Pardon my English; it is not my first language, nor do I speak it
often while not online.
While browsing Wikipedia recently, I stumbled across the
controversy regarding the editing of Jason Gastrich and his
organization. I am not a Wikipedia editor, but I use Wikipedia as a
tool for research. As one of my online ventures is SEO, I prefer
the format of Wikipedia for finding information quickly, rather
than the often irrelevant Google results. Thus, you could say that
I am a minor stakeholder in Wikipedia itself. As a person in need
of quick access to information, attacks on Wikipedia concern me,
but what I read about this recent conflict disturbed me enough to
comment on this issue.
As an outside observer who isn't a party to the conflict, I feel
that my input on this matter can be valuable to the process as a
I recently spoke with Mr. Gastrich via AOL Instant Messenger, so
that I might try and get another opinion on the basis of the
dispute. Before doing so, I spent approximately one hour reading
various Wikipedia pages related to the matter, as well as some of
Mr. Gastrich's own pages concerning himself and his organization.
The readings were two days ago, while my conversation occured
approximately one hour before this E-Mail was sent.
I shall reproduce the conversation below, as both a source for my
analysis, and as a curiosity to those who have a significant stake
in the ongoing dispute. The conversation is as follows:
Alexi: Why do you feel the need to turn Wikipedia into a warzone
through biased editing, all the while falsely championing your own
MrJasonGastrich: have we met?
Alexi: No, I'm not a Wikipedia editor even, but I'm incredibly
disturbed by the whole situation.
Alexi: Pardon my bad english.
MrJasonGastrich: Feel free to introduce yourself and maybe we can
chat. You obviously don't now me, but how or why do you think you
Alexi: Well, I became aware of the whole incident while I was on
Wikipedia reading RFCs related to HTTP caching implementations, and
stumbled upon the RFC concerning your conduct. Out of curiosity, I
decided to read it, and was disturbed by the level of agenda
pushing that several parties were throwing into the whole
situation. While I don't have the time to contribute to Wikipedia
myself (I'm a full time webmaster), I am a little discontent at the
notion of people using Wikipedia to wage ideological battles. As an
ex-Usenet junkie, I realize that heated debate can be interesting
and invigorating, but don't feel that Wikipedia is the place for
MrJasonGastrich: I understand. Nice to meet you.
Alexi: Perhaps you could use the openess afforded by the GFDL to
fork the Wikipedia entries which you want to, and set up your own
Wiki using the freely available MediaWiki software.
MrJasonGastrich: I've considered it and you aren't the first to
suggest it, but I don't think I'll do it.
Alexi: Why has this been made into a confrontational issue? You've
lost a lot of credibility, between the sockpuppets and the overly
inflated claims of being a professional webmaster. What is it going
to take to end this conflict?
Alexi: If you really want my opinion, I'll give it to you.
MrJasonGastrich: Why is this any of your business? Your distorted
summation of the facts is offensive.
Alexi: It is my business because Wikipedia is a resource for all
the world, and is supposed to be neutral. Your organization has
been working to destroy that neutrality. Wikipedia is much like
Jerusalem - unless it can be held by people of differing
persuasions, in peace, then in-fighting will completely destroy it.
MrJasonGastrich: I disagree with your opinion about my organization
and I believe you need to take a much closer look at the facts
before judging me as you are.
Alexi: As an outside observer, I did look at situation before
making an accusation. While what you do may be welcome in Christian
circles (I don't know, I'm not a Christian), Wikipedia is not the
place for it. Perception is key, and even if what you feel you do
is right, the very idea that so many others perceive it as wrong
can only hurt your mission of faith.
MrJasonGastrich: Since you've launched attacks at me, without all
the facts and without even introducing yourself, you've lost all
credibility with me.
