15
Sat, Jun
4 New Articles

What's with Wikis?

Commentary
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

The Web is wonderful. It is liberty and democracy taken to the extreme, where everyone is free to contribute anything. The Web is horrible. It is liberty and democracy taken to the extreme, where everyone is free to contribute anything. Wikis prove my point.

For those of you not familiar with wikis, let's start with a definition. Where better to get that definition than what is among the most, if not the most popular wiki, Wikipedia, which can probably be best thought of as an open-source encyclopedia that accepts contributions from and edits by people—anyone with Internet access—from anywhere in the world. Wikipedia includes an entry that currently (but not necessarily in the future) defines a wiki as "a type of website that allows users to easily add and edit content and is especially suited for collaborative writing." So far so good. I'm all for making it easy to add and edit Web site content and participate in collaborative writing. That's mostly marvelous stuff. The concept of creative writing by committee doesn't exactly thrill me personally, but collaborative writing for the purpose of brainstorming or consolidating factual information from a number of sources sounds like an excellent idea to me. Jolly good! Keep up the great work.

Wikipedia goes on to explain that some wikis are private and require user authentication, but "Some wikis will allow completely unrestricted access so that people are able to contribute to the site without necessarily having to undergo a process of 'registration'." And "Generally, there is no review before modifications are accepted." Uh oh. I think I see a wee bit of a problem. For example, I wonder who wrote those words. Did the author have the slightest idea of what he or she was talking about? Who's to say?

If you go to the Wikipedia page titled "Who writes Wikipedia" you find that "The volunteer writers of articles in Wikipedia don't have to be experts or scholars (though some of them certainly are). They can be anyone, including you! Volunteers do not need to go through any formal process before creating an article or editing an existing article." Oh my. Oh my, oh my. This is bad. This is very, very bad.

What this means is I'm supposed to depend on something that anyone, anyone at all, can contribute to, even your Uncle Shmendrick. You know, your good old Uncle Shmendrick who, after 20 consecutive difficult years of school, during which he worked as hard as possible and cheated whenever he could get away with it, finally graduated from grade 9. That's the same Uncle Shmendrick who, after extensive personal research, has come to believe firmly in three fundamental truths: First, the moon is comprised mostly of guacamole, with some bread crumbs as filler and craft glue to hold it together. Second, the best thing that ever happened in the United States, the best thing that could ever happen in it, was having George Washington as its first president because that meant it wasn't necessary to change the name of the capital. And, third, Descartes (although Uncle Shmendrick has no idea that it was Descartes) was a complete idiot because he said, "I think, therefore I am," which must be wrong because your Uncle Shmendrick never thinks, yet he exists. At least, he has a gut feeling that he exists, but he's never really thought about it.

Your Uncle Shmendrick and everyone else equally ignorant about absolutely everything are perfectly free to contribute their own "facts" and to "correct" the wisdom entered by Rhodes Scholars, assuming any Rhodes Scholars are willing to devote some of their valuable time to writing in an online publication like Wikipedia, which is not academically refereed. And I'm supposed to rely on what this unknown combination of geniuses and idiots has written? I don't think so.

Of course no one, no one in the world, would ever abuse the sacred privilege of expanding humankind's grand store of knowledge, now would they? Deep down in their heart of hearts, everyone is basically a fine, upstanding, honest, salt of the earth sort of human being, right? Horse feathers! "Horse feathers" aren't exactly the words I wanted to use here, but MC Press has me on a rather tight leash when it comes to my vocabulary. I'm told I'm incorrigible. I was ecstatic when I learned by trial and error that I'm allowed to use the word "hell" (but only in moderation), but George Carlin's seven words you can't use on television are definitely off-limits here. So use your imagination. What I'm trying to say is, there are definitely a few people, just one or two, of course, who might, just might, try to mess with your mind, not to mention mess with the truth, in a wiki because that's how they get their jollies. But that has to be rare because they'd really have to be the scum of the earth to do that, wouldn't they? You decide.

According to a February 9, 2006, article in The Washington Post, a few people have been busy rewriting history by going into Wikipedia and deleting factually accurate but unwanted (unwanted by the referenced people or their hangers on) descriptions of some past actions of members of Congress. A volunteer editor at Wikipedia wrote a program that traced the Internet addresses of the people who were making the less than honorable edits. Where did the trace lead? Was it to some scum of the earth? You be the judge. It led to the offices of the staff of the said members of Congress. Oh my. Oh my, oh my. Politicians and/or political aides were doing something that smacked of less than complete integrity? I can't believe it. I can't believe it for a second. What is this world coming to?

To be fair, it's not just politicos doing this. One congressman found a Wikipedia entry that said, I assume incorrectly, that he likes to beat his wife and children. Some propeller heads on the congressman's staff were able to trace the location where the entry was made to an Internet address in Omaha, but they couldn't pinpoint the person who entered it. What a fat lot of good that did. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that there is at least one representative of the Scum of the Earth Club in every city of any significant size everywhere in the world. What good does it do anyone to learn that Omaha is not an exception to the rule?

I really don't care what anybody writes in Wikipedia about politicians. That's not where I'm going to get my political information in any event. But it would be really nice if I could depend on Wikipedia as a ready source of factual information for my work-related research or personal interest. How can I do that if your Uncle Shmendrick or any blathering village idiot is perfectly free to supply text or alter the entries of Nobel Prize winners in order to make Wikipedia reflect said idiot's take on the universe? The answer is I can't.

