Wikipedia: Women Need Not Apply

You say you don't trust Wikipedia? Well, you can blame your lack of confidence on men, at least for the most part.

According to a survey conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation and United Nations University, about a third of 175,000 Wikipedia users reported that they actually help write and edit encyclopedia entries -- as opposed to merely reading them -- and of that group women constituted a paltry 13%.

That more men than women take the time to write, edit and wrangle over Wikipedia entries is not surprising. However, that the disparity between the participation of the sexes is so cavernous is raising eyebrows.

So what's up? Your guess is as good as mine (and likely a lot better than much of the drivel posted on various blogs last week). Wikipedia's response to my inquiry offered little insight, although the organization has promised to analyze the data and issue a report later this year.

In the "about" page on its Web site, Wikipedia proprietors had already acknowledged a gender gap among their ranks: "While most articles may be altered by anyone, in practice editing will be performed by a certain demographic (younger rather than older, male rather than female, rich enough to afford a computer rather than poor, et cetera) and may, therefore, show some bias."

Male rather than female in this case apparently means about seven men for every woman.

BBN, Raytheon and a fresh JFK conspiracy theory

Last week we learned that Raytheon, long one of the nation's most powerful defense contractors, is acquiring venerable BBN Technologies, a networking pioneer perhaps most famous for its role in designing the ARPANet, precursor to the Internet.

In writing about the deal on Buzzblog, I included this footnote way done at the very end of the item: "History buffs will tell you that BBN is also known for having conducted acoustical analysis in 1978 for the House Select Committee charged with investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 15 years earlier."

A reader who identified himself only as V12Merlin offered this provocative tidbit in response:

"One of the BBN engineers who worked on the Kennedy acoustic analysis thing was a close friend of mine, from my own Cambridge days. He told me at the time that what the team was ordered by someone high up not to publish what they actually found."

Now I've been a Kennedy assassination buff since reading a table-top version of The Warren Report in my grandparents' living room back in high school, but I'm neither willing nor able to vouch for the veracity of what V12Merlin's friend told V12Merlin some 30 years ago. However, another reader who identified himself as Joe Kraska, a former BBN employee living in San Diego, was in no mood to just let the comment slide. Writes Kraska of the alleged coverup:

"Because, you know, as we know, the noodle-backboned folks working at BBN, having found the real origin of the assassination of an American president would have all the ethical prowess of a peanut, and keep mum quivering in their boots because a Mysterious Evil Power (tm) ordered them not to tell the truth. We know now at least, how much faith you have in the fidelity of your fellow men. That's just sad."

And that's telling him, all right.

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