Wikipedia: Free Access to All Human Knowledge

One of the most used resources on the web is Wikipedia, a free online, collaboratively edited encyclopedia. On almost any unknown term or topic you come across, checking Wikipedia will quickly give you information that once would have taken hours, if not weeks, of research, interviews and investigation. As the site itself says, it's the sum total of all human knowledge (which is only slightly exaggerated).

Yes, there are some issues that require user-caution, and the project acknowledges them and seeks, and usually succeeds, to address them promptly and fairly.

My family has a set of Encyclopedia Britanica from the 50's, which was once considered a gold standard of information. Even disregarding the “facts” it contains which have been rejected with time, it's still full of bias. All knowledge is constantly being reassessed, and rightly so, since hopefully we are continually gaining more of it. I use Wikipedia almost daily and have seldom found anything but good information, or at least links to a diversity of viewpoints on an issue. That's what a good reference book should do!

The main advantages of Wikipedia is that, because it is on the web, there are no space limits to what can be included (such selection itself being a form of bias), and that its process is so transparent. There is a discussion page for every entry, in which strong arguments about the content are hashed out.

It is a great example of democracy and collaboration at work. The fact that is is available around the world is an amazing example of how technology is a tool of democracy (if we don't let the corporate world rein it in).

As I write this, the Wikimedia Foundation is conducting a fund drive that will help with translation needs, particularly so that the developing world can have more and better access to “all human knowledge.” The following video documents that effort, and solicits donations. I am making a contribution, and feel great about adding a tiny bit to such a worthwhile endeavor.

Wikipedia (IPA: /?wi?ki’pi?di?/ or /?w?ki’pi?di?/) is a multilingual, web-based, free content encyclopedia project. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau of the words wiki (a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia. Wikipedia's articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information.

Wikipedia is written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites. There are more than 75,000 active contributors working on some 8,700,000 articles in more than 250 languages. As of today, there are 2,074,610 articles in English; every day hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to enhance the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia. (See also: Wikipedia:Statistics).