “Tilikum Never takes part in water work with trainers, not necessarily due to aggression (he is in fact very docile), but because he doesn’t necessarily realize his own strength.” Yep. Sure to push all those undecideds into the swimming with killer whales is a risk-free proposition camp.

Opened for business on February 15, 2009, Akahele is Gregory Kohs (and three others’) labor of spite. Its title, according to their About page, “is Hawaiian for ‘careful’ or ‘cautious’…in contrast to the word “wiki”, which means “quick”.” Their inaugural post disagrees:

Do you know the Hawaiian word for “quick” or “fast”?

It is wiki — a word previously obscure to English speakers now made famous by the wildly popular, and equally irresponsible, Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Akahele is the opposite of wiki.

That is: slow.

Akahele’s ostensible purpose is to “explore…the Internet and signal…readers to those problematic areas where care and caution should be exercised.” Kohs’s Wikipedia User Page likewise describes Akahele as “[a] review of worrisome Internet phenomena…”. A survey of recent posts indicates the phenomena [sic] they have in mind.

Seven of the ten most recent posts directly cast aspersions on Wikipedia and its affiliates. An eighth mentions MediaWiki as potentially saddled with security vulnerabilities. 80% Wikipedia, 20% other; If that ratio is good enough for Kohs to call bullshit on Jimbo Wales, it is good enough for me: Akahele has an axe to grind against Wikipedia specifically. And the grudge is personal…

II An (even more) unhinged Kohs

In Ruling Passions, Simon Blackburn offers the following trenchant analysis of Milton’s Devil:

Satan[‘s]…position is…that of the jealous or despairing lover who wants to harm the beloved. It is his perpetual curse that he remembers how things could have been otherwise…Milton’s whole poem describes how his resolution to do evil is a response to this nightmarish predicament (Blackburn, 62-63).

The analogy to Gregory Kohs writes itself. Kohs’s Wikipedia User Page has the following introduction: “My name is Gregory Kohs. I really loved the original idea behind Wikipedia.” Above that, in a position of prominence, rests the banner: “This user has been blocked indefinitely from editing Wikipedia.” Oh, what might have been. Or, as Kohs would have it:

The articles that I personally created recently seem to serve more people’s needs than at least 80%-90% of Wikipedia’s other new articles.  But, now that I’ve been blocked from editing Wikipedia, the encyclopedia won’t be getting any more such useful, well-written articles from me.

Devil take it, right? Well, not quite. Writing at the Wikipedia Review, Kohs signals he’s not quite over his former love:

There’s another attempt at Wikipedia to create an article about me. I wonder how this one will turn out. As far as notability, I now have an article in Die Welt, an Associated Press piece picked up in the Washington Post and NYTimes.com, an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, and a TV appearance on “Attack of the Show”. It will be interesting to see how some of the Kool-Aid drinkers debunk all of these sources.

Then again, even if the article does survive AfD, I’ll probably hate what it says about me, being that NPOV on Wikipedia actually means “criticize anyone/anything decent who actually makes money”. Thank God I’m going on vacation on Saturday, so I can just tune this out.

Is that smell the rank odor of psychic turmoil?

I have no doubt. Gregory Kohs is a bundle of inconsistencies. Obsessed with the potential partiality of user-generated content, Kohs cut his teeth on Wikipedia writing articles for profit.** That’s right: he ran a business offering to write your Wikipedia entry for a fee, all while decrying the ease with which Wikipedia enables the spread of suspect information. And the perversity runs deep. The first tip on “How to read Wikipedia” – “know the authors” – delegitimates none more than Kohs himself. What, after all, does it do to the credibility of ScuzCorp’s Wikipedia entry to know that its author was ScuzCorp’s paid shill?

Apparently, Jimbo Wales thought it wouldn’t do any good. Calling the practice “‘antithetical’ to Wikipedia’s mission and ‘absolutely unacceptable’,” Wales banned Kohs permanently. In a reductio ad absurdum of his reductio ad absurdum, Kohs took his shilling elsewhere, to his site MyWikiBiz.com (Wikipedia article about it, here), which books itself as:

[A] new directory where you can author your legacy on the Internet. We think you are notable, even if Wikipedia has rejected an article about you or your enterprise as being “non-notable”. With MyWikiBiz, you create a beautiful, reader-friendly page that will get picked up by Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Search engines.

So much for a commitment to encyclopedic excellence.

Or take this example. According to its inaugural post, one of the three reasons Akahele was started is that “Lamentably, we witness a rapid-fire cycle of online defamation, rebutted by more libelous accusation, countered by verbal (or even physical) threats — from anonymous characters rather than real-name individuals, more often than not.” Puzzling, given this lamentation, that Gregory Kohs would celebrate:

The blog post Wiki wiki whak by a pseudonymous “Dr Zen” [as] an outstanding dissection of Jimmy Wales’ recent essay in The Guardian.

Please read it. It’s very long, but so worthwhile.

“Whenever I read the pronouncements of Jimmy Wales, I want to slap the smug fuck. His recent article in the Guardian provoked no different a feeling.”

No verbal or physical threats, please – especially from anonymous characters.

III Conclusion

Gregory Kohs recommends getting to know the author before accepting what he writes. I have done so. Far from accepting Kohs’s psycho analyses, I commend to him psychoanalysis. At the very least, he might, in future, refrain from flecking the Lure with his Quixotic vitriol.

* Binomial nomenclature taken from the species’ Wikipedia article, so almost certainly wrong. (Don’t believe me? On the same page they say Killer Whales are mammals! Something’s fishy.)

** “Note,” his User Talk page says, “multiple other articles were created in exchange for payment. Those are not listed here.”

Update: Corrected to no longer imply that Kohs wrote “How to Read Wikipedia.”

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Responses

  1. Thanks, Falcon. Note, I didn’t write “How to read Wikipedia”. Everything else was spot on.

    Traffic to Akahele.org today surged to 10 unique visitors — exactly 50% of what traffic was two days ago. Your blog is awesome.

    • Aw. No flamewar? You have not been Lured.

      Update: Gregory, you think it’s “spot on” that you need psychoanalysis?

  2. I think 90% of the population could benefit from some therapy time with a good, properly trained psychoanalytic professional. Plus, I was merely trying to pacify you, since you sounded a bit dangerous to have spent this much time obsessing on me.

  3. Yes, you do have to watch out for those personal obsessions…


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