One of the ways that the internet has indisputably changed modern life is through the ability to obtain information quickly and easily, and perhaps no web entity has done more to enhance that than Wikipedia. In Whole Foods and want to know more about coconut water and why you should maybe buy it? Pull up Wikipedia on your phone. Watching a historical documentary on Abraham Lincoln, as I was last night, and want to know more about the Battle of Gettysburg? Look it up on Wikipedia, as I did last night.
Sure, it’s not perfect and sometimes there are inaccuracies, but you know what — f*ck anyone who craps on it. I don’t see any of them coming up with an alternative. Besides, life is full of inaccuracies — if you possess a little bit of common sense and the ability to think critically, you’ll do alright in spite of that.
Yes, obviously I love Wikipedia. As an endlessly curious person, it helps to scratch itches that would otherwise linger and nag, and of course it’s no secret that Wikipedia has been a great friend to people who write on the internet, as it has to college students far and wide.
So it was with a particular twinge of panic and sadness that I read this earlier today…
Jimmy Wales, the iconoclastic founder of Wikipedia, made a troubling announcement at the seventh annual Wikipedia conference: Nobody wants to edit Wikipedia anymore. Is Wikipedia going to shrivel up and fade away?
Wales told the AP that the number of Wikipedia editors is slowly dwindling. “We are not replenishing our ranks,” he said, “it is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important.”
This, while heartbreaking to me, of course makes total sense. There are so many things for people to do with their time, on and off the internet. What benefit is there for geeks to continue to toil in obscurity policing an online encyclopedia for no pay?
Part of the problem, as anyone who’s ever tried to edit a Wikipedia article can attest, is that its backend is a clunky maze of HTML code that’s difficult for the average person to navigate, something inherently limiting the pool of people who are able to edit the site. Wales told the AP that getting this corrected is perhaps the most important thing he can do to insure the site survives.
Administrators of the Internet’s fifth most visited website are working to simplify the way users can contribute and edit material. “A lot of it is convoluted,” Wales said. “A lot of editorial guidelines … are impenetrable to new users.”
Of course, if all else fails, there’s always Wikipedia Cat…