The Wikipedia sideshow continues

Unlike Dave Winer, Adam Curry, Robert Scoble and other stars of the blogosphere, I don’t have an entry at wikipedia.org, so I don’t have to worry about how I would handle it if someone kept editing it to downplay something I did (as Adam Curry caught hell for doing). And I don’t have to worry about editing it myself to downplay something someone else did, as Wikipedia founder (cofounder?) Jimmy Wales is accused of doing.

Ironically — or maybe not — one of the places to find out more about Adam Curry’s misbehaviour is at the Wikipedia itself, where there is a note about his editing of the entry on podcasting, and links to more information. Someone who has been helping to dig out details about the editing by both Curry and Wales is Roger Cadenhead. He noticed that Wales had repeatedly edited the entry on Wikipedia itself to remove references to another early staffer, and to change descriptions of an earlier venture into erotica.

I have to say that I think a lot of this — particularly the Curry stuff — is kind of petty and irrelevant. Curry said he made a mistake, and whether anyone believes him or not is up to them. Maybe it’s just fun to slam him because he’s a former MTV video jock and movie star — whatever. The Wales incident is more troubling because he’s the public face of wikipedia.org and what he has done raises questions about who gets to edit what — even more so than the Siegenthaler affair. In that sense, I think Roger is doing a public service by pointing out what’s going on — and at the same time showing how the blogosphere can be a self-regulating exercise.

Image-based ads on Google? The horror…

According to a report in the New York Times, Google has decided — in part because of pressure from America Online — to experiment with graphical, image-based advertising on some of its pages. Although the early reports were that this would be restricted to ads for AOL content as part of the $1-billion deal between the two companies, the NYT says the ads will be open not just to AOL but to any advertiser.

John Battelle’s comment on this is a simple “My, my, my.” John also warned Google recently not to “jump the shark,” because of rumours that the company was going to give AOL content preferential treatment on its search pages — something Stuart MacDonald and I discussed a bit on the comments on this recent post.

As someone commented on John’s blog, this is going to be a “tricky balancing act” for Google to pull off. On the one hand, while it may irritate the purists who like the plain look of the company’s websites, as Danny Sullivan notes, graphical ads are a reality that we all put up with just about everywhere else, including our own blogs (unless you’re too puny to get advertising, like me).

At the same time, however, the more Google becomes like everyone else the more risk there is, since that uniqueness is arguably a big part of what makes people pay the astronomical sums they do for its stock. How will it handle the changes that its deal with AOL involves? And will it be worth it?

Tom Raftery says he hopes it’s just a trial balloon that will get shot down, and Cynthia over at IPDemocracy figures it’s only a matter of time before video starts showing up too. And then what — pop-ups? Henry Blodget at Internet Outsider thinks it’s inevitable, and so does Stuart MacDonald in the comments on this item.

Update:

Marissa Mayer has a note up at the official Google blog about the AOL deal and what it means. ‘Business partnerships will never compromise the integrity or objectivity of our search results,’ she says, and ‘there will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.’ So apparently the motto ‘do no evil’ extends to evil advertising. But Danny says there is still some wiggle room for the company.

Hang in there, Riya

After much talk about Riya being acquired by Google, the facial-recognition-software startup has decided to remain independent, according to co-founder Munjal Shah. Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble says that Microsoft also looked at the company but decided to pass.

And maybe that’s a good thing. For what it’s worth, I took a look at Dare Obasanjo’s post on how to flip your company to one of the big guys (GYM or whatever we’re calling them now), and I wound up agreeing with Paul Kedrosky on the subject (and no, not just because he’s Canadian). Making a flip your end goal is the wrong approach – but not because the profit motive corrupts your principles or something starry-eyed like that. Because, ironically, that approach tends to make your company into something that isn’t really worth acquiring.

To quote Paul, who said it better than I could: “The best way to get purchased by anyone — GYM included — is to build a great team, find a large and growing underserved market, build a great product/service for which people will pay more than it costs to provide, grow faster than the market, and stay paranoid that a hundred other companies are gunning for you all the time.” Well said — and now Riya can continue to do that. And for what it’s worth, some people seem to agree.

My chat with a Reddit co-founder

If you’ve experimented with “social bookmark” sites such as digg.com or del.icio.us as a way of filtering the web (something I wrote about here), you may have come across reddit.com. When I mentioned it in a recent column for the Globe and Mail about Yahoo’s acquisition of del.icio.us, I got an email from one of Reddit’s co-founders, Alexis Ohanian, and we started a kind of ad hoc interview about the deal and about Reddit’s business model.

Alexis said that he felt Yahoo’s purchase had “validated the ‘business model without a business model’ approach of del.icio.us,” (something that not everyone thinks is a good idea), but that he was “curious to know how whether or not it’s an anomaly,” adding that “one look at reddit and you can guess what we’re hoping for.” I asked whether reddit.com was modelled on del.icio.us, and he said it was — but that Reddit wants to do something different as well. “We were actually inspired by del.icio.us/popular,” Alexis said. “We found ourselves most interested in this page because it was a sort of zeitgeist for what people were busy bookmarking — but we wanted to take it further.”

The Reddit co-founder, who was part of a “summer camp for startups” along with his college roommate Steve Huffman — and was in a movie called Aardvark’d — said that while there are “aesthetic similarities in the minimalist designs of our sites,” reddit.com is “trying to build a very different site.” As a Guardian article on the site pointed out, Reddit users can vote an article up or down in popularity (in much the same way Slashdot modifies comments) and they get “karma points” if something they linked to is voted onto the front page (Solution Watch has a nice overview).

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