I'm trying to become a positive addition to the community, although my enthusiasm and my knowledge don't always seem to align well.
My current goal: to add simple, easy to understand, explanations to mathematical articles which are likely to be found by students from lower division mathematics courses at colleges looking up topics which have pages that are currently written in terms which rely on several layers of concepts above what would be expected to be understood. As someone who was recently going through those courses himself, I'm very familiar with a lot of the topics, but far enough along to be able to do at least a decent translation, I think. If you see any of my edits that you think are inappropriate or inaccurate, please change them, but try to keep the simplified language to keep the material at least semi-accessible.
An Essay on the importance of allowing wikipedia to be a wiki instead of an encyclopedia
Many people still consider wikipedia to be an online encyclopedia like it was originally imagined to be and created as, but in fact, it has moved beyond to the realm of 'wikis'.
What is a wiki?
Now to understand what a 'wiki' is you must first understand what an encyclopedia is. Dictionary.com defines an encyclopedia as "a book or set of books containing articles on various topics, usually in alphabetical arrangement, covering all branches of knowledge or, less commonly, all aspects of one subject." My copy of Webster's Universal English Dictionary defines it as "A book or series of books containing information on all branches of knowledge, or treated complrehensively a particular branch of knowledge, usually in alphabetical order." My copy of Webster's New World Dictionary tells me that an encyclopedia is "a book or set of books with alphabetically arranged articles on all branches, or one field of knowledge." The New American Desk Encyclopedia says that an encyclopedia is a "reference work comprising alphabetically or thematically arranged articles selectively covering the whole range or a part of human knowledge." Wikipedia defines an encyclopedia as "An encyclopedia (or encyclopædia) is a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge. Encyclopedias are divided into articles with one article on each subject covered. The articles on subjects in an encyclopedia are usually accessed alphabetically by article name and can be contained in one volume or many volumes, depending on the amount of material included," and then follows that with a quote
Indeed, the purpose of an encyclopedia is to collect knowledge disseminated around the globe; to set forth its general system to the men with whom we live, and transmit it to those who will come after us, so that the work of preceding centuries will not become useless to the centuries to come; and so that our offspring, becoming better instructed, will at the same time become more virtuous and happy, and that we should not die without having rendered a service to the human race in the future years to come. -Diderot
Obviously, wikipedia is only an encyclopedia if you take these definitions extremely loosely, ignoring the rather common "book or set of books" and "alphabetically arranged articles" criterion. You also would have to ignore the inherent fact that when something is published, changes are slow to be made and those changes only become apparent when a new edition is released. Then you have to take into account the fact that even the Encyclopedia Britannica, widely considered to be THE encyclopedia has only 4,411 named contributors, is 32 hardbound volumes, and is currently on it's 15th edition. Wikipedia on the other hand has millions of contributors and is constantly being edited, unedited, and re-edited; does not have 'editions', an almost universal characteristic of encyclopedias; and is aproximately 25x as large as the EB, and so could only be effectively sold in disc form.