We're all experts

Yesterday I watched a Neal Stephenson talk from Gresham College on the end of Science Fiction as a genre. (don't worry it's not dying but rather transcending genre).

One of the subjects Neal spoke about was the geek-ificiation of modern culture. There's no longer a stigma against geeking-out and it doesn't much matter whether you're a waiter who's into renaissance period costume, a librarian who knows everything there is to know about the history of model trains or a CEO who likes making wooden furniture. You could even be a lawyer who makes electronic kinetic sculpture. It's no longer unusual, and in the social circles I inhabit, it's expected that nearly everyone has personal "deep knowledge" beyond the norm of some esoteric area. They may even participate in a community of other people with a similar fascination.

Neal Stephenson believes, and I agree, that this is the direction that our culture is headed. The Internet has enabled people to pursue diverse and obscure passions and engage with others who share those interests in a way that was simply not possible 30 years ago.

If the Internet is the medium in which geekiness grows then there must be an origin point. I'd like to make the case that Wikipedia is or can be the common starting point. There are many subjects for which Wikipedia already has exhaustive information. On most subjects there seem to be at least a useful minimum of information to enable a persistent reader to locate other sources of information. Wikipedia's culture encourages contribution and in the long run we're all richer for it. My own personal informal survey seems to indicate that most people, even regular wikipedia users, need prodding in order for them to begin contributing. So start contributing you lazy bums!

It's perfectly acceptable to start small, nobody needs to write the biographical entry for a national leader at this point. It's entirely adequate to start your contributions by making corrections, improving grammar, adding references and fixing formatting. If you have a passion for a subject then you should be contributing to the best starting point there for almost any subject. Once you get started you'll find that you are contributing to a surprising variety of subjects. From my own contributions it appears I've contributed to entries on games, political action organizations, entertainment, biographies and technology. Yes, I've contributed to several entries about clowns--I don't even like clowns!

It's your responsibility as a geek is to promote the subject on which you're a geek. I really believe the responsibility part. If you are not contributing the world's store of accumulated knowledge, and this goes well beyond Wikipedia, then you're not really a citizen of the modern world. And I won't like you or be your friend. ;-)

Comments:

thanks for the link - just viewed the whole thing...when people ask why do i scour the sun blogs this is exactly why - to find cool things such as this - also your comment on wikipedia really got me thinking and i believe is true.

Posted by qachaos on July 14, 2008 at 01:02 AM PDT #

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