22 February, 2006

Rep. Kelly in the Middle of Wikipedia War

As I mentioned the other day in my piece about Paul Hackett, the former candidate for the Senate from Ohio, politics often is a cesspool.

Other times it seems to be a game being played by eight year olds. A game aided and abetted by the ridiculous concept of Wikipedia, which, as I understand it, is an online "encyclopedia" that can be edited by anyone with a keyboard and and Internet connection.

And children appear to be playing a little game with Congresswoman Sue Kelly and her entry on Wikipedia. Apparently Kelly's profile has undergone numerous revisions in the past few days, by supporters and detractors. Details of the childishness are outlined in a story in today's Times Herald-Record, the Middletown, NY daily that covers much of Kelly's 19th district.

Although the take19 blog, whose sole purpose for being is to unseat Kelly this year, is mentioned in the article as being behind the negative alterations, the blog posted a denial today.

Here's just one example of how dishonest and potentially damaging the whole Wikipedia idea can be. There seems to be constant revamping of an opinion about Kelly offered by a Web site called politicsNY.com and "quoted" on Wikipedia. Funny thing is, if you check politcsNY.com you'll find that the site seems to have stopped publishing last June. It is a dead Web site and I can't find a word about Sue Kelly on it. There is also a politicsNY.net, but that site appears to be out of the Buffalo area and focused primarily on very local issues. (A very well-done site by the way). For the heck of it, we also checked politicsNY.org, but that URL is not in use.

I have no beef with the take19 blog. They state their purpose right up front and make no bones about their goal of unseating Kelly. Given such full disclosure, the reader can make up his or her mind how much of what is presented on the blog is fact and how much is, shall we say, hyperbole.

I do have a beef with the "editors" of Wikipedia entries. Folks with nothing better to do than ruin someone's reputation or cannonize them, depending on who's doing the editing.

But I mostly have a beef with the concept of Wikipedia, a sort of vigilante encylopedia which passes itself off as an online reference source.

The Internet offers so much potential for people to have control of their own message, whether it be "straight" information, which we try to provide here at NYpols, or information shaped by ideology, which is pervasive in the blogosphere and should be in an open society.

When it all becomes dangerous though is when the Web is used to deceive or even defame, which is too often the case on Wikipedia even if the intentions of its creators were pure.

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