An earnest plea for opacity

Unfortunately, I can't bring myself to sit through 25 minutes of Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales enthusing about transparency as a way to hype his forthcoming alleged Google-killer. Wales gave the talk last week; Information Week does the summation, and you can plunge into a full-length video here if you're so inclined. If not, rest assured that transparency is the new name for Jesus on the lips of big-idea developers Web-wide, and if you're not fer it, yer agin it. I'm not agin it in principle, but I'm mighty tired of hearing the term splattered around to describe everything from business to media to blogs to government to branding to your momma's underpants.

It's not surprising that Wales would jump on this train, chiefly championed by Wired's Chris Anderson a la "radical transparency." The tendency of transparency fetishists to speak in transformative religious idiom is getting silly — Wales calls himself a "free software religious zealot," and he's not shy about pushing other generalities to such scope that they practically encompass the entire universe. Pitching his new searcher, he intones, "Search is a fundamental part of the infrastructure of the Internet and therefore it is a fundamental part of culture and human society as a whole." Maybe if you define "search" to include "searching for food," and I don't mean via Citysearch. Perhaps Wales will bring that transparency crusade to A Small World, the super-exclusive and super-snotty "private online community" where he pops up from time to time. Meanwhile, if we can't live without more transparency, let's at least shoot for less transparency pulpit-pounding.