Feeds

There's no Wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility'

Seigenthaler libeller unmasked - thought it was a joke site

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Who's responsible for Wikipedia?

Two great cries have rung around the internet since the Seigenthaler scandal broke.

One is that Seigenthaler should have corrected the entry himself, and the other is that no source of authority can be trusted "definitively". That's a deliciously weaselly phrase we'll examine in a moment.

But both excuses seek, in the classic tradition of bad engineers blaming users for their own shoddy handiwork, to pass the responsibility onto Wikipedia's users.

The blame goes here, the blame goes there - the blame goes anywhere, except Wikipedia itself. If there's a problem - well, the user must be stupid!

Before we deal with each of these, and in all fairness, we must step over a small but important semantic whoopsy. If what we today know as "Wikipedia" had started life as something called, let's say - "Jimbo's Big Bag O'Trivia" - we doubt if it would be the problem it has become. Wikipedia is indeed, as its supporters claim, a phenomenal source of pop culture trivia. Maybe a "Big Bag O'Trivia" is all Jimbo ever wanted. Maybe not.

For sure a libel is a libel, but the outrage would have been far more muted if the Wikipedia project didn't make such grand claims for itself. The problem with this vanity exercise is one that it's largely created for itself. The public has a firm idea of what an "encyclopedia" is, and it's a place where information can generally be trusted, or at least slightly more trusted than what a labyrinthine, mysterious bureaucracy can agree upon, and surely more trustworthy than a piece of spontaneous graffiti - and Wikipedia is a king-sized cocktail of the two.

Secondly, Wikipedia's proliferation owes much to the fact that we're currently in a temporary, but very familiar blip in history - one we've been in many times before. Wikipedia has sprung up to fill a temporary void. Copyright law exists in a permanent state of tension, and there's a latency between a new technology being invented and compensation mechanisms being agreed upon that spread that valuable, copyrighted material far and wide.

So I'm very privileged right now, as a member of the San Francisco public library, to be able to tap into expensive databases I couldn't otherwise afford. In ten years time, these "member's societies" will be the norm, and most of us won't even realize we're members. The good stuff will just come out of a computer network.

For now, however, it's the chasm between Wikipedia's rude claim to be an "encyclopedia", and the banal reality of trashy, badly written trivia that causes so many people to be upset about it.

It's an unwarranted assumption of authority.

Now back to Seigenthaler, and let's address each of these pathetic defenses in turn.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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
DOUBLE BONK: Testy fanbois catch Apple Pay picking pockets
Users wail as tapcash transactions are duplicated
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web
While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net
Microsoft EU warns: If you have ties to the US, Feds can get your data
European corps can't afford to get complacent while American Big Biz battles Uncle Sam
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.