Feeds

Truth, anonymity and the Wikipedia Way

Why it's broke and how it can be fixed

Top three mobile application threats

Comment Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions - Catch-22

If you've read Catch-22, you know what it's like in Wikiland.

In Wikiland, if someone has a conflict of interest, they could be grounded. But the inhabitants of Wikiland also have the right to anonymity. This means that if you try and prove someone has a conflict of interest, you're breaking the rules, and they won't be grounded after all.

Taken separately, these two pillars of the Wikipedia law book are sure to ring a few bells. At least once a month, a news story appears in which some self-serving organization is slapped for violating Wikipedia's conflict of interest policy. This month, it's the BBC wearing the dunce cap.

And, naturally, we all realize that Wikipedia is a place where you needn't identity yourself. At the very least, this hit home in March when cyber sleuths revealed that a 24-year-old uber-Wikipedian was masquerading as a professor of theology with not one, but two PhDs.

But few seem to realize that these two Wikicommandments are completely incompatible. The trouble with Wikipedia goes deeper than a few edits from the BBC, deeper even than a 24-year-old pretending to be someone he's not.

Much has been made of the so-called Wikiscanner, a tool that purports to reveal the identities of anonymous editors trying to rig the world's most popular online encyclopedia. But the Wikiscanner only identifies casual editors, people who edit without bothering to create an account.

If you don't create an account, your IP address is exposed for all the world to see. The Wikiscanner can track you down. But if you take the time to actually sign in and create a user name, your IP is masked. You're anonymous to everyone - except a handful of privileged Wikipedia admins. Which brings us to the issue at hand.

Our recent story about Wikipedia, Judd Bagley, and Overstock.com has sparked a, shall we say, heated debate. Some have sided with Bagley. Others have sided with Wikipedia. Still others have decided that the best thing to do is call The Register "a piece of trash."

For the record, there's no denying that Bagley voiced his opinions on Wikipedia in completely the wrong way. He admits as much. In the beginning, he didn't know any better. And now, almost two years later, the Wikipedia inner circle has developed such animosity for the man, he has no hope of making himself heard.

But the question is: If Bagley is right, what does this tell us about Wikipedia? Better yet: Whether Bagley is right or not, what does his story tell us about Wikipedia?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
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
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

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.