Archive for May 26th, 2005

Wikipedia, an encyclopedia for open culture

Thursday, May 26th, 2005

Have you visited the wikipedia lately? If not, I suggest you take a look. Wikipedia is billed as “the free-content encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” The half-million page English version covers a spectrum of information from culture and geography to society and technology. Want to know something about stem cells? Wikipedia will help you understand the differences between embryonic, adult and cord blood stem cells. Looking for something lighter? How about Cirque du Soleil, the circus without animals based in Montreal Canada.There is a wide variety of information in the wikipedia. How did it get there? Who contributes? In the spirit of freedom, subject matter experts and laypeople volunteer their time and energy to create and edit the content. I can’t even imagine how many man-hours it has taken to generate 500,000+ articles. And wikipedia isn’t limited to the English language. In March there were 92 “active” language editions.

What about the information quality? What is the impact of open editing on the content? Wikipedia’s supporters point to the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have the ability to view, comment, and change the information. In effect, you have thousands of editors. Are there mistakes? Sure. But major errors are corrected quickly.

So visit the wikipedia today. Search on your favorite subject and judge for yourself. If you have time, contribute; if not, enjoy the freedom.

Be sure to check out other parts of the wikipedia universe too.