We’ve all been there. We’re having a discussion on something seemingly important. And then, out of nowhere, someone says “I read this on Wikipedia...” and there are sighs and scoffs and eyes rolling all around. Using and restating Wikipedia, for many, can mean self-identifying as an idiot.
But let’s not kid ourselves. We all use Wikipedia. Frequently. In fact, we rely on it more than we might care to admit. And whether we like it or not, the online encyclopaedia has become an integral component of our online lives. As Michael Scott from The Office would say: It’s the “best thing ever”!
Since 2007, Wikipedia has risen above widespread criticism and ridicule to today’s...”muted criticism”. It is the only not-for-profit site in the top 10 most visited websites, is not rife with ads, does not intrude on privacy and doesn’t provide a platform for trolls, bigotry or extremists.
It’s easy to marvel at how Wikipedia managed to be credible while its internet peers crumbled under regulatory scrutiny and hate speech accusations. It is, after all, driven by user-generated content and runs almost entirely on contributions by unpaid volunteers. How did that work?
It could be said that Wikipedia’s successes are because of the tireless passion of its editors and contributors, the result of countless edits made and remade and debated in endless forums endlessly. This obsession can get pedantic, but the exhaustive embroidery of detail that is the hallmark of a Wikipedia article, the product of a boldly democratic process, is why many of us still trust Wikipedia, why it might very well be the “Last Best Place on the Internet”.
Which is not to say that Wikipedia is perfect – it has its flaws, as forums and blogs on its own platform discuss, and try to mend. But at a time when the tech world is viewed with so much distrust, at least the website more or less manages to stand out.
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