Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has been shot dead, according to Wikipedia, the online, up-to-the-minute encyclopedia.
Apparently, the assassin was a "friend" of the victim of a recent controversy which ironically, smeared former Robert F Kennedy aid John Seigenthaler as a suspect in the assassination of both Kennedy brothers. That claim, which the site carried for several months, along with the assertion that Seigenthaler had lived in Russia, was eventually proved false.
"At 18:54 EST on December 12, John Seigenthaler's wife, who was infuriated at Wikipedia regarding the recent scandal regarding his role in the Kennedy Assassination, came into the house, where Jim was having dinner. Wearing a mask, he [sic] shot him three times in the head and ran," reported the online reference source.
The free-for-all, write-it-yourself website prides itself on its fact checking.
Wales made his fortune in bond trading before setting up the Bomis pornography ring. A long time devotee of Ayn Rand, Wales recently criticized the decision to grant federal funds to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, according to reports on a web discussion board.
I Duce: Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales
With co-founder Larry Sanger, who has since left the project, he helped kick-start the project just as the dot com boom was collapsing, and now he's the public face of Wikipedia. Before his "death", Jimmy Wales had become a familiar sight on cable TV news, usually vowing to "tighten up" the project's editing processes in response to the public scandal that had broken that week.
His death will be mourned by many across the internet.
The news of the "shooting" even made the venerable London Times, yesterday. The Times noted that after the first Seigenthaler scandal broke, the now "deceased" Jimmy Wales had, as he has so often, promised to tighten up a few nuts and bolts in the "encyclopedia's" editorial processes.
He certainly had his work cut out.
"A cursory search today suggested that these procedures - which require contributors to register basic details before posting articles - were being defeated by a relentless wave of vandals, apparently co-ordinating their assaults from a series of chatrooms dedicated to its demise."
"The loss of credibility has caused commentators to question whether Wikipedia is destined to follow the LA Times's doomed experiment in unrestricted internet comment, Wikitorial, which had to be closed down after just two days under a bombardment of pornographic postings."
Is nothing sacred?
So is Wikipedia a source of reference, or just a great big game?
Speaking to The Register last month, former Britannica editor Bob McHenry charictarized Wikipedia as a game, one of many multiplayer shoot-em-up games that have been made popular by the spread of networked computers.
"It's got the public playing the encyclopedia game," he told us recently. "It's also like playing a game in the sense that playing it has no consequences. If something goes wrong, you just restart. No problem!" he said.
For the record, The Register must note that the ubermeister of Wikipedia appears to be alive and well
The "news" of his death consisted of a random edit to his own, particularly fulsome entry on the encyclopedia he helped create. ®
Update: A reader writes -
Date: Sat, 17 Dec 2005 10:14:36 UT To: "Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco" <email@example.com> From: "Gerry Steele"
Glad to see you took my advice on board Andrew. Very suspicious you found such a spurious old edit. Most odd indeed. Note the speed with which it was reverted too.
Please note how a serious reporter deals with these issues:
You are but a stain upon the common sense of the profession. I shall see to it personally with the means at my disposal that your name, and the name of poor (amateur) journalism, become synonyms. This will be no hard task. Largely thanks to the published material at my disposal I will simply have to objectively commentate upon your articles.
May your carear rest in peace Mr Orlowski.