Feeds

There's no Wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility'

Seigenthaler libeller unmasked - thought it was a joke site

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The first, and the most immediately absurd of these two defenses, is that since nothing at all can be trusted, er, "definitively", then Wikipedia can't be trusted either. This is curious, to say the least, as it points everyone's expectations firmly downwards.

If you recall the utopian rhetoric that accompanied the advent of the public "internet" ten years ago, we were promised that unlimited access to the world's greatest "knowledge" was just around the corner. This hasn't happened, for reasons cited above, but now the public is now being exhorted to assume the posture of a citizen in an air raid, where every moving object might be a dangerous missile.

Everything you read is suspect! You'd better duck!

Only a paranoiac, or a mad person, can sustain this level of defensiveness for any length of time however, and to hear a putative "encyclopedia" making such a statement is odd, to say the least.

This defense firmly puts the blame on the reader, for being so stupid as to take the words at face value. Silly you, for believing us, they say.

The second defense is rather more intriguing, and repellant.

Wikipedia's defenders point to the open model, where anyone can make changes, as another example of shrugging off responsibility.

This, again, is an excuse we have to savor as much as a lepidopterist might savor catching an undiscovered breed of butterfly - it's an excuse that can only be heard during rare blips in human history.

This one owes its credibility to the fact that the word "publication" has become rather blurry. Wikipedia is a project whose failure is genetically programmed into its mechanisms, and "publication" is one of those things that will trigger the final, fatal sequence of destruction.

We can rest assured that Wikipedia will never be printed - or at least not in countries where defamation laws exist. Perhaps some brave soul will attempt a Wikipedia tome in Borneo. Or Mars. But as soon as it hits print, the blurriness behind publication disappears, and Wikipedia The Book is seen for what it is, an evasiveness based on accident. And the lawsuits will begin in earnest.

So Wikipedia's second defense rests heavily on the assumption that everyone in the whole world is participating, watching, and writing at every moment of the day, and so that a failure to pay attention represents negligence on the part of the complainer. Seigenthaler, the argument goes, was clearly being an idiot when he failed to notice that day's piece of web grafitti. Instead of taking his dog for a walk, or composing an email to his grandchildren, he should have been paying ceaseless attention to ... his Wikipedia biography.

To which the only honest answer is, "we don't owe you anything".

Really, we don't. If they can't get it right, why on earth should we have to clean up the mess. I can't speak for you, but I have better things to do.

"It's the Hive Mind wot dunnit. Not me"

If "publication" by an "encyclopedia" means anything, it means that you have to get those facts right.

More or less. Kinda.

And "publication", therefore, entails some kind of responsibility. The "Hive Mind", or "collective intelligence" that we're told will "self-correct" such goofs is simply absent when it's needed. The only people operating the levers of the man behind the Hive Mind curtain, it seems, are the Wikipedians.

Involvement in Wikipedia has taken its toll on a significant number of decent, fair minded people who with the most honorable intentions, have tried to alert the project to its social responsibilities and failed. Such voices could be heard on the Wikipedia mailing list, speaking up for quality. Wikipedia is losing good editors at an alarming rate, but who can blame them for leaving?

Quality isn't an issue, and now Responsibility isn't an issue either.

We'll leave you with one delicious illustration of Wikipedia's sense of responsibility. We turn - where else? - to Wikipedia's philosophy section.

When a few weeks ago, we looked at how Wiki folk defined "quality", we found a very telling definition, one that was at odds with all others. "Quality" was loosely defined as "general good value".

And Wikipedia hasn't disappointed us now.

Calls for responsibility, we learn, in that unique strangulated prose style that is truly Wikipedia's legacy to the world -

"... often form a pejorative means of attacking political opponents. This habit of demanding behaviour aligned to one's own desires also occurs in other arenas: one expects "responsibility" from children, parents, spouses, colleagues and employees, meaning they should change their attitudes to suit the speaker."

From which the only thing missing is:

".... booooo big bad teecher - I'm not going to skool today. fuck you!!"

Which is terrific stuff.

Now a picture of the body behind the "Hive Mind" of "collective intelligence" begins to take shape.

He's 14, he's got acne, he's got a lot of problems with authority ... and he's got an encyclopedia on dar interweb.

Watch out! ®

Top three mobile application threats

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.