Wiki Mind Wipe Discussion

The last version of SamGentle's page before he WikiMindWiped it (i.e. commmitted WikiSuicide) contained this discussion about whether or not someone has the right to do such a thing. I saved it here for further discussion and refactoring. -- WayneConrad

I'm through here. -- SamGentile

Please don't go, Sam. We need your opinions.

This is sad. He's going through all his contributions and removing them from pages.

Oh my. I think he may have the right. I don't think that he is right.

But does he really have the right to just delete all his past comments? As if he were never here?

Why not? Anyone can edit any page as they see fit.

I'm saddened by this too, especially because I tried to work this situation out through AntiMicrosoftBiasOnWiki. I guess it back-fired. YouJustCantWin -- StuCharlton

When it became clear what Sam was doing earlier this afternoon (GMT), I put the second line on this page, and added PleaseDontGoSam, but to no avail. It was pretty shocking to watch Sam unpick himself from Wiki. Since I started the challenge on TheMostWidelyUsedProgrammingLanguageAtAnyLevel, I must share some responsibility for making Wiki an environment that Sam did not feel that he wanted to be part of. Then again, he is a free agent.

The first thing he did with TheMostWidelyUsedProgrammingLanguageAtAnyLevel was to strip the content and replace it with the single word SmallTalk. that really stung. -- KeithBraithwaite

Yes, I'll second that opinion. It stung, which is why I changed the page to restart the discussion. I wonder if that particular discussion will just die out anyway, given the pain of this whole situation. -- StuCharlton

So... what then? Anyone is technically free to do anything to any page, but does that mean we have to put up with it?


I wasn't involved with any of the discussions going on, but I've been around Wiki long enough to feel strongly that what he's doing is just not right. Sam, what you are doing is wrong, dude! Whatever your beef is, why punish all the denizens of Wiki? -- DavidHooker

So, then, everyone would just have to "put up with it" if I decided to go through and delete anything on any page? Or delete whole pages? Or replace every page on Wiki with the word "Smalltalk?"

what is the alternative?

As time has passed I've become more and more of a WikiFundamentalist?. Sam can do whatever he likes to his or anyone else's writing, and we do have to just put up with it, otherwise the thing we're using stops being Wiki. In a way, Sam is doing us a favour by rubbing everyone's noses in that fact, and its consequences. -- Keith see WikiFire

Well, it simply pisses me off. It's like we're all visiting this beautiful public park, and no-one is destroying anything, and then someone decides to go around and clobber stuff in a large scale. And you're right, we can't do a thing about it. And you're right, we shouldn't be able to. But that doesn't mean we have to like it. -- Dave

No, we don't. Sadness is more appropriate that anger, maybe, but yes, this is a grim time for Wiki. -- kb

I have always seen Wiki as a place of greys and not black and white. Sam, removing everything you have written shows that you did not write it to inform, but to convince, and now that you did not succeed you are angrily withdrawing. If you had posted to inform and not convince, you might never have reached this childish point.

I don't think that you can draw conclusions about someone's intentions over a long period of time from one brief outburst. I don't think that this kind of wholesale erasure is really in the spirit of Wiki, which seems to lean more toward refactoring than removal, but obviously Sam wasn't feeling that spirit today, and certainly he didn't just destroy things at random. It makes me a little sad that he had to do this, but I hope at least it made him feel better. I also hope that if someday he regrets leaving he will feel it is OK for him to come back.

Well, it's done. He's finished the WikiMindWipe. The question is: what should be salvaged? The context of his comments, or nothing at all?

Well, I for one think some of the comments he made were important. So do I have the right to salvage and repost them?

Of course. No one owns the words they put on wiki. They are owned by everyone. Sam felt free to delete some words, others may feel free to put them back. -- rcm

Some of the comments about Sam's behaviour sound a little too condescending for my taste. If he felt that most participants on Wiki were unfairly biased against his opinions, I can understand his not wanting to leave his comments behind to the mercy of a community he didn't trust anymore, where they might be taken out of context and shot down as undefended strawmen. IMHO, deleting your own contributions is your very own decision, and not to be judged by others. -- FalkBruegmann

You can't help having your public actions judged by others. You can generally choose to ignore that judgment, but it exists nonetheless.

I might have an opinion on your choice of religion, but I wouldn't voice this opinion as a judgement, because this choice is your very own decision, and not mine to judge. -- FB

I think that comments made to a public forum become the property of that community. Any thoughts?

I agree. Once you say something to me, you can't really unsay it.

Ward has announced somewhere (WikiCopyRights) what the copyright policy is on Wiki. That's the rule, so be it.

