Why I’m a Fan of Wikipedia

Note: All links on this page lead to Wikipedia. You’ve been warned.

We’ll finish up the year here on Bewildered Mother with a post-Christmas post, but I have something I’d like to post publicly before the year ends. I’m also going to keep this short, because it’s my anniversary today!

And since I’m feeling particularly generous this morning, I’ll throw in a giveaway. Read on for details.

Wikipedia has been fundraising for the fiscal year 2011-2012 for a few months now. I thought that I could give a few dollars to the cause, but never got around to it. How many times have I seen that “Personal appeal” banner on a Wikipedia page and haven’t donated?

Now, let me just say first off, that there are many noble causes to give money to. Salvation Army does a lot of fundraising this time of year and is an AMAZING organization. We also give monthly to Compassion, to sponsor a child in Haiti. But Wikipedia doesn’t give money to the poor. So shouldn’t we give our money to something that does? Sure! Go ahead! I especially like MyCharityWater, which gives all money to build wells, giving fresh water to the poorest of people.

If you donate to Wikipedia, you won’t be saving lives (Unless maybe someone learns CPR on wikipedia), and you won’t be giving water or food to people. And I think that’s why so many generous people with good intentions do not donate—it isn’t a charity. Also, unlike so many charitable organizations, Wikipedia doesn’t advertise. At all. It doesn’t advertise itself and it doesn’t advertise other organizations. The only way it really raises money for itself is to put up banners on its own site. Anyway, let’s cut to the chase…

Why I’m giving to Wikipedia

  • I like to think of Wikipedia as an old uncle. It may not be right all the time, it may have some opinions every once in a while, and you can’t cite it on a research paper, but it does give you answers, and it might do a better job than your wacky dad.

P.S. You'd hire an engineering consultant. Unless you're talking about Balsa Wood bridges.

  • Wikipedia is an amazing launching point, even if you can’t cite it in papers, it gives you a broad look at complex ideas given in plain English (and even in Simple English). Then it gives you a multitude of links to give you even more answers.
  • All those links also harbor curiosity. Which is why you can start off looking at Queen Victoria and end up learning about Crohn’s disease (her husband may have died from it) in just two clicks.
  • If you are writing a paper, or just want more reliable sources, you can read the slew of resources other people cited to write the Wikipedia article.
  • I’m not usually a proponent of instant gratification, because long term exposure makes people incredibly impatient, but if you need answers quickly, you are pretty much guaranteed to find what you are looking for on Wikipedia—I think it’s often more reliable than doing a Google search because it can be edited and changed by anyone. Yes, sometimes you’ll get a crazy person that throws profanity into an article just for kicks (I’ve seen it), but others can fix that. And editors are constantly monitoring things to get them up to standard.
  • My husband uses Wikipedia to satisfy geekiness—he looks up trivia on Wikipedia—but probably not to the extent that I have, since I’ve spent hours reading Wookiepedia, a wiki encyclopedia devoted entirely to Star Wars.
  • As a writer, I use Wikipedia CONSTANTLY to get a broad understanding of a topic one of my characters is interested in. Right now I’m writing about a string trio that gets transported back to the 14th Century. One short story had me looking up the Intromission Theory of Light.
  • I used the public genealogies posted on Wikipedia to confirm my direct genetic links to Charlemagne (He’s my 36th great grandfather).

Did you know that Wikipedia has an offline version that they deliver to schools in Kenya? That way these children can have access to the world’s largest encyclopedia, in different languages, without having to pay for internet access.

This would be a great way to spent some of that Christmas money your grandmother gave you.

Here’s my challenge. Go back to work, as usual. On Friday, look at your browsing history. For every Wikipedia page you have visited in the last week, donate $1. I think the minimum donation is $5. If everybody reading this post donated $5, who knows! Maybe we can help get Wikipedia it’s funding by the end of 2011. That would be pretty amazing!

Just by writing this blog post, I’ll be donating about $20.

As a little incentive, I’m going to have a giveaway.

Here’s the prize:

A custom silhouette, drawn by me, and sent to you digitally in a variety of sizes, to be used for stationery, a social media profile picture, or printing, to name a few ideas. The silhouette can be in profile or full body, it can be you, a friend or family member, a celebrity, a pet, or even a house or inanimate object. Here’s some of my previous work:

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Donate a minimum of $5 to Wikipedia. This is on the honor system, folks. I trust you won’t tell me you gave money if you didn’t give any.
  2. Write an ode to Wikipedia, or to a Wikipedia article. Post it as a comment on this blog (i.e. not on Facebook)
  • It doesn’t have to rhyme, and it doesn’t have to be a song or a poem. Maximum 500 words.
  • I’ll pick the winning ode based on creativity and/or wit. LT will help me choose. If we can’t pick one together, there will be two winners (or a grand prize and a runner-up).
  • Deadline is Friday, December 30th, at 9PM EST
  • Winners will be announced and contacted on or before Monday, January 2nd.

Giving to others and making silly things give off happy endorphins. Pretty sure. Go make some!

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3 thoughts on “Why I’m a Fan of Wikipedia

  1. Although I won’t be doing the “challenge” because I hardly use the site I wanted to drop you a line and let you know that I love reading your blogs and I love how you seem to incorporate LT and little man in them. They always seem to make me smile. You are a very special person, Caitlin, both you and LT give so much of yourselves! Keep posting! <3

  2. Howdy! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after reading through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Nonetheless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

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