News & Politics

Some shameless--but interesting--cross promotion: AlterNet's recent story on the wiki revolution has been met with a fair amount of skepticism in the comments.

Some are worried that the wiki system of open editing invites inaccuracies and vandalism.


But here are two thoughts on that worry--the second of which was generously suggested by commenter "brayingdonkey."

First, trusting a community of people to provide honest and accurate information (with a fair and gentle but firm editor) gets to the heart of the way we approach our whole culture and its governance. Do we trust "the people" (aka ourselves and neighbors) to do what's best, accurate and fair or do we really want to endow certain among us (typically, those with all the advantages and thus often lacking an appreciation for the vast range of experiences) with the power to decide what information is true, relevant and necessary?

Don't we then consign ourselves, conceptually, to the same top-down structures--notably, government structures? Do we have to then admit that deep down we actually subscribe to George Lakoff's Republican model of the strict father-style leadership that keeps the unruly and unqualified masses in line?

If we really do subscribe to the nurturing parent model do we have to put our money where our frame is and support wikis and other open source models?

It's also important to note that there will be problems with either method. Wikis are subject to vandalism and campaigns but, again, as a commenter pointed out: "who corrects, say, the NYTimes on yellowcake uranium?"

Then there's Edward Felten who, according to wikipedia, is a professor of computer science at Princeton. Last September he did an informal analysis of the wikipedia on his blog. Not only did he check some posts on subjects with which he was familiar, but he checked them against the Encyclopedia Britannica for context. The results may surprise you.

We want to know what you think. Do you have any experiences, positive or negative, with the wikipedia? Do you believe that the way we approach open source structures have greater implications? Inquiring minds and all.

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