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One of the most ambitious projects in the history of mankind.

  • Mar 8, 2010
Over the centuries men have dreamed of a day when the sum of all human knowledge could be compiled in just one place.  Until a mere decade ago this concept while quite admirable seemed utterly preposterous.  But at the dawn of a new millenium new technologies were emerging and all of a sudden the idea was not so crazy.  Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger understood this perhaps better than anyone.  In March of 2000 they launched an online encyclopedia they dubbed "Nupedia".   As first conceived, "Nupedia" was intended to be a "for profit" encyclopedia whose articles would be written by experts and licensed as free content.  Over the next year or two Wales and Sanger would discover that there were legions of people who would be willing to contribute their time, talent and expertise to such a project.  "Nupedia" would eventually morph into what we all know today as the wildly popular "free" encyclopedia  "Wikipedia" These days Wikipedia ranks as the 7th most visited website on the internet and boasts more than 3.2 million articles.

As Wikipedia approaches its 10th anniversary the site remains somewhat controversial.  Many contend that the information presented on the site is simply not all that reliable.  At Middlebury College in Vermont the History Department voted to bar students from citing the Web site as a source in papers or other academic work.  "As educators, we are in the business of reducing the dissemination of misinformation," said Don Wyatt, chair of the department. "Even though Wikipedia may have some value, particularly from the value of leading students to citable sources, it is not itself an appropriate source for citation," he said.  Critics of Wikipedia contend that the site will always be plagued by cranks, trolls, amateurs and partisans.  Others contend that the very idea of an online encylopedia is redundant.  They would argue "Why not just go to your favorite search engine and search for whatever topic on which you're looking for information?  You're more likely to find it, and it'll be more interesting and more current."  Yet in spite of all the criticism Wikipedia continues to grow at a phenomenal rate.  From the very beginning one of the tenets of Wikipedia has been  to "assume good faith" of those who contribute content to and edit the site.  The argument continues "Most people try to help the project, not hurt it.  If this were false, a project like Wikipedia would be doomed from the beginning."   I think it is safe to say that the debate surrounding the legitimacy of Wikipedia is likely to rage for many years to come. 

In the meantime in 2007 Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger launched an alternative online encyclopedia project which he dubbed  The site is still in the process of drafting its official charter and currently boasts more than 13,000 articles.  When Larry Sanger left Wikipedia back in 2002 he made it known in no uncertain terms that he felt Wikipedia needed to tighten up the editing process considerably.  Clearly he is implementing this philosophy at Citizendium.  At the end of the day Wikipedia remains a giant "work in progress".    

But what does this future hold for Wikipedia?   I must tell you that in spite of its current flaws I remain a huge fan.  I believe that in the end people of good will shall ultimately prevail.  Like a skilled boxer in a championship fight I believe that the folks in charge of Wikipedia will bob and weave and make the adjustments necessary to make Wikipedia a more reliable source of information.  Meanwhile,  I hope that over the next few years Wikipedia will also make a concerted effort to upgrade the photos and graphics on the site.  I find that to be a bit of a weak point right now. Now I cannot not imagine what Wikipedia is going to look like in five or ten years.  But I can't wait to find out!    Very highly recommended!
One of the most ambitious projects in the history of mankind. One of the most ambitious projects in the history of mankind. One of the most ambitious projects in the history of mankind.

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April 04, 2011
And Wikipedia is also the most "flawed" in human history, too.
January 23, 2011
Nice review.
March 11, 2010
Nicely put, Paul.  Wikipedia is a skilled boxer and I'm a big fan as well!  Some people may say that Wikipedia is unreliable, but way more often than not, I've found reliable information with barely any misspellings or trolled out spamming.  Still wouldn't use it for an academic paper though :P  Thanks for sharing, Paul!
March 28, 2010
People say its unreliable because they're not exactly using it to the full potential.  They want to look at all the information on the page, but don't want to check the sources where the information comes from.
March 28, 2010
I agree. It is a great launching point but if you are doing an academic paper I certainly would not rely on Wikipedia alone. As you say check the sources and references below for more information.
March 29, 2010
@Sean_Rhodes: All too often people are lazy. Nothing wrong with starting with Wikipedia, but you should never rely on one source for your whole argument, even if that one source wasn't Wikipedia. Personally, I love researching. So, I have lots of fun checking where my information comes from. :)
More Wikipedia reviews
review by . December 22, 2010
Unity in diversity
Wikipedia is not merely a virtual encyclopedia, nor is it merely a free website for all. It is a dream, a human effort (by thousands if not millions of people) and a "temple for the mind" (as written by its founder Jimmy Wales). Wikipedia is "a dream, a humanitarian project" and a way to greatness for many of the people in the under-developed to the developed world.      While in many online sites, the gather of the minds have been capitalized by the few, …
Quick Tip by . October 29, 2011
This is one of the greatest websites in the world! Gives very informative and sometimes hilariously worded articles on virtually every subject on the planet. But I love to go in and fall down the "Wikipedia Black Hole:" That's when you go in intending to get some information on a particular subject, but while reading up on it, one of the links in the article catches your eye and you have to click on it and read that too! Then in THAT article, you click another interesting-looking link, and it keeps …
Quick Tip by . September 25, 2010
posted in Awesomeness
A website where you can find information on any and everything.
Quick Tip by . September 22, 2010
If the internet is an online encyclopedia, this is the Internet's encyclopedia and will be, what I believe the new standard for many websites.
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
Other than not being able to cite it in papers (haha), it's extremely useful!
review by . September 02, 2009
Let me ask you a question... when was Alexander Hamilton born?  How long did he live?  How about giving the big details of his life?  A great deal of us will pick up a book or do a google search on Alexander Hamilton to figure out these answer.  But an even greater deal of us will turn to Wikipedia for all of this information.  In fact, if you are the type that will turn to google immediately, the first result will link you to Wikipedia (when trying to search on google I …
Quick Tip by . April 14, 2010
I owe part of my college diploma to Wikipedia. Its a great resource for a quick refresh before a test.
Quick Tip by . March 06, 2010
The best idea ever! A combine effort of anyone & everyone. An excellent free guide we all have access to. Donate your time, if not, your $$$
review by . March 10, 2009
Did you know that there are, in fact, three forms of plural for "octopus?" They are: octopuses, octopi, and octopodes. Thank you, Wikipedia.     The online encyclopedia revolutionized the idea of "free knowledge" being readily available on the Internet. It also started a huge trend of wikis, some good and some bad. I don't think a day goes by where I don't look up something on Wikipedia.     Of course, this is a user-driven community and can only be as good …
Quick Tip by . September 01, 2009
Wikipedia- a great resource for a variety of subject matter...have used it for quite awhile
About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on I never could … more
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About this website

Wiki, commonly referred to as simply Wikipedia, is a free, online encyclopedia project launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. The word Wikipedia is a portmanteau of "wiki" (a term for online collaboration websites) and "encyclopedia."

The website allows anyone to view any article, while registered users may edit, add, or delete information as they please. However, despite being open to editing by virtually any registered user, a panel of administrators constantly fact-checks submissions, and more and more, citations are required for new articles.

As of late 2008, there were over 11 million articles on Wikipedia, of which 2.6 were in English. The website is available in many languages, from Farsi to French to Friulian.
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