2007 in review

Special: 2007 in Review

Last month marked the end of 2007, and the end of the biggest year (and perhaps the most controversial year) that Wikipedia has seen. Over the last year, the Wikimedia Foundation's reach and influence grew, both within the Board and the office. Along the way, quality improvements were overshadowed by corporate and government editing, and vandalism, with one case resulting in the temporary detainment of a Turkish academic. This week, the Wikipedia Signpost begins to take a look back at the year that was 2007 in Wikipedia.


Wikipedias experienced marked growth in 2007. Of the top 15 Wikipedias, the English Wikipedia ranked 12th in article growth (37.58%) and 8th in edit growth (86.97%). The top Wikipedia by far was the Volapük Wikipedia, which grew nearly 100-fold (9,282.48%) in articles, and 14,189.77% in edits, due mostly to bot edits that raised the number of articles from just over 1,200 at the beginning of 2007 to 114,091 at the end of 2007.

Overall, the number of articles across all Wikipedias grew 52.76%, to over 9.25 million articles. The number of articles is expected to break 10,000,000 around March. Meanwhile, the total number of edits grew 88.63%, to 411,875,822 at the end of 2007 (this number is expected to break 500,000,000 in April or May). As Wikimedia Commons grew more popular, the number of images on individual Wikipedias rose by only 20.28%, while Commons media files grew by more than 110%, from about 1.06 million to about 2.25 million.

Notably, the French Wiktionary overtook the English Wiktionary on November 26; at the end of 2007, the French Wiktionary contained about 45,000 more entries than the English Wiktionary (about 7.3% more). This is the first non-English Wikimedia project to overtake its English counterpart, though this is not the first time it has done so.

Legal issues

Legal issues related to Wikimedia projects continued to be a problem this year. In February, professional golfer Fuzzy Zoeller sued a Miami-based educational consulting firm after an IP address reportedly belonging to the company posted defamatory statements to his biography.[1] The edits, which were deleted in December 2006, were made by Damien Lynch and (an IP that appeared to be related to Lynch). The civil suit was filed in Miami-Dade County, Florida on 13 February. The Miami Herald reported last December that Zoeller dropped the suit after failing to identify the perpetrator.

In late October, a French case against the Wikimedia Foundation, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy, was dismissed.[2] The three plaintiffs sued over a page that identified them as "gay activists"; these claims were introduced by an anonymous editor and were later removed. The judge did not rule on whether the statements were defamatory, but instead ruled that any damage was mitigated by the removal of the material from Wikipedia. He concluded that Wikimedia "acted promptly to cease giving access to the content once it became aware of its character."

In February, in a chilling case of the consequences of Wikipedia's prominence, an historian was detained by Canadian and later by American authorities after his Wikipedia article was vandalized, claiming that he was a terrorist.[3] The story first gained attention in April: On the way to a Montreal university lecture, Turkish historian, sociologist, and author Taner Akçam was detained for nearly four hours at Trudeau International Airport.

The Canadian immigration officer, Akcam says, was "courteous" - but promptly detained him at Montreal's Trudeau airport. Even odder, the Canadian immigration officer asked him why he needed to be detained. ... the Canadian officer showed him - at Akcam's insistence - a piece of paper which was the obvious reason for his temporary detention. "I recognised the page at once," Akcam says. "The still photo and the text beneath it comprised my biography in the English language edition of Wikipedia. For the last year ... my Wikipedia biography has been persistently vandalised by anonymous 'contributors' intent on labelling me as a terrorist. The same allegations has been repeatedly scrawled, like gangland graffiti, as 'customer reviews' of my books at Amazon."[4]

As the vandalism was two months old, and had been reverted quickly, Akçam suspected that a political enemy may have forwarded a copy of the vandalized article to the Canada Border Services Agency prior to his travel. Akçam was again detained for about an hour when returning to the University of Minnesota two days later; he was allowed to leave, but cautioned not to travel until the situation was sorted out with customs.


This year, twelve administrators were desysopped, and seven administrators resigned under what the Arbitration Committee or bureaucrats deemed "controversial circumstances". In February, a wheel war [1] over the article on Daniel Brandt (since redirected) led to the temporary desysopping of Yanksox, Geni, and Freakofnurture by Jimbo Wales.[5] Wales said:

I am referring this case directly to the ArbCom to look at possible remedies for all parties involved up to and including desysopping, blocking, etc. I have absolutely no opinion on the actual content question (Should we have an article about him? I don't care) but [its deletion log] is a disgrace.

Different people played different roles. I do not have time to sort it all out today, so I am referring most of it to the ArbCom. I have instantly desysopped Yanksox, though, because he's basically begging for it. I have temporarily desysopped Geni and Freakofnurture pending the ArbCom thinking it through.

