Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

The quest for global ac­cu­racy.

YOU know a web­site is truly suc­cess­ful when its name be­comes a verb and if you don’t be­lieve us, you can ‘‘ google it’’ or ‘‘ wiki it’’.

While Google Inc is an Amer­i­can multi­na­tional pub­lic cor­po­ra­tion, Wikipedia is a free on­line en­cy­clo­pe­dia that any­one can edit.

In 10 years, the site has gained much cred­i­bil­ity.

A turn­ing point was reached in 2005, when re­searchers col­lated ar­ti­cles from both Wikipedia and En­cy­clo­pe­dia Bri­tan­nica to be sent to rel­e­vant ex­perts for peer re­view.

The ver­dict was that there were se­ri­ous er­rors in eight ar­ti­cles sub­mit­ted, four from each sources.

The team of ed­i­tors be­hind Wikipedia took this as some­thing of a vic­tory. And why not? Wikipedia is main­tained by a small and ded­i­cated group of vol­un­teers whose job is to make sure all en­tries are as ac­cu­rate, well-re­searched, ref­er­enced and up-to-date as pos­si­ble.

The an­nual Wiki­ma­nia Meetup takes place in a dif­fer­ent city each year, at­tract­ing vol­un­teers from 70 coun­tries around the world to dis­cuss the site’s main­te­nance with co-founder Jimmy Wales.

Wikipedia is an ev­ery­day thing for us in Aus­tralia, but easy ac­cess to the site isn’t a global re­al­ity.

The ‘‘ great fire­wall of China’’ has blocked the site on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, along with a num­ber of other web­sites.

Cen­sor­ship is ex­treme, but some con­trol is im­por­tant to the open-edited en­cy­clo­pe­dia.

Wikipedia’s phi­los­o­phy of open-sourced open­ness has made it an easy tar­get for jokes, crit­i­cism and even van­dal­ism.

Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal satirist Stephen Col­bert fa­mously en­cour­aged his view­ers to van­dalise the site for fun and pages have been al­tered to re­port pre­ma­ture deaths of iden­ti­ties in­clud­ing US Sen­a­tor Ted Kennedy ( now de­ceased) and teen sen­sa­tion Mi­ley Cyrus.

As a re­sult of the site’s ed­itable func­tion, teach­ers, jour­nal­ists and news sources have warned us that it shouldn’t be trusted.

But now it has been 10 years since the web­site pub­lished its first ar­ti­cle.

More then 10 mil­lion ar­ti­cles later – more than 3.5 mil­lion ar­ti­cles in English and ar­ti­cles in 250 other lan­guages – it has be­come a global go-to for fact-find­ers.

Wikipedia rep­re­sents the orig­i­nal prom­ise of the in­ter­net: that of global on­line col­lab­o­ra­tion in the pub­lic in­ter­est.

IN THE KNOW: Wikipedia has opened up a new world.

Pic­ture il­lus­tra­tion: Lane Hartwell

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