Wiki, Wiki, Wha

I’m in a writing mood.

I know there are other things I could and perhaps should be doing (ie: working on last nights jam recordings, working on my new art project, working on my old art project, working?).

But oh well, this feels right.

What do I want to write about?

After writing yesterday I got the idea of sharing some of the interesting resources I have found and enjoy on these wonderful interwebs.
Informative little tidbits. Entertaining little bytes. Whatever my scattered brain enjoys.

This is actually something I hope to do on a regular basis, for one because I’m always finding new stuff, and two because there are tons of things I will forget or omit from this post.

So where to begin?

How about one of my favourite internet resources, a massive tool in moving ahead with the enlightenment of the masses, and the sixth most visited website on the interwebs (based on Alexa traffic rank, and Google ad planner).

Wikipedia Wikipedia-logo

I really cannot say enough good things about this resource.
It is my belief that Wikipedia (and wikis in general) are the ideal vehicle of internet learning.

Why is that?

– Well how about the fact that it is non-profit.
That’s right, the 6th most used website in the entire world makes no money. It is compiled and maintained purely for the sake of knowledge and information made readily available to the masses.

– It’s free.
Yep, 100% no cost to the user (unless you wish to donate, which isn’t a bad idea).
Information on nearly every topic imaginable is available to you free of charge, and right in the palm of your hand.

– It contains no ads.
I am so sick of being advertised to ever moment of every day. It hurts my brain. It is so refreshing to receive information without someone trying to sell me some product I don’t need and never really wanted in the first place.

– It is up to date. (mostly)
Wikipedia is constantly and continuously updated, ever moment, every day (like right now).
It is an organism, adapting itself to the new information that becomes available, the moment it becomes available.
Unlike print encyclopedias which become outdated the moment they are published (in fact it’s outdated before it even hits the printing press). If you want up to date information in print encyclopedia format, you must buy new encyclopedias constantly (and they are not cheap). Truthfully some less-viewed articles will not be updated as frequently, but hey you could always update it yourself.

– It’s collaborative.
It’s millions of people from all over the world working together to make something, a repository of human knowledge, all human knowledge. And they say people can’t work together, Wikipedia is proof otherwise. It’s not about competition or money or selfishness, it’s about knowledge, and knowledge is power. Empowering the masses.

– The format itself.
I occasionally go on what I call a “Wikipedia Adventure.” I start be looking up something that I am curious about, it could be anything, from the molecular composition of ethanol, to the big bang theory, to the history of 7-11, to concept of non-duality, or a favourite philosopher. I start reading. While reading I’ll come upon and interesting term, I think “Hmm, I’d like to learn more about that.” Oh what is this? The word is actually a link to an article covering that subject. I open it in a new tab and continue reading. I find more interesting things to look into, and open them in their own tabs. As I read each of these I find more interesting subjects. And off I go. Before long I have about a dozen open tabs on subjects as varied as Existentialism, the history of Roman Catholicism, the Italian Renaissance, the Silk Road, Turkmenistan, the Mongol invasion of Europe, Chinese telecommunications, and Tibetan Buddhism, and much more. So much knowledge in one sitting. I end up on tangents I never thought I would be on, and that’s great. It expands my own repository of knowledge and that’s a good thing no matter how you look at it.

So what’s wrong with Wikipedia?the_problem_with_wikipedia

My opinion: Nothing.
But there are others who see faults. What are they?

– Vandalism.
Some people for whatever reason (perhaps they were neglected as children, perhaps they hate their job, perhaps they are just douches), decide that they will use Wikipedia’s open editing format to mess up articles. They write nonsense or lies in existing articles for shits and giggles. I don’t get it, but it happens.
Is it really so bad? Not in the grand scheme of things. These people are a miniscule minority of people who edit Wikipedia. Most individuals edit to improve the accuracy of information, most people are trying to improve and not eff things up, it’s why Wikipedia is such a successful and important resource. I look at this way: when someone vandalizes a wall, what do you do? Do you tear down the wall? No you clean it up. Same goes for Wikipedia. Either you fix it yourself (the joy of an open editing system), or you “flag” it for one of the many dedicated editors to come by and clean it up. Teamwork, yes!

– It’s not “scholarly.”
What does this mean? It means that not everyone who writes and edits Wikipedia has an expensive piece of paper hanging on their wall (a post-secondary degree). This comment may have some merit, people who have degrees have put time and effort into learning in their designated field. But to say that those without have nothing to offer in terms of information is unfair and untrue. Many people learn and have a wealth of knowledge that may or may not be taught in a school. Schools teach one “school” of thought, they teach from a pre-set repertoire of texts. And although they are written by educated and intelligent individuals, they make mistakes, they can be wrong, and they can leave out various other viewpoints.
The fact that Wikipedia is quite often accused of inaccuracy, often by the Encyclopedia Britannica (“how am I gonna sell overpriced books if you keep giving this shit away for free”), is interesting. Why? Because Encyclopedias can be (and are) wrong. Just like any publication (including school text books), they are written at a point in time, with only the knowledge of that time available to the writers, as well as being written from the “prevailing” view of any subject (that of the writers or publishers).
Let me give you an example of what I mean. While attending university, I took a course in anthropology. Very interesting stuff, I encourage everyone to learn about what is basically “the history of humans.” So we came to a topic on previous views of what is the human race, “Homo Sapiens.” There was an older view on the human race, one taught in post-secondary schools, by intelligent people, to intelligent people, until the 80’s (not so long ago). It stated that we were not in fact one species, but 3 distinct species (Homo Mongoloid, Homo Caucasoid, Homo Negroid). These species were division based on appearance. Basically racial profiling (this is no longer the prevailing view on the human species). There is also the study of eugenics, which taught many good little German boys and girls that the Aryan race was the master race, and superior to other humans (and look what happened there).
Throughout academic history that have been many falsehoods proclaimed to be true, and many “scholarly” articles to back them up. Everything from the composition of the atom, to human genetic differences, to the shape of the earth (“you see there my dear boy, that is the end of the world, don’t go there because you will fall off, trust me, have I shown you my degree?”). People can be wrong, even those intelligent people in academia (even those with pieces of paper on their wall). It happens, it’s part of learning. So why can’t we have an open forum for our continuous learning. A web based repository available for all of us.
That’s Wikipedia, and it’s awesome!

Well, that was quite a bit about Wikipedia (and nothing else).
But I’ve got things that need doing.
So I will leave you with that for now, and will return later with many more fascinating resources for you to enjoy (maybe some not as well known as the worlds 6th most popular website).

So until next time,

2 thoughts on “Wiki, Wiki, Wha

    1. Yeah such a great resource.
      Most professors don’t allow students use Wikipedia as a direct source when writing papers, but it’s great to get started, and they have links to all their sources which often can be used. I think every paper I wrote (which wasn’t many :s ) started with Wikipedia.
      The protest was over the SOPA and PIPA bills that were going the the American house of representatives. They claimed it to be about protecting copyrights but it could have easily been used to censor the internet. It was so great to see so many websites (and major ones at that) work together to raise awareness about it.
      Thanks for the comment and long live wiki! 🙂

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