Image via Wikipedia
I received an email on Friday that said, "Please take a look at the Encyclopedia of Earth and let me know what you think." So I did. There was a lot I noticed about the site which I could mention, like their copyright policies which are very progressive and quite awesome (CC 2.5 Share-Alike). I started right off wanting to like it.
I next moved to their reason for existence:
The motivation behind the Encyclopedia of Earth is simple. Go to Google™ and type in climate change, pesticides, nuclear power, sustainable development, or any other important environmental issue. Doing so returns millions of results, some fraction of which are authoritative. The remainder is of poor or unknown quality.
So I did a search on each of those terms and here's what came up: climate change-- Environmental Protection Agency #1 and Wikipedia #2, pesticides-- Wikipedia #1, nuclear power-- Wikipedia #1, and sustainable development-- Wikipedia #1.
Interestingly enough the EoE site never showed up in the results at all, or if it did, it was so deep that no human was ever going to see it.
Which begs the question: What's the point of having a so-called authoritative site if no one ever visits? Irrelevance and obscurity is fine, but you can achieve that without building a web site. If a tree falls in the forest...
Which brings me to my final point. If you want to make a difference you have to choose to engage with the people. There is no sense in building the web equivalent of the ivory tower. If you are an expert, and you find a problem in Wikipedia then you have an obligation to correct it. You have that power. Whether you like it or not, Wikipedia is the source that people go to for information. Shouldn't we all be working to make it the best source of information that we can? Building your own site is the web-world equivalent of taking your ball and going home. Which is a great strategy if being lonely is your goal.