Want to hire a Mediawiki Administrator? James Mitchell doesn’t!

October 17th, 2009 by Laura Leave a reply »

Before I go further with this post, I want to publicly apologize to Fan History’s awesome tech guy, emufarmers. Through my own actions, I dragged him into this little drama. I wish I hadn’t as I respect him more than that.

James Mitchell and Juris Informatica is looking to hire a Mediawiki Administrator. I found out about this when Elizabeth Peterson contacted me on LinkedIn about this position, asked me if I might be interested in the position, and if I could e-mail answers to those questions to them. Parts of the section above those questions set off alarm bells, like being paid on commission but this type of job is not a paid on commission one. Because I wanted that sort of professional experience, I applied. I got called back with in about 10 minutes, before I even got an e-mail.

Weird. But whatever. I’ve had that sort of contact for a job interview before.

The guy who called me was not Elizabeth Peterson. It was James Mitchell. He wanted some one who had a bit more tech side. I’d thought, based on my resume, my LinkedIn profile, that it was pretty obvious that I didn’t have that and that from the personal LinkedIn solicitation, they would have known this already. Nope. Not true.

Whatever though. He wanted to know who I worked with at Fan History to do our tech stuff. I told him who. It was indicated to me that he would only work with me if my tech guy was on board to do work, so I gave him that information so he could contact my most awesome tech guy. (Rude on my part. Sorry emufarmers.)

I then got in touch with my awesome tech guy and a few professional acquaintances. One of them pointed out that WOW! Mr. James Mitchell, the guy who runs a legal website, asked an illegal hiring question: Am I married? Do I have children?

Another pointed out that the guy talked about working on commission based on getting leads for lawyers where they win a settlement. (Read: Work for free for a long time on some one’s site, where the pay out might not be for two years if the case goes quickly. Get zilch in the mean time because your time isn’t realy worth anything.) And he wants you to be independent finacially… while he’s busy not paying you:

Entrepreneurial Mindset. Obviously anyone who joins us has to be somewhat entrepreneurial, in that they receive a cut of revenues. We look for people that realize that even when you sell your time for $75 or $150 an hour, you are still a slave to the clock and you are never going to make serious money. We want people who are financially ambitious, who are looking to retire five years from now, and realize that by obtaining equity in highly profitable Web sites, one can reasonably soon end the tyranny of working for clients.

Financial Resources. They can afford an entrepreneurial work situation, both financially and psychologically — i.e. they can afford to work without a salary and instead receive a percentage of the profits of the Web sites they participate in. Our partners need to have some level of financial stability in their lives. Our approach involves some level of delayed gratification in exchange of extraordinary wealth down the road. (Note — Our partners do not invest any money, as the Firm pays all expenses. They do invest their time.)

If this was a sales job, cool! But the indication was that this was for content development. (Which is in itself a form of sales, but a different type of sales. And most sites I know that sell based on traffic you generate for them don’t pay off 1, 2, 5 or even 10 years down the road.)

All flags but I talked with Fan History’s tech guy and the working professionals I knew. I figured I could stomach the illegal hiring question issue, the reads like an arrogant ass… if he would be flexible enough to pay me a base salary based on time instead of that. If he is so sure that this is going to make millions, if he really needs my expertise, then it would be doable.

Except when he called me back, the first thing he did was insult my team member. Sorry. No. “I want you to do business with me. I want you to work for me. So you know what? I’m going to insult the people you do business with, and put them down.” Because that is how professionals work and how they get business.

He went through his spiel while I patiently listened. He’s going to scrape Wikipedia. He can do this legally he informed me. No one is really going to notice that he did that. They’ll just go ga ga over his content and because they are non-college educated people (because they are the ones with the biggest legal problems who are going to use the Internet and too stupid to realize that his content is Wikipedia duplicate content), they will be more likely to go with one of his lawyer leads as a result.

Which ignores the fact that Google doesn’t like duplicate content, punishes some scrapes like that, etc. It also engenders ill will from the wider wiki community. It slaps at your own credibility because you can’t create that type of content.

The conversation went on about how easy it was to automatically create content like that. Awesomeness. Then he told me how he happened to contact me: He or some one he hired built a bot to scrape all the members of the groups that mentioned Mediawiki on LinkedIn. Then an account was set up to automatically contact all those people to let them know about the job, using personalization to make it seem as if a person contacted them. It sounded like he was saying thatElizabeth Peterson didn’t actually exist. Special. That sort of usage of LinkedIn activity sounds kind of unethical and black hat. I like my SEO and other online activities to be white hat.

