One Man's Experiment With Wikipedia

But even that's problematic. Over the near-decade I've had this job, I've probably written five columns that drew major national attention: calling for Dan Rather's firing, declaring the decline of Microsoft, predicting the death of newspapers, naming Matt Drudge the most influential journalist in America and media bias in the recent presidential election. By which columns has Wikipedia chosen to define me? A piece on patent law in the Internet Age, and another on why older rockers sound so good these days.

So what lessons can I draw from this little experiment in letting my Wiki garden go unattended and filled with weeds?

Well, first and foremost, I'm still doubtful that I even deserve a Wikipedia entry. Second, I think the old Pareto 80:20 Rule obtains as much in the Wiki world as anywhere else: some small fraction of Wikipedia's nearly 3 million entries get most of the attention, updates and details. Unfortunately, I suspect, many of those are also the entries that you can't trust because of the push and pull of opposing contributors.

As for the rest, it is catch as catch can. If you're lucky, the entry you are looking for will have been filled in by some expert or serious fan. If not, as in the case of my entry, what you'll get is likely to be both incomplete and the product of an accumulation of occasional drive-by entries. The result isn't bad -- putting ego aside, I can say that my entry gives you a basic understanding of my biography -- but there is probably just enough missing or wrong in these entries that you should never use them as a sole source.

After my little experiment, has my opinion changed about Wikipedia? A little. Certainly I'm more skeptical about its contents. But then again, it is precisely because of its underlying social networking model that Wikipedia's entry on me has slowly grown more accurate, complete and timely as the year's have passed -- and I have no doubt it will be even better five years from now.

And besides, what are the chances of me ever getting an entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica?

This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.

Michael S. Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNews.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.

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