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In response to requests for a post-mortem on the Wytham Abbey project, we[1] have decided to publish this in full. This EA Forum exclusive will include a blow-by-blow account of the decision-making process.

TL;DR: We determined that the project was too controversial. The primary source of controversy was the name, especially with regard to how to pronounce “Wytham”.

First some background. We decided to hold a brainstorming session to determine the best way forward for the project. This was held in Wytham Abbey, of course. We consider this brainstorming session to be a success, and reaped the benefits of having an “immersive environment which was more about exploring new ideas than showing off results was just very good for intellectual progress”. 

When considering the name, we observed that some people pronounce it “with-ham”. This is incorrect, however there was an entire breakout room in Wytham Abbey given over to discussing this pronunciation. 

  • Most members of the Wytham Abbey team considered it offensive, because we all have broad moral circles and object to things being “with ham”. 
  • We also considered changing the name to “Wythout-ham”, however anything that foregrounded ham was simply unappealing to many people in our team. 
  • One person, a certain Hamilton B. Urglar[2] proposed that the caterers might bring in some ham immediately so everyone could try some, just to make sure we were right to be opposed to it. Someone else threatened to put a post on the forum entitled “Sharing Information about Hamilton Urglar”. It all got a bit tense, but then the Hamburglar offered to buy vegan burgers for everyone. Nobody was really reassured by this until he offered to provide screenshot evidence that the burgers had, indeed, been bought; provide a 200 page document justifying his actions; and put it on the EA Forum together with pictures of Wytham Abbey.

There then followed a breakout session dedicated to the pronunciation “White-ham”. 

  • One member of the project team proposed changing the spelling of Wytham to “White-ham” to avoid further confusion.[3]
  • Another person thought this was stupid, and said we may as well change the name to “Blackham Abbey”.
  • We needed some more time in the immersive environment of Wytham Abbey, but we finally concluded that: “Blackham is a more stupid name than White-ham or Wytham”. Someone wrote this sentence on a blackboard.
  • Thanks in no small part to the immersive environment of the glorious abbey, we harmoniously came to the conclusion that “We like this sentence and think it is true”.
  • Someone then suggested that it should have been written on a whiteboard instead of a blackboard. Then people started arguing. All hell broke loose. After further arguing, it seems that comparing “Blackham” to “Whiteham” was more controversial than any of us realised. Who knew?!

As a result, the EV board decided to oust Wytham Abbey from its position in the portfolio. It did not seem wise to foreground all the controversies at the heart of our decision-making process, so the board simply stated that Wytham Abbey was “not consistently candid in its communications with the board, hindering the board’s ability to exercise its responsibilities”.

Unfortunately, there then followed a sustained campaign with the rallying cry “Effective Ventures is nothing without its castles”[4], and half the EV board got sacked, and Wytham Abbey got reinstated.

The End.[5] [6]

  1. ^

    We have carefully avoided specifying who we mean by “we”. For more details, see footnote 6.

  2. ^

    Hamilton B. Urglar is sometimes known as the Hamburglar, and also sometimes known simply as “Ham”. Some might argue that this biases him to be more favourable to ham. The Hamburglar argued that he could counter all these biases because the CFAR handbook had doubled his intelligence, but he was accused of being undank for saying this. 

  3. ^

    During the discussion of White-ham, Hamilton Urglar did tentatively try to check whether there was such a thing as white ham, and whether it made sense to ask the catering staff to bring some to check whether it exists. People stared at him. He stopped talking at that point.

  4. ^

    Some people complained that Wytham Abbey is not a castle. Dear Lord, will the controversies never end?!

  5. ^

    Upon deeper reflection, it has occurred to me that I'm not actually a representative of the Wytham Abbey project at all. If only I had access to a more immersive environment, I might have worked this out sooner.

  6. ^

    It may or may not be the case that the author(s) of this post are involved in the Wytham Abbey project. For more details, see footnote 5. 





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