One Man's Experiment With Wikipedia

That "why" has defined my relationship with my Wiki entry ever since. On that day, I decided to never touch that entry myself, and just see what would happen to it over time. One reason was curiosity; the other was that I had seen too many entries that had obviously been edited by the subject -- mid-market TV anchors who listed every stupid award they'd ever earned, whitewashes in the biographies of controversial figures and endless inserts of self-congratulation and self-justification.

Not being famous, my entry normally only changes about twice per year, which means I don't have to check it out for months at a time -- and then can be surprised when I do.

For example, for the first year or so, my entry was about a paragraph long -- and though it got the overall description of my work correct, it got almost all the facts wrong: still listing me as working for Forbes two years after I left, crediting me with writing three books when I'd written a dozen by then, etc. Also interesting was that the sole entry is the 'Notes" section was an interview I had done a decade before, and which even I barely remembered.

This initial entry stayed pretty well untouched until mid-2007, when suddenly I caught the attention of one or more Wikipedia contributors. The occasion was a now-forgotten scandal involving a Web site publishing the proprietary encryption code for DVDs. I took the position (which I haven't changed) that if individuals wanted to do this, they had the right to do so -- but for a Web site to join in was a violation of journalistic ethics.

Suddenly, a mention of my "pro-copyright stance" appeared in my Wikipedia entry -- no doubt by an angry contributor. It has been there ever since, long after that tempest-in-a-teapot was forgotten. That attention, in turn, seemed to kick of a burst of new additions to my entry.

Suddenly, my bibliography grew -- up to five books now, out of a total of 15. There was more detail about my professional career (though there is still yet to be anything about my education or personal life, and very little about my career as a television host and producer). And, after nine years of writing this column, and despite the fact that it is listed in the Notes section, it has still never been mentioned in the entry itself.

A few months after my "copyright" addition, the publication of my book about Hewlett and Packard seemed to provoke some interest, because -- lo and behold! -- a photograph of me appeared. It showed me giving a speech about the book. I don't know who took the picture.

And so it goes. In late October of last year, the most recent entries to my Wikipedia were made. I know why this one happened: the publication of my hugely controversial column on media bias in the election. Various entries popped up on the page in the days that followed, calling me a "neo-con columnist" and other epithets, only to be quickly removed. All that remains of that flurry of activity are three new notes at the bottom of the entry, two of them mentioning past ABC columns of mine.

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