Tuesday, January 17, 2012

a day without Wikipedia


Tomorrow, Wikipedia, the Internet resource for those like me who lack the skill or energy to do honest research -- will black out its English-language offerings as a means of protesting an anti-piracy bill working its way through the U.S. Congress.

"If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States," the Wikimedia foundation said.
The action is a powerful statement when the number of credulous users is as high as it is. How many kids won't be able to do what passes for homework? How many journalists will be forced to ... look it up for real? How many others will be deprived of ... well, whatever it is they will be deprived of?

The action suggests to me that, aside from the philosophical arguments, Wikipedia is probably a pirate in its own right. I have had stuff of mine pirated without attribution and frankly I don't mind: My view is that if you're going to put it on the Internet, then you'd better be prepared to have it 'pirated.' If you want to keep it secret or inviolate, just don't put it on the Internet in the first place. As Dorothy Parker once observed more or less, "How can we expect others to keep our secrets when we can't keep them ourselves?"

But a day without Wikipedia has a nice effect: Doesn't it force everyone to rethink the reliance they put on this Internet resource? Like a utility blackout, everyone gets to reflect on what they take for granted.

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