Austin Parish man of mystery

This semester I’m teaching an elective unit in Cyberspace Law at CDU.   Research and preparation for it has been another of the reasons for the delayed reappearance of Missing Link.

However, it’s also involved a certain amount of fun.  In the first online tutorial last week, we had a look at numerous “web 2.0” collaborative technologies including wikipedia (and blogs), and considered some legal aspects e.g. liability for third parties posting defamatory, obscene or racially abusive material etc. 

In the course of the discussion we mused about the claims of wikipedia and similar systems to harness the “wisdom of crowds” and produce an end-product of remarkable size and accuracy given its amateur genesis.  One student mentioned that wikipedia claimed that its collaborators generally noticed and corrected inacccuracies (especially deliberate ones) very quickly, usually within 20 minutes.  I suggested that this might be an exaggeration, and a couple of students decided to test the claim.  So far I’ve been a seminal influence on Austin Powers and one of the principal Founding Fathers who drafted Australia’s Constitution for some 8 hours.  I wonder when they’ll notice?  

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
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skepticlawyer
13 years ago

You’ve also been knighted – was that part of the original plan?

The Editor
13 years ago

Arise, Sir Ken!

dr. faustus
13 years ago

Sir Ken is still one of the founding fathers as I write this. The Austin Powers line that had been edited out was:

It is also a little known fact that Mike Myers based many of Austin Powers’ mannerisms and eccentricities on his good friend Sir Ken Parish, who is currently a Professor of Law at Charles Darwin University.

Sir Ken is a popular guy!

gilmae
13 years ago

The median time for reversions is fourteen minutes. The average time is a twelve and a half hours, a figure that is affected by outliers like edits to obscure nodes.

Patrick
Patrick
13 years ago

but the median is doubtlessly even more affected by numerous reversions on ‘hot topics’!

gilmae
13 years ago

The first Austin Powers/Ken Parish edit was reverted within seconds, and the first Constitution edit was reverted in 11 minutes. Before I actually looked at the edit history for those two nodes I was thinking the a proper study of the phenomenon should ideally only count the first edit and reversion. Then I noticed the second round of edits on both lasted hours.

Bah, statistics. I’ll leave that stuff to Lambert, he seems to like it.

Tel
Tel
13 years ago

Try putting yourself into a Simpsons episode and see how long you last.

Seriously though, if you spraypaint a rude word down someone’s back wall you haven’t changed the utility of the wall. Wikipedia is not really in any danger from vandals because so many people find it rewarding to keep their world clean. A bigger problem is the systematic removal of information by those who want to present a particular point of view, and who don’t accept alternative points of view. Such people are not unique to Wikipedia. Often the cleaners are more dangerous than the vandals.

TerjeP (say tay-a)
TerjeP (say tay-a)
13 years ago

Next semester why not send your students out to paint your name name on bus stops and pavements and see if the council cleans it up in 14 minutes or less. Or even better, get them to steal handbags and see how long it takes for the cops to turn up. Antisocial behaviour 101.

tigtog
13 years ago

Terje, Ken didn’t send them out to do anything.

The students decided to do it and then told him. They are adults, you know, university?

Besides, cyberplay (which I would argue this falls under) is not the same as cyberbullying even, let alone cybercrime.

gilmae
13 years ago

Many somebodies went to the effort of writing down and compiling their knowledge of the Australian Constitution into an article on a commonly used forum. Ken’s students vandalised it. And when it was fixed, they vandalised it again. And then along came one Fxh – gosh, that name sounds familiar – who muddied the waters well enough that when the next fix came along – from an Admin, no less – they were sufficiently confused that they left in Ken Parish being a contributor to the Australian Constitution. The Admin thought the vandalism was slurs on Sir Ken Parish’s legal and political career.

So I don’t think you can reasonably argue that the affair from start to finish is cyberplay. It was vandalism and wikipedians have a right to be ticked off.

gilmae
13 years ago

Your students didn’t fix the Australian Constitution article, I was the one who restored it to accuracy. An admin had attempted to but was insufficiently knowledgeable about Australian history to work out exactly what had happened. If you hadn’t said anything here that caught my attention, who knows how long it might have stayed there. It was just plausible enough that it might have stayed there for days or weeks.

I’d like to think that a high school student doing an assignment on the topic would have the nonce to read a variety of sources and realise something was up with this Sir Ken Parish character. On the other hand, I have a high school student in my household I know full well that nonce is not a quality they possess in great quantities. Same with university students, apparently.

dr faustus
13 years ago

An admin had attempted to but was insufficiently knowledgeable about Australian history to work out exactly what had happened. If you hadnt said anything here that caught my attention, who knows how long it might have stayed there. It was just plausible enough that it might have stayed there for days or weeks.

And therein lies the main flaw of Wikipedia.

Really, Wikipedia is an experiment in collaborative writing and editing which sometimes happens to converge on the perfectly accurate. It’s not an authoritative source, and the more people who realise that, the better.

It’s usually accurate enough to be useful, and is a brilliant stepping point for finding more about a topic where you don’t know where to start, but it can’t be relied on. And frankly, I’m more worried about well intentioned but ignorant authors and editors than uni students having fun when it comes to Wikipedia.

wilful
wilful
13 years ago

While I wont blame Ken, this is just like that utter tripe rubbish printed in Crikey last week. Look, I can vandalise something, make it less useful!! Aren’t I clever!!

Of course participatory activities have their downside, but this is so vastly outweighed by their upside that there is no point in debate. The constitution article is clear, concise and overall very accurate – it is providing a great service.

TimT
13 years ago

Wikipedia has an IRC channel of people watching edits in realtime, as I understand it. Or at least people obsessively refreshing the latest edits page.

I love that. ‘Your job is to sit here and press the F5 key. Repeatedly.’

How could you say no to a description like that?

Stephen
Stephen
13 years ago

… see also Wikiality

Stephen
Stephen
13 years ago

… see also Wikiality, as coined by Stephen Colbert: “A reality where, if enough people agree with a notion, it becomes the truth.”

clarencgirl
13 years ago

It’s fun to pull Wikipedia’s tail like that, but what worries me is that so-called ‘accurate’ and ‘unbiased’ information often suddenly appears for a subject when there is strong community opposition to a new government proposal/policy on an issue surrounding the subject.
Eg., Damming and diverting water from the Clarence River catchment.
In April 2007 after two years of little change and as the issue began to gain some political mention and volume figures began to be disputed, according to the Wikipedia entry; “By Australian standards the Clarence River and its major tributaries the Mann and Nymboida Rivers are extremely large rivers with extremely large flow volumes.”
Which coincidently supported the Howard Government position on water diversion.

Big Fan
Big Fan
13 years ago

He has your same hair Ken…it must run in the family….but he is not nearly so handsome.

NPOV
NPOV
13 years ago

What disappoints me is that wiktionary.org is not nearly so active, or I suppose, relied upon. And yet it’s the only dictionary of any repute that bothers with many common neologisms, especially relatively obscene ones (e.g., “queef”).