Voxopedia again

For my sins, I listened to a Vox Day video about his plans for a Twitter/Gab replacement. I say ‘listened’ because I was out for a walk. I usually avoid video because it’s a crap informational medium — you get a lot of rambling, it’s hard to skip about and review what people said earlier in light of what they said later and it’s hard to quote. I think people structure their ideas less well in these kinds of videos and given how poorly rightwing pundits structure their ideas, video ramblings provide little insights.

What had caught my interest was that much of the content was actually about Voxopedia, the vanity Wikipedia project that’s just like Wikipedia but out of date and with nonsense attached. I was curious because manifestly as a project it has failed and clearly at some point it will be abandoned. I had assumed that it had already slipped into a zone of lack-of-interest as newer, shinier projects competed for attention*. But it seems not. rather Vox was holding up Voxopedia as a shining example of how he has all the experience he needs to run a social network.

Now note, currently Voxopedia has about 6-10 active editors or whom only two really are doing any work, two of whom are just feuding conspiracy theories maintaining their own separate (and incompatible) conspiracy pages, one of whom is engaged  in a personal campaign to document all things about Englebert Humperdinck (and nothing else) and one of whom is doing nothing but write hate pieces about transgender people.

Vox’s plan for Voxopedia was that every visitor could tailor what they see to their own perspective. The theory being that a leftwing person might edit a page and a rightwing person might edit a page and then somehow (if you know the biases of the editors) you could see a version of the page that matched your own position. The obvious flaw in that plan is the same as the flaw in the more basic plan of just cloning Wikipedia: a wiki needs active editors and Voxopedia doesn’t have them because nobody with genuine subject matter expertise would want to be involved with it (barring subject matter expertise in Englebert Humperdinck, and to be fair Voxopedia does now have better coverage of Mr Humperdinck than Wikipedia).

It’s fascinating to me because I’m genuinely interested in flawed thinking, in particular when there is a big and obvious gap between the model presented and the facts in evidence or when a person adopts locally a belief/ideology/philosophy that they are opposed to more globally. In the case of Voxopedia, Vox’s aspiration is one of a radical subjectivism about truth: i.e. that people should be able to read an encyclopedia that matches their perspective and that the problem with Wikipedia is that it tries to have definitive (at least for a point in time) articles. Wikipedia, of course, sidesteps the issue of ‘truth’ and aims for two standards: verifiable and notable. Voxopedia abandons both which leads to this https://infogalactic.com/info/Bibhorr_formula

That questions on the nature of truth can be ideological is nothing new but circumstances have led to the right having to simultaneous assert a dogmatic adherence to a rigid concept of THE TRUTH whilst embracing a radical scepticism/subjectivism. The left has no shortage of questions and weird positions about the nature of truth also but the core difference is that on the left those form a genuine debate and for practical purposes, there is a working shared understanding that facts matter. Voxopedia takes this descent into radical subjectivism further in principle (although in practice its just six guys scribbling over a copy of Wikipedia) and makes the basic question of quality control an ideological one. It’s only not worse precisely because hardly anybody edits it at all.

Vox does raise one interesting point: “it’s impossible to claim that Infogalactic is Wikipedia for Nazis” The point here is to contrast it with the rapidly collapsing Gab which often has been described as Twitter for Nazis. He asserts the reason for this lies with how well it has been managed. However, the core reason is that Voxopedia is Wikipedia for about 6 to 10 guys and you can literally describe it in terms of the personal interests of a few people (for example Englebert Humperdinck). At least one of those people has vehemently extreme hate for a marginalised group but there’s just not enough people actively involved in the project to call it Wikipedia for anything. Ironically, it’s just not NOTABLE enough. When it gets covered by serious media it is usually as part of an overall survey of odd alt-right alternative internet sites.

That’s one of the reasons I still write about it weirdly enough. I don’t see much point in writing about things that are written about better elsewhere. As things stand, amid all the obnoxious and terrible things the right is currently doing in the world, Voxopedia is small beer. That doesn’t mean its harmless but it isn’t a major locus of organisation on the right because…and I can’t help but labour this point…it’s really just 6 to 10 guys slightly vandalising a Wikipedia clone.

As for Voxopedia’s capacity to project different perspectives, the only function its gained is that Vox himself now has TWO versions of his own vanity page on his own vanity encyclopedia. This is how it works. There’s the main page which is a censored version of a page about him (a whole chunk of stuff about his Comicsgate feud has been removed) and then there’s a ‘Verified’ tab which is the same page but with only his own edits on it.

 

*[That’s not even a criticism. Starting wacky projects and then getting bored with them because of something more fun is no character flaw in itself. When all your wacky projects are pointlessly evil, then that’s the core of the problem, not your attention span.]


33 thoughts on “Voxopedia again

  1. Phyliss Schaffly’s son launched Conservapedia, a half-assed Wikipedia riff, about twenty years ago (along with The Conservative BIble Project). Neither of them have done much better than Voxopedia.

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    1. I don’t know about conservatives, but Republicans already have their own Bible, and have for years. There’s things in it Jesus never said, a creation story that mentions scientists only to scorn them, and ten commandments which are now Ten Guidelines, and each one of them has an asterisk after that lead to the same footnote: “…Unless You Really Have To,” which covers pretty much any situation where they want something for themselves, want something done, or want something covered up.

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  2. The problem with Gab was that its managerial/editing model wasn’t that different from Infogalactic. It was set up without much internal control, which allowed all of these Rabids to hijack the forum in the first place. Vox seems to have this strange mental block that keeps him not only from learning from his own failures, but learning from everybody else’s too. His ‘Alt-Hero’ comics were supposed to appeal to an audience alienated by too much Leftist activism in comics and he ended up alienating audiences with his Rightist activism in comics.

