7.3.07

Wikipedia exposed

To those who like me have been reporting the evolving crisis in Venezuela the news came as no surprise: Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, is, to put it mildly, utterly unreliable. It didn't surprise us because we bear witness of how Hugo Chavez's and Venezuela's pages have been edited almost beyond recognition. In fact apologists of Hugo Chavez have expressed their pride on their 'editing work' in Wikipedia. Logically the only natural conclusion one could reach in light of it is that no Wikipedia entry can be trusted.

The revelation of the true identity of Essjay -aka Ryan Jordan- reinforces apprehensions towards the online encyclopedia. A 24 year old managed to con not only the Wikipedian community but also Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder. The fact that Wales went as far as establishing a working relationship with Jordan without even bothering to undertake the perfectly normal credential-checking processes to be expected between an employer and its employees speaks volumes about Wales duty of care towards his pet project.

Wikipedia does not check the credentials of its editors, that much is known. However knowledge about its editing processes and criteria remains scant. A request to remove links to my site -vcrisis.com- from all Chavez related pages was introduced by another anonymous Wikipedian. Flanker, as his online name goes, argued that vcrisis.com was not a reliable sources of information with regards to Venezuela. But who is this Flanker character and what reasons prompted him to make such request? What I know is that he is an avowed apologist of Hugo Chavez and frequents comments sections of sites publishing commentary on Venezuela in order to advance the premise that Chavez's Venezuela is the closest approximation to paradise on earth. I also suspect that he is not even Venezuelan, neither is Sandy, that other Wikipedian involved in the issue. So how come people characterized by their superficiality of knowledge and partisanship about our issues get to decide what constitutes reliable information sources? Furthermore how come they are allowed to rewrite history without providing credible evidence to substantiate their claims?

Recently another Wikipedian (Maracucho) created a page about me that draw the ire of Chavez's fans and so they started editing it. When I noticed it I tried to delete the whole thing, knowing full well the infantile approach that Wikipedians have for facts. I could not, but was advised to take the issue with the Wikipedia Information team [info-en@wikimedia.org] that granted my request to have my page deleted.

I guess the take away message is that orthodox encyclopedias, with responsible editing processes, will continue being the preferred choice of serious people.

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