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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wikipedia and the Speed of the Internet

Scott Adams, the cartoonist/humorist who created the Dilbert comic strip and has written numerous books, has a condition called Spasmodic Dysphonia. This condition prevents him from normal speaking. He could speak in public and he could sing, but he couldn't speak normally.

He has a blog, and in today's post (October 24, 2006) on that blog, he writes: "I asked my doctor – a specialist for this condition – how many people have ever gotten better. Answer: zero." Bummer!

But there's good news. Scott goes on to write in the same post that "The day before yesterday, while helping on a homework assignment, I noticed I could speak perfectly in rhyme... I still don’t know if this is permanent. But I do know that for one day I got to speak normally."

Congrats to Scott.

However, this post isn't really about Scott and Spasmodic Dysphonia. It's about the propagation of information on the Internet. Only "the day before yesterday" (October 22, 2006) he discovered a possible path to a cure, the first person ever to do so (and reveal it publicly). Within two days, on October 24, Wikipedia has this information incorporated in its entry on Spasmodic Dysphonia within a few hours of when Scott first published the information on his blog:
There is currently no cure for spasmodic dysphonia. [...]

Scott Adams, the creator of the famous cartoon Dilbert, has had Spasmodic dysphonia up till mid-October, 2006. He developed a method to work around the disorder and has been able to speak normally since. Full story on his weblog [1], no scientific proof yet.
It's amazing to me that an encyclopedia can objectively incorporate information that's just hours old. I've heard a lot of complaints of the objectivity of articles in Wikipedia, but I've found that as long as you discount articles addressing contentious issues (such as Evolution, Religion, etc.), it's stunningly accurate and stunningly up-to-date.

This sort of example has convinced me that some time in the next twenty to fifty years, the Mainstream Media (MSM), especially of the print variety, will cease to exist (or exist just as a novelty). I don't usually make this opinion of mine public because most people just laugh, but the speed of the Internet and the humans monitoring it are something that I don't think the MSM can compete with.

An encyclopedia with information that is never more than a few hours old. Amazing!


Ali Choudhury said...

The Internet's great for quickly disseminating info. You still need people to generate it though.

I love Wiki. It's really brought home how useless traditional encyclopaedias are.

Hey Skipper said...

By sheer coincidence, I read this about Wikipedia.

Remember it the next time someone gets all sniffy (Orrin Judd comes to mind) about citing Wikipedia as a source.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper,
That's a great article and I can feel future posts brewing in my brain. My favorite sentence: "They argue that an army of hobbyists, teenagers, and even the occasional troll can create a more comprehensive, more useful, and possibly even more accurate resource than can be found in the ivied halls."