Wikipedia 10 Years

Growing Pains & Landmark
Date for Free Web Encyclopedia

Once upon a time, people dreamed of having all mankind’s knowledge within their fingertips’ reach. Once that dream became reality, a few information nightmares spoiled its credibility. Now on its second decade, the project has weeded out some bad entries from its massive database and seeks to enroll the help of enlightened minds to help build its future.
As Wikipedia reaches its 10th year anniversary, the milestone is hailed as much for its drive toward relevance as for its resilient vulnerability. And its founders hope to add more contributors, data and languages to fulfill its stated aim of becoming the “people’s encyclopedia.”
It’s still far from such lofty goal. To starters, co-founders Jimmy Wales and Sue Gardner are the first to admit that, in its current state, Wikipedia is “missing some people from the table,” in a reference to their analogy of the site being a banquet where guests bring their own food to share.
A few years ago, the comedian Stephen Colbert staged a takeover of sorts of the site, instructing his fans to write what amounted to a great deal of bad information, in an effort to achieve what he then called “truthfulness.” It was all a joke, of course, but the sudden addition of thousands of entries threatened the site’s integrity and effectively proved the need for some kind of gate keeping strategy, to preserve its reliability.
Despite all that, the founders remain admirably Quixotic in their refusal to switch to a for-profit model or to “monetize” in any way its database. “We’re not going to be Facebook. We’re not going to be Myspace or YouTube. We’re an encyclopedia. We’re text and images,” Wales says.
On a related aside, it’s been a while since the name of science fiction author Douglas Adams is mentioned in the same sentence as Wikipedia. But in the early 1980s, the author of the “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” book series wrote extensively about the possibility of making all information concerning our civilization available to anyone at anytime. The Internet was still some months away from becoming itself as widespread and available as it is now.
Coincidentally, Adams died of a heart attack the same year Wikipedia was launched, but it’s very likely he didn’t know anything about it then. He’d already achieved his due share of fame and success for his books and his famous wit, but was also quite busy dealing with his progressively bad health.
Hundreds of events will mark Wikipedia’s anniversary around the world, and in New York City, the Tisch School of the Arts is holding a celebration and mini-conference today. The date has also a bittersweet taste for those of us who still use Wikipedia only as a second reference.
But not unlike the democratic spirit of accessibility it emulates, the site is a work in progress that may some day fulfill its full educational potential. When that happens, mankind’s knowledge and achievements may be indeed within reach of everyone’s fingertips, rich or poor, English or Zulu speaking, at absolutely no charge. And your name may be part of its database.

One thought on “Wikipedia 10 Years

  1. John Ager says:

    Hi, I written the following piece about Wikipedia’s 10th birthday:
    http://johnager.co.uk/2011/01/15/10-years-of-wikipedia/
    Best wishes, John.

    Like

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