Paranoia Microsoft style

Oh dear. Microsoft has been caught with their hand in the Wikipedia cookie jar. According to CBS News, they paid a blogger to change article about open source standards on the open source encyclopedia. Well, at least somebody is paying starving bloggers for their creative work.

The interesting story isn't that MIcrosoft is cheating on Wikipedia --  it is a editorless service, after all, that, by definition, invites cheating. On Wikipedia you get what you pay for (which is nothing -- since nobody on Wikipedia is paid for their work and nobody pays to access the site). No, what's interesting about this story is why Microsoft cheated.

According to Microsoft spokeswoman Catherine Brooker, Microsoft cheated because they believed that the original Wikipedia content about open source standards had been authored by their great rival, International Business Machines. In other words, Microsoft is paranoid. And I don't blame them. The editorless, opaque nature of Wikipedia, by definition, creates paranoia. Given the impossibility of learning the source of any article, it is perfectly natural for Redmond to suspect that IBM is behind anything faintly derogatory about Microsoft on Wikipedia-- and vice versa. I'm sure the same is true in terms of the Wikipedia entries on other corporate rivals such as Avis and Hertz, McDonalds and Burger King, and Verizon and AT&T -- not to mention intense intellectual rivalries like Islam versus Christianity, capitalism versus communism, and liberalism versus conservatism. 

So what's the alternative to the paranoia that Wikipedia naturally generates? The Encyclopedia Britannica -- the antithesis of Wikipedia -- was first published in 1868. And it has been an authoritative source of information for almost a hundred and fifty years. So instead of editorless Wikipedia, we could rely on content openly authored by universally acknowledged, unbiased experts. That's the tried and trusted system -- one that worked for a hundred and fifty years before the great seduction of open source knowledge.

Hold on a minute. That doesn't sound right -- Britannica... only a hundred a fifty years old? Come to think of it, I got this information from Wikipedia -- the sworn rival to Britannica. Hmmm. So who, I wonder, has been paying bloggers to put false information up on Wikipedia about Britannica?

What, paranoid. Me?