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Jimbo Wales dumps lover on Wikipedia

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On one level, it's an encyclopedia. On another, it's The Comedy of Errors.

Over the weekend, in response to a story from Valleywag, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales used the world's most popular online encyclopedia as a means of dumping his girlfriend - onetime Fox News pundit Rachel Marsden.

Marsden responded by sending Valleywag an IM conversation that indicates Wales ordered changes to her Wikipedia biography in an effort to further his, shall we say, personal agenda.

In discussing his sex life on the "free encyclopedia anyone can edit," Wales says that his sex life is not something anyone should be discussing. "Over the last few days, a few gossip websites have decided that my personal life is somehow of interest to people and, against my wishes, are publicizing details about a brief relationship I had with Rachel Marsden," explains the man who calls himself Wikipedia's Spiritual Leader. "While, typically, this would not warrant a response, because my role with Wikipedia is being dragged into it, I felt the need to set the record straight on a couple of issues."

For starters, he wants to make sure everyone knows that Rachel Marsden perused his Willypedia - and that this happened exactly 22 days ago. "While I find it hard to imagine that anyone really cares about my sex life, the facts are: I am separated from my wife," Jimbo continues. "I considered myself single at the time of my one meeting with Rachel Marsden on February 9th, 2008. I am no longer involved with Rachel Marsden. Gossipy stories suggesting that I have been in a relationship with her 'since last fall' are completely false."

Wales also admits that he met Marsden because she complained about the state of her Wikipedia biography. But he insists that his involvement with her Wikipedia biography is unrelated to his involvement with her:

The second, and far more important, issue is this false notion which is being peddled that I intervened inappropriately to redraft her Wikipedia biography. The facts are that, in Wikipedia, I work closely with a team called 'OTRS,' which handles email complaints and works hard to address concerns relating to the biographies of living persons. Rachel Marsden first approached me via email two years ago with complaints about her bio. We had never met. I subsequently reviewed her bio and I found it not to be up to our standards. My involvement in cases like this is completely routine, and I am proud of it.

I decided to meet Rachel Marsden in person for the first time in early February of this year. Accordingly, three days before that meeting, to avoid any appearance of a potential conflict of interest, I disclosed my plans to OTRS and further disclosed that it was a personal matter. I recused myself from any further official action with respect to her biography.

But according to the IM conversation Marsden shared with Valleywag, Wales was well aware that in ordering changes to her bio, he was breaking one of Wikipedia's cardinal rules. Wikipedia bills itself as an encyclopedia with a "neutral point of view," and contributors are told not to edit articles where they have a conflict of interest.

During the IM chat, Wales asks Marsden to approve several edits to her bio, and he says that he forwarded these edits to his OTRS team. Wales also explains that in emailing the team, he told them he would be meeting Marsden to "give her advice about her website" and that it would not be appropriate for him "to directly edit the article with a conflict of interest."

Then he tells Marsden that he wasn't exactly honest with his OTRS team: "The truth is of course a much worse conflict of interest than that :) but that will do."

In the wake of Wales' post to Wikipedia, Marsden also decided to sell some of his clothes on eBay. Her online auctions - here and here - seem to indicate she's not too happy about the post:

My name is Rachel and my (now ex) boyfriend, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, just broke up with me via an announcement on Wikipedia. It was such a classy move that I was inspired to do something equally classy myself, so I'm selling a couple of items of clothing he left behind, here in my NYC apartment, on eBay. Jimbo was supposed to come visit me in a couple of weeks and pick up some of his stuff, but obviously that won't be happening now.

Both of these items have been washed, twice, with Tide extra-strength liquid detergent. Otherwise, they would not be in salable condition. I took them out of GitMo style isolation from a plastic bag in my closet (where they were placed to prevent the ongoing terrorism of my olfactory senses) and washed them out for the purposes of this auction. Even so, this particular item -- a medium sized, black "Starter" brand shirt -- has two white stains (one on the sleeve, as shown in the photo, and one in the back) which I have been unable to remove.

Marsden declined a phone interview with The Reg. But she did toss us a few emails. "It's unfortunate that Jimmy chose to announce our breakup via Wikipedia, and only later telling me personally via an IM discussion," she said. "I think Valleywag has dug everything up on the matter."

She called Wales' Wikipedia post "a whitewash."

With his post, Wales also says that none of this should affect the trust you have in him or his encyclopedia. "I care deeply about the integrity of Wikipedia, and take very seriously my responsibilities as a Member of the Board and as a member of the Wikipedia community. I would never knowingly do anything to compromise that trust." ®

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