I know how these things go. Some of the people involved were trying to calm things down. Others were merely trying to cause more disruption and fighting by engaging in inflammatory actions designed to outrage the other side. It is hard to sort it all out. This is why wheel warring is so bad.[6]

Freakofnurture's sysop privileges were restored before the case was finished, but Yanksox and Geni were formally desysopped by the Committee; Gaillimh was also banned for ten days.[7]

Also in late February and into early March, the "Essjay controversy" broke, leading to the departure of bureaucrat and newly-appointed arbitrator Essjay. Essjay, who had described himself as a "tenured professor of theology at a private university in the eastern United States", was revealed to be 24 years old, and living in Louisville, Kentucky. He had attended several colleges in the area, but did not possess the degrees he had claimed or teach at a university.[8] His identity was revealed upon being hired by Wikia; Essjay, who served as a community manager there, revealed himself to be "Ryan Jordan". When asked about his fake persona, Essjay said that he had "[utilized] disinformation with regard to what I consider unimportant details: age, location, occupation, etc." While keeping this persona, Essjay provided inaccurate details of his persona to The New Yorker for a July 2006 article.

Jimbo Wales initially supported Essjay's actions, telling The New Yorker, "I regard it as a pseudonym and I don't really have a problem with it." However, upon learning that Essjay had used the persona in content disputes, Wales called for Essjay to resign his community positions, saying,

I only learned this morning that EssJay used his false credentials in content disputes. I understood this to be primarily the matter of a pseudonymous identity (something very mild and completely understandable given the personal dangers possible on the Internet) and not a matter of violation of people's trust. I want to make it perfectly clear that my past support of EssJay in this matter was fully based on a lack of knowledge about what has been going on.

I have asked EssJay to resign his positions of trust within the community. In terms of the full parameters of what happens next, I advise (as usual) that we take a calm, loving, and reasonable approach. ... On a personal level, EssJay has apologized to me, and I have accepted his apology on a personal level, and I think this is the right thing to do. If anyone else feels that they need or want a personal apology, please ask him for it. And if you find it to be sincere, then I hope you will accept it too, but each person must make their own judgments. Despite my personal forgiveness, I hope that he will accept my resignation request, because forgiveness or not, these positions are not appropriate for him now.

Wikipedia is built on (among other things) twin pillars of trust and tolerance. The integrity of the project depends on the core community being passionate about quality and integrity, so that we can trust each other. The harmony of our work depends on human understanding and forgiveness of errors.[9]

Essjay resigned his positions shortly after this message and left Wikipedia altogether, and later resigned from Wikia.

In April, Robdurbar was desysopped after deleting and vandalizing the Main Page and blocking established users; it was later revealed that he was a sockpuppet of Wiktionary vandal/former administrator Wonderfool, a banned user on multiple projects.[10] Meanwhile, in August, Shreshth91 was desysopped for an unexplained June block of El C; because Shreshth91 had left Wikipedia, a full arbitration case was eschewed in favor of an immediate desysopping.

In June, Runcorn was desysopped after it was revealed that the account was one of many used by a puppetmaster, including RachelBrown, Newport, and at least six other accounts, some of which were used for vote-stacking in adminship requests.[11] Other administrators accused of sockpuppeting in 2007 included:

Next week

Next week, the Signpost's 2007 in review continues, with Foundation decisions, numerous elections, technical features, interviews, organizations for deletion, bureaucracy, private correspondence, corporate editing, and a chilling coincidence yet to come.


  1. ^ Jared. "Pro golfer sues over libelous statements", 26 February, 2007.
  2. ^ Michael Snow. "Wikimedia avoids liability in French lawsuit", 5 November, 2007.
  3. ^ Ral315. "Historian detained after his Wikipedia article is vandalized", 23 April, 2007.
  4. ^ Fisk, Robert. Robert Fisk: Caught in the deadly web of the internet, The Independent, 21 April, 2007.
  5. ^ Ral315. "Three users temporarily desysopped after wheel war", 26 February, 2007.
  6. ^ Jimbo Wales. "Daniel Brandt deletion wheel war", 23 February, 2007.
  7. ^ David Mestel. "The Report on Lengthy Litigation", 12 March, 2007.
  8. ^ Michael Snow and Andrew Lih. New Yorker correction dogs arbitrator into departure, 5 March, 2007.
  9. ^ Jimbo Wales. "Statement on EssJay situation", 3 March, 2007
  10. ^ Sam Blacketer. "Administrator goes rogue, is blocked", 23 April, 2007.
  11. ^ Ral315. "Sockpuppeting administrator desysopped, banned", 4 June, 2007.

Also this week:
  • From the editor
  • 2007 in review
  • Wikimania 2009
  • Roll 'em back, move 'em out
  • Apple leak?
  • WikiWorld
  • News and notes
  • In the news
  • Tutorial
  • Features and admins
  • Technology report
  • Arbitration report

  • Signpost archives

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    Discuss this story

    The French Wiktionary was also larger than the English Wiktionary for a time a couple of years ago, so this is technically not the first time it has happened. --Cherry blossom tree 10:37, 16 January 2008 (UTC)[reply]

    Characterization of Taner Akçam

    Is it fair to characterize Taner Akçam as being "controversial"? While googling the term "controversial historian", the main hits I got were for people who have been criticized by mainstream academics rather than people who have upset nationalists and governments. Andjam (talk) 18:34, 19 January 2008 (UTC)[reply]

    I use the term literally; he has been the source/target of some controversy due to his comments about the genocide. Ral315 (talk) 12:50, 21 January 2008 (UTC)[reply]


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