Over 70 thousand people shared a story about a totally fake Sarah Palin quote! Over 5 million people shared a hoax story that Macaulay Culkin had died! It gets depressing hearing how many people get fooled by these hoaxes, doesn’t it?
The problem is, the numbers in those reports are wrong! Often, wildly wrong. They’re exaggerations caused by the confusing way that Facebook reports engagement.
Now, the underlying problem is real – social media hoaxes and rumors are bigger than ever. As a result debunking these things has become a popular pastime, well beyond the circle of organized skepticism.
But it is sometimes difficult to impress people with the importance. I often approach this by talking about things like SEO and SERP placement. But to many non-webmasters these are confusing concepts. It can be hard to visualize how they translate into readers.
During TAM9, Susan and I were talking about how it is sometimes difficult to convince skeptics that Wikipedia is worth the effort. Skeptics, due to their nature, are painfully aware of the many limitations of Wikipedia. Some express doubts that these can be overcome, and have written off the site. Others who have actually tried to edit express frustration in dealing with other editors and the culture of Wikipedia (a topic for another time).
But as we were talking, it occurred to me there is a very simple way to show exactly how important Wikipedia is, without using any obscure terminology. And that’s what this post is about. By the end of it, it should be crystal clear why skeptics need to edit Wikipedia.