On 12/4/05, daniwo59(a)aol.com <daniwo59(a)aol.com> wrote:
I can just provide my personal history here. I appear in the credits of
several popular reference works as everything from contributor to assistant
editor-in-chief (a horrible title, I might add, but then again, so was the book).
I have worked on these books for Simon and Shuster, Facts on File, Macmillan
(before it was gobbled up by Simon and Shuster), Reader's Digest, Henry Holt,
and Continuum. In each book, the facts were checked as Brian describes. In
fact, I remember one senior editor at Simon and Shuster boasting about how
they would pay grad students a certain amount of money for every mistake they
found. They were eager to find errors. I now have a manuscript of a book that I
wrote for Marshall Cavendish sitting on my desk. Every sentence was numbered
and checked. I have been asked to help source the material. I will be happy
to provide the email exchange.
Mind you, I am not suggesting that we go to these extremes. I do think it is
important, however, that people understand the lengths that publishers of
reference works go to in order to ensure the quality of their products. Of
course, some publishers are more meticulous than others. And despite all the
efforts, mistakes always managed to slip in anyway.
I am not about to say that because they do it, so should we. On the other
hand, I will state my personal belief that with 850,000 articles already in the
English Wikipedia, we should pay even more attention to quality than usual.
Is the normal process to number every sentence and then check them one
by one? Who is normally in charge of matching the sentences to the
sources, the author or the fact checker(s)? Are the sources
documented, and if so in what way? Do multiple people fact check the
Maybe we shouldn't do this, and even if we should there are probably
more efficient ways to do it using a wiki, and there are other
problems which would make our processes less efficient (it's gotta be
harder to fact check a constantly changing work, especially one with
such a multitude of different authors). But some more insight into
*how* all of this fact checking is accomplished would be helpful.