On the afternoon of May 18, a Miami-based executive specializing in hotel real estate wanted to give a name to the famously ritzy section of South Beach along Collins Avenue, between 24th and 15th Streets. We know this because Wikipedia tells us so. We can see the IP address of his firm, Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., readily visible in the Wikipedia edit history. And we have corroborating proof of this executive’s meddling on Wikipedia, because he mentioned it in a press release that handily includes mention of his firm’s closure of a $61 million hotel deal. Finally, the Miami Herald reported on the caper.
The predictable response from a Miami-based Wikipedia insider named “Digirami” was to snuff out the paragraph that dared to propose a couple of new names for the 10-block district: “SoBe 10” or “Power Mile”. The fleeting four-hour gospel of the “SoBe 10” was gone forever. Or, was it? Less than an hour later, it was back in place, only to be snuffed again within 4 minutes.
The executive vice president of Jones Lang LaSalle responsible for the “SoBe 10” incident is Gregory Rumpel, with whom this Examiner spoke recently. Rumpel confessed to the sin of wanting to share information regarding the South Beach stretch of real estate about which he cares deeply and through which he moves multi-million-dollar commercial property deals. Says Rumpel, “It’s a dynamic piece of real estate, it deserves to have a name. Like when you go to visit New York City, you feel more familiar with the city if you say you’re staying in Chelsea.” Rumpel had never before edited Wikipedia, so he didn’t have any idea that his proposed names wouldn’t be welcomed there. He simply dared to think that his firm’s credentials would be strong enough to start a community conversation about how we identify place.
Indeed, Rumpel’s horrifying action — editing not once, but twice, the encyclopedia that “anyone can edit” — has now drawn criticism from financial and tax consultant Larry M. Elkin, who characterized actions like Rumpel’s as “deceitful”. (No mention was made by Elkin that his own commentary on the matter served to self-promote his Palisades Hudson Financial Group on a media website that is led in part by Henry Blodget, who was charged in 2003 with civil securities fraud by the SEC, motivating him to settle out of court and agree to a bar from the securities industry, a $2 million fine, and a $2 million disgorgement — not that that’s deceitful, or anything.)
Meanwhile, the Wikipedians who care so much about the purity of one paragraph of Wikipedia’s article about South Beach don’t seem to be doing a single thing about entire articles written about subjects like documentary film maker Bill Delano, whose article was launched by “Bdelano”; or the article started by “Laurisild” about Lauri Sild, the Estonian orienteering competitor; or the article about JeffreyM Consulting, written almost entirely by “Michelle ruane”, who couldn’t possibly be related to Michelle Ruane the office manager at JeffreyM Consulting. No, these articles are all okay, not even flagged for readers to be concerned about the purity of their provenance.
In the end, Gregory Rumpel may have struck out swinging on Wikipedia but ultimately hit a home run off of Wikipedia, if his goal — in the crazy-like-a-fox style — was to get people talking about 10 blocks of real estate in Miami Beach. As Rumpel told me, “My intent is to promote South Beach. If there’s a better name than ‘SoBe 10’, let’s hear it.” And thus let it be done, in the Comments below.
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