"What hath God wrought?" That was the message sent by the inventor Samuel Morse over the first telegraph line in the United States; it was sent from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland in 1844. One could almost enthuse as much over the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia
, a wonderful source where one can both find information and provide it to share with the whole world. Following are extracts from its website which tell about it.Welcome to Wikipedia
, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit
Wikipedia...is a multilingual
, free content encyclopedia
project. Wikipedia is written collaboratively
from all around the world. With rare exceptions, its articles can be edited
by anyone with access to the Internet
, simply by clicking the edit this page link. The name Wikipedia is a portmanteau
of the words wiki
(a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia
. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites
on the Internet
In every article, links will guide you to associated articles, often with additional information. Anyone is welcome to add further information, cross-references, or citations, so long as they do so within Wikipedia's editing policies
and to an appropriate standard. One need not fear accidentally damaging Wikipedia when adding or improving information, as other editors
are always around to advise or correct obvious errors, if needed, and the Wikipedia encyclopedia software, known as MediaWiki
, is carefully designed to allow easy reversal of editorial mistakes.
Its website lists 24 languages in which it is available.
I have used it as a reference source almost since its inception. But I just recently took to contributing text to its articles--a practice which I find very rewarding (and addictive). My contributions have been quite diverse: my first was in the existing article "Preferred Stocks," which I adapted from a posting on my blog entitled Beware of Preferred Stocks
published on 4/19/06 in which I explained why individuals
(as distinct from corporations) should never invest in straight
(as distinct from convertible) preferred stocks.
As soon as I posted my insertion into the existing article, I received messages from two "administrators" (individuals who have authority to contact anyone who makes a posting onto Wikipedia
to guide them into making their postings acceptable--and more informative--under the encyclopedia's rules and guidelines). The messages pointed out, among other things, that opinions can't be included in articles, however well-founded they might be; thus, the admonition in my blog posting that individuals should never buy straight preferred stocks was revised to: Some argue that a straight preferred stock, being a hybrid between a bond and a stock, bears the disadvantages of each of those types of securities without enjoying the advantages of either
. (However, opinions can be expressed in the "Discussions" link at the top of the first page of each article.)
There were several back-and-forths between the administrators and me--I gave in on a few issues but refused to delete one part of the text which I maintained was essential (I said I would withdraw my contribution in its entirety if they wouldn't allow the part at issue, following which they agreed with me). One of them suggested my contribution might be "less Anglo-Saxon," about which I told him I was was totally baffled and which he didn't press. All of the correspondence with them was quite amicable. My contribution can be accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preferred_stocks
, beginning with: In the United States there are two types of preferred stocks
... and ending with: Advantages of straight preferreds posited by some advisers...
My second contribution was to an existing article entitled "Chaffin's Bluff"--the site of a battle in Virginia during the Civil War. It included excerpts from letters by my great-grandfather who was a surgeon in the Confederate army to his daughter (later my grandmother) in which he described the heavy fighting going on around him and his heavy load of work tending to wounded men from both sides. This contribution was adapted from my blog Surfing Through American History with Great Grandpa
posted on 2/23/06. I didn't hear from any administrators about it. It can be accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaffin
My third contribution was to write a review of a book Blood Done Sign My Name
, by Timothy Tyson (published in 2005), about a race riot that took place in 1970 in the small North Carolina town in which I was born and grew up. The disturbance followed the acquittal at trial of a white man who brutally killed a black man. I posted the review in the "Discussion" link of the article about the book, which, as I note above, is the place for opinion. (I didn't hear from any administrators about it.) I e-mailed my review to the author of the book and received back a scathing rebuke in which he called me an "idiot" and a "knee-crawling son of a bitch" and so maligned me in a few other ways. That review, the author's comments on it, and comments by another individual can be accessed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_Done_Sign_My_Name
and clicking on the "Discussion" link at the top of the article.
I have become addicted to making contributions to Wikipedia
. Each time I read or think about some historical event, some current topic of interest, read some fiction, or whatever, I am drawn toward doing a posting about it in Wikipedia
. (One isn't restricted to just making contributions to exisiting articles--as I did in my three to date--he can start a new article, subject to maybe having to deal with administrators.) At present, I intend postings on Sherlock Holmes, Thomas Paine, and a few other subjects.
I believe anyone who contributes to Wikipedia
is making a genuine contribution to society, both present and future. It is truly an encyclopedia of the people in the sense that it is an accumulation of massive knowledge, rather than of a relatively few select experts on various topics, as is the case with traditional encyclopedias. Of course, with anybody and everybody able to contribute to it, Wikipedia
is bound to contain erroneous or misleading information from time to time. But the process allows for self-correction: someone spots something wrong and corrects it. I have just spotted a substantial error on the article on Thomas Paine and plan to correct it, as well as add more information about him.CommentAnonymous said...
Dear Mr. Pinnix,Growing up with parents from the South (Dad - Louisiana, Mom - Mississippi) I was raised in a home that separated whites and blacks. I've spent my entire life trying to do the opposite. I read, with interest, your review and the author's response; I stand on your side. You knew your facts, whether you live in Baltimore now or not, and grew up in Oxford therefore seeing first-hand many of the events he spoke of. His response seemed more to bust your knowledge than to address his shortcomings as an author. I will continue to be amazed at your knowledge...much like I am of your son.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007 8:05:00 PM Dear Anonymous,Many thanks for your thoughtful message.Mycroft