What I desire from Wikipedia

For many years, I have valued Wikipedia as a source of interesting and useful information on a staggeringly wide variety of topics.  I wonder how long that will remain the case, though, given that Wikipedia is changing in ways some of us find unhelpful. Thinking and reading about Wikipedia’s dominant editing culture has helped me clarify what I like to get out out of Wikipedia, what its controlling forces want, and the difference between the two.  At one point, Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s cofounder) presented a vision that greatly appeals to me: “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing. “ Unfortunately, one aspect of this vision...

Facebook, the Island of the Lotus-Eaters

Last night I watched Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief on TV.  (Beware, spoilers ahead.) This moderately-entertaining movie cleverly incorporates a number of elements from Greek mythology.  One of them is the island of the lotus-eaters, reimagined as a casino. Percy Jackson and his two sidekicks need to visit this casino to look for a special, hidden jewel.  At the casino, they are persistently offered and keep consuming some unusual, mind-altering appetizers.  The addictive hors d’oeuvres make them forget why they were there and what their mission was.  After a long time they manage break out of their stupor, retrieve the jewel, and resume their quest. Sometime after watching this scene, I was struck by the realization that Facebook is...

A Solomonic Response to Username Disputes

In recent months, I’ve read of the following scenario playing out on a couple of different occasions [1]: Person “So-and-So” chooses “CleverName” as their username on social-media service “Socialr” [2]. CleverName is So-and-So’s favorite pseudonym, a word or phrase with a personally-significant meaning. So-and-So starts using Socialr, and over a period of time builds up a digital identity on Socialr, an identity whose name, content, history, and reputation are associated with username CleverName. Some time later, a little-known company, “Company X”, comes along and wants to create an account on Socialr. That company happens to be named or have a product named “CleverName”. Company X asks Socialr to take username CleverName from So-and-So and give it...