Internet Subculture

Who killed Encyclopaedia Dramatica?

In April 2011, the url of Encyclopaedia Dramatica began redirecting to OhInternet. In a span of a few days, an important part of the Internet subculture Anonymous had disappeared. And was replaced by a website similar to the dozens of websites that commercialize Internet phenomena. Here’s some investigation of what may have happened.

Shots were heard from the grassy knoll
Click Image for High Res version. Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

If you aren’t in the know, Encyclopaedia Dramatica (mirror) was a troll-Wiki. Apart from cataloguing memes that surfaced from the murky depths of 4chan, the wiki was used to lampoon and satirize every Internet subject possible. Making fun of everybody and everything is nothing new. And this approach was originally pioneered by the Onion a decade ago. But Encyclopaedia Dramatica drew its cadre from members of the Internet subculture Anonymous, who pushed this concept to its extreme.

While mainstream media were careful to publicly distance themselves from anything that had the fingerprints of Anonymous on it, there is no question that they did steal content from Encyclopaedia Dramatica when convenient. Phenomena originally documented on Encyclopaedia Dramatica would often show up on mainstream media, although Encyclopaedia Dramatica would never be cited as a source. One Gawker contributor became particularly notorious for reposting phenomena that he would stumble across at 4chan and  Encyclopaedia Dramatica. Of course, any links to 4chan or Encyclopaedia Dramatica would never be included.

While 4chan and Anonymous clearly had discernable agendas, Encyclopaedia Dramatica, on account of it being an editable wiki, grew into something amorphous. It was different things to different people. There were many who came to Encyclopaedia Dramatica to troll, or to find targets for trolling. There were some who drew their daily fix of racism from it.

But there were also many who believed that Encyclopaedia Dramatica was at its funniest when it was telling the truth. Given the anonymity offered by the Internet and the extremely satirical context of the wiki, Encyclopaedia Dramatica excelled at this too. Think of this aspect as an anarchic, ad-hoc Wikileaks.

For example, Encyclopaedia Dramatica’s relentless coverage of YouTube pedophiles drew several of them underground.

This aspect of Encyclopaedia Dramatica was certainly not a “redeeming factor.” But it may be related to what happened on April 14th 2011.

I became acquainted with Encyclopaedia Dramatica while looking up information on a Wikipedia bully-moderator who was trying to censor information on Wikipedia related to the Lockerbie bombing. The coverage provided by Encyclopaedia Dramatica on this mod, was dare I say, ground-breaking. Coverage of Wikipedia mods on Encyclopaedia Dramatica has even attracted the attention of mainstream media. In July 2007, Jonathan Dee of the New York Times wrote about Wikipedia, throwing in a reference to Encyclopaedia Dramatica’s coverage of the same mod. To quote,

There is a rough philosophical divide among admins between “deletionists” and “inclusionists,” and Rosenthal, even though he has never actually met anyone from Wikipedia outside the office staff in St. Petersburg, is on the site so often that he has a pretty good idea who’s who. He associates certain user names with certain political biases, and he recalls an online dustup with someone called Slimvirgin over whether the Animal Liberation Front was a terrorist organization. Personalities can become so pronounced in these debates that some even achieve fame of a sort on snarky Wikipedia anti-fansites like Encyclopedia Dramatica, where Slimvirgin has been thoroughly pilloried. “It’s disgusting on one level,” Rosenthal said, “but it’s also funny how the encyclopedia has gotten to be more about the community behind it. And like any community, it has its drama. For people that don’t understand it and don’t have an inclination to get involved in it, it’s pretty daunting.”

Wikipedia started out providing factual user generated content. However, it quickly became a battleground for powerful cabals and special interest groups who wanted to control the dissemination of information. In the end, the cabal(s) won, and today, Wikipedia is patrolled by iron-fisted moderators who ensure user generated content does not in any way hurt the Powers That Be. For example, Infowars.com caught a Wikipedia mod sneakily editing out references to controlled demolition in the collapse of World Trade Center 7 on 9-11.

Given that Encyclopaedia Dramatica is also a form of user generated content, it was obvious that wars over the control of information at Encyclopaedia Dramatica had already begun long back in 2004. But unlike Wikipedia, the cabal(s) did not win. Rather, they had to scuttle Encyclopaedia Dramatica. At Wikipedia, a disinformation control grid was implemented by mods pretending to stand for factual accuracy. It wasn’t feasible to implement the same in a subculture of lulz.

