Democracy Downloaded

More Wikipedia Headaches

Posted by joevoeller on March 7, 2007

Today’s UK Telegraph has this interesting story about the firing of a Wikipedia editor who lied about his credentials. The prolific editor, known on the site as Essjay, had claimed to be a professor of religion with advanced degrees in theology and cannon law. But this week it was revealed that Essjay is actually Ryan Jordan, a 24-year-old college drop-out from Kentucky.

The piece also reports that  Jordan consulted such august books as Catholicism for Dummies for advice on articles about penitential rights and transubstantiation.

Jimmy Wales apparently “forgives” the editor but has insisted he resign because “Wikipedia is built on (among other things) twin pillars of trust and tolerance.”

But how can a site that is made up of thousands of anonymous editors be successfully built on “trust”? Who knows how many other editors are misrepresenting their credentials? Which makes me wonder, shouldn’t “truth” trump “trust?” Who cares if the editor is a college drop-out. If he has his facts right, and is committed to editing entries, won’t that help make Wikipedia a better site? 

Maybe this editor’s real problem is the same as Scooter Libby’s — he just never should have lied in the first place.  

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