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10.02.07 / inko9nito

Wikipedia still loves you, Keen

Andrew Keen (ah, he must get a kick out of seeing his name linked to a source he so despises) suggests that anything created without some substantial money flow behind it is not worthy of the public’s attention and only hurts us (by “us” he usually means big business and people like himself who never made it that far). He makes the assumption that since mainstream media journalists and editors get paid for what they do, they would take their job more seriously and would try their best to avoid releasing false or inaccurate information to the public. An 0.08-second Google search for “mainstream media lied” reveals a blog that compiles a list of 54 MSM lies in 2005, acknowledging that those were just the ones the blogger managed to catch.

According to Keen, Wikipedia holds no merit as he states that “[Anna Nicole Smith’s] Wikipedia page was flooded with conflicting, speculative versions of the cause of death” to further prove his case. What Keen fails to realize is that most Wikipedia “editors” get their information from mainstream media, and they prove that by citing their sources, many of which include such “trustworthy” (according to Keen) newspapers as New York Times and ABC News. The reason Anna’s death (well, one of many reasons) was covered for such a long time and so extensively was that nobody was sure and every time she was mentioned on TV there was a new and exciting theory to accompany it.

In reality, MSM editors really aren’t that different from the independent “wikipedians” (I thought I made that word up until I found it on Wikipedia. How fun is that?). They are all humans and all make mistakes. The only difference is that MSM tries to cover up and not admit to those mistakes, thus having the public believe that they are trustworthy and have a great deal of merit. One thing we don’t think about – what goes on when a journalist writes an article and the editor does what he is good at? We don’t see the changes real time, we don’t see the original and the versions that follow, and the final draft side by side. We only see the final and accept it as the truth. It doesn’t change. It’s concrete. It must be the truth!

Wikipedia willingly shows you the original and all the edits, allowing you to compare each and every revision. Knowing that you – an average person, sitting at home, away from action – have the power to add your own little tidbit about what went on at Apple’s last Keynote address as it is happening is a scary notion (believe it or not, to some it is) and that’s when Wikipedia starts to lose its credibility. When you see facts change right in front of you, sometimes even real-time, it’s hard to put your trust into this compilation of articles.

Would paying these guys add credibility to Wikipedia? Is that all it takes? Keen’s standpoint is understandable, but his approach to the problem is useless and doesn’t offer any rational solution (or maybe he does later in his book? I don’t know…). Keen fails to see the big picture. As people realize that they have the power to write and be read, most will actually make a great effort to make themselves stand out from the crowd. They will learn to spell, they will learn to “forget” the CAPS LOCK when it is not appropriate (almost never, if you ask me…) and write coherently in an attempt to gain the attention of a larger audience. Teachers and professors around the world will rejoice! Vandals and spammers of today are yellow journalists of yesterday. I don’t see him complaining about them. Why? They will get phased out. Maybe I’m being super optimistic about this, but I don’t think it will be a huge problem in the future as the moderators – even now – quickly erect new barriers to ensure that such nonsense and the people who write it isn’t seen by the unsuspecting reader.

“On the internet…nobody knows you’re a Dog.” Nobody knows who you are because “everyone else is too busy ego-casting, too immersed in the Darwinian struggle for mind share…”

Upon reading these last few lines of frustration of “The Great Seduction” one case comes to mind and leaves me with a question for Keen:

Forbes’s technology writer Dan Lyons relatively recently revealed himself as the “Fake Steve Jobs” – the author of “The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs.” We trust Forbes. We trust Forbes’ writers. Dan is no “amateur” wiki writer yet he writes a blog, alleging to be Steve Jobs (I hope everyone knows he wasn’t serious). What caused Dan to partake in the task of the “amateurs”? Does he not have enough readers being a Forbes writer for such a widely-read “column” as “Technology”?


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