I regret having missed the last LITA forum, primarily because I saw that Amy Bruckman would be speaking on the nature of truth in the age of Wikipedia. Her keynote, How Wikipedia Really Works, and What This Means for the Nature of “Truth”, is, sadly, not available online, so all I have to give you are these Twitter highlights praising the relevance and instructiveness of her presentation and this article from American Libraries. Granted, I cannot access Bruckman’s original lecture, so it would be irresponsible for me to discuss her position. Instead, I’ll direct my attention at the tweets and descriptions offered by her audience members.
First, a pair of problematic tweets:
- refereed journal articles out of date the minute they are published, wikipedia updated/corrected every second (@amyddiane)
- A peer reviewed journal is out of date the minute it is published. Wiki articles on popular topics are updated constantly. (@mfrisque)
Of course, the fallacy of the constant edit is undermined by Wikipedia’s own article editing guidelines that stress the importance of verifiability, not truth, in establishing the accuracy of content. Put simply, one criterion for inclusion in Wikipedia is that the information comes from a reliable, approved external source…preferably a peer-reviewed article.
And this fallacy is not limited to Wikipedia. There are countless examples of blog posts praising Twitter as a wonderful source for news and information because it is a live stream. This is simply wrong. Twitter is a wonderful source for real-time data, but it takes time to separate the wheat from the chaff and determine which tweets are accurate. Twitter as a wonderful source for news and information and it is a live stream, not because it is a live stream.
Again, my point is not that currency is unimportant. Currency is very, very, very important. My point is that the tweets listed above seem to conflate currency with accuracy, proffering real-time updates as a cure for the hopelessly out-of-date world of academic publishing when, in reality, this is simply a non sequitur.
Perhaps, though, the claims about constant updating are more relative; Wikipedia is simply more accurate than competing resources, due to its currency. This, too, is misguided. Again, certain content areas benefit from constant updates and others do not.
Given the length of this post, I’ll quit here and save the other problematic tweets for the next post.