Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wikipolitics

Thanks, U.S. Rep. Martin Meehan! By trying to lie in your Wikipedia entry, your staffers have prompted Wikipedia to politician-proof itself.

THE STORY: The AP reports that "members of [the Lowell, Mass. congressman's] staff deleted unflattering information about a broken campaign promise." For the full story, click here.

THE FALLOUT: At least one political blog says this story proves Wikipedia is inherently flawed. What a stupid criticism! Stories like this one and the Seigenthaler controversy are ultimately going to make Wikipedia much stronger. Right now it's a lot like the Internet in 1994: A handful of early adopters have a disproportionate influence over content. As more people become aware of Wikipedia, it will become much harder to give an entry a self-serving slant.

Not convinced? Check out the case of good ol' Joshua Gardner, the would-be Duke of Cleveland. He was foiled by some high-school kids who understood how Wikipedia works. Once they told the papers about him, the story hardly hit print before Wikipedia contributors removed his edits.

They're already at work on the Meehan entry. The story just broke Saturday, and their discussion of it already runs to more than 4000 words and encompasses such topics as how to find the person or people behind dubious edits; what to do about self-serving edits in general; and how to review politicians' edits to their own pages. They're even trying to track down the people behind a troublemaking IP address! These guys are indefatigable!

In short, by trying to fill Wikipedia with political lies and manipulations, Meehan's staff has provoked Wikipedians to try and forestall similar skullduggery. Whether they succeed remains to be seen.

P.S. Yes, that's Ricky Gervais as the glad-handing politician.


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