Friday, April 24, 2009

Wikipedia City

Tim Manners' post is worth quoting in full (especially in light of the on-going debate):
"Wikipedia may be the closest thing to a metropolis yet seen online," writes Noam Cohen in the New York Times (3/29/09). For one thing, it's forever under construction -- "Wikipedia can no more be completed than can New York City, which O. Henry predicted would be 'a great place if they ever finish it.'" Navigating Wikipedia also "resembles a walk through an overbuilt quarter of an ancient capital. You circle around topics on a path that appears to be shifting. Ultimately the journey ends and you are not sure how you got there."

Wikipedia has its good neighborhoods and its bad ones. And, like a city, "the greater foot traffic, the safer the neighborhood. Thus, oddly enough, the more popular, even controversial, an article is, the more likely it is to be accurate and free of vandalism. It is the obscure articles -- the dead-end streets and industrial districts, if you will -- where more mayhem can be committed." Growth is decentralized, with entries equally welcomed be they by little kids or college professors. Like any great city, Wikipedia is "accepting of strangers -- no judgments -- and residents learn to be subtly accommodating, outward looking."

Wikipedia also stands accused of engaging in "some seriously depraved behavior," such as: "Wikipedia represents a world without experts! A world without commercial news outlets! A world lacking in distinction between the trivial and the profound! A world overrun with facts but lacking in wisdom!" Kind of like: "They don't produce anything! All they do is gossip! They think they are so superior! They wouldn't last a week if we farmers stopped shipping our food! They don't know the meaning of real work!" But like cities, says Noam Cohen, Wikipedia is vindicated "each time some yokel overcomes his fear and decides to make a visit and stay a while." ~ Tim Manners, editor.

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