Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wikipedia vs. Ayn Rand

Mike, over at The Primacy of Awesome, tells of his very ambitious undertaking of adding content to Ayn Rand related Wikipedia pages - specifically this one here. Judging from what it was previously, he seems to have added quite a bit of information. The real question now is: how much of what he wrote will last?

Some opinions of Wikipedia as a legitimate information source can be characterized as tenuous at best. Its popularity as one of the largest information sources can be well understood when trying to search for something. Everything you ever wanted to know, from peeps to Dutch literature, is at your fingertips. However, based upon the Wikipedia structure, information can be added and edited by anyone. The standards for validity appear to be open to interpretation, i.e. subjective. What one person writes one day, could be deleted the next. What appears to be the "truth", is in a way, simply truth by consensus, i.e. majority rule.

What is further troubling is, Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales' reported devotion to Objectivism. It seems counter-intuitive for a self-described Objectivist to set up a system whereby information is evaluated by a collective standard. Is it just me on that one? If I am right then it seems Wales would be doing more harm than good, in furthering the Objectivist movement.

So as more and more people perform searches for Ayn Rand on Wikipedia, they will at least get some basic "facts". Whether or not they realize they've only scratched the surface will be up to them. But if the Ayn Rand Institute keeps up with their educational programs maybe some will be encouraged to crack a book.


Blair said...

I, too, used to worry about the Rand entry at Wikipedia and even thought of engaging in a [at least weekly] scan of that particular web entry to correct any and all errors, but decided that it wasn't worth my effort at the time. Still, wikipedia is a great tool, and I'm glad there is the occasional younger Objectivist willing to correct those errors.
P.S. Thanks for adding me to your blogroll.

Mike said...

My goal in editing the Rand articles is to make it just so they don't scare people away from Objectivism. I trust most newbie or potential Objectivists have enough sense to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt, while at the same time thinking the general theme of an article is somewhat accurate. The theme of the previous article was that Objectivism is a cult. That's bad. The theme of the new article is that Objectivism is like any other intellectual movement. I also structured the article in such a way that once you get to the cult accusation it just seems absurd.

Also, wikipedia has SOME standards, so its not totally a free for all. Several rather pernicious anti-Rand editors have been permanently banned for their crap. So basically a once a week glance at the updates is enough to keep the jerks in check.

Michael Caution said...

Blair - the pleasure is all mine.

Mike - I could definitely tell from what it was before that the page has been substantially improved by your efforts. As for the standards of Wikipedia, I was more trying to bring to light that because of its nature, the information on Wikipedia seems to be in constant limbo, open to edits at anytime instead of settled fact. That's why I'm worried that some of your effort won't be preserved since it is subject to edits. But as you mention it is a great source for all around information.

Early Ehlinger said...

Sorry for commenting on this ancient post. Does anybody else see a parallel between Wikipedia and the history-tracking system in "1984?" Some guy gets his orders to edit a page from some government God-knows-where, and voila, history has been changed.