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Friday, January 14, 2011

Wikipedia Conquers the World and Gives Writers a Sense of Worth

Wikipedia Conquers the World and Gives Writers a Sense of Worth - Technorati Technology
Hey! Does this mean if it weren't for Wikipedia I could get paid for this stuff???

Currently, the human population of Earth is 6,893,000,000, give or take a few since I looked this statistic up on Wikipedia. Now, compared to that population figure, Wikipedia’s four million users are a drop in the bucket.
With a priority to bring information “to people who haven’t had it” (politicians?), Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales told Reuters that the plan is to double Wikipedia’s reach. 3.5 million of Wikipedia’s roughly 17 million articles are in English, and Wales wants to increase the number of languages in its library.
China and India are two targets of Wikipedia's intended growth. Unlike Google, Wikipedia is unafraid of China and the “serious hacking” that lurks there. Wales stated he will not compromise on censorship in China, and—in expanding the definition of human rights—goes on to say, “Access to information, basic information in particular, is a fundamental human right.” Suspicion is that Wales does not have teenage children (whose parents are routinely denied access to basic information). Wales is also defying the old adage, “Ignorance is bliss.”
Bringing information to the uninformed masses will be Wikipedia’s “real humanitarian impact,” according to Wales, who was interviewed in London where he is celebrating Wikipedia’s tenth birthday. Check your spam folder, I didn't think I got an invitation either.
Interestingly, in Reuters’ report, journalist/science-fiction writer Cory Doctorow “said the absence of money in Wikipedia’s mode of operation was one of its main attractions.” Doctorow is quoted as saying, “There’s one less reason to feel your labour is undervalued, because there’s a lot of stuff I would do for free that I wouldn’t do for a pittance.” Doctorow must be one of those benefitting from Wikipedia’s humanitarian aid effort of disseminating information.
Um…let me get this straight…if you don’t get paid for your work it is more valued than if you do get paid? Or is it that small pay is an insult, and no pay is its own reward? As a starving writer, I am thrilled that I can fill my belly from Wikipedia’s smorgasbord of information. Well, who am I to rain on a parade?
By the way, I love Wikipedia, and look forward to it going interplanetary. Happy Birthday, Wikipedia, long may you rule!

Originally published:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Is Wikipedia Your Friend?

Is Wikipedia Your Friend? - Technorati Technology
If it’s not on Wikipedia, you shouldn’t be asking about it.

Here’s a shocking, new statistic: according to a Pew survey released today, more (53%) American Internet users regularly use Wikipedia, compared to the less than 50% who use instant messaging. Who woulda thunk it? Does this mean more people would like to learn something than would like to talk to their “friends”?
As reported on, Pew Research has found that more than 60% of those under 30 are regular users of Wikipedia, while only 33% of those over 65 (who already know everything) are regular users. Stuck somewhere between those two age groups, I refer to Wikipedia at least a dozen times a day.

At times I wonder if I am a Wikipedia abuser—someone who must have questions answered or facts confirmed at regular intervals throughout the day or go into info-withdrawal. Wikipedia is better than a street drug—most of the time you get more than you pay for (since you pay nothing, unless you’re a donor—Wikipedia is made possible by users like you!), but there’s still the fear that the merchandise isn’t exactly fresh, uncontaminated, or just plain fake.
Those running the big Wiki under founder Jimmy Wales, do a good job of advising when information lacks authority (citations, etc.) and is, therefore, suspect, and removing nonsense (why don’t they believe that Johnny Depp and I are engaged?) and revenge pages about people who have incurred someone’s dislike (I swear I’m not the one that published that stuff about FCE’s family!). With millions of users policing its pages, Wikipedia is nearly as pure as Ivory soap. Any serious research work (i.e., academic or for public consumption) should not rely on Wikipedia for its main resource, but is a lot easier having it as support.

Fact-checking is so much easier with Wikipedia—if you know something but want to confirm that you know it, Wikipedia is the place to go. For research, the provided links throughout and footnoted to entries provide further information on a given subject and provide a thumbs up or down on the information contained in the entry. When used as a springboard to research (not a substitute) it provides the researcher with direction.
Is it surprising that Wikipedia is so popular? It shouldn’t be. In a society where “Google it” seems the most common response to requests for information (and Wikipedia is usually one of the search results, no matter what one wants to learn), Wikipedia relieves us of the responsibility of knowing anything. How cool is that?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spam’s Off, Try the Bacon

Spam’s Off, Try the Bacon - Technorati Technology
I keep a computer on my kitchen table, so I can always have spam with my eggs.

While there was, allegedly, a colossal decrease in spam over/since the holidays, you wouldn’t know that by looking at my in-box. There are currently 772 items in my spam folder; 23 arrived in the last 12 hours. Is this indicative of spam rebounding? Were this all my spam, I might think it wasn’t too bad, but if you want to tell me how to increase parts of my body that I don’t have, qualify for a grant, or get a job I don’t want, your message will go directly into trash (without passing Go or collecting whatever amount you’re trying to rip off me) and my trash is bulging with spam.
We do not joyfully receive the news that spam volume recovers. The decline has been attributed to “the sudden disappearance of the Rustock botnet and other networks from the spam business,” however few of us think that no one will take their places.
Websense researcher Carl Leonard said, “The spike in spam today appears to be attributable to medical spam using Russian domains that we have seen used before.” Whatever. The shocking news, according to the Kaspersky Lab Security News Service, is that the spam business “is still quite profitable,” which means that somebody (not me) is reading these messages and responding to them. Not somebody, lots of bodies—and apparently they all suffer from ED.

I’d like to think that the dramatic drop in spam between Christmas and New Year’s was the spammer’s way of saying “Merry Christmas, y’all,” but I’m pretty sure they weren’t even wishing us “Happy Holidays.” It’s about as likely as receiving that 750,000 or 950,000 English pounds I’ve been told my e-mail address won in a drawing. I haven’t responded to the 400 or so notices I’ve gotten along those lines, but I’m sure if they want me to have the money, they’ll find me.