back to article Wikipedia ruled by 'Lord of the Universe'

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 …


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  1. Joe Stalin
    Thumb Up

    God help us!

    Could some-one please invent Web 3.0 and we can just Deprecate the whole of the Web 2.0 crud. Thank you

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Great article. Also research 'jayg'

    If you want more conflict of interest, research the shadowy persona of 'jayg'. one of the inner circle, and famed for editing any and all articles relating to the Jewish faith and the Middle East crises. Particularly known for surpressing any pro-Palestinian discussion and for arbitrarily banning anyone who might try to edit articles to show any negative element of Israel and their part in the Middle East conflict.

    Strongly supported by SlimVirgin, who has already been mentioned in other articles on El Reg.

    It's funny that this article deals with cults and cultists, given that is what Wikipedia itself has basically become.

    Where's the Jimmy-Wales-as-the-devil icon? We need one.

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  5. Anonymous Coward


    "I gave [Rawat] two inheritances, gave him a house, gave him all my time and energy - full-time," says Finch.

    what a twat.

  6. Neil Hoskins

    A Day of Definitions

    What makes a "cult" different from a "religion" different from a "superstition"? If somebody gives all his money to the catholic church and spends his life in their service then he's a monk; if he does the same thing for, say, the moonies, then he's the victim of a cult. If somebody prays constantly he's pious, but if he flicks lightswitches on and off all the time then he's got OCD.


  7. Solomon Grundy
    Thumb Up

    Article Compensation

    Jesus! Are ElReg writers paid by the word? That's the longest article I've ever read on the site.

    Good article though, I guess that's why I read all the way though it.

  8. Ian Ferguson

    Good article

    and interesting investigation.

    Another reason why not to 100% trust anything you read on the internet. Even if you wrote it...

  9. Tony

    Six pages is a bit much,

    especially when it's about wiki. I didn't even read it. Christ, are you people in competition with hardware review sites to see how many pages you can milk out of a story? Frikkin irritating.

  10. Ferry Boat

    A little piece of Persian carpet contains the answer to life

    How come these people have so much time to devote to so little? It's all a bit scary really.

    Never trust WP for any subject that might get people arguing. Look at it one day it says one thing, the day after another. It's ok to look up the capital of France but you want a decent idea about George W Brush or Israeli, forget it.

  11. John Benson

    All news and information is biased...

    ...because it comes from people. If they are on salary, they must please their employers, or at least avoid offending them. If they are writing for free, they will certainly please themselves, as bloggers and El Reg posters routinely do. If they are somewhere in between, like Wikipedia, they must hew to Wikipedia customs as enforced by the tribal elders or be suppressed.

    What Wikipedia does is expose the social dynamics of a laudable attempt to somehow democratize the construction of "impartial news and information". The question is not whether the process is flawed: it obviously is, and always will be due to its necessarily social (and therefore political) nature. The real question is whether the Wikipedia process is likely, on average, to provide better (less-biased) information than we get from the mainstream, bought-and-paid-for media.

    I, for one, appreciate the news about tussling over Wikipedia article edits because it proves that there is at least some translucency (if not transparency) to the process. Corporate marketeers and the mainstream media are professionally opaque in this regard, yet their news is routinely accepted and reported on here, so I think that it is a bit of a cheap shot for El Reg to snipe at Wikipedia as it frequently does.

    That said, I don't consider the current article to be sniping, but simply an interesting window into a social enterprise that attempts to democratize the provision of unbiased information.

    Marshall MacLuhan did us all a great favor by pointing out that "news from nowhere" is an illusion; lack of knowledge about how sausage is made is no guarantee of hygiene. In summary: I wish we all treated mainstream media with the same suspicion lavished on Wikipedia.

  12. Bounty
    Paris Hilton

    viral religion

    That'll be three lightswitch flickers and a hail Bounty.

    I think a it's called a cult when you take more than 10% of their income.

    Well, it was six pages with pictures...

    Every wiki article could be linked to a forum with comments. Then when you see the editor fighting off a few hundred detractors, you'll have a better picture of the situation. Of course digging through the 192012 comments on Pastafarianism or Iraq might be a little rough. Maybe a comment rating system with 1 vote per logged in user so you can sort by rank?

  13. Ian Wilson

    Oh I don't care.....

    Anyone who actually believes the obvious rubbish written about "special people" or those that are meant to be god, sort of deserves everything they get...or don't I guess in this case.

    It was a good article though - does it set a record for the number of pages on an el ref article?

  14. Eduard Coli
    Thumb Down

    Geek Fascist

    When will someone please make Wikipedia account for all of the taxpayer money they have sucked up in their little pet project by suing them into the ground?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    You didn't read the article but feel you can criticise it? What sort of moron goes to the hassle of skipping to the end of a multi-page article just to slag it off?

