Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 9:51 AM
Wikipedia is not as good as you might think. Things written on Wikipedia are copied "verbatim" by other sites. By the time somebody checks the wikipedia story, he finds the verbatim copies and sees them as confirmation of the wikipedia story. And so the story stays on Wikipedia, spreading wrong ideas to schools, teachers, and you and I.
Spreading wrong information on the internet can have very big consequences, and John Seigenthaler knows this by personal experience.
This is a typical case where the many good people suffer from the few rotten apples out there. Since Wikipedia is usually editted by the same people (although a large group), I think a simple, non-intrusive useraccount system would be the answer to these problems. Anonymous internet access is good, but when you write something about someone, I believe in the "open visor". If you write about a real person (with first and lastname), you should sign with your own real name (or at least be traceable). If you write about an alias, you should sign with your oen alias on that same system (or at least be traceable).
If the person who wrote the wikipedia article had done this, this whole situation could have been stopped soon. Maybe the writer didn't even do this on purpouse, but just got the wrong information. He could be contacted, the article could be corrected, and we all would have learned from it without too much harm done.
So, to all writers out there, be careful, because these days people still think that "what is printed (on screen) is the truth". And certainly on the Internet, alas that is not the case.
And yes, even on this blog I can make mistakes. But unlike wikipedia, my posts are traceable.