My colleague, Joseph Reagle, recently posted online on of the earliest snapshots of Wikipedia: the encyclopedia after its first ten thousand edits. (It's available online at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/~reagle/wp-redux/.) The 2,393 articles in this early Wikipedia range from "A Priori And A Posterior Knowledge" to "Zeus." 365 (15%!) of the articles addressed aspects of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, while 56 covered the United States and its Constitution. The article on Patti Smith's album Horses is longer than the entry on Paris, and the overall picture of topical coverage is similar to that of the bookshelves of a geek-inhabited college dorm room.
Wikipedia is a victory of process over substance. The larval encyclopedia Reagle has recreated wouldn't have been worth translating, or even preserving. But the process and ruleset that allowed contributors to explore and document their passions, to improve each other's efforts, to debate editorial decisions within the platform and to roll back errors and vandalism have allowed for constructive, collaborative effort that has, over time, created profoundly content. Wikipedia's victory was getting the rules -- and importantly, the rules for making rules -- right, and trusting that the process would lead to substance. The project is far from perfect -- it's incomplete, inaccurate in places, subject to the systemic biases that come from participation of some authors and not others. But it's also one of the wonders of the world, and something anyone who studies sociology, politics, or organizational theory should look upon with utter fascination.