Zick Rubin is a copyright/trademark lawyer who used to teach psychology. His work was notable enough to be cited in the The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology . Unfortunately, that book listed him as having died in 1997, as shown above. Wikia, the for-profit wiki farm, has a Psychology Wiki entry for Rubin which included his death date, citing the Penguin book. Rubin, still very much alive, was doing a little vanity Googling when he learned of his death. He sent a note to Wikia’s Angela Beesley, who corrected the article, only to have it reverted. Rubin then wrote a New York Times piece blaming “the internet” for trying to kill him, currently one of their most e-mailed stories.
The New York Times loves stories claiming the internet is full of dopes who generate misinformation when they aren’t stealing from others (see the epic Bill Keller/Arianna Huffington beef this week). Psychology Wiki, like the unrelated Wikipedia project, requires a reliable source for any disputed fact, but that is one of those things that’s very hard for people outside of wiki-world to understand. Wikipedia’s policy is verifiability, not truth. This simple rule is a cornerstone policy, one of the five pillars.
The editor who reverted Angela’s change was following policy, though it would have been better to go the extra step and find one of the many reliable sources stating that Rubin has been above ground since 1997. The good thing about the internet is that these changes can be made quickly and easily. So I wrote him a nice proper Wikipedia article today, citing his Times Op-Ed and putting that content into the Creative Commons. So Psychology Wiki is corrected, he has a new Wikipedia entry, and the Penguin dictionary is… still floating around with its misinformation. Can’t blame “the internet” any more.