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Benevolent dictator

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Jimbo Wales is, in some people's eyes, the benevolent dictator of the English Wikipedia.

It should be noted that Jimbo disputes this term.[1]

Possible alternatives for calling Jimbo benevolent dictator or BDFL:[edit]

Constitutional Monarch[edit]


  • Jimbo usually uses this term when explaining his role in Wikipedia/Wikimedia - and he defends the term, see talk page.


TMTP or "The Most Trusted Party"[edit]

This goes somewhere back to an interview with Linus Torvalds where he declares to find himself in the situation of being the most trusted party in a software development project (the Linux software), just because the only thing he really does is being a symbol of the copyleft approach of that software development program.


  • No foreign language for the name;
  • No associations with royalty, divinity or other commander in chief type of names.
  • The responsibility is built into this name: trust is something that is given by wikipedians, but is not for granted, e.g. if TMTP moves on to another project, etc...
  • Jimbo endorses that "he has no authority beyond that which he has been granted implicitly through the trust of the community" (bolding added) [1]


  • Doesn't sound as cool (which may actually be something to consider for something as symbolic as a name)

Eminence grise[edit]

Eminence grise is French for Grey eminence, with following connotations:

  • grey stands not so much for age as for wisdom; but the grey in this expression came from the colour of the habit of French monk François Leclerc du Tremblay, the power behind the throne of Cardinal Richelieu (France, 17th c.).
  • eminences grises are considered as persons which are influential, not so much because of worldly power, as because of their wisdom: when an eminence grise speaks everybody is silent and listens attentively.


  • definitely tongue in cheek in good wiki tradition


  • could be offensive because of the grise
  • this French expression is maybe not so known in the world of english-speakers?

Deus ex machina[edit]

Deus ex machina is a Latin term from ancient Greek/Roman drama, that translates in the vein of (a) god from the machinery: sometimes a plot would get so complicated that nobody still knew where it was heading. A theatrical technique used by the dramatists of that period was to have an impersonation of one of their gods, goddesses and/or mythological characters descend by some sort of a machinery to the scene, who would re-arrange some things (e.g. giving a lucid remark, or resuscitating/unbanning a character killed/permanently banned some scenes before) to set the plot back on track. The most famous example of deus ex machina from ancient drama is probably the ending of the Oresteia: even the gods are at a loss whether Orestes was wrong in killing his mother or right in avenging the death of his father. At this point some deus ex machina descends and proposes a solution (note: not all dramatists use the same god(s) at this point, neither do they all give exactly the same plot ending to the Oresteia cycle)


  • although computers and internet are a completely different kind of machinery, the analogy is striking.
  • definitely has a connotation of a human-operated (because theatrical) god-like resemblance.
  • in ordinary plots, where the drama develops to its destination without unsolvable situations, no dramatist would even think to employ a deus ex machina - isn't that essentially the difference between the day-to-day management of a software development project, and the more distant presence of a central figure in a wikipedia-like endeavour?


  • Although the deus in question is a pagan mythological figure (in a time when omnipotence was not even associated with gods in general), similar objections as against GodKing might be thinkable.
  • How's Latin in the world of English-speakers?


From We. Although it would have been more applicable back when he was the main financial backer.

See also:[edit]