The Wikipedia is a free public encyclopedia. The premise of this project brings open source ideals to general and public knowledge.
I could delve into lengthy histories and explanations, but there are some great sources out there, in particular Wikipedia’s own About page.
There exist a number of non-English Wikipedias, attesting to the success of the project’s core goals.
The very idea of common knowledge in this context is limitless. To edit knowledgebases in real time, relying on the common desire for correct information is, if not revolutionary, certainly given a new meaning when combined with the global connection that is made possible by the internet.
Recently, Wikipedia has garnered a lot of attention, and, as a result, many visitors and contributors. Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, wrote an interesting article on the prevalence of anti-elitism in the contributing community. In it, he describes some faults of the current moderation system (of which there is none,) and the failure of many contributors to give enough respect to the knowledge of masters of a particular field. It’s an interesting read, and has many interesting comments; Sanger has responded to a few of them.
Another, somewhat related issue is that of neutrality. Obviously, some issues are more controversial than others. Because of this, a neutrality dispute system has been implemented. Political articles are also under close watch, as the article on George W. Bush was locked both before and during the 2004 election in response to vandalism on the article.
In time, the problems of the Wikipedia will solve themselves, but the idea of open source general knowledge is pretty cool regardless of those who don’t respect it. The community grows each day, bringing with this growth myriad new experts that are willing to let the world know what they know.
Here are some articles that I found particularly interesting: