Don’t use Wikipedia for academic research

That’s the word from the Wikipedia founder, according to a post on The Chronicle’s Wired Campus blog.  According to the post, “Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, says he wants to get the message out to college students that they shouldn’t use it for class projects or serious research.”

In an interview, Mr. Wales said that Wikipedia is ideal for many uses. If you are reading a novel that mentions the Battle of the Bulge, for instance, you could use Wikipedia to get a quick basic overview of the historical event to understand the context. But students writing a paper about the battle should hit the history books.

Needless to say, such statements tend to get folks like academics, librarians, and students a little fired up.  The comments of the post are an interesting read as well.

Using wikis for collaborative company research

The following post originated on my Business Blog.

The Ford Library at the Duke University Fuqua School of Business has a very cool tool called “One-Click Company Intelligence.” It’s an A to Z list of companies that are recruiting on the Duke campus. For each company there is a link to the company’s web site, a stock quote in Yahoo! Finance, a general company search in Proquest newspapers, a company profile search in Business Source Premier, and analyst reports in Investext Plus.

I can imagine that the page is fairly difficult to maintain, as URLs have a tendency to change quite a bit for subscription databases. I think a wiki could be a good tool to use for such a resource. Just imagine how large the One-Click Company Intelligence list could be if it were in a wiki format that anyone could contribute to. Any faculty, staff, or student researcher could add a company to the list, allowing future researchers quick and easy access to the information. Community editing would also allow for more up-to-date content, as the burden of creating and maintaining the content would be shared by more than one person. I can even see multiple libraries/organizations sharing the same Company Intelligence Wiki, particularly if they all have access to similar resources. This type of scenario would be ideal for business libraries in a consortia such as OhioLINK, as members of consortia may have many of the same resources. Librarians from around the state or region could work together on creating a resource that could be shared by all.

With MediaWiki, (the same software that runs the Wikipedia and the Biz Wiki) the list of companies could be organized by category as well as by an A to Z list. Companies could be categorized by industry, employee size, total revenues, location, etc., which could help business researchers in finding not only the company they are looking for, but information about similar companies as well. I know there would be some issues with off-campus access and proxy servers, as well as deciding on a common list of resources, but the more I think about it, the more I like the idea. Anyone else interested?

Extending a Librarian’s Reach

A colleague of mine just told me of a very positive experience that she had in an instant messaging transaction last week. A patron had contacted her via our IM reference service and was needing to find financial ratios for hypermarkets in France. This sounded like a pretty tough business question, and unfortunately I’ve been out for the past two weeks, so I wasn’t around to offer any in-person assistance. However, my colleague searched the Biz Wiki for ratios and found where I had suggested a few resources. She wound up using Mergent Online to help the patron find what he/she needed. I was so pleased that my colleague was able to find the answer to the rather tough question by using the Biz Wiki. It really is very rewarding to see that using a wiki as a research guide continues to work, and I continue to be amazed at how patrons and colleagues are using the resource.

After my colleague helped the patron find the answer, the patron informed her that it was 11:00 where he/she was, and that it was time for bed. My colleague questioned this, as this transaction took place during normal business hours. As it turns out, the patron was studying in France this quarter, which explained the time difference. Despite the distance of time and space, the patron was able to get help with his/her information need via our IM reference service. This is yet another way that technologies are making the world a little smaller. Because my colleague was available via IM, it did not matter if the patron was in Paris (France) or Athens (Ohio). The librarian was available to help via a service that was accessible and familar to the patron.

Wiki as Online Roladex

After speaking about wikis at Computers in Libraries, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with a number of people about potential uses for wikis. One idea that came out of those conversations really struck me as potentially an excellent use of a wiki. On two separate occassions, two different public librarians asked me if I thought a wiki would be good application to replace a database of local contact information. I think this is a great idea! Imagine if librarians or community members add content for county officials, doctors, libraries, schools, etc, for the community. Each wiki article for the contact or name could contain a great deal more information than just name, phone, and address. Perhaps pictures of the location of a business, or a link to Mapquest, or an in-depth description of services rendered could be included. With many wiki software clients, it is very easy to generate an A to Z list of the articles (in this case, names and contacts), and you could search this virtual roladex wiki by keyword. Contacts and names could also be placed into various categories for easy browsing, sort of like using the yellow pages. Just think of the opportunities for community outreach and community building that this type of wiki could create.

Technorati Tag: CIL 2006