Monday, October 31, 2005

Wiki Wiki Web

I've been an avid user of Wikipedia since the first time I discovered it, about two years ago. At the time I was desperately searching for something to help me in a rhetoric class. I strolled over to Wikipedia, having previously heard of it, and was fascinated at the amazing depth of the article I read. Wikipedia had serious substance.

Since then, I go to Wikipedia when I want to know anything. Often times when I'm bored I'll read a random article on it just for fun. Wikipedia is engaging and exciting to use. However, I've never been compelled to use Wikipedia as a community and contribute or edit articles. I'm just not that boring.

Which is the major problem with Wikipedia.

Wikipedia is an unbelievable open source page that allows anyone at anytime to edit it. People can come and go freely and change it. Wikipedia has the potential to contain the entire world's knowledge and then some. The only problem is that people like myself, casual readers, wont take the time to edit it and therefore we leave it up to the architects, those pajama wearing folks with tons of time on their hands and perverse interests.

In his article "Galaxy Quest: Wikipedia is a real-life Hitchhiker's Guide: huge, nerdy, and imprecise," Paul Boutin attacks this problem with Wikipedia head on, comparing it to the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy:
"Like the Guide's lengthy entries on drinking, Wikipedia mirrors the interests of its writers rather than its readers. You'll find more on Slashdot than The New Yorker. The entry for Cory Doctorow is three times as long as the one for E.L. Doctorow. Film buffs have yet to post a page on Through a Glass Darkly; they're too busy tweaking the seven-part entry on Tron."

So it goes. While the initial nerdiness of blogging is being supplanted by common folks just wanting to write, Wikipedia is not changing. Those of us who are writing in the blog world because we want to write will not catch the encyclopedic editing fever. Wikipedia will remain the sole outpost of the original inhabitors of the internet, and while that may not be a bad thing, it certainly means Wikipedia will not continue to grow and be innovative. Rather than being Douglas Adams' glorious Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, it will be more an Encyclopedia Galactica. And if you got that reference, you're probably off to revise an article on the mating habits of cockateels.

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