The Wikipedia-ization of Knowledge

With all the discussion we have around here about bias in the MSM, an article in the Times Online today poses some interesting questions about the current trend in the democratization of information.

In some ways, what blogs are to the mainstream media, Wikipedia is to encyclopedic sources of knowledge or history texts. Is Wikipedia a "wonder of the internet" and a "repository of knowledge" with the potential to enlighten all, or "a haven for volunteer vandals with poison-pen intellects"? The latter is the description of the founder of USA Today who was libelled in a Wikipedia article about having a role in the assassination of JFK.

Despite this potential for intellectual sabotage offered by an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit or add to, a study performed by the scientific journal Nature concluded that "Wikipedia is actually no more unreliable than the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica – the standard to which the website aspires."

All in all, I think that Wikipedia is a step in the right direction. How could it be a negative development when it "now carries more than 2,500,000 articles and has 80 'live' language versions - from Asturian to Waloon, via Scots, 'Simple English' and Telugu - with another 100 already in the pipeline"?