Wiki As A Symbol Of An Age – Semalt Expert Point Of View

Julia Vashneva, the Semalt expert, states that Wikipedia is a unique online encyclopedia due to its «anyone can edit", policy which applies to most content. Their open invitation to write and edit articles has yielded surprising results and captured public imagination. However, the come-one, come-all policy also comes with some tradeoffs.

Inherently, Wikipedia is not just an online encyclopedia but also a community that has established a bureaucracy. The community has well-defined power structures that give volunteer administrators editorial control to delete unsuitable content and protect people who are vulnerable to vandalism.

These measures determine which entries to exclude from the "anyone can edit" policy. While the list of such entries changes rapidly, some of the content excluded from the "anyone can edit" policy include 82 entries ranging from articles on Christina Aguilera to Albert Einstein. These entries are protected against editing due to repeated vandalism and disputes over what should be included in such entries. Apart from the 82 entries, there are 179 semi-protected entries including content on Adolf Hitler, George W. Bush and Islam. These entries can only be edited by people registered at the website for at least four days.

The measures stipulated above may seem to undermine the democratic principles of the site, however, Jimmy Wales, the Wikipedia's founder says that protection is a temporary measure and only affects a small fraction of the more than 1.2 million entries on the English-language website. According to Mr. Wales, protection is aimed at controlling quality, but does not define Wikipedia. He says that what defines Wikipedia is the open participation of volunteers.

From the start, Mr. Wales gave the website a clear mission: give free knowledge to anybody on the planet. At the same time, he established rules and regulations such as the requirement to present data with a neutral point of view. The system seems to be working since Wikipedia has managed to beat sites such as CNN and Yahoo News.

While most people think that Wikipedia has about 10 million contributors, the bulk of the work is done by a few people. The administrators on the site are all volunteers, mostly in their 20s.They are in constant communication with each other and share the burden of monitoring unnecessary or malicious changes. There is also a customized software that watches for changes made to articles.

Mr. Wales refers to vandalism on the site as a minimal problem. However, this year, the community decided to introduce partial-protection for some articles due to heightened publicity on false information on the website. The 4-day waiting period is designed to work similarly to the period imposed on gun buyers.

Once the assaults die down, the semi-protection mode on the page is changed to anyone can edit. While some entries such as on Bill Gates were partially-protected for a few days in January, articles on President Bush remain on the protected mode indefinitely.

According to critics, protection of some entries mocks the "anyone can edit" policy. Nicholas Carr, a technology writer and die-hard critic of Wikipedia says that the site is beginning to look like an editorial structure. To say that an army of amateurs can create great work with little control is to distort what Wikipedia stands for, says Carr.

But Mr. Wales says that such criticism is unwarranted since there are filters on the website. In addition, Wikipedia proponents say that it does not take long for most vandals to retreat.

In fact, most of the discussion on Wikipedia usually focuses on its accuracy. Last year, an article in the Nature journal claimed that errors in the Wikipedia were slightly higher compared to those found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. Britannica officials strongly rebutted this argument.

In spite of the criticism, Wikipedia says that the accuracy of the content on the site grows organically. At first, everything is edited mercilessly by idiots, says Wayne Saewyc, a Wikipedia volunteer. As the article grows and citations accumulate, the content becomes more accurate.

Wikipedia volunteers often say that they felt liberated the first time they contributed to the site. Kathleen Walsh, a college graduate, majoring in music says that when you write for Wikipedia, the whole world notices the content.

Unknown to most people, Wikipedia, just like most web-based ventures, was started by accident. Mr. Wales, the man behind the site was an options trader who sought to start an internet-based encyclopedia known as Nupedia.com. After attracting a handful of contributors, Mr. Wales started Wikipedia on the side, which grew exponentially.

During the formative years, Mr. Wales paid the expenses out of his pocket. Today, the Wikimedia Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Wikipedia runs on donations.

Currently, Mr. Wales runs Wikipedia with the help of 4 paid employees. He believes in the power of wiki page-editing technology, a precursor of Wikipedia. In 2004, he started Wikia, a start-up that allows people build sites based on the community of interest. For instance, Wiki 24 is an unofficial encyclopedia for the TV show "24."

Now, Wikipedia has evolved into a symbol of the web potential. It says a lot about the future of knowledge creation. It means that in future people will depend less on heroism and more on cooperation, says Mitchell Kapor, president of Open Source Applications Foundation.

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