Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's not flawless, but check out this fantastic radio piece from the Globe and Mail:

So wikipedia is less of a digital book and more of an electronic river, always changing around you even as you stand in one spot. The Wikipedia I step in is not the Wikipedia I stand in, to paraphrase the words of a poet who was, at the time, emphatically not writing about Wikipedia.

It's all pretty wonderful, but it's not on a path to perfection...the things that matter most to it in its world are the things that make it happiest -- its wikipedia creature comforts. Things like what it watched on TV last night, its favorite hockey players, the act of pointing out every word in the language that's a portmanteau, or seeing to it that no family guy reference goes undocumented.


Let's face it: If anyone ever did create a website that contained the single definitive entry on every topic on earth, wouldn't it be the tiniest bit fascist? I don't think people would like that site at all. As soon as someone put up a site the size of wikipedia that really did have a claim to real authority, the first thing that people would want to do would be subvert it, replace it or change it, and then you'd have wikipedia all over again.

And that's the thing: the holes, omissions, errors, distortions, excesses, absurdities, and lies are the reason wikipedia works, not the things that keep it from working. They'll never get rid of them. But as a result, the rest of us will just keep looking at wikipedia as a shrub that, for some reason, hasn't blossomed into a maple tree yet.

...when you're writing commentary, it always helps to have someone to kick around. Wikipedia really is the perfect target. It's nameless and faceless and hard to offend; it's powerful and ridiculous at the same time; and everyone knows what it is.

But in the spirit of the season, let me say this: we should accept wikipedia for the gigantic, magnificent, mighty shrub that it is.

Because I, for one, wouldn't have it any other way. I read it all the time, and I love it just the way it is. It's a stupendous achievement and a cultural icon.

Merry Christmas, Wikipedia. I look forward to making even more fun of you come the new year.

1 comment:

Dan said...

Maybe Wikipedia as a whole is "nameless and faceless and hard to offend", but it's got various people in it who offend all too easily, and take rash action based on it, which is responsible for some of the recent political problems within it.