    Good article, well written. Nice point from Neil Hoskins, too.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re A Day of Definitions

    'What makes a "cult" different from a "religion" different from a "superstition"? If somebody gives all his money to the catholic church and spends his life in their service then he's a monk; if he does the same thing for, say, the moonies, then he's the victim of a cult'.

    Why don't you just do a bit of googling on the difference between cults and mainstream religions before making easy remarks.

    And no I am not 'into' a religion just agnostic....

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Have Faith!

    Have more faith in your followers! Extended commentary is unnecessary. We long ago accepted our Vulture Master. Will be sending my inheritance as soon as the remaining parent kicks off and the paper bag she lives in by the highway becomes available.

  18. Morely Dotes


    Cult: A group superstition which is rejected by the rational.

    Religion: A group superstition which is embraced by the otherwise-rational.

    Superstition: A belief which is contrary to demonstrated facts, or which cannot be tested in any way,

    To my mind, there's no difference. Moonies, Catholics, Republicans, Christian Democrats, [insert your favorite dead horse] and Wikipedians all believe in things which are clearly contrary to facts.

  19. David Mantripp


    ...a cult is what big religions call small religions.

    Very similar to the IT industry really.

  20. Ian Wilson

    Just checked out his profile....

    ..and I get this - about sums him up and all other people that are under the impression that there MUST BE "something out there".....


    You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.


  21. Anonymous Coward

    Re : @Tony

    "What sort of moron goes to the hassle of skipping to the end of a multi-page article just to slag it off?"

    I've just skipped to the end of a multi-page article for the purpose of complaining that it was overly long. If you don't like it, tough.

  22. Andrew Moore Silver badge

    A cult?

    to quote Jasper Carrot "Look at that, just one letter wrong"

  23. Alex
    Thumb Up

    Last time

    The last El Reg article about Wikipedia lit the Gary Weiss article up like a Christmas tree. It was a very entertaining few days of watching the farce unfurl over there.

    However, The Register paid for its arrogance by falling further out of favour with the hive mind generally and the ruling elite in particular. I predict a few 'revisions' will make their way into their own article.

  24. Gregory Kohs

    MyWikiBiz is reborn

    I'm the founder of the MyWikiBiz mentioned tangentially in the article. We've relaunched the whole MyWikiBiz biz -- now it's a wiki directory devoted to everything Wikipedia would call "non-notable". And the subjects of the real-world article topics get the final say in what their article says about themselves.

    Visit, if you're interested.

    Why didn't Cade Metz interview me for this article? :-(

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sensible routine questions spoilt by exaggeration and 'puff'

    Jossi is involved with prem, and to a significant extent (that anyone involved in that article) knows it. Fine.

    Jossi may have edited to an agenda - transparency, scrutiny, yes, that's what the press is for.

    Jossi is a "leading administrator"... "part of Wikipedia's inner circle"... a member of the "Ruling clique"...

    Hmm. In true Wikipedia terms:

    {{cite needed}} {{failed verification}}

    and a link to this page:

  26. Jonathon Green

    I for one welcome...

    ...our new Indian born Spiritual Overlords.

    Well, someone was going to say it sooner or later....



  27. Edmund Cramp Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I like biased reporting - it tells you a lot about people.

    Interesting ... I remember Mike Finch and he was always a pretty much OK guy at the mission. But, while the DML aspect is interesting, the real question here is the ago old, "Who will watch the watchmen?" - and that's pretty well discussed on Stallman's website here <>.

    While I'm no great fan of Wikipedia, it does have its uses and seems to be attempting to be reasonably transparent in its biases. Frankly anyone who reads uncritically generally deserves what they get ... whether it's wikipedia, the CIA factbook or the menu.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone else noticed

    that the Prem Rawat wikipedia page has now been edited

    "in 2008, an article by The Register stated that the organization is "widely recognized as a cult"[78] and that the editing of the Prem Rawat article by some editors of Wikipedia is evidence of "... the most extreme conflict of interest in the history of Wikipedia." [79]"

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Funny stuff

    Attempts to add this article to the wikipedia entry have been deleted by the cult kooks throughout the day.

    What can you do...?

  30. Anonymous Coward


    Look, if you've got verbal diarrhoea, take it somewhere else please Cade.

    Surely no one with any sense treats Wikipedia as definitive, but surely no one with a proper job and any sense writes 6 pages (most of which no one will read) expounding one tiny aspect of thousands of good reasons why Web2.0 is, on the whole, a joke (to everybody except the financial bigwigs, obviously). Not even if they've got a personal grudge against the individual Wikifiddler concerned.

    FFS Cade, stick to rambling about the music industry etc.

    Or maybe see if you can get Alex Cameron to do another plug for his consultancy, the fact that Tiscali have just launched another add-on to their IPtv product must be worth a rehash of their press release, right?

    But no more Wikichunderings, please?

