Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Check your facts

When I was a kid the only way to find out something Mum or Dad didn’t know the answer to (or wouldn’t tell me!) was to go to the local library and look it up in the encyclopedia. My school didn’t have a library.

Things hadn’t changed a whole lot when my kids were very small, although by then I did have thousands of books of my own, and my smarter (lazier?) offspring usually chose to do assignments or “projects” on topics they knew I had books about. Although we still seemed to be down at the library most weekends looking up something or other until, in desperation, I bought a set of encyclopedias.

These everyone just Googles or looks up Wikipedia. Which is fine as a place to start, and usually gives a decent overview of a topic. However, the stuff in Wikipedia, and the things you Google, are not necessarily correct. Anyone wanting to know the whole truth (or just wanting the research for their book to be accurate) needs to check multiple references.

For example, Google Street View and Google Maps both show a bank within walking distance of where I live. That bank hasn’t been there since the middle of 2009. People, it’s almost the end of 2013 now and if you use that bank in your book you’ll get hundreds of complaining emails. Although your heroine might decide to buy some fresh vegetables from the Asian grocery store on that site these days.

Wikipedia is built and maintained primarily by volunteers. That’s good. Unfortunately there are also thousands of accounts of sockpuppets, paid by companies and PR firms to delete any information the company paying them doesn’t like or considers adverse to their interests. There are many stories about the sockpuppets (although possibly not on Wikipedia itself!) But the message is clear. Check your facts using several different sources and don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

For some sock puppet stories read this:

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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