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I think we're winning

By
Anna Berkes

If you've been following this blog, or even talking to me on a regular basis, you know that we went through an extraordinarily obnoxious patch a year or so ago in which we were getting fake Jefferson quotation questions about every 4 minutes or so.  This seemed to be largely due to some sort of chain-email thing that was making the rounds, although we've always done quite a brisk business in quotation debunking.  Some day I will compile some actual statistics on this, but off the top of my head I would venture to say that at least half of the questions we answer are to do with quotations.  Until recently, that is.

Since we started the wiki (our pet name for the TJ Encyclopedia), I've put up articles on any spurious quote that comes to our attention.  We now have quite the collection - there's currently 31 infamous non-Jefferson sayings, and I have a list of at least half a dozen that need to be put up.  And I was just reflecting recently that I haven't had a spurious quotation question in quite some time.   I'm sure that part of the reason for this is that that acursed chain email finally just sort of petered out.  But I like to think that the TJ Encyclopedia also has something to do with it.

Just this morning I received yet another inquiry about whether TJ shot somebody on the White House lawn.  We dealt with this long ago in a wiki article, but like many quotation questions, every time it comes up I like to give it a little Google just to see if any new information turns up.  In times past I've even had trouble getting the wiki article to come up, but this morning when I googled "white house" lawn execution "thomas jefferson", eight of the first 10 results either were our encyclopedia article or quoted from it directly.  In other words, if you heard this story and googled it maybe a year ago, you'd get all sorts of random websites with people asking about it or just repeating the story.  Now, if you google it, it's likely that you will get the correct answer because our information has crowded out the bad information at the top of Google's PageRank system. TJ Encyclopedia: 1 Random crank websites: 0

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