I've been slack about blogging here over the past week or so. It's been quite busy, even apart from the fact that I'm still under a bit of (largely self-imposed) pressure to finish the thesis, and I am mopping up stray things that I've identified I need to read and consider, now I've thought most of the issues through. I also put aside a bit of time this week to review Rudy Rucker's new novel, Mathematicians in Love, for The New York Review of Science Fiction.
On Monday night I joined a small group for drinks with Garry Kilworth and his wife Annette, who've been in town for some months but are just catching up with the sf people. Garry and Annette were lovely, relaxed people who seemed to be enjoying their time in Australia.
And then there's been classes to prepare and teach, with the new semester.
In my spare time, around the edges, I got caught up in the intense discussions going on over at Wikipedia in the aftermath of what now seems to be known as "the Essjay scandal" or "the Essjay controversy".
I'll save any thoughts that I have about that until another time. Suffice to say that a very good contributor to Wikipedia, known as "Essjay" had risen to hold a lot of power and responsibility within Wikipedia and related entities, perhaps helped to some extent by his fabricated identity as a highly-qualified academic with expertise in (of all things) theology. He turns out to be a much younger person with no such qualifications. This sort of identity fabrication happens all the time on the internet, of course, and people are rightly suspicious in many cases, but the thing is that Essjay actually did terrific work and never seemed to act to undermine the encyclopedia; he played the role of enthusiastic, intelligent, academic expert helping out the project ... played it so well that his work actually was of great benefit.
However, he came unstuck because he maintained the whole charade to The New Yorker in an extensive interview last year. When he recently took up a real-life job with the Wikipedia-related organisation Wikia, he came clean about his background (or at least gave a more plausible story for someone of his age). Thereafter, more and more came out about how he had gained advantages from, and otherwise misused, his made-up identity (though, again, while doing a more than competent job as a contributor to Wikipedia, as an administrator, and just about everything else). There's now been a lot of coverage of this in the mainstream press as well as all over the net.
Interesting times. I feel sorry for Essjay - who now seems to have left both Wikipedia and his job at Wikia - while wondering how people get themselves in these situations. The events do tend to cast Wikipedia into disrepute, so there is now a huge debate going on about what to do to try to minimise the possibility of anything on this scale of deception ever happening again.