I wasn't watching the discussion that precipitated Sam's move, but I have to say I am on his side. Not just that wiki is intended as an erasable medium, but from bits I checked, it seems Sam's edits were extremely well behaved... in other words, he respected the medium while removing himself from it. I can't get angry or sad about it. His choice entirely, and executed in a well-balanced manner. I would only say, Thanks for being careful and best wishes. Welcome back whenever you choose. -- AlistairCockburn

He can and should do whatever he feels is required to his material. Looking over some of the pages, it seems that while the edits are clean, the contexts of some of the Threaded parts are totally screwed - they get quite surreal in places.

Well, they say anger comes from pain, and I'm pained that this happened. So, really I'm not mad at Sam or anyone else... just at the bad situation. I feel a loss, not just for the wiped information, but for the loss of a citizen. -- DavidHooker

Is it a wonder why I left? Look at the hostile comments that have been written just in the last hour!

Imagine that there was a wiki contributor who - over a period of time - had contributed to wiki usually in an InYourFace? or confrontational way. Naturally, such an approach would elicit lots of response directed at the confrontational contributions.

Now imagine that the confrontational one came through one day and erased all of his contributions. He might even claim that nobody had the right to complain because he had only erased material that he had put there. This claim would, of course, ignore the extensive ContextualDamage? that had taken place.

The first thing he did with TheMostWidelyUsedProgrammingLanguageAtAnyLevel was to strip the content and replace it with the single word SmallTalk. That really stung. -- KeithBraithwaite

So, then, everyone would just have to "put up with it" if I decided to go through and delete anything on any page? Or delete whole pages? Or replace every page on Wiki with the word "Smalltalk?" Yes.

This just infuriates the f** shit out of me. I deleted my OWN contributions which I own. (Nobody owns anything on wiki.) I did not go and replace every page with SmallTalk. I just did that on one page. This isn't about SmallTalk. This is about a community that does not know how to respect someone who doesn't work within their style and environment (OpenSource, Java, Linux, SmallTalk, etc.)

Well, it simply pisses me off. It's like we're all visiting this beautiful public park, and no one is destroying anything, and then someone decides to go around and clobber stuff on a large scale. And you're right, we can't do a thing about it. And you're right, we shouldn't be able to. But that doesn't mean we have to like it. -- Dave

And so on. So please leave me alone. This is not a safe place for me. I am not wasting any more time with this. I feel like if I said "Microsoft totally sucks" everyone would accept here. You guys have a lot of lessons to learn. You pass yourself off as this elitist smart community and I bought that. I kept thinking it was me that was stupid, wrong somehow. In the meantime, I showed these pages to dozens of fellow developers and they would say "Why do you bother/" This site does not reflect what most developers are doing and thinking. People laugh at a lot of the stuff here but don't waste their time arguing with you. Now, I'm through. I would prefer that you don't restore my comments and that you just leave me alone.

I think BOTH sides have something to learn. I believe that Sam was poorly treated in the recent language discussion and that things were getting out of hand (I'd probably never come back either if I were in Sam's shoes). However, despite your claim, not every comment made after you left was hostile (I believe there were several genuine pleas for Sam to stay) and I believe the above comment was a cheap shot at everyone here. Please remember that most people have made comments from time to time on forums like these that they have later regretted (we're all human).

This is a two way road, Sam.We all are really cut from the same stone. For every page you've probably shown someone that laughed at us, I've shown one of your pages to someone that has laughed at your stuff, asking "why bother?" about you - not because of your Microsoft opinions, but because of your reluctance to listen. Your XP about face was probably the most encouraging thing I've seen on the Wiki, looking at how in-your-face older stuff like IsExtremeProgrammingWacko was.

I really don't think you want to leave, but you're hurt and frustrated, and that's pushing you out. I think you've hurt and frustrated us in the process too. There are two alternatives: you can continue your exit, or we can start over. The latter helps all sides continue to learn, which is good.
It's not that big a tragedy, in the long run. Consider, that is the point of Wiki, is it not? We can run, but we all die someday. We talk about something, it goes on for a while, we find something else to talk about. Wiki needed something like this, a way to start over. People may replace parts of the old discussion, but I feel that eventually everyone will calm down, move on, and talk about something else. Then again, in the same way anyone who wants to can delete anything they want, anyone can restore anything. I just hope people consider whether what they do is really productive before they do it.

Apart from the personal tragedy involved - the loss of a few comments would not be a tragedy. The total loss of a viewpoint that Sam's departure represents, is. -- FalkBruegmann

Well it's on many levels. He removed his comments. He leaves holes in threads. He deleted other people's replies to his. He removes his viewpoint. He introduces the WikiMindWipe technique. He may trigger an overreaction to prevent mindwiping in the future. that's happening right now He leaves the second major stain on Wiki's history ( see MissingWikiBeforeXp ). Wiki is chaotic; large-scale violent actions just don't stop repercussing.

