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 …

COMMENTS

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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
    Flame

    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.

  3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  4. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Jesus

    "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.

    Bizarre.

  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
    Flame

    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
    Coat

    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

    @Tony

    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
    Flame

    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

    Definitions

    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

    basically...

    ...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".....

    <snip>

    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.

    </snip>

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    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

    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
    Go

    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 MyWikiBiz.com, 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:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_is_not_for_things_made_up_in_school_one_day

  26. Jonathon Green
    Alien

    I for one welcome...

    ...our new Indian born Spiritual Overlords.

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

    --

    JG

  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 <http://www.stallman.org/watchmen.html>.

    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
    Pirate

    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
    Stop

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    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
    Alert

    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
    Alert

    Wikicults

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

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Lenz#Trivia

    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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Lenz#Computer_software_entrepreneur

    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
    Joke

    @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

    @David:

    That is just precious! Such delicious irony.

    -dZ.

  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
    Alert

    Wikifiddling

    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

    Wanker

    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
    Stop

    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:

    http://www.elanvital.org/faq/faq_opposition_i.htm

    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

    answer

    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
    Stop

    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

    Hmph

    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.

  51. Pepe
    Thumb Down

    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.

    Pepe.

  52. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    @ 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!

  53. Matthew
    Black Helicopters

    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.

  54. Chris Hamerton

    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.

  55. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge
    Go

    re: A Bit Of Maths

    http://mathbench.umd.edu/mod222_chisquare/finalgraphics/dilbert1.gif

    Good article...

  56. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    @ Chris Hamerton

    So Chris, in the interests of openess, what's your Wiki handle?

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @Michael

    "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.

  59. 4a$$Monkey
    Alien

    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]

    PRAISE XENU!!!!

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    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.

  61. Alan Roettinger

    @ 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.

  62. Trevor Pearson

    Re: Jesus

    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 ?

    Trev.

  63. Mike Hoagland
    Go

    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."

    Thank you.

  64. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Alien

    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 ?

    amfM

  65. Magnus

    @Chris Pemberton

    "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...

  66. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    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?).

  67. Matthew
    Black Helicopters

    @ 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*>

  68. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Third Degree?

    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.

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    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.

  70. Alan Roettinger

    @ Matthew

    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.

  71. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    @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.

  72. linda

    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?

    Cheers, Linda

  73. Serenity
    Happy

    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...

  74. James Pickett

    @John Benson

    "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.."

  75. Steve

    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.

  76. N1AK

    Good Article

    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.

  77. MarkMcA
    Happy

    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.)

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    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!

  79. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Spamlinks

    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 ?

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    wow

    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

  81. James Pearson
    Alert

    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".

  82. John Benson
    Alert

    Bingo!

    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.

  83. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Criticism_of_Prem_Rawat

    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 ;)

  84. Alex
    Happy

    As predicted!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Conflict_of_interest/Noticeboard#Register_article_is_bad_editorial

    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.

  85. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Joke

    @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

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    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.

  87. Errol Vieth

    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.

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    COI wikip

    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]

  89. Regis Terme
    Paris Hilton

    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]

  90. Dani
    Happy

    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?

  91. Prem Rawat
    Unhappy

    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.

    Yours,

    Prem

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