Wikipedia is a new type of encyclopedia which has only come into existence since the development of the Internet. It describes itself as follows:
"Wikipedia is a Web-based, multi-language, free-content encyclopedia written collaboratively by volunteers and sponsored by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. It has editions in roughly 200 different languages (about 100 of which are active) and contains entries both on traditional encyclopedic topics and on almanac, gazetteer, and current events topics. Its purpose is to create and distribute a free international encyclopedia in as many languages as possible. Wikipedia is one of the most popular reference sites on the internet, receiving around 60 million hits per day."
The idea is that individual writers sign up and contribute articles on various people, subjects or topics, which are then held up to discussion and debate by other Wikipedia contributors. In this way, hopefully, a quite decent amount of material is built up on all manner of things, some of it very timely indeed.
As an example of that take the current case of "MNspeak.com vs Garrison Keilor". I guess most of us are aware of Keilor as the host of the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show and author of several novels. MNspeak.com, on the other hand, is small weblog that has found itself in a spot of bother. It seems the blog's proprietor decided to have a bit of a joke and produced a number of T-shirts (not sure how many) bearing the logo "A Prairie Ho Companion", with a big black line drawn straight through the middle of the words. It's a joke. A parody. He's just taking the piss. But Keilor didn't think so, and sicced his lawyers onto MNspeak.com with a "cease and desist" order. They have - they really had no choice. As in all legal matters, money rules. Anyway, you can read the whole gruesome story, including the letter from the lawyers and a photo of the T-shirt on the blog under the heading "A Prairie Homeboy Companion" - which I think is just as good as the T-shirt logo.
Yeah, so? you ask. Well, the Garrison Keilor entry in Wikipedia has already been updated with a note and links to this dispute. Given the saga has only been running for a couple of weeks and the main story was only posted to MNspeak.com yesterday, I'd say we have a good example of the site's timeliness.
I've been using Wikipedia for a while now and find it generally well-written and informative. Plus, it's readable. A good example of what the internet can really achieve. It needs a bit of work on its Australian literature section, and if I find the time I might post a few items there.
[Thanks to Bookslut for the MNspeak.com link.]