In August, when the Patent and Trademark Office acknowledged that it had taken Wikipedia off its list of acceptable research sources, the surprise was not that the Web site had been banished, but that examiners had been using it at all. To its fans, Wikipedia is a remarkable collaboration: a gigantic, up-to-the-minute encyclopedia to which any user, anywhere, can contribute. To its detractors, it’s the online version of the old “Saturday Night Live” game show, “Common Knowledge,” where answers were determined by a nationwide survey of high school seniors. The joke was that every answer was wrong.
No doubt, Wikipedia’s anyone-can-be-an-expert nature means that it, too, can get things wrong. The site also gets its share of pranksters. Recent entries have noted that a popular computer game was written by Mr. T, of television’s “The A-Team” (not), and that one of the prime suspects in the assassination of John F. Kennedy was John Seigenthaler, Sr., the founding editorial director of USA Today (beyond not).
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