User:Alan Liefting/Essays/On filling the gaps

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On   filling   the   gaps

~~ an essay ~~

Alan Liefting

2009 - 2010 CE

Wikipedia has developed, organically, anarchically and almost exponentially in the short history of its existence with a total of almost three million pages now written. One of the drawbacks of the ad-hoc nature of creating articles is that there are gaps in the continuum of knowledge within Wikipedia. Some of these gaps is the summarising information contained in Wikipedia. Since the breadth of human knowledge is extremely wide it is necessary to summarise information so that individual pages within Wikipedia are of a reasonable length for an encyclopaedia. They must also fit within technical constraints and within our attention span. By way of example, the History of the World covers everything from prehistory to modern history. To document all areas of human history separate articles must be written otherwise the main article would be incredibly long. To avoid this there are many sibling articles that are linked from the main history article, and also a number of associated categories. This allows all these related topics to be found by a reader.

Disambiguation pages are also created to easily navigate to an article that will have a name that is similar to a range of related or disparate article titles.

In the case of the history articles there appears, on a cursory inspection, a well filled continuum of articles. In other topic areas of Wikipedia the continuum of well developed articles in an appropriate hierarchy are yet to be fully developed. This is possibly due to the nature of the knowledge and available time of the contributing editors. An editor may have a strong interest and is very knowledgeable on a specific topic. That editor will go ahead and create an article on the topic but not fill in the gaps between the particular topic and all other related topics. This is understandable since writing a good, well referenced, neutral point of view article is hard to do and is time consuming. Linking the article to the rest of Wikipedia takes extra editing time.

One topic area that needs filling is the effects that humans have on the environment, and this is where I have found numerous gaps. For example:

In each of these cases the latter is a more important article than the former in the hierarchy of articles. The higher up in the hierarchy an article is the more important it is to the Wikipedia project. In all of the articles mentioned above there is an article that is even higher up in the hierarchy, namely environmental issues, and that article was only created recently.

Virtually all of the editors on Wikipedia are volunteers so there is no way of making demands on them since they have every right to refuse. Filling the gaps in Wikipedia cannot be demander of editors. In the long term these gaps are likely to be filled but in the short term something should be done about this shortcoming. Creating a basic article with a series of links is at least of some use to a reader and may prompt an editor to expand the article.

Wikipedia is laudable concept. Having knowledge freely available and to be freely edited and commented on with all past revisions able to be examined may have a profound effect on our society. Wikipedia has only existed for a blink of an eye in comparison to the length of time over which we have made recordings of our history. In the longer term we may become better informed and more rational in our arguments because of Wikipedia.

A few more examples:

Since the time of writing some of the articles mentioned have been created.