  31. Charles Manning

    Reg wiki articles?

    If Reg posted articles as wiki entries hen those that bitch about the article being too long can just edit it.

  32. Anonymous Coward


    Here's another Wikipedia take on a cult leader, Frederick Lenz:

    The trivia section is totally, totally unbiased.

    "Rama began to exude golden light in 1980, based on numerous accounts of students and non-students. This became more intensified through his life."

    "He was noted for bringing people into a high, ecstatic state of mind simply by meditating."

    "Lenz was 6'3". Both supporters and detractors often describe him as strikingly tall and good-looking."

    There's also this section:

    Which goes on and on about how many amazing, high tech companies Lenz started and all the advanced technology he was developing, but fails to name even 1 product, company or project in five LONG paragraphs.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Great article

    This is the first time in ages I have read something in the Reg or another hack tabloid paper :-) that can actually be called a great article!

    But, let me guess, you have recently had a rapid re-edit of your entry in the Wiki, or perhaps the Reg has, or you are now banned from editing Wiki articles?

  34. Matt Martin

    @Andrew Moore

    A colt is a young male horse, under the age of four.

    I fail to see the relevance to this article!

  35. DZ-Jay

    Re: Has anyone else noticed


    That is just precious! Such delicious irony.


  36. The Other Steve

    Oh no, not this time.

    I'm not reading all that ! You got me last time with the five pager, but six is way to much pedia fiddling news for me.

    I'll just assume it was good, and that wikipedia is still the premier site for finding out which characters were in each episode of the Simpsons, okay ?

  37. Anonymous Coward


    Is that the truth, or did you read it on wikipedia?

  38. Paul M.

    Wikipedia = FAIL

    "However, The Register paid for its arrogance by falling further out of favour with the hive mind generally and the ruling elite in particular. I predict a few 'revisions' will make their way into their own article."

    I know you're being ironic, but - isn't what makes this site OK (between Bofh columns) is that it doesn't give a rats ass what the web 2.0 "hive mind" thinks?

    The world's media has published thousands of articles about the Great God Jimbo, and maybe a dozen explaining why Whackypedia was doomed to fail. Most of those were published here. It was frickin' obvious from the start that you'd get cults and nutballs in charge.

    So why did everyone ELSE miss the story - and what else have they missed?

  39. Bounty

    "And yet the word "cult" does not appear in the guru's Wikipedia biography."

    I'd like to mention real quick, that while it doesn't contain the word "cult" in the body of the biography on wikipedia, it does seem to technically contain it in the references at the bottom. One of the references is from an "Encyclopedic Handbook of Cults." Then again who checks references?

  40. peter
    Thumb Up

    Mashup Web2.0 Democracy

    The problem with most articles on wikipedia is that the bias is hard to spot unless you already know the subject/content inside out. With mainstream media it tends to be more obivous and there will be other articles with a different bias making it easy to spot contentious areas.

    Wikipedia results in a mess by combining the two and removing the cues we all use to help us decide for ourselves. With wikipedia the cults form because if you have no interest or contention with the vast majority of articles except your own pet areas, you can work on a quid pro quo basis to either viewpoint where contention exists resulting in a mixed democratic consensus, which shouldn't occour in an encyclopedia or a democracy. Planes taking off from conveyor belts would be fascinating if wikipedia wasn't computer/geek based to see how it played out.

  41. E


    I could not get past the first page. This was worth 6 pages?

    Listen very carefully. Listen very carefully. Listen very very very carefully: many writers are not impartial; some are knowingly so; some are not.

    For the author: why not spend your time criticizing Penguin for it's many UK centric and UK friendly history books? Or New American Library for publishing Ayn Rand? Both have had vastly more influence than some fellow perhaps protecting his guru on Wikipedia.

    I suppose pointing out the gaping holes - or reasons for same - in the older, more important and vastly more relevant mythologies is too hard work.

    Does the author have an undisclosed bone to pick with Wikipedia, or perhaps it is merely easier to write a polemic and pass it off as commentary?

    Let us have some plain disclosure.

  42. James Pearson

    oh dear - el reg is at it again

    1. For those of you commenting - "wiki" is *not* the same as "wikipedia".

    2. From TFA: "Working in tandem with others, he soon created a separate article called "Criticism of Prem Rawat," moved all Rawat criticisms to this new article, and eventually had it deleted."

    a) In general, splitting off a section such as that is a result of it's getting too large to fit comfortably in the main article. As such, "split off" articles are much larger than they would be if they remained in the main article. And y'know, they're summarized and linked to from the main article. (concession: in this case, not anymore)

    b) From the RfD: "Keep - After reading Gary's comments, I reluctantly vote to keep. --≈ jossi ≈ 04:54, Feb 27, 2005 (UTC)"

    3. In the COI noticeboard, a new user brought up some issues, they debated, and it was over. There was no cabal-ish hush-hush.

