Saturday, September 17, 2016

Erik Möller's friend Gerard Meijssen: The Cactus Peacock

The more of these I write, the more I notice they seem to follow patterns; if we know their real names, we can give a biographical sketch, if not, we can report on the sleuthing done by others to find out how this "handle" started (usually as an IP). So when I deal with a known clown like Gerard* Meijssen (GerardM), it's just very easy. I'm trying to not turn this site into a "rogues gallery" like the gone-but-not-forgotten Conservative Babylon, but the story of Wikipedia is a story of people, shitty people, and to truly know Wikipedia you have to talk about its players.

                                                       Unofficial Wikipedia motto.

The Meijssen File

Not as cool as The Ipcress File, what we know about Gerard Meijssen can be scraped off the Internet, but there are things both Meijssen and Erik "Kinder sind Pornos" Möller have hidden from view. Meijssen is Dutch, lives in Amsterdam, and has been on Wikipedia since 2003, his first edit was to the Cactus article that December. He's really into cacti, says so on his userpage. Paul Laney and Peter van der Puyl had this to say about a non-Wiki cactus database Meijssen wrote: "The cactus database which come the closest to my wishes was the database of Gerard Meijssen (which, by the way, can be freely downloaded from the Succulenta E-group). But that database works only under Access 98, and is more specialised in the scientific side of the plants." Meijssen quickly became a Jimbophile, broken-English Wikipedia-I emailer, and status-quo defender to the extreme, which made sense because Essjay hadn't been outed yet. Somewhere along the line he became a friend of Erik Möller, proving that even the 1940 Rotterdam bombing can be forgotten somehow. By 2007 both of them started a Dutch non-profit called Stichting Open Progress, a group dedicated to creating open source/free software and open source/free content; Erik Möller was the Chief Technology Officer, Meijssen was Director. This is now the thing that they are trying to hide as of 2016; links are impossible to find connecting both men to SOP, a group which came and went like a fart in a windstorm.

Back to Wikipedia, GerardM got further and further involved with the machinery thanks to his friend. Remember "Flow", the threaded discussion system that ultimately went nowhere? Eloquence (Möller) was the guy behind that and a previous incarnation of it, and during the Flow portion of this quixotic quest Meijssen was talking the thing up like mad because his friend was in charge. (I'm afraid to give links because GerardM might gank them like the information on Stichting Open Progress.) The Wikipediocracy Blog did a good writeup on the subject; the author is not stated. Kelly Martin had this to say about the relationship: "Gerard has long been Erik's designated attack-puppy; they collaborate frequently and Gerard has been used by Erik to float test balloons....Of course, both Erik and Gerard are thick in the wikicult, so for either of them to exhibit nonrational attitudes is to be expected." Meijsssen's ditsy use of Wikipedia-I for easy questions was mocked in a Wikipedia Review thread back in 2009; he was also mocked for being angry at a New York Times article on Wikipedia the same month - Greg Kohs mentions how Meijssen seems to hate his guts. He was a supporter of Wikidata from 2009 onwards but only started editing it in 2013; Greg Kohs had this to say on the Wikipediocracy forum (WO-MB): "I cringe that we are trusting the world's largest pile of open data to people who can't even respond to a mailing list thread without trimming the copy of the 16 messages posted prior to their response. That Gerard Meijssen guy is especially guilty of this, and he seems to be a really uppity tool, doesn't he? I think there's a correlation." Meijssen's peak was his 11-month stint as a WMF employee; he was a "Internationalization / Localization outreach consultant", i.e. "the foreign-language advertising guy" in regular English. I wonder if he had "street teams" slapping up stickers all over Amsterdam and sliding flyers under doors. Probably not. Why was he fired? Damned if I know.

Some Quotes

"Hoi, Reliable is not an absolute. Wikipedia is in the final analysis an encyclopaedia. It is not original research. Studies have indicated that Wikipedia is as reliable as its competitors. Wikipedia does link ever more to the VIAF indicators by the OCLC and thereby it links to the sum of all knowledge as it is available in libraries. I think you have it backward. Given that Wikipedia is best of breed, people do care about Wikipedia Zero. It is why Wikipedia Zero is not part of any walled garden; it is there for every company who cares to provide it free of charge. For the rest I find that I am getting annoyed. Thanks, GerardM Gerard Meijssen Sun Apr 5 05:36:48 UTC 2015"

"At Wikidata we have always been open to collaborating with external resources. This open attitude now results in relevance. A relevance that will expose every Wikipedia in every library of the world that is linked to the OCLC through VIAF. How wonderful is that?" (Source: his blog.)

"I certainly welcome Mr Kohs absence from this list. His brinkmanship is well known, he is not welcome on two projects as well and he boasted recently that there are still projects open to him. Getting rid of a troll is imho beneficial to the atmosphere. Mr Damian uses hyperbole to the extend that you would believe there is nothing good to be found in Wikipedia. His posture as a superior mind has become increasingly boring. I hope he will consider his options and decide to tone down this rhetoric. This might make him relevant again I hope. If not tough. So I am one to welcome the move by the list administrators and I am happy to support their action. Thanks, GerardM" (Source.)

"He's consistently a smug prick on that list. I have yet to see him add value to a conversation there."
  - Vigilant, in a WO-MB thread

"He's not any better in person. I ran into him at Wikimania 2006 in Boston. He would only talk about himself and his pet projects; it was impossible to engage him on any topic other than those."
 - Kelly Martin, responding


Beyond all the blather he has written the the back rooms of en.Wikipedia, he has the aforementioned (under-read) blog, a Facebook page with a ton of Wikipedian "friends" on it - all the modern inconveniences of the online life. His ordinariness outside of his Wikipedia role is so dulling to the wits, it was hard to write about the guy.


* To borrow a Harry Plinkett quip, "What is it with Gerards?"


  1. Only in a corrupt psychiatric ward like Wikipedia can someone like Meijssen achieve any kind of "power" or "control".

    Open question: if you were an employer, would YOU hire that gentleman? Even to write a book about cacti? Not me.

  2. You have to feel a little sorry for Wikipedians like GerardM and Beeblebrox, who have wasted countless hours of their lives on an ephemeral hobby-horse like Wikipedia.

    1. Beeblebrox made life hard for undeserving people (Prof. Buckner is on the top of the list); GerardM seems to be a trust fund baby, so it was either Wikipedia or running a hemp coffee shop in Amsterdam - he decided to be dumb and go all "high tech".

  3. "The Wikipediocracy Blog did a good writeup on the subject; the author is not stated."

    Excuse me, but yes it is.