Online Circus

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Crack In The Wiki Model ? Take Two

When it rains, it pours.
It was only logical that after the latest Wikipedia "scandals", kind souls will search deeper to uncover further populist issues with the Wiki model, and that's exactly what technology writer Rogers cadent uncovered.
Rogers found that Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, has been busy updating his own biography even though Wikipedia's policy is that these acts should generally be avoided.
Now, it's one thing if Wales was just trying to fix a false bio as happened in previous cases but apparently Wales tried to increase his role in placing the cornerstone of the Wikipedia's concept over that of Larry Sanger and tone down his past association with online adult content.
I'm assuming that Wales didn't want to cover anything up but was just frustrated when he realized that his bio doesn't reflect his own views. Still, there is an issue here and in my view, it is not the problematic editing of one's own biography - rather, we should realize that this kind of views are highly subjective and two different people (Sanger/Wales) given the same facts might still write the article differently being sure each one is right and the other is wrong. As Wikipedia offers no means of final decision (In delicate subjective matters, who can rule who is right and who is wrong ?) the plausible outcome is a Wiki page update war, repeated over and over, which is exactly what happened here.
But is this issue even relevant to the general public ? These subjective views and Wiki wars are not on cornerstone notions as the weight of an Electron or the outcome of world war II, just on miniscule details that should usually hold no interest to the public but only to the participating members, in this case Wales/Sanger (cute comics here). And as predicted, a recent research shows that comparing 42 science-related topics, Wikipedia and Britannica offer quite the same scientific accuracy, so the model seems to hold and here is your bottom line. Or is it ?
Some think not and that is the reason for the upcoming release of "Digital Universe", that would offer a free online encyclopedia moderated by experts. The Digital Universe, by the way, is the brainchild of no other than Larry Sanger...


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