Friday December 04, 2009
Respect My Authoritai!
Still thinking on Clay Shirky's piece on algorithmic authority. I know I'm in a fading demographic, for whom the Internet arrived, it wasn't just here, but in my own serious work—that is, my day job—I still lean on the traditional forms of authority for back-up or confirmation. Sure, for a particular spelling of a word, occasionally I go quick-and-dirty with Google: 12 million hits this way, 7,000 hits that way, guess I'll go this way. But if I need solid information on a subject I lean on The New York Times not Wikipedia. The latter isn't the disaster I thought it'd be but it's hardly foolproof. Neither is the Times, i know, but on the Times site you wouldn't come across what I came across on Wikipedia on Tuesday:
Harriet Ellan Miers (born August 10, 1945) is an Astronaut and former White House Counsel. In 2005, she was nominated by President George W. Bush to be an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, but opposition from both sides of the political spectrum led President Bush to withdraw the nomination at Miers' request.
An astronaut? I wasn't sure if it had to do with this comment or not, which Miers made in 1996 about then-Governor Bush:
In a note to him a few days later, Miers described a little girl at the event who got his autograph. Miers wrote, “I truly believe, if the Governor told her she should be an Astronaut, she would do her best to become one. I was struck by the tremendous impact you have on the children whose lives you touch.”
On the plus side, without any prompting from me, it took Wikipedia less than 24 hours to change “Astronaut” back to “American lawyer.” Even so.