For some, it may be hard to believe that what was once called the “world’s lamest wiki” would attract attention of the Powers That Be. But that may well be the case. Consider the possibility of the aforementioned coverage of Wikipedia mods unlocking secrets of the Lockerbie bombing.

Who were the Cabal(s) at Encyclopaedia Dramatica?

As a lurker, I became an unwitting witness of what was a behind-the-scenes power struggle at Encyclopaedia Dramatica. This power struggle was part of a larger struggle to hijack and control the Anonymous subculture. Who did this new faction represent? Although there may never be proof, I have strong reason to believe that it was the same cabal(s) and special interest groups that took over Wikipedia. Think of it as a malignant parasite that hosts and incubates in literally all the endeavours of Western society and then slowly devours them. Here are some of my observations:

  1. Certain moderators at Encyclopaedia Dramatica emerged out of nowhere. Unlike other contributors, their contributions were fairly minimal (Their biggest individual pieces of work were probably their elaborate user pages). Yet they always focused on activities that garnished high visibility. Although these individuals could not overthrow established heavyweights like Sherrod DeGrippo/girlvinyl, they quickly formed a close-knit cabal. Later, this group would resurface in “transitioning” Encyclopaedia Dramatica to OhInternet.
  2. These mods had little issue with questionable content at Encyclopaedia Dramatica, such as racism and shock imagery. But they swiftly responded to articles based on truth-telling and conspiracy theories. In fact, one of them repeatedly admonished contributors, trying to convince them that conspiracy theories had no place at Encyclopaedia Dramatica (even though a conspiracy theory with the appropriate dose of satire could be fairly funny).
  3. Some of these “cabal operatives” even planted questionable stories about their activism within Anonymous.
  4. Once, while checking out an Anonymous activism website, I came across this image. Its an innocent meme. But the triangles were never part of the original meme. For those in the know, “cabal operatives” have certain ways of signalling each other of their presence in organizations they manage to infiltrate.

Look who's the latest member of Anonymous

April 14th 2011 in Slow Motion

A few days prior to April 14th 2011, the url EncyclopediaDramatica.com began showing a message that said some repairs were in progress. But in the meantime, visitors could check out the OhInternet blog (This is different from the OhInternet site that would later replace Encyclopaedia Dramatica). The message gave the impression of a temporary technical glitch. The following users were identified as the “writers” of the OhInternet blog:

• Cash
• Challenger
• DanielMilton
• Entropy
• Finney
• Funeral Mountain Terrashot
• GondorCanada
• hipcrime
• HJBotz
• karbraxis
• killhamster
• mr_bean
• Odd Mclood
• PieAreSquare
• Pink_Poodle
• Poly
• Sean Sheep
• Sheneequa
• Sherrod DeGrippo
• Steven

Many of these writers were also editors at Encyclopaedia Dramatica. I remember at least one fitting the description of “cabal operative.” But the important point here is that many of them could have been on board with the “transition” of Encyclopaedia Dramatica to OhInternet, long before April 14th 2011.

On April 14th 2011, Encyclopaedia Dramatica began redirecting to the actual OhInternet site.

A quick look at the activity logs of OhInternet reveals that several Encyclopaedia Dramatica editors were already on board OhInternet, long before April 14th 2011.

