Wikipedia The Bridge Builder

Some years ago a friend wanted to add information to her mother’s Wikipedia entry. Her mother had been a renowned actress, but before she could do it, she had to pass muster with the editors of the service. It turned out to be a hassle for she not only had to prove the significance and impartiality of her additions, she also had to enter them in a way that met their style.  She was glad when it was over, but nevertheless appreciative of a process that would prevent anyone from just entering whatever they deemed appropriate.  The process behind the scenes is what makes Wikipedia the trusted, reliable,  accessible and widely read information site it has become. In an era where issues are polarized, Wikipedia has managed a neutral tone. The main site on abortion,  for example, since it has many, does not give medical advice, just describes what it is and the several ways it can be done. The neutral  tone, however, comes after much effort, many discussions and is not easily achieved. In fact the head of Wikipedia’s parent company says that the most controversial a subject is, the more they end up being neutral.  As a result it seems that Wikipedia has become a model for how crowdsourced knowledge can function in societies as polarized as we have become, so much so that in 2016 the Harvard Business Review used it as one of its case studies.  A headline in an Axios article “Wikipedia Blazes a Trail in a Divided World” tells us what it has accomplished. Wikipedia is now 10 years old, and there’s every reason to believe that it will continue at least for the next 10 years.

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