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Andrew Lih on Wikipedia

I just read Andrew Lih’s The Wikipedia Revolution, in preparation for an interview I’m doing on March 25 at the Berkman Center. (Actually, the actual location hasn’t been announced yet. But somewhere at Harvard.) It’s a terrific book.

Andrew tells the story historically, providing tons of context and background. As the title makes clear, he thinks Wikipedia is epochally important, but the book isn’t about touting Wikipedia and gesticulating towards its implications. Rather, given that Wikipedia is at least rather interesting, how did it get there? The simple story we’ve heard so frequently — it’s the encyclopedia we all wrote in our spare time — masks a complex mix of personality, theory, politics, social interaction, software and hardware. Andrew doesn’t shy away from the controversies and tells the story from a neutral point of view … neutral given that he implicitly thinks Wikipedia is overall pretty awesome. In that he mirrors Wikipedia itself: It is (overall) neutral given that the contributors agree that a group-authored encyclopedia that aims for NPOV is worth working on.

If you want to understand Wikipedia, I highly recommend this book, especially in tandem with How Wikipedia Works by Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, and Ben Yates, a terrific and detailed explanation of the intricacies of Wikipedia’s structure, ethos, rules, and hierarchy.

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