I’d have to say that, on average, I search for something on Wikipedia about two or three times a week. That’s kind of impressive when you consider how often I used to look things up in a traditional (meaning, paper based) encyclopaedia, which is to say two or three times a year. I think that speaks to Wikipedia’s usefulness, but probably more of a sign that I’m a nerd who’s online most of the day. Ahem.
Still, the speed with which I can research something on there still impresses me today, and I’ve been using teh internets (sic) for a while now. Heck, I still get a kick out of email. The best part, for me at least, is that it covers serious (and geeky) things, like say, mainframe computers, but also other stuff like what happened to Craig Kilborn and what, specifically, is a continental breakfast anyway1?
And I love that I can immerse myself, briefly, in Norse mythology by simply looking up the word Ragnarök after thinking about it since reading another source of all world knowledge2. I especially like how there’s even really “trivial” stuff in there, like information about Doritos and the international differences with respect to flavour choices3. Fantastic!
Now, I put “trivial” in quotes because I think that, culturally speaking, this stuff is important and I think it’s wonderful that Wikipedia captures it for posterity. I mean, there’s even an entry on He-man for crying out loud! What other traditional encyclopaedia would have that?
I even love it’s fluid and dynamic nature and how articles change and grow over time, or are combined or separated as needed, and the controversies that arise over content and editing.
The whole endeavour is incredibly impressive when you think about all the volunteer effort that goes into it and that it’s translated into multiple languages. For me, Wikipedia represents at this point the best that the internet is capable of and I’d be pretty dismayed to see anything happen to it. That being said, I’ve decided to donate some money to the project, which was long overdue when you consider how much I use it, and if you feel the same way as I do, perhaps you should do the same too.
1 I get the vague impression that Kilborn is a dick, but I could be wrong.
2 I suspect global warming has pretty much negated the possibility of Fimbulwinter, so not to worry.
3 Sweet Chili Heat! is fantastic, by the way, but be fore warned, it is very addictive.