Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Wikipedia grumbling, Shirin Ebadi, Immolations, and other pleasantries

1. Robert McHenry at Tech Central Station complains about Wikipedia. He is, one should note, the editor of The Encyclopedia Britannica, so he is perhaps a little biased against this completely free institution which will certainly cut into EB's bottom line.

Most of the article is fluff. His point is, how can we trust random people to actually produce something of quality? When he finally gets serious, his only example is the Wikipedia post on Alexander Hamilton, which, he finds, has actually been edited into mediocrity.

It's true, nothing on Wikipedia can be considered definitive knowledge. Everything will have to be verified. Specialists (and any students of mine reading this) should know that whatever you find there should probably be double-checked. But it's quickly becoming an information phenomenon -- especially now that Google searches where a specific piece of information is required (say, the basic rules of golf, or a biography of T.S. Eliot) now produce mainly commercial websites like the useless About.com or cliff notes-type services where you have to pay $5 to get information that should really be free.

The Onion also lodges a complaint about a Wikipedia entry, though the topic is not Alexander Hamilton, but Weird Al Yankovic.

2. So much for freedom of speech. Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi has filed suit against the U.S. treasury department because of restrictions on printed materials originating from embargoed countries like Iran and Cuba. Ebadi wants to write and publish a book explaining some of the positive things about the current theocracy in Iran -- directed specifically to American readers. But under current U.S. law, she can't do it.

She has an Op-Ed in the New York Times that explains it in a little more detail.

3. It turns out the guy who immolated himself in front of the White House wasn't protesting the war in Iraq after all. He was an informant working for the FBI, who says he was stiffed. They promised him a green card which he didn't get. He says he wanted to go back to Yemen to visit his sick wife, but wasn't able to do so.

4. U.S. Marine kills unarmed Iraqi prisoner in Fallujah mosque for no apparent reason. Reuters. Also, one can apparently see video footage via BoingBoing, though I haven't tried to download it yet.

5. The Hindi film Veer-Zaara earned nearly $1 million at the U.S. box office this weekend. Nice one. And that's just the money the film earned legally!


Colleen Clemens said...

So, if you think Wikipedia is bunk along with the editor of EB, ignore the wiki site on my syllabus!

3:18 PM  

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