Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wikipedia

Wikipedia was launched on January 15, 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger (link), Wales an entrepreneur, Sanger a former philosophy professor who has concentrated on epistemology, a branch of philosophy recently celebrated on this blog. Sanger, however, was only involved in the beginnings and left the project in 2002. Wales, therefore, rightly I think, claims the title of being the founder. So what is Wikipedia?

It is a straightforward, organized body of knowledge on the Internet—without an ad in sight. It is available in 285 language editions—of which the English, German, French, and Dutch editions have more than 1 million articles. Six others (Italian, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, and Portuguese) have more than 700,000 articles. It pleased me to note a year ago September that the Hungarian Wikipedia had 200,000 articles at its launch. The quality of articles is checked and, if missy, revised and, until that happens, annotated to show when statements are dubious. If known. This is a volunteer work.  Behind it, gluing it together is the non-profit Wikipedia Foundation. Wikipedia is now fundraising, an activity that takes place once a year. Has this institution had problems? Yes. Has it been derided? Yes. But it is entirely a labor of love. It pleases me yearly to contribute to it financially.

Now, to be sure, Wikipedia has not yet achieved scholarly recognition—and given its massively complex contributor base, including many scholars doing free work for the public—it may never do so. But who knows. Wikipedia will just turn twelve in 2013. Nevertheless it is becoming a quite reliable source for the knowledgeable: the more you know the more the Internet can help you. Wikipedia is certainly an excellent orienting gateway to any subject. Contributing to such a cause may lift its quality eventually. We don’t expect 12-year-olds to be the finished product. And the price is right.

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