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November 16, 2011

#978: Citogenesis


Where Citations Come From:

Citogenesis Step #1

Through a convoluted process, a user’s brain generates facts. These are typed into Wikipedia.

[[A guy with short hair sits at a desk, typing on a laptop.]]

Guy: (typing) The “scroll lock” key was designed by future Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a college project.

A rushed writer checks Wikipedia for a summary of their subject.

[[A woman with a ponytail sits at a desk, typing on a desktop.]]

Woman: (typing) US Energy Secretary Steven Chu, (Nobel Prizewinner and creator of the ubiquitous “scroll lock” key) testified before Congress today…

Step #2

Surprised readers check Wikipedia, see the claim, and flag it for review. A passing editor finds the piece and adds it as a citation.

[[A man sits on a couch with a laptop in his lap, typing.]]

Man: Google is your friend, people. (typing) {{cite web|url=

Step #3

Step #4

Now that other writers have a real source, they repeat the fact.

[[A flow chart, with “Wikipedia citation” in the center. The word “Wikipedia” is in black, the word “citations” is white with a red background.

A black arrow leads from “brain” to “Wikipedia.”

A black arrow labeled “words” leads from “Wikipedia” to “careless writers,” and a red arrow labeled “citations” leads back to “Wikipedia citations.”

A black & red arrow leads from “Wikipedia” to “cited facts” which leads to “slightly more careful writers,” which leads to “more citations,” which leads back to “Wikipedia” (all black & red arrows).]]

References proliferate, completing the citogenesis process.