Happy Birthday, Wikipedia

By in

Wikipedia turns nine years old today; it first went online on January 15, 2001.

Yes, our favorite free online encyclopedia shares the same birthday as Butch Dalisay, Mario Van Peebles, Martin Luther King, Jr., Shane McMahon, and Molière.  Wikipedia shares the same anniversary day as Coca-Cola, basketball, and the Boston Molasses Disaster.  Wikipedia was born on the January day when The Black Dahlia was murdered, and the good people of Malawi celebrate the heroism of John Chilembwe. 

All that information, of course, is from Wikipedia itself, including the fact that Brad Renfro – star of Apt Pupil and American Girl – died a couple of years ago from a drug overdose.  The first-ever Super Bowl was played in January 15, 1967.  For F4 fans, today is also the 31st birthday of Ken Chu, also known as Xi Men (yep, that was his name) in the hit Taiwanese soap, Meteor Garden.

Ah, Wikipedia.  Awesomeness in a bookmark.

I have a love-hate relationship with Wikipedia.  I love Wikipedia for being a repository of celebrity birthdays, professional wrestling trivia, and all sorts of mundane information that really make no huge difference in my life.  Yet my unbridled hatred for the font of all Internet knowledge (the other one being Verdana, depending on what your browser uses) stems from how it is used; many a student, blogger, commentator, pundit, and smartass will quote entire phrases from Wikipedia in the absence of – or outright laziness to get – a book from a library.  Rather than be a portal for knowledge, the text in Wikipedia becomes the source of knowledge itself.

That doesn’t stop some of us from quoting Wikipedia like intellectual scripture, but nevertheless, it works fine for providing the first line of defense when assuming intelligence is absolutely necessary.  Some teachers I know have already given up on the ethics of scholarship; like a “five percent limit” to sources attributed to Wikipedia.  Then again, it’s hard to imagine life without people creating knowledge for free, questioning that knowledge in Talk pages, editing Wikipedia entries to add your name to some list, and quoting entire passages of intelligent-sounding Wiki posts to provide yourself with an air of expertise.

“Wikiality,” as Stephen Colbert put it once: truth by consensus.  If it’s on the Internet, it must be true, and if it’s on Wikipedia, it should be nothing but the truth.  Accept no arguments.

Here’s to Wikipedia on its ninth birthday, and a very meaningful celebration of Korean Alphabet Day, celebrated by the North Koreans under the guidance and tutelage of the Dear Leader.

3 comments on “Happy Birthday, Wikipedia”

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    • John
    • January 16, 2010

    Those interested in the Wikipedia anniversary should take a look at my list of the 9 turning points in the last 9 years of Wikipedia history. See 9 Turning Points in 9 Years of Wikipedia History

    Strangely, one of the things that Wikipedia doesn’t do well is talk about its own history, and you won’t find any celebrations on the site today.

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