Erik Moeller wrote:
On 7/30/06, Ray Saintonge <saintonge(a)telus.net>
Citations and verifiability are absolutely
essential to the credibility
of Wikipedia and its sister projects. Nevertheless, a person
undertaking to substantiate his contributions should not need a
professional librarianship background to do so. Any manner of clearly
identifying the source should be acceptable.
Absolutely. However, we should also make the tools of professional
referencing as easy to use as possible. You're right on that freely
available (not necessarily freely licensed) content will be the first
to be referenced. Thus, it is likely that Wikimedia will become both a
primary beneficiary and driving force of the open access movement.
I can be patient.
What is saddening to me is that even better referencing
systematic source checking processes will likely not be sufficient to
deal adequately with the vast amounts of knowledge that is _not_ free
or not even digital. Indeed, already today, I've seen quite a lot of
cases where Wikipedians have reacted with intense frustration to the
citation of sources that they could not verify simply by following a
That's not just sad; it's scary. It's on a par with saying, "If
on the internet it must be true." It reflects a series of tendencies in
the developed world with profound societal effects. When the most
important factor for gaining knowledge is convenience it puts us on
track for a Fahrenheit-451 kind of world. And I'm sure there is a
certain segment of society that will be quite happy to encourage the
people to take their new form of opium.
One of my great hopes is that a broad international
coalition of NGOs
will eventually emerge to call for harmonization of copyright terms to
a reasonable length. Perhaps Wikimedia could be part of such a
coalition. If I look at the fantastic work Project Gutenberg is doing
on even the most obscure publications, I cannot begin to imagine the
profound effects on our culture it would have if copyright would last,
say, 14 years, with the option to renew for another 14:
Reducing the terms of copyright back to a reasonable level will be an
uphill fight, and the way some of our collegues bend over to prevent the
least suggestion of a copyright violation and stay law abiding does not
give me a lot of hope.