Think of it as Wikipedia’s police department hotline. The "encyclopedia anyone can edit" includes a page where you can instantly alert the site’s brain trust to foul play. It’s called the "Conflict of Interest Noticeboard." If you suspect someone has rigged the system, using the encyclopedia to push their own agenda, this is …
A no neutral investigation is not a good one.
An investigation made by no neutral people hasn´t got any credibility. (See: http://www.elanvital.org/faq/faq_opposition_i.htm)
The facts were on the 70 and taken out from an ad to interest people.
This is not enough to write an article with the objectivity it requieres.
@ Alan Roettinger
I think that link you posted is probably about as accurate as a Cult of Scientology FAQ about Anonymous.
Just flicked through the first of the sites referenced in the ex-premie site and it seemed to be very short on hate, and very full of sadness for being taken in by the cult, and sympathy for those still involved.
Thus, as is Internet tradition:
You are a premie and I claim my five free Internets!
Re: Has anyone else noticed @ David and DZ-Jay
Further delicious irony - there have been a flurry of edits in the past 24 hours, including removing the reference to this article.
Wikipedia will eat itself. It's just a matter of time.
Self-righteous indignation voted the world's most popular emotion.
It's addictive, we all love it. Second rate journos make their bucks creating it, though they generally do it with more economy of words than this.
Wikipedia is a cheap target, and one not always easy to defend. Far from the "free-for-all" of popular perception, its rules are complex and comprehensive. Wikipedia administrators have no more power than any other editor. No one can create a policy or "maintain strict control" over an article. Consensus rules. What any editor can do is get thoroughly familiar with the Wikipedia Rules and Guidelines and insist they be followed, inviting comments from other experienced editors when conflict arises. Jossi has done this meticulously. I have tried to also, in the thousands of edits to the hundred or so Wikipedia articles I have worked on. They are good guidelines, particularly the stringent rules regarding Biographies of Living Persons. Believe me, if you became well-known and someone were creating an article on you, you would want them to be followed.
Basically, statements that become part of a Wikipedia BLP have to be from impeccable sources, researchers and commentators outstanding in their field. In the case of a religious or spiritual leader like Prem Rawat, statements by current devotees, except those of an uncontroversial nature (how many children, place of residence, etc) are not acceptable, as are those from former devotees. Neither are liable to be neutral or informative enough for an encyclopedia. Opinions expressed by members of competing religions are also disqualified, for obvious reasons. Tabloid articles do not get to first base. They are the ones that use emotive and meaningless words like "cult."
Part of the difficulty in producing an article on Prem Rawat's career is that once he abandoned the Indian aspects of his work (the ashrams, mahatmas, remnants of Hinduism, etc) and focused on encouraging the effort towards inner experience, most researchers lost interest. So there are few studies on Prem Rawat from the last 25 years, though in terms of world travel, addresses delivered, welfare work, it appears to have been his most active time.
It seems to me Jossi has been entirely open in the declaration of his Conflict of Interest. Wikipedia work is not an inquisition into someone's personal life, and we have no right to know any more about his activities. He continues to give advice on the article's Talk Page but I can find no place where he actively edited the article since declaring his COI.
re: A Bit Of Maths
@ Chris Hamerton
So Chris, in the interests of openess, what's your Wiki handle?
"The only people that criticise cults, from a point of view of having had experience and knowledge of the inner workings of said cult, are, by definition, exactly the kind of non-neutral, obsessive, believe anything, fruitcakes that once supported and believed in the cult."
1) Not all those who say a cult is nuts is an ex cult member.
2) Not all those claiming that Wiki has an elitist admin cult are ex Wiki elitist admins.
3) A point of view does not have to be neutral, nor would it be entirely beneficial to only have neutral points of view in a spectrum of discussion.
So he thinks he's “lord of the universe” hey?
Just wait until Xenu gets out of his intergalactic prison and we’ll see who’s “lord of the universe”!
[Great article BTW]
Why this is newsworthy
It's clear as crystal. The entire operation is funded from donations and public money handouts. They have pleas on several pages asking people to donate in the name of philanthropy. So, if I donated £20 to them I would be keen to ensure that the organisation was run properly and that the money was well spent. In my view, this is no different to a charity or other public organisation. So there's definately a huge public interest case for investigative journalism that demonstrates how the organisation is run and administered and how it's fiscal controls operate.
There is also a public interest as the subject matter is now being promoted to our schools and universities. Wikipedia representatives are reccomending their encyclopedia to academic institutions as a citable resource. This is frought with danger, as it means that any problems with Wikipedia articles are likely to be reflected in the work of these academic institutions. It may sound like a Daily Mail headline, but would you want your children to be encouraged to use Wikipedia as a reliable source?
