Wil Wheaton (@WilW) is Violating Wheaton’s Law
I often rail against the American attitude of “entitlement,” but to my recollection, I’ve never written about here, so I’m going to define what I mean by that. Americans seem to think they’re “entitled.” You should be asking, “Entitled to what?” This seems like a fair question, but considering this phenomenon originates from unfairness, the question is actaully irrelevant. Americans don’t think they’re entitled to this or that, but rather to everything. We selfishly think we’re entitled to whatever we want, even if it creates a logical paradox by taking away from others, and if we don’t get it, we sue, threaten advertisers, call for boycotts, etc. That is, we think nothing of ruining the livelihood of others simply because they aren’t handing us exactly what we want. In fact, it’s not enough to leave us alone and say nothing. Society owes us a constant flood of telling us we look pretty. The second you don’t tell me how great I am, I call a lawyer.
In short, we’re dicks.
Enter Wheaton’s Law
For those that don’t know, Wil Wheaton is a celebrity with a special place in the table-top gaming community, first for starring as Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and second, for publicizing his love of table-top gaming (in particular, role-playing gaming). He now has a recurring role as himself on the CBS comedy, the Big Bang Theory, which is about a bunch of nerdy physicist/gamers pining over a sexy female neighbor. He’s apparently made a lot of money in the process, too. Simply put, he’s a rich and famous geek. That’s important. Wil Wheaton is a rich and famous geek. Keep a hold of that fact until I get to the end.
Because there are a lot of “rules lawyers” in gaming, he started using the phrase, “Don’t be a dick,” which then came to be known as Wheaton’s Law (although I don’t believe he actually coined it). As a celebrity, it gained quite a bit of traction, especially, though probably not exclusively, in the gaming community. Although I’m involved in this community, both personally and professionally, I’ve never been one to care about celebrity. I’m from the Washington, DC area, so I’ve been around the worst kind of celebrities (i.e., politicians) my entire life, having served as campaign manager for a statewide campaign in Delaware as recently as 2008. I know celebrities are nothing special, so I’m immune to the charm inherent in their celebrity and have no problem calling out celebrities when they act like dicks. Of course, I don’t often feel inspired to do so, but here Wheaton’s statements are part of a larger problem, so here it goes, and you’re going to read it.
You see, celebrity works both ways. He can use it to get his message out there, and I can use it to point out how selfish and hypocritical it is. That’s the price of your celebrity, Wil.
Wheaton Is Being a Dick
Wheaton recently posted the following to Tumbler (last visited, May 1, 2012, 6:35pm):
Oh, go fuck yourself, Google. This is just as bad as companies forcing me to “like” something on Facebook before I can view whatever it is they want me to “like.”
Just let me thumbs up something, without forcing me to “upgrade” to G+, you dickheads.
The worst part of this? For a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop, because the core of my audience is tech-savvy and may not want to “upgrade” to yet another fucking social network they don’t want or need.
Classy isn’t it? But let’s not get off track.
Wheaton’s implicit demand from this phrase is “dickish” on many levels. First, he seems to think that Google has created, at great expense, this marvelous technical platform for the purpose of providing Wil Wheaton with free marketing data. Specifically, “a producer like me, I’m going to lose a crapton of potential upvotes for Tabletop,” suggests that those upvotes spontaneously formed in the vacuum of space. They didn’t. They were generously created for him (and all of us) by Google free of charge with only the slight burden of having his users register (free of charge!) for the service (thus generating advertising revenue that pays for their development). Now he wants more, but is unwilling to submit his users to Google’s [sarcasm]draconian[/sarcasm] requirements of user registration. Did I mention this registration is free?
