Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Ministry of Truthiness

Wikipedia, that is. And who is the Minister of Truthiness? Why, you are.

It is a sort of dictum of the postmodern left that power is everywhere and everywhere contested. It is tempting at times to emphasize the latter and play down the former. But the recent news about—or, more importantly, from—WikiScanner reminds us that when everyone is anonymous, so are corporate and government agents. At its best (which is to say, when contributors edit entries both honestly and knowledgeably), Wikipedia is an interesting and even important experiment in open source content.

Unfortunately, the reality is much more problematic, in two ways. First, there is the opportunity for governments and corporations (and, frankly, any other organization with a vested interest in an entry, including non-profits organizations and institutions, other political entities, etc. etc.) to manipulate ostensibly "grassroots" information source in a very astroturf-y kind of way.

So, that's the Orwellian part.

But then there's the Tocquevillian part, the part where the truth is what most people believe the truth is. Stephen Colbert, whom we know and love, hits both of these elements in a recent segment: video, transcript.

I don't contribute code to, say, the Linux or BSD codebases. Better programmers than I do that, and I let them do it. Because it makes better code.


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