#1012 – Dick Bernard: Wikipedia

Last nights 60 Minutes had a fascinating profile of Wikipedia, the ever-more respected (ever-less maligned) people’s encyclopedia.
You may be able to watch the segment here, though it seems like CBS has constructed hoops now, which one now needs to jump through to watch their programs on-line…. At any rate, it is worth the hoop jumping to watch this segment. Right or wrong, once you’ve made 60 Minutes, you’ve made the big time!
Wikipedia has always been free, and apparently intends to remain that way. Hoorah! But it does ask for contributions, and when it does, toss a few bucks in the kettle. It’s a service that deserves to continue to thrive. (Here’s wikipedia’s wiki entry about itself. I notice it doesn’t even mention the 60 Minutes appearance last night.)
Just out of curiosity, I put the word “Wikipedia” in my e-mail archive search file. It told me it came up with 670 matches, the earliest one from February 9, 2005. (There may have been others, but back in the old days, permanent records tended to die prematurely, from things like viruses.)
For this blogsite of mine, which originated in March, 2009, 159 matches come up. So I lean on Wikipedia a lot, and it has been and remains a valuable resource.
Here’s the first use of Wikipedia in my e-mail, 10 years ago, Feb 5, 2005 (ancient history!): P&J Feb 9, 2005001. Note the yellow hi-lite. Back then Wikipedia was just becoming recognized as a force to be reckoned with, but there was considerable game-playing with the citizen edit feature, thus I urged caution. Danny Schechter, media person and media watchdog, who’s referenced there, recently died. You’ll note his wikipedia entry is updated. We met him and saw the film referenced in the post. A very interesting and enlightening evening.
I am more and more confident in what wikipedia has to say on most anything. Having over 100,000 editors on staff worldwide is very, very helpful. “BS detectors” are built in to get rid of obvious public relations moves for or against someone or something. Vigilance is still prudent, and I really try to be careful to send along credible information, from any source. This is never easy, in this headline, soundbite driven society.
Back in those earlier days I found myself referring back to my 1977 Encyclopedia Britannica to at least attempt to verify information pre-dating 1977. This was before the advent of word search, and while the Britannica still occupies space on my bookshelf, it hasn’t been referred to in quite some time.
And as Wikipedia found Gary Wills said, in the 60 Minutes segment last night, Wikipedia is as accurate, if not more so, than any other traditional encyclopedic source.
We citizens are absolutely barraged by information (which is often mis-information, or hopelessly biased and one sided information) so that it is very difficult to be even somewhat informed.
At least, Wikipedia gives us a running start on some semblance of the truth…if we take time to use it.

2 replies
  1. leilalw@yahoo.com
    leilalw@yahoo.com says:

    I particularly like the fact that they include links to their sources on their topics. It is helpful to be able to delve more deeply into a subject and to be able to validate the information they have on their pages. I use it a great deal!

    • admin
      admin says:

      Yes. I remember the earlier days (even before my first recorded use in 2005), when it was the wild west wikipedia. It was really risky to take something as gospel on the wiki. But they’ve worked really hard at it, and as mentioned on the 60 minutes program on Sunday, they are probably, now, at least as accurate as the old time encyclopedias, and perhaps even more accurate because of constant cross-checking. Wikipedia has been a very useful resource for me.


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