Skip to content

You Know the Moon is in the Seventh House…

When Michael Gorman and I are in agreement, as we are today with his comments to Good Morning Silicon Valley. I could sigh that Gorman has now become the poster child for reactive statements, but on Wikipedia, I don’t think he’s wrong. Call me a fusty old Pleistocene fuddy-duddy with sleeve garters and a bustle–and you will–but I agree with this statement from Gorman: “If you look at the Encyclopedia Britannica, you can be fairly sure that somebody writing an article is an acknowledged expert in that field, and you can take his or her words as being at least a scholarly point of view.” The Brittanica isn’t immune from error, but an “encyclopedia” anyone can edit doesn’t stir trust in my heart. The “reforms” proposed by Wikipedia–requiring registration before adding articles–are rather thin, given that any anonymous person can edit the articles.

Before you conclude that Jupiter has aligned with Mars, let me hasten to add that Gorman is incorrect in criticizing the “online” format of the encyclopedia. Brittanica is online, as well, and it’s more accurate for it: the encyclopedia can absorb updates and corrections on a far more timely schedule than the print encyclopedia.

Why not let a thousand flowers bloom? What harm does it cause? First, arguing the merits of a user-contributed encyclopedia dumbs down the discourse about evaluating information on the Web. Second, the direction of the Web is that free is better than accurate. This is not a good direction, should you happen to believe that factually sound information is important.

Posted on this day, other years: