Monday, December 05, 2005

A Sticky Wiki(t)

On Friday, I wrote about 78-year-old John Seigenthaler and his fight to clear his good name on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.

Yesterday's (12/4) New York Times had an article on the Seigenthaler incident called "Snared in the Web of a Wikipedia Liar." The Times talks about Wikipedia, which was started by Jimmy Wales in January, 2001, and which "has, by most measures, been a spectacular success. Wikipedia is now the biggest encyclopedia in the history of the world. As of Friday, it was receiving 2.5 billion page views a month, and offering at least 1,000 articles in 82 languages. The number of articles, already close to two million, is growing by 7 percent a month. And Mr. Wales said that traffic doubles every four months."

Jimmy Wales told the Times that he was troubled by the Seigenthaler incident and said, "(w)e have constant problems where we have people who are trying to repeatedly abuse our sites."

Now, a second Wikipedia scandal has surfaced. According to CNET News, on Thursday "former MTV VJ and podcasting pioneer Adam Curry was accused of anonymously editing out references to other people's seminal podcasting work." Essentially, the charge is that Curry--in order to enlarge his role in the history of podcasting--removed references to others' contributions to the medium.

A quick review of the blogosphere this morning had Curry being bashed from hither to yon by dozens of bloggers. Rogers Cadenhead's "Workbench" blog reports: "When someone edits Wikipedia without logging in to a user account, the IP address is recorded to guard against abuse. Four times this year, an IP address controlled by Curry,, has made revisions involving the early history of podcasting." Cadenhead lists each edit Curry made and calls the man a "glory hog."

According to CNET News, Curry bristles at the accusations being leveled against him. "'That I'm trying to inflate my role in the history of podcasting is a mean-spirited claim . . .but the meme took, and now I'm the (jerk) of the week.'"

Meanwhile, Jimmy Wales is trying to decide how to protect his beloved Wikipedia. CNET News reports that, effective today, only registered members will be permitted to create new Wikipedia articles, barring anonymous entries (although not anonymous edits). He also told the Times that he was starting a review mechanism by which readers and experts could rate the value of various articles. He hopes that this effort will help to reveal strengths and weaknesses as well as patterns.

Tama Leaver, a postgraduate student in English and Communication, echoed what I said in my blog of 9/22 when she says in her blog: "While I think the Wikipedia is a fantastic resource, I'm often skeptical about it's (sic) day-to-day reliability. In most cases when students ask, I suggest they use it as a starting point but try to find other sources and references."

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