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The Internet says I know something

It gives me a mild flash of nerdy glee to know that I am now cited as a source for information in not one but two articles on Wikipedia. If you ever have any need or desire to read about Microsoft's Cambria typeface or the ubiquitous Times Roman, you will find sections of those articles that draw directly from my MA dissertation on typefaces for mathematics.

It's flattering, of course, but it's also the kind of thing that reminds me that while Wikipedia is exceptionally useful, articles you find there are not actually great citations in themselves. Information on Wikipedia is supposed to be verifiable. That is, it should ideally point to another source to back up what it says there. In the case of my two citations, Wikipedia points to my dissertation (kindly hosted at Mark Jamra's fantastic Type Culture site). Even that, though, is not a primary source, since everything I wrote is the result of research looking back to the actual primary sources. So the articles on Wikipedia are — in this case, and in many others — references to references to sources, not reliable information in and of themselves. They're useful, sure, but just starting points if you're really trying to get to the bottom of something.

Comments (3)

1) hitormiss: Cool! My only hit on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_School#cite_note-13) is for criticizing the New School's logo rebranding on my blog (lord only knows who added the reference). Fortunately it never jeopardized my employment there before I left... (Jan 20, 2009 10:35 PM)

2) david z.: Congratulations! You are one step closer to being an official "Authority on Type." I am keeping track of all the steps just in case nobody else does. (Jan 25, 2009 8:54 PM)

3) JD: On behalf of librarians everywhere: thank you for understanding how to properly cite a source! You made my day. (Jan 28, 2009 11:41 PM)

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