One advantage of my having toiled for a couple of years at PubSub is that everyone who worked there keeps one eye on the Internet at all times, looking out for odd or interesting items, and when they find them they pass them right along to yours truly. From Jon Mandell comes a link to a vituperative article about Wikipedia, the online resource that seems to be emerging as America’s second-most-polarizing cultural entity, right behind George W. Bush himself (Righteous Swordsman of Freedom, or Chimpy W. Hitler, depending on which side of the aisle you’re on).
The essay at hand, by narcissism expert Sam Vaknin, bears the title The Six Sins of the Wikipedia, and includes such allegations as “Wikipedia is against real knowledge” and “Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia”.
I’m sure Dr. Vaknin’s points are well-taken. Were I a hard-working academic with a genuine concern for (and a personal stake in) the value of expert scholarship, and saw how Wikipedia is approaching near-hegemony as the place where everyone looks up everything, I’d be vexed myself. I’ve also seen enough of the behind-the-scenes world of the Wikipedia to note, in the petty bickering and egotism of its small-bore contributors, its depressing resemblance to a small-town school board. There is no doubt that anyone who relies on it as authoritative is a fool.
That said, though, it is, if nothing else, a uniquely fascinating artifact, bottomlessly entertaining, and very useful as long as you know that you can’t really trust it. Not having a dog in this fight, I think it’s great.