Monday, September 28, 2009

Striking Back, But Sideways

A little while I ago I wrote about my Wikipedia page, how Wikipedia created this page without my knowledge or consent, and yet refuse to allow me or anyone else to edit it, even to correct mistakes.

Vengeance, however, is mine, in the form of Sidewiki. This is a facilty on the latest Google toolbar (launched less than a week ago, and which I added this morning) that allows you to add comment as a sidebar to an existing website. The Guardian offers this typically cynical response - marketing people, however, realize that Sidiwiki is going to have an impact on how people can control their brands - or not, as the case may be.

The impact of Sidewiki has yet to be felt - it means that anyone, anyone at all, can add content to any website, without the owner of the website having any say in the matter. And that, friends, has implications. The fact that Google is providing the service is immaterial - just think on what this means.

It means that evolutionists can add comments to creationist sites, and vice-versa.

It means that customers can post frank reviews and opinions of products and services on the corporate sites of those selfsame websites, exposing glossy marketing as all style and no content. Imagine what's about to happen in big pharma. No, don't go there, it's too ... much.

To generalize, it means that anyone can add comments to sites they don't like. This might prove a legislative nightmare, at least for Google, but before they have had a chance to try and put this monster back into this box, I've struck a blow.

If you look at my Wikipedia page - in Firefox, at least - and you have the latest Google toolbar installed, you can click on Sidewiki and see my health warning. If you haven't got Firefox or the latest Google toolbar yet, this is what I've written.

I am the subject of this Wikipedia Entry. Given that I was not consulted about it, and that Wikipedia has refused to allow either myself or my colleagues to contribute to it - in violation of the wiki spirit - it should be considered as utterly unreliable, and even scurrilous. Some of the information is wrong, and the refusal of Wikipedia to allow correction could be construed as actionable.

This means that people who are mentioned in websites can take back the rights to information written about them over which they have no control. This could be the revolution: bring it on.


  1. If you think your page is incorrect then you should at least point this out on the corresponding discussion page. That would mean that when things have calmed down, and the troll-in-residence/editor has gone off to find other victims, someone can correct the page.

    It is generally frowned on to edit a Wikipedia page that is about yourself (computer scientist Bertrand Meyer got into a big fight over this a year or two ago). It's a conflict of interest. They also don't like sock-puppets, which is what your horde of minions/readers would be regarded as. After all, as an editor of Nature you do hold a sort of unnatural power over your scientist readers.

    You could try suggesting that you are not notable enough for a Wikipedia entry, as someone has apparently done with Darren Naish.

  2. Henry - the stuff about Google Sidewiki is interesting, but I'm puzzled about your Wikipedia page - I just edited it without any problem. Drop me an email with any corrections you want made...

  3. @Tristram - all good strategies - thank you!

    @Brian - thank you, will do so if I get a mo.

  4. Actually, taking a look at the history of your Wikipedia page I note that there's an edit that says:

    Protected Henry Gee: Excessive vandalism: recent frequent and persistent vandalism from anonIPs and newly registered accounts ([edit=autoconfirmed] (expires 21:43, 19 August 2009 (UTC)) [move=autoconfirmed] (expires 21:43, 19 August 2009

    ... my guess is there were some dubious edits (perhaps from the Creationist crowd?), which resulted in a temporary protection being applied, but that has now expired.

  5. Not quite true - these cases of so-called 'vandalism' came from people I'd asked to edit my Wikipedia page to prove a point - that Wikipedia seeks to 'own' its own version of my life, and won't let anyone edit it as they see fit - not even me.

  6. Fair enough - but it does seem possible to edit it now... perhaps even you can?

  7. Do you know, I don't think I can be arsed.

  8. The whole sideWiki concept is totally evil, not dissimilar to Microsoft's reviled (and ultimately abandoned) Smart Tags. People should boycott it.

  9. Why is SideWiki 'totally evil'? Explain.