Did I mention that somewhere along the line he asked me about my personal life? My living situation? If I was married or if I was involved with some one? He repeatedly the illegal question that appeared on the application. He wants to make sure that you don’t have them so that when you’re taking a shower, his example, you will be thinking about your work and how you are going to make him and yourself a lot of money.

James Mitchell really wanted me to do content creation for him to generate leads. I’m passionate about many things but making money and generating content with that as the soul focus is not my passion. (And most of the books about start ups I’ve read talk about how successful ones are where people are passionate about what they do, not passionate about making money for the sake of making money.) I expressed to him that I was concerned that he would, you know, rip me off with payments. I would only work for salary. He assured me that he wouldn’t rip me off. I could trust him. Why? Because he needs me to make him money so he has no incentive to rip me off. (If I’m going to make you millions, why can’t you salary me? It is a sure thing for you and you can underpay me the value of those leads.)

Wrong answer dude. So let’s review the lessons on how to not hire a Mediawiki Administrator:

  • Ask hiring questions that are illegal;
  • Insult team members of the person you are hiring, persons that the person you are hiring thinks highly of;
  • Ask the person to do work for you with the promise they will be paid for the leads they generate that could be, by your own admission, years down the line because of how the legal system works;
  • Admit to ethically dubious behavior as part of your business plan;
  • Tell some one that you have no incentive to rip you off because you need them to make you money.

The take away? Do not interview with James Mitchell.

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  • tkdbunny2000

    Thanks for the posting. I also received an email from Juris Informatica. Based on your post, and some other questions I already had, I won't be applying to them.

  • Angelique

    Wow! Thank you for the feedback. I was contacted recently by one of his colleagues, subordinates or bots (whichever the case may have been). I felt that the posting was too good to be true. I - like you - heard alarms ringing when I read the questions that he wanted answered to post for the job and also when I went a little further to read his website which included stuff like the traits would make a perfect girlfriend - apples and oranges.

    Big red flag.

  • Glad people found it useful. The bot mining thing really is something that is a problem. The accounts need to be consistently reported to LinkedIn. (Who need to remove them. It hurts their brand.)

    I wanted to believe so ignored it as an eccentric kook. But too much stuff didn't add up when he started talking to me... and his statement of "Trust me" about when I'd get paid? Yeah. Work for a year on something that he admits is legally dubious and an end round around getting referral fees? Where he refuses to salary as a gesture of trust? Thanks. No. Screams scam. (And he should be reported to the EEOC for the illegal hiring practices.)

  • Thank you SO MUCH for this post. Mr. Mitchell (or Ms. Peterson) harvested email addresses from my ParalegalGateway LinkeIn group and contacted all my members with this same email. I attempted to speak with him however we kept playing phone tag. Finally just removed Ms. Peterson from the group. I will definitely re-post this and thank you again.

  • Linkedin must have a spam button like mail-services have.
    I got a similar one:
    "I recently joined the WordPress Linkedin group and I thought I would write and introduce myself.

    I am currently working with Juris Informatica, a company that publishes legal Web sites. We launch a site about a certain legal topic and then use our search engine optimization techniques to drive traffic to that site. Prospective clients who are visiting the site call or e-mail us. One of our attorneys screens the clients and if they have a good case, refers that client to an appropriate attorney in their part of the country. In exchange, we receive a substantial referral fee. It's a very interesting business and frankly an incredibly lucrative one.

    We are looking for one or two good Web designers. Ideally they will know WordPress but if they do not but are quite visually talented, that is OK. What we are looking for is described at:

    www.jurisinformatica.com/we...

    In addition, we are looking for a WordPress/PHP developer, someone quite technical who knows how to write WordPress plugins and templates, who knows how to program in PHP, and who knows WordPress quite well. See:

    www.jurisinformatica.com/wo...

    We operate as a virtual team -- telecommuting is OK, you *do not* need to relocate.

    Can you let me know either way if you are interested, either full-time or in a part-time, moonlighting relationship? Again, telecommuting is OK. If you are not interested, just write back "No thanks" and I'll make certain not to bug you again. If you are interested, could you answer the questions on the appropriate web page (www.jurisinformatica.com/we... or www.jurisinformatica.com/wo... and send your answers to the e-mail address listed on that page.

    I hope we can work together!

    Joanna
    100-010-297

    P.S. Irrespective of whether you are interested, I'm definitely interested in having a Linkedin connection with you. If you initiate a connection request, I'll immediately accept it. If you need my e-mail address to send a connection request, it is joanna.henderson.107@successfulfreelancingadvisor.com. Thanks!"