So I think that it's entirely appropriate for The Register to invesiigate the Wikipedia organisation and present articles on what it's journalists discover. While Wikipedia has every right to challenge that behaviour, journalists would be negligent in their behaviour if they were aware of issues with Wikipedia but declined to investigate further.
@ Anonymous Coward
You're right. If there's any suggestion whatsoever that Wikipedia is corrupt, it warrants investigation. If there is any suggestion that the investigation is shoddy, this warrants investigation by The Register.
Relying on the information of "ex-cultists" is rather like taking the word of a person's ex-lover at face value--of course they're going to have negative things to say. They fell out of love with that person! An obvious question is: If they're really done with this "cult," why haven't they left and gotten on with their lives, instead of hanging around and whining about what fools they were?
Far be it from me to tell these ex-lovers how to live, but if one is a journalist and not merely a sympathizer, then common sense dictates that the credibility of those blowing whistles should be addressed (at least in passing). Anyone who spends a significant part of their daily routine spilling bile has their own cult going, and it may not be harmless either.
Regarding the link you distrusted: Fine, distrust it. I think you should. But if you're going to dismiss it, at least take the time to verify whether its claims are true or not. Otherwise, you're just as dogmatic as the next cultist, lazily going along with whatever you read if it fits what you already believe.
Consider this: unlike an anonymous coward, the subject of the article (Jossi) stands behind what he does and puts his name on it. If he didn't, this article would never have been written.
I say again: Some journalist.
Quote -- I gave [Rawat] two inheritances, gave him a house, gave him all my time and energy - full-time," says Finch
I've been thinking of giving up work and starting my own cult, generous terms I'll not require the time and effort. Enlightenment cannot be guaranteed as it requires true devotion by the supplicant (tree hugging optional). Guidance by e-mail and irc. any takers ?
Good article! A few requests...
1) Please work in an uncomplimentary comment about a leading libertarian, Macs, or Global Warming/Climate Change (either pro or con) into any lengthy article. Surly there's room for a little something, and that'd add an extra helping of wackos.
2) By the link to the author's name could the Reg add a little icon displaying the author's "Reader Cynicism" level? I think it'd be a big time saver. Commentors could save criticisms displaying only mild amounts of stupidity for hacks with low RC levels, where they'll actually have some effect. Criticisms of remarkable stupidity could be saved for the most cynical hacks.
3) A pop-up box that appears before going to the second page of a 3+ page article. It could say "Warning: Long article!" and offer the choices "I want to continue reading." and "Take me directly to the comments, I'd rather offer an uninformed opinion."
Erratum ......or Alternate Ending/Beginning
"Enlightenment cannot be guaranteed as it requires true devotion by the supplicant (tree hugging optional). Guidance by e-mail and irc. any takers ?" ....... Err or XXXXcues Me, Enlightenment can most surely be guaranteed as it requires true devotion by the supplicant (tree hugging optional). Guidance by e-mail and irc. any takers ?
"Far from the "free-for-all" of popular perception, its rules are complex and comprehensive."
There are no rules and Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy:
"Follow the spirit, not the letter, of any rules, policies and guidelines if you feel they conflict. If the rules prevent you from improving the encyclopedia, you should ignore them. Disagreements should be resolved through consensus-based discussion, rather than through tightly sticking to rules and procedures."
It is governed by community consensus. Like in any community certain figures become leaders of the whole or parts of the community. These people will argue for what they think is right and their voice will, not surprisingly, have far more weight than a casual contributor.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it is how most societies and communities work. What I dislike though is first, that people seem to want to deny that there are such people and that they do not have a big effect on the way Wikipedia is run and secondly how because these people might be exceedingly competent and active in one sphere people assume that they will be equally competent and fair-minded in all their dealings.
Though there might be Paragons of Virtue out there I have yet to see anyone without a set of pet peeves and prejudices (I know I have plenty). When people bow down to authority figures or I see a stream of /agree "because I know x well and they couldn't be wrong" it annoys me no end (there we go one of my pet peeves revealed). Especially when the comment reveals that they haven't read what was actually said or that they hadn't looked at what was behind the links.
I use Wikipedia and I love Wikipedia though, partially because you CAN observe what shapes it, how these people interact, how people can game or un-game the system. The handy factoids are useful too. :op
Database updates have finished running, I better get back to work...
Freedom to Choose
You can always decide NOT to read the "encyclopedia" if you feel it isn't worth its value.
I just finished my third degree, and for the most part, Colleges will only allow you to use ONE Wikipedia reference per assignment and even then you must "source" your Wiki data with at least one other "reputable" data location.
