Any netizen worth their salt is already well aware of Wikipedia. And because I know my vast and diverse readership is nothing if not savy in all things Internet, I’m sure what I’m about to tell you is merely redundance (I don’t think that was a word). But just in case there happens to be one of you who doesn’t know what Wikipedia is and all about, prepare to be enlightened.
Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that is editable by anyone. At first thought, the idea of an open-source encyclopedia sounds ill-conceived at best, irresponsible at worst. If anyone can add or remove whatever they want, who’s to say it won’t be anything more than a Big Book of Smears? Any Joe Schmoe could easily alter the ending of WWII having the Japanese dropping the bomb on the US or lead a poor unsuspecting 8th grader doing a reasearch paper on the Civil War to come to the conclusion that the South won and Jefferson Davis is an android supreme ruler of all points south of the Mason-Dixon line! Worse than those ridiculous scenario’s, a bona fide do-badder could use it as a forum to slander the good name of anyone he happened to be at odds with. Ah, but not to fear. Wikipedia has an amazing ability to police itself. With a worldwide readership on the web, integrity and neutrality usually prevail. If such erroneous material exists, such as including the puma in the bovine family, it is spotted, flagged, and quickly corrected. There are also mechanisms in place for legitimately challenging the neutrality of an article or requesting more citations. Not to say that it is without flaw, but for the most part it’s a solid jumping-off point for research or just general information for pretty much anything.
That’s one of the great things about it. Since it is editable by virtually anyone, there are oodles of topics that you would never find in a Britannica. Say for instance, a list of every episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Including original air date. Take that Encarta! Want to know the population of Spencer County Indiana, click here. (For the record, I do believe I was the one who added that Florence Henderson was born in Dale, IN) Each article is peppered with hyperlinks to other articles that can easily lead you on long, latenight path of discovery. For instance, last night I was doing a little research on the Austro-Hungarian Empire for a post I’m writing for T.B.F.K.A.A.T.J.C.W.Q. and after only a few clicks and two hours I was suddenly an expert on the war in Kosovo.
While it probably doesn’t carrying the academic clout to be accepted as a legitimate resource to anchor that research paper you’re writing, it’s a fun place to answer a lot of questions and build your knowledge base for that appearence of Jeopardy.