Archive for August, 2008
And we’re just supposed to take his word for it
Every once in a while, Jimbo Wales will mistakenly schedule an interview with a reporter or talk-show host who is actually willing to broach the subject of how Wikipedia might cause problems for society overall, or have negative effects on individuals or social institutions. In most such situations, his response is to point out that Wikipedia is “benign,” as if this is somehow self-evident, and that he fails to understand how or why anyone could possibly think otherwise.
Unfortunately, many highly successful technological innovations, no matter how seemingly “benign” they might be when considered at face value, can actually have devastating unintended consequences. One example of this is the modern toilet. Like Wikipedia, the toilet is a receptacle for human effluvia and other waste products. Unlike Wikipedia, it’s a fairly simple mechanical device that provides a seemingly clean and efficient means of disposing of that waste, minimizing its unpleasant stench and effectively eliminating the equally-unpleasant task of manual removing it from people’s homes. Nearly 200 years after its invention, it is difficult to imagine a modern, “civilized” society without toilets. But when they were first introduced, the story was rather different - indeed, a case study of disastrous unintended consequences.
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In case you haven’t been keeping track, The Wikipedia Review blog was deleted on June 3rd after it was targeted by a nasty “zero-hour” SQL-injection attack, apparently emanating from China (though there’s no way to know for sure, of course - this is the internet, after all). The attack took advantage of a security vulnerability here in WordPress, so because we’re very cautious and paranoid about that sort of thing, we decided to wait until a newer, safer version was released before restoring it. WordPress 2.6 was released on July 15, but of course we had to wait an additional two weeks in case any new bug reports appeared, which would hopefully be accompanied by patches or other updates.
Oh, come on, who am I fooling? I was just lazy. I’m ridiculously lazy - always have been. The fact is, I hate dealing with web applications. Debugging and tweaking takes waaaay longer on the web than it does on the desktop, even if you’re using a local development server. And these PHP-scripted systems are invariably a mess, no matter how you slice it… Sure, WordPress is better than most, but it’s still a crap shoot as to whether you’re going to get any of it working in a reasonable amount of time. When I upgraded this installation we lost all of our categories, for example. Turns out the database now calls them “Terms,” and they’re organized into a “Taxonomy.” Great! Read the rest of this entry »