Blog sets off edit war, gets itself protected

Law professor Glenn Reynolds, who writes the Instapundit blog, triggered an edit war last week over the article about his blog. After he noted the article's inaccuracies in his blog, a surge of traffic and vandalism led to the article being protected from editing.

Writing in his blog last Thursday, Reynolds commented on two matters in the article, one of them a picture showing him wearing a t-shirt that reads "I had an abortion", and the other a reference to a story about him putting puppies into a blender to create an energy drink. He also noted that contrary to the information given, his blog had never been hosted by servers at the University of Tennessee (where he teaches). Reynolds' assessment was that this "does little to inspire confidence" in Wikipedia's trustworthiness.

Puppies, lies, and photoshop

The picture, which is apparently a photoshopped fake, had been in the article since November when it was added by Urbansombrero (a user whose only contributions were to upload the picture and add it to the Instapundit article). Until Reynolds commented on it, nobody had bothered to do anything about the picture, although the fakery was noted on the talk page.

The "puppy-blender" story has a longer history, as it was originally promoted in April 2003 by Frank J. on the IMAO blog as a "filthy lie" for people to tell about Reynolds. Since then, the joke/lie has had a fair amount of circulation in the blogosphere, and its over-the-top nature makes it fairly easy to detect as falsehood, even if the teller doesn't actually point this out.

As the Instapundit article is regularly visited by vandals, this story naturally makes popular fodder for their material. The story has often been added as if it were fact, and on other occasions simply mentioned as being a story told about Reynolds. Either way it has regularly been removed again by people monitoring the article.

Traffic moves in both directions

By blogging about these issues, Reynolds managed to drive some additional traffic to the Instapundit article, some of which continued the vandalism. Finally, administrator Violetriga protected the article for about 24 hours. Since the unprotection of the page, things have calmed down, but a picture to illustrate the article is still lacking.

Apparently Reynolds also got some feedback from people who didn't take kindly to his comments, much like some other media figures have noted receiving flames when they publish material that is critical of Wikipedia. In any case, Reynolds later updated his blog to add, "I didn't mean for the original post to be a big slam on Wikipedia, just a comment on a not-very-reliable post."

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