Monday, September 14, 2015
Wikipedia: Before and After
Creating an electronic encyclopedia does not seem to be an odd idea and a difficult job though it had been deemed somehow revolutionary in the past. Just transfer classical piece into a CD/DVD and then wait for people to buy and use it in their computers instead of reading paperback copies. You can go one step further and publish all the content online then wait for people to visit your website and read it online. If you have to sell it don't wait for people to come, advertise your product too. This had been typical reaction of content and service providers throughout first stages of digital transformation. Although it brought about many new advantages, we may say that the only change generated with this shift, in essence, was media through which people get access to same encyclopedia content. In other words, content producers, content providers and users were all the same people.
Peculiar, hard and challenging thing, however, was to change the mindset and push innovation on how an encyclopedia (content) could be created and accessed in alternative ways. This is what Wikipedia did: creating an encyclopedia (content) with the inclusion and participation of all who volunteer thanks also to web 2.0 tools and provide open access to it.
Wikipedia is one of my favorite web platforms. I call it as a platform because I it really is. It is an arena that everyone with moderate computer and web literacy skills and knowledge of any topic has an opportunity to take his/her part in developing cumulative knowledge there. I know it has its own deficiencies. There occurs vandalism; there is and there may be lack of enough knowledgeable volunteers for some topics/entries; there may be a problem with sustainability of content provision and even of platform itself; governance of the platform may be a complete headache, etc. I am sure it has and may have further shortages other than known ones, but it just is what it is. I mean, taking some unprecedented aspects into consideration it is different from classical encyclopedia in writing and offering. So, I think, rather than assessing and judging it by a thorough comparison and equalization with those pre-Internet and pre-Web era products, we may respect the mindset, conditions and even tools that paved the way for it and exploit it.
Read, write, discuss, manage, donate, ... : there is too much to do. Do whatever you like and enjoy your own encyclopedia...