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    1. Was Gab really “hijacked”? I was under the impression that they pretty explicitly courted the far right from the get-go – their whole shtick was that you could say stuff there that would be too offensive for the “leftist-controlled” media. Not to mention that they used a rather Pepe-like logo and their CEO is a remarkably unpleasant Trumper. It seems to me that they have exactly the users they want.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. I went over to Gab to watch JDA and the Daily Stormer guy and followed back every non-porn bot that followed me. It was Nazis all the way down. All vile, all garbage, the dregs of Trumpers. And that’s saying something.

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      2. Eli: I don’t know. I do remember that several trolls and their followers who thrown off social media began migrating to Gab early on. People like Vox were pushing Gab as an ‘alt-platform’ but I don’t know whether Gab’s corporate leadership aggressively promoted the Far Right. If I remember right, Gab at first did have a fairly mainstream and diverse user list but they were quickly driven out.

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      3. I guess it’s hard to say what counts as “aggressive promotion” versus just making it very obvious that the far right was welcome there. The CEO Andrew Torba is himself very far right (he likes to call people “cucks” and was kicked out of a Silicon Valley networking group for racial harassment), and his statements when he founded Gab made it clear that even though free speech in general was great, the kind of speech that actually needed protection was right-wing. He was constantly going on about how Twitter and Facebook were controlled by leftists and that’s why Gab was necessary, so I think that pretty clearly translates into “people who think everything is a leftist conspiracy should join us.” Also it seems that in the early days when it was invite-only, Gab gave 10,000 invites to Milo Yiannopoulos to distribute to his followers, but that could have just been Yiannopoulos bullshitting, I don’t know. But anyway, given Torba’s insistence that moderation was stupid and hate speech was not a real problem, there really is no way Gab could have become anything other than it did, regardless of whether some users might have hoped otherwise.

        (Btw, I have no idea what Torba’s partner, a Muslim who opposes Trump, thought he was doing there. He made a not very convincing statement early on that he would leave if it ever became a disproportionately right-wing forum; then he proceeded not to leave until very recently—and blamed it on the media.)

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    2. ‘Alt-Hero’ has failed because it was badly written even by Beale’s standards, with the artwork in the book being done by a third-rate fan artist.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Space Oddity: That’s also very true. I’ve been following Alt-Hero, and it actually manages to get WORSE with every new issue. I don’t know if anybody saw the premier issue of the ‘Q Anon’ Alt-Hero; but I almost felt sorry for Chuck Dixon. He’s really hit his nadir.

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      2. The bits of that interview that I read suggested a man with nearly no idea what he’s gotten himself into.

        By which I mean Dixon, just to clarify.

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  3. The theory being that a leftwing person might edit a page and a rightwing person might edit a page and then somehow (if you know the biases of the editors) you could see a version of the page that matched your own position

    I never understood this. For one thing, it would require that the site know who you are and what your biases are, which requires logins and a fair amount of stored person-specific data. Which in turn means that the administrators have at their fingertips full informational profiles about everything that all their users look at. I can’t imagine, as a user, tolerating that for one single second – I’m probably more privacy-conscious than most people but this is taking Facebook-level monitoring and cranking it up to the next order of magnitude; they don’t merely track who you talk with, they track the specifics of how you think and are open about attempting to pigeonhole you based on that data. Who’s going to trust them with that sort of info?

    Second thing, if you have multiple editorial slants on any given topic, that just means you’ve multiplied the amount of work needed for any given page and thus also for the overall project by the average number of perspectives you support. Wasn’t one of his selling points that Wikipedia had ballooned into having way too many editors and too much overhead? The very structure of his replacement project REQUIRES that he have a greater-than-one multiplier of Wikipedia’s overhead.

    Nothing about this makes any sense.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes, they don’t even have enough editors to add a specific ‘nationalist’ spin on key articles (never mind that trying to do that would provoke doctrine arguments) Nobody left wing is going to do the extra hard work (plus again how many different versions of a page would THAT entail!)

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    1. Did InfoGalactic actually implement a version control system that would support different views?

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      1. Just like they just talk about all the bells and whistles. The most annoying thing about the damn thing is that’s an utter failure that won’t admit it. Like that college dropout that insists he’s got a really great internship lined up.

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  4. The important thing is that your coverage has led me to learn that Engelbert is still recording and performing. Apparently over Thanksgiving weekend, PBS is going to show many programs about him, and he’s got a brand new Christmas album. I might tune in for old times’ sake.

    HOWEVER, at no time has he ever been a neo-Nazi (Or even an original one, which he’s just barely old enough to have been as a child).

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      1. You’d think that would be step one in having a user specific experience: choose whether dates are AD or CE. If they can’t do that as as a User setting then they certainly can’t do anything more subjective

        Liked by 1 person

      2. We could also be really neutral and go back to the Roman Calendar. Besides it sounds a lot cooler to be in the 28th Century A.U.C.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “You’d think that would be step one in having a user specific experience: choose whether dates are AD or CE. If they can’t do that as as a User setting then they certainly can’t do anything more subjective”

        That the sort of thing that WikiPedia might do. Write a date template that works of a user setting, and let interested parties, or a bot, work through the encyclopedia converting all dates to that template. (i have misgivings about the spreading use of templates in WikiPedia – they do have benefits, but they’re also an obstacle for new and casual editors.)

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  5. Anyone skilled in the art of peeving knows that ’20th century AD’ is wrong anyway., since ‘AD’ means ‘in the year of the Lord’, and ’20th century in the year of he Lord’ doesn’t make sense.

    (You can imagine that ‘CE’ stands for ‘Christian Era’ if you want to.)

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