The unqualified (= without qualifications) gurus of Wikipedia
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2010/02/05
Further insight into Wikipedia as an in-group cult comes from looking at the posted procedures for resolution of problems, and especially at the people in charge: 11 names are given that may well be genuine names of real persons, plus 11 IDs; 3 of the latter are linked to pages that give apparently real names, and another couple yield photos, but half-a-dozen remain completely anonymous.
But even more informative is the make-up of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
Let’s do a thought experiment. If you wanted knowledgeable people to organize and supervise a world-class information source, something that in the Internet age would supersede Encyclopedia Britannica and its ilk, where would you look for likely candidates?
You would certainly want to enlist some people who have had long experience with encyclopedia-type projects. Obviously you would want some people who have expertise in the validation of knowledge claims, so philosophers would be an immediate choice, especially philosophers of science. You might well want an ethicist or two, and at least one lawyer. And you would probably set up a “tree” of types of subjects and try to recruit people of established credentials in the major fields of human knowledge, who would be asked in turn to recruit reliable people in more specialized areas within their general field.
What about the technical part, the software and hardware etc.?
Well, you’d cheerfully leave that part to technical specialists, who would follow guidelines set down by the people who know about the intellectual side of things.
Instead, membership of the Wikimedia Board and the Communications Committee looks rather like what you might find at a dot.com start-up (up-start?). Cult indeed. Infotech specialists re-inventing all the intellectual wheels of the last few millennia, and making all the mistakes that were corrected along the way — and then adding some new pitfalls (pratfalls?) that have come with the Internet age.
Enough really said.