Moved from FilterByCategory:

A note about the recent damage to Wiki: afaik, we can just hit "Edit Page" on the ones that have been changed, and from there revive the previous revision. If we did three each, we'd have Wiki back to its old state in no time at all - and we'd have restored it in the usual anarchic all-are-equal do-as-you-see-fit way. Though its perhaps awkward to revive Sam's comments since it seems he really doesn't want to be associated with Wiki, and perhaps we should respect that. We could always s/SamGentile/PreviousParticipant?/ or something. -- LukeGorrie

[With a few exceptions] everyone seems to be concerned about the hurt to Wiki, without giving a thought for the hurt to Sam. Do you all have any idea just how much pain it takes for an artist to be moved to destroy all of his works?

It's damned difficult to be an intelligent and caring person in a forum populated by the self-centered egotists that most programmers are.

Intelligent people have this bizarre habit of suspecting that maybe they don't know it all, that maybe some of the ideas that they have are wrong (in whole or in part). They tend not to make blanket statements that "x is good and anything else sucks". Of course, any sign of reservation in their postings is like blood in these shark-infested waters; the response is a flurry of postings by those who are absolutely certain that they know the One True Way.

And <insert deity of your choice> forbid that anyone should be caring; hey, if you don't have a thick hide, you should stay the heck away from public fora, right? Clearly, Sam cared. He cared enough not to lash out with personal attacks. Aside from the one page which had been the ignition source, he destroyed only his own words.

To the survivors: do you really want Wiki to be a place populated solely by uncaring demagogues, each preaching their own gospel to their choir and engaging in factional clashes in the streets of Wiki?

To the anonymous poster: do you really want Wiki to be a place populated solely by... well, the opposite of all that stuff. Let's not get Sam's action and what led to it out of proportion here. Frankly, if the anonymous comments above that read like they were written by Sam are in fact his comments, then he is far beyond any rational position, reading attacks into every word. Let's not overgeneralize from the actions of one man driven (largely by himself) to the edge.

A few of you already have shown that you don't want that. For the rest of you, give it some thought, okay? And see if you can spare a kind thought for Sam.

And Sam, if you're reading this... I understand.

Is this all sounding a little bit too melodramatic to anyone else? :-)

I don't share all the hand-wringing about this. It seemed pretty clear to me that Sam was unhappy here. Eventually he left. Yes, he perhaps broke a few branches on a few trees in his urgency to exit "the park" (or the commons). I don't have a particular problem with that, I suspect we've all done similar things from time to time.

I'm ready to move on. At least I now know a company in my neck of the woods (eastern Massachusetts) where I don't want to work. smiling

-- TomStambaugh

Outsider's perspective (take it for what its worth)

Don't hang on. Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.

I'm new here. I didn't participate in, nor have I seen the language discussion that seems to be at the eye of this storm. I think though, this is more a discussion about the "feelings" you get when wiki's limits are manifest. You are all software engineers. You understood these limits and categorized them somewhere in your head within 15 minutes of using the tool. Your quick-wiki analysis at the time concluded that the benefits of the tool outweigh the problems. But now that the deficiency actually happened, well, it's hard to deal with.

There are also diversity issues that make this a real loss to the community as a whole and so affect the "upside" of the tool as well. I know none of you as individuals are anywhere near as "ivory tower" as you collectively appear in some of these programming pages... Well, a couple of you probably do fit the bill ("you KNOW who you are!") but, from reading these comments it seems SG served as a counterbalance. You work with limitations and this one's a biggy. The tool requires diversity, it requires there to be a balance in it's population of users and... it also seems to have some very steep slopes (instability) in this regard (scary part here). If one person like SG goes, others like him a feel a little less welcome, a little less like this is a place for them. and then they start baling and you all slide into a single, non-diverse bunch of people who argue about trivial things, because the differences between you are, well, trivial. And that's when you'll get diminishing returns on time spent in that discourse.

As a programmer, the fact that anybody could cause immense destruction was obvious within minutes of using the tool for the frst time. The other issue, the more organic one, is only apparent in reading this page. I wonder if that is not part of what's causing the emotional grappling. -- JohnRepici

Amen! -- AnotherNewcomer

I'm sorry Sam is not here to stick up for SamGentle. His PushBack? was really useful to the discussion.

I feel hurt that on some pages (QuarterCenturyOfUnix, ReevaluationCounseling) Sam has unilaterally deleted things I wrote.

Still, plants grow back greener after a bushfire. -- MartinPool

A Wiki-like space that's had some interesting experiences with mind-wipe of its own is Metababy ( Since the content is constantly changing in hard-to-predict ways, it's hard to give a good pointing into the discussion, but one page that I've been "defending" in the last few days (2000/03/17) is "". -- DavidChess

I'm a newbie here and just stumbled across this discussion of Sam and his WikiMindWipe. It's very bizarre. I get the feeling of standing around a hole amidst dozens of onlookers. The people are all expressing their dismay at the removal of whatever used to fill the hole (or what just created the hole by falling from a great height). Unfortunately for me, because I never saw the now-missing posts, I can only guess at the value of what was removed. Still, there is a sense of what remains from what's written on this page. -- MarkReid?


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