Oh, but It Gets Worse
As to these additional hits Wheaton would generate if registration weren’t required, what would they represent? One thing that gives Facebook “likes” and Google+ “+1s” the illusion of a legitimate scientific exercise is that registration is required before you can “like” or “+1” something. It’s relatively unlikely that someone would create 100 independent online personae, take the time to manage all of those accounts, and use them to record multiple votes for the things they like. It’s possible, but unlikely. In fact, to help reduce noise on Twitter, I have seven (7) different Twitter accounts dealing with different topics, but I assure you I’m far too lazy to register even 7 votes for things I like. I’m not going to waste time doing that. Just logging in an out of the accounts takes too much time to be worth it, even if I use auto-fill for the passwords. Everyone gets one vote from me, and I’m willing to bet good money that I represent the overwhelming majority of people for most situations.
What Wheaton wants is to give people the opportunity to vote multiple times without that annoying hassle. Therefore, it would take the average person, at 6 clicks per second, less than 17 seconds to record 100 votes for whatever Wheaton’s publishing. Put another way, what Wheaton actually wants is false data. He wants his X number of fans to record, let’s say, X * 100 votes, making his products, posts, etc. look more popular than they actually are.
At Google’s expense, of course.
Because otherwise, Google is a collection of “dickheads.”
Does that include the janitors that will lose their jobs if this “bad” press hurts Google? Are they dickheads, too? I’m pretty sure they’ll be the first to get trimmed, so I certainly hope so.
The Tipping Point: He’s a Rich Famous Geek
What really makes this infuriating is that, of all people to be expecting to receive free things, he’s one of the last that should. He’s, as some of you might say, one of the 1%. In fact, Wheaton has publicly supported the “Occupy” movements (last visited May 1, 2012, 6:47pm), and now he’s reminding us that he’s entitled to free stuff. Of course, that’s not enough. Neither he nor his adoring fans should have to pay for that stuff, they shouldn’t have to do any significant work to use that stuff, and by no means should there be the slightest protection from fraud in their use of that stuff.
Seriously, why doesn’t he just demand free money and sex for everyone?
Don’t Be A Dick!
Wil Wheaton is violating Wheaton’s Law. The question is whether you’ll be blinded by his celebrity, or your own selfish interest in obliging Google to bend to your will, and support him anyway. Based on your comments below his post, it certainly appears you’re going the route of kissing his ass, so I guess I have my answer.
Don’t be a dick . . . or a dick-enabler.
It’s been called to my attention that Wil Wheaton is not, in fact, “wealthy.” So, he’s not part of the 1%, either figuratively or literally. I want to make the following clear, however: The basis of my argument has always been that Wil Wheaton, in this instance, is acting like he’s entitled to something that he in fact isn’t. When he’s denied it, he cries like a baby and swears like a sailor. That isn’t significantly diminished by the fact that he isn’t rich. If that message wasn’t clear because of my use of the phrase, “tipping point,” then I apologize, but I stand by the accusation that Wil Wheaton is acting like a spoiled brat, and at his age, that means he’s acting like a dick, be it poor, wealthy, or of moderate financial means.
Moreover, as I said in the Google+ thread, I don’t hold anything against Wil. I just think he’s wrong here, and that this is part of a larger problem with American society.
EDIT #2: Post-Postscript
My friend, the scientist — well, one of them — pointed out that I’m wrong on the click counts, though I’m awaiting some answers to my follow-up questions on his comments. Briefly, he pointed out that, without registration, Wheaton’s product or service will appear more popular because it will result in more clicks, but so will everyone else’s product or service. So, the relative numbers will adjust, and we’ll still know which product or service is better liked. However, I believe that absolute numbers are far more important to advertising than relative numbers, so unless “the scientist” (he really is a professional scientist) comes back with an answer showing that it would be possible to adjust the absolute numbers, I still think my suspicions are correct. The people that crunch these numbers know their business, so it’s certainly possible, but regardless of which way that goes, it doesn’t affect my underlying technological argument: Without registration, Google’s advertising revenue will drop, and so it isn’t in their best interest (absent a third option) to compel registration. Accordingly, Wheaton is still acting like a dick for hurling profanities first, and providing constructive criticism sec… errrr, never.
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