Wikipedia needs a health warning

Andrew Orlowski at the Register has this to say about Wikipedia:

No media mogul in history has ever matched the power of Wikipedia, which is capable of damaging reputations on an industrial scale. But with no checks in place to identify contributors, it was only a matter of time before fraudsters and blackmailers took advantage of Wikipedia to use it systematically, for profit.

The issues include Wikipedia’s:

  • Alleged neutrality (it isn’t neutral)
  • Alleged objectivity (it isn’t objective)
  • Checks on contributors (woefully inadequate)
  • Facilitation of fraud and blackmail (too easy, and too often)
  • Obsession with anonymity of contributors (a key aim)
  • Discordant fund raising (costs are around $3m, and it has cash of $70m!)

So, Wikipedia should carry a health warning. It has been used as a tool by some not very nice people, and its record at sorting things out is less than stellar.

I thought this was worth highlighting:

…the UK chapter of Wikimedia (WMUK) has its own in-house “rogue editor”. The charity is currently embroiled in its own scandal after the then-Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps found his reputation smeared in the middle of a general election campaign by a WMUK staffer. The perpetrator turned out to be a Lib Dem political activist, who has since been sanctioned by the “community”, but not by his employer: the charity refuses to take responsibility for his behaviour, accepting at face value his justification that his work on damaging Shapps was done in his own time.

In most jobs, this would cut little ice with the boss: an employee’s act of gross misconduct is still an act of gross misconduct, even during one’s lunch hour or at one minute past 5pm. Working for the Wikipedia charity evidently isn’t like “most jobs”.

It sounds like Wikipedia has all the governance of a banana republic, and a failing one at that. Since the central idea is a good one, and the potential benefits of a properly run Wikipedia are substantial, its current status is a disgrace. But in keeping with its lack of performance in those areas of basic governance, you will look long and hard and in vain for someone in a position of authority taking responsibility.

Read it all, here.