Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wikipedia fossils

Recently I gave my "professional" assessment of Wikipedia. Here's a brief tangent on Wikipedia, more of an archeological observation.

As I research, I copy any online articles I reference and paste them into a single Word document (along with interview transcriptions, notes from books, and notes from print articles). It creates one long but easily searchable file to account for my facts.

All of those articles remain static, constant, inert, unchanging, frozen...all except Wikipedia. When I look back at any given Wikipedia article I screen corralled and compare it to the article as it currently appears online, they are, of course, never the same.

What I kept is a fossil, a trace of a subject that has evolved. Often the changes are in the name of encyclopedic approach, but that tends to make the revised article less quirky. The small details or seemingly isolated facts are the first (along with typos) to be cut.

On writing projects that go on long enough for a Wikipedia article I've used to be more than just superficially updated, I end up copying and pasting multiple versions of it. And I date each one, too. If only real archeology were so easy.


Anonymous said...

It's posible to grab a link to a specific version of an article out of the page history. For example:

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

You know, I really should have known that. Thanks for pointing it out.