Following the AALL conference Mark Gediman’s contentious stance on Google, made the rounds here on 3 Geeks and in various other places. In fact, Mark will be reprising his stance on the famous search engine next week on an SLA CI Webinar, titled “Is Google Enough?” You can register here, if you want to hear it all again or challenge him to a duel. And while the Google Debate is a good one, earlier this week, Greentarget and Zeughauser Group, released their Fifth Annual survey of In House Counsel on their use of Digital and Content Marketing. The results were unsurprising for the most part and suggested that the better the content the more often it will be read. The survey responses and by extension in house counsel, urge law firms to plan out a proper strategy for digital content rather than just writing blog posts for fun. That seems all pretty straight forward to me. Then, I read this nugget:
“Wikipedia is becoming more popular among IHCs; 71 percent said they used it to conduct company and industry research — up from 51 percent in 2012. “
The answer to that survey question scares me more than the potential repercussions of the Google debate. Why and how, are in house counsel relying on Wikipedia for anything, let alone company and industry research? Don’t get me wrong, I think Wikipedia *can* be a great starting point, and I use it often. But it is a starting point, a means to an end and certainly not to be relied upon. Can you imagine using Wikipedia for due diligence research? Crowd sourced information worries me, the way Big Data scares me. Anyone can publish anything to Wikipedia and it will stay there until someone else takes it down. I would rather see in house counsel relying on company websites, twitter feeds, government industry analysis or even editorials. I understand that unlike law firm lawyers, in house counsel often don’t have the luxury of staff Librarians, CI practitioners, corporate researchers or others who are skilled at and have the time for research, but surely there is a better (though not faster) source than Wikipedia.
It may be time we pull back from the ease of the internet and think about artisanal research, bespoke industry analysis and custom reporting. The tools and technology available to us today, make research accessible and easy, if budgets allow there are plenty of SAS products out there that can help bring all your vetted sources into one newsletter or portal to make that type of research Wikipedia-fast but factually accurate and integral too. I won’t belabour the point, I think 3 Geeks readers are savvy enough to know where I am heading with this rant. Instead, in true collaborative fashion, I will urge all in house CI researchers, librarians, information professionals, marketing research or social media folks to reach out to their legal teams and provide them with alternatives to Wikipedia, establish some kind of information pipeline that has integrity and depth and that can be shared via RSS to intranets and other portals. And I will ask those in the same roles in firms to think about what value added services we can provide to clients that might be better than Wikipedia and help mitigate the risk of bad information as well. As I always say…information is quick, intelligence takes time. You can decide which you prefer to provide and use.