An Interview with Wikipedia Admin Durova

Friday, August 17, 2007
Posted by Jim Hedger @ 9:05 am

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post, “SEOs and Social Media – The New World is Not Big Enough” that took a shot or two at Wikipedia. Part of my post was based on concerns expressed in the SEO community. Other concerns I hold stem from my experience with the Open Directory Project (DMOZ), another enormous site that became a public institution and carried extraordinary weight with Google.

For whatever reasons, the article seems to have resonated with readers and it has been reproduced and reprinted in several other venues. I can’t be certain exactly how it got to the desktop of Wikipedia Administrator “Durova”, but the day after I published it on the Metamend Blog, Durova contacted me to arrange an interview.

We met the next day in Google Chat. (btw… I have a rave review of Google Chat I need to write one of these days. It is an excellent IM client to conduct interviews in.)

Though I figured our IM conversation would last about 60-minutes, we were still chatting two and a half hours later. The interview produced 13-pages (10 pt font) of direct notes and is far too long to reprint in this blog. I have printed a full transcript of the Durova interview and an accompanying article over at this morning.

One point I didn’t make in the article that I feel I can make here is that Durova seems like a straight-talking, level-headed character. Though she takes a lot of heat for the positions she stakes, her mission is clearly to try to keep Wikipedia focused on being the peoples’ encyclopedia. While acting on that mission, she has produced a growing list of detractors who accuse her of using her power arbitrarily.

I spent a few hours yesterday trolling through some of the posts placed by those detractors. The experience made me sick to my stomach. I saw eerie reminders of the Kathy Sierra incidents which culminated in Kathy’s decision to step back from writing and lecturing late last March. Malicious statements about Durova’s sexuality, intelligence and “obsession” with iconic women throughout history (she takes her pseudonym from one such woman) are laced with derogatory statements about her and women in general.

That ain’t cool folks. I am not going to share those statements or the names of the people who made them today. They are readily available with a bit of research. I am however going to reiterate my call for all forum and blog administrators to take a heavy and unwavering line on comment that crosses into personal attack and insinuation, especially if the comments are misogynistic in nature.

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