Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chasers War on Wikipedia

I went to see a live show on Sunday. The performers were Julian Morrow and Charles Firth from the television program "Chasers War on Everything". This is an Australian comedy program. Some of the clips from it have been put on YouTube and circulated around the Internet. One of their more famous clips is where they put stockings over their heads and walked into shops to see what the reaction would be to this fashion statement. Charles Firth set himself a challenge to beat Michael Moore's record of being thrown out of 34 global corporate headquarters in a month by getting thrown out of 35 headquarters in a day. You get the idea. These guys like to have a dig at the Establishment.

Julian and Charles were doing a talk as part of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, which is a talk-fest that brings together some of the most respected intellectuals around the world to discuss the important issues, like global warming, inequality and indigenous rights. The Festival this year was subtitled "Which Way to the Future". Julian and Charles's session had a theme of new technology. It started with everyone SMS-ing questions to the two presenters and them responding. The performance was entertaining although not the typical serious material provided in the Festival of Ideas. Julian and Chas were good enough to give my kids signatures at the end of the show.

The purpose of this article is to not review their performance. This will probably done by others in the references below. I want to focus on the second part of their show which was about Wikipedia. Charles introduced the audience to Wikipedia and then proceeded to attempt to deface it by putting in spurious entries. On the Wikipedia entry for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) who is his employer, he wrote "Bunch of no-talent fascist dictators" or something similar. He made changes to other Wikipedia entries for politicians. Charles also related how he had edited his own Wikipedia entry to say something like "Charles is the greatest living intellectual on the earth" only to find that 15 minutes later he got a call from someone saying sternly "You can't do that".

My interest in this is not that it is possible the deface Wikipedia but that Wikipedia survives this type of onslaught. The ABC site and the other sites were fixed by the end of the show by a group of unseen and proably voluntary Wikipedia editors. Wikipedia is a testament to what can be achieved through collaboration throughout the world by a large group of well-meaning content providers and despite a few malevolent (albeit humorous) deeds the Wikipedia remains an amazing resource.

This point is put well by Lars Aronsson

"Most people, when they first learn about the wiki concept, assume that a website that can be edited by anybody would soon be rendered useless by destructive input. It sounds like offering free spray cans next to a grey concrete wall. The only likely outcome would be ugly graffiti and simple tagging, and many artistic efforts would not be long lived. Still, it seems to work very well"

The Wiki concept is something we have put in place in my organisation in a limited form. The software developers exchange and record information on Wiki software. It works very well. The organisation's intranet however is tightly controlled. The content management system provides the ability to have a work-flow of authorisation to publish almost anything. One person still has to authorise any content on the intranet. This I hope will change shortly. The tightly controlled nature of this information means that the information on the intrnet is not as complete or current as a Wiki might be. The sensitivity to freedom for internal content authors is curious given the Wikipedia success for a much more open content source.


That great picture is by Nattalia Alonso and appears on the blog John Beohm's blog Spot the similarity with the Simpson's couch.

Chasers War on Everything Website:

Some video clips of Chasers War on Everything including the global headquarter record:

Adelaide Festival of Ideas:

Other blogs on the Festival of Ideas:

Lars Aronsson's quote was from

Someone using Wiki for the enterprise (Spot the "bottoms-up approach"!)


eDamo said...

Great post =)

Antony Kimber said...

Thanks eDamo

This seems to be most popular posting because of the entry in the Wikipedia entry in the references for Charles Firth!

http: / / wiki/ Charles_ Firth