Photo: Flickr user lifeontheedge

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


For many Wikipedians -- if not most -- contributing to it is probably the most important influence they will have on the greater world.

In my own case, while I am not some 15-year-old fanboy living in my parents' basement writing articles about videogames or anime characters, this is true. I could stop contributing today & devote my energy to something (so to speak) more socially acceptible -- catch up on my yardwork, tutor children in a local school, volunteer for a political campaign -- yet nothing else will have the same persuasive effect on so many people as contributing to Wikipedia.

Much the same thing happened after World War II in the United States: a lot of books were published about the war because there were a lot of veterans (& parents, sisters, & brothers of veterans) who wanted to read about what they had been part of.

Fortunately I defined my life long before Wikipedia came around, so while I know its importance, I can tear myself away from it & devote myself to other things, most of which are more important than whether an article on Charles Darwin should include the fact tha the was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln. (Or whoever those 2 people were that led to a silly edit war a few years back.) However, there are many people who have not done this, & their numbers can only increase. ("Wow, anyone can edit this? My words will be read by millions? This is way cooler than the drudgery of my daytime job.")

One could describe them as having encountered sunlight after dwelling underground for a long time; they are blinded by Wikipedia's importance, & have no way to put things into a healthy proportion. (And maybe the rest of the Platonic allegory applies in this case.) These members fight over every dispute viciously for an immediate solution because they cannot envision why allowing Wikipedia content to develop & mature could be a good thing.


llywrch said...

Wow, my post made sense? And I was just thinking last night, after I wrote it, that I had once again gone off on one of my tangents, wandering by myself lost on a backcountry dirt road while everyone else was still on the highway & making good time.


Ben Yates said...

Pff; that's totally turned around. Half the discussions at wikiback are incredibly focused on the trivial; your post reached out into the broader picture.