Wikipedia is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. With more than 17 million articles in over 270 languages, Wikipedia has become one of the most relied upon sites on the web today.
I know whenever I am doing research, the first thing I do is visit Wikipedia. And in a meeting with our new client ExtraHop in Seattle last week, we used Wikipedia at least four times to double check spellings of new and common technology terms such as eCommerce and datacenter. We all disagreed with a standard and went to Wikipedia to prove us right or wrong.
My daughter – a few years shy of 10 – hasn’t grasped Wikipedia, yet is a whiz on Google when she wants to find a new game site her friends were talking about. And even though I rely on Wikipedia, I am going to keep my daughter away from it as long as possible. She needs to learn the old-fashioned way and that using a physical encyclopedia or dictionary is more of an experience.
At the beginning of the school year, my daughter brought home a dictionary. There’s something really wonderful about flipping through the pages and finding the correct spellings and definitions. It’s the equivalent of hand writing a thank you note instead of typing it and emailing it, or the equivalent of reading a hardcover book instead of reading a Kindle version.
As I sat down with my daughter to help her with her homework, I was reminded that today we are too connected and too reliant on our devices. I know I am. Her homework was to look up five interesting words from the book she’d read the night before and write down the various definitions. I immediately went to my desktop to look up the words. She went to her dictionary. Finding the word in my daughter’s dictionary takes at least 30 seconds more than typing it in Wikipedia and loading the page, but the act of finding the word is teaching her how to sound out and spell and THINK. Typing a word in Wikipedia isn’t as much fun or educational.
My livelihood depends on technologies and companies like Wikipedia, so as much as I want the world to slow down and take things in more like eight year olds do, I will probably just use Wikipedia to look up the definition of Gnosiophobia, which ironicly is not easily found there.