Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Of all the 'blessings' of the internet revolution, perhaps the one which most fulfills the ideal of a free and unfettered world access to knowledge is Wikipedia. It isn't perfect, some of its entries are just plain bad, but on the whole it works surprisingly well. I've often been pleasantly surprised by the quality and depth of the information it contains. I've contributed to it myself, it is easy to do (if you don't try to get too clever with formatting) and can be very rewarding to be able to watch an awkward stub blossom into a in-depth treatment of an obscure topic.

The two subjects I've been most involved with in the creation of Wikipedia content are the Icelandic author Halldór Laxness (of course) and the artist and author Wanda Gág. Of the two, I've done more research and writing for the Wanda Gág article. Her history is not as well known and the story of her personal life (free thinker, feminist, leftist sympathizer) had been bowdlerized in the past—perhaps to protect impressionable children or to promote her life as a sterling example to young women. If you click on the "talk" and "history" tabs at the top of the page you can see for yourself how many changes this simple article has already undergone.

The Halldór Laxness page is still quite incomplete. I've given it a chronological structure and numerous references but have not written much. Someday I hope to flesh it out and help give this great writer a more complete article (I've already created a separate site devoted to his work.) The "talk" and "history" sections also give a sense of the varied input of many people (and more than a few "bots"- those automatic programs which unify structure and formatting.)

Wikipedia and its founder, Jimmy Wales, have had their share of criticism, I suspect most of it is from people who wish they could monetize it. As I said before, it isn't perfect, but it is by far the best and most positive feature of the internet.

By Professor Batty


Anonymous I'd Rather Be in Iceland said...

I agree, I'm a big fan of Wikipedia. It has something useful for everything I've ever looked up.

Blogger Darien Fisher-Duke said...

Have you seen this effect the hits on Laxness in Translation? I would expect so!

Blogger Professor Batty said...

DFD~ About 20% if LIT traffic comes from Wikipedia.

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