Anyone can be a gatekeeper

At BoingBoing, Cory’s delivered what will hopefully be only the first of his longer pieces that his new status as full time writer allows. In it, he contrasts the process of correcting in Wikipedia to the same process on The Register, drawing the conclusion that “The Reg is the Wikipedia vandal you can’t revert”.

First of all, the essential caveats. I know Cory pretty will, and – although I wildly disagree with him about lots of things – like him a great deal, despite being insanely jealous of his energy. I also know Andy Orlowski – I wouldn’t say we’re best buddies, but he’s a great chappy to sit down for a pint with. And I have tenuous connections with The Register, as I know several people involved or associated with it from my days at Dennis Publishing.

All that said, on to the main point. One very interesting passage of what Cory wrote caught my eye:

In the Internet Age, we can no longer rely on publishers or other gatekeepers to put their imprimatur on The Truth. Instead, each of us must navigate our own way to truthfulness.

What’s interesting is that phrase “publishers or other gatekeepers”. What makes someone a publisher or a gatekeeper? To my mind, The Reg is no more a publisher or a gatekeeper than Cory is – although a better way of putting is that Cory is as much of a publisher and a gatekeeper as The Reg is. As, of course, am I. And, if you create your own blog – so are you.

What differentiates The Reg from Wikipedia isn’t being a publisher or a gatekeeper. It’s simply that The Register is a professional publication, and Wikipedia isn’t. This isn’t meant in any way as derogatory: although I strongly believe that the time afforded by being a professional at a job tends to make you better at it, there’s no guarentee that being a professional makes what you write true (The Daily Mail is produced by professionals, but it’s not exactly true).

The point of the internet isn’t that we can no longer rely on publishers or gatekeepers: it’s that we’re all publishers and gatekeepers. It’s a level playing field. But the problem with level playing fields is that, sometimes, those who are prepared to cheat will win. And that will happen no matter whether the field is dominated by professionals or amatuers.