Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia, exists exactly ten years.
At the start in January 2001, many people said Wikipedia could stand a chance because with the business model it claimed: everyone had the power to add, write and re-write articles on this online “encyclopedia”. The simple idea of each individual has the knowledge, and has the power to share it, made a big collective memory….but sceptisist said Wikipedia was filled with rubbish, lies and unreliable information. But now it appears that the massive social control is one of the key-succes factors. Through what is now known as the “wisdom of the crowd”: the power of the mass is, by definition, smarter (bigger) than the individual.
You can put it to the test, and I dare you! Register (if you’re not already), and make a change to an item on Wikipedia. It won’t last 24 hours before your false information has been corrected. Share your experiences through the comment section please!
Most people already have stopped to wonder whether Wikipedia is reliable, and put the site with their favorites. For what else is the alternative? Not the countless Google pages you get whenever you type a search term.
Even in classrooms, and (some) colleges, universities, … Wikipedia slowly gets embraced. Not as the biggest scientific source, but as a source to get started when you’re on a quest for knowledge. It gives direction, and makes sure that you don’t get caught in the big search-result web (see my post: can google handle the spam-pressure?). Off course for in dept information you need to look elsewhere.
Nature tested the reliability of Wikipedia against the Encyclopedia Britannica in 2005. Forty of the scientific journal reviewers compared fifty articles from both online encyclopedia’s . They found 123 errors in Britannica an 162 in Wikipedia 162. Both organizations made four serious errors according to Nature. It concluded from this that both encyclopaedias are almost as reliable!
It’s thanks to some 150,000 voluntary moderators that Wikipedia keeps its accuracy. All over the world independent volunteers keep track off changes made on articles, new posts, new items, … They check everything and make corrections when necessary. (So as they will do with your mistake…did you check back to see if it was re-edidet already?). That total neutrality and independence are very important to the Wikipedians. Founder Jimmy Wales refuses any request from companies for advertising on the site. He fears that the perception about the reliability and independence are at risk.
That’s why Jimmy Wales still insists on working with voluntary donations. Recently, he has an alms-round and it brought in no time at $ 16,000,000. The money is used for maintainance of servers and to run ‘only’ 35 paid staff members.
The bigger Wikipedia (and the Web) get, the more power they will give to the people…but well controlled and maintained by you and me!