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10 years of Wikipedia: A unique American achievement
In an age of vitriol and intolerance, says Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian, the online encyclopedia proves that American idealism and civility is still alive
Wikipedia creator Jimmy Whales once said making the site non-for-profit was "at once the stupidest and the cleverest thing" he ever did.
Wikipedia creator Jimmy Whales once said making the site non-for-profit was "at once the stupidest and the cleverest thing" he ever did.
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ikipedia is 10 years old this weekend, says Timothy Garton Ash in The Guardian. And it's worth taking a fresh look at how this unique organization has developed. Had Jimmy Wales, the site's founder, chosen to "commercialize the enterprise," he would be a billionaire like Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg. But instead he made Wikipedia a "not-for-profit foundation" with the "utopian goal" of giving the people of Earth free access to the entirety of all human knowledge. And the result of Wales' efforts — still "the fifth most visited site on the internet" — is an achievement all the more notable for the era into which it was born. Here, an excerpt:

Wikipedia has been remarkably free of the kind of downward spirals of abuse famously captured by Godwin's Law... which states that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Partly this is because an encylopedia deals in facts, but it is also because dedicated Wikipedians spend a huge amount of time defending standards of civility against waves of attempted vandalism...

We do not yet know if the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., was a direct product of the vitriolic incivility of American political discourse... A crazy man may just be crazy. But America's daily political vitriol is an undeniable fact. Against that depressing background, it is good to be able to celebrate an American invention which, for all its faults, tries to spread around the world a combination of unpaid idealism, knowledge, and stubborn civility.

Read the entire article at The Guardian.

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