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The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia Hardcover – Bargain Price, March 17, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Since Wikipedia was launched online in 2001 as "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit," it has blossomed to more than a billion words spread over 10 million articles in 250 languages, including 2.5 million articles in English, according to Wikipedia cofounder Wales in the foreword. Lih, a Beijing-based commentator on new media and technology for NPR and CNN, researched Wikipedia and collaborative journalism as a University of Hong Kong academic, and he has been a participating "Wikipedian" himself for the past five years. He notes the site has "invigorated and disrupted the world of encyclopedias... yet only a fraction of the public who use Wikipedia realize it is entirely created by legions of unpaid and often unidentified volunteers." Other books have surfaced (How Wikipedia Works; Wikinomics), but Lih's authoritative approach covers much more, from the influence of Ayn Rand on Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales and the "burnout and stress" of highly active volunteer editor-writers to controversies, credibility crises and vandalism. Wales's more traditional earlier encyclopedia, the peer-reviewed Nupedia, began to fade after he saw how Ward Cunningham's software invention, Wiki (Hawaiian for "quick"), could generate collaborative editing. Tracing Wikipedia's evolution and expansion to international editions, Lih views the encyclopedia as a "global community of passionate scribes," attributing its success to a policy of openness which is "not so much technical phenomenon as social phenomenon." (Mar.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* A subject that is long overdue in receiving its very own solo-book treatment is Wikipedia, the Internet version of the encyclopedia, named after wiki, the Hawaiian word for quick. How it started—and proliferated, despite human foibles and scandals—is the focus of academic and Wiki expert Lih. It is fitting, too, that a Beijing-based technologist chronicle the amazing growth of this knowledge phenomenon, fueled by volunteers across the world, which allows anyone to openly edit any page of the Web site. Its different beginnings, via alternate sites and dedicated geek hosts, are documented, as is the fascinating process of how an entry is entered, edited, and transformed—with Lih’s metaphor, the Piranha Effect, particularly apt. With its international standing now ranked number eight among Web sites, containing two million individual articles, the Wikipedia, nonetheless, has encountered its share of issues, whether generated by trolls (those troublemakers who drag issues through the community) or the more serious vandals, such as Essjay, whose claim to be a well-known professor appeared in a New Yorker article. An easy, nontech, intriguing read about a Web miracle that today rivals Encyclopaedia Britannica, according to well-respected publications, in the quality of many of its articles. --Barbara Jacobs

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion (March 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401303714
  • ASIN: B002KAOS60
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,400,116 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Balbach on March 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
`The Wikipedia Revolution` (2009) is probably the first serious attempt at a book-length history of Wikipedia. Unfortunately Andrew Lih is not a trained historian, it is a journalistic account with more reporting and synthesis than original interpretation. However it is still a quick and interesting read, even if Lih is a devout Wikipedian. Certain sections stand out: the history of Ward Cunningham who invented the Wiki software; the history of Larry Sanger and his role as "co-founder" (or not, depending, but it is not resolved here). The role of Usenet, Hypercard, Slashdot and MeatballWiki in the formation of early Wikipedia. A glimpse into the vastly different cultures of Japanese, Chinese, German and other foreign language Wikipedias. An overview of some (in)famous incidents such as Seigenthaler and Essjay. Lih appears to have researched the book mostly using archival sources - I was disappointed not to find new interviews with Wales, Sanger or any number of others - it takes away from the books value in the long term as a primary source, a missed opportunity to add to the historical record.

There is a short Introduction by Jimmy Wales which is a standard stump speech heard many times before. The Afterword contains a crowd-sourced essay on the future of Wikipedia and it does contain a meaty examination of the difficult issues facing Wikipedia now and in the future. I found it to be surprisingly good. The Afterword is released under a Creative Commons BY license so it's freely available to copy - it's odd Lih did not point to where it can be found online. [UPDATE: see "Comments" below for a URL]

I would recommend this book for anyone who has been a long time member of Wikipedia and wants to learn more about 'a history experienced' over the past 8 years or so. There is so much that could be said about Wikipedia this book just grazes the surface but it's a good entry into what will certainly becoming a growing library of books about Wikipedia in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the fascinating history of of a most useful website. Historians may consider Wikipedia as significant as Guttenberg printing press. Both contributed immensely to the spread of knowledge. Lih does an excellent job of conveying the history of Wikipedia and drilling down in the technicalities of this phenomenon from a cultural, software, and governance standpoints.

Wikipedia was developed over numerous years through the interactions of maverick programmers. It started with Tim Berners-Lee's creation of the World Wide Web in 1990. Then in 1995 Ward Cunningham creates the WikiWikiWeb software that supports Wikipedia capabilities. This software allows to create, write, and edit webpages and saves every version of a page. Ben Kovitz introduces this wiki software to Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, the cocreators of an earlier online encyclopedia: Nupedia. In 2001, Jimmy Wales implements Cunningham's wiki software to create Wikipedia. Within less than a month, Wikipedia achieves more than Nupedia did in a year in terms of number of articles published. Soon after, a German programmer Magnus Manske far improves the wiki software by allowing Wikipedians to maintain a clean page of an article while debating issues freely on a discussion page.

In 2002, Derek Ramsey finds a way to automate the creation of 33,832 articles about small towns in the U.S. by automating the extraction of data from the U.S. Census. Seth Anthony and others add actual maps to those cities. Sunir Shah creates MeatballWiki to discuss online community. It will prove instrumental for Wikipedia's future policies. Ultimately, Sanger adopts three dominant editing principle: neutral point of view (NPOV), verifiability (V), and no original research (NOR).
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Format: Hardcover
I had to read and review this book as part of a class at USC, where Andrew Lih teaches. (He wasn't teaching this particular class.)

I found it pretty easy to read, especially for someone who does not have a technical background. It was also helpful to place Wikipedia's development in the context of the Internet's evolution. But those looking for a glimpse of the personalities involved - a la "The Social Network" - might be disappointed. This book is more about the culture and technical developments that led to Wikipedia.

When I worked as a journalist, we could not use Wikipedia as a reference source, because our supervisors were skeptical of its accuracy and reliability. But I read Wikipedia all the time, and I found that its information matched what I had learned from other sources, particularly in subjects I was familiar with.

I'll be interested in observing whether the Wikipedia culture - where everyone contributes and shares information freely as equals, and where the community polices or regulates itself - will influence other parts of our society and economy in the future.
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Format: Hardcover
While engaging and enthusiastic, I was somewhat dismayed by some erroneous things in the book -- like claiming Linux is based on Minix (i.e. uses Minix code), or Excite (the search engine) started in 1993 (before the Web even took off). I just checked these on Wikipedia and Linux is not based on Minix, and Excite started in 1994 under a different name.

When describing the rise of the first WikiWikiWeb, he asserts that it had a full revision history of each article. This is also untrue; only the last version of an article was kept, and in the early days of wiki-building, keeping the complete audit trail of every page was somewhat controversial -- some people didn't want their mistakes to live forever! I don't mean to sound like I'm nitpicking on some arcane point of software history, but he claims that this full history of every page is what gave people the confidence to edit the original wiki. But it just wasn't so.

Oh well. If you enjoy a breezy gossipy history of the Wikipedia phenomenon, this is a light read. I wouldn't cite this as a reliable source though.
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