The 29-Day Blogging Challenge: W is for Wikipedia
Back in the day, whilst preparing school reports, I had to haul myself down to the public library, check out huge, unwieldy volumes of various encyclopedias, and comb through them for the necessary, pertinent info. These days, however, students and the randomly-curious have one of the greatest tools to be spawned by the interwebs: Wikipedia.
I’m on the site almost daily, looking up work-related information (PCR and Stromma, etc.) or just random things that pop into my head (e.g. Phi Delta Theta or eggs or Kurt Cobain). It’s an invaluable resource, but has come under fire by many critics as it is editable by anyone, prone to ‘hacks’ and misinformation, and represents ‘information by consensus’ rather than true fact. Even Wikipedia itself cautions that its information is not generally accepted as a citable source in academic works without additional corroboration. But for those of us looking to find out the history of Catherine The Great, or phallic saints, or the bio (and awesome pics) of Kari Byron from Myth Busters, Wikipedia is the go-to source of any and all miscellaneous information.
Interestingly, but perhaps logically, Wikipedia has an entry about itself on Wikipedia. I’ll let the site itself explain further:
Wikipedia ( /ˌwɪkɪˈpiːdi.ə/ or /ˌwɪkiˈpiːdi.ə/ WIK-i-PEE-dee-ə) is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau from wiki (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) and encyclopedia (from ancient Greek meaning “the circle of arts and sciences”). Wikipedia’s 15 million articles (3.2 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site. It was launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger and is currently the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet.
Critics of Wikipedia accuse it of systemic bias and inconsistencies (including undue weight given to popular culture), and allege that it favors consensus over credentials in its editorial process. Its reliability and accuracy are also targeted. Other criticisms center on its susceptibility to vandalism and the addition of spurious or unverified information, though scholarly work suggests that vandalism is generally short-lived, and an investigation in Nature found that the material they compared came close to the level of accuracy of Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of “serious errors”.
Wikipedia’s departure from the expert-driven style of the encyclopedia building mode and the large presence of unacademic content have been noted several times. When Time magazine recognized You as its Person of the Year for 2006, acknowledging the accelerating success of online collaboration and interaction by millions of users around the world, it cited Wikipedia as one of several examples of Web 2.0 services, along with YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook. Some noted the importance of Wikipedia not only as an encyclopedic reference but also as a frequently updated news resource because of how quickly articles about recent events appear.
Previous posts: Introducing the 29-Day Blogging Challenge; A is for Anonymity; B is for Busses; C is for Canada; D is for Dogs;E is for Expatriate; F is for Failure;G is for Google; H is for Hedgehog; I is for Indian food; J is for Jill, obviously; K is for Kurt Cobain; L is for Listerine; M is for Mac&Cheez; N is for Night; O if for Olfactory Dysfunction; P is for Photography; Q if for Quest For Fire; R is for Religion; S is for Stockholm; T is for The Local; U is for Urban Living; V is for Verisimilitude