Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Free is what it's worth.

My wife and I got into an argument while we were in Italy about opera. We were seeing something by Gaetano Donizetti and I said something like, "I can't wait to see his 'Lucia di Lammamoor." As she does so well, she corrected me. "Lammamore isn't by Donizetti," she said. I was sure it was.

Then she handed me a list of operas by Donizetti which she printed from Wikipedia. Sure enough, there was no Lammamoor.

Well, it turns out, Wikipedia (surprise, surprise) was wrong.

A source being wrong isn't an issue for me. People and the things they build and write are often wrong. But what's happened in our digital world is that free sources of information, like Wikipedia, have forced out pretty much everything else. It's hard to find information that doesn't come from Wikipedia. So what you get is bad information. Bad writing, bad editing, bad facts, badly inconsistent. Often what you get is cereal box information--a brief scan with no real depth.

I realize railing against free "content" makes no sense if you write a free blog. I am engaging in a logical inconsistency. That said, I make every effort to act as if I'm being paid for doing this. In other words, I check facts, I try to check for typos. I try to do a good job.

The amount of banality we are subjected to from free sources is enough to make me scream some times.

The thing that tipped me over this morning was this from Seth Godin's blog, a collection of fortune cookie fluff that passes as thought. "The internet makes it easy to give gifts to large numbers of people at very very low cost. Editing a wikipedia article, for example, is a gift for the ages, one that might be seen by a million people over three years."

Sorry. That's garbage.Free garbage.


Tore Claesson said...

Agree. A consequence of the ease at which you can publish today can cement a lie. Publish something often enough and eventually it will be the established fact. Not that this is something new or unique to the web, but it certainly makes it easier.

Eric said...

And Seth Godin would never write for Wikipedia, if he stood to make money from putting the same thing in his book and selling it to some schlub willing to pay for blog content.