Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Mon 8th May, 2006

Meredith College vandalises Wikipedia

I go to the Wikipedia front page every once in a while to see what new articles have been featured - basically to expand my range of trivia. The article on solar eclipses had been locked down due to vandalism. I don't know what it is about me, but I'm always curious about what's happened in these situations, so I looked up a couple of edits. I noticed that one of the IP addresses was from Meredith College in South Australia; looking at all the edits from that IP address I concluded that a bunch of students had decided that Meredith College was their personal playground.

So I became a grumpy old man and wrote a stern letter to their contact email address, along the lines of how I considered it as bad as schoolkids vandalising public property. I was hoping for something that would be read out at school assembly to put a bit of scare into the students and to get the site administrators to watch Wikipedia edits more closely to track down the actual culprits. (I think that's where this morbid curiosity comes from - I was always too afraid of being caught to do anything really bad at school, so perhaps seeing what other people got up to gives me a vicarious illicit thrill. I don't know.)

What I got back made me question what Meredith College is paying its IT staff:

Hi Paul,

You are surprised by this, you've obviously never been to school or
perhaps many years ago before the internet.

If what you say is true, I happy to assist in tracking down the students
who are vandalising you website.

You have provided a link, but what logs will give the information to
trak down these students?

Unfortunately, without names/proof there is not alot I can do to help in
your predicament.

Regards

Albert Sabadin
I.T. Systems Manager
Mercedes College
540 Fullarton Rd, Springfield
South Australia 5062
Well, thank you, Albert, for insulting my education and my intelligence. Thank you also for missing enough words from your letter to also make you look like a complete berk. You haven't heard of the largest publically available online encyclopaedia in the world? And you accuse me of being too old to remember the internet! Perhaps you've heard of Google? Maybe you could use the latter to find the former?

No, I'm not surprised at children being like children, Albert. I'm not surprised at them being interested and amused by breasts, or calling people gay, or accusing them of alcohol and drug abuse. I am surprised that a Catholic school tolerates this, though. I don't want to get into a Yorkshireman "In My Day" speech, but we were taught to remember that our behaviour in public reflected on the school. Does that mean so little these days?

Tracking down the students is your job, not mine, Albert. I've provided you with more than enough information. Your students are not only defaming the Adelaide Crows and its players directly, but they're also mentioning other names which I'd be prepared to bet were students there. Put two and two together, Albert. And do so before you get hit with the lawsuit from the Crows.

And even if I can't provide you with exact names and incriminating evidence, you can still do something, Albert. You can log which computers are going to Wikipedia and track down the students. You can give them a roasting in school assembly. But you can't pretend it hasn't happened. If I saw students in the college's uniform spraypainting walls, or abusing other people, or being rude in public, I expect you to do something about it whether or not I can identify those students and can front up with incontrovertible evidence. In a way, that IP address provides far more actual proof that your students were abusing Wikipedia than any photo or letter can provide.

(So I wrote a slightly less vehement and vilificatory email in reply. We'll see what happens from there.)

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