Congratulations, Wikipedia

The 15th of January 2001 a new encyclopaedia was released. Beginning with Nupedia Larry Sanger and Jimmy Welsh created an online web encyclopaedia, where expert authors wrote articles which were followed up by a formal peer process, not unlike how articles in the academic world are created. Later Wikipedia was introduced and this site which was independent form Nupedia, became based on a more democratized model with an open editing model and collective correction based on consensus.

Wikipedia, as a word, is created through the combination of wiki and pedia. The former is the Hawaiian word for fast, and the latter is derived from paidos meaning child, but means in this context referenced work arranged alphabetically from its use in encyclopaedia.

Wikipedia history has been influential. According to Alexia, the site is the seventh most visited in the world, and it is being used extensively. Many of the information based sectors have become dependent on the new online source of facts. Since its nature is free, open and under a more liberal reuse IP regime with GNU and Creative Commons licences it has been accepted as a place where online forums, blogs and debates are referring to. Within the educational sector and especially at academic levels this has provoked debates; can Wikipedia be used as a source? Is it trustworthy? Who have the authorial responsibility for the articles published on Wikipedia? The online encyclopaedia has also been criticised for quoting material from others which is protected under copyright. The open nature of Wikipedia has also made articles on controversial figures and topics to a place for falsities and libelous comments.

The weakness is simultaneously the strength. Since it is unclear if the information is written by laymen or experts it is open for scrutiny for the increasing number of people gathering information online. In one of my fields, computer science, I find Wikipedia very useful and often a good source for information. I have found relative few falsities myself, but it happens I uncover some bad formulations, off-topic contemplation and personal opinions, but as long as one know what Wikipedia is and how it works and takes this into consideration it is a great place of information. The problem is that as long as 98% of the information is correct, it is still 2% which is incorrect, and this minority makes the whole uncertain. For a better control on the articles written is more text backed up by external authors who have been through a verification process and this increases the trustworthiness of the site. I would like to have a seal of approval on the articles which has been through extensive scrutiny and a warning if it is still a draft; this is something I hope gets implemented the next ten years. There is nothing wrong using Wikipedia, but information acquired here has to be checked towards third party sources, and when Wikipedia is being used it has to been referred to.

I want to wish Wikipedia congratulations on their 10th year anniversary and hope that the next 10 year will be equally successful. Welcome to your adolescence, Wikipedia.

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