Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Mirror, Mirror on the Web

Knowing my penchant for peevishness about inaccurate Wikipedia entries, Ian Bogost sent me a link to Veropedia to check out. Unlike Scholarpedia or Citizendium, which solicit user-generated content from its own academic authors, Veropedia -- somewhat more pragmatically, given the time demands on university professors to participate in more commonly recognized "service" activities -- uses Wikipedia postings to form the raw database that editors can in turn vet.

Given my fondness for posting fake merit badges for anti-piracy and free culture efforts, I was amused to see that the spotlighted Veropedia article was on scouting. I was initially impressed by the scrupulous inclusion of seventy-five footnotes in the Veropedia article, until I took a gander at the Wikipedia original and saw that the citation wasn't an add-on from the Veropedia legitimator. Other than the designer color-scheme, the difference between the two sources wasn't immediately clear to me. However, I guess I shouldn't complain, since Scholarpedia and Citizendium didn't even have an encyclopedia page on scouting, despite the organization's importance for understanding a range of historical documents and twentieth-century literary works from Tarzan to Burmese Days.

In the FAQs for Veropedia, they protest against the notion that they are little more than just another mirror site for Wikipedia, but they do so relatively faintly.

In order to be included in Veropedia, articles must meet very strict criteria of our own. There can be no cleanup tags, no "citation needed" tags, no disambiguation links, no dead external links, and no fair use images. In addition, each article will be given to recognized academics and experts to review. These experts can either provide their stamp of approval or make suggestions as to how the article can be improved further. In that way, users will know that the article is reliable.

Since this site is operated by the same Wikipedians who encouraged a twenty-four-year-old dropout fakester to pose as a tenured professor, I'm still not sure where those "academics and experts" are coming from.

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