July 10, 2004

Site profile: Wikipedia

It'll be a miracle of any readers here have not at least been to Wikipedia at least once, I keep linking to it too often. But I'd still like to talk about this site.

Wikipedia has, as I type this, around 302087 articles in English. That is way more that any other Encyclopedia, and it was only set up in 2001. It has content in around 50 different languages. Counting all of them, there are more than 700,000 articles.

Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia, maintained by everyone and no one in particular. I could write an article and put it up there if I like. I can also edit any Wikipedia article I want. The reason most of the information there is genuine is that there is an active community of users, who correct mistakes in their spare time mostly. Needless to say, not all articles are unbiased. But as nobody in particular controls the content, there is almost no censorship. The information is also of a less formal nature, and you can get an article on almost anything you want. And it is totally free. And have I mentioned no central authority and no censorship? Yes, the censorship issue is important enough to be mentioned twice. Read more about exploring Wikipedia here.

Let me just give you a seemingly random collection of articles to let you judge it's content:
Blogger
Issac Asimov
MP3
Fractals
Random Page [Different every time]

It's not perfect though. It is highly under-funded. There are frequent server outages, the bandwidth available to them is too low considering the site's popularity. But it still does an admirable job. Whenever I come across something new that I want to know more about, I follow the following steps:
1. Look it up at Wikipedia. [which is usually enough]
2. Google it.
These two steps are enough for almost anything. Try it.

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