Wikipedia, that vast storehouse of knowledge and other sentences passing for knowledge, turns 10 years old this weekend. The fifth-most-popular website has become, as Jonathan Lethem puts it, "a Borgesian paraphrase of our entire universe," and is considered an almost impossibly valuable resource by many. But there's something disturbing about the way it flattens everything it describes, how it embodies milquetoast consensus, and the nature of its "objective" language.
To try to capture the many ways we think about Wikipedia, we reached out to an all-star ensemble of thinkers to comment on the site's texture and community. We asked them a simple question -- what do you think about Wikipedia? -- and we're immensely pleased with the responses we got. (The full essays are lurking behind those links.)
Bruce Sterling, writer, futurist: People sometimes figured that, since Wikipedia entries were all crowdsourced and public and resilient and such, they'd be strong like the Internet is strong. It's a bit more plausible to say that they're strong like a big sprawling semilegal favela is strong. A favela where a rather road-worn and weary Jimmy Wales has to be an unelected mayor.
Charlie Cheever, co-founder, Quora: A lot of times, too, people say to me, "As Quora gets bigger, isn't the quality of answers on the site going to degrade? Don't you know people on the Internet are stupid?" In the face of that, Wikipedia is inspiring. It's reassuring to be able to look at what you're doing and say, some percentage of people really care and are smart.