Feeds

Who owns your Wikipedia bio?

Web's favourite RPG hits the headlines

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

#3 - Yes: The Case of Cory Doctorow

But what if you are not the founder, but merely sympathetic to the Wikipedia cause?

In the case of one Cory Doctorow, the answer appears to be an emphatic yes.

"The picture is horrible. Any chance of a less supercilious looking one?" asks a fan. "I think this one is better..."

Not good enough, thinks Doctorow.

"The one you think is better is the one the original poster was complaining about (and it's about 4 years out of date) -- Cory"

Off goes the fan, and soon another offering is made at the shrine, and this one wins the subject's approval.

"PS: I think the photo is great" enthuses Doctorow.

One happy Wikipedia subject

At one stage a Wikipedian questions the masturbatory exercise:

"Frankly it's a little discomforting to have the subject write about himself."

This earns a snappy rejoinder:

"I don't see why not -- it's abundantly clear that I have more domain expertise on things like 'Cory Doctorow's views on copyright' and "the commercial fortunes of 'Cory Doctorow's books' than you do", writes er, ... Cory Doctorow, who adds -

"The Amazon sales-rank example (which I believe you inserted to begin with) is nonsensical and proves nothing. I've cut it."

Then, bizarrely, we discover that the references to the self-references were removed because they violate the Self-Reference policy.

(If only the EFF had a self-reference policy...)

Conclusion:

From this example, we can conclude that you can edit your Wikipedia entry - but it will leave you looking very silly indeed. Which probably wasn't what you had in mind when you set out to buff up your reputation.

Why bother?

Where faith triumphs rationality, it isn't unusual to see cult-like characteristics emerge. You could conclude that Groupthink is one of the surefire "emergent properties" once a web initiative is described as "emergent". The enforcement of Wikipedia's biographical guidelines seems less random and more like a loyalty test for participants.

"The results are ... handled by selective enforcement, where popular people are given a pass, while strict wording can be used against those less popular. Moreover, the implications can quickly become perverse, in favoring those with friends who are comfortable with Wikipedia - or perhaps those who are skilled at constructing sock-puppets," observes Seth Finkelstein, in an ongoing discussion.

Or as Brandt puts it:

"All the rules are cancelled if they like you, and all the rules are enforced up the hilt if they hate you."

One thing appears to be certain. Trying to massage one's reputation out on the toxic wastelands of the web can go one of two ways. If the attempt is successful, it leaves you looking as foolish and vain as Doctorow. If unsuccessful, it guarantees an energy-sapping defeat.

The real loser of the Seigenthaler episode in the short-term is the web. In the longer-term, both Seigenthaler and Wales agreed yesterday, there's a greater danger that government will step in and demand media regulation. What an ironic legacy from these unwitting Utopians.®

Related links

Seigenthaler and Wales on CNN [transcript]

Wikipedia Review

Wikipedia Watch's page

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
Lawyers mobilise angry mob against Apple over alleged 2011 Macbook Pro crapness
We suffered 'random bouts of graphical distortion' - fanbois
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
Verizon bankrolls tech news site, bans tech's biggest stories
No agenda here. Just don't ever mention Net neutrality or spying, ok?
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Simplify SSL certificate management across the enterprise
Simple steps to take control of SSL across the enterprise, and recommendations for a management platform for full visibility and single-point of control for these Certificates.