Comments: Twenty Dollar Sunday

Wikipedia has my vote as the single most shocking development on the Internet. Most of what's on the Web follows the logic of the Internet: Google, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc., were all fairly predictable developments once the WWW was in place.

But Wikipedia was not. In fact, an open source encyclopedia was dismissed as a mere impossibility by every sociologist, psychologist, and even open-source software types (which, unlike Wikipedia, is based on enlightened self-interest).

Not only Wikipedia is, indeed, an amazing creation. But what it says about human nature is the stunning part: something shockingly hopeful. It's the Michelson-Morley of sociology. Little surprise, therefore, that all eyes should be on an entirely predictable, unoriginal, pedestrian widget like Facebook. But, somewhere, Diderot is beaming.

Posted by wikifan at November 7, 2010 09:44 AM

I am quite proud of the fact that I was one of the early editors of Wikipedia (back in 2002, when I started out by adding an entry on the Wobblies to the Anarchism page). Back then there was quite a bit of debate about whether Wikipedia was a good example of an anarchist project. Some people contended that it was more a benevolent dictatorship, since Jimmy Wales had, in the end, ultimate authority to do whatever he wanted with the site. I think that, despite the slight politicization of the administration of Wikimedia, the project has been largely successful precisely because Jimmy took a back seat and let the editors (i.e., the public) develop the process themselves. Most of the pages develop their own editor culture, and while sometimes it's not pretty, in many cases it's a great example of voluntary cooperation, a real miracle of human effort. It is definitely the greatest thing the Internet has produced, in my opinion. We tend to pooh-pooh its quality because it is user-edited, but the sheer amount and caliber of information available is astonishing. Yesterday I looked up a fairly complex subject in graph theory; a few minutes of reading on WP gave me a basic grounding in a subject which might previously have required years of careful reading and specialized learning. The impact on human learning is enormous and vastly underappreciated.

Posted by saurabh at November 7, 2010 02:31 PM

Wikipedia is indeed a worthy project, although the quality is a lot better with technical subjects, in my experience.

I would consider looking at alternatives to Diaspora. They have got a lot of press, and a lot of money, and in fact they are not looking for any more money, according to the FAQ. You could have a look at gnu social http://www.gnu.org/software/social/.

Posted by Erik at November 7, 2010 02:52 PM

How about Apache web servers? Or the Linux operating system? They are written for free too but surely far more significant than wikipedia?

Posted by DavidByron at November 8, 2010 04:01 PM

Today is another Friday. I'm donating to antiwar.com.

Posted by mistah charley, ph.d. at November 12, 2010 07:45 AM

I use Wikipedia all the time and am glad it exists, but as mentioned up in the thread, I trust it a lot more with technical information than I do on topics that require nuances of judgment/analysis.

As with The New York Times or The New Yorker, whenever I read something on Wikipedia that deals with a topic on which I've read deeply, the entry is unsatisfactory.

Posted by Mike of Angle at November 12, 2010 03:23 PM

It depends on what you want. In many cases a good library has more up-to-date and more in depth materials for researchers than the internet. But I like Wikipedia just for the idea of it and it is convenient for those who don’t like to leave their chair.

Posted by Rob Payne at November 13, 2010 05:28 PM

It's now Forty Dollar Monday ... hope all is well with Mr Schwarz.

Posted by Cloud at November 15, 2010 08:04 PM