Wikis, Weekis and Other Myths: ADC, Part 32

The present column references one from June 10th (http://www.rit.edu/cla/wild/blog/?p=209). The matter of vetting information is as essential as is the gathering and reporting information.

As a kid, I remember watching TV commercials broadcast on the New York City stations for a far-away place named Weeki Wachee, in Florida. There, on TV and, presumably, in Florida, one could observe lovely mermaids as they swam about the sea (in truth, a large aquarium).

To my surprise, the place still exists: http://www.weekiwachee.com/

But, to an 8-year-old New Jersey boy, for whom TV was still a novelty (believe it or not), little suffering resulted from watching the black and white images of scantily (1950s style) attired, good-looking young women.

It’s all true: and I am no worse off for the experience.

But – and I know this will be a shock – the Weeki Wachee mermaids weren’t “real” mermaids.

Which leads me to the Wiki-style method of documentation.

As an idea, Wiki-style seems the ultimate in a free and open marketplace. A Libertarian’s dream come true.

Access – to enter information, alter information, and read information – is unfettered and free.

It is not free, of course. Someone is paying for the technical infrastructure to maintain such websites and, indeed, the Internet. Likewise, owning a computer, the software, and Internet access is not free.

Just as significant, though, is the entry and editing opportunities. Wiki-style sites are a smart as the most recent editor or writer.

“Good,” say supporters. The feature allows for, indeed it encourages, updating, corrections, and other advances in the state of knowledge.

True enough.

However, unless one is committed to constantly monitoring the information that one is interested in knowing, the features of the Wiki are meaningless.

And, showing up at the wrong time, when uncorrected and erroneous information is present, produces an uninformed or a misinformed individual.

The mermaids were not real. Much as I desperately wished them to be. In fact, the TV ads even showed them getting oxygen from strategically placed tubes in their aquarium.

I now know to question the realness of the finned tail they sported, too.

What’s next? The tooth fairy?

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