Wikipedia’s Wales Wails Over Dirt, Expenses

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One of the problems with publicly-editable reference project like Wikipedia is that any subject is fair game, from the politics of how the organization is run to the private lives of its founders.

James "Jimbo" Wales, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation, is finding himself again at the center of controversy following an ugy breakup with Canadian political pundit Rachel Marsden. Wales is currently going through a divorce, but is the subject of steamy online chat transcripts released by Marsden, who also put items of Wales’ clothing on sale on eBay Canada. The chats suggest that Wales may have violated Wikipedia’s conflict of interest rules to urge a proxy to edit Marsden’s Wikipedia entry to be more to her liking.

Wales has previously edited his own Wikipedia entry to omit generally-accepted statements that Larry Sanger co-founded Wikipedia.

The scandal has been fueled by a blog entry from former Wikimedia employee Danny Wool, who alleged Wales used Wikimedia founation funds to support his lifestyle, including attempting to bill the foundation for a $1,300 steak dinner and $30,000 in other expenses. Wool said the Marsden scandal prompted him to speak up, although he had previously been holding his tongue for the foundation’s sake.

Wikimedia board members have made public statements in support of Wales, with Florence Devouard saying only that Wales had been "slow in submitting receipts" for expenses. Brad Patrick, a lawyer cited by Wool but who no longer works for Wikimedia, claims Wool’s statements are "erroneous" and may be grounds for legal action.

Wikimedia’s is financed by user contributions; Wikipedia does not charge for access or run advertisements.