By: Anuj Lamichhane
My first encounter with the information giant occurred when I was in grade VII, around 5 years ago, trying to copy/paste my project work. Before that Encarta encyclopedia or Encyclopedia Britannica used to be the wonder-source of information, written and edited by some handful PhD. holders and experts of the fields, often overpriced if not pirated. The internet was too unprofessional and communication centered. But then wikipedia came, and since then the history can be divided into the pre-wiki and post-wiki timeline. In this article we look at how does wikipedia really works.
Wikipedia is based on the theory of creative commons. The theory of creative commons is the same idea of collaborative contribution but is based upon a 'some rights reserved' license of Creative commons organization. The best way we can visualize wikipedia is to compare it with an empty classroom board. Wikipedia is just a platform for human knowledge. The analogy of pre-wikipedia knowledge pool can be contemplated as the teacher writing something which was then shared by the students but the wiki-way is that the student can also edit the teacher's writing and the best idea remains there. But here arises a question, what if the class bully tried to erase it all and write his non-genuine libels and vandalize the knowledge pool? Well, the whole wikipedia principle is a faith-based structure and certainly the teacher and the constructive student has more faith than the class bully. And a somewhat similar technique of editing is applied by wikipedia.
The best contribution of wikipedia to the human knowledge pool is the amount of democratization of knowledge it has brought with it. The democratization of knowledge is the acquisition and spread of knowledge amongst the common people, not just privileged elites such as priests and academics. Now anyone can read a wikipedia entry about anything just anywhere with an internet connection, no strings attached, no advertisements and possibly no bullshit.
The main feature of wikipedia is its sheer size. Wikipedia's 15 million articles (3.2 million in English) have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, and almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site which certainly creates a legitimate fear among its users but with its sheer size comes an equally big traffic. Around 15% of the world internet users visit wikipedia and hence if we have a faith that most of the people in the world would correct an informational error, wikipedia can be considered a safe source of knowledge. An investigation reported in the journal Nature in 2005 suggested that for scientific articles Wikipedia came close to the level of accuracy in Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of "serious errors".
Though the wikipedia model allows anyone to edit its entries it actually relies on the majority of well-intentioned editors to improve the quality of an article. Wikipedia is actually a large forum of human knowledge where an article is the result of a consensus reached among the editors about a certain topic.
Thus, you can trust wikipedia if you trust the humankind because no one can be held liable for it.
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