Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Wiki is not a religion – yet

It is, in many academic circles, considered utterly bogus to cite Wikipedia as an online source. I have a certain degree of sympathy for that viewpoint. After all, anyone with an internet connection may create or edit Wikipedia entries. That’s not a bug in the system or a weakness of its design – it’s the whole idea of Wikipedia. Contrast this with traditional encyclopedias, which pride themselves on amassing a roster of identified subject experts with all manner of degrees and documented expertise. Also, once the encyclopedia has been printed, the text will absolutely remain unchanged in the copy you buy.

In spite of these concerns, I find Wikipedia to be an indispensable tool for online research. Besides, if I have any doubts or further questions, I am certainly free to keep on surfing the internet looking for data. I’m not convinced that Wikipedia is any less reliable than any number of other online sources. I always try to remember that free information is worth what you paid for it.

I wondered aloud recently what the origin of the “Wiki” part of the name might be. One friend said they thought it referred to the site’s founders being members of the Wicca religion. While I didn’t have an alternative theory to offer, that one just didn’t sound right to me; it clanked rather than rang in my ears. So I decided to research the question – on Wikipedia. And I quote: “A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.” So where did the word wiki come from? Again I quote: “Wiki is a Hawaiian word for “fast”… “Wiki” can be expanded as “What I Know Is”, but this is a backronym.”

I left in that last part about a “backronym” because I found it so amusing. As you might infer from context, a backronym, and I quote, is “a reverse acronym, a phrase constructed after the fact to make an already existing word or words into an acronym.”

So now you know. And if, by some chance, you’ve never been to Wikipedia, I commend it to your attention. Just like a traditional encyclopedia, you can get lost flipping through it, and that’s not a bad thing!

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