So, outside of getting an "idea" about a subject, I will only use Wiki for an introductory mention of my content and then use more credible sources to build the rest of an opinion. We can only hope everyone else uses a similar strategy when drafting opinions and theses (sp?).
@ Alan Roettinger
"Relying on the information of "ex-cultists" is rather like taking the word of a person's ex-lover at face value".
This argument fails in that the only people who have real-life experience of the internal workings of organisations are 'cultists' or 'ex-cultists'. You propose only to take the 'cultists' view because they not *as* biased?
1. Obfustication of the issues and slander of dissenting views is evidence of bias.
2. That the reference to this El Reg article has been removed is evidence of bias.
3. There is no reference to dissenting voices or reporting of criticism in ANY article is evidence of bias.
Why are you so afraid of admitting this?
<Black helicopter? Soon I'll be on the wikipedians' *bad list*>
So wait, you've written theses using wikipedia references but you're not sure a) how to spell theses or b) what the plural of thesis is?
Clearly wikipedia should drop their detailed plot summaries of bad sci-fi shows and add a grammar/spelling section for their third degree supporters.
During those multiple degrees wouldn't have crossed paths with anyone named EssJay.....nevermind, I'll get my coat.
re; Third Degree
Not all college degrees come with speel cheeker installed and instead of making a mistack, I wold rathor let you now I don now if it's speled corect to begin with. and no, I don know EssJay. Just City University, Community College, and DeVry.
All views, regardless of however much one may intend to be objective, are subject to some degree of bias. Even a journalist's interest in a subject is a reflection of his/her bias. This is why balance is so important to honest reporting.
My point is that you're going to get a negative bias from a person's ex-lover , just as you are going to get a positive bias from a current lover. If you take an ex-lover's criticism at face value, you're not doing investigative work; you're passing gossip. Taking a current lover's praise at face value is basically the same thing, except it does less damage.
If you're going to write inflammatory language into an article (as in the title of this piece), it would serve your objective best if you show some due diligence by thoroughly investigating both sides of the argument. Otherwise, the piece lacks balance and leans heavily against the accused without any apparent questioning of the accuser.
The problem with any posting on the internet is that anyone--jilted lover, rapist, pedophile, compulsive liar, literally anyone--can write whatever dishonest, vile trash they wish and post it with impunity, enjoying the presumption of truthful reporting on the part of readers. If anyone whose name is dragged through the mud makes the tiniest attempt to set the record straight, it merely adds to the suspicions people have been fed (and have eagerly swallowed).
Whatever may be said of Jossi's motives, at least he has the cojones to act honestly, in full view, using his real name and taking responsibility for what he does. Speaking of motives, one important motive clearly absent from his activities is malice.
As far as the ex-lovers and their websites, the question as to their motive remains. I read one exchange in which they openly expressed their hatred of "premies" and gleefully discussed the idea killing them. Pretty sick stuff, no matter how you slice it. A few (even a million) questionable edits on Wikipedia pale by comparison.
I say again: Some journalist.
@Freedom to Choose a uni that likes Wiki
My uni bans any use of Wiki for assignments upon pain of disqualification.
They have good reason.
What is the real motivation here?
I failed to see the point of this article and this bothered me. The article read to me like a vendetta from a couple of people that have a personal axe to grind. We all know that Wikipedia is a volunteer organization and personally I like it and think that does a great job. Why single out one person (who bye the way has been honest enough to disclose his conflicts) and one topic and write such a long and tedious article. Did Cade even check out the validity of the information given? My instincts told me maybe not, so I decided check it out myself and came across a very different story on this website http://www.elanvital.org/faq/faq_opposition_i.htm
I am not saying who is right and who is wrong, but this type of one-sided journalism as far as I am concerned is not journalism! So I am left with the question -- what is the real motivation here?
Just a thought
While the article is longer than the attention span of some, I'd like to commend El Reg for actually publishing a long, well researched and specifically targeted article. Journalism served as a check against authorities for a good long while. It's fallen in its effectiveness recently, particularly in that much of it has become poorly researched content free drivel.
Certainly Wikipedia is neither entirely the good it portrays itself as or the evil that it's frequently portrayed as on this site. However, any entity that believes internal regulation alone can create a perpetuated honesty is, to put it very simply, moronic.
Someone outside of an organization (even if it purports to be open to all) that identifies contradictions and failures in its structure and execution can only have a positive effect on the overall quality of that entity. Assuming of course the hive-mind in question is open to criticism. I knew my logic had a critical fault in it somewhere...
