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was that much of the content was actually about Voxopedia, the vanity Wikipedia project that’s just like Wikipedia but out of date and with nonsense attached.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.]