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Wikipedia? Feh!

I know, I know, I know: Wikipedia is one of the wonders of the online world. I hear this regularly, especially from young journalist friends and also in e-mails concerning Freakonomics. A casual mention in our book concerning the derivation of the Chicago Black Sox’ nickname began a debate chronicled here, a debate in which participants regularly cited the Wikipedia entry as a definitive source. Michael Kinsley is so enamored of the communal encyclopedia idea that he experimented with turning the L.A. Times editorial page into a wikitorial page, wherein readers could add and subtract from the paper’s editorials. (This experiment ended abruptly when one reader contributed a porn link.) But if anyone ever needs a reason to be deeply skeptical of Wikipedia’s dependability, I urge you to click on this entry, which is introduced thusly: “This is an alphabetical list of well-known economists. Economists are scholars conducting research in the field of economics.” It is true that the list includes George Akerlof and Paul Samuelson and Jeffrey Sachs and even Steve Levitt. But if you want to see how truly pathetic Wikipedia can be, check out the sixth “economist” listed under “D.” [NOTE: “Carl Johnson” (see first comment below) was helpful/mischievous enough to read this blog item and quickly amend the Wikipedia entry; until then, the sixth name listed under “D” belonged to yours truly, and though some of my best friends are economists, I am very much not.]