Thursday, October 21, 2004

The New, New Scarcity: Personal Wikipedia Entries

The web creates amusing scarcities of language.

During the e-heyday, the race to lease a short, business-worthy domain name resulted in companies with names that seemed like (a) random adjective/noun combinations or (b) little more than short strings of Latin characters. Bluedog. Beenz. For Pete's sake, someone even bothered to lease

Around the same time, a perceived scarcity of email handles appeared. Suddenly, we weren't just or, we were or With the semi-launch of Gmail this year, Yetties had another land-grab on their hands. Will you be, or the lesser

I know that this background information is old news, but here's the real deal: From a cultural zeitgeist perspective, Wikipedia 2004 is Google 1999. Wikipedia grows more popular and more useful everyday. With the growth of Wikipedia, a new type of online scarcity will appear.

You can learn a lot about famous people on Wikipedia, Grover Cleveland, for example.

You can also learn about Donald Hoffman, but he's not famous. Don plays trombone in Sinister Dexter, a band in which we are both members.

I defined Donald Hoffman about 30 minutes ago. I got dibs. Normal people are going to start getting Wikipedia entries, and you may wake up to find out that your name is defined as someone else.

Other Donald Hoffmans could appear on the scene, but Wikipedia already has a definition for Donald Hoffman. They'll have to be Donald L. Hoffman or Donnie Hoffman... that is, unless I define those, too.

Sure, people could change the definition of these words to resemble the life story of a different Donald Hoffman, but (a) that would take a lot of damn gall and (b) I think the primacy of my posting on the topic would tip the revert-war balance my way in the eyes of the Wikipedia masters.

Even people with unique or multi-cultural names, like, say, Garth Patil are not safe from other Garth Patils preempting the moniker's definition. Generally speaking, however, the degree to which your name resembles the names of other internet users will correlate closely to the time it takes for its definition to get swooped up.

Go get defined.

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