The world is now open. And it is faster, thanks in part to wikis (wikiwiki is Hawaiin for “quickly”). Quickly indeed. The world of open wikis are extremely fast. Reading through the short history of wikis a person is prone to get travelling sickness from the speed, bumpiness, and fits and starts on the road to communal knowledge heaven. Wikis are collaborative by their very nature (read/write pages) thus making them prime examples of Web 2.0 (though precursors to today’s wikis existed for several years prior to the coining of the term “Web 2.0” by Oreilly). Open wikis (like Wikipedia) go one step further. They not only open up editing to everyone on the planet, they also open up their content for reuse, abuse, and modification by anyone else on the planet. Knowledge is freed from being only the stomping ground of the elite. Knowledge is put at everyone’s fingertips. And knowledge is allowed to flow from everyone’s fingertips. This is “us” analyzing and defining “it”.
Can the wiki be trusted? Can we trust our “lifeline”? When certain academic elites proclaim Wikipedia and other similar open knowledge sources as unacceptable drivle, not worthy of anyone’s time, should we follow their advice and give up on the whole enterprise? If Steven Colbert can “troll” Wikipedia, if vandals and jokesters can deface this public property, should we not call a universal moratorium on academic use of such resources?
If a particular article cannot be trusted, and someone who knows that visits the site and views this article and then tells others about Wikipedia’s untrustworthiness, is not that very person guilty of the sin of omission? If you think an article sucks, rewrite it. If you notice an error, fix it. You are a human. Wikis are for and by humans. If you don’t fix it, but you do complain about it, are you any better then the person who complains about poverty and does nothing to remedy this problem? Millions of people reference Wikipedia every day. It is a service for humanity. Why complain when you can change it? Few things in the world are easier (or quicker) to change. If many in the academic world complain about the unscholarliness of certain articles in a wiki, I think their responsibility to the human race is to share their expertise. Or are they too afraid of the wiki? Or of losing their prestige? Or of seeing humanity grow and learn? If I went into a store and a patron helped me find what I was looking for I would be happy. If a store worker helped me, I would be even happier (because they have the added experience and expertise to find the things I need). Store workers should not complain about patrons helping other patrons. They should help themselves. Scholars should think about doing just this. Help the world, help yourself.
In this way the wiki becomes stronger. The wiki can and should become not only fast and friendly, but factual and fabulous (I couldn’t think of another appropriate “f” word). So long live the wikiwiki world!