The Folly of the 404: A Wikipedia Lesson

There was once a unique 404 error web page...

While most 404 error pages simply displayed the message “Error 404. The page you were looking for could not be found,” DCO’s was unique.

It had an illustration of a subduction zone. Underneath the illustration was the text “The page you were looking for has been subducted. Until it resurfaces again millions of years from now in an altogether different form, please search for your document or topic by using the search box at the top of the page.”

The group of communications professionals that created it, the DCO Engagement Team, was quite proud. The image was sourced from Wikipedia, a natural place to reference Earth science, and they had written the clever copy line to lighten the load of not landing on a desired page on

One day the news of this novel error page bubbled up on the far reaches of social media. It started when a journalist shared the page and offered compliments about its uniqueness. The original post was quickly followed by likes, retweets, and comments. The page had grown popular, and the Engagement Team was pleased.

But the pleasure did not last. Soon a scientist questioned the words used in the illustration from Wikipedia. Then another scientist suggested changes, and the fondness for the error page quickly soured.

Finally a scientist scolded the communications professionals for their lack of knowledge. This “knowledge” had been sourced from Wikipedia, another example of the importance of ensuring that information about Earth Science on Wikipedia is up to date and complete. To fix the error, the webmaster changed the page by substituting a new image and posting the change on social media where the discontent had begun. The error page, now sullied, was once again forgotten.

The moral of this story is Wikipedia desperately needs the help of scientists to make it better.

Visit this page to help fix Wikipedia and prevent future stories like the Folly of the 404. Log in with your Wikipedia ID and use the password ‘wikidco.'



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