Published Thursday, October 6, 2005 1:00 am
by By Craig Crossman
I remember as a kid how impressed I was when my parents invested in our very own set of encyclopedias (I believe it was the Encyclopaedia Britannica). Back then, it was a kind of status symbol to own your own set. The volumes of books gleaming on the bookshelf was an impressive sight and were featured in a place that could easily be seen in the home library or den. The rich, glossy pages were crammed full of colorful photographs, illustrations and images. And the printed text held the total knowledge of all mankind. Well, that’s what I thought when I was a kid. Anything I needed to know for my school projects, homework and whatever else that was deemed important could be found within those glorious tomes.
Ah, how the times have changed. Now, the total knowledge of all humankind is all within reach of your personal computer. Of course, you can still buy the encyclopedia in book form, but why bother? You can get everything they contain on a set of DVDs and unlike the printed version, these keep themselves current by seamlessly linking to the Internet. And with a broadband connection, all you need is a Web browser to access a variety of online encyclopedia Web sites that tap into seemingly limitless sources of information.
Encyclopedia was the place where the people get result for everything they search. But, we can say Wikipedia is now the new encyclopedia for the people of this period. We can easily get things about what actually we need. It is the main goal of Wikipedia, and we have to say that it has already reached the goal. It will give the accurate result for us and just click here to go to the page of Wikipedia.
Most of these online encyclopedia Web sites are created and maintained by the publishing companies that own the rights to the different reference brands. They have sole discretion when it comes to the addition, deletion and modification of their content. And that’s how it should be. It’s the information they contain and the people that contribute to these publications that give them their stature, credibility and value.
But there’s another kind of online encyclopedia out there that you should know about because its content is written by not only experts in their fields of endeavor but also by people like you and me. In fact, I know that some of it was written by me because I put it in there. And you can contribute to it as easily as I did.
The encyclopedia is called Wikipedia and it truly is the encyclopedia of the people because so many of us have contributed to its virtual pages. And it’s an amazingly dynamic structure as its
readers are making literally thousands of changes to it every hour of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. That’s one heck of a lot of information being manipulated within a single project.
Anyone can add, delete or change most anything that’s defined on Wikipedia and it can be done anonymously or with your logged on screen name account which is all free. Wikipedia makes its money via contributions from donors. It is completely ad free.
Basically you look up any item you want to explore. After reading the information that’s there, you are given the option of editing the content in any manner you wish. If you feel you can contribute something pertinent to the material already there, you can do so immediately. Editing is fairly straight forward and there are plenty of help sections and examples from which you can learn. In only a few minutes, I had created a new topic, which was the name of my radio talk show, Computer America. I added a color logo, show description, link to my website, a bio on the show’s host (me), and other relevant information. And I did all of that while interviewing Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, on the air.
I found Wikipedia goes beyond what is traditionally within an ordinary encyclopedia as it covers more specific technology subjects, has links to other sources of information including other online encyclopedias and has the aforementioned collaborative element that lets you tap into all
levels of expertise. As to how accurate the data within Wikipedia actually is, you can be fairly comfortable about that because experts and participants everywhere are constantly scrutinizing the content.
Currently, Wikipedia is available in well over 100 languages so chances are the one you understand will be available. The only word of caution I have for you is that this Web site can be addictive. I found myself contributing almost as much as I was learning. It’s a lot of fun. Check it out. You’ll have it bookmarked before you leave.
Craig Crossman is a national newspaper columnist writing about computers and technology. The Palm Beach resident also hosts the number one daily national computer radio talk show, Computer America, heard on both the Business TalkRadio Network and the Lifestyle TalkRadio Network Monday through Friday, 10 p.m. to midnight ET. For more information, visit his Web site at www.computeramerica.com.