Posted on | December 15, 2007 | 4 Comments
We’re coming dangerously close to throwing the ‘baby out with the bath water’ when it comes to one of the few quality sources of free information available to anyone with an Internet connection.
Technology web sites have been ablaze with criticism over Wikipedia editorial cliques, broad sweeping user bans, sock puppet editors and lately the news that the former COO (who controlled the money) also has a colorful criminal background (and current legal headaches).
All of this is good to know, anyone who cares about preserving and improving the Wikipedia resource would want to know this stuff. What concerns me is the gratuitous “we caught you!” reporting that is flooding high profile technology websites such as The Register and Slashdot profiling Wikipedia in a similar lite as one would profile the mafia.
Will we be calling Jimmy Wales “Jacko” next? Will the tech paparazzi camp out in front of the homes of Wikipedia editors in hopes of catching them doing something human? Do they (the tech paparazzi) realize, or care that such sensationalism causes Wikipedia to be excluded in public class rooms? Such exclusion is not at all warranted even in full view of the dirty laundry that has been aired as of late, but its dangerously close to occurring.
Does Wikipedia have issues? Yes. Can they be fixed? Yes. Will they be fixed if all that comes from the community that enjoys access to free and (broadly) accurate encyclopedic information is conjecture and complaints? No.
I am a technology writer, however I am not a high profile technology writer. Approximately 150,000 people will read this article over a three month period. 1.5 million people per day read the articles on web sites such as Slashdot and The Register. Given the power of the reach that they enjoy, I would hope that they would realize the effects of writing sensational articles that attract ad clicks when the subject of the rant is the only (real) complete and completely free encyclopedia.
Lighten up, will you? We all know that Wikipedia has problems that it must overcome, many of which are sour fruits from the tree of human nature. We don’t need to sensationalize these types of problems, we need to address them. The issues that plague Wikipedia also plague almost every other enormous distributed and collaborative effort in the free software/information ecosystem and are evidenced on a daily basis therein. Why is Wikipedia becoming the “poster child” for criticism due to these types of problems?
Put very simply, I wish that technology columnists would either get their heads out of the toilet, or stop complaining about how much it stinks.