From September 25th
A while back, it seems, just after the draw for the UEFA Cup was made, an internet prankster went to the wikipedia page for the Cypriot team AC Omonia and added a bunch of spurious information, including the facts that the team's fans are known as the Zany Ones, they have a habit of wearing hats made from discarded shoes and they like to sing a song about a little potato. This is not especially unusual; there must be thousands of silly edits made to wikipedia every day. What made it more interesting is the fact that the Daily Mirror apparently repeated some of these 'facts' in reporting Omonia's recent match against Manchester City. In some ways you can't blame the journalist, at least he fired up his browser and made a bit of an effort, he wasn't just relying on UEFA or the Press Association. On the other hand he should probably have been a little more diligent; the wikipedia page also listed the 'facts' that Omonia have a new sponsor - Natasha Kaplinsky - and that their former players include Jean Claude Van Damme and Richard Clayderman. This is a classic example of something everyone in the modern world of media now needs to worry about - the dangers of a bit of digital literacy. If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing then a little bit of web knowledge is a dangerous thing with instant impact, global reach and no erase button. Do something stupid online and you won't get the toothpaste back in the tube. This should be the next training priority for any communications business getting involved with digital stuff; not just helping your people understand the privacy and professional implications of sticking their party pictures on Facebook, but getting them - and your clients - to understand the wild wooliness of the web. They need to know that internet sources should always be double-checked and cross-referenced, they need to understand that comment spaces can fill-up instantly with spam, trolls and vitriol. They should remember that images and videos can easily be faked, that the email of vice-presidential candidates can be hacked and that competitions and votes can quickly be subverted by crowd-sourced mischief. The web is not a particularly difficult place to play, but it is different. That's why it's worth doing more than reading online; you need to practise creating stuff as well. Once you've done that you'll understand how easy it is, and what the implications of that are. And, if you wonder why I kept writing 'it seems' and 'apparantly' when telling you the story about wikipedia and the Mirror, it's for a simple reason. I'm not 100% certain it's true, I only read about it on the web.