Wikipedia manager lied about background

Written by Brett Thomas

March 2, 2007 | 09:22

Tags: #background #doctor #lied #lies #manager #university #wiki #wikipedia

Companies: #research

As wonderful as Wikipedia can be as a source of information, it doesn't always have the greatest track record for credibility. Articles can be written from all sorts of points of view, and there's not always an easy way to authenticate the information. To help keep this in check, Wikipedia employs a few "experts" to help determine the fact from the fiction - and sent one down to talk to the press recently.

This Wik-elite, who goes by the handle of Essjay, has quite a comprehensive bio on the encyclopaedia. According to the article, he has a Ph.D. in theology and is a tenured professor at a private university. Though a theology degree doesn't make one an expert in every field, any doctoral candidate can tell you that graduate work is a definite trainer for one thing - hard-core research.

Of course, that would be assuming that Essjay had that degree. After the article with the New Yorker was published, the mystery man came clean - apparently Essjay is not a Doctor of theology, nor does he hold any advanced degree. In fact, he's actually a 24 year old with an undergrad degree in religion from a Kentucky university.

The New Yorker published an official retraction regarding the article as soon as the information was found out. After the retraction hit the store shelves, Essjay's bio finally got an edit. The creators of Wikipedia were far from upset by the incident, saying that the bios of its managers are for their online pseudonyms and can be as fictitious as they please - Essjay doesn't really exist.

All of the controversy has to make people wonder exactly how much credibility can be given to Wikipedia. Whether it was a practical joke, fictitious entry, or just a bad idea, should those editing the Wiki for fact really be posting lies themselves?

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