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Fri, 04 Feb 2005

The wayback machine and the font of all knowledge - 23:16
There is a lot of assumed knowledge among user groups and communities. Whether it be in jokes or simply something you expect someone else to know if they do are a member of some specific group. Among avid web users irrelevant of their personal specialities there are a few sites I would expect many people know about today. The most obvious of these today is Google, two others I expect most heavy web users would know about these days are Wikipedia and the Internet Archive.

I suppose due to the fact I count these as assumed knowledge by heavy web users today I was somewhat surprised to hear my sister Jane only found out about the Internet Archive in the last week and until I mentioned had still not actually consciously heard of Wikipedia (I have written about it here previously so she probably saw mention of it without taking in the information).

The Internet Archive is basically what it says, the web is changing daily, sites that once existed either change or disappear. Since 1996 the people running the Internet Archive have been archiving data from the web. Disk space is getting progressively cheaper so why the heck not, on the site itself you can access entire snapshots of sites or whatever from any time since the archive started. I have previously linked to the archive from a diary entry, referring to it by the colloquial name "The Wayback Machine" (they use this themselves, the term originally comes from Rocky and Bullwinkle) when I wanted to reference a website Jim Trail used to maintain for Triple J that is no longer online at ABC. This like google is yet another fantastic use of gobs of disk space on cheap x86 computers running linux. Reading the Wayback Machine FAQ is a good plan to learn more about it.

Wikipedia on the other hand is an online massive collaborative encyclopaedia. Wikipedia itself provides a good definition of what a Wiki is. This is lightly moderated and relies on the accuracy of the data added to it. Like any other source of data it should not be relied upon entirely, simply use it as yet another source of data on some given topic. I have commented on Wikipedia in the past (search google for " wikipedia" if you want, I can not be bothered linking to all the entries here). Others I know well (Martin Pool, Rusty Russell, Chris Yeoh for example) have all commented on the reliability issue in the past. As have other people such as Danah Boyd and Cory at BoingBoing to name two. WikiPedia has many advantages of traditional encyclopaedia's, one of which that quickly becomes obvious is on pop culture and recent events. I can almost guarantee Dr Who, Star Trek, The Simpsons and other cult tv phenomena do not get anywhere near this much coverage in any traditional encyclopaedia. Nor will there be coverage of events the day after they happen, or even as they are happening as there often is on WikiPedia. WikiPedia is not alone either, another good example of a massive collaborative online encyclopaedia is Everything 2.

There you go Jane, and anyone else who had not heard of these two rather cool sites, go have some fun.

[/comp/internet] link

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