Aug 24, 2008

The veracity of Wikipedia and Collective wisdom of humanity

I recently participated in a debate / discussion on the veracity of Wikipedia and similar pages that anyone can edit. The points of view were straightforward - the information cannot be trusted to be accurate as malicious or ignorant people may mislead readers and hence such sites don't need to be supported. The other point of view was that these websites are sources of the collective wisdom of humanity in the digital form and hence need to be preserved (for the IT nerds out there read- backed up, archived etc).
While both points of view are right - who gets to decide whether a piece of information is true or false? And what kind of governance can you put in place? And how do you go about establishing a governance model?

Who can you sue if you relied on some information on Wikipedia and acted on it? These are valid questions. Are there answers in Wikipedia?

Now, extend this a little further - What kind of laws govern web lives? For example - will I be punished if I slander someone's web avtaar? Do we need to worry about such issues yet? For highly mediated websites, this is not an issue. What about in social sites like Facebook, My Space etc?


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