Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is so great
This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
As you read and edit Wikipedia, at some point you may ask yourself: "Just why is Wikipedia so awesome? What accounts for its enormous growth and success?" In order to answer this question, some great people have written some explanations and arguments on this page. For comparison, see also why Wikipedia is not so great, and Wikipedia:Replies to common objections. You can then arrive at a well-informed conclusion thereafter.
- Wikipedia articles are very easy to edit. Most anyone can click the "edit" link and edit an article. Obtaining formal peer review for edits is not necessary since the review is a communal function here and everyone who reads an article and corrects it is a reviewer. Essentially, Wikipedia is self-correcting – over time, articles improve from a multitude of contributions. There is an entire infrastructure for people seeking comments, or other opinions on editorial matters, and as a result, Wikipedia has got "consensus-seeking" down to a fine art. We prefer (in most cases) that people just go in and make changes they deem necessary; the community is by and large quick to respond to dubious edits (if any) and either revert or question them.
- Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, repeatedly mentions in his book Weaving the Web that the web has grown into a medium much easier to read than to edit. He envisaged the web as a much more collaborative medium than it currently is, and thought the browser should also function as an editor. Wiki-based sites are closer to his vision. In fact, the first web browser was also a web editor.
- While traditional encyclopedias might be revised annually, Wikipedia's current affairs articles, as well as their older articles being edited, are updated thousands of times an hour. That's a big deal if your interest is in current affairs, recent science, pop culture, or any other field that changes rapidly.
- Errors to Wikipedia can be corrected within seconds, rather than within months as with a paper encyclopedia. When someone sees something wrong in an article, they can simply fix it themselves. If they cannot correct it, they can "tag" the problem to attract the attention of other editors and warn readers to be on their guard as to what they are reading. Compare that to the slow, tedious process required to report and fix a problem in a paper encyclopedia.
- On Wikipedia, there are no required topics and no one is setting assignments. That means anyone can find part of the encyclopedia they're interested in and add to it immediately (if they can do better than what's already there); though some editors steer well away from editing areas in which they are experts in to avoid any of their biases gained from contaminating the editing process and will edit only subjects they are not connected to. This increases motivation and keeps things fun.
- Wikipedia is open content, released under a free licence. Knowing this encourages people to contribute; they know it's a public project everyone can use.
- Where else can you get lovely articles on a such-and-such town or so-and-so bizarre hobby written by actual residents/practitioners? (Of course, some view this as a curse.) Many articles on Wikipedia will likely never have an entry in a paper encyclopedia.
- The use of talk pages. If an article doesn't cover something, you can ask about it.
- Requesting articles. If any article you try to find isn't here, you can request it.
- Most editors on Wikipedia are amateurs. However, many contributors on specific matters are professionals or have firsthand knowledge on the subjects they write about. These contributions allow many scholars to gather information to aid them in research matters, and even just for everyday general knowledge, and if you see someone made a mistake you can fix it!
Comprehensiveness and depth
- Wikipedia is by far the world's largest encyclopedia; it is the largest, most comprehensive, and most accessible compilation of knowledge to exist in the history of the human race. With the English Wikipedia now having more than five million articles, it is already well over twenty times the size of what was previously the world's largest encyclopedia (the largest edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, which contains 65,000 articles). With each new article, information is becoming more accessible than it ever has before.
- Wikipedia's neutral point of view policy makes it an excellent place to gain a quick understanding of controversial topics. Want a good overview of the Arab–Israeli conflict but have only ten minutes to spare? Wondering what all the fuss is about in Kashmir, or what the pro/con arguments are about stem cell research? Wikipedia is a great place to start.
- Wikipedia is not paper, and that is a good thing because articles are not strictly limited in size as they are with paper encyclopedias.
- Articles steadily become more polished as they develop, particularly if there is one person working on an article with reasonable regularity (inclining others to help the original author). There are some articles we can all point to that started out life mediocre at best and are now at least somewhat better than mediocre. If the project lasts many years, thus attracting many more people (as it is reasonable to assume), these very articles could really shine.
- Wikipedia attracts highly intelligent, articulate people (except for repeat vandals) with some time on their hands. Moreover, there are some experts who contribute to the articles. Over time, the huge amount of solid work done by hobbyists and experts alike will inevitably build upon itself, therefore greatly improving Wikipedia's body of information. As a result, Wikipedia is an intellectual community, confident that the quality of Wikipedia articles will be high.
- Wikipedia, having contributors from many areas of the world, provides its readers with a "world view" that could not be provided simply by few contributors from a limited region. This also serves to eliminate cultural bias in articles.
- To use an extended metaphor, Wikipedia is very fertile soil for knowledge. As encyclopedia articles grow, they can attract gardeners who will weed and edit them, while the discussion between community members provides light to help their growth. By consistent effort and nourishment, Wikipedia articles can become beautiful and informative.
- The sheer amount of information in one search on Wikipedia compared to other search engines, which often provide little useful knowledge on each of hundreds, if not thousands, of results, can be found more concisely (and perhaps safely) than through traditional means.
- Wikipedia, by its very nature, resists destructive edits (known as Vandalism). Most previous revisions of an article are saved and stored. Once vandalism is committed, in three or four clicks we can have it reverted. Think about it: in order to vandalize a page extensively, you would probably need around thirty seconds (unless it involved simply blanking the page). Compare that to the five to ten seconds it takes to revert an article. Add IP blocking, dedicated souls, and an intelligent robot that monitors edits to the encyclopedia, and you have a solid resistance against destructive edits.
- Wikipedia's success mainly depends on its users, the Wikipedians.
- In theory, everybody can be a Wikipedian, but does the theory hold true in practice?
- The idea is that the Wiki-community of Wikipedians is a special group of people who have special characteristics. To account for these special characteristics, we have provided the following factor model:
- User factors
- Computer skills
- Knowledge factors
- Type of knowledge
- Fast changing rate
- Peer review
- Technology factors
- Easy usability
- Fast access
- Infinite reach, multilingual
- Flexible structure
- User factors
- All these factors play together to accomplish the goal of successful knowledge creation and knowledge sharing.
- A study done by the University of Washington found that eight in ten college students use Wikipedia as an introduction to finding information for their research.
- Our likelihood of success always seemed encouragingly high. On January 23, 2003 we reached 100,000 articles, and we have since passed 10,000,000 articles, this has since been realized with over 5,000,000 English articles alone. If Wikipedia simply continues as it has been, which seems plausible, then all potential articles will be covered, even on new topics emerging from an evolving reality.
- Wikipedia is free. Many online encyclopedias were not.
- It's a good feeling to see that one's contribution is potentially read by millions of surfers.
- Wikipedia takes information from other reliable websites and puts it onto one portal. Each piece of information added to a page has to be individually cited so readers can find the source and get more information.
- Wikipedia used to have no set in stone rules, rather, it had the "Five Pillars" which highlighted the main principles and guidelines of Wikipedia and that was the keystone to its early growth.
- Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is not so great
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is failing
- Wikipedia:Wikipedia is succeeding