Science & Technology

Artifact: The World Needs Citations


Credit:Designed for a more social life and peak oil is now, Flickr user bekathwia; crime-free neighborhood, Flickr user mmechtley

Wikipedia's detractors criticize the online, user-written, constantly changing encyclopedia's sometimes dubious sourcing, which they say makes it unreliable. Wikipedia's defenders counter that the site's mutable, fluid nature engenders a valuable skepticism toward all manner of too-trusted authorities. Nothing conveys Wikipedia's openness to revision quite like "[citation needed]," the bracketed phrase sprinkled throughout its pixellated scrolls.

Now some sourcing enthusiasts have liberated the "[citation needed]" tag from its cyber origins. Blogger Matt Mechtley began by printing up 250 stickers and handing them out to friends. Irked, perhaps, by the lack of fact-checking rigor on billboards and bathroom stalls, they have splashed the stickers across advertisements and noncommercial public pronouncements. "In true wiki fashion," Mechtley writes, "the final placement of the stickers is a collaborative effort, now distributed and anonymous."

The caveat lector guerrilla campaign is chronicled online, where the dubious claims of cell phone marketers and placard-wielding politicians are treated with equal suspicion. You can check this article's sourcing, and print up some citation-hungry stickers for yourself, at Mechtley's blog,