Wikipedia is great. However, as a sometimes editor, I’m starting to grow tired of getting involved in endless editing wars with people who are not experts on the subjects. If you don’t like a rant, look away now.
I’m perfectly happy with people editing and disagreeing on all sort of subjects in which I may not be well-versed. For example, if I decide to edit an article on Naruto characters, I would be happy for someone else to stamp their anime expertise and authority over mine. However, I have started to realise that there are articles zealously policed by wiki-obsessives who do not want any changes to their pet subjects. I recently experienced this (I won’t specify where, as the battle is still being waged), where a specific editor has decided unilaterally that his definition of a criminal offence is the only one possible, and has precluded all other interpretations of that opinion, although it is clear that he lacks the legal credentials to make the distinction.
I am all in favour of the vibrant and democratic nature of the Internet, but this characteristic should not herald the end of specialised knowledge and expertise. There is something positive about an environment that fosters the free examination and discussion of ideas, but to kill-off the expert is to enter a parallel reality where there are no truths and all opinions have the same weight. This is, I believe, what has allowed patently untrue memes such as global warming denialism and creationism to survive. When a home-schooled teenager from Nebraska feels that he has the same right to talk about evolution than an experienced biologist, then there is something wrong with the way in which we look at knowledge. Do not get me wrong, if I am wrong and a pimply teenager from Nebraska points it out to me, I will still be as wrong as if it was pointed out by a peer. However, experience and expertise count for something. I would not want an amateur to operate on me, so why would anyone wish to get legal opinions from amateurs?
Rant over. I’m now off to Wikipedia to wage a guerilla war against the home-schooled pimply teenagers of the world.