Knowledge from the people, for the people, and free for the people, check out Wikipedia.
I ve heard about it a lot but until today I had never checked it out, Wikipedia the free on-line encyclopedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org) Now this is a pretty cool invention, let me tell you. This is an encyclopedia made by the masses for the masses, and anyone (even you) can add or edit pages. This means that if you ve got a piece of knowledge that you think is worth knowing, after checking that it is not out there already you can add to this huge body of knowledge that is growing everyday. There are over half a million articles in English alone, but there are also articles from many other different languages, some with over 100,000. In the old days we had to spend a lot of money to buy encyclopedias. They took up a lot of space and were produced by private corporations hoping to make a monetary gain. Now we can write the book and read it for free!
I did some random searches today on the Wikipedia site reading about various things from Saddam Hussein, McDonalds, to a small town I used to live in called Bowling Green, Ohio. I learnt a lot of interesting stuff, like the fact that Saddam once set up a literacy program in Iraq as well as a compulsory free education system. This doesn t take away the fact that he killed and persecuted many people, but it gives us a more balanced human picture and proves that there is always more than meets the eye when it comes to watching our news on privately owned media channels. Did you know McDonalds owns more playgrounds than any other privately owned organization? Or did you know that they buy more pork than any other company in the U.S.A.? Where does all that pork go? I hope it s not in the milkshakes!
One of the main features that excited me on Wikipedia is the amount of links that you can click on in an article that will lead you to other articles. If you are doing research it seems that you can go very deep into the rabbit hole indeed. If you do look up something that hasn t got too much information about it, it s your chance to widen our horizons with your own knowledge. There are a few rules of course, one of which is that we (WE!) are looking for real facts, not opinions. The articles are being constantly edited so if you write or witness someone else putting in gibberish or vandalism there are many controls to keep the pages free from misappropriation.
There is also a current events section that reads a lot like a newspaper but is actually written by people from the general community in a kind of blog format. This is a step forward in hearing the whole story about an event. You can look at previous dates like an archive that sure beats having to keep your old newspapers.
There are also some sister projects being constructed by the Wikipedia group such as the Wiktionary (dictionary and thesaurus), Wikibooks (free textbooks and manuals), Wikiquote (collection of quotations), Wikisource (free source documents), Wikispecies (directory of species), Wikinews (free content news source), Commons (shared media), and Meta-Wiki (Wikimedia).
In the site s Community Portal section they actively ask visitors to help research specific topics as well work in collaborations. They need people to copy-edit articles as well as expanding, cleaning up and updating pages. I think it is a definite opportunity for people who would like to be writers, researchers, editors and the like to get some real practice in their preferred trade.
“Imagine a world in which every person has free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.” This is Wikipedia s message and it s quite an altruistic one. As they are a non-profit organisation they rely on participants donations to buy servers and bandwidth, discspace etc that they need to keep up with the growing amount of users. So, if you think it s a great idea, get on the boat, tell us what you know, and share your wealth with all.