How fast should you update history?

OK, so the headline was a bit provocative. Maybe we don’t update history when we update a wiki. But in the case of the newly minted president of the US, changing his profile meant turning the page of history.

Not many people look at Wikipedia the way I sometimes do –at the Discussion pages –but on the night before the inauguration (Jan 19th) I learned some unusual things about how information gets written, edited, and in many cases fought over.

The Wikipedians managing Obama’s profile faced one nagging question –apart from the expected edit wars over how to describe his African-American heritage: At what point should the word ‘elect’ be dropped? At the oath, or at noon?

We saw how in other quarters, particularly on the White House web site (and blog) and the State Department’s blog, Dipnote, how timing was everything. On on Tuesday, a few seconds after noon, there was a message from Macon Philips the new media person behind the web site. He announced that ‘change has come’ to the official web site.

Back to Wikipedia, the question arose if a ‘bot’ ought to be assigned to do change Obama’s information, saying the official time he would assume presidency was 11.56 am. One said his photo was creepy and needed to be changed. While the debate raged, it was agreed that “If stuff starts to get out of hand requests for page protection” would be made.

Meanwhile, Wikipedians wait, fingers poised over keyboards, for Hillary Clinton to be approved by the Senate. As of this morning there’s the word ‘designate‘ after her Secretary of State title’ waiting to be scrubbed, among other things!

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