The Hive: Long Article on Wikipedia
Can thousands of Wikipedians be wrong? How an attempt to build an online encyclopedia touched off history’s biggest experiment in collaborative knowledge
by Marshall Poe
Several months ago, I discovered that I was being “considered for deletion.” Or rather, the entry on me in the Internet behemoth that is Wikipedia was.
For those of you who are (as uncharitableWikipedians sometimes say) “clueless newbies,” Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia. But it is like no encyclopedia Diderot could have imagined. Instead of relying on experts to write articles according to their expertise, Wikipedia lets anyone write about anything.
Yet Wikipedia has a value that goes far beyond the enjoyment of its contributors. For all intents and purposes, the project is laying claim to a vast region of the Internet, a territory we might call “common knowledge.” It is the place where all nominal information about objects of widely shared experience will be negotiated, stored, and renegotiated. When you want to find out what something is, you will go to Wikipedia, for that is where common knowledge will, by convention, be archived and updated and made freely available. And while you are there, you may just add or change a little something, and thereby feel the pride of authorship shared by the tens of thousands of Wikipedians.