Wikipedia Mob Rules C|Net’s Puppet

I’ve missed so much news it’s not even funny. So having caught up a bit on sleep, I’m taking a few moments to see what’s up in the world (no nuclear war? – check; no global killer virus? – check). What I have to point out here, however, is {a NY Times} article on C|Net discussing Wikipedia (Link). After reading the article, I wonder how many people are out there who have received no publicity for the problems they’ve encountered (my “kirkyan” blog entry – reLink – was picked up in a couple of places but largely passed over). From the article:

At its core, Wikipedia is not just a reference work but also an online community that has built itself a bureaucracy of sorts–one that, in response to well-publicized problems with some entries, has recently grown more elaborate. It has a clear power structure that gives volunteer administrators the authority to exercise editorial control, delete unsuitable articles and protect those that are vulnerable to vandalism.

The piece on C|Net seems to miss that in a Long-Tail World, it’s more than just what’s highly-publicized that matters; there’s more to the world than what’s in C|Net’s or the NY Times’ viewfinder.

The article also seems to suggest that, in the end, the “power structure” is a good thing. They allocate a significant amount of time, in my opinion, to their example of some recent college graduate becoming a budding, reliable administrator. Apparently they didn’t dig down far enough to see what I saw: some potentially bitter people with serious chips on their shoulder using the Wikipedia as a means to bolster their ego.

When the writer says, “But beyond the world of reference works, Wikipedia has become a symbol of the potential of the Web”, I can’t help but think that “potential” is a two-edged sword. Their article left me thinking the writer didn’t fully grok the potential problems – the one’s that don’t get write-ups in USA Today.

Go read about my little experience, then go read the article and then ask yourself if unbridled social justice is what we really want. If so, keep a pair of scissors handy for the time when some rabid, unreasonable lynch mob strings you up without a fair hearing – like the guy in Korea I mentioned earlier (reLink).

I’d also again recommend (reLink) Jaron Lanier’s essay dealing with the kinds of things Wikipedia presents. Worth your time, in my opinion.