"I wish we all treated mainstream media with the same suspicion lavished on Wikipedia"
Indeed. I find WP very informative (and up-to-date) on matters of fact, and 'a point of view' on matters of opinion. How could it be otherwise?
WRT cults, I cannot hear the word without thinking of Kenneth Williams announcing: "Oh yes, I'm the biggest cult round here.."
Re: re; Third Degree
"Not all college degrees come with speel cheeker installed and instead of making a mistack, I wold rathor let you now I don now if it's speled corect to begin with. and no, I don know EssJay. Just City University, Community College, and DeVry."
The concern is not that you were unsure how to pluralise thesis, but that someone who claims to have three degrees doesn't know how to find it out. It is only someone with researching skills that inadequate who would use wikipedia as a source.
If I was marking your work I'd see it as a) an inability to distinguish a reliable from an unreliable source or b) an atempt to pad out your references.
Out of interest, in what subjects are you "degrees"? Mine (BSc & MSc) are both in physics and I would most likely have been publicly mocked for trying to pass of wikipedia as a source for anything. I also taught for a while and I had 11yr olds who understood why wikipedia should not be referenced.
Well worth reading 6 pages for, it's a pleasent change from typical journalism with a couple of paragraphs of opinion and not bothering to show / admit to having done no research.
- - -
The reason why articles like this are so valueable is that Wikipedia contains masses of accurate and detailed information, and shows that user generated content can be very good.
Sadly it also shows that we haven't found a way to use this to create the genuinely incredible source of information it 'might' be able to become. Personally I use wikipedia for lots of things, but if its even remotely important then I'll check as many other sources as I can find.
Far too busy to read six pages, but I did, right to the end...
... and then also found the time to login and complain about how long it was. And boring. And irrelevant. And not proven. And how it didn't touch any raw nerves here, no sir, because we are - ahem, I mean I AM - just a neutral observer.
And a very logical one, I'm sure you'll agree.
(BRILLIANT article. Absolute Wiki corrupts, absolutely.)
Kept checking the article at Wikipedia...
and a real edit war is on! Guess El Reg´s investigation opened a nice can of wikis over there!
The cult mentioned in the article by Cade Metz is called Elan Vital.
Now, three comments on this site by Alan Roetinger (real name or pseudonym ?), Linda, Pepe are linking to the web site of the said cult. Is this an attempt to improve
the Google rating of this web site or an attempt to convert the infidels ?
And do the 3 accounts correspond to 3 different persons ? If so since when
have they registered ?
They are documented quite openly on the Elan Vital website--an obvious source of information if one is interested in balance (an important quality in legitimate journalism). I would think that the author of this article IN PARTICULAR should want to make at least a passing attempt at impartiality and balance. Did he not use google at all?
It turns out this guy Brauns owns three HATE GROUP websites! If you want to know who these guys are, and what motivates them, here is the link:
OF COURSE THEY WOULD CALL HIS SITES HATE SPEACH SITES THEY ARE NEGATIVE OF THE GROUP turns out that they would not be considered hate speach by anybody not off that group
wiki != wikipedia
Please, you can at least be a little educated about the difference between the type of software that runs a website and the website itself. That'd be like referring to El Reg as "Server-side".
Life is free-form and freely-editable, an unstable progression of dominant gestalts. It's beginning to occur to me that some of the rancor generated by Wikipedia is due to it's similarity to the instability, the mutability of life itself. "You can't count on Wikipedia, it changes from day to day...", but how many people count on increasingly filtered and concentrated media that can be counted on to facilitate the March of Empire?
People, organizations, systems are constantly trying to sell us prefabricated identities complete with self-sealing world views that serve hidden agendas. These mind-forged manacles are popular because they provide some respite from the rough-and-tumble of life, though at the price of screening out the cognitive dissonance that would lead us to deeper understanding and, more dangerously, autonomy.
MacLuhan again: "Information overload = pattern recognition".
This is not a defense of Wikipedia per se, merely a suggestion that the confusion and controversy of democracy will ultimately serve you better than any flavor of mind control, no matter how popular.
Edit war is heating up
I found this to be a very interesting article, and well worth of 6 pages. I followed up with a visit to
The discussion between Sylviecyn, Momento & jossi sheds more light on the background of this - and for those who think the issue is about Prem Rawat or even Wikipedia: you've missed the point.
Nice to see Wikipedia linking to the "Lord of the Universe" article on El Reg, I wonder how long that edit will last...
Echoes of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_Awareness_Network, to quote a reliable source ;)
My favourite quote must surely be:
"First off, it's titled "Wikipedia ruled by 'Lord of the Universe'", which is your first red flag. It's extremely sensational. It assumes that Wikipedia is ruled by someone, that this someone is the "Lord of the Universe"".
