Thursday, August 20, 2009

How long to the first Wikipedia-related homicide?

"Maybe you're like one of those nuts who forecast the end of the world," someone suggested to me recently. Maybe it's true that the first Wikipedia-related homicide won't happen for a long time. When forecasting death, you kind of wish you'll be proven wrong. But sadly, Wikipedia-related violence has already happened. We'll call him "Ted." Ted fits the stereotype of the typical nerd almost to a T, except he has a girlfriend. Let's say Ted knows a lot about "math."

He got into a disagreement with a little Wikipedia god-king who claims to have a Ph.D. in calculus, we'll say his screen name is "Wiki Authority 45." Even without the example of Essjay, you have to take claims of advanced degrees with a grain of salt. Well, Wiki Authority 45 hired a thug, drove who knows how many miles with the thug, tracked down Ted and had the thug beat Ted up, as Wiki Authority 45 yelled "I am the ultimate authority on Wikipedia. Don't you ever forget that." Ted won't press charges, and he won't let me tell you his story. I don't know if Ted still edits Wikipedia.

But at least Ted has learned one lesson: if you have a webcam on a motorized truck toy, don't let strangers on the Internet operate it! Nor should you ever put your real name on the same webpage as your Wikipedia username! Because otherwise Wiki Authority 45 can track you down and have a thug beat you up.

By the way, how does Wiki Authority 45 have the time to track down those who disagree with him to beat them up and still have time to make dozens of 'contributions' to Wikipedia each and every day? Ted's theory is that Wiki Authority 45 has an undeclared robot patrolling new articles and tagging suitable deletion candidates automatically based on "lopsided binary tree heuristics" or some other technobabble along those lines. Sure it takes skill to program the robot. But to actually write deletion nomination babble takes so little skill that even a robot can do it.

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