Friday, April 21, 2006

Safety at the Steak-house

I've been listening to the talk Vision: Wikipedia and the Future of Free Culture by Jimmy Wales. During it he made an analogy that hit close to home.

Imagine you are building a steak-house. One thing you need are steak-knives. However, patrons could attack each other with them. So you build your steak-house to keep all diners separated from one another by cages. No one can get hurt.

How often do we build just such systems? Allowing users to tag bib records? They might put in the seven forbidden words. User reviews linked to bib records. What if they write slander and the library gets sued? How often do we picture the very worst that could happen and then destroy our systems due to that remote possibility? Yet, Wikipedia, Amazon, et al. seem to survive. Maybe we could also.

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