• 00:32, 15 April 2011 MistahT (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:31, 15 April 2011 Sonoflellan (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:20, 15 April 2011 Galvanic (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:20, 15 April 2011 Nick the nub (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:18, 15 April 2011 Snorlaxative (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:16, 15 April 2011 Synxish (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:11, 15 April 2011 Memeladydeepthroat (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:05, 15 April 2011 TheDude2894 (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:00, 15 April 2011 Drnoodles (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:55, 14 April 2011 Meepsheep (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:47, 14 April 2011 LyR (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:47, 14 April 2011 Weevlos (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:47, 14 April 2011 Floop (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:46, 14 April 2011 Weatherman (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:46, 14 April 2011 TheWeatherman (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:46, 14 April 2011 Rizden (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:45, 14 April 2011 Zaiger420 (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:44, 14 April 2011 Olddirtybtard (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:12, 14 April 2011 Lexx (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:11, 14 April 2011 CapnFatbeard (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:08, 14 April 2011 LulzTroll (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:04, 14 April 2011 Ptime (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:57, 14 April 2011 F JUNK DUMP (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:55, 14 April 2011 Flartbox (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:54, 14 April 2011 Daemos43 (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:54, 14 April 2011 Teklogikal (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:51, 14 April 2011 Tripitaka (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:48, 14 April 2011 Anon (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:45, 14 April 2011 Puzz (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:45, 14 April 2011 Alliecat (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:43, 14 April 2011 Alison (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:39, 14 April 2011 Alizon (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:36, 14 April 2011 Creative Username (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:33, 14 April 2011 Really fun person (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:30, 14 April 2011 Cityofkey (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:23, 14 April 2011 Bosco (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:23, 14 April 2011 Chineloazul (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:21, 14 April 2011 ULTIMATE FRIZBEE (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:20, 14 April 2011 Raver Katt (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:10, 14 April 2011 Bob (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:09, 14 April 2011 Kami (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 21:48, 14 April 2011 JohnDudebro (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 21:29, 14 April 2011 Vaporeon (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 21:00, 14 April 2011 Jerk (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 20:51, 14 April 2011 Drlugae (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 20:47, 14 April 2011 Jakkarra (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 20:46, 14 April 2011 Garbage Man (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 18:51, 14 April 2011 Bearses (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 16:55, 14 April 2011 Atomic Joe (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 04:29, 14 April 2011 Walter (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎

• 12:41, 13 March 2011 Dirty Laundry (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 03:55, 13 March 2011 Priest (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:36, 12 March 2011 Idkwhat (Talk | contribs) created new account User:Sheneequa ‎ (Talk | contribs)
• 01:56, 12 March 2011 Ipadparty (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 21:06, 11 March 2011 HJBotz (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:48, 6 March 2011 Knots (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 04:43, 24 February 2011 Kh (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:51, 19 February 2011 TESTUSER (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 22:47, 18 February 2011 Apotheosis (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:14, 18 February 2011 Lambfriend (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:41, 18 February 2011 Squiggles (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:40, 18 February 2011 Chewbacca (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:39, 18 February 2011 C3P0 (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:47, 17 February 2011 R2D2 (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:44, 17 February 2011 Reggie (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:38, 17 February 2011 Roger (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 16:04, 17 February 2011 Brent (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:29, 14 February 2011 Arguile (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 10:46, 13 February 2011 ★ (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 19:39, 12 February 2011 Snaisybelle (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 02:17, 12 February 2011 Pink Poodle (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 00:20, 12 February 2011 GondorCanada (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 04:26, 11 February 2011 Karbraxis (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 03:59, 11 February 2011 Hovant (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 02:01, 11 February 2011 WhiteMystery (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:52, 11 February 2011 Challenger (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 07:22, 9 February 2011 Dr. Rushberry (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 05:05, 9 February 2011 Entropy (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 02:56, 9 February 2011 Michaeldsuarez (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:43, 9 February 2011 JohnnyMak (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:38, 9 February 2011 Killhamster (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 20:29, 6 February 2011 Hipcrime (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 19:46, 6 February 2011 Funeral Mountain Terrashot (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 03:20, 6 February 2011 Object199 (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 23:28, 5 February 2011 Marsha (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 21:33, 2 February 2011 Bankins (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 01:24, 2 February 2011 Ben (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 02:23, 1 February 2011 SpaceTurtle (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 05:22, 31 January 2011 Mopar (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 03:46, 31 January 2011 Idkwhat (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 20:57, 30 January 2011 Sherrod (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎
• 10:11, 27 January 2011 Jeroen De Dauw (Talk | contribs) New user account ‎

Far from the original legend of Sherrod DeGrippo/girlvinyl singlehandedly bringing Encyclopaedia Dramatica to an end, we observe an entire group of Encyclopaedia Dramatica editors participating in the death transition.

Holes in the Official Story

The official story (tl;dr version) is that Sherrod DeGrippo/girlvinyl in one fit of hunger induced rage, devoured Encyclopaedia Dramatica for good. While this is certainly a tragicomic and meme worthy ending (See OM NOM NOM NOM), there are several things that still don’t make sense.

OM NOM NOM NOM This tastes better than Macdonalds
Click the image for a high resolution version. Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Was Revenue Really a Problem?

