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Fast Wiki March 31, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Information, Online Tools.

kaloogian   A funny thing happened on the way to the elections yesterday.  A candidate for office in California's 50th District, an assembly member named Kaloogian posted a photograph purporting to be a calm and peaceful downtown Baghdad street. Bloggers and others were a little suspicious of the photographs and did some investigation.  It turns out the photographs were not of Baghdad, but rather shots taken in a Turkish city.  Bloggers on the left were delighted and gleeful about this obvious attempt to bamboozle  visitors to the candidate’s web site, but what really intrigues me about the whole incident was what happened later on at wikipedia.org.

Wikipedia is an insanely fast-paced and growing online encyclopedia constructed by you and me.  It is possible to visit the site and update, add, or change information that already exists online.  This ability on the part of editors to alter immediately entries in wikipedia is both its strength and its inherent weakness.  It is its strength in that editors can quickly incorrect information that is incorrect and update information that is out of date.  For example, a couple of days ago, the White House Chief of Staff, Andrew Card, resigned and his job was taken over by a fellow named Josh Bolton.  If you look at the entry in the wikipedia for White House Chief of Staff you will find Josh Bolton's name there and references to the departing Mr. Card.  That update to the entry was made within minutes of the announcement by the White House.

This takes us to the candidate for California's 50th District seat.  When it became apparent that the candidate may have been trying put one over on the eyes of the voters, he quickly changed his web site. However, those following the incident quickly added a new term to wikipedia.  That term, Kaloogian, is a noun referring to a term that describes a false or out of context photo used in order to advance an agenda.  The fact this appeared in wikipedia within 24 hours of the story breaking is obviously a deliberate attempt to seed the English lexicon with a new term for political ends.

The people who run the wikipedia are quite familiar with this tactic.  They are also familiar with the fact that English is a growing language.  This particular entry has been cited for potential deletion, but before it can be removed the action is open to online discussion by wikipedia contributors.

Perhaps a new phrase for that online encyclopedia might be the transitive verb wikipediaed, which means to insert short-lived and topical references into wikipedia in order to advance a political agenda or make fun of another party.  What political operatives, sometimes fail to recall is that almost every trick used to advance your cause and just as easily be used by the other guys.

I hope you will remember where you read this when the candidate of your choice receives an unflattering treatment in wikipedia.  



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