  • Yes, that has been mentioned over at the WordPress linkedin group. How annoying!

  • Al Morel

    This guy also infiltrated our Linkedin group under a different name and has been spamming members with messages...YIKES!

  • Ug. I tried to warn on the groups that he indicated to me he had bot spammed people with through messages. I would contact LinkedIn in and report that behavior. They need to know, the least of which because it undermines their business plan of making people pay to post jobs and because such spam will discourage people from using them.

  • I am not surprised. This sounds like you were trying to be scammed if you did accept the position. Kind of reminds me of some of those knock-off Amway companies that try to get you in the door.

  • adelaidedupont

    A lot of the scammy comparisons to Amway are a bit unfair, because Amway sells you stuff, whereas the scammer concerned (say a religion) might try to sell you something intangible.

    Amway does trade on intangibles as well, and prestige with a capital P.

  • Amyway IBOs had a huge tiff with Amway in the past 2 years. In fact my father was one of them. Amway has been a bit scammy on the end of price gauging. Though a lot of products were quality and some were sold in bulk, they were not making it easy for IBOs to attract new people in because their prices were higher than regular retail. It is terrible for people who got in thinking that they were cutting the middleman out of retailing while getting the better price for their own products, which the company constantly had their bigwigs at conferences tell their IBOs to try to buy only from the company if the company has it.

    I am not into that at all and that is why I compared it.

  • plustgarten

    Also notice that said "Elizabeth Peterson" has -0- contacts. I don't think I've seen anyone who bothered to sign up on LinkedIn who didn't have at least *one* contact within a few hours. And for someone who is (purportedly) in such a socially active domain, it makes even less sense.

    Another red flag here was that "Elizabeth's" email didn't say how she was related to this venture or its ringleader, err, principal.

    I did, however, go through a fair amount of their referenced web site, and the page describing their business model says that they get paid referral fees, even though, in the same passage, it basically says that for lawyers to pay such referral fees is illegal! Their "out" (or maybe simply planned circumvention of being caught) is that they would wait to get the fees much much later, when the case actually pays out, rather than up front at the time of the lawyer *taking* the case.

    All around just a slime-y person & "business". Thanks for filling us in on the backstory.

  • The text of what I got sent was:

    Laura, I recently joined the MediaWiki Users Linkedin group and I thought I would write and introduce myself.

    I am currently working with Juris Informatica, a company that publishes legal Web sites. We launch a site about a certain legal topic and then use our search engine optimization techniques to drive traffic to that site. Prospective clients who are visiting the site call or e-mail us. One of our attorneys screens the clients and if they have a good case, refers that client to an appropriate attorney in their part of the country. In exchange, we receive a substantial referral fee. It's a very interesting business and frankly an incredibly lucrative one.

    Some of the sites we are putting up will be wikis. We expect to be using MediaWiki unless someone convinced us there was a better wiki to use. We want to work with someone -- either on a full-time or a part-time consulting "moonlight" basis -- who knows MediaWiki well, and that is why I am writing to you. What we are looking for is described at:

    www.jurisinformatica.com/me...

    We operate as a virtual team -- telecommuting is OK, you *do not* need to relocate.

    Can you let me know either way if you are interested, either full-time or in a part-time, moonlighting relationship? Again, telecommuting is OK. If you are not interested, just write back "No thanks" and I'll make certain not to bug you again. If you are interested, could you answer the questions on the web page (www.jurisinformatica.com/me... and send them to the e-mail address listed on that page.

    Laura, I hope we can work together!

    Elizabeth
    100-006-359

    P.S. Irrespective of whether you are interested, I'm definitely interested in having a Linkedin connection with you. If you initiate a connection request, I'll immediately accept it. If you need my e-mail address to send a connection request, it is elizabeth.peterson.102@successfulfreelancingadvisor.com. Thanks!

    End quote. I requested that because you know, a bit unthinking... and I can't remove it or withdraw my request to connect because it never did. (Which makes it a particularly stupid bot not to automatically do that.)

    James Mitchell told me that he spent $60,000 trying to find out how to do it legally to make the most money. And yeah, some one will want to wait months to years to wait to get paid. That's insane and open to so much abuse for potential "employees" because it can be easy to hide that. The whole thing screams scam, scam and scam.

    http://bostonist.com/2006/0... has some more information about him.

    I regret getting in touch with him because lo! I got five phone calls from him this morning. Hung up on him or rejected those calls.

  • I got that one, too. Figured it was a scam, so I didn't reply.

  • adelaidedupont

    (Do you have Call ID? Useful thing in these situations!)

    And if he continues, you can call it harassment or cold calling.

