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    Location: Aberystwyth, Wales, United Kingdom

    I am the owner and managing director of Information Automation Limited (IAL), a company that specialises in research, consultancy and training for the information profession. We are particularly interested in all forms of electronic information resources (e-journals, e-books, etc) and I teach a course in electronic publishing at the Department of Information Studies in Aberystwyth. Drilling down still further(!), my interests centre on the quality and evaluation of electronic information, and in the thinking that underpins activities in library and information science.


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    Saturday, December 31, 2005

    Wikipedia veracity

    It seems ages ago that I posted on trusting Wikipedia - in fact, it was only a couple of weeks, but the debate has continued, particularly on Nascent. It seems to me that there are a couple or so ways in which a test of authority could be demonstrated to naive readers.

    1. Entries, and parts of entries and corrections or emendations, could be dated and signed.

    2. Text when first input should appear as a pale shade, and only darken towards full-on colour as more and more people read it without disagreeing. A more sophisiticated version of this could be facilitated by a 'vote agreement' box at the end of each paragraph.

    More debatable - although it would show possible geographic bias - is

    3. Text could be colour coded according to the geographical region of the writer.

    But, of course you're right, reader, none of that would be necessary if education systems included a module which turned children (and others) into information literate Internet users - users who would instinctively distrust what they read until it could be verified; users who would understand the need to validate information.

    Purchasers of almost all physical goods understand the 'caveat emptor' approach - information, whether free or purchased, whether digital or physical - must be tried and tested in just the same way as fruit is tested for ripeness or cars for road-worthiness. Wikipedia is what it says on the tin: a "free encyclopedia that anyone can edit". If that doesn't ring warning bells ...

    In fact, ramping up the apparent authority with colour coding and dates would probably be a dis-service, suggesting that the information was something that it was not.

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