Then I kinda drifted away from Wikipedia after realizing a few sad, inevitable truths. First, Wikipedia is a very good germ of an idea. Totally. You can just hear the exuberant idea as it sprung into existence: "Hey, let's go and make an encyclopedia that everybody can contribute to, and anybody can edit. It'll be like the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and stuff! People will send in updates, really smart people will be able to show off how smart they are, we'll run the whole thing through a Peter Jones voice synth for that truly dry delivery, it'll be great."
Only they seem to have neglected to realize the random factor in this: people. The utopian vision, that of a happy community of happy contributors contributing happily, dies before it even can take a breath. Because you just can't stop people from being people. People are stupid. People are vain. People have axes to grind and agendas to further and obscenity to write. And these people are the ones who truly Believe in the overall authority of the site. If it's written in Wikipedia, and then edited and re-edited and cross-referenced and reverted and filtered of all non-neutral points of view, then it must be true. The lack of true authoritativeness is what gets the collective panties of the "Dead Tree Pedia" community in a snit. Encyclopedia Britannica says "We spend zillions on our research and fact-checking department! Where do you ham and eggers get off trying to play our game?" The media also gets their panties in a snit, but they're not really in it for any altruistic reasons; they just love to shake the jar to watch the buggies inside fight. "Vandal changes article to read SENATOR CLAGHORN EATS HIS OWN POO! In an online encylopedia! Shock! Gasp! Also, random sexual encounters on Craigslist! Who the hell knew?"
So is there a way to solve that problem and bring peace to the land of Wiki? I don't know. (Hey, I never claimed to have all the answers. Circle this day on your calendar.) But I'm pretty sure the solution won't be any time soon. Currently, the future of the whole shebang is plodding along in an Intelligent Design By Committee sort of way. Wikipedia is this newborn critter, see, and while nobody knows exactly what it's supposed to really end up doing with its life, they all can see it may turn into something Very Important. It's going to turn into The Authority. So this massive crowd of people, each of whom figures themselves to be Very Very Important In The Growth Of Whatever It Is, has circled around this innocent little beastie, and each of these people has their own idea on what to do with it: nurture it, eat it, throw stuff at it, have sex with it, put a wooden board over it and then stomp on the board, that kind of thing. And when they try to take the floor and discuss their ideas, there's a lot of arguing going on. Meanwhile, the little critter is looking increasingly more and more uncomfortable under the glare of the harsh spotlights, and is desperately looking for a corner in which to relieve itself.
It's just a website, people. Which may or may not be useful in the long run. Don't listen to the media.
The media attention over the thing is really the glossy sheen on the waxed turd donut, anyway. It's "Web2.0" sensationalism at its best (HINT: THE DOT COM BOOM IS OVER, LEBOWSKI, THE BUMS LOST, CONDOLENCES) and it shines on like it ain't ever shone before. The real laffs come when you realize the media can't figure out whether to hype the site, since it's New Web Technology 3000 Let's All Get Rich Again, or demonize it since the fifteen minutes' worth of hype is nearly over and the big hand on the clock is edging steadily towards "Inevitable Backlash."
The whole debacle over certain people from certain parts of our certain government making surrepitious edits on behalf of a certain senator or representative is the best example. It's absolutincredibly silly. I love it. Because do you know what it means? The government's bought into the hype, too! They, too, believe that Wikipedia is the be-all and end-all authority on all things everything! Because if you write "SENATOR CLAGHORN EATS HIS OWN POO" on Wikipedia, it's entirely true! And if you omit the parts in his biography where he experimented with squirrels in college, it never really happened! And gosh, the suckers who read the thing will be none the wiser!
It's at this point where I'd just like to put my head in my hands and weep softly for humanity, only honestly, guys, you made your own goddamn bed, you can wallow in it. I think I'll go find something else to do, something fun, like chase butterflies, pound sand, or teach the cat how to do Sudoku. ("Geez, didn't you hear me? PROCESS OF ELIMINATION, BUDDY! OCCAM'S RAZOR! Quit licking yourself and show me the only number that can logically go here!")
Again, it's just a goddamn website. Attach too much importance to it and you are just setting it -- and yourself -- up for ruination. You hear me? Ruination! Razzem! Get off my lawn, you young upstarts who cain't learn from history fer beans, and take your blobby logos with you.
Anyway, I'm grumpy. And not just because I checked the site for the first time in months only to find that someone went and deleted my own picture from my own user page because it wasn't "released under the Creative Commons license." Ok, maybe it is just because someone went and deleted my own picture from my own user page because it wasn't "released under the Creative Commons license." Seriously. The overlapping levels of bureaucracy just seem so useless.
Now is the time where any and all Web2.0 apologists can come right up and try to engage me in debate. Please keep in mind I will respond to every sincere attempt to sling the self-delusion my way with pictures of dogs in people clothes, because buddy, we all delude ourselves in different ways. Mine just happen to be funny.