  • adelaidedupont

    A lot of people "scrape" Wikipedia and their sites do it too, with impunity. (yes, Google does punish, but it is only a small percentage/sample and particularly egregrious cases may get across the line).

    I have read some sites and then remembered, "Just a minute, this is Wikipedia".

    And the "scraping" for jobs ... that is something else again.

    As for the "illegal question": oh dear.

    And there are people like James Mitchell. The way business networking sites are used: there's a lot of potential for "black hat" and "grey hat" situations.

    Hope you are able to get the professional experience you seek in a "white hat" way.

  • I can understand why people scrape Wikipedia. There are situations where I understand why it might be ideal, to compliment a topic. My understanding, and I could be wrong, was that this content was going to be mixed amongst other content he wanted created by lawyers (who wanted to be published and get name recognition). Google does punish some but it also goes towards credibility. Don't in one breath tell me that Wikipedia is often wrong and people don't trust it... and then in the next that you are going to scrape it so that people will trust you because of all this content you have. WTF and no.

    I've gotten pretty good at recognizing Wikipedia articles that are scraped because Wikipedia has some style issues and content depth that most wikis out there don't. (And most of the scraped content isn't dated. That can be a signal of Wikipedia scrape.)

    The black hat and grey hat? Fine. Whatever. When some one admits to doing things that I find ethically questionable, when they do things that I know are illegal, asking me to trust them to pay me several years down the line? When they won't offer something concrete like "I'm willing to pay you hourly and give you an idea how much you would have made percentage wise as incentive for you to switch models," just screams scam to me.

  • adelaidedupont

    Having had a chance to look at the Mitchell oeuvre is really ... something.

    (I don't mean that in a good way!)

    I clicked on half a dozen of his links like Cold and Flu Meidicnes, Head and Brain Injuries, Medical Malpractice Advisor, Spinal Injury and Ritalin Advisor. It seems that many people want him and his cronies/workers to create pages about medical law especially.

    There are people like Emerald Du (Spinal Injuries), and lots of names I can't remember. May be well to look at them. There was also a woman named Cheryl Engelhardt (not to be confused with the singer who has a B as her middle initial).

    As for the man's personal profiles ... well, they are something else. Look at Strengths and Weaknesses and you may see what I mean. And he says 'looking for a girlfriend is similar to looking for a job'. If any significant other of mine showed his professionalism ...

  • Wow. Sorry to here this Miss Hale!

    For someone experienced in wiki technology, the content side at least, you are an ideal choice. You have the experience and the expertise. You even know and have talked to some of the biggest names in the wiki industry that others dream of.

    Sorry to see this go bad, Laura! But, you are an excellent administrator.

    To me, on wikis there is one type of administrator and that is content side. Development teams develop the software, but the wiki itself is held together by the content side administrators.

  • There were warning flags that I missed before I replied.

    I love wikis. I know parts of the content creation side really well, topic irrelevant. This guy didn't seem to have a good reason to use a wiki beyond Wikipedia has credibility and we can use their content!

    I can see why some one would want a developer and a content/culture person. It makes sense if you're going to basically have them operate independently. But yeah, this seemed to hint at content and policy side. I don't think he necessarily clearly has an action plan. (I could be wrong.) He told me that this was all about making money and he'd do whatever to make that money. Cool and fine, but then a wiki might not be the best option. Php Nuke with their wiki plugin would be better. Mediawiki tends to imply others can participate and it is almost deceptive advertising otherwise. And now babbling.

    (Oh, and James Mitchell also said on his website if you were constantly sick or had other drama, not worth hiring. WTF? You cannot ask medical questions like that. There are several like that. It makes his credibility saying he did the legal research [which he told me he paid $60,000 for] where non-lawyers can get legal referral fees really questionable. He couldn't bother to do the basic legal research about illegal hiring practices but he can do that?)

  • It simply amazes me. I know, I can apply for jobs and get hired possibly because I won't have to list my medical needs. But, I won't; because no job insurance can offer me 100% coverage on at least heart surgeries. They cost over two million bucks each! ><.

    60k bucks for legal research and when all you have to do is type in Google "Is it illegal to ask medical questions on job applications?"

    If you're American you usually know the disability act: http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/j...

  • If you're running a legit business, this is REALLY basic stuff: You cannot discriminate in hiring some one based on age, gender, marital status, health, nationality, race.

    And if you are going to do that, you certainly don't advertise it on your website by stating that you will discriminate against people. Which this guy does bold as brass. Hopefully, the attorney he works with informs him that he could be sued for that and gets him to remove it.

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