The New York Review of Books has a jealousy inducing piece on Wikipedia, it’s that well written. OK, technically it is a review of John Broughton’s “Wikipedia: The Missing Manual,” a book that describes how to write Wikipedia entries that last. But Nicholson Baker, author of Double Fold, talks mostly about Wikipedia itself, and his own experiences with the internet phenomenon.

Baker does not feel the need to attack or pre-emptively defend Wikipedia, and that—together with the appearance of books such as Broughton’s—seems to signal a turning point for the online encyclopaedia. Wikipedia is no longer in need of definition. You can still have very strong opinions about it but they won’t make Wikipedia go away, nor make it any less important. Today, Wikipedia just is.

Via Martin Wisse.


  1. Overall, the world is better off with a resource like Wikipedia in it than not. The other day I was reading a book that was an NYT bestseller awhile ago and I’m reading the paperback version. And despite the generally well-written piece of nonfiction, one of the chapter subheads used a quote from Lincoln that is widely regarded as bogus by Lincoln scholars. Oddly enough, the wikiquotes entry for Lincoln flags the quote as bogus.

    Score one for distributed fact-checking.

  2. Brian Carnell mentions faulty quotes that are identified as questionable by Wikipedia. Here is another example from the book “Living History” by Hillary Rodham Clinton

    There’s an old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” that became a running joke in our family. Bill and I would ask each other, “Well, are you having an interesting time yet?”

    Wikipedia points out that The Yale Book of Quotations states “No authentic Chinese saying to this effect has ever been found.” I present this example because the book is a bestseller by a prominent person, and not because hypercriticism of Clinton is warranted. References to this “old Chinese curse” are ubiquitous and individuals of every political stripe have mentioned this supposed curse.

    The Wikipedia entry for the phrase ”May you live in interesting times” contains some fascinating information about its origin. Well maybe it is not too fascinating. OK, I am rather biased because I added some of the key information. I added the data from the Yale Book of Quotations as well as the quotation tracing the phrase back to the British Prime Minister’s brother, Austen Chamberlain.

    Wikipedian “editors” have been welcoming and complimentary so far. They encouraged me to add information that I placed on the “discussion” page directly into the main article. In fact dilatoriness resulted in an insistence that I change the main article. “Be Bold”, I was told. Note the entry might be completely different when you read this comment, and my handiwork might have been overwritten since Wikipedia is the modern palimpsest.

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