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Congratulations to Wikipedia for two Webby nominations

Wikipedia has been nominated for two Webby awards this year.

It’s up against some heavy hitters (currently losing to Google and LiveJournal in its two categories), but just a nomination is an acomplishment, let alone a second-place finish, which looks like a probability.

Wikipedia, in case you don’t know, is an effort to create a free and complete encyclopedia. Anyone can contribute to it, which is the best and worst thing about it. As time goes on, that becomes more of a good thing than a bad thing. There are topics in Wikipedia that get ample coverage that an encyclopedia written by academics would never touch, either because the subject is too taboo, or because it’s too obscure.

Wikipedia is growing at an explosive rate. Its article count hit 200,000 earlier this year and has already hit 250,000. (I’m surprised this didn’t get mention on Slashdot, but earlier milestones have.) I recommend you check it out. As time goes on, you’ll stumble across it more and more when you search the Web for information.

At least one person who read about Wikipedia initially on this site has gone on to become an editor over there. To which I say, congratulations.

I don’t contribute to Wikipedia at nearly the rate I once did. To be a major contributor, at least at one point, was to invite conflict–and conflict was something I neither had time nor energy for. I had better things to do than battle with someone with a too-big ego. The person I had the most conflicts with has since left the project, and I resigned myself to more obscure topics: First, 1980s computing, and later, model railroading. These days, I guess I appear to be strictly an O gauge specialist. But that’s OK. There’s a lot of information out there that people want and can’t find.

So that’s what I encourage you to do. You don’t have to become an every-day contributor, or even a regular one. Check out what Wikipedia has to say about your hometown and add one detail that might be missing. Do the same for an organization you belong to or admire, or maybe a company that you happen to know a lot about. If your favorite hobby isn’t anywhere to be found, write up an introduction. Frequently when a new article appears, someone else notices it and contributes something. And soon, what once was nothing becomes a pretty good encyclopedia entry.

Wikipedia is definitely something I recommend to anyone who wants to write professionally. Write a couple of entries and watch the changes people make to them. Some will be good, and some will be terrible. Learning to tell the difference is the skill that separates a competent writer from a good or even great one.

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