Encyclopaedia Dramatica was already being milked for all that it was worth using multiple pop-ups and disgusting flash ads. Experienced users were forced to start using the AdBlock and Flashblock Firefox plugins to get past these ads. Compared to Encyclopaedia Dramatica, OhInternet’s layout is less suitable for advertising. And being crassly commercial, OhInternet will never achieve the level of donations and volunteer work that Encyclopaedia Dramatica achieved.

OhInternet’s model is more like that of the Cheezburger network, which relies on paid editors (and an army of newbies and clueless fanboys). Such sites sustain themselves by aggressively combing places like 4chan and formerly, Encyclopaedia Dramatica, in search of emerging memes and Internet phenomenon. In other words, Encyclopaedia Dramatica was converted from a meme factory into a meme catalogue. Encyclopaedia Dramatica’s biggest asset were its contributors, who provided a direct link to the murky underworld of the Internet. The transition to OhInternet purged the entire Encyclopaedia Dramatica contributor base (except for those choosing to migrate). Gooses that lay golden eggs are generally not killed (except in acts of sabotage).

Why not develop Whatport80?

But again, as Sherrod says, its all about improving quality, such as toning down on shock images and NSFW content. The problem with this explanation is that Encyclopaedia Dramatica had already accomplished this through whatport80.com (Now redirects to OhInternet). Whatport80 featured sanitized versions of popular Encyclopaedia Dramatica articles for several years (such as the one on cats). They could have further developed Whatport80 if a sanitized version of Encyclopaedia Dramatica was needed.

Why “KILL”?

Conspicuous attempts were made to “kill” Encyclopaedia Dramatica. Namely,

  • Redirecting its domain, its irc and its Youtube, Twitter and Facebook channels to OhInternet (OhInternet could have been launched more effectively as a side project, just like WhatPort80).
  • Purging of the Encyclopaedia Dramatica contributor base.
  • No attempts to save cached versions of Encyclopaedia Dramatica.
  • Hostility against sites that hosted mirrors of Encyclopaedia Dramatica.
  • Making the substitute OhInternet confirm to a format that enables heavy moderation, and does not deviate into grey areas such as truth-telling, vigilantism and conspiracy theories.

Now The Internet Hate Machine is Converted!
Click Image for High Resolution version. Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

Conclusion

More questions have been raised here than answers. But two things are very clear. First, the demise of Encyclopaedia Dramatica was not the singlehanded doing of Sherrod DeGrippo/girlvinyl. Secondly, profitability or financial constraints may have not been at issue. While the question of Who killed Encyclopaedia Dramatica may be answered some day, the bigger question will always be why.

Update

An ANONYMOUS video dating from the aftermath seems to reflect many of the points in this article.

Sherrod DeGrippo/Girlvinyl was pointedly asked about what happened to Encyclopaedia Dramatica at ROFLCON 2011. m00t raises questions similar to those in this article, and Sherrod DeGrippo/Girlvinyl provided some evasive answers. For example, she claimed that an archived copy could not be released because it was too much work to separate out old user accounts from it (which contain personal email addresses). She was particularly insistent on pointing out that it was hers and her only decision, even though we speculate that it may not be the case.


Who do YOU think killed Encyclopaedia Dramatica?

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3 thoughts on “Who killed Encyclopaedia Dramatica?

  1. Its over. Encyclopedia Dramatica is dead. Most of the contributors have grown up and are well into their 30’s now and have ended their sophomoric juvenile antics, the ones that haven’t almost universally suffer from some type of mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse and or sexual dysfunction. The remaining active members of the Internet Relay Chat consist of admitted active drug addicts, transsexuals and unabashed white supremacists that are present only because ED IRC is the only network that will tolerate them, at least two HIV positive promiscuous homosexual prostitutes,an alcoholic drug addicted admin that is in and out of rehab and struggles daily to get milk for his breakfast cereal, the network engineer is mentally unstable and has been implicated in child pornography stings and is most likely a federal confidential informant Encyclopedia Dramatica Admin Jihad Was Arrested In A Child Porn Sting. All this combined with the pending lolsuit, a lack of any viable income, the malicious adverts that cause pop ups and install malware on the computers of visitors to the site and a lack of interest in the cliquish ethnocentric narcissistic articles that comprise the bulk of content on the site signal the inevitable demise of Encyclopedia Dramatica is very close to fruition.

    Rest in Piss ED, You Were An Hero.

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