410 Gone: Infocide in Open Content Communities

Where is Pilgrim?

410 Gone

the resource is intentionally unavailable

the server owner desires that remote links to that resource be removed. [FieldingEtal1999htp]

What do we call this?


Online suicide



Disengaging from the Internet via the deletion of all your publicly available information. [quadhome20111ii]


proclaim[ing] that they are leaving a community forever… leav[ing] a long ass, boring, nonsensical post explaining why they are so much more highly evolved than anyone else in the community. [Dramatica2011fce]


Infocide in OCC

Community exit and the removal of one’s presence and contributions in an open content community


open and voluntary communities producing free cultural products
100+ sources
naturalistic inquiry via theoretical sampling / emergent design
iteratively coding sources into various categories

Motives and enactment

(1) Real Exhaustion

It’s time for me to find a new hobby. Preferably one that doesn’t involve angle brackets. Or computers. Or electricity. [Pilgrim 2004 qtd in rileyw2011aha]

I recently returned to photography after a long absence…. If you’ve written to me in the past few years and I haven’t responded, I apologize; and if you’ve known me that long, you probably already know why.

(2) Community discontent

I have lost all my belief in the wikimedia projects. On some projects I still have moderating bits, I hereby ask the stewards to take these bits away as I do not wish to spend too much time anymore on the projects, I might shout a bit from the sideline. [vanKalken2006prm]

(3) Privacy: The collision of the real and virtual

Community responses

(1) Silence

(2) Drama

Bye bye. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, you whining prima donna [Anonymous2010ltb].

(3) Sleuthing

If anyone is in direct contact with Mark, please let me know that he’s okay …, even if his internet presence has been erased. As much as I hate for the world to lose all of the incredible information he’s created and shared, that would be as nothing compared to losing the man himself [Meyer2011smp]

a little later…

Mark Pilgrim is alive/annoyed we called the police. Please stand down and give the man privacy and space, and thanks everyone for caring. [Scott2011mpi]

Mark Pilgrim made The Economist blog

Phil Agre made NPR

JZ’s mysterious ailment made Boing Boing

(4) Thanks and mirrors

Barnstar for missing Wikipedians

Kindness Barnstar Hires

Mirrors of _why’s work



… can be an antecedent to suicide

It can also be graduated.

Responses include being…

Yet, should people be able to infocide?

The right to be forgotten?

Infocide > removing an embarrassing MySpace page

Right to Leave vs. Wiki Mind Wipe

Thank you