Sunday, March 4, 2007

So Meta it Will Make Your Head Explode

Not related to children's books at all, and only tangentially to libraries, but this brief piece in the New Yorker completely made my day yesterday [ellipses and emphases are mine]:

The July 31, 2006, piece on Wikipedia, “Know It All,” by Stacy Schiff, contained an interview with a Wikipedia site administrator and contributor called Essjay, who...was described in the piece as “a tenured professor of religion at a private university” with “a Ph.D. in theology and a degree in canon law.”

...Essjay now says that his real name is Ryan Jordan, that he is twenty-four and holds no advanced degrees, and that he has never taught. He was recently hired by Wikia—a for-profit company affiliated with Wikipedia—as a “community manager”; he continues to hold his Wikipedia positions. He did not answer a message we sent to him; Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikia and of Wikipedia, said of Essjay’s invented persona, “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.”

(Okay, maybe this wouldn't have everyone on the floor gasping with laughter. Maybe to think it's as funny as I do you have to have spent huge chunks of time, breath, and keystrokes in attempts to convince students and teachers alike that Wikipedia is not a citable source for academic projects? Could be.)

I have a particular fondness for that kind of deadpan tone that the New Yorker does so well. Especially when imparting news of a spectacularly embarrassing nature.

For the complete text of the retraction, see the note at the end of this article, or page 10 of the March 5, 2007 issue of the New Yorker.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Middlebury College is now banning students from citing Wikipedia (though not from looking at it), after a history professor caught his students soberly citing a glaring error in an article on Japanese history. See the New York Times article of 2/21/07 (they'll make you register for a free account to read it).
As an academic librarian I spent years trying to explain not only to the students but also to their professors why they shouldn't cite Wikipedia. So I have to admit that this NYT article, and the New Yorker retraction, really made my day.
- Lise