If I'm asked to write a layman's article on particle physics, something that, like just about everything worth knowing, I know absolutely nothing about, I would like to be able to surf over to Wikipedia and read that "a quantum property of electrons, known as 'spin,' can be pointing in one of three directions, up, down, or toward Cleveland," and know that I can trust that information. As I said, I can't. And, by the way, what exactly would cause an electron to spin toward Cleveland anyway? Could it have something to do with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? How would I know? If anyone really did write something like that about electrons, I would likely become a trifle suspicious. Nonetheless, if they wrote something a little less ridiculous, but equally wrong, I wouldn't know the difference.

Oh well, I guess I'll have to do legitimate research when writing articles rather than depending on Wikipedia. I shouldn't complain. At least it gave me some good fodder for this week's tirade.

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, a writer, and president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto, Canada-based marketing communications firm. He is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. Joel has 25 years experience working in IT, first as a programmer/analyst and then as a marketer. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto. Contact Joel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If anyone wants to create an entry about him in Wikipedia or any other open wiki, all he asks is that the author be kind. Preferably not honest, just kind.

Joel Klebanoff

Joel Klebanoff is a consultant, writer, and formerly president of Klebanoff Associates, Inc., a Toronto-based marketing communications firm. He has 30 years' experience in various IT capacities and now specializes in writing articles, white papers, and case studies for IT vendors and publications across North America. Joel is also the author of BYTE-ing Satire, a compilation of a year's worth of his columns. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA, both from the University of Toronto.


MC Press books written by Joel Klebanoff available now on the MC Press Bookstore.

BYTE-ing Satire BYTE-ing Satire
Find out the hilarious answer to the eternal question: "Is technology more hindrance than help?"
List Price $14.95

Now On Sale

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

$0.00 Raised:
$

Book Reviews

Resource Center

  • SB Profound WC 5536 Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. You can find Part 1 here. In Part 2 of our free Node.js Webinar Series, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Brian will briefly discuss the different tools available, and demonstrate his preferred setup for Node development on IBM i or any platform. Attend this webinar to learn:

  • SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation. Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects. The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the company are not aligned with the current IT environment.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT Generic IBM announced the E1080 servers using the latest Power10 processor in September 2021. The most powerful processor from IBM to date, Power10 is designed to handle the demands of doing business in today’s high-tech atmosphere, including running cloud applications, supporting big data, and managing AI workloads. But what does Power10 mean for your data center? In this recorded webinar, IBMers Dan Sundt and Dylan Boday join IBM Power Champion Tom Huntington for a discussion on why Power10 technology is the right strategic investment if you run IBM i, AIX, or Linux. In this action-packed hour, Tom will share trends from the IBM i and AIX user communities while Dan and Dylan dive into the tech specs for key hardware, including:

  • Magic MarkTRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms. Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product. Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Request your trial now!  Request Now.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericForms of ransomware has been around for over 30 years, and with more and more organizations suffering attacks each year, it continues to endure. What has made ransomware such a durable threat and what is the best way to combat it? In order to prevent ransomware, organizations must first understand how it works.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericIT security is a top priority for businesses around the world, but most IBM i pros don’t know where to begin—and most cybersecurity experts don’t know IBM i. In this session, Robin Tatam explores the business impact of lax IBM i security, the top vulnerabilities putting IBM i at risk, and the steps you can take to protect your organization. If you’re looking to avoid unexpected downtime or corrupted data, you don’t want to miss this session.

  • SB HelpSystems ROBOT GenericCan you trust all of your users all of the time? A typical end user receives 16 malicious emails each month, but only 17 percent of these phishing campaigns are reported to IT. Once an attack is underway, most organizations won’t discover the breach until six months later. A staggering amount of damage can occur in that time. Despite these risks, 93 percent of organizations are leaving their IBM i systems vulnerable to cybercrime. In this on-demand webinar, IBM i security experts Robin Tatam and Sandi Moore will reveal:

  • FORTRA Disaster protection is vital to every business. Yet, it often consists of patched together procedures that are prone to error. From automatic backups to data encryption to media management, Robot automates the routine (yet often complex) tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAManaging messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. Messages need a response and resources must be monitored—often over multiple systems and across platforms. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events? Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAThe thought of printing, distributing, and storing iSeries reports manually may reduce you to tears. Paper and labor costs associated with report generation can spiral out of control. Mountains of paper threaten to swamp your files. Robot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing. Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

  • FORTRAFor over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i. With batch job creation and scheduling at its core, the Robot Job Scheduling Solution reduces the opportunity for human error and helps you maintain service levels, automating even the biggest, most complex runbooks. Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:

  • LANSA Business users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.

  • LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed. Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

  • LANSASupply Chain is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable. From raw materials for manufacturing to food supply chains, the journey from source to production to delivery to consumers is marred with inefficiencies, manual processes, shortages, recalls, counterfeits, and scandals. In this webinar, we discuss how:

  • The MC Resource Centers bring you the widest selection of white papers, trial software, and on-demand webcasts for you to choose from. >> Review the list of White Papers, Trial Software or On-Demand Webcast at the MC Press Resource Center. >> Add the items to yru Cart and complet he checkout process and submit

  • Profound Logic Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.

  • SB Profound WC 5536Join us for this hour-long webcast that will explore:

  • Fortra IT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators with intimate knowledge of the operating system and the applications that run on it is small. This begs the question: How will you manage the platform that supports such a big part of your business? This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn: