Earlier this week I was in agreement with his insistence that a censored version of Wikipedia not be developed for internal use in China. Unlike Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, Wales did not back down from Chinese pressure. Wales went further by challenging these companies to justify their claims that they could do more good than harm by co-operating with the Chinese government.
And yesterday the Wall Street Journal published a debate between Wales and Encyclopedia Britannica’s Dale Hoiberg in which Wales did a masterful job defending Wikipedia. While Hoiberg did a fairly reasonable job defending the Britannica model and pointing out the inadequacies of Wikipedia, it is clear in the interview that he is out of touch with the power of the Internet and the kind of leading role that Wikipedia will soon have (if not already) as a leading repository and forum for the collection of all human information.
An excerpt from the interview:
Hoiberg: I must point out that Mr. Wales's inclusion of two links in his question to me, one to Wikipedia itself, is sneaky. I have had neither the time nor space to respond to them properly in this format. I could corral any number of links to articles alleging errors in Wikipedia and weave them into my posts, but it seems to me that our time and space are better spent here on issues of substance.As a frequent contributor to Wikipedia, I'm happy to see that Wales is continuing to fight for the integrity of the site and to stand up to his principles.
Wales: “Sneaky? I beg to differ. On the Internet it is possible and desirable to enhance the understanding of the reader by linking directly to resources to enhance and further understanding.
You wrote: "I have had neither the time nor space to respond to them properly in this format. I could corral any number of links to articles alleging errors in Wikipedia and weave them into my posts, but it seems to me that our time and space are better spent here on issues of substance."
No problem! Wikipedia to the rescue with a fine article on the topic.
Fortunately, there is a vast army of volunteers eager to help good people like you and me who don't quite have enough time and space to do everything from scratch ourselves, and they are writing a comprehensive encyclopedic catalog of all human knowledge. They have quite eagerly amassed a fantastic list and discussion of dozens of links to such articles.
We are open and transparent and eager to help people find criticisms of us. Disconcerting and unusual, I know. But, well, welcome to the Internet.
And yes, this is an issue of substance and a fine demonstration of the strength of the new model.