Wikipedia is ten years old today.
I love Wikipedia. I don’t care that the online encyclopedia is wrong sometimes. I don’t care about the controversy that often surrounds it when it comes to accuracy and how articles get edited. I love the concept. I love the idea that over a decade ago a couple of people (like Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger) looked at the Internet and realized it could well be the best place to start the documentation and democratization of human knowledge and information… and do so in an open, transparent and collaborative fashion.
And, ten years later, look at how the knowledge of the world is shared.
As a professional businessperson, the spirit of Social Media and platforms like Wikipedia runs counterintuitive to the rules of business. We used to keep our intellectual property private. We used to not share with our peers. We used to work in very closed environments. We used to shun the idea of mass collaboration. One of the main reasons I’ve personally (and professionally) started thinking differently about the Marketing industry was because of what Wikipedia stands for. I realize that many of my professional peers have still not managed to make this significant transition (it’s too bad).
Mass collaboration is no joke… and it’s no easy feat.
If you are at all curious about the wisdom Wikipedia or if you are still grappling with Social Media and mass collaboration, please stop everything and read this article: The Charms of Wikipedia. It was originally published in the The New York Review of Books (Volume 55, Number 4) on March 20th, 2008. To this day, it remains one of my favorite reads on Internet culture (it was first pointed out to me by Hugh McGuire). The article was written by Nicholson Baker as a review for the book, Wikipedia – The Missing Manual, by John Broughton (published by Pogue Press – O’Reilly).
Read this snippet:
"They weren’t called, ‘Wikipedia’s little helpers,’ they were called ‘editors’. It was like a giant community leaf-raking project in which everyone was called a groundskeeper. Some brought very fancy professional metal rakes, or even back-mounted leaf-blowing systems, and some were just kids thrashing away with the sides of their feet or stuffing handfuls in the pockets of their sweatshirts, but all the leaves they brought to the pile were appreciated. And the pile grew and everyone jumped up and down in it having a wonderful time. And it grew some more, and it became the biggest leaf-pile anyone had ever seen anywhere, a world wonder. And then self-promoted leaf-pile guards appeared, doubters and deprecators who would look askance at your proffered handful and shake their heads, saying that your leaves were too crumpled or too slimy or too common, throwing them to the side. And that too was bad. The people who guarded the leaf pile this way were called ‘deletionists… it worked and grew because it tapped into the heretofore unmarshaled energies of the uncredentialed."
It gets even better…
"Without the kooks and the insulters and the spray-can taggers, Wikipedia would just be the most useful encyclopedia ever made. Instead it’s a fast-paced game of paintball. Not only does Wikipedia need its vandals–up to a point–the vandals need an orderly Wikipedia, too. Without order, their culture-jamming lacks a context. If Wikipedia were rendered entirely chaotic and obscene, there would be no joy…"
Happy Birthday, Wikipedia… and thank you for everything you share and the spirit of goodness that you bring to the world.