According to a page on the site, an avid interest in Wikipedia has been known to afflict “computer programmers, academics, graduate students, game-show contestants, news junkies, the unemployed, the soon-to-be unemployed and, in general, people with multiple interests and good memories.” You may travel in more exalted circles, but this covers pretty much everyone I know.
Clever. The rest of the article is a mess, however, best suited to someone "in more exalted circles" who has heard of Wikipedia but has never been to it, and who uses the internet rarely, if ever. It presents the topic as a conflict between stereotypical young, creepily enthusiastic internet nerds and stodgy greybearded print encyclopedia editors, between a million web monkeys typing at a million keyboards spewing out trash and treasure trying to overwhelm a fortress in which dusty old scholars are nodding off over dusty old books, between revolution and reaction. Given that frame, of course the reader will side with the revolutionary, and the article ends on that note:
[Wikipedia Founder] Jimmy Wales may or may not be the new Henry Ford, yet he has sent us tooling down the interstate, with but a squint back at the railroad. We’re on the open road now, without conductors and timetables. We’re free to chart our own course, also free to get gloriously, recklessly lost. Your truth or mine?
This frame is shit. It's a lost opportunity to consider the subject seriously, instead of a contest of new versus old. Whether the Model T was more reliable than a horse and buggy is not a very interesting question. More interesting is to ask what the advent of the automobile heralded. It took less than 40 years to go from a 20 horsepower 4 cylinder engine
to the jet fighter. If Wikipedia is the Model T, how long before the moon landing, metaphorically speaking? And actually, the Henry Ford analogy works better for the traditional encyclopedia: Top down control, a hierarchy of authority dedicated to ensuring sameness of output, and disregard for customer desires epitomized by the
saying, "You can have it in any color you want, as long as it's black." What Wikipedia does is totally different. What is it about knowledge today that makes the wiki so appealing to people? Is it just that Wikipedia's free and online and the Encyclopedia Brittanica isn't? Or is it that the fact that the users are also the authors mean that wiki content always automatically molds itself to the users' needs in a way a traditional encyclopedias cannot? It would have been nice to read an article about that.