Happy Birthday 2.0

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How I learned it's not so easy to gift-wrap the internet.

Jeff Weinstock A SINGULAR BLEND of vanity and boredom, Googling yourself is the newthumb twiddling. It is the nadir of idleness, a last desperate act beforeyou're forced to do something constructive, like sit-ups.

In truth, there's one floor lower than Googling yourself: Googling a relative. That's how I came to the terrible knowledge that, according to the internet, my own mother doesn't exist. I Googled her and came up empty. Google delivers countless links for that confection Nicole Richie, but can't flag down anything on my mom. Score: Nicole Richie, 2,880,000; my mother, zero. It's enough to elicit a tremor of indignation. Hey! That's my mother you're not talking about!

There's no shortage of Arlene Weinstocks out there, but none is my mother, unless my mother is a colored-pencil artist in Arlington, VA. That would explain a few things—such as why my colored pencils are always missing. So, for her 60-some-odd birthday, I decided to get my mom something she didn't even know she could have: a Wikipedia entry. That would get her some internet cred.

It turns out Wikipedia is a tough nut to crack. You stand a better chance of getting into Harvard. After entering my mother's biography, I was informed that the entry didn't meet Wikipedia's "notability guidelines." Oh, is that so? What, raising three kids isn't notable? Being an original member of the Minneapolis Lakers dance squad isn't notable? Being flummoxed by call waiting three decades since its introduction isn't notable? It is to some people!

The Wikipedia goons piled on. Because of her lack of accomplishment, my mother was judged "a candidate for speedy deletion." Yeah, well, so was Madonna way back when and she's still around.

Evidently, you don't pick a fight with Wikipedia. After a second try was likewise spiked, I was warned that my Wikipedia privileges might be revoked. Ooh, like I'm soooo scared. Normally, calling my mother a candidate for speedy deletion would earn the speaker an express ticket to step outside, if there only were an outside. It recalls a line from a Stephen Crane short story: "When it occurs to man that nature does not regard him as important…he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples." So it is with cyberspace.

I got creative, embellished as if it were my own resume. A third try stuck. Arlene Weinstock, former record executive and founder of the Minneapolis Lakers dance team, had reached notability, though she may well still be a candidate for speedy deletion. Aren't we all? She was on the internet, proof of a life well lived, and well within the search talons of Google. She was declared fit for Wikipedia, which made her the equal of all the presidents and kings. Now there's something I already knew.

- Jeff Weinstock, Executive Editor

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2007 issue of THE Journal.

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