Wikipedia makes me proud to be human

It’s true.  For all our faults, we humans have done something amazing at Wikipedia.  Sure, the folks on staff there deserve a bit of credit, but it’s the millions contributors like you and me that built that phenomenal resource.  And fast.  And it ain’t exactly done yet.  I just took a look at the English Wikipedia statistics page again.  Eleven million registered users.  Not bad.  Three million articles.  A whopping 350M page edits.  If the average edit takes a minute (gee, that seems short to me) then that’s at least 6M hours of work!  All done free for the rest of us to make use of.  And of course that’s just in English; I figure we oughta multiply by ten for all the other languages (and yeah, that seems low also). Equally amazing to me is that even the organizing structures and policies were all built organically by volunteers.  The approach has been “let’s try to find policies that will work.”  And, one way or another, 11M registered users (plus a bunch of anonymous users and some bots) managed to figure out how to work together, for free, to build something functional and useful.

So, yes, I marvel at the remarkable edifice that is Wikipedia, and I think it says something about what humans are capable of.  And yet, I’ve only made a few small edits there.  Instead, Wikipedia’s success motivated me to create my own wiki around how we humans can work together in practical ways to make lives better.  ( “WinWinWiki” got as big as 14 pages before I joined Chris and Lonny here at Appropedia, which had more pages,  maybe even 100.)   Appropedia’s  hard problem is that much of the information we value often resides nonverbally in people’s heads  and not on some web page.  Find the words to describe how to select the best local dirt for your earthen blocks takes some cleverness.  Consider something as “simple” as rainwater harvesting.  Wikipedia has a nice overview page on the topic, but they don’t provide enough information to build your own system.  Appropedia has a portal focused on rainwater harvesting, with lots of links to practical articles on actually doing some rainwater harvesting.  No doubt there are still unanswered questions, or regional variations that could be added.  Some of that info is hiding on the web somewhere, but some might be in your head.  Or in someone’s head who (gasp!) doesn’t spend much time on the internet, or perhaps doesn”t have regular access (at least for a couple of years).

Appropedia faces a lot of the same challenges that Wikipedia did, and  some different ones as well, but there’s one challenge Appropedia won’t face.  When Wikipedia was first getting started, many said it was impossible.  “Who’s going to spend the time?  How can content quality be maintained?  How will disputes be settled? If you let just any unregistered Schmo edit, it’ll be a spammer”s paradise. Yada yada, it’ll never work.”  But of course it has worked, amazingly well.  (Here’s a nice self referential article about that, and, for balance, a discussion of criticisms. I just love that.)  And since Wikipedia has been-there-done-that, the notion that Appropedia is impossible seems rather naive or even far-fetched.  The question is not “if” like-minded humans can build a large open library of practical and sustainable solutions, but “how” or “when”. I find that profoundly inspiring.

It’s why I’m here.  Oh, and I have a 6-year-0ld son.  He needs to understand what’s possible for humans to do by working together. When he’s my age (“39”), he’ll have another two billion people to share the planet with.  Maybe you can help me show him what we can do together?

7 thoughts on “Wikipedia makes me proud to be human”

  1. I am really glad that Appropedia went with CC-BY-SA ([[Appropedia:Copyrights]]). I am happy to know that there are less barriers to the information, and micro-enterprises, getting out there. In addition, more of the for-profits that I have worked with are starting to see that sharing their information CC-BY-SA is beneficial.

  2. Just noticed that wordpress says that the second comment is from James as well. It is actually from Lonny… maybe I was tired and forgot. 🙂

  3. Wikipedia is pretty good but they are afraid of change. I tried to get the pulser pump on it but they refused. They agreed to put better definitions of airlift pump and trompe on it. They said both that the pulser pump is based on old stuff so it does not count and that it is too “novel” and that also disqualifys it too!
    Well then, will you put the concept of a trompe powering an airlift pump? (And call it whatever you like!). Its a shame because the pulser pump or (whatever you want to call it) is over 20 years old. So many people who cannot afford anything better than it do not even know that the option exists.
    Brian White

  4. I love Wikipedia too, and have put a fair bit of work there before I started my own wiki projects. Like James (comment #1), I thought there needed to be a home for more how-to information on different topics, and since I was always looking up different plants, I thought a plant encyclopedia that focuses on how to grow any plant in the world would be a dream-come-true for me and other gardeners. So I started it! It’s http://www.gardenology.org and it really could use more editors, so if some of your friends are real gardeners, tell them about it please!! It is also Creative Commons, so I hope to see the info move back and forth among sites like Appropedia.org, which Chris just told me about.

  5. Brian – it’s getting more strict and less friendly at Wikipedia, but it may just be that it doesn’t meet the strict criteria for Wikipedia (e.g. not fully sourced with “notable” references). Don’t be discouraged – it sounds more like Appropedia content anyway!

    Raffi – Great to make the connection!

  6. Wikipedia is pretty good but they are afraid of change. I tried to get the pulser pump on it but they refused. They agreed to put better definitions of airlift pump and trompe on it. They said both that the pulser pump is based on old stuff so it does not count and that it is too “novel” and that also disqualifys it too!
    Well then, will you put the concept of a trompe powering an airlift pump? (And call it whatever you like!). Its a shame because the pulser pump or (whatever you want to call it) is over 20 years old. So many people who cannot afford anything better than it do not even know that the option exists.
    Brian White

Comments are closed.

