Saturday, January 08, 2005


I have just contributed to the world's knowledge!

I have used the Wikipedia on a number of occasions but have never felt an urge to edit anything. But I broke the ice this morning and edited the entry for By the Pricking of my Thumbs.

I was working on a column (for VoIP Magazine) and had an inspiration to title the column "Something Wicked This Way Comes." I knew the line was from Shakespeare but couldn't remember the context. I checked the Wikipedia which had a great entry on the subject and it reminded me that the line is from Macbeth. The whole line reads

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes

It is uttered by a witch as Macbeth enters. But reading this entry made me wonder what "by the pricking of my thumbs" meant. Wikipedia had a link to this other phrase and I happily clicked on it (continuing to procrastinate from writing the column... as I am continuing to do...)

But horrors! The Wikipedia entry merely mentioned some Agatha Christie novel! I still wanted to know what the phrase meant, so I went to Google and ended up reading a couple of different sites to uncover the etymology. But then it struck me -- I should go back and update the Wikipedia so that the next person doesn't have to repeat my search!

The only scary part of this was how easy it was to update the article. I didn't have to register, there was no review process, no waiting period... How is it that the Wikipedia has not been attacked by spammers, by people with a grudge, or on a mission from god?

OK, now I should really stop procrastinating and finish that column...

1 comment:

dan said...

The Wikipedia's openness and reliability are fascinating issues. In the last couple of weeks, there's been a pretty sharp debate about this involving one of the Wikipedia's founders (here and here) and Internet maven Clay Shirky (here and here).

I think the Wikipedia is cool, too; but since I've realized exactly how open it is, I've treated it exactly the same way as any other source I'd find in a Google search: just one among many possible sources of information, and one that needs corroboration if possible.