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News Editor

So wrong about so many things

Apr 03, 20064 mins

Readers write about columns on Wikipedia, AOL, InBoxer,

‘Net Buzz gives its readers a chance to sound off this week.

Let’s give the readers a chance to sound off this week. No recent column produced more complaints than a Feb. 20 piece expressing my deep reservations about Wikipedia. In fact, one reader – who needs to get back on his meds – suggested that I be horsewhipped, then sentenced to work as a Wal-Mart greeter. Other replies were more engaging, such as this one from Andrew Embury:

“While Paul McNamara raises some serious points about the accuracy of content contained in the Wikipedia project, his example illustration of the problem is actually one of Wikipedia’s main benefits. While he found some information on the small newspaper in Framingham, Mass., that was incorrect, he was able to fix the incorrect information and thus improve the resource for everyone in a matter of minutes. Had this been a traditional media source, he would have had little other [option] than to contact the author and hope for a response.”

Of course, I also could have exacted a bit of revenge against those at that newspaper who years ago informed me my services would no longer be needed. Sure, some wiki do-gooder would have erased anything libelous . . . probably . . . eventually.

“Your column on Wikipedia struck a responsive chord,” writes Bob Spooner. “The idea behind the implementation would be great if it weren’t for human nature. This is not to say that other common sources of information are significantly better. For example, virtually all the newspaper articles I have read which have been about subjects with which I am intimately familiar have been riddled with errors. If you want good information, you have to do your own research by going to primary sources.”

Hmmm, let’s not give up on secondary sources altogether now.

My going to bat for AOL in its dust-up with those who consider its plans for a premium e-mail delivery service to be tantamount to a tax on e-mail did not go over well with a number of readers.

“I am the Webmaster and e-mail admin for a local children’s theater, and most of our communication regarding rehearsals and workshops is done via e-mail lists which are inherently opt-in, and yet we find a large percentage of our mail to AOL is not delivered or is automatically routed to spam folders,” writes Norton Allen. “I don’t believe our mail bears any resemblance to most spam, so I naturally assume AOL is disinclined to guarantee delivery of our mail to encourage us to sign up for fee-based delivery. Yes, they’ve changed their tune, and we are a 501©(3), so we can probably apply for the service at no charge, but why should we be forced to jump through hoops to have mail delivered to AOL customers who want to receive it?”

A column about InBoxer and its contest that focused on an online collection of a half-million e-mail messages from 176 Enron employees drew this reply from one curiosity seeker:

“It’s important that we educate users as to why they should be very careful about what they send via e-mail,” writes Bill Elberson. “Within 10 minutes of looking through the Enron e-mails I was able to find a full name, Social Security number and employee ID. . . . It’s interesting that InBoxer claims that their software will help maintain customer data privacy while at the same time placing personal data on the ‘Net for all to see.”

Well, InBoxer didn’t actually put the info out there – Enron can thank the government for that – but InBoxer hasn’t been shy about helping people pick through the pile.

Finally, a column about the extension of’s PhotoStamps program to include corporate logos and other commercial images on postage drew this yawn from Phil Daley:

“I have just one question: Does anyone look at the stamps on received mail? I never do. I don’t even care what stamps I put on the mail I send. Does anyone? . . . What’s the point?”

He’s clearly not the target market.

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