Google and Wikipedia

A nice rant in The Register from Encyclopedia Britannica president, Jorge Cauz, who claims that Google deliberately prioritizes Wikipedia entries. The article by Cade Metz goes on to produce a pretty convincing back up argument that this is true, and the excuse that Google offers that its search algorithms just do their job is clearly bogus. As Metz reminds us ¨those mindless Google algorithms aren’t controlled by mindless Google algorithms. They’re controlled by Google.¨ This truism is something many people tend to forget when they think about automated systems… And this is the company that of course we all use, but is now taking this trust to try to persuade us to give them all of our files with it´s new ´Gdrive´, part of its cloud-computing initiative that is supposed to see personal computing become simply software.

typing_monkeyAnd it´s not as if Wikipedia is a sound source of information. Take a look at the entry on surveillance – it´s a disjointed mess that shows evidence of all sorts of axe-grinding, self-promotion and personal pathologies, along with some increasingly burried attempts at co-ordination and making sense of it all. I generally tell my students to avoid it. The myth of Web 2.0 is that an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters might be able to produce the complete works of Shakespeare but, in practice, a small number of apes with computers can´t even produce a coherent definition of surveillance. This doesn´t mean I am in favour of the proposals to flag revisions to Wikipedia for approval by editors. Wikis are what they are. All that people, including those who run Wikipedia, need to do is be aware of that and not think that Wikipedia is anything more than it is. Especially Google´s programmers.