Wikiscrews free speech

Blogstapation plus other commitments make slewfootsnoop a very dull boy.

So it’s with thanks to heaven I have The Register to fall back on for an ‘issue’ with which to vent righteous this evening.

It’s a source I hold dear, not only for the occasional frisson of it’s politically incorrect editorial, but also because it parses the remorseless stream of weird, heartless computer nerd news, and presents it in neat, digestible chunks real people can both understand and learn from.

Anyway, today’s sermon concerns this story about the suppression (or maybe that should be implied suppression) of the truth in Wikinews. Its about two critical stories written by Wikinews contributers concerning the Wikimedia Foundation which were spiked, and the distinctly undemocratic legal methods used to suppress them.

Now Wikinews is not a source I have any great experience of – one reason I’ve discounted it is that it’s not sufficiently UK-focused from the little I’ve seen of it. But its a source all journalists should be aware of – if it becomes as successful and as ubiquitous as Wikipedia then we’ll all be dancing to its tune.

Even if it doesn’t take off, there’s a great link at the bottom of the story which sheds light on the practical reality of using Wikipedia as an authoritative reference resource. This is something I’ve investigated before, albeit in a reasonably un-scientific way.

This post from a couple of months ago, by Carl Hewitt (professor emeritus of electrical engineering at MIT) sheds light on just why Wikipedia is…

not only amateur-friendly, but expert-unfriendly.

Professor Kyle Gann [2007]

That is to say, posters (no matter their professional background or expertise) may not use unpublished original research, and neither may they quote from their own published work.

Of course these conditions are essential to starve cranks and nut-jobs of the oxygen of self-publicity, but unless qualified, they also serve to censor many experts in their fields.

Which is as good a reason as any, in my humble opinion, for journalists to tread warily when using Wikipedia in fields where they can’t triangulate their findings with other sources.

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