EA Staffer Attempts to Alter Wiki History

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Someone at EA doesn't want you to know about Trip Hawkins, the publishing giant's original founder. On multiple occasions, a user with an IP address of 159.153.4.50--within a range registered to Electronic Arts' Redwood City headquarters--has tried to remove several references to Hawkins' legacy from the Electronic Arts Wikipedia page.

Shacknews made the discovery using a tool called Wikipedia Scanner, made by Cal Tech grad student Virgil Griffith and detailed in a recent Wired article. The tool cross-references the anonymous Wikipedia editors' IP addresses with a WHOIS IP query and other data.

The most damning evidence stems from an extensive "cleanup" by the aforementioned EA IP address on November 20, 2006. A side-by-side comparison of the revisions reveals the removal of Trip Hawkins as founder of the company from the "key people" section of EA's Wikipedia description box.

The EA Wiki user also removes a reference to Trip Hawkins' founding of the company in the main description of the entry, and cuts a paragraph from the "History" section detailing Hawkins' business plan.

Seemingly unsatisfied with the entry a few months later, a user at the same Redwood City IP address attempted to further purge Hawkins' name from the introductory paragraph in the "History" section on April 5, while adding a paragraph emphasizing the achievements of Larry Probst, former EA CEO and current chairman, when he became sales VP in 1984. Though by this time, the references to Hawkins as founder of the company had been added back to the Wikipedia entry.

Other changes made by the user in the November cleanup focused on clearing out controversy associated with the publisher's business practices. A user at the Redwood City IP removed a line--"The company has also been the subject of criticism, most notably for its business tactics and its employment policy"--from the end of the introductory description of the company.

In addition to removing several paragraphs from the "Criticism" section, the user deleted references to the notorious ea_spouse debacle and spun the class action lawsuit brought on by overworked, undercompensated employees to portray the company in a good light. The new text would describe EA as having "led the industry in reforming work/life balance issues that are endemic to the software industry." And a line tacked on at the end would add a consolatory but unattributed statement: "Since that time, many other game companies have been struck with similar lawsuits."

The IP in question is the most active Wikipedia user among the IP addresses registered to EA, accounting for a third of the 1,351 changes made by the lot of them. Many of the changes attempted by this EA-registered IP have since been reversed by the Wikipedia community. It's certainly in a company's interest to correct mistakes regarding its operations on a publicly available Internet information site, but one has to wonder where the line should be drawn.

Shacknews contacted EA about the issue but did not receive a response.

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From The Chatty

  • reply
    August 15, 2007 7:43 PM

    What beef would they have with Trip Hawkins? I'm looking through Trip's wiki page and it's not like he tried to destroy EA or anything. He just founded it, had fun, and tried new things.

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      August 15, 2007 7:46 PM

      Sounds like someone wanted to attribute the things he did to the current CEO. Probably an underling of the current big guy.

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        August 16, 2007 4:05 AM

        "Resume Padding." Help the investors be OK with jacking his salary up from $6 bajillion to $8 bajillion and issue him 63 billion new stock options.

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      August 15, 2007 7:46 PM

      prolly larry probst just having an ego trip. CEO's are just like that.

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      August 15, 2007 8:41 PM

      Dynamics of power don't change. In ancient times emperors and other executive heads of governments would erase their predecessors names, or attribute the predecessors achievements to their own. This was actually standard practice in Ancient Egypt.

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        August 15, 2007 9:02 PM

        I built the pyramids.

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          August 15, 2007 9:05 PM

          I wrote that post with the aid of a tobacco pipe and a monocle.

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            August 15, 2007 9:07 PM

            I made an AI that wrote this entire thread. (If you see some "guy" called Vantage, don't trust him.)

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              August 15, 2007 9:14 PM

              RAMPANCY EVENT DETECTED.

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                August 15, 2007 9:52 PM

                Hahaha! As I'm reading this in 1947, I am amused by your use of my intarweb.

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          August 15, 2007 10:23 PM

          Someone erase this immediately!

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          August 15, 2007 11:00 PM

          I have some laundry that could be washed if you're looking for more work

    • reply
      August 16, 2007 1:46 AM

      Based on the stories I've heard Trip Hawkins is ... quite ... eccentric. There's lots of legends going around about things he may have said during meetings. Maybe that's why they're trying to disassociate his name with EA (even though that's really stupid).

    • reply
      August 16, 2007 7:29 AM

      There has been a small war going on about the founding of EA for awhile now. I spoke with Trip in late '05 (I think it was) about EA's history, and at the time the Wikipedia entry -- and many other venues -- referred to "the founders of EA" -- plural. Trip insisted then and continues to insist, rightly, that there was only ONE founder of EA -- him. The company was his idea, incubated for some time, and others such as Probst and Bing Gordon (who also, I believe, claims or is listed to be "a founder" of EA) didn't come on board until after the company was established. It's an argument unto itself as to what constitutes a company's "founding", but on a purely technical basis Trip is right, and seems to dislike (understandably, I think) the sort of erosion of his founding status by these other guys trying to hedge in. It was pretty funny -- the SAME NIGHT I talked to Trip and mentioned the Wikipedia article, I saw him log in to the site and make corrections to it. Not like are described in the article, in terms of deletions, but detail alterations and additions, and he signed the edit "corrections made by founder" or something similar -- it's in the page history. So this was something on two years ago, and I think the wiki war has been going on ever since, though this is the first I've heard of them trying to edit out the workplace conditions and alter history. It's possible that this is just some rogue developer up there from the studio -- but I highly, highly doubt it. Anyone deleting out Trip has a vested interest in the subtle battle going on between the EA old guard, and that implies someone currently pretty high up in the company. All speculation, of course. Trip is eccentric but he's also (at least just in my experience) very affable, and wicked smart. He's earned some enemies, but no more than anyone who's done as much business as he has, and the people that work for him now, from what I hear, are some of the happiest in the industry, and that says a lot.