Tag Archives: Google

Wikipedia: The Ultimate Good?

Over the past few months, Wikipedia‘s push for public funding has evolved from spokespeople (in the form of both celebrities and “everyday” people) to a “voice of reason” via Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia’s founder).  Upon logging on to the site, the user is greeted with a banner the following banner, requesting you take a moment from your browsing to consider what Wikipedia is… and what Wikipedia could be:

Once the user takes a moment to read Wales’ appeal, they’re brought to a page with a personal note, the bulk of which is displayed below (click picture for full note):

It’s easy to see where Wales is coming from.  If  a company like Microsoft or Google pruchased a percentage of Wikipedia (much like Microsoft did with Facebook), it would certainly make it easier for the “non-profit” to stay afloat… but would it affect the information provided?

I submit, and I trust you will agree, that it certainly would.  Imagine you, a Wikipedia user, are interested in researching Professional Wrestling storylines (a personal favorite procrastination search of my own).  As you find yourself reading about a feud between the Ultimate Warrior and Hulk Hogan during Wrestlemania VI, you discover a link for “Mr. Perfect,” one of your personal favorites wrestlers.  When you click on the link, however, it’s not “Mr. Perfect’s” Wikipedia page that opens, it’s his “Bing” or “Google” search results (depending, of course, on the partner).

Here in lays the problem.  As Wales points out, “We Need to Protect Wikipedia.”  If Wikipedia is publicly funded, as Wales hopes, the above scenario will not come to fruition.  Instead, a site where “every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge” will be possible.  As Paul Levinson notes in New New Media (Penguin, 2009):

Wikipedia is the most thorough-going, consistantly user-driven system on the Internet.  It is the pick of the new new media litter, at least insofar as its primary, revolutionary charactersitic of allowing consumers to become producers (p. 90)

Tonight, while watching Monday Night Football (MNF) with my girlfriend’s family, I was asked what the lineage of announcers since the start of MNF was.  Logically, I searched Wikipedia and came to an answer within seconds (if not sooner).  Some of the article, I’m sure, was written/edited by ABC (long-time broadcaster of MNF).  Other components, likewise, were indubitably composed by ESPN (who has held the rights to MNF since 2006 — yes, I got that bit from Wikipedia).  Furthermore, there are the multitudes of NFL fans and MNF traditionalists who have added and edited their factual components of “all-things” MNF.

In a microcosm, this is what makes Wikipedia “revolutionary.”  As the title reads, I wonder if Wikipedia can, one day, become this all encompassing “good’ that Wales depicts in this open-letter to Wikipedia users?  My best guess is that it will.  There are millions of people in the world who can’t stand not knowing “who sings that song,” “what other shows is s/he in,” or “what’s the meaning of life?”  Wikipedia does, for these questioners and more, represent a haven for knowledge.  And it is a haven that Jimmy Wales hopes will remain safe from taint in the near future.

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Google Wave Foray: 1st Edition

We learn best by practicing, working, or doing the activity that we study. (Levinson, New New Media)

The above quote came within the first nine pages of Paul Levinson‘s New New Media (Penguin, 2009) as the author qualifies his methodology citing American Philosopher, John Dewey‘s maxim for learning.  Within the early pages of New New Media, Levinson submits the the hallmark of New New Media as the opportunity for “anyone [to] join, play, or work on them” (Levinson, 10).  Last night, I had an opportunity to explore exactly what Levinson posits in the early chapters of his latest book, as my application for Google‘s new Google Wave was approved.

To begin, Doctor Wave (who reveals his true name to be “Greg” in the introduction video) provides a brief introduction to the Wave.  Though, there are admittedly a plethora of reasons why the length of the intro is so brief, I submit that Google doesn’t want the user to feel pressured into operating the Wave the “standard” way.  In fact, my early foray into the Wave has provided anything but a standard operating procedure.

Above, rests my first day of work.  As you can see it’s fairly plain, listing a standard (there’s that word again) navigation bar, contacts list, and inbox.  However, one less-than-standard characteristic of the Wave.. are the “waves” themselves:


Within the picture, a conversation/discussion/meeting/whatever-one-uses-it-for is taking place between myself and two friends from college.  Within the snapshot, the viewer notices the application of “gadgets” into the Wave.  Gadgets, or (web) widgets and apps (application software), provide the same user-generated content carrying Facebook toward virtual “Uno,” “Farmville,” “Mob Wars,” and “Friend Finder.”  At times annoying (see any Facebook “News Feed” regarding “cow” purchases on Farmville or a “hit” on Mob Wars), the manifestation of these gadgets appears to take root in group collaboration/communication.

Currently, as my conversation with a former co-worker relays, collaborations or group work (in the broadest of definitions) are based from a purely textual perspective.  Eventually, the Wave will come incorporate the same video technology (see: Skype, ooVoo, etc.) currently housed on Gmail‘s Google Talk (also known as “gchat”).  In fact, multiple video chats operating concurrently lends itself to the anthropotropic characteristics evident in even the earliest stages of Google’s Wave.

Finally, as I wrapped on this post, a close friend “pinged” me:

Putting our heads together, we instantaneously identified “pinging” as Instant Messaging.  Further, one of Wave’s most unique characteristics became evident: keystroke to screen communication.  Without hitting “Enter,” Regina was able to see every letter I pounded into the “ping” box.

Meaning every time I misspelled a word, relayed misinformation, or wrote something I didn’t want her to read… she had the ability to catch my misspelling, mistakes, or rude demeanor.  This addition to the Instant Messaging universe as it’s known delivers a number of immediate changes to the code of conduct or ethical guidelines by which users abided (and still do, for the most part) since IMing’s conception (dating back to Windows Messanger, ICQ, and AOL Instant Messanger).

The initial shock of key-stroke submission soon wore, as Regina suggested that her “Social Media” plate was quickly filling (and just in time for finals!).  Though, it’s far from coming to fruition, my media convergence supposition is idealistic (at best) for the time being.  While Wave’s mobile desktop potential is evident, it’s hardly available at the time being.

At the end of our discussion, I experienced another novel component of Wave’s “Ping:” editing.  Again, ethically speaking, this may have been rude.  But justifying my actions with John Dewey’s educational maxim, I corrected Regina’s grammatical mistake.  Though my snapshot doesn’t show it, I promise she didn’t mind.

At the end of my session, I have nothing but positive feedback to provide Google.  The universe of possibilities for Wave are limitless at the conclusion of Day 1.  The most interesting elements to note are the potential for mass-editing (as discussed with Tom regarding video and audio productions) and the potential for Wave as mobile desktop (as detailed just above with Regina).  In the end, the most interesting characteristic of my initial foray into Google’s Wave is that I was able to collaborate and sculpt ideas with my friends, co-workers, and peers with relative immediacy and ease.

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