Remember what it was like when you found the blockchain world? It was a shiny new toy with a lot of promise — [mostly] decentralized rather than having a central authority, everyone can participate (whether you're an investor, a crypto-enthusiast, a developer, or a blogger/content-creator), topics on every subject imaginable (finance, travel, recipes, fiction, poetry, music, and so much more).
For centuries, encyclopedias have been maintained by various organizations, many academic. It is their "experts" who write the articles, and their editors edit and approve them. To view the content, you had to go read the content in the library (no check-outs for books in the Reference Section) or purchase the entire set of books from the company who published them. Within a year or three, the information quickly became out-of-date as events happened in the world, new discoveries were made, technology advanced, medical knowledge progressed, corporations merged, and so forth. Many of those encyclopedia companies now offer their content online, of course, but it is still managed by centralized corporations, and some of them want money for subscriptions to access their information.
In the early 2000s, an idea was launched to take the encyclopedia industry from the hands of the centralized companies who produced them and make the knowledge available to everyone online in a [mostly] decentralized manner. That project grew into what is now known as Wikipedia. The concept is that by tapping into the vast resources of the entire human population, we can build a knowledge-base together.
"Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge."
[quote source: WikimediaFoundation.org]
screenshot from WikimediaFoundation.org
In everyday life, we seem to have lost personal accountability. Anyone can say anything these days, and few people seem to be taken to task for what they say. As such, one of the biggest misconceptions about Wikipedia is that it is rampant with incorrect information, but that is simply not true. A recent detractor of Wikipedia commented to me:
Wikipedia... anyone can edit and say anything
My response was:
There is oversight in Wikipedia to help prevent untruths from being published there. It isn't a total free-for-all, but runs in a somewhat decentralized manner like a blockchain runs. Just as we have Blockchain Engineers, witnesses, developers, and everyday users who care about the project and do what they can to vote and steer the project in a good direction, there is a Wikimedia Foundation that helps ensure the integrity and success of the project. There are various levels of editors that check work, make corrections, and ban people that try to run ripshod through the process, and the editors work on a consensus basis — sound familiar?
Every article that is written on Wikipedia as well as any edits made to those articles must contain citations to ensure accuracy. If those citations are not there, the article (or edit) will be rejected. Also, the citations are checked for accuracy.
It is very disturbing to me when avid proponents of the [mostly] decentralized nature of blockchains denigrate other [mostly] decentralized projects like Wikipedia. I have seen this happen over-and-over, though. I really like having a dynamic, up-to-date encyclopedia online rather than having to rely on a centralized, for-profit company like Brittanica or Funk & Wagnalls to publish their once-per-decade hardbound encyclopedia that only contain articles from their "experts" in each field.
I have been a contributing editor at Wikipedia since 2006, and always keep my eye peeled for inaccuracies and make corrections when I am certain I have spotted one. I am very proud of what Wikipedia has built, just as I am proud of what the various blockchains I'm on have built.
The same detractor quoted above went on to say:
I can remember writing papers in school and the teacher not letting us source wiki because it wasn't widely seen as a real source.
My response was:
I do not know if educators recognize Wikipedia as a valid source today or not... BUT, you have to remember that educators (at least in public schools) are part of "The System" that keeps fiat money and long-traditional financial practices in place. They don't want our deviating from the model that is under their control. Blockchain technology and collaborative projects like Wikipedia are bucking that "System" and hoping for a wonderful, new world.
I have encountered much ridicule of Wikipedia here on the blockchain from many different people. Yet, there is definitely a similar Modus Operandi in both projects, and anyone who is a fan of this blockchain should appreciate what Wikipedia is doing. Sure, there is a bit of oversight from the Wikimedia Foundation, but that is necessary to make the project as accurate as possible as well as have the infrastructure in which to operate. In a way, the Wikimedia Foundation is akin to the witnesses of the blockchain.
So, please raise a glass with me to Wikipedia and what they are doing! Cheers! 🥃