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Law Prof's Homework: Wikipedia

In July, Peter J. Spiro, professor of international law at Temple University, wrote on the blog Opinio Juris that Wikipedia fared poorly in its entries relating to international law. "Although most major subjects have entries," he wrote, "many are 'stubs' and could use some work." He issued a call to action, of sorts, suggesting that international-law scholars help fill out these entries. "Doing a little adding and editing here or there might amount to a kind of community service (or not!)," Spiro said.

Spiro's co-contributor at Opinio Juris, Roger P. Alford, took this suggestion to heart, he writes this week. Alford, an associate law professor at Pepperdine University, assigned his international law students to write Wikipedia entries as part of their class requirements. He relates:

"I will not give you the details of each entry to avoid compromising the next phase of the experiment. But essentially they wrote on topics ranging from prominent international law professors and judges, several major decisions of international courts, two Supreme Court decisions, a key aspect of a major environmental law treaty, principles of international law jurisdiction, an undeveloped topic relating to the use of force, a major international investment arbitration issue, and an issue relating to corporate conduct and core labor standards. They wrote the entries in Wikipedia format to maximize the chances that the entries will be accepted by the Wikipedia editors."

That "next phase" he refers to is the actual posting of the entries and any open-source editing that results. Alford suggests that not all the student-written entries were perfect, but says, "My sense is that open sourcing on Wikipedia will correct relevant errors or omissions."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 1, 2006 at 05:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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