Free Stuff is Good Stuff

Luc Rioual

Can History Be Open Source?

Rosenzweig begins his article by opening us up to the fact that most historical “scholarly works” are completed by very few people; mentioning the fact that only 6 percent of the total 32000 indexed in 2000 were completed by one or more authors. Any and all mentions involving the thoughts, ideas or words of a previous historians published work requires citing them and often times compensating them financially for their work.

He goes on to mention that Wikipedia is the exact opposite of the realm of historical journals because there are hundreds of people editing entries thousands of times. He goes onto describe the history of Wikipedia and how it isn’t the first attempt at creating a free online encyclopedia – that being Richard Stallman of the GNU project.

Wikipedia originated in just English, slowly expanding year by year to eventually encompassing over 150 different languages and more articles than one could ever possibly read. One of the big differences between the world of historical journals and Wikipedia is that it frowns upon “individual research” because it merely goes on one person’s word. Rosenzweig goes onto compare and contrast Wikipedia and other online encyclopedias and finds that it does not compare in many respects however, factoring in the fact that it is done for free, he commends.

Frankly, I feel that Wikipedia is a strong source for quick and free information given many people don’t have access to overpriced databases, and for something that is not being used in a paper, it’s great. However it does have the downside of having skewed pieces by popularity instead of academic importance. I’ll end with a little fact about myself – I visit Wikipedia more than 5 times a day, at least. I love it, I hope it lasts, and free stuff is good stuff. Just don’t write a paper with it!