Love it, hate it, use it or abuse it. This January saw Wikipedia celebrating its 10th anniversary. Ten years! Where’d that go?
Onward and upwards apparently. While world attention is currently focused on Wikileaks, Wikipedia’s impressive credentials continue to rise and shine; its one of the top five most visited sites, it has around 17 million articles, these are written in over 250 languages. In fact there’s probably a Wikipedia article about its 10th anniversary, (there is, I just checked).
Wikipedia’s success has also spawned many other imitators. There’s Conservapedia, http://www.conservapedia.com/Main_Page the conservative Christian alternative and
Uncyclopedia http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page the irreverent “content free” alternative. If you’re bored, both have interesting things to say about evolution, global warming and homosexuality…
Marc Weiser, a scientist at Xerox once said the best technology is invisible and that can also be applied to Wikipedia, and Google. Constant and automatic use has embedded them into our online lives so they become ubiquitous, and thus invisible. Thanks to Wikipedia it’s so quick and easy to find information online from Pokemon card games to Ptolemy.
The real question is the quality of that information and importantly (for our students) what do you do with that information? As many have noted Wikipedia represents one way to begin the enquiry journey but its not an end in itself. Similarly though you have to question any assignment or project that can easily be answered using a cut and paste from Wikipedia.
Anyway happy 10 years Wikipedia. You’ve reshaped the information landscape, you’re (still) free and you represent an extraordinary collaboration of human endeavour and good faith.
For those interested Here’s a clever infographic exploration of Wikipedia’s history narrated by Jimmy Wales, one of its co-founders.