Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Wikipedia admits plagiarism

Yesterday's post saw a burst of traffic from Wikipedia, of all places. The fuss over this particular incident will down, but there are two important principles to be gathered from this.

The first is that most of the people now on the project do not possess the skills to develop an accurate and comprehensive reference work. As we just saw, a senior person on the project has defended his outright plagiarism by admitting he cannot write. Another of his colleague agrees, making the extraordinary statement that "plagiarism … is not only rampant, it is a standard editorial practice throughout the project". Crowdsourcing doesn't work.

The second is the lengths the adminstration will go to stifle any legimitimate criticism of the project. An editor (not me) who raised an earlier alarm about plagiarism was promptly blocked by the same person who said that plagiarism is now standard practice. The edit history of the plagiarist has been erased - if you click on the links in my previous post you will see they no longer work. Any discussion of the incident has been stifled. A long-term content contributor complained about this and was promptly blocked as well . More details here.

Of course, all organisations have the tendency to stifle debate and legitimate criticism. But Wikipedia takes this to extremes, which is especially ironic given its commitment to 'free culture' and 'open source'. Or is it? When being free and open really means stealing, it's difficult to be free and open, isn't it?

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