Wiki is at it again. Only, this time, it's more insidious. While easing my way into the afternoon and enjoying the deliciousness that is Maud Newton, I clicked through to her link about Hemingway's "fake" friend as fabricated and posted on Wiki for fifteen months before anyone detected it. Now, this is not a good thing. Fake friends, real or imagined, are never fun. Yet we've come to expect this kind of oversight from Wiki and we'll forgive it. Or at least, we will turn a blind eye because we've been reamed out so many times by those who post on Wiki about how they are all trying very hard and blah, blah, blah. I get it. It's not a perfect system. I believe in what you're trying to do. I'll be patient while you sort it out.
However, somwhere towards the end of the second paragraph in The Observer article, I came upon a sentence that...well...stood out:
"New entries can now be edited only by registered users, after computers in Capitol Hill offices in Washington were used to doctor political entries."
Hmmmm. Officials in Washington using Wiki for political gain? What an altogether unshocking, obvious turn of events. If you will recall, several posts ago, I pointed out the very possiblity of such Wiki use, only to be firmly put in my place by Wiki lovers. I will not gloat. It was only a matter of time.
Then I found this. Clearly one could argue that the same story was just picked up and run, ad nauseum, which seems to be the case as every news outlet is running it verbatim (a problem in and of itself?) But the point at hand is this: How can anyone not have expected this from politicians in Washington?
It's all fine and good when hack posters give Heminway an old war buddy (then again, we know about Hemingway and his "war"), turn David Beckham into an 18th century Chinese goalkeeper and supply Tony Blair with the middle name of Whoop-dee-do. It's even sort of funny. Except, I'm sure, it is less funny for the high school student who gets a big fat "F" on their latest History report, using Wiki as their only source. It is another thing altogether to for politicians to alter their bios to appear favorably to Wiki users. It doesn't surprise me. But it does disgust me.
And so, I must ask the question again. At what point do we feel that Wiki becomes a liability? Is it incumbent upon a reader to know instinctively that half the info might be wrong? (Who are Wiki's readers anyway? Smart people like us? Or those who believe everything they read?) Is the resource itself to blame? Or should some general guidelines such as "read skeptically and investigate" prevail? While I realize many people already know they can't believe what they read, see, hear...I can't help but feel that many web readers are naive enough to eat it all up. How else to explain the seeming shock of politicians spinning Wiki for their own gain?
I love the Wiki. I want it to work. But. It. Just. Keeps. Happening.