Adventures in Wikipedia editing

The Association for Psychological Science is on a quest to get psychologists to start contributing to Wikipedia. When I first heard about it, I started to write up the story about the one time I decided to wade into Wikipedia a few years ago. It wasn’t pretty: it involved an edit war over the spelling of the word “extraversion,” and although I ultimately prevailed (woohoo!), the effort it required has kept me from going back. But Zick Rubin’s got me beat by a mile:

WHEN I Googled myself last month, I was alarmed to find the following item, from a site on psychology, ranked fourth among the results:

“Zick Rubin (1944-1997) was an American social psychologist.”

This was a little disconcerting. I really was born in 1944 and I really was an American social psychologist. Before I entered law school in midlife, I was a professor of psychology at Harvard and Brandeis and had written books in the field. But, to the very best of my knowledge, I wasn’t dead.

I knew that the report of my death could be bad for business, so I logged into and removed the “1997.” But when I checked a while later, I found the post had reverted to its prior form. I changed it again; again someone changed it back. Apparently the site had its doubts about some lawyer in Boston tinkering with the facts about American psychologists.

In spite of these kinds of episodes, I think it’s probably worth it for us academic psychologists to spend more time on Wikipedia. My impression has been that psychology is not nearly as well represented as more technical disciplines, but given the popularity of the topics we study I bet there are lots of people looking up our stuff. Maybe it’ll even help us recognize when some of our lazier (or less wealthy) students are plagiarizing.

Plus, hey, it’ll keep us from going the way of Abe Vigoda.