User-generated content is part of next wave of innovation on the Web and Wikipedia is the most famous example of how it can work. However, there are also some potholes to navigate on the road to high-quality user-generated content. One of them showed up this week when Wikipedia decided to block Web addresses from the U.S. congressional offices because congressional staffers were caught revising Wikipedia entries with spin-doctoring tactics. I totally agree that these kinds of spin-doctoring tactics are unethical and undesirable for a reference document, but couldn’t Wikipedia simply handle this by instituting some better editoring controls in areas such as this. Simply banning an entire domain or range of IP addresses sets a bad precedent. Once you start these kinds of bans, where do you stop?
In related news, Google caught BMW trying to manipulate its search engine and therefore banned the entire bmw.de domain from its search index. BMW was luring users to pages with hot search terms and then redirecting them from that page to a different page that BMW was trying to promote. Sure enough, I tried to do a Google search for “bmw.de” and Google returned the error “Sorry, no information is available for the URL bmw.de.” However, a search for “BMW” shows that bmw.com is still alive and well in Google’s index. This whole situation left me scratching my head. Oh well, Google’s business practices are nothing if not inscrutable.