(Update: unfortunately, SideWIKI died pretty soon. I can imagine that just too many complaints had come in by site owners that did not want links to the opposite site showing up to visitors to their site. I can see that this feature had quite some potential for misuse, but still sad to see it die. It had the one obvious fault of not being decentralized, which any disrupting service, like torrents, has to be.)
Today was an exciting day for me.
A few years back I realized that there was something missing on the world wide web, something essential – commenting without the consent of the site owner.
There are many web sites – including this one here – that allow comments on all articles. But these comments are definitely censored because the site owner can easily delete comments he does not like. Good web sites will not misuse this power and allow opposition and controversy to stand, even though spammers and pure nuisances will be removed.
But imagine a site like that of the IRS. Could you imagine how the comment section of this site would look like if only spammers and flamers would be removed? Could the site speak of its ‘service’ and still be credible if you could read thousands of comments describing incompetence, evil, and injustice?
That is where I started to plan a system that would allow – through a toolbar widget or similar – to attach comments on any website. One of the basic features of this mechanism would have to be that it could not be centrally shut down, but instead would have to be a distributed system where a part that went down would be replaced immediately by a redundant site on the other side of the planet – a kind of SETI for accountability.
I talked to some potential partners, as this was too big a project for a single fighter, but have to admit that I failed to get it off the ground.
Today I read about Google SideWiki! Could this be what I had felt was missing, could this be the one feature that would keep people away from the dark side of the force?
The fact that it is Google is definitely a disadvantage, as Google has been bullied into doing things that were against the mantra of ‘doing good.” Let’s just hope for the best.
Besides hoping for the best, there is a nice test in progress that investigates the freedom of speech and opinion of this new feature. Somebody posted a pretty nasty post right on the main page of the IRS’s site, wondering how long it will be there. Let’s all go there and observe.
The post is not a nasty post in itself, it is just something that I could imagine the site owner would not want to be on his site. It talks about so-called tax protesters and gives the web site of one of the more grounded protagonists. In all fairness, this post also mentions a site run by – probably – tax attorneys chastising the whole bunch of cooks calling themselves the tax honesty movement. But then again, we are talking about lawyers here and then those that deal in taxes and probably love the system as it feeds them.
This post goes even further and introduces the philosophy site Free Domain Radio, which introduces the idea of a society based on voluntary interaction instead of a government-run bureaucracy that is backed up by violence, claiming a monopoly in initiating violence.
I will certainly keep an eye on the IRS web site to see if this article disappears. If this post stays there that would be akin to the Wikipedia entry for the IRS containing a section about the tax honesty movement, the thoughts that the tax law as written might not apply to most American and thoughts on how society could work perfectly well without an IRS and a central government.