How Wikipedia actually works

I went through school believing that knowledge was something that came exclusively from outside my personal universe. It came in textbooks and it came in encyclopaedias. It certainly did not come from me or anyone I knew*.

That’s a poisonously disempowering distortion of reality. As an antidote, I recommend Wikipedia. Sixth form students, in particular, can and should be establishing their netizenship by actively contributing to it, not just researching from it.

The value of Wikipedia has been hotly debated ever since Robert McHenry (from the very threatened Encyclopaedia Britannica camp) labelled it “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia“, sparking a right old ding-dong in the pages of Corante, that’s still going on.

For most of us reading that debate the problem is that we don’t really understand how it works. Or even why it works, and why it doesn’t simply fall apart under the onslaught from all the sixth-formers I’m inciting to edit it.

This lovely Flash move from Jon Udell provides a superb exposition. If you have any interest in Wikipedia, I strongly suggest you spend the next ten minutes watching (and listening to) Jon’s explanation.

*Postscript: only after I’d left school did it sink in that my dad was (and still is) the expert on the vernacular architecture of the North Yorks Moors. Shame there are no A-Levels in that.


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