Friday, July 25, 2014

The Wikipedia Fight Club Goes to Congress

Back in March of 2008, it seemed worthwhile to call attention to the extent to which editing of the content of Wikipedia articles was succumbing to a "fight club" mentality. Things have calmed down considerably since then to the point that, when used properly, the whole idea of a wiki can actually prove to be a beneficial resource. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has been more proactive in trying to detect and prevent malicious use of what would otherwise be a source of useful information.

I was therefore amused to read this morning the following lead sentence in an article by Technology Reporter Joe Miller for BBC News:
Wikipedia administrators have imposed a ban on page edits from computers at the US House of Representatives, following "persistent disruptive editing".
Of course reading this report would not be any fun without at least one example. My favorite would have to be updating the page for Donald Rumsfeld to describe him as an "alien lizard who eats Mexican babies." Miller makes it clear that this is more likely the work of Congressional staffers, rather than the Congressmen themselves (although there is always the possibility that one of those staffers basically takes an overheard remark and then tries to turn it into "Wikipedia truth"). Ultimately, this story is not so much about the integrity of Wikipedia as it is about the Congress as a workplace, since it carries the suggestion that the workplace is closer in spirit to Animal House than to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington!

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