Monday, May 01, 2006

Jimmy Wales and Wikipolitics.

Political bias and dirty tricks is the current Wikisubject de cachet, it would seem. This from Mark Glaser's "Wales Discusses Political Bias on Wikipedia" (MediaShift, 21 April 2006):

Conservative blogger Robert Cox, who writes the National Debate blog, told me he was amazed at the quality of Wikipedia and thought it was a great resource. But there was something about the free online community-generated encyclopedia that was getting under his skin — what Cox believed was a liberal bias in many hot-button topic entries, despite Wikipedia’s principle of giving a neutral point of view (NPOV).

Cox felt there was a liberal tilt to the entry on George W. Bush, Bill Clinton , and the partial-birth abortion entry, to name a few. Plus, at one point, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales invoked the dreaded WP:OFFICE command — basically a unilateral edit done only by Wales — to tone down a scathing liberal point-of-view entry on the conservative site .

Glaser does address a question to Jimbo Wales about editors possibly ignoring their own rules and simply "reverting" (i.e. removing) material based upon the personal predilection of small groups self-appointed of "censors":

From time to time, I have attempted to correction misinformation or edit a section to make it NPOV. Those edits are typically “reverted” within the hour without explanation or discussion. Over the past month, I signed up for an account with my name in the User ID; many of the editors know who I am and are openly hostile to my editing the site. These editors aggressively revert any edits I make to the entry. When I attempt to discuss my recommended edits they ignore me. When I make the edits they criticize me for not discussing them. If I continue to make edits they complain to the “Wikipedia cops.” Even after posting a detailed exposition on why the page is massively NPOV they have ignored the substance of my post and instead attacked the messenger.

It’s a neat trick — they demand that I propose changes on the discussion page, ignore me, then when I go ahead and make those changes they revert them, all the while complaining to an admin that I should be banned from editing because I won’t “discuss” changes. The real issues is that these people WANT the page to be massively non-NPOV and resent any efforts to alter their “pet project.” [Go to the full text >>>]

At least this person does not seem to have been "wolf-packed" (see: "Is Wikipedia Handing Out Your Browsing Information to Thousands?"). Still, the outlines of the dark side of Wikiworld, which inspired the WW blog, can be vaguely made out. It could only be expected that Wales, given his "investment" in Wikipedia, and the enormity of the beast, would blow the issue off with a platitude and that is precisely what he did.

It is not difficult to understand that the political implications are of more interest to the general public. A Montgomery Advertiser/AP article, with the following tidbit, came out shortly after the MediaShift piece:

In Georgia this week, the campaign manager for a candidate for governor resigned amid allegations he doctored the Wikipedia biography of an opponent in the democratic primary. Morton Brilliant was accused of revising the entry for Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor to add his son's arrest last August in a drunken driving accident that left his best friend dead. The information was accurate and had been in the news. But Brilliant's boss, Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, declared the son's legal troubles out of bounds. The link to Brilliant was discovered by Taylor's campaign, which immediately accused the Cox camp of engaging in "gutter politics" and demanded Brilliant's resignation.

Incidental to the various examples of the political uses of Wikipedia's open editing format, the reader learns that:

With more and more Americans getting news and information from the Internet, the stakes are high. Wikipedia had 25.6 million unique visitors in March, making it the 18th most popular site on the Internet. [Go to the full text >>>]

Interesting info. But, of course, by the Wikipedia definition of "LinkSpam," unless a site you link-to from a Wikipedia page is one of the 17 with better traffic stats you are by definition a "Spammer" (see: Wikipedia and the Question of LinkSpam). Shucks ma'am, all in a Wikiday's Wikiwork.

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