For the longest time I’ve been very proud that there was a Wikipedia page about me. Not a year passes without someone telling me about it and it had a positive influence whenever I looked for a job. However, as I became more and more conscious of the problems associated with centralized services and the personification of software projects, an uneasy feeling grew in me.
I’ve always refused to subscribe to services such as LinkedIn, Google+ because they run proprietary software. And even if they were not, if searching for your own name on the internet turns up links that advertise them more than me, it feels wrong. It is like constantly wearing t-shirts to promote a brand while walking the streets. Sure, Wikipedia runs Free Software but when searching for my name on the net, I advertise them all the same.
In October 2022 the French Wikipedia page about me was removed and I felt a sense of loss. I was unhappy about it although the page in question was really not good. But out of a weird sense of entitlement, I came to believe I was someone notable enough to deserve it. I got worried that the English page would be removed too and discovered discussions that were questioning it legitimacy. A number of wrong assertions were made in the discussions and I prepared to answer them, to defend my Wikipedia reputation against unjustified removal.
Until it hit me: I was defending my spot on a centralized service although I advocate daily for federated services. My only excuse was that Wikipedia truly is a remarkable project that has changed humanity for the better. But it needs to evolve and break free from being a centralized source of truth. The data it contains needs to be published in various ways to reflect different views of the world: a formidable challenge that will require decades of work.
Even worse: I was actively engaged in building my own reputation although I advocate daily that the personification of Free Software projects is to be avoided. I should have known better. Specially because someone bluntly told me a few weeks ago, during a conference call, that he had no interest in working with me on a Free Software project if it meant being in my shadow. He was only half serious but he was right about one thing: if someone is perceived to be the incarnation of a software project, empowering each individual in the community is a challenge.
And finally: I oppose the idea that someone is only notable if other people talk about them. Someone I admire very much said something along these lines a few years ago: “When I read my Wikipedia page it feels like my life ended ten years ago” because no one talked about what he did during that time. There should be room in an encyclopedia to tell the story of what someone did even if nobody talked about it. It is quite possible that it would make people less anxious to be vocal about what they do and more inclined to focus doing something concrete.
Solving this ethical contradiction is going to be very simple: I’ll request the suppression of the page myself, which is documented as one of the few acceptable autobiographic edit allowed in Wikipedia. I feel relieved already.