January 27th, 2009

owlmoose 2

Two on the hive mind

1. "How Google is Making Us Smarter", from Discover magazine. The title is a direct reference to that article from the Atlantic regarding Google et. al., which I talked about awhile back, but still haven't read. The idea is that our brains don't end where our skulls begin: our environment is actually an extension of our brain, and the way we use the Internet is a natural consequence of that. Not groundbreaking, maybe, but the article quotes some interesting studies, several of which I hadn't heard of before. Sometimes we joke that we're "outsourcing" parts of our brain: directions to Google Maps, phone numbers to our cell phones (I used to have *tons* of phone numbers memorized; now I just speed dial everyone), and so forth; but maybe that's actually true, and perfectly natural.

2. Wikipedia considering restricting instant edits: At long last, Wikipedia is starting to think about dipping its toe in the waters of moderation.

The idea in a nutshell is that only registered, reliable users would have the right to have their material immediately appear to the general public visiting Wikipedia. Other contributors would be able to edit articles, but their changes will be held back until one of these reliable users has signed off, or “flagged” the revisions.

Naturally, this proposal has met with enormous controversy in the world of Wiki. Over-reaction? (The final straw was the recent, and erroneous, report that both Teddy Kennedy and Robert Byrd had died on Inauguration Day, which was live on both pages for over five minutes.) A necessary change to preserve the integrity of Wikipedia as a source of information? Myself, I'm not really sure.