Progress

Every so often, Wikipedia asks for money. Every so often, I give them some. Wikipedia has become essential to my life. When I want to quickly know the basics about something, I go to Wikipedia and find out.

Wikipedia is flawed. It gets things wrong. And a lot of the time, a couple facts sort of right.

But we know. That’s part of the deal. Wikipedia is not 100% right.

Even so, it is better than nothing. What it gives us is more than it takes away.

I was listening to an interview of Jimmy Wales, a co-founder of Wikipedia. He was talking about how it’s growing, and how it works.

In his mind, the eco system of Wikipedia is all about the contributors. The contributors, working together to create the entries, and give the facts the most even hand.

Wales says it’s because of the software. That, unlike on comment threads for regular websites, the Wikipedia entries can be openly edited, and then re-edited by anyone.

The users are there collaborating. And when it is working at it’s best, they are being checks and balances to one another.

Does it work at it’s best all of the time? No. No it does not.

There are flame wars, and some bullying, and meanness and close-mindedness.

But there is also, at the end, a growing Wikipedia. A public service.

Jimmy Wales says the software serves this end.

Software often has this effect. It solves a problem–such as serving information. But even if that problem is all the way solved (and it never is completely solved), another problem pops up.

That burr in the shoe is replaced with a pebble.

It’s like a terrible riddle. If a solution solved 90% of a problem you are suffering, but introduced a new problem that would take up 50% of the resources you were trying to conserve, is it a real solution?

So many solutions are exactly like that. Inconclusive, leaving us slightly better off but still unsatisfied.

Two steps forward, one step back and three steps sideways.

Wait, what? Where am I again?

It’s the new progress.

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