Saturday, April 05, 2008

More on the "Edit Wars"

If you were puzzled by my reference to Wikipedia's "edit wars" in an earlier post, you might like "Wiki Woman," by Eve Fairbanks. Fairbanks describes the ongoing battles over the Wikipedia pages for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, focusing on two self-appointed guardians for the integrity of those pages.

The whole thing may strike you as unbearably trivial. On the other hand, as Faribanks notes:

The candidates' Wikipedia pages are their second Google hits, right after their official campaign portals.

Like it or not, people make voting decisions for all sorts of unimpressive reasons. I'm inclined to think a Wikipedia article carries at least as much weight as an op-ed in a newspaper or a TV ad, for a large number of people. Therefore, understanding a little bit about how the Wikipedia ecosystem works may be worthwhile. It is at least interesting, in the same way watching an ant farm is.

So that you know where I'm coming from: I'm not a Wikipedia hater or lover. I admire the concept and think the world is better off for having it. I find it most useful for reminding myself of something that I can't quite dredge out of memory. I also like it for getting a quick background on someone who is participating in a debate that I'm watching or who has written an article that I'm reading. And, for topics that aren't politically contentious, it's quite good for introductory material, just like any other encyclopedia. It's not a sole source for me, but it's often a first step.

(h/t: On The Media)


Anonymous said...

I agree with your take on how to use wikipedia as an "intro" to information. This wiki wars thing does seem incredibly juvenile of the supporters who vandalize. Its seeming more and more like rival high school football teams then candidates.

bjkeefe said...

Speaking as an aged athlete whose one compensation for a lifetime without skills is that I didn't retain the urge to compete vociferously in pointless activities, I'd say that the edit wars do not strike me as unusual behavior.

I also have to say that there's something to be said about a commitment to an ideal. In this case, I can also admire the ideal -- of preserving Wikipedia a neutral reference source -- and who's to say what is "neutral" and what is the "correct" way to report the facts?

But the vandals? Yeah. Pathetically juvenile is about the nicest thing I can say about them.