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Friday, February 15, 2008

Wikipedia Idiots - Why Crowd Wisdom is Oxymoronic

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 3:40 PM

Assholes on wikipedia are a dime a dozen, so staff writer Mary Spicuzza cashed in some dollar bills for a huge stinking pile of them in Wikipedia Idiots, this week's feature. Here's some extra info for those who can't get enough.

Since part of the article addresses issues of anonymity, and various Wikipedians have commented on the benefits and limitations of anonymous users what are the thoughts from Wikipedia exec Jimmy Wales?

"Anonymity is a powerful and useful tool in a free society, but one which brings with it complications and problems as well. We want people to be able to speak the truth freely and openly without fear of retaliation, and yet we want people to be accountable.

Pseudonymity is a neat solution which helps bridge the gap between the benefits and risks. By "psuedonymity" I mean a stable identity over time, but one which protects ones real life identity from harassment. A psuedonym can be banned or ostracized from a community.


Writer: Also, because my story deals quite a bit with some of our local editors and edit warring-types (Griot and others), I'd love to get his thoughts on if & how his work with Wikipedia has changed his view of the concept of "the wisdom of the crowds."

Jimmy - I have always been firmly opposed to the notion of "the wisdom of crowds" and nothing about Wikipedia has changed my views there. Good work is the product of individual human minds. That's not to say that collaboration is not good... obviously it is. But "crowds" is the wrong analogy and causes people to fail to understand why this all works as well as it does.

Writer: Much like in the real world, I've talked with some wonderful Wikipedians. Then there have been some real cranks...

Jimmy: Be careful to note that merely editing Wikipedia does not make someone a Wikipedian. There is the community of editors, and then there are random people lurking around who we have to deal with.


1. Link to Phoebe Ayers, librarian & avid Wikipedian

Link to more information on her upcoming book, How Wikipedia Works

2. Link to the recently-debated Matt Gonzalez entry

And its talk page

3. Link to the much-fought over Supervisor Chris Daly entry

And its talk page

4. Link to user page for Bay Area-based Wikipedia administrator Michael C. Berch

5. Link to web site for Andrew Keen, author of The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture

For more on the Wikipedian mentioned, Bill T. Fried:

Direct link to video on myspace:

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David Downs


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