Sensationalism from The Register? How could you! For the purposes of humour, for the schmerposes of humour.
@Steve with degrees
you may notice on this site that if you criticise others for something, it's usually best not to just spell check your own comment, but to grammar check it also :)
"publicly mocked for trying to pass of wikipedia as a source"
You may notice that I'm not actually criticising you, just pointing something out, so if I've made a grammatical booboo, you can shut your fucking hole. :P
Spot the difference
Jesus: Sell all you possess, give your money to the poor, and follow me (do what I do).
Typical cult leader : Sell all you possess, give your money to *me*, do what I say (not what I do).
Good investigative journalism, by the way.
Conflict of interest
I used to edit the Prem Rawat and associated entries in Wikipedia. I found Jossi Fresco to be painfully assiduous in ensuring ALL edits in those entries followed Wikipedia policy. I can say that because he annoyed me intensely by making sure my edits followed policy, and changing or deleting them when they did not. In fact, we exchanged "vigorous" words.
At no time did he appear to be exercising any bias towards Prem Rawat.
Metz's article is just a rehash of material that exists on the site of Mike Finch and others. It's hardly investigative journalism. Investigative journalism investigates, not regurgitates.
COI actually relates to a core issue with wikipedia. I was formerly a highly active contributor to this site, but I have found that negative aspects of many topics entailing issues of faith or patriotism or simple allegiance are totally uneditable for "civilian" contributors as they are controlled by vested-interest editors who purposely employ their administrative muscle to restrict criticism of such issues of faith. Anyone who has tried to contribute e.g. in the field of Israel-Palestine knows exactly what I am talking about, these articles are tightly controlled by a couple of zionists, and the article is essentially entirely locked down by these revert-monsters. Its also entirely natural for a brainwashed cult fanatic to attempt to control the exact topic plus the global policy on permissions to control such topics in spite of a COI. Aren't there enough editors around? Shouldn't any COI upon statement or discovery lead to the editor becoming immediately ENTIRELY barred from that topic/subject area? I have actually given up and withdrawn from making contributions. I vastly enjoyed the register article for pointing out just one instance of this problem; nonetheless, this is a systemic issue. Theres been a lot of busting parties with vested interests via IP, which led to good press. When in comes to wikipedia-internal vested interests, the same or even higher standards ought to be applied. COI should be a lot stricter. [also posted on COI-N comments page]
COI and vested interest
COI actually relates to a core issue with wikipedia. I was formerly a highly active contributor to this site, but I have found that negative aspects of many topics entailing issues of faith or patriotism or simple allegiance are totally uneditable for "civilian" contributors as they are controlled by vested-interest editors who purposely employ their administrative muscle to restrict criticism of such issues of faith. Anyone who has tried to contribute e.g. in the field of Israel-Palestine knows exactly what I am talking about, these articles are tightly controlled by a couple of zionists, and the article is essentially entirely locked down by these revert-monsters. Its also entirely natural for a brainwashed cult fanatic to attempt to control the exact topic plus the global policy on permissions to control such topics in spite of a COI. Aren't there enough editors around? Shouldn't any COI upon statement or discovery lead to the editor becoming immediately ENTIRELY barred from that topic/subject area? I have actually given up and withdrawn from making contributions. I vastly enjoyed the register article for pointing out just one instance of this problem; nonetheless, this is a systemic issue. Theres been a lot of busting parties with vested interests via IP, which led to good press. When in comes to wikipedia-internal vested interests, the same or even higher standards ought to be applied. COI should be a lot stricter. [also posted on the COI-N discussion page]
There are free spiritual portals where you can write your comments about gurus
There are free spiritual portals where you can write your comments about gurus with no editors and followers changing it.
As for example www.gurusfeet.com/guru and www.myspace.com and others.
Who cares about wikipedia when it comes to spirituality?
We are finding out who the unlaughing people are
I am being blocked from editing in wikipedia because my name being Rawat in Mumbai. Immediately jossi came and blocked me. Now I can just be editing own user discussion page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Prem_Rawat
(Visit there and you can leave a message or a worthwhile link, thanks)
I am researching how cults grab people and then some people spit them out. It is not allowed to be spitting out Mr Ji's ideas because they are so fixed. Maybe that is why he is getting book about himself written by a dog training person. Wikipedia is providing stong evidence of how cult holds its people and, I am proposing, makes them unhappy and unlaughing for their whole lives. But they are not wanting people to know how unhappy they are because they are programmed to be slaves and to make others too. How sad! People are telling me.