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Boys and Their Toys

I'm fond of Wikipedia. It does a pretty good job of harnessing collective intelligence, and it's a good starting point for research into most topics, particularly technological or esoteric subjects. Is it perfect? No. But it's no less perfect than any other encyclopedia and it's certainly unrivaled in scope. It's also free.

Given my attitude toward Wikipedia and how I use it, when a controversy over one of its entries surfaces in the news, I usually scan it, yawn, then move on. That is, unless it's a story about how Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales dumped his girlfriend, former Fox News personality Rachel Marsden, via a Wikipedia post.

Beyond the story's tawdry appeal—and I readily admit I find it tawdry and, thus, appealing—what really attracts me to it is puzzling out what point Wales was trying to make by handling his personal affair in this way. I mean, he had to know what he was doing. He is, after all, the most visible and vocal proponent of freely distributed knowledge and had to realize that anything he posts will be scrutinized. The alternative is that Wales, like some latter-day Victor Frankenstein, does not truly understand the power of the creature he wrought.

In any case, I think it's great that an encyclopedia entry generated so much buzz, thus displaying Wikipedia's power as a news distribution tool, something no other encyclopedia can boast. And if you want more on this story, go to

Update: Maybe Wales is more of a mad scientist (emphasis on mad) than anyone thought. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, found via Slashdot, Wales not only may have violated the spirit of Wikipedia editing protocol during the Marsden affair, but he also is alleged to have tried to play fast and loose with Wikipedia Foundation money.

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