Monday, July 05, 2010

Truth in ten minutes

Well, Wikipedia now has a child protection policy, largely cobbled together as a reaction to the Fox News article about pedophile activism. The best part is the policy talk page where Wikipedians have been ardently discussing the rights of minorities to edit Wikipedia. “We should consider that such persons openly avowing pedophilia provide the world with a very rare perspective and a potentially useful resource.”

The idea that the truth will emerge if you open the means of promoting it to absolutely everyone is fundamental to how Wikipedia works, and (as the remark above proves) is an article of faith to most ‘Wikipedians’. But as I suggested here, truth is more fragile. There is nothing magical or complicated or difficult about recognising it yourself. The problem is to get it others to recognise it. Although it takes in general about 10 minutes to discover the truth about most matters, only one person in every thousand people is likely to spend that time. Of the rest, 9 people will find it so painful that they can get only as far as 3 minutes, and will spend the rest of the time and much more in opposing every attempt at publicising it. The remaining 990 people have only a minute to read about it, and thus are forced rely on the other 10. This is the best model for understanding Wikipedia.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I guess many people like myself consult Wikipedia quite frequently while suspecting that it isn't trustworthy except as a source of easily verified but probably dated facts. In other words, when "scholarly interpretation" or "critical analysis" creeps into a Wiki entry, let the student beware.

You also draw attention to the rampant plagiarism that seems to be built into the Wikipedia system. This is something I'm dimly aware of, but without access to an online university library I suppose we must tolerate Wiki faute de mieux.

Meanwhile it's a good thing that blogs like this are on the case.