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November 01, 2007

Who's writing your encyclopedia?

Today on the Internets

As a librarian, my feelings on Wikipedia are somewhat mixed. On one hand, I find the blurring of authority in reference sources to be somewhat frightening. I like knowing where my information comes from, and while I know that many people don't necessarily feel as strongly about this as I do, I think that makes it all the more important that proper distinctions are maintained between authoritative and non-authoritative sources, and that people, especially students, are educated about these differences.

On the other hand, I love Wikipedia and I use it all the freaking time. When nothing actually depends on whether the information found is correct, Wikipedia can be great, and it often has more information about pop culture than can be found in more traditional sources. It definitely has its uses. I just don't want students citing it in research papers.

Anyway, my actual point here is to show you WikipediaVision. It's a Google map that shows almost-realtime edits to Wikipedia. Right now, it's telling me that two minutes ago, someone in Lithuania edited the "Disk formatting" article and then someone in the U.K. edited the "Oasis (band)" article. Of course, it doesn't tell you anything about the credentials of the editor, so it doesn't actually help you determine the quality of the information. But it's fascinating in and of itself, in much the same way as is Watch WorldCat Grow. Watching the map can be mesmerizing, and if there's an article title that catches your fancy, you can click on the provided link to see the entry itself or details about the edit that was just made. Ooh, someone in Lancaster, CA just edited the article about Rome. Off to see what they said...

Posted by Kat at November 1, 2007 11:42 AM

I hear you on the issue of Wikipedia - I constantly have to remind my students that it is NOT an authoritative source of information. I do tell them, though, that it can sometimes be a place to start looking, and might give them some ideas. Just don't treat it as a scholarly resource (at the college level they shouldn't be citing encyclo's anyway.) I have even asked my kids' elementary school principal to reconsider teachers' recommending wiki for projects - hello, what happened to books? But of course, it is the perfect place for pop culture perusing :) I do it all the time myself.

Posted by: Jennifer at November 1, 2007 01:09 PM
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