Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Storm in a teacup

About a year ago, I was facilitating a workshop on e-learning strategy, and I suggested we “brainstormed” the benefits of e-learning. I was surprised when a delegate tut-tutted that I was being politically incorrect – she wasn’t actually offended, she just thought others might regard it as offensive. I vaguely remembered this issue arising before, so I made a point of looking it up after the workshop – first on Google, then on Wikipedia (the first result a Google search yields, as with so many things).

The Wikipedia entry basically slammed the criticism as political correctness gone wild, which pleased me so much, I emailed the info to all the workshop delegates.

This summer, I had a sense of déjà vu when I was facilitating a session for a corporate client, and somebody mentioned brainstorming ...

When I looked up the entry on Wikipedia to send my conclusive (!) email after the session, I was surprised to find a much more balanced consideration of the topic. Basically, the page had been ‘cleaned up’. Now there was a summary of both sides of the debate over whether it was politically correct or not, and a series of references at the end, supporting both cases.

On looking it up for this post, I find the entry has changed again, and once more leans heavily on the side of the pro-brainstormers. “It is an urban myth that the term ‘brainstorm’ is offensive to those people with epilepsy”. References support this conclusion.

This seems to me a good example of how an entry on Wikipedia evolves, and gradually becomes more authoritative. Which is not to say the current version is the definitive one, but then, that’s what the real world is like – the debate moves on, and attitudes change over time. Try picking something controversial and monitoring it over a period of a few months or more – see for yourself.

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