In a recent incident on Wikipedia, Adam Curry, a former MTV VJ, was accused of editing an entry on Wikipedia on podcasting to enhance his role in the origins of podcasting. According to a CNET article:
Essentially, Curry is accused of anonymously editing out information in the article that discusses some others’ roles in the creation of the technology while at the same time pumping up his own role.
In particular, he was said to have entirely deleted sections of the article, which addressed innovations originally talked about by Technorati principal engineer Kevin Marks.
“At the first Harvard BloggerCon conference,” in 2003, the original Wikipedia language began, “Kevin Marks demonstrated a script to download RSS enclosures to iTunes and synchronise them onto an iPod, something Adam Curry had been doing with Radio Userland and Applescript.”
But then an anonymous user–who was traced back to Curry via the IP address–deleted the Marks section.
According to another CNET article, Curry believed that the information he deleted was wrong. It wasn’t, and Curry admitted making a mistake. The CNET article raises the issue of whether people should be permitted to create or edit entries on issues where they have a personal interest:
Wales [the creator of Wikipedia] said he’s not sure how to approach the question of whether people should be allowed to post on subjects in which they have a personal interest.
“That’s an interesting philosophical issue,” Wales said. “Because on the one hand, particularly with things like podcasting, the people involved are people who know a lot about it, and on the other hand, when people are editing something they’ve been personally involved in, it can be hard for them to be neutral.”
He added that traditionally, Wikipedia has discouraged users from participating in such entries and asks them to be mature and serious when they do.
“But we don’t have a rule about it, because it’s too hard to enforce, and it may not be a good idea.”
I agree. First, as Curry says in the article, he should be “allowed to have an opinion of the facts and change Wikipedia to represent my viewpoint.” Second, how could a no-self-interested posting rule possibly be enforced?
Perhaps the answer is to restrict anonymity on Wikipedia. Because Curry was traced back to his edits, he’s been shamed across the Internet:
In the blogosphere, however, Curry is getting beaten up. . . .
But Curry bristles at the accusation that he was intentionally trying to deprive anyone of due credit.
“That I’m trying to inflate my role in the history of podcasting is a mean-spirited claim,” he said, “and not based on the facts of my (Wikipedia) edits and entries. But the meme took, and now I’m the asshole of the week.”
As one who is against Internet shaming, I’m wary that eliminating anonymity might facilitate the shaming of people who seek in good faith to clean up incorrect information about themselves on Wikipedia. Indeed, for the Seigenthaler defamation incident on Wikipedia, I suggested that he could just correct the false information himself.
Perhaps there’s an easy work-around — people could just have a friend create or edit an entry. I’ve always wanted to have a Wikipedia entry for myself . . . filled with glowing praise, of course. Hmmm . . .