Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Baker and Wikipedia

[W]hen people did help they were given a flattering name. They weren't called "Wikipedia's little helpers," they were called "editors." It was like a giant community leaf-raking project in which everyone was called a groundskeeper. Some brought very fancy professional metal rakes, or even back-mounted leaf-blowing systems, and some were just kids thrashing away with the sides of their feet or stuffing handfuls in the pockets of their sweatshirts, but all the leaves they brought to the pile were appreciated. And the pile grew and everyone jumped up and down in it having a wonderful time. And it grew some more, and it became the biggest leaf pile anyone had ever seen anywhere, a world wonder. And then self-promoted leaf-pile guards appeared, doubters and deprecators who would look askance at your proffered handful and shake their heads, saying that your leaves were too crumpled or too slimy or too common, throwing them to the side. And that was too bad. The people who guarded the leaf pile this way were called "deletionists."
Nicholson Baker's writing style is idiosyncratic and alive, as this excerpt from a recent essay on Wikipedia shows. I may notice who has written an article before I read it, or perhaps after, but when I finished the opening paragraph--"It's like some vast aerial city with people walking briskly to and fro on catwalks, carrying picnic baskets full of nutritious snacks."--I immediately thought, who the hell wrote this? and jumped up to Baker's byline. In addition to being funny, Baker also has some smart things to say about Wikipedia and its culture, so, you know, read the whole thing.
Hat tip: aldaily.com