"...an English actor who is half-man, half-otter."
I fucking love Wikipedia. That’s all I have to add. Thank you.
"It was always this biased, and always this unreliable. It’s just that we’re seeing it now - and we’re seeing what’s being done about it." This is so, so true.
Learning how to read and understand Wikipedia with its flaws in mind builds a ton of media literacy. You need that same literacy to read and understand the old Encyclopedia Britannica, only most people didn't realize that because it didn't broadcast and catalog its flaws in the way that Wikipedia always has. Things have actually improved, and part of the reason for that improvement is... Wikipedia is more honest about its mistakes.
It's one of the two greatest websites (the other is archive.org), and it doesn't seem like that's going to change any time soon. It hasn't changed in more than a decade! Thanks for the great piece, Mike.
Brilliant. Still miss the Encyclopaedia Brittanica set I lost in the divorce!
The mentions of Britannica encyclopaedia and Encarta brought nostalgia. I definitely miss Encarta.
But Wikipedia, even with its flaws, is just awesome. It is the undisputed king 👑 when it comes to free knowledge.
In his defense, Elon Musk didn't say anything about Wikipedia. He commented on the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Foundation raises hundreds of millions of dollars beyond what is necessary to run Wikipedia and its related websites and is constantly trying to garner donations as if they are close to shutting down.
They have a staff of hundreds of people, almost all of whom have nothing to do with the operation of any sites under the Wikimedia umbrella.
Back in my teaching days, I told students they could use Wikipedia as a dictionary. Get an idea about the subject at hand, then go to the bottom of the article for references.
I noted that you underlined David Cameron on the dictator article, but not Zog?
Damn you, you bounder! Give it back, this instant!
I have solid virtual proof, evidence and in-juicy-eye from Katherine Maher herself that Wikipedia is my own personal, exclusive, proprietary ... property. I quote:
"I feel so lucky to get to be the person to thank you for your € 5.35 one-time gift ... When you use Wikipedia next, I hope you feel that it belongs to you."
There, proof positive. Wasn't even hostile, but a very good value take-over deal. Hence, relinquish it, you scoundrel!
OMG, Mike. I had entirely scrubbed Encarta from my brain, apparently, and you've just re-activated an entire chunk of quite intense school memories.
We were not fancy enough to have the Encyclopedia Britannica when I was a kid; we had to make do with the World Book Encyclopedia. They did issue a yearly update volume, correcting anything that had been disproven, making additions to existing entries, and adding new entries for (mostly) current events. I loved those books. I'd managed to make it all the way through volumes A-R and was about two-thirds of the way through S when I left home for college. We could have sat together in the corner at parties and discussed satsumas (though not, sadly, terrines).
I've been doing my substack on the qur'an and given I have all of two subscribers I sometimes find myself thinking, leaf through my giants slab of a copy... Or shall I just wiki it? I found all sorts of goodies I missed in my original reading and pressed post. Then I thought to double check the actual book and turns out the reason I missed these references is because they were unadulterated horseshit. I deleted the post before my two subscribers noticed...
Jeez Mike, I already felt skeevy enough having shared my piece from this morning on Twitter.
I've watched this conversation evolve over the past 15 years or so. Wikipedia is much, much better than a traditional encyclopedia nowadays, but of course you're right to call attention to those human elements.
Oh, this was great -- next office over wonders what I'm laughing about!
I own a number of encyclopaedias (besides Wikipedia, that is) and they're all, of course, snapshots in time, taken from the angle they were taken from. All About Science, which talks tentatively about research into DNA in the 1970s. The British Empire, a view of the Empire when more of it was there than there is now (I *think* that's right). And ... The Book of Knowledge.
In eight volumes, of which no. 8 includes the "Fact Index and Study Outlines." No date, but it was my father's and I don't think he bought it after becoming a bomber pilot. It tends to the soporific: "In planning this work it was determined to make every possible saving of space (huh?), to allow room for the extended treatment of subjects of greatest interest to the child and to the general reader, and for the lavish use of illustrations in black-and-white, colour, and photogravure."
I guess there will be an entry to explain what photogravure is. The point is this: the Internet, be it Wikipedia or any other point of reference, is not the North Star (and my dad certainly knew where that is). It's far less constant. Try to find out for instance about things as they were perceived even 20 years ago. Things can be so up to date on the web that even delving slightly into the past puts up a brick wall. The unchanging nature of the printed word, once it is printed, that is, offers an opportunity to roll back time. Even to a time when DNA was but a concept and the genome an un-unravelled mystery (I *think* that's right ... let me check).
Encarta! How could I have forgotten about Encarta?!
I'm firmly of the opinion Wikipedia is the best thing humanity has ever created. Nuff said.
Wikipedia is great - I probably use it at least daily. More than once it's taken me down various rabbit holes towards more and more interesting information. But:
If you're about to look up a controversial person, or a controversial topic like Global Warming, Nutrition Science, or COVID-19, just to name a few, it's best to be cautious, as you are not likely reading a neutral point of view.
It's always good to keep the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect in mind.
I've donated in the past, but now realize that's completely unnecessary. It is an amazing resource.