I love Wikipedia. Wikipedia is the reason I pre-ordered the first generation kindle. Yes, I thought it would be cool to have a device that could hold a couple hundred books, a device where I could buy and download a book while sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s or curled up in my berth on the train. But if it hadn’t been for the inclusion of Wikipedia, I would’ve waited. The idea of having at my fingertips — wherever I happened to be — the most thorough encyclopedia that has ever existed was too delicious to pass up. I’m well aware of the criticisms. Wikipedia can be wrong. But the fact is, it often isn’t. I’m not writing a dissertation. I’m not a journalist. Nor am I naive student. And to be frank, Wikipedia rocks my world. I use it every single day. I must utter “I love Wikipedia”, easily, ten times a week. The most recent instance of this was shortly before my book group get together this past weekend. We’ve been reading Plutarch’s Lives which has a lot difficult to pronounce names and places. I was pretty sure I knew how to say Alcibiades, but I wanted to check. I knew Wikipedia offered phonetic spellings for words whose pronunciation isn’t obvious but I was thrilled to see a little button next to Alcibides name — “Listen”. A moment later I knew my college tutors hadn’t steered me wrong.
I even have a little Wikipedia game that I play. You can play alone or with others. Pick two topics. Say “Jodie Foster” and “Christmas ornament”. Now, try to get from article to another in as few clicks as possible. I just tried it and did it in six clicks though I suspect it could be done in fewer than that. Wikipedia fun!
Now that I’ve finally joined the world of smartphone users, I have a gorgeous Wikipedia app. I am often in situations, sitting around talking friends when we find ourselves unsure of something. Somtimes I whip out the phone and solve the problem then and there. But sometimes I wish I hadn’t — bringing a piece of technology into a free flowing conversation can break the rhythm. It’s times like these that I think “not knowing” might just be okay. After all, instead of the answer being handed to us, we speculate about the conundrum at hand. We think it through collaboratively which can be as pleasurable as knowing and in the end, perhaps more fruitful. Regardless, even if we don’t figure it all out, I can look it up on Wikipedia once I get to the car.