Free on the Web and Great for a Career
Wikipedia is the free online encyclopedia with more than 75,000 active contributors that are working on 5.3 million articles in over 100 languages.
The Web site is based on the concept of amassing the existing knowledge of humankind in digital form, accessible to everybody in the world that can get onto the Internet. Anyone can post, edit or change an entry, so long as it is not used as a “blog,” “soapbox,” “directory,” “crystal ball” or a forum for “original thought.”
The name comes from the Hawaiian, “wiki wiki” meaning quickly.
With more than five billion pages and 1.6 million articles in English on every nook and cranny of the human experience, it can be the starting point for research in just about anything.
For example, since my career has been in direct marketing, I entered “direct marketing” in the search box and up came 2,400 words on the subject, including a slew of hyperlinks to related areas of marketing also covered in Wikipedia.
Could Wikipedia alone create a direct marketing expert? No way. But it provides an overview of the basic concepts and argot that would enable a neophyte to have lunch with Lester Wunderman and not sound foolish.
Yet recently, Wikipedia has hit some rough patches:
* In The New York Times of Dec. 4, 2005, Katharine Q. Seelye described how John Seigenthaler, Sr., the distinguished former editor of The Nashville Tennessean, was falsely accused of being involved in the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, Senator from New York. This information had been posted for several months and very likely was repeated on Web sites elsewhere.
* On April 28, 2006, AP writer Shannon McCaffrey wrote, “Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that can be altered by anyone with a computer, has proved remarkably useful for pulling political dirty tricks. Political operatives are covertly rewriting—or defacing—candidates’ biographical entries to make the boss look good or the opponent look ridiculous. As a result, political campaigns are monitoring the Web site more closely than ever this election year.”