    4. The very nature of a wiki is that people can edit articles themselves, which naturally are things they are interested in. COI needs some reworking still (after a bit of work) to address this issue; those who are involved in something are those who actually know something about it.

    5. I can't view wannabekate's summary of Jossi's edits ('cause there are so darn many), but from familiarity with the tool, I'm guessing that you're looking at the articles he's edited the most. I hope you realize that with over 55k edits, it takes a while to change that kind of thing...

    6. Jossi posted a brief note about the Reg article on his page. You might want to take a look at it.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    letters, words, sentences and pages

    six pages, that is like several words, man I have to write something about that, 'cause the world ought to know that I won't read that much about one subject, but the world should read what I think about it

    Paris Hilton because I don't think even she find it hard to read six pages.

  44. Alan Roettinger
    Thumb Down

    Conflict of interest?

    I'm not sure it merits 6 pages, but I do understand a journalist's concern over possible conflict of interest on the part of Jossi (who, I found interesting, makes no effort to mask his identity--which would have effectively kept this whole thing in the dark).

    What I DON'T get is this: If Cade Metz is a serious journalist worth his salt (and not some hack with his own conflict of interest issues), why didn't he also investigate John Brauns, who is so prominently featured and quoted in the article, or any of the other detractors mentioned?

    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:

    It wasn't hard to find. So what's Metz's agenda?

    Some journalist.

  45. Andy Worth

    Re: Jesus

    ("I gave [Rawat] two inheritances, gave him a house, gave him all my time and energy - full-time," says Finch.

    what a twat.)

    You just made me spit out my coffee lol.....such a straightforward and honest point of view :)

    Oh as for the article, you could have just written "Wikipedia is corrupt"....which we already knew anyway.

  46. Karl Lattimer


    q: "When is a cult not a cult?"

    a: When its scientology!

  47. regadpellagru
    Thumb Up

    COI ? Don't act !

    Really enjoyed this article that very precisely describes how it goes behind the Wikipedia curtains. Very distrurbing indeed and very interesting when you see the youngsters refering so often to WP.

    Great work !

    The source of all that is in my opinion the wording of the code of conduct of WP: "According to the site's official conflict of interest policy, you're allowed to edit articles where you have a conflict of interest as long as you edit neutrally - i.e. tell all sides of the story - and openly divulge that conflict of interest."

    What does it mean neutrally ? Both sides of the story ? Or 3 ? Are you morally bound to know all sides of the story ? See, doesn't work. In commercial nego ethics, rather than saying unclear things like that, and offer temptation to "ignore" something, they just ask you to disengage ASAP from the deal in favor of someone else. It will have to be the case for WP in the long run. COI ? Don't act.

  48. Anonymous Coward

    A Bit Of Maths

    "roughly 35 per cent of Fresco's edits are made during standard California business hours"

    Assuming a standard California working day is 8 hours, that's 24/8 = 3, eg 33.3%. Pretty close to 35%. Regression to the mean, anyone?

    It's no surprise to me that someone who has spent the best part of adult life in one cult finds another one to join, rather than just getting mates and going down the pub like the rest of us.

  49. regadpellagru
    Thumb Down

    Anti-blogosphere measure at El Reg

    Oh, and I don't usually comment on readers comments, but here go ;-)

    I find it appaling so many El Reg readers (well, possibly abusive term, since they're all AC) do complain (some confessing they didn't even go until the end) about the length of the article, without even refering to its content. It's worth the length since it's been a lot of reasearch and facts, to prove the indeed very polemic point. What a scoop: the uber-mod of the COI policy being a cultist ! There is an IT angle, and also a very information in IT angle.

    If you guys are unable to read more than 3 quality pages due to an extremely tiny brain, your IT life is over, you're already on the offshored list, and thus, would you pls move to other readings ?

    IT documentation can easily raise to 1200 pages, so is several logarithmic scales above your league, and the same and the same applies to encyclopediae. No 3 pagers in this area. Move along, nothing here for you !

    To El Reg: Time to take anti-blogosphere measures, like, I don't know, a mandatory login for reading El Reg + a reading/understanding test of 10 pages at the end. Failure would deactivate the login for 1 week.

    Thoughts ?

  50. Spleen


    The article was comprehensive, but it reveals very little. A page on a pretty harmless and insignificant cult is sub-par because its main editor is part of the cult. But then most Wikipedia articles are sub-par, particularly the ones of minority interest - like those on harmless and insignificant cults. This is mainly because of the incoherence and lack of effort which is to be expected from a free and freely-editable encyclopaedia. Where there is effort, it's naturally going to be because the author has a vested interest in a lot of cases (either pro or con).

    If you want people to put effort into diligent research who have no vested interest in the subject, guess what? They're going to want money. So if you want reliability, pay for it.


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