The following message was sent to me by a friend and colleage, Jeremy
- Vana Prewitt
This message is a mixture of three things: an invitation to engage in an
exciting and cool activity; a report on a fascinating and probably
important phenomenon; and a reference to a useful information source.
They are three approaches to one and the same phenomenon: Wikipedia, the
free, Web-based encyclopedia that is being created and extended "as we
1) It is a useful on-line information resource, to be found at
2) It is a fascinating phenomenon, because it is being created as a
collaborative effort by individuals from all over the world, in a similar
spirit to open-source software, by people who want to contribute to
knowledge as part of a communal effort and produce something that will be
useful and helpful to people, and is surely unprecedented in the history
of the world (thousands of people collaborating spontaneously, without
pay, to produce an encyclopedia).
3) And, most fascinating and exciting and cool, any person can contribute
to it on the spot, because every article in it can be edited by the person
who is reading it right then and there and have the changes be made
immediately in the article. You can add to, edit, correct, alter, delete
from any article, or write a new article on anything that should be in the
encyclopedia but isn't. Anyone who knows anything about something, or is
even just willing to learn about something and share the knowledge, can
contribute. They even encourage high school students to contribute class
reports that they've done.
And this method is working, i.e. there is very little vandalism or
destructive behavior in/on the encyclopedia, what there has been is
rapidly and efficiently dealt with (they save backups of all previous
versions of the articles, so if someone messes one up it's possible to
restore a previous one), and people seem interested, out of the love of
knowledge and the intellectual stimulation of contributing to it, in
contributing or editing articles, without their names even appearing on
them: the articles don't list authors, and in any case, since anything
one writes will likely be subsequently be altered or edited by hundreds of
other people, it's not clear what authorship means in such a context.
Anyway, I think that it's a pretty amazing thing. I only started
using it last week and have contributed to a couple of articles that I
happen to know something about, in some cases just as an amateur. This
included uploading photographs that were relevant to the articles. They
have help files, style sheets and recommendations, everything one might
need to know to contribute. And they also have a bunch of volunteers who
help provide guidance and feedback.
[Host's Note: Wiki is a very intriguing notion... A very simple technology
for collaboration and joint creation of written texts. You just use a web
Vana Prewitt <Vana@PraxisLearning.com>
Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <Richard@Karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>
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