wikipediaWe had to know, the rise of online “socialism”, collaboration of the masses, otherwise know as “wikis” would eventually lead to the abuse of its very tools that create its value. Simply, wikis are defined as a web sites or databases that can be directly edited by anyone with access to it. Of course each system has it’s own set of rules, and the collaboration among community, contributors and editors has made Wikipedia one of the most successful cases. Abuse of the system is not a new concept and has been unmistakably occurring since its inception. However, I rely on it. I rely on Wikipedia for reference and research on almost a daily basis.

Interestingly, trustworthiness is one of the qualities the application was based on since inception, but not without problems. Here’s a direct pull from Wikipedia on that topic:

Critics of open-source wiki systems argue that these systems could be easily tampered with; while proponents argue that the community of users can catch malicious content and correct it.[2] Lars Aronsson, a data systems specialist, summarizes the controversy as follows:

“Most people, when they first learn about the wiki concept, assume that a website that can be edited by anybody would soon be rendered useless by destructive input. It sounds like offering free spray cans next to a grey concrete wall. The only likely outcome would be ugly graffiti and simple tagging, and many artistic efforts would not be long lived. Still, it seems to work very well.[7]”

Why this discussion about Wikipedia? I suppose it’s venting. Nonetheless, please bear with me a moment if you can…

Last week, two of my colleagues separately sent me links to the following stories, coincidentally published on the same day, Tuesday August 14th, 2007. Here they are:
1. See Who’s Editing Wikipedia – Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign; published 08.14.07 on Wired
2. Fox News Scrubs Wikipedia (UPDATED), Daily KOS

Even though the stories themselves are unrelated, they are related. Even though they are both written from the point of view of exposing the manipulation, it still exists. It speaks to yet another example of private interest persuading or manipulating history or public opinion.

Yes, I know this is a branding blog.

Yes, I know this post too, is unrelated to branding.

AND yes, I know this is one of my many diatribes, however the essence of the matter is ABSOLUTELY related.

We are branders, entrusted to define an authentic position and value within the market for our clients, within culture. Yes, I know, you are saying “But Lainie, culture itself, as we know it, has been manipulated for years by advertisers.” Understood, as that is the very nature of advertising. In many ways that is honest. Advertise a product to try to sell it, in its most simplest of terms. (I am fully aware I’m glossing over the complex matrix of academic theories on advertising, but just bear with me for a moment more before I dig myself too deep. )

This rant is really about corporations using <my> technology to change perception, public and private interests and points of view, and factual truths and social opinion. Somehow I held Wikipedia , specifically community, contributors and editors as the holders of a growing culture, holders of <my> history, holders of a collective truth. Somehow I had trusted that editors who act on behalf of corporations and make changes to the historical or cultural truths on Wikipedia, would be overruled, found out and overruled. Somehow, that’s what this blog posting and the two links posted above are trying to do here.

At risk of sounding like a “one flew-over the coo–coo bird’s nest”, some things are worth mentioning. I am done now, thanks for listening. That is all.

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