January 24, 2007

Wikipedia Articles Can Be A Disaster Waiting To Happen

Let me tag a personal note onto today's hot Microsoft / Wikipedia controversy about editing articles where one has a stake.

Sometimes people don't seem to understand why I don't want a Wikipedia entry. How could I want to decline the honor, the recognition that I am "notable", the glory that I have been inducted into the select few deemed to be of encyclopediac merit? Anyone who does not leap with joy, or at least meekly accept, their "subject" status, must be an evil control-freak bent on image-domination, and be shown the errors of their ways by repeated recitations of Wikipedian scripture.

And there's a subset of arguers that I can never get to understand that Wikipedia can be a minefield of conflicting rules, administered by petty bureaucrats, with a collection of obscure policies that spawn the term "wikilawyer". I'd just rather opt-out of such experiences over myself. I think I can remain a good person despite having that viewpoint.

It's great if you're the God-King or powers-that-be, being given attention for advances in digital-sharecropping, and venture capital investment of million of dollars for monetizing popularity-mining. It's not so great for everyone else.

The current controversy came when Microsoft tried hiring an expert advocate for disputes over data formats. Note that - DATA FORMATS. People who sneer at the "syndication format wars" as only about "ego" are very wrong. There's big bucks at stake.

Maybe this specific argument just comes with the territory of money and power. But still, it's quite a feat to make me feel sympathy for Microsoft.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on January 24, 2007 06:25 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Keep in mind...
. the celebrity gossip factor.
. wikipedia as computer bulletin board.
. deleted wikipedia entries are still available.
. people's passionate interests in people, places, things.
. try the usual spin techniques of the advertising industry with the ad hominem attacks.
. notariety and ad hominem attacks can serve the interest of important issues... refocus and spin.

Posted by: dsaklad@gnu.org at January 29, 2007 06:08 AM

Seth, you are a fact - your existence is a fact.
You are a member of the public.
The fact of your existence is public knowledge.
You cannot control the facts.
You CAN complain about untruths, and plead for their remedy.
Fortunately, the public is interested in truth, in the veracity of the facts that constitute public knowledge.

The inevitability that a nameless and anonymous collective (public subset) will err in collecting facts about you is one of those thermodynamic tradeoffs between the reputation of the author and the accuracy of what is written, i.e. anonymity vs rigour.

Trying to remedy what unthinking, anononymous near-automatons write about you, is probably like trying to forget an unpleasant memory. The greater the effort, the harder the task.

Of course, you may well be aware that railing against one's notability is likely to reinforce it. Perhaps this is a '15 mins of fame' niche you've spotted?

History does not consist of an accurate record of what happened, but an accurate record of what most people agreed happened.

I'm reminded of this movie:

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at February 7, 2007 07:25 PM