As mentioned before I like TWoP. I’ve run two TWoPCons. I like TWoPers in general. I like the snark on the site and I have a lot of recaps to read on my iPod right now. I don’t post a lot because they’re blocked from work, and only having a handful of hours awake at home at night means … I’m skimming and not posting. That and TWoP canceled CSI, and really that’s where I was active.
But over the last couple weeks, I’ve been reading TWoP Criticism (the only one not blocked from my office) and other such anti TWoP sites and … wow.
It’s not shocking, really, to know that there are a multitude of anti-TWoP sites out there. The site it wonderfully bitchy, a tinge mainstream, and a lot of egalitarian. It probably could use a primer for the newbies, but thems the internet breaks. As one of the anti-sites points out, TWoP may be passing it’s prime, and I can see that.
I lurk on other anti-sites. I lurk on one that’s anti a MUSH I play on (well, not really, but they bitch about all similarly themed games), and I’ve even been flamed on it! My character, it seems, is a “baby factory” for having two kids among other things. It made my face burn in rage for about ten minutes, and then I deleted my post. Because you just can’t win that shit, so why play?
I still read that site a lot, to learn from it. And frankly, that’s the best thing you can take away from a site that’s anti whatever you love.
Learn why the hate is what it is. Learn where it comes from. Learn how to get better from the hate.
But what astounds me is the level of hate. I can understand being angry with the pseudo-internet fame that comes from a popular website or online existence (website, game, same diff). Power corrupts, and many people get their arms up and panties tight when they have the ability to be the buck stopper. I’m sure I did it when I first got on-line power. Hell, I know I did it on JFO until recently.
The weirdness is you have to come to grips with (a) being responsible and (b) being in charge. Being in charge means you direct the flow of traffic. If you act holier than thou, so do the people who are ‘under’ you (I use that loosely). If you’re an ass, so are they. Being responsible means you have to let them go and let things grow without your steering them.
Having recently gone through the pain of letting go and letting things become organic while keeping some semblance of a standard quality, I can tell you I’d rather break my arm again. No matter what, you’re fighting opposite sides of a battle. To keep standards, you have to wade in and punish equally. To make people feel safe and welcome, you have to be lenient and gentle.
The dichotomy is mind-boggling.
And it’s a problem young Wikipedia is facing today.
On my anti-quest, I also ran into Wikipedia Watch, a site that is so anti Wiki it has cobbled together a conspiracy with a paranoia that nears the JFK-esque level. This guy references ‘secret-police’ and seems not to grasp the basic tenet of Wikipedia. Now you have to bear in mind this guy also runs Google Watch, which tries to prove Google’s violating your privacy.
And you know, he has a small point. Google (Yahoo! and any search engine) scrapes the web to compile links. So any page that’s out there can show up on a Google search. But that’s the point of the Internet! You put up a web page with the intent that other people will read it, you dork. If you don’t want it up there, don’t put it up there.
Which brings us to people who post information about you without permission. That brings along problems, since how do you, the talked about, get them to remove the page?
If it’s someone’s blog, you email ’em and say ‘stop slandering me, dude, it’s not cool.’ And then they blog about how you;re a jackass and freedom of speech and blah blah fishcakes. So maybe not. You could talk to their ISP, but unless it’s really bad, they’re unlikely to do anything. And when you think about it, googling your own name (horribly vain!) is the only way most people will find that someone’s slammed them (horribly teenaged!). So the people who post nasty about you on a blog will have the nasty read by (a) mutual friends who tell you, (b) someone googling your name, (c) their friends. It’s not something to worry about. It’s offensive and rude, but there’s nothing to be done about it, so let it go.
So what about Wikis?
Anyone can update a wiki. Anyone can write an article. Anyone can edit an article. Anyone can say something stupid like John Seigenthaler was “thought to have been directly involved in the Kennedy assassinations of both John, and his brother, Bobby.”
Yeah that’s a big problem, and brings up a certain Daniel Brandt, owner of wiki-watch and google-watch.
By now most everyone has heard this story: An anonymous poster on Wikipedia posted a bio on John Seigenthaler Sr. that was riddled with slanderous inaccuracies. Seigenthaler took Wikipedia to task on the news etc and said that a site that claims it is an ‘encyclopedia’ is pretty fucking messed up.
Like many others, I defended Wikipedia! And I still do, but make no mistake: I agree Wikipedia fucked up.
See, the basic tenet of Wikipedia is a ‘free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.’ Many people equate an encyclopedia with being fact checked, verified, and written by people who know what the hell they’re talking about. Personally I don’t suffer from ‘Encyclopedia Syndrome,’ but I’ve run into a couple very racist encyclopedias, including an old version of the Brittanica (written before MLK died).
Wikipedia claims that it has a policy to add to the encyclopedia only statements that are verifiable, and not to add original research. The simple fact that the Seigenthaler crap was up there for four months means no one checked.
Is that reprehensible? Out of 879,602 entries, maybe one can excuse people not checking every single edit. I only have a few hundred, and while I read my ‘recent changes’ logs every day, I miss stuff too.
But when someone (or even a community) make a mistake that angries up the blood of someone else, it can get bad. And we get what we got with the Seigenthaler affair: a very vocal, somewhat well known, pissed off dude. And on his heels comes Daniel Brandt, saying Wikipedia violates our right to privacy.
More so, Daniel gets mad that someone wrote a wiki article on him. I’m not going to mention free speech, it’s not applicable in this case. He was mad that someone posted a bio on him, without his consent, without letting him fact-check it first, and posted it on a very public, very oft-read site.
He has the right to be pissed.
Was this a violation of privacy? Not really. All the information on the page was garnered from public information, free to anyone.
Was this irritating? You betcha! As Wil Wheaton pointed out, you’re not supposed to add your own information to the Wiki (that is, I shouldn’t add an Ipstenu entry, though frankly I don’t care to). So if someone slams me on Wiki, should I edit my own pot? Hell yes. Then I put a note in the talk page ‘I know I’m not supposed to, but I saw this and went to roll it back…’ and suffer the harassment there. Like as not, people who work there would let it go.
And Daniel tried this. Except he wasn’t rolling back slander, he was just rolling back the page which, while not well written, wasn’t offensive or wholly inaccurate.
Therein lies the difference between Daniel and Seigenthaler’s problems, and why I think the former is a dipshit and the latter is a victim.
Seigenthaler has been accused of criticizing an entire community based solely on the misconduct of a single member. Perhaps more accurate would be that he criticized the community based on the misconduct of one member, and the lack of correction by the community. And for that, he is in his right.
Daniel has been accused of criticizing an entire community based solely on the fact that he didn’t want a page up there and he is a ‘private person’ and as such the libel laws are a little different than for, say Jorja Fox 😉 . And for that, he has no room to stand on, as the owner of two sites actively against other domains.
Ironically, perhaps, there’s a Anti Daniel Brandt site out there which depicts how Daniel himself fell for a hoax email, without doing the most basic fact checking. Whoops! That would be karma in action.
Wikipedia has a disclaimer that says to use at your own risk. Even the esteemed Brittanica has a similar disclaimer. So does the Wall Street Journal.
None of these sites and papers are perfect. If they were, we’d never have a reason for a retraction section. Two people got nailed by Wikipedia, which is the current buzz-word/golden child site on the ‘net, and they’ve suffered for it.
The potential for vandalism is much higher on Wikipedia than Brittanica, but even there it exists. The potential being higher is part of why people cast aspersions on Wikipedia, and while they are correct to do so, they’re not helping anyone.
The lesson learned for everyone is this: Cite your source.