Look up Pope John Paul
II on Wikipedia, and you’ll find the following paragraph
in the introduction:
Pope John Paul II died after a long fight against Parkinson’s disease, among
other illnesses, at the age of 84 on April 2, 2005, at 21:37 (GMT +2). His final
hours were marked by an overwhelming number of younger people who kept vigil
outside his Vatican apartments. In his last message, specifically to the youth
of the world, he said: "I came for you, now it’s you who have come to me.
I thank you."
Look up the
same entry in MSN Encarta and you will find no mention of the Pope’s
death, much less any details.
Of course, the logistics of thousands of people updating the same resource, especially
around a historic event, can get complicated. Before any mention of the Pope’s
death was allowed to stand by the Wikipedia community, several mentions
were removed with log messages like "Removed date of death, due to the fact that
he is alive." Then there was plenty of editorial debate over exact time, formatting,
and how his death should be expressed. The end result, however, is an extremely
thorough and remarkably current account of Pope John Paul’s life and work.
This is not to say that Encarta, World Book, and Encyclopedia Britannica are not
valuable resources. They obviously are. And this is not to say that Wikipedia is
more valuable than more traditional encyclopedias (I can’t believe I’m already
referring to Encarta as a "traditional" encyclopedia). Wikipedia is simply a very
different kind of resource — one which I think makes an immense amount of sense
in a world where rapid change has become the norm.