Wiki Your Papers?

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3 Responses

  1. John Armstrong says:

    Proofreading, maybe. Fact checking…

    I’m sure that this won’t work in mathematics or “hard” sciences. Imagine Andrew Wiles posting his work on Femat’s Last Theorem and every crank with a proof that’s been discredited a hundred years ago coming out of the woodwork to attatch their versions as riders. A lay audience simply cannot contribute to the content of a technical paper.

    I feel safe in saying that the same probably goes for the law. I get torn apart regularly among my acquaintances at the law school for my layman’s arguments from an intuitive-formalist perspective, which invariably misses out on some precedent or subtlety they know and I don’t. I have a pretty good handle on the general contours of the law, but could I be trusted to check a fact? No.

    Besides the technical ability, of a lay audience, wikis founder on the general meanness of hoi polloi. If Wikipedia has proven nothing else, it is that people will attempt to deface an entry simply because they can.

    How do you tell which “facts” introduced or corrected in the process are valid and which are graffiti or simply incorrect? In a more ephemeral discipline such as law, how do you prevent an editor who disagrees with your basic premises from “correcting” them? You end up having to do all the fact-checking again by hand anyway. Better to just hand it to a trusted colleague if you don’t trust yourself to complete the task objectively.

    Wikis provide a good zeroth — maybe even first — order approximation of the truth by consensus. If I want to find out the text of the 12th Amendment or the scientific name of the kangaroo it’s probably good enough to go on. What it can not do is provide “industrial-strength” output suitable for submission to journals.

  2. Aaron Wright says:

    I think that’s a shortsighted observation. I think wiki’s will work for “industrial strenght” submissions to journals, through a process of self-selection. Those who are interested in participating in the dynamic editing process will participate.

    Alternatively, in the context of law school, you can avoid any graffiti problems by placing some minimal restrictions on those who can particiapte in editing. For example, in the context of law, schools could pooled together their resources so that a wiki-law-journal could operate. In other words, imagine if students across various schools had the option to join an on-line wiki-law-journal, instead of their traditional journal. If a suffienct size, members could collectively cite-and-source check and edit an article, and since their is a built-in self-selection there would be no graffiti problems.

    I think, however, that you are correct that wiki’s are beginning to prove the idea of truth of consensus.

  3. Clint Morse says:

    My friend and I are currently in the preliminary stages of running an experiment for the Wake Forest Law Review to determine whether a wiki based legal journal a possibility. If anyone is interested in leading a topic please e-mail me at

    Clint Morse