In this post Sarah Leeson of WGBH News poses the question, What do you get when you assemble an army of anonymous internet users to agree on facts and hope they do their best?
Her answer: a description of how Wikipedia works. Read on…
“Giving internet users open access to a site that is meant to have accurate, up-to-date, multilingual information sounds like a recipe for disaster. And yet, Wikipedia seems to be making it work.
The website, launched in 2001, continues to grow daily. According to its own statistics, every second there are almost two edits to the site by editors from all over the world. English Wikipedia contains nearly six million articles, and, on average, more than 570 new ones are added each day.
Andrew Lih, author of “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia” and the Wikimedia strategist for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, said that Wikipedia’s growth can be directly attributed to its unique crowdsourcing model.
“Even if you tried to pay a crew to maintain a global knowledge base for 100-plus languages in a way that’s pretty darn accurate and timely … could you take a billion dollars and pay people to do that? I don’t think you could,” Lih said.
Some of the site’s volunteers, also called Wikipedians, spend hundreds of hours a month working on the site. Jim Hayes, a volunteer from Washington, D.C., said that he is retired and that editing is “better than golf.” But he has another motivation: cleaning up misinformation.
“Originally, I had to become a contributor because I had a high school friend who’s a novelist, and his Wikipedia page said he’s Italian, so I had to fix it,” Hayes said. “And then once I figured out, ‘Gosh, I could fix the internet,’ I had to fix it and I couldn’t stop.” Hayes said…”
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