CHAUTAUQUA – Andrew Lih is one of the main reasons why Wikipedia fills the knowledge gap and records history in real time.
And Wikipedia is used by many people as well as businesses.
Lih spoke to an audience in the amphitheater at the Wikimedia movement’s Chautauqua Institution on Wednesday about how technology, through open access, allows people to connect across the country’s cultural heritage in a way never before possible. His presentation was part of the theme, “The Future of History.”
“So, I don’t know if I told you this, but you meet Wikipedia everywhere even if you don’t know it.” he said.
If people use Google to search the internet, chances are the article they are going to read is from Wikipedia. Wikipedia is seen in places it wasn’t seen about 10 years ago, he said.
“What you might not know is that Wikipedia is actually used every time you say ‘Hey, Google?’ “Hey, Alexa?” Almost always this answer comes up according to Wikipedia,” Lih noted.
The same result happens to iPhone users when they ask Siri a question.
One of the advantages of Wikipedia is that it is free when there are no membership fees or monthly fees.
“You are free to download the articles, modify them, copy them, sell them if you wish”, Lih said, “and that’s the beauty of Wikipedia as a free encyclopedia.”
Wikipedia is one of the 10 most visited websites in the world, and it is the only non-profit organization in the top 50, he said.
Wikipedia takes its name from the free Wiki Wiki shuttles from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, Honolulu, Hawaii. Wiki in the Hawaiian language means fast. The for-profit online encyclopedia started called New Pedia in 2000, Lih said. Later, Ward Cunnigham, a software developer, had his Wiki software where one could edit a page without having to log in. So the folks at New Pedia, Lih said, tried the idea of letting people edit pages.
Wikipedia’s mission is to imagine a world where every person has free access to knowledge, Lih said,
Currently, Wikipedia has 21 billion page views per month, 6.5 million articles in English and over 200 language editions.
“So it’s not just English, German, French or Spanish. There are more than 200 languages,” Lih added.
Although Wikipedia has simple rules, it has four main guidelines: NPOV — neutral point of view, so that all parties can agree; NOR — no original research, no personal research or opinion; RS — reliable sources that will actually give reliable information; and V — verifiability, reliable sources give verifiability.
“What matters is verifiability” Lih said. “You don’t start with a guess and then fill it in with the facts. We work the other way around.
Now, he said, respected libraries, museums are embracing Wikipedia as a collaborator to disseminate information.
There’s no better starting point for research than Wikipedia, but don’t let it be the end point of any research. It is therefore normal, he said, that students use Wikipedia.
“But that’s my best advice, as a former college professor, to any student there,” he said. “I strongly encourage using Wikipedia all the time, but don’t let it be the end point of your research. It’s a great way to deepen your knowledge of something, but don’t let it be the last word on anything.
He referred to a librarian at the Library of Congress who told him that Wikipedia should not be cited because it is Wikipedia. It’s like any other encyclopedia. Students should not cite an encyclopedia. Use Wikipedia as a launching point for the primary sources that exist, he said. Primary sources are first-hand accounts of events or topics that include interviews, photographs, letters, diaries, and sound and video recordings.
Wikipedia, Lih said, can be as reliable as any other source for gathering information.
According to assembly.chq.org, Lih is a technology journalist, digital strategist and author of The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World’s Greatest Encyclopedia. An expert in online collaboration, digital news innovation, and linked open data, Lih is currently Wikimedian at large at the Smithsonian Institution and Wikimedia Strategist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
For her work, Lih received the Citizen Archivist of the Year award from the US National Archives and a Knight Foundation Fellowship for her work with Wikipedia and cultural institutions. He was the Wiki Education Foundation’s first fellow in 2015. Lih has served as an associate professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, American University, and the University of Hong Kong, and started the new media program at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1995; in 2000 he established Columbia’s Interactive Design Lab, a collaboration with the university’s School of the Arts to explore interactive design for fiction and non-fiction, including advertising, news, documentaries and movies.
Lih is a Wikipedia contributor and an administrator of English Wikipedia. He worked as a software engineer for AT&T Bell Labs from 1990 to 1993 and founded new media startup Mediabridge Infosystems in 1994 – online publisher of ny.com. Lih received his master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University.