Wikipedia Volunteer Elijah Bosley Responds

By Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, May 14, 2013, 6:00 AM

This morning, I posted a link to a new article I have written with Stephanie Leutert about our efforts to edit the Wikipedia page on "lawfare." The article describes how a volunteer Wikipedia editor named "ElijahBosley" removed all of our edits to the page. Now, someone identifying himself as Elijah Bosley has appended a set of good humored and thoughtful comments to our essay, which was published in the Harvard National Security Journal. They read as follows:

Yikes. “Jilted Bloggers Resort To Wordfare.”

Is it ironic, or foolish, that Wikipedia–an online encyclopedia anyone can edit–demands largely paper sources like books, newspaper articles, or scholarly journals? This diatribe rightly points out the silliness of assuming something on paper vetted by an editor always has greater credibility than a blog. What if it’s a third rate thinker in a second rate journal?

Valid criticism. Which is why Wikipedia gradually, with some reluctance, seems to be coming over to the idea that blogs, sometimes, can get footnoted.

Though perhaps one might consider WHY Wikipedia insists on footnotes?

Its because its an online encyclopia anyone can edit. Anyone. At all. Watch one of the more controversial pages like Enhanced Interrogation, a battle scarred smoking ruin of an article. See how many high school kids, or raving ideologues, throw in their two cents. Or one and a half. Should we indiscriminately cite their blogs?

This rant seems to believe blogs by recognized names should have special privileges Fine with me. So long as you tell me how somebody outside the field will recognize the name. Could it be–because they published a lot of books and articles?

And how do we know which bloggers are real, and worth citing (other than long experience)? I am fairly confident these bloggers are who they say they are because of where they published. And becuase they quoted an exchange on my talk page accurately, for which act of candor and respect, I thank them.

–Elijah Bosley (but how would you really know that?)

PS–B I am not going to bite at that wriggling bait on the Lawfare page for now, though I am not entirely sure whether it really fits where it is. You do realize that just as anyone on Wikipedia can undo something, so also anyone can undo the undoing?

I appreciate this response very much. And Mr. Bosley makes some good points about how one distinguishes between just anyone's blog and one worthy of respect as a source. I'm not sure I have a solid answer regarding exactly where the line should be, but I would hope that wherever it lies, Lawfare falls solidly on the respectable side of it.