If it's on the Internet, it has to be true

Let us all give thanks, and a tasty seed-filled treat, to our little bird who tells me it’s time for an update. This time, two things:

1. Another extension of time in the cancellation proceedings. The “remember I said?” schtick has officially overstayed its welcome, so let’s just check back on October 13, 2007.

2. I think I didn’t realize (or I had forgotten) that there is a Wikipedia entry for Stitch ‘n Bitch. This ignorance isn’t really surprising; a review of my search history indicates that I had recently consulted that site for “content management system” and “Lynda Carter” and “DIY culture”… but nothing knitting related. Sites like this, which pool the knowledge of users all over the world, are a terrific resource — as long as you realize that sometimes the contributors have their inherent biases or axes to grind.

At this point, you’re probably expecting to see an example illustrating this very point. How fortuitous!

Clicking on the link above will provide you with, of course, the current version of the Wikipedia article. It was actually a hard-fought battle to get it, and (temporarily) keep it, in that shape. Fortunately for us, Wikipedia tracks the changes that were made to an article since its creation, and you can see by following the edit history and the talk page that there have been several skirmishes over the article’s content. Even skimming the edit history gives you a hint of what happened. In short, the content of this article has flip-flopped between a version that mentions knitting groups using the name, the SFSE boycott, and various issues regarding the disputes involving SFSE, and other versions that omitted one or more of these things but expanded on SFSE’s services, like this one. (If this is an example of a pro-SFSE editor’s work, one wonders why the references to Debbie Stoller were left in. So that people searching for Stoller’s name would find this information about SFSE? Because deleting it would have been too radical an edit? I wonder.)

What has happened to this article is called edit warring, and as a consequence the article has been protected against further edits for a month. This isn’t the first time that this sort of thing has happened to this article, according to the history, but just for fun let’s take a look at the latest straw that might have broken the camel’s back.

Specifically, let’s step back to earlier today. There was some radical cutting and pasting to line 19.

It used to read:

In fall 2005, Sew Fast Sew Easy took legal action to police its trademark to prevent consumer confusion with products found on the internet. Due to letters claiming trademark infringement from Sew Fast/Sew Easy’s lawyers, knitting groups that had accounts with [[CafePress.com|CafePress]], an online merchandise site, were forced to remove all items featuring the phrase “Stitch ‘n Bitch”. Local groups that communicated with each other through [[Yahoo! Groups]] were similarly forced to remove “Stitch ‘n Bitch” from the name and description of their group.

But then it was changed to:

In fall 2005, Sew Fast Sew Easy took legal action to police its trademark to prevent consumer confusion with products found on the internet. In 2007, the internet encyclopedia [[Wikipedia]] was sent a cease and decist order requesting their company information be posted in the online encyclopedia since they are the legal trademark owners or have the entire article removed.

(Note: we don’t know that SFSE had its lawyers do this, since it could have been SFSE’s personnel who did this work, so the sentence referring to “Sew Fast/Sew Easy’s” lawyers may have been inaccurate.) But otherwise, who could have wished to delete this information about actions taken against knitting groups? I wouldn’t know. All I have are clues.

Item: IP address (which I didn’t bother looking up myself).

Item: Spelling and sentence structure.

Item: The edit refers to cease and desist correspondence. Unless this action were publicized (was it?), generally only two parties would know that a C&D letter had been sent: the recipient, and the sender. (Also their lawyers, but their lawyers wouldn’t be editing Wikipedia.)

Plus, the talk page for this article, where contributors can explain and debate the changes made, includes this unsigned comment in support of the August 17 edits:

This article will continue to be changed back until either Wikipedia removes this article or Debbie Stoller stops attacking Sew Fast Sew Easy. I support Sew Fast Sew Easy in their endevours to continue using their trademark which they have been using for years until Debbie Stoller decided to sue Sew Fast Sew Easy because she was denied trademark status.

Could this be the aforementioned “cease and desist order”? No, that would be too circular.


An inherent axe is a painful thing.

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14 Responses to If it's on the Internet, it has to be true

  1. litlnemo says:

    Ugh. I just looked at the Wiki page again, and user “Ggarvin” is editing it like crazy, including adding product pictures. I didn’t have the energy to edit it tonight… but, ugh. There’s also a SFSE page on there now which is basically there to promote them as well.

  2. j. says:

    What’s awesome is that comment #12′s was followed with another two spam messages with the same links. Because people who come here want to buy their merchandise!

  3. Janis says:

    Once again from the original and the only S&B trademarked.

    Stayed tuned for next week.

  4. amy says:

    well then, you’re welcome. =] this last entry inspired me to google “gregory garvin” again just for fun, and well, that’s what i found.

    gg, like britney, is turning out to be an endless source of entertainment.

  5. Amie says:

    I’m laughing so hard, it hurts.

    Love the “about me” section where he’s copied and pasted some mantra about being a Libra and says, “They’re peacemakers who function on a principal of harmony; so figure out how to iron out disagreements quickly because Libras dislikes ugly conflicts.” Oh brother. He needs some meds.

  6. j. says:


    No. No, you were not the last one.

    I was.



  7. amy says:

    am i the last one to have discovered this?

  8. j. says:

    FWIW, I tried that technique on myself and it was inaccurate.

  9. j. says:

    Ah, but Lola, we’re trading in possibilities, here! Nothing like the certainty of querying the IP address (I feel compelled to point out that this is not personal information I received, since it was published by Wikipedia) and then looking up the coordinates on Google Maps.

    If Somebody was editing pages on Stitch ‘n Bitch and Crochet, why didn’t they take a stab at Sewing or Knitting?

  10. Amie says:

    Also note that someone tried to add SFSE stuff on Wiki’s “crochet” page. The author has a name of “NotTheOnlyOne”: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Crochet&diff=145669610&oldid=145591718

    And then someone named “Eyrian” deleted it.

    Greg? Is that youuuu?

  11. alwen says:

    Google books makes it pretty easy to search for words or phrases in digitized books. It didn’t come up with any cites of “stitch bitch” related to knitting-type groups prior to 1990. Before that, the two words mainly show up together in descriptions of spaying operations & rhyming dictionaries.

    The first one that came up was Maggie Righetti’s “Sweater Design in Plain English,” on page 9, where she advises people to join a knitting guild: “It can be an informal “kaffeeklatsch stitch and bitch” in someone’s home with no officers and no dues.” (St. Martin’s Press 1990)

    Barbara Kingsolver uses it in “Animal Dreams” (HarperCollins 1991).

    Then we have Prudence Mackintosh’s “Just As We Were: A Narrow Slice of Texas Womanhood”, University of Texas Press, 1996, and
    Molly Wolf’s “Hiding in Plain Sight: Sabbath Blessings”, Liturgical Press, 1998.

    Interesting that it pops up in 1990 and then the use expands. There was another book that came up in my search, about the lives of military wives, but I can’t tell for sure in the limited preview if the stitch & bitch referred to is our kind of S & B.

  12. Lola says:

    Do look up the IP address. It might reveal some pretty interesting information, such as where the person who edited this is located. Knowing the location can then reveal more details, for instance, who owns/rents the building at that location.

  13. j. says:

    Thanks! I had never heard of that before.

    Unfortunately the by-Wikipedia page option is disabled, and it looks like the corporation involved here isn’t “interesting” enough (or that it has any IP ranges associated with it). But now I’m going to use that tool to look at *other* stuff.

  14. Janice in GA says:

    Have you seen the Wikiscanner webpage?
    It lets you “list anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations”. Boingboing.net has turned up some interesting edits. It might be interesting to see what would turn up here.