Wikipedia makes me proud to be human

It’s true.  For all our faults, we humans have done something amazing at Wikipedia.  Sure, the folks on staff there deserve a bit of credit, but it’s the millions contributors like you and me that built that phenomenal resource.  And fast.  And it ain’t exactly done yet.  I just took a look at the English Wikipedia statistics page again.  Eleven million registered users.  Not bad.  Three million articles.  A whopping 350M page edits.  If the average edit takes a minute (gee, that seems short to me) then that’s at least 6M hours of work!  All done free for the rest of us to make use of.  And of course that’s just in English; I figure we oughta multiply by ten for all the other languages (and yeah, that seems low also). Equally amazing to me is that even the organizing structures and policies were all built organically by volunteers.  The approach has been “let’s try to find policies that will work.”  And, one way or another, 11M registered users (plus a bunch of anonymous users and some bots) managed to figure out how to work together, for free, to build something functional and useful.

So, yes, I marvel at the remarkable edifice that is Wikipedia, and I think it says something about what humans are capable of.  And yet, I’ve only made a few small edits there.  Instead, Wikipedia’s success motivated me to create my own wiki around how we humans can work together in practical ways to make lives better.  ( “WinWinWiki” got as big as 14 pages before I joined Chris and Lonny here at Appropedia, which had more pages,  maybe even 100.)   Appropedia’s  hard problem is that much of the information we value often resides nonverbally in people’s heads  and not on some web page.  Find the words to describe how to select the best local dirt for your earthen blocks takes some cleverness.  Consider something as “simple” as rainwater harvesting.  Wikipedia has a nice overview page on the topic, but they don’t provide enough information to build your own system.  Appropedia has a portal focused on rainwater harvesting, with lots of links to practical articles on actually doing some rainwater harvesting.  No doubt there are still unanswered questions, or regional variations that could be added.  Some of that info is hiding on the web somewhere, but some might be in your head.  Or in someone’s head who (gasp!) doesn’t spend much time on the internet, or perhaps doesn”t have regular access (at least for a couple of years).

Appropedia faces a lot of the same challenges that Wikipedia did, and  some different ones as well, but there’s one challenge Appropedia won’t face.  When Wikipedia was first getting started, many said it was impossible.  “Who’s going to spend the time?  How can content quality be maintained?  How will disputes be settled? If you let just any unregistered Schmo edit, it’ll be a spammer”s paradise. Yada yada, it’ll never work.”  But of course it has worked, amazingly well.  (Here’s a nice self referential article about that, and, for balance, a discussion of criticisms. I just love that.)  And since Wikipedia has been-there-done-that, the notion that Appropedia is impossible seems rather naive or even far-fetched.  The question is not “if” like-minded humans can build a large open library of practical and sustainable solutions, but “how” or “when”. I find that profoundly inspiring.

It’s why I’m here.  Oh, and I have a 6-year-0ld son.  He needs to understand what’s possible for humans to do by working together. When he’s my age (“39”), he’ll have another two billion people to share the planet with.  Maybe you can help me show him what we can do together?

7 thoughts on “Wikipedia makes me proud to be human”

  1. I am really glad that Appropedia went with CC-BY-SA ([[Appropedia:Copyrights]]). I am happy to know that there are less barriers to the information, and micro-enterprises, getting out there. In addition, more of the for-profits that I have worked with are starting to see that sharing their information CC-BY-SA is beneficial.

  2. Just noticed that wordpress says that the second comment is from James as well. It is actually from Lonny… maybe I was tired and forgot. 🙂

  3. Wikipedia is pretty good but they are afraid of change. I tried to get the pulser pump on it but they refused. They agreed to put better definitions of airlift pump and trompe on it. They said both that the pulser pump is based on old stuff so it does not count and that it is too “novel” and that also disqualifys it too!
    Well then, will you put the concept of a trompe powering an airlift pump? (And call it whatever you like!). Its a shame because the pulser pump or (whatever you want to call it) is over 20 years old. So many people who cannot afford anything better than it do not even know that the option exists.
    Brian White

  4. I love Wikipedia too, and have put a fair bit of work there before I started my own wiki projects. Like James (comment #1), I thought there needed to be a home for more how-to information on different topics, and since I was always looking up different plants, I thought a plant encyclopedia that focuses on how to grow any plant in the world would be a dream-come-true for me and other gardeners. So I started it! It’s http://www.gardenology.org and it really could use more editors, so if some of your friends are real gardeners, tell them about it please!! It is also Creative Commons, so I hope to see the info move back and forth among sites like Appropedia.org, which Chris just told me about.

  5. Brian – it’s getting more strict and less friendly at Wikipedia, but it may just be that it doesn’t meet the strict criteria for Wikipedia (e.g. not fully sourced with “notable” references). Don’t be discouraged – it sounds more like Appropedia content anyway!

    Raffi – Great to make the connection!

  6. Wikipedia is pretty good but they are afraid of change. I tried to get the pulser pump on it but they refused. They agreed to put better definitions of airlift pump and trompe on it. They said both that the pulser pump is based on old stuff so it does not count and that it is too “novel” and that also disqualifys it too!
    Well then, will you put the concept of a trompe powering an airlift pump? (And call it whatever you like!). Its a shame because the pulser pump or (whatever you want to call it) is over 20 years old. So many people who cannot afford anything better than it do not even know that the option exists.
    Brian White

Comments are closed.