It may be of concern to some readers that Wikipedia can, on occasions, make mistakes.
So when I discovered a minor, but troubling error on the popular site recently, I thought it would be interesting to learn how to:
#44 Correct a Mistake on Wikipedia
Growing up in an era when we depended on Encyclopædia Britannica to tell us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, discovering that a publication with the august letters ‘pedia’ in its name might, now and again, tell us a porky makes for uncomfortable reading.
Perhaps the spelling of the word Wikipedia should have alerted me. It’s missing the all important ‘æ’. Let’s be honest here, the letters ‘æ’, especially when they run together, proclaim from the rooftops that information in the publication in question has been overseen by pipe-smoking dons from prestigious universities.
Universities that look a little like this:
photo: Toby Hudson Wikimedia
Wikipedia, on the other hand, with its missing ‘æ’, admits that it’s written almost exclusively by volunteers.
Volunteers who look more like this:
Photo by Fuzheado at Wikipedia [yes, really]
Being an ex-university lecturer now turned volunteer myself, I understand only too well the stark difference between a salaried, tenured academic who produces meticulous research for peer-reviewed journals, and an unpaid hack wondering ‘when’s morning tea?’
So I’m not blaming Wikipedia at all if a mistake should creep into its pages. I’m just delighted that they allow retirees with not enough to do readers a hassle-free way to correct errors. This perfectly demonstrates The Wisdom of Crowds. Try doing that with Encyclopædia Britannica.
Checking the Wikipedia site for my home town recently, I found a rather surprising mistake. It’s illustrated by the glowing yellow lines and the pointed red arrows which I’ve only just worked out how to add to a photograph.
You can see there are two problems here:
Top arrow: If Albury were only 462 kilometres from Sydney, couldn’t we drive there in under 5 hours? Who’s ever made the interminable trip to Sydney that quickly?
Bottom arrow: But then they tell us Albury is 554 km from Sydney. Huh?
Sorry, a factual mistake is one thing. A factual mistake PLUS an internal inconsistency is another altogether. One of these just has to go…
So with the help of a little button on the Wiki page called ‘edit’ I could do just that:
Voilà! All fixed!
I am now officially a Wikipedian, the name given to those who work on Wikipedia.
Or, as I prefer, a Wikipedant.