Monday, December 05, 2005

The Seigenthaler Flap

The best that I can say about the John Seigenthaler Sr. flap on Wikipedia is, like so many of his generation, he does not seem to understand the Internet medium.  Missed this one, darlings? Unplug your Nano for a bit and listen.  

The hubbub is that Mr. Seigenthaler is justifiably upset about a story on Wikipedia smearing him as a possible assassin of Bobby Kennedy. It is a great and regrettable shock to a man who acted as pallbearer to the deceased. I am very careful to treat Mr. Seigenthaler with respect over his grievances.

However, Mr. Seigenthaler, in his essay at USA Today

does not seem to understand the open source nature of a blog or a wiki. There is a tacit understanding that in a blog or a wiki, you get what you pay for; namely, it’s free and you take your chances as to the accuracy of the posted information. Furthermore, it is not the reputation of the wiki site or the blog site at stake when inaccuracies or libel occurs; it is the credibility and honesty of the blogger, or the blogger’s community, in jeopardy. In blogging, a person is open to critique from peers and detractors through posted comments and through website linking.  Commentary and/or being unlinked and isolated from the greater Internet community disciplines inaccuracies and malicious gossip. Street cred is earned, not given.  Wikipedia, as an open source information community, is not meant to be authoritative but accessible.  Blogs and wikis are Internet communities. With any community (online or offline) you get bad apples that the other group members discard.

The most sensible course of action for Mr. Seigenthaler is not to complain about the medium (a wiki or blog) but to follow leads to the person who posted the disturbing information and to pursue legal action if he feels this is necessary. Radio Free Canada wishes him the best of luck in his journey.