Monday, March 5, 2007

Wikipedia editor admits to faking credentials

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Wikipedia editor "Essjay," recently profiled in the New Yorker, who claimed to be a "'tenured professor of religion at a private university' and who not only edited articles on penitential rites and transubstantiation but also corrected errors in Wikipedia's write-up of Justin Timberlake,...doesn't even hold a doctorate: He's a 24-year-old named Ryan Jordan, and he has never taught a class in his life." The Chronicle story is here. Thanks to Cliopatria for the tip.

Wikipedia has its uses, but as has previously been noted here, it is an encyclopedia. A place to begin research, but not an endpoint. When the Middlebury College History Department banned students from citing to Wikipedia, a Wikipedia founder told the New York Times it was a good idea:
Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia and chairman emeritus of its foundation, said of the Middlebury policy, ''I don't consider it as a negative thing at all.''
He continued: ''Basically, they are recommending exactly what we suggested -- students shouldn't be citing encyclopedias. I would hope they wouldn't be citing Encyclopaedia Britannica, either.

Still, judges and law professor are citing to Wikipedia as authority in opinions and in law review articles. It's only a matter of time before one of these sources unravels.