Wales speaks about Wikipedia
Bill Densmore of the Media Giraffe Project at UMass-Amherst has a series of MP3 interviews with Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, reflecting on the potentially libelous Wiki article (corrected version) posted about John Seigenthaler that rose to create a rukus recently.
Certainly worth listening to. But I disagree with Wales that the matter was debated and settled 10 years ago -- that there exists a reasonable balance that does not make Internet providers liable for what is posted by the public but that gives them a moral responsibility and duty to respond to complaints and take down items complained about (MP3 on responsibility).
- The online community is being naive if it thinks this can't -- and won't -- be revisited by the politicians and the courts. Wales talks about a generation gap, for instance, "a failure to understand that on the Internet people use login IDs. You know you can't necessarily authenticate who people really are, so you have to judge them on the quality of their work." But here's the reality -- that older generation still controls the courts and the Capitol, so, no, I don't think the issue has been settled.
- Wales talks about an accountability vs. a gatekeeper model. But I think knowing with whom you are dealing is a basic part of judging them and their work, and that's part of accountability.
- This goes to the matter of less and less responsibility being taken for our individual and collective actions. So if I'm an old fart in that respect, so be it. Yes, pseudonyms have a long and honored history in political activism, etc. (see the American Revolution), but at some point you've got to stand up and be counted.
- Wikipedia is more than a service provider. I'm sorry, but I don't think Wales can just say Wikipedia is like Blogger or Earthlink, etc. There comes a point where by the very dint of your influence, you pass the point of being "just" a service provider. As noted in my earlier post, Wikipedia has, unfortunately, passed that point for too many of our students and other people.
See a Guardian article rating some of the entries on Wikipedia (be aware, some of the critics aren't exactly without a dog in this hunt), and the growing responses on Wikipedia.
Nature, meanwhile, reports that when 42 science-related articles in Wikipedia and the Encycolpaedia Britannica were peer reviewed, Wikipedia's entries were on par with Britannica's. (A bit more on this from AP.)
Wales, in a Business Week Online interview agrees with my earlier contention that citing Wikipedia is a bad idea -- and makes a good point that citing Britannica probaly isn't that swift, either.
No, I don't think people should cite it, and I don't think people should cite Britannica, either -- the error rate there isn't very good. People shouldn't be citing encyclopedias in the first place. Wikipedia and other encyclopedias should be solid enough to give good, solid background information to inform your studies for a deeper level. And really, it's more reliable to read Wikipedia for background than to read random Web pages on the Internet.