November 24th, 2010 by Tim Greenhalgh
Not for the first time this week, I used Wikipedia today to measure information I had received. I do this usually without much thought because Wikipedia has become an essential part of my life.
I cannot imagine an online world without it â€“ and I can vouch that my sons feel the same way, as do millions of other people around the planet.
When I was a kid, we had a complete set of encyclopaedias that must have cost my parents, bless them, a small fortune. They also made us feel at ease in libraries â€“ socially distributed knowledge in solid form.
My Mum and Dad understood the value of knowledge and they wanted their children to understand that too.
Me, my brother and sister certainly did learn that lesson well. Knowledge can lead to understanding â€“ and that, rather than the information itself, is a very useful tool in life.
So when I checked a fact on Wikipedia today, I also learned something about the true value of trusted, socially-created knowledge. The online knowledge baseâ€™s founder, Jimmy Wales, made an appeal that felt direct, personal and very relevant.
Jimmy Wales again asked for financial help to keep the Wikipedia alive, to keep it growing. For once in my life, I was not equally drawn to and repulsed by an appeal. Wikipedia is a rare thing; there is no side to what it offers. It is true. How often can we say that?
I doubt that Jimmy has employed a professional fundraiser to craft the appeal copy but there are fewer, finer postscripts than his:
â€œPS: Wikipedia is about the power of people like us to do extraordinary things. People like us write Wikipedia, one word at a time. People like us fund it, one donation at a time. It’s proof of our collective potential to change the world.â€
Every company, every agency, every single individual who has used Wikipedia should think on this â€¦ and then use their PayPal account to support Wikipedia. Anyone who does not have an account can take the short-term pain and open one, or use a friendâ€™s account.
Why? Because every company, agency and every single individual benefits from Wikipedia. This socially-created knowledge has value that can be easily measured in monetary terms. In our hearts, we also know its true value.
This might become a habit, but here’s number 3 on my all-time, maybe relevant, playlist: