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British Library seeks taxpayer-funded Wikipedia-fiddler

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Although some parts of the public sector are facing savage cuts, Big Culture is still throwing taxpayers' money away on fashionable gimmicks. The British Library, which boasts a £137m budget, is even appointing a full-time wiki-fiddler at the public's expense.

The job, on a pro rata salary of £30,768, is grandly titled "Wikipedian-in-Residence" and involves "reviewing, improving and creating content" on the world's biggest collection of trivia, as well as the requirement to "promote and establish collaboration between staff and Wikimedia volunteers, in addition to arranging Wikipedia training sessions and events at the Library".

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for a start, Wikipedia bills itself as "the encyclopaedia anybody can edit" - and anybody usually tries to do that. Traditional experts have often been deterred from contributing, or tried and given up, because the new gatekeeper to the knowledge domain is an anonymous 14-year-old in Backwater, Arkansas. Sometimes the experts are even entirely fictional creations.

The British Library job also requires the candidate to perform a propaganda function: "arranging Wikipedia training sessions and events at the Library" - which might raise eyebrows. Wikipedia's recent role in the SOPA protests destroyed any claims the organisation may have to being an objective source. There are strict rules about donating public resources to political organisations.

The Library's ideal is noble, but the execution - as we've come to expect from Big Culture 2.0 - is naive. A better idea might be for the British Library to document its own treasures - its collections - on a website it can actually control. It could even use wiki software to do that. As it is, it's hard to square the job with the British Library's own "value for money" commitments, which require it to save £8.53m in 2010-11.

Nevertheless, if you think you fit the following requirements: poor personal hygiene, the ability to create procedural rules on the fly, the ability and desire to argue the toss online for 23 hours a day, and a detailed knowledge of Star Trek, then apply here. ®

[Andrew loves your comments - email him here]

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