Criticizing Wikipedia; the Problem with Open Editing

Jason Scott has an interesting critique of Wikipedia, from the standpoint of a contributor. He isn’t criticizing the wiki method, per se, so much as this particular institution of the method. And unlike many other critiques of Wikipedia I’ve read, he isn’t questioning the credibility of the content, but how content is manipulated and deleted by those who had no role in creating it.

I haven’t messed with Wikipedia too much myself. While the idea of a world-edited encyclopedia sounds great on the surface, my experience dealing with trolls and right-wingnuts on Indymedia sites makes me suspicious about the same issues Jason brings up.

If just anybody could edit and change content on the Urbana-Champaign IMC site, then I’m certain we’d be fighting a constant battle of articles being vandalized with homophobic and racist crap.

As it is, the collectives behind most reasonably popular IMC websites have to dedicate a bit of time to cleaning the open newswire of that sort of useless content that drives away people who would use the site constructively as a place to read and share news.

Indeed, that, apparently, is what drove Jason away from Wikipedia — having his hard work denigrated and vandalized by people for no apparently constructive reason. That would drive me away, too.

The Internet is not a utopia, and there are lots of people who would rather use its power to stroke their egos, cause trouble and hurt others. That’s a fact of life, regardless of what your own political standpoint is. The real question is how you can still harness this power to spread information and give a platform to people who are otherwise systematically deprived, while protecting all of this from those who would destroy it.