April 12, 2024

Wikipedia’s Authority

ValleyWag, the National Enquirer of the tech industry press, outed Jimmy Wales, founder and driving force behind Wikipedia, over the weekend for using his position as head of the online encyclopedia to "encourage" editing of his lover’s profile in the site’s database.  

There are plenty of details about, no need to dwell on them here.  But Wales’ actions are important.  Despite his claims that no Wikipedia rules were broken, this sordid episode is merely the latest example of how Wikipedia’s content can be – and is – manipulated to serve the agendas of individuals in authority there.

Nick Carr has written extensively about Wikipedia and its culture of controlled chaos – highly recommended reading.

When all is said and done I think that Wikipedia is, for the most part, a reliable source of information.  However, consider a moderately controversial topic like "Terrorism in Pakistan", the neutrality and standards of which are both in dispute at the moment. 

Who is the final arbiter of this article’s content?  On what basis is that person or persons’ authority given?  And, at a higher level, what is the standard that is being enforced encyclopedia-wide and by whom?

To quote Wales and another famous philanderer, it "depends on what the meaning of "is" is". 


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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