Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

An Encyclopedia of the People, by the People, for the People

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

An Encyclopedia of the People, by the People, for the People

Article excerpt

Imagine an information resource that in its wealth and chaos mimics human knowledge itself. No, I'm not talking about the World Wide Web. I'm talking about Wikipedia .

This free collaborative Web-based encyclopedia has been making waves lately, both for its popularity and its controversy. Wikipedia, which at the time of this writing boasted 558,253 encyclopedia entries, has just become the second-most visited reference site on the Web, according to online measurement company Hitwise .

Wikipedia is now second only to and is ahead of,, MSN Encarta , Merriam-Webster Online , and Free2Professional Translation . Needless to say, all of these free services are worth checking out if you haven't already.

Of these sites, Wikipedia is the fastest growing by far, according to Hitwise, with its market share rocketing upward a remarkable 618 percent over the past year.

But what most distinguishes Wikipedia is what makes it most controversial. Anyone can create, add to or change its encyclopedia entries using just a Web browser. Like most Web sites, Wikipedia offers up editorless editorial, raw content unmarred by the wrought-iron blockades of publishing rejection and the red-penned hands of editorial oversight.

Wikipedia, as its name indicates, is a wiki, which Webopia, another free, useful Web reference service, defines as "A collaborative Web site comprised of the perpetual collective work of many authors. Similar to a blog in structure and logic, a wiki allows anyone to edit, delete or modify content that has been placed on the Web site using a browser interface, including the work of previous authors. In contrast, a blog, typically authored by an individual, does not allow visitors to change the original posted material, only add comments to the original content."

The first wiki, Wiki Wiki Web , was created by Ward Cunningham in 1995 as a history of computer programming ideas. If you type in "wiki" today at, it will return 44 million sites.

Started in 2001, Wikipedia is the largest and most popular wiki. Along with an English-language version, permutations exist in a staggering 195 other languages, each with its own content and all sponsored by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation.

The word "wiki" is Hawaiian for "quick," and that's what Wikipedia excels at. …

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