anyone can contribute to wikipedia…unless you work on a presidential campaign

Today’s Washington Post has a story on the role Wikipedia is playing in the ’08 races. According to the Post:

On Wikipedia.org, the write-it-yourself encyclopedia, everyone can be an editor, and every day thousands of them are engaging in fierce battles over the life stories of the 2008 presidential candidates.

Many of those battles, so far, are over relatively small biographical details, but the stakes are high: Wikipedia is one of the 10 most visited Web sites, drawing 6 billion page views a month, according to the Web rating service Alexa.

Indeed. Wikipedia is now the site of choice for young people seeking to learn about campaigns. Some campaigns, however, are being put on the defensive for their work in contributing information online:

“…there have been few reports of campaigns editing their pages or those of their opponents. Last month, an erroneous revision about Iowa‘s entry into the Union (1846 instead of 1848) was traced to someone using an Obama campaign computer.

Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the campaign is “looking into this matter,” though she noted that “hundreds of staff members, supporters and volunteers” have access to the campaign’s computers. She added: “We will continue to update our policies and procedures to ensure the accuracy of not only Obama’s Wikipedia site, but any on the site.” Other campaigns, including Clinton’s and Romney’s, said they do not monitor their pages.

So campaign staffers are contributing content to Wikipedia? OF COURSE THEY ARE. Any campaign that ignores the major role Wikipedia has in distributing knowledge about our political candidates is in serious denial. Campaigns should not be forced to defend their contributions to Wikipedia.  On the contrary, if they’re a smart campaign, they should get involved as much as they can online – as long as they’re open and transparent about who they are and which edits they have made. After all, if you truly believe in the Wisdom of the Crowds, you’ll know that any temporary bias reflected on Wikipedia will soon be corrected by the masses. In the end, we’ll all have a better product.

Let’s keep things in perspective. Wikipedia is not just for geeks who contribute content from their parent’s basement all day long. It’s for the big guys too. The Internet serves as a great equalizer.


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