Ego-Surfing

I have Wikipedia envy.

I’m becoming a petty, small person. I blame Wikipedia.

Thanks to the Internet, I’ve known for years that I’m neither the most famous nor the most noteworthy person named “Michael Duck.” That observation is reinforced whenever I plug my name into a Google search and see how highly I rank among my other namesakes. (It’s called “ego-surfing,” and don’t pretend you’ve never done the same thing.)

That’s how I learned about the Michael Duck I interviewed back in the January issue. I’ve always ranked fairly high on Google because of Crunchable and my newspaper work, but this guy has usually been as high or higher — and justifiably so. This other Michael Duck invented a gizmo used by millions of coffee-drinkers every day across the United States and Canada. I shuffle words around on a page. I could accept a second place finish behind a man like that.

Then this other guy came along.

He’s also named Michael Duck. He lives in Hong Kong and is a Senior Vice President of “CMP Asia,” which is part of United Business Media — a “leading global business information company that brings together the world’s buyers and sellers,” according to the company’s Web site. As far as I can tell, that means it’s a big-ass public relations firm.

In February 2006, this other Michael Duck got himself profiled on Wikipedia — the ubiquitous online encyclopedia that’s edited by its users. And ever since that article went up, he’s left the rest of us Ducks in the dust, Google-wise.

I let my search-engine envy fester for months, quietly protesting by limiting Crunchable’s links to other Wikipedia articles and grumbling. It’s obvious he wrote his own Wikipedia profile, I’d tell myself. Or maybe his company wrote it for him. Either way, it’s clearly a vanity post that violates Wikipedia’s guidelines, and somebody ought to take it down.

I felt quietly vindicated when a Wikipedia user agreed, saying, “[W]ho is Michael Duck that lives in Asia. The other Michael Duck is so much more interesting than some business guru.”

I could have deleted the article myself, or done something more petulant like vandalizing the page. And then a guy named Timothy Noah gave me a new, equally sinister idea: Tag his article for violating the “notability guideline.”

Noah, who writes the “Chatterbox” column for online magazine Slate, wrote a series of articles starting last week about a Wikipedia rule that indicates only “notable” people or subjects are worthy of Wikipedia articles. Noah made the case that, because space on the Internet is theoretically infinite, the rule exists only to let Wikipedia’s mass editors feel important by excluding people. It’s a worthy argument, though there’s also a conflict of interest: Noah wrote his column only after his Wikipedia entry was tagged for deletion as one of the site’s “articles with topics of unclear importance.”

Yes! I thought. That’s it! Clearly this other Michael Duck is a “topic of unclear importance.” Tag it! And when he’s deleted, you’ll move up in the search results!

But I resisted. It just seemed too infantile. What I really ought to do is create another Wikipedia entry about the Michael Duck who invented the coffee-related doodad and who genuinely deserves to be in that encyclopedia — but even that seems self-serving.

On the other hand, if somebody out there reads this Snackable piece and gets an idea …

Article © 2007 by Michael Duck