Thursday, December 01, 2005

Again with the infinite number of monkeys ...

Sue V sent me a pointer to a USA today article about the hazards of trusting our fellow humans too much. It's an op-ed piece by John Seigenthaler a retired journalist whose hopping mad about his entry in the Wikipedia. It said that he had once been suspected involved in both Kennedy assinations. that version of entry was only up for 132 days on Wikipedia was eventually corrected.

It's true that the mistake was eventually corrected and I know this is the argument that people use to support open content but there are some mistakes you'd rather were never made to have to correct them.


esm said...

I don't see this as an issue of open content - well - i don't see this as a Wikipedia issue specifically. I can write a blog post or write an article that says we never landed on the moon or slander a public figure. It doesn't matter whether that happens on wikipedia, my blog, my article... slander and libel is that no matter where it occurs.

Sue Woodson said...

You're right that anyone can do this. I think Seigenthaler's complaint was twofold:

1) the anonymity of the writer and his frustration in trying to get anyone to take responsibility for the writing. If you write an article you and your publisher are responsible. He goes on at some length about his inability to discover who wrote the stuff.

2) the level/type of authority that's being claimed. The theory behind these group writing project is, as I understand it us that, even if there are mistakes, someone who is very interested in the subject will spot the error and fix it.' The problem is sometimes getting the answer right the first time matters. That's the point of his mother's story about busting open the feather pillow.

Blogs are kind of a middle ground. Some authors known and some not. But most people son't think of them as a place to go for answers or facts the way wikipedia is -- or for that matter the way the flu site seems to want to be.

Don't get me wrong. I like Wikipedia. I use it lots and lots. I just think there needs to be some thought put into when to the Wikipedia and when to go to the history professor or the doctor.

Thanks for replying. It's nice to kick these kinds of ideas around.

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Susan said...

Yes, I do agree with Sue on this. There is a factor of anonymity, coupled with the inaccurate information that is disturbing since Wikipedia has the potential to be used as an authoritative source...but should it be?

It's collaborative, a great experiment...but it raises interesting questions about authority and the provenance of the information.