— the free, editable, multi-language, online encyclopedia — 

By now, if you haven’t heard about or investigated Wikipedia, the editable online worldwide encyclopedia, you’ve probably been living without electricity for your entire life.

Short blurbs cover a dazzling array of topics you might never find in any printed compendium. It’s like having a closet full of subject-matter experts in your back room or a help-desk guru at your fingertips. Its reputation for accuracy comes and goes, but the originators have been cracking the whip, which means credibility is on the upswing once again.

On the main page, you can catch some of the day’s news headlines, “selected anniversaries” (a list of curious events from the date in history), and interesting “do you know” tidbits, as well as a daily featured article that shares an item from the Wikipedia collection.

Such a dispersed collaborative venture starts with a “wiki,” which is where you see the impact of the open source software community. Wiki means that a website’s content is editable and open to contributions from anyone, including you. As the Wikipedia website states, the word comes from the Hawaiian “wikiwiki,” which means “quick” or “super-fast.”

And you can share your knowledge and expertise super-fast, too. Do you know a bit of information and have a special slant on it, like the (relatively) short history of text messaging or what happens to the consistency of butter when you add cocoa? Write it up and submit it for inclusion. Wikipedia contains millions of entries, with more added every day.

Check out Community Portal, which tells you how to get involved, what you can do on the site, and how to use the tools. You’ll also find a list of Recent Changes that keep you current with the ongoing contributions.

Scroll to the bottom of the main page to find out more about Wikipedia itself and its sister projects, including a dictionary, a directory of species, free (open source) books and manuals, a collection of quotations, and a shared media repository, among others.

Operated by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation — which always needs your editorial expertise and financial support to keep doing its work — the key idea is that the world is a better place when we share information, not when we hoard it or only make it available exclusively for a fee.

Copyright ©2013 Jill J. Jensen | Clarity from Chaos