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The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopediaby Andrew Lih
Synopses & Reviews
"Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." --Jimmy Wales With more than 2,000,000 individual articles on everything from Aa! (a Japanese pop group) to Zzyzx, California, written by an army of volunteer contributors, Wikipedia is the #8 site on the World Wide Web. Created (and corrected) by anyone with access to a computer, this impressive assemblage of knowledge is growing at an astonishing rate of more than 30,000,000 words a month. Now for the first time, a Wikipedia insider tells the story of how it all happened--from the first glimmer of an idea to the global phenomenon it's become. Andrew Lih has been an administrator (a trusted user who is granted access to technical features) at Wikipedia for more than four years, as well as a regular host of the weekly Wikipedia podcast. In The Wikipedia Revolution, he details the site's inception in 2001, its evolution, and its remarkable growth, while also explaining its larger cultural repercussions. Wikipedia is not just a website; it's a global community of contributors who have banded together out of a shared passion for making knowledge free. Featuring a Foreword by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and an Afterword that is itself a Wikipedia creation.
"Since Wikipedia was launched online in 2001 as 'the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,' it has blossomed to more than a billion words spread over 10 million articles in 250 languages, including 2.5 million articles in English, according to Wikipedia cofounder Wales in the foreword. Lih, a Beijing-based commentator on new media and technology for NPR and CNN, researched Wikipedia and collaborative journalism as a University of Hong Kong academic, and he has been a participating 'Wikipedian' himself for the past five years. He notes the site has 'invigorated and disrupted the world of encyclopedias... yet only a fraction of the public who use Wikipedia realize it is entirely created by legions of unpaid and often unidentified volunteers.' Other books have surfaced (How Wikipedia Works; Wikinomics), but Lih's authoritative approach covers much more, from the influence of Ayn Rand on Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales and the 'burnout and stress' of highly active volunteer editor-writers to controversies, credibility crises and vandalism. Wales's more traditional earlier encyclopedia, the peer-reviewed Nupedia, began to fade after he saw how Ward Cunningham's software invention, Wiki (Hawaiian for 'quick'), could generate collaborative editing. Tracing Wikipedia's evolution and expansion to international editions, Lih views the encyclopedia as a 'global community of passionate scribes,' attributing its success to a policy of openness which is 'not so much technical phenomenon as social phenomenon.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
I recently read a magazine article that mentioned Nikola Tesla as if everyone knew his accomplishments. I didn't, so I threw his name into a search engine. A Wikipedia entry came up first. Fifteen minutes later I had a much better idea of his inventions. As media critic Andrew Lih explains, Wikipedia has become one of the 10 highest-traffic sites on the Internet based on a pretty... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) crazy idea: Rather than use experts, create an encyclopedia written and edited by anybody who wanders by. Every entry has an "edit this page" tab that you can click on without registering or signing in or getting any permission, and your update appears instantly. Consumers who just browse entries may be oblivious to the fanatical volunteers who write, edit, patrol for vandalism and argue vehemently with each other. Lih tells of the 2002 "Spanish Fork," a revolt by members who started their own version, Enciclopedia Libre, over a mere hint that Wikipedia might carry advertisements. I learned from Lih to check out the "Discussion" pages. They show what grade articles have been given by the vote of members. That article on Tesla, for instance, is "B-class," not quite up to the "Good" standard. Reviewed by Dan Keating, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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A Wikipedia expert tells the inside story of the trailblazing--and incrediblypopular--open source encyclopedia.
In this book, Nathaniel Tkacz turns a critical eye toward the new open politics through an analysis of the most celebrated open project to date, Wikipedia. Where, he asks, does the current notion of openness come from, and to what political situation does it speak? Tkacz argues that open politics has been shaped by a series of developments in software cultures in the 80s and 90s, which were carried forward into the participatory web cultures of the last decade. With a critique of those cultures as his starting point, Tkacz turns to the messy realities of Wikipedia. He weaves together discussions of edit wars, article deletion policies, bots, Wikipediaand#8217;s and#147;five pillarsand#8221; (fundamental principles), user access levels, mailing list archives, and the 2002 Spanish fork controversy. The resulting picture of Wikipedia contrasts starkly with much previous commentary. Wikipedia is not proof of and#147;the wisdom of the crowds,and#8221; Tkacz argues, but neither does it reflect and#147;the cult of the amateurand#8221;; it is not an example of and#147;good faith collaborationand#8221; or a model for new collaborative business practices (and#147;Wikinomicsand#8221;), but neither is it simply the latest instantiation of the bureaucratic form. In demystifying Wikipedia, Tkacz helps break and#147;the spell of open politics.and#8221;
Few virtues are as celebrated in contemporary culture as openness. Rooted in software culture and carrying more than a whiff of Silicon Valley technical utopianism, opennessand#151;of decision-making, data, and organizational structureand#151;is seen as the cure for many problems in politics and business.
But what does openness mean, and what would a political theory of openness look like? With Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, Nathaniel Tkacz uses Wikipedia, the most prominent product of open organization, to analyze the theory and politics of openness in practiceand#151;and to break its spell. Through discussions of edit wars, article deletion policies, user access levels, and more, Tkacz enables us to see how the key concepts of opennessand#151;including collaboration, ad-hocracy, and the splitting of contested projects through and#147;forkingand#8221;and#151;play out in reality.
The resulting book is the richest critical analysis of openness to date, one that roots media theory in messy reality and thereby helps us move beyond the vaporware promises of digital utopians and take the first steps toward truly understanding what openness does, and does not, have to offer.
About the Author
Andrew Lih was an academic for ten years at Columbia University and Hong Kong University in new media and journalism. He has also worked as a software engineer, entrepreneur, new media researcher, and writer. Lih has been involved with Wikipedia since 2003, helps plan the annual Wikimania conference, and frequently acts as a spokesman for Wikipedia in Asia. He has been a commentator on new media, technology and journalism issues on CNN, BBC radio, MSNBC and NPR.
Table of Contents
1 Open Politics
2 Sorting Collaboration Out
3 The Governance of Forceful Statements: From Ad-Hocracy to Ex Corpore
4 Organizational Exit and the Regime of Computation
5 Controversy in Action
Conclusion: The Neoliberal Tinge
Appendix A: Archival Statements from the Depictions of Muhammad Debate
Appendix B: Selections from the Mediation Archives
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