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February 09, 2007

Lorcan Dempsey's weblog: Wikipedia again: an addressable knowledge base

Lorcan has blogged this column by John Southerland twice, once in the link above and earlier in QOTD: Wikipedia on February 6. Both the column and the posts address two different aspects of Wikipedia: it's an interactive, scalable knowledgebase to which anyone can contribute. It's also vulnerable to errors of various sorts. The proposed solution is to use Wikipedia, but advisedly.

Can we do this? Instinctively, I agree with this approach, but I've had lots of training and experience in separating good information from bad. It's part of my job, and the job of my library. Not everyone is as adept - think of all the people that send away for instant weight loss pills advertised in the back of popular magazines, and the many others that think there's millions of dollars in financial limbo ready to be theirs if only they hand over a bank account number to the exiled son-in-law of an important former official in another country.

Libraries have traditionally been gatekeepers of the information cannon, but on a book by book or journal by journal basis. Can we endorse a source on an article by article basis, even when the article may change? Do we discount it entirely and discourage its use? Is it as simply as teaching information literacy? These are interesting questions.

In health care, the accuracy of information is important. Wrong information has consequences far more serious than professional embarassment. Can we trust that the best antidote to bad information is more information? or is there an information varient of Gresham's law, in which bad information drives out good?

Posted by janeblum at February 9, 2007 11:48 AM

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