Saturday, May 13, 2006

post the seventy-second


If you haven't checked this out, you really ought to. It's an amazing thing, and by all accounts, it really shouldn't work as well as it does. For those of you unfamiliar with it (does anyone on Earth not know what Wikipedia is, though?), it's an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. If, when you're reading one of the articles, you find an error, factual, stylistic, or otherwise, you can edit it out and change it to your liking. Legions of web surfers edit these articles every day and have created a truly impressive array of information for anyone to use.

How on earth does this work, though? Why is anyone motivated to update correct information that millions of other people are going to use for free? They won't receive any recognition for their work. They certainly aren't being paid. Is it altruism or insanity that motivates us to keep this updated so constantly?

For me, at least, it isn't either of those so much as an insistence on correctness. If I see a grammatical error in an article, I stop what I'm doing and fix it. I'm even willing to interrupt my train of thought to squelch out an inaccuracy. Factual errors are treated with similar prejudice. I can't stand them. I even wrote a whole article (on the Shakhty Trial of 1928) when I saw that it didn't exist. I wasn't doing it so that others could read it and learn all about the Shakhty Trial. Other people weren't anywhere near my mind when I wrote it. Rather, I wrote it so that I would know that I had written an article on Wikipedia. Maybe there is a certain amount of credence to the motivation of self-aggrandization, even if it is anonymous.

At any rate, I really get a kick out of reading Wikipedia articles. They're all written such that most nouns are linked to other articles. (In keeping with this theme, I linked the number 53 to the corresponding article in my piece on the Shakhty Trial.) Once you get past the annoyance of every other word being blue and underlined, it's actually rather convenient. Once I've exhausted my supply of online reading sources (blogs, Blue Beta, the 100 Hour Board, and McSweeney's), I generally turn to Wikipedia to keep me entertained. I read about the Lotus Sutra and the Buddhist doctrine of upaya (expedient means - you really ought to read it) this morning. Yesterday I read at length about Japanese phonology. The amazing thing about it was that I got there from an article about the Nintendo game Perfect Dark. Wikipedia is wonderful. You can end up almost anywhere from any given article, provided you click on enough links.

I doubt any of this is new material for most of you reading this blog. I've just been really excited about Wikipedia of late and wanted to share it with everyone. Feel free to regard me as a complete nerd for reading it in my spare time. I really enjoy it. I just may go back and read some more about Buddhism right now.


Petra said...

You are a complete nerd for reading it in your spare time.

bawb said...

Yup. I just read all about rotovators, skyhooks, and space elevators, starting from the Halo III article.

Thirdmango said...

I decided to have my own wikipedia adventure. It was awesome.

Anonymous said...

So... for example, if you read the wikipedia article on Cosmo the Cougar, you would feel compelled to correct some of its glaring inaccuracies? Wow. That’s commitment. Way to be.