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Wikipedia is the greatest direct action of all time, or why we need to document

Let’s take a look at what Wikipedia did last year:

I consider myself an activist. In activism there is a term called Direct Action (here’s the Wikipedia article about it). Which basically means doing something to enact change, as opposed to asking or negotiating for change.

Wikipedia represents to me people taking control of the worlds information. Before Wikipedia we had physical encyclopedias that were printed on dead chemically processed trees, like so:


They were written by academics and could only cover so many things. When I was a kid I would read them endlessly, it was so amazing to be able to learn about all the things in the world.

But it wasn’t all the things. It was all the things that the academics felt were worthy of fitting into the encyclopedia. The trouble with academics is that they are typically the college educated people of the world who had the privilege and (to a possibly much lesser extent) skill to make their way through the college system. The whole of human knowledge had to go through these people. People who probably didn’t represent the whole of human experiences, who were homogenous and as such created a homogenous body of knowledge.

Now it is different. Each area of Wikipedia is maintained by people who have a passion for that body of knowledge. Nearly all articles are editable to any human on the earth (with an internet connection) and can be corrected, expanded, or altered as new information arrives.

Our collective knowledge has gone from the distillation of a small elite group of academics to an infinitely expanding body of knowledge owned* and edited by all of us.

* at the bottom of every page it states “Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Wikipedia represents the taking back of our history and our future.

It isn’t without it’s problems, of course, but it’s way better than before.

Which brings me to the main point of this post, the importance of documentation. We need to be in control of our history. The act of reflection, one arm of the holy agile trinity, is the act of creating sharable value. When we document what we have done we actively create our history. It is important that we author our own history because if you don’t do it someone else surely will. You see, no one can tell me that I haven’t done anything over the past 5 months because it’s all right here.

On the other hand you can say what ever you want about me in 2010 because I didn’t record any of it. I didn’t create any sharable value, I didn’t record any history.

[side note] I was inspired to write this while reading Alex’s blog post and seeing all the wonderful documentation!

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