Alexi: If you think I am attacking you, then you need to re-
evaluate your whole view of the world. If I chose to attack, which
I didn't, I would have entered this chat hell bent on degrading
your character with only you as the audience, as opposed to trying
to initiate a mature discussion between adults with the intent of
finding a mutually beneficial solution. As for credibility, you
ought not to cast stones, unless you truly have no credibility
issues yourself. The fact that you call yourself a professional
webmaster yet obviously don't act like it would not sit well with
many others, but I at least chose to give you the benefit of the
Alexi: What I see here is not someone who is spreading the word of
Christ through love, but someone subconsciously rejecting their
former self through a hyperimplementation of that activity's polar
opposite. Maybe you ought to conduct a bit of soul searching and
try to really understand why you chose the path you did, and what
drives to you interact with others in the way you do.
Initially, I approached Mr. Gastrich from the perspective of an
outside observer, who happened to be discontented with Mr
Gastrich's use of Wikipedia as a channel to evangelize through.
Despite the long and documented history of policy abuses by Mr.
Gastrich, as well as my own experience as a webmaster, specifically
concerning the fact that Mr. Gastrich paints himself as an Internet
professional despite my belief to the contrary, I did not seek to
engage him in an ad hominem debate, but rather, try and find a
solution beneficial to both parties.
In the course of a less than five kilobyte conversation, Mr.
Gastrich managed to convince me of his malicious editing practices.
In his fourth message to me, he completely denied the idea that
everyone who seeks the open exchange of information has at least
some stake in Wikipedia. By making an attack against my very reason
for initiating the conversation, which I spelled out to him
clearly, he was attempting to discredit my entire position based on
my lack of involvement in the dispute. Not only is this a very
immature tactic, but also is clearly indicitave of bias, as he felt
threatened by an outside opinion of the matter.
By his fifth reply to me, Mr. Gastrich had already become
needlessly defensive, and resorted to the commonplace tactic of
accusing another party of not knowing the facts, without citing
specific examples of flawed statements.
By his sixth reply to me, Mr. Gastrich had already become incivil,
and had adopted a defensive position, with intent to marginalize
any statement I made.
The way I see this situation is this: were Mr. Gastrich acting with
good intentions, he would have no need to become as defensive as he
did, both within the framework of Wikipedia, and in external
conversations, such as this one. Such defensiveness is not a tactic
employed by those acting with good faith, but rather, demonstrates
a strong desire to engage all others in heated and incivil debate.
As an outside observer, I have thought about this quite a bit, and
have come to the conclusion that Mr. Gastrich is acting not as a
representative of his faith, with the intention to spread his
beliefs to others, but rather, uses his faith and the propogation
of it in a self-supporting fashion.
Mr. Gastrich's unchristian past, as evidenced by his own admission
and conversion testimonial, leads me to believe that this new found
faith is less about faith than it is a rejection of his past. By
adopting such an aggressive stance, Mr. Gastrich is using
Christianity as a tool for his own internal struggles, and as a way
to prove to himself that he no longer wishes to lead the lifestyle
that he did. His edits attempting to dishonestly raise the
credibility of his education, as well as his vastly overstated
claims of webmastering ability lend further credence to this
personality assessment. Upon inspection of any of his websites, or
his online resume (before he took the page down), Mr. Gastrich
comes across as a deceptive individual, with a strong narcissistic
personality, and a strong desire to prove himself to others.
In my assessment, Mr. Gastrich has quite a bit of insecurity within
his personality, and is unlikely to change his behavior as the
result of any external forces. When faced with the possibility of
mediation within the framework of Wikipedia, Mr. Gastrich rejected
the spirit of the idea, and never once showed any evidence that
comprimise would be a possibility. When I suggested that he fork
current Wikipedia articles on his own server, so that he and his
organization may edit them as he so desires, he quickly dismissed
the idea as being without merit, even though, by his admission,
others before me had suggested the same idea. With regard to this
idea Mr. Gastrich exhibits an irrational set of behaviors; even
though, by his own admission, he is technically inclined, and
understands how to reach an online audience, as well as believes in
the power of the Internet to reach that audience, he chooses to
reject the idea of using a Wiki installation on his own server as
an extention of his meager online minstries. Instead, he has chosen
to fixate his energies on Wikipedia, Usenet, and other mediums,
for, in my opinion, the ability to confront others in a vocal and
I hope this external perspective helps, and that this controversy
is resolved swiftly, so that Wikipedia can continue its mission of
providing a neutral perspective to the world.
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