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 totally preposterous. But 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 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 "Wikipedia". "The Wikipedia Revolution: How A Bunch of Nobodies Created The World's Greatest Encyclopedia" chronicles the incredible story about the breathtaking growth of this amazing online resource. These days Wikipedia ranks as the 7th most visited website on the internet and boasts more than 3.2 million articles. Author Andrew Lih's book provides a fair and balanced look at the Wikipedia phenomenon warts and all. It is a compelling story to be sure!
Without a doubt, when undertaking a project of such enormous magnitude you can expect to encounter a boatload of problems and obstacles. With a sudden influx of dedicated volunteers Wikipedia was evolving much more quickly than Wales and Sanger could have ever imagined. Out of necessity rules and guidelines were being made up on the fly. There were philosophical conflicts among "Wikipedian" editors and contributors as well. When Wales and Sanger started Wikipedia they envisioned it as an encyclopedia in the tradition of the great print encylopedias like Encyclopedia Brittanica. However, the technology had evolved to the point that there were absolutely no physical limits on how many pages Wikipedia could contain. Thus, the pressure to include almost anything. From the beginning Jimmy Wales came down squarely on the side of "totally free content" while Larry Sanger favored a more structured approach. Sanger lobbied for eliminating anonymous editing, requiring the use of real names and installing a layer of experts with extra authority. But Sanger appeared to be swimming against the tide and so in 2002 he left Wikipedia. Since that that time he has been one of Wikipedia's most vocal critics. In 2007 Larry Sanger got back into the game when he founded Citizendium.com, Sanger's aim is to improve on the Wikipedia model by providing a much more "reliable" encyclopedia. The results thus far have been promising. It will be interesting to see how the site develops over the next couple of years.
After reading "The Wikipedia Revolution: How A Bunch of Nobodies Created The World's Greatest Encyclopedia" I can now more fully appreciate just how challenging and time consuming creating a website like Lunch.com can be. I had no idea! At the same time I also appreciate those individuals who are committed to support such efforts with their time and expertise. Over the past decade the folks at Wikipedia have been blessed with tens of thousands of contributors whose stay ranged from several days to many years. This can be exhausting work and some will inevitably "burn out" after a period of time. I thought Andrew Lin did a marvelous job of presenting a detailed history of Wikipedia in language that most of us can understand. I must admit that I did struggle with some of the technical lingo during the opening chapters of the book but for the most part I managed to understand the ideas that Lin was trying to convey. Certainly there are numerous challenges ahead but overall the future of Wikipedia appears to be quite bright indeed. In my opinion "The Wikipedia Revolution: How A Bunch of Nobodies Created The World's Greatest Encyclopedia" is a book that is well worth your time and attention. Highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
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 amazon.com. I never could … more
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Since Wikipedia was launched online in 2001 as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit," it has blossomed to more than a billion words spread over 10 million articles in 250 languages, including 2.5 million articles in English, according to Wikipedia cofounder Wales in the foreword. Lih, a Beijing-based commentator on new media and technology for NPR and CNN, researched Wikipedia and collaborative journalism as a University of Hong Kong academic, and he has been a participating "Wikipedian" himself for the past five years. He notes the site has "invigorated and disrupted the world of encyclopedias... yet only a fraction of the public who use Wikipedia realize it is entirely created by legions of unpaid and often unidentified volunteers." Other books have surfaced (How Wikipedia Works; Wikinomics), but Lih's authoritative approach covers much more, from the influence of Ayn Rand on Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales and the "burnout and stress" of highly active volunteer editor-writers to controversies, credibility crises and vandalism. Wales's more traditional earlier encyclopedia, the peer-reviewed Nupedia, began to fade after he saw how Ward Cunningham's software invention, Wiki (Hawaiian for "quick"), could generate collaborative editing. Tracing Wikipedia's evolution and expansion to international editions, Lih views the encyclopedia as a "global community of passionate scribes," attributing its success to a ...