02 August 2007

The Beauty of Wikipedia

Yesterday evening, a bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota collapsed. Before that, its article on Wikipedia was a two-paragraph stub.

Now, several hundred edits later, it has a detailed description, a fairly comprehensive history section, and full information about the collapse itself and aftermath - all of it backed up with nearly 50 references. Plus it's chock full of excellent photos from both before and after.

The discussion page is the usual chaos of laws and sausages, with two key points standing out: the fact that under heavy public scrutiny it was crucial to make sure everything was completely accurate (suddenly "citation needed" makes perfect sense doesn't it) and written with a neutral point of view as befit an encyclopedia; and that it was the time for dumping as much info into it as possible, and not the time for revising anything back out again (aside from the frequent obvious vandal edits and uncited potentially misleading info).

But that's behind the scenes and below the surface. In the public eye it's an impressively well-written, professional looking article. Out of total chaos in just 24 hours, we now have something that's well on its way to earning a lucky special gold star as a Featured Article.

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