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Reflection on this blog

One and half years ago I started this blog. It was not too clear what this would achieve. Is it going to be another collection of worthless personal mumbling? Is my writing worth anything? If I build it, will they come?

Other than an initial announcement to my friends I have not actively promoted my blog. Obviously it needs to have something to offer before anyone would come. Despite my passiveness, about half a dozen people stumble upon here each day. To find out where they come from I study the server log with much interest.

Some curious people venture here via the homepage link I put under my membership with sites like slashdot. Some followed the link from the messages I posted in some mailing lists or newsgroups for some specific topics. Still others find the way here via query from search engines. Do they find what they are looking for?

One of the most searched article is the twin pieces I wrote in August about eBay acquiring a stake in craigslist and about Craigslist's revenue. When the news broke out it gave me a sudden jolt. I sat down put my thought into an article. While there is little original information I think I did make some interesting observations. The same post I put in slashdot is also my only +5 comment to date

My review on Lonely Planet's new book Every Country In The World finds a few audiences recently. I purchased it hot off the press and I am perhaps the first few people wrote about it. There is essentially no information listed in google at the time when it came out. Now my review still shows up as item #10 in google, just behind an Amazon entry. Perhaps there is really an advantage to be the first. Frankly a key to my slashdot comment rated as +5 is because it was posted early. If it was posted a few hours late it would have become comment #300 to #900 and would get little attention.

My experiment on building a tiny PC with low power consumption also received some interest. A few people share this special interest on these little known products. Before the advent of the web and search engine these people would have never found each other or share information.

One surprisingly popular article is a review on a 20 years old film Ah Ying. Few people would have seen this when it was released in Hong Kong back in 1983. I love it and I find many people also do. It is available in this amazing VCD format. If you live outside of Hong Kong or China, go to the largest video store in Chinatown. With some luck you may be able to find it.

It is encouraging to find people read and perhaps getting something from my blog. I also find information technology very exciting because it is social in nature.

2004.11.27 [] - comments

 

Former Britannica Editor on Wikipedia

Former Britannica Editor Robert McHenry has an article on Wikipedia titled The Faith-Based Encyclopedia. I was hoping that he will make some valuable critique on the Wikipedia project. Unfortunately the article is mostly him trashing the Wikipedia, labeling it as faith-based (dictionary definition of faith: Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence) and comparing using Wikipedia as going to public restroom. It is much like hearing Bill Gates dismissing Linux.

The one example he based his attack on is an article on Alexander Hamilton, especially an inaccuracy regarding the uncertainty of his birth year. To be honest I think he is just nitpicking on the two years difference. It may matter to an historian but to me I got fair amount of basic information despite this subtle issue. First lesson, in the age of information glut, critical reading is an essential skill. Not that I would trust Britannica or other professional journalist completely as they too are human who can make mistakes. Set you trust base on the background of the author. Expect error and disagreements.

So I went to Wikipedia to see the article for myself and I came out with quite different impression. The inaccuracy he raised is addressed by volunteers on the same day. I think he should be really impressed. Wikipedia also keep a list of mistakes in Britannica. I wonder how long it would take for them to be addressed. More interestingly this highlighted a new idea, that articles are no longer a static, completed work but always a work in progress.

Then I checked the change history. One thing I appreciate about Wiki is its transparency. Every change is commented. It shows active participation from multiple individuals. They maybe not be in full agreement, but they do know what they are talking about. It is not quite the sloppy image Robert tried to project.

Many editors also posted their profile. See a few of them who has contributed to this article

Taxman
I've been reading everything I could get my hands on since the age of 5...

Decumanus (Matthew Trump)
A U.S. physicist, computer consultant and ex-New Yorker...

R. fiend
I'm just a guy with too much free time on my hands...
(sounds self-deprecating for someone who has contributed over 50 articles)

These sounds like fairly intelligent individuals to me. And that's what so revolutionary about Wiki. It networks many bright people and facilitate them to work toward a common goal. Wikipedia is one great example of solid achievement.

As of Robert McHenry, I would said he is really behind times.

2004.11.17 comments

 

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