Sunday, June 29, 2008

A matter of perspective

On Wikipedia, I feel my best work is done in collaboration with other editors. But many of the articles I work on, no one else is working on. There is topic coverage that would not be on Wikipedia if I did not contribute. There are subjects that were peppered with misinformation (that in some cases had been there for years) before I corrected them. Especially with my recent discovery of an article hit counter (some articles I work on get thousands of page views every day), it's easy to feel that I am single-handedly improving the world's knowledge base.

But the English Wikipedia is near 2.5 million articles. While it suffers from chronic poor writing quality, it has depth of information not available anywhere else. Accuracy is spotty, but apparently good enough for people to use it in droves. Wikipedia has been blamed for the demise of a French encyclopedia, and is viewed as enough of a threat that other encyclopedias (another French one, and the the Encyclopedia Britannica) are imitating its writing model to try to compete.

My contributions to the project are an infinitesimal part of that picture. Even if I'd never made so much as a spelling correction, Wikipedia would still be in the vaunted position it is today. It's an odd feeling, to see my work as both hugely meaningful, and as completely insignificant.

No comments: