While looking at the old Wikipedia-L archives, I came across the following deliciously ironic post from none other than Jimmy Wales:

[Wikipedia-l] subpages

Jimmy Wales jwales at bomis.com
Mon Feb 25 23:33:51 UTC 2002


kband at www.llamacom.com wrote:
[...]
> If he's still the final arbiter of all Wikipedia
> functionality, then this is a moot point. If, however, we're back to
> policy by consensus, then it won't be too hard. But Mr. Wales needs to
> tell us what the story is there.

Don't think of it as "Larry as final arbiter" on the one hand and
"policy by consensus" on the other hand.  The right way to look at it
is that Larry is the final arbiter of what the consensus is.  Since
agitators on all sides are likely to never concede that the consensus
is against them, we need to have a final stopping point.

That's Larry, or maybe me if the issue is something technically beyond the
scope of his knowledge, but so far, achieving technical consensus has been
pretty easy.

--Jimbo

So, I’d like to clarify a few things for people who actually care about accuracy in writing about the early history of Wikipedia–admittedly, there aren’t many such people.

Occasionally, we find Jimmy Wales saying that I was merely a paid employee and merely carrying out his marching orders–as if he were leading the charge, and I were merely some back office functionary.  But we have it straight from the horse’s mouth that, as late as February 25, 2002, I was “the final arbiter of what the consensus is” on Wikipedia, and that the declarer of consensus was “maybe” Jimmy Wales himself “if the issue is something technically beyond the scope of his knowledge.”

I’d love for some journalist to confront Jimmy Wales with this.  Preferably live, on camera.

I’d also like to comment on what this says about Wales’ notion of consensus, that someone in authority is needed to declare it in order to shut up dissenters, but I’ll leave that to someone else.

UPDATE: I never really thought there was a consensus in that case myself; my approach was different, and more honest, than Wales’.