Wikipedia is Withering

Is anyone finding that Wikipedia entries don’t turn up much in searches anymore? Even Wikipedia is citing its own demise due to lack of volunteer editors and a lapse in the quality of the work. Cleaning closets this weekend I came across what could be the quaintest device I’ve ever owned: The WikiReader. It stored Wikipedia entries internally and used a battery operated reader to search the contents. Funny story. Years ago, when I was editor of PC Magazine, a guy named Jimmy Wales paid a visit to my office to explain how we were “ALL” going to write the next version of the encyclopedia together. I couldn’t tell if the idea had any merit or not. I guess it did.

It strikes me that Wikipedia is suffering for other reasons, some self-inflicted. For one, the medium of the day is visual and video. Wikipedia is text heavy. In many ways, YouTube is the modern day crowd-sourced encyclopedia. For another, Wikipedia was always a sort of a secret society. You aren’t allowed to publish an entry about yourself, so you could either cajole a friend into doing it or hire one of the many wiki page writing agencies that sprang up to meet the need. The whole thing smelled like a black market. Plus you need to be able to cite Web references throughout Wikipedia documents, a rigorous and laborious task. Will there be a next Wikipedia? For humankind’s sake I hope so.

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