Let’s give the readers a chance to sound off this week.
No recent column produced more complaints than a recent piece expressing my deep reservations about Wikipedia. In fact, one reader — who needs to get back on his meds — suggested that I be horsewhipped, then sentenced to work as a Wal-Mart greeter. Other replies were more engaging, such as this one from Andrew Embury:
“While Paul McNamara raises some serious points about the accuracy of content contained in the Wikipedia project, his example illustration of the problem is actually one of Wikipedia’s main benefits. While he found some information on the small newspaper in Framingham, Mass., that was incorrect, he was able to fix the incorrect information and thus improve the resource for everyone in a matter of minutes. Had this been a traditional media source, he would have had little other [option] than to contact the author and hope for a response.”
Of course, I also could have exacted a bit of revenge against those at that newspaper who years ago informed me my services would no longer be needed. Sure, some wiki do-gooder would have erased anything libelous…probably…eventually.
“Your column on Wikipedia struck a responsive chord,” writes Bob Spooner. “The idea behind the implementation would be great if it weren’t for human nature. This is not to say that other common sources of information are significantly better. For example, virtually all the newspaper articles I have read which have been about subjects with which I am intimately familiar have been riddled with errors. If you want good information, you have to do your own research by going to primary sources.”Hmmm, let’s not give up on secondary sources altogether now.
A column about InBoxer and its contest that centreed around an online collection of a half-million e-mail messages from 176 Enron employees drew this reply: “It’s important that we educate users as to why they should be very careful about what they send via e-mail,” writes Bill Elberson. “Within 10 minutes of looking through the Enron e-mails I was able to find a full name, Social Security number and employee ID….It’s interesting that InBoxer claims that their software will help maintain customer data privacy while at the same time placing personal data on the ‘Net for all to see.”
Well, InBoxer didn’t actually put the info out there — Enron can thank the government for that — but InBoxer hasn’t been shy about helping people pick through the pile.
Send more. The address is email@example.com .