(i) "represents a masterpiece of human creative genius"
(ii) "exhibits an important interchange of human values, over a span of time, or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning, or landscape design"
(iii) "bears a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared"
(iv) "is an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural, or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history"
(v) "is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture, or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change"
(vi) "is directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance"
I'd say Wikipedia passes all of these to an extent, although maybe it is a bit too soon to say so. Who are we to say that our current period is a "significant stage in human history"?
Well, we have history to compare to. Our world is quickly changing right now – faster than in the past. I’m pretty confident that the rise of the internet and its first unique widespread applications (of which Wikipedia is one) will be a long chapter in future history books.
I’m not yet ready to compare it to the other significant events of the past few centuries (first and foremost certainly the industrial revolution) but I wouldn’t be surprised if it (the internet as a whole – not just Wikipedia) comes close to the disruptive force of the industrial revolution.
Yes, Wikipedia is a remarkable feat, but let's take a deep breath before we elevate it to the same status as the Great Wall of China, Notre Dame, Taj Mahal and Angkor Vat.
And think the idea through: If Wikipedia can get on, is there any reason, what so ever, that Facebook can't? And hasn't the world heritage list lost all meaning by then?
Do websites need such protection†? I think we all have seen content disappear from the web. Bringing the idea of conservation from architecture to the web seems like a valid idea in that light. The Internet Archive is doing great work in that area.
I can certainly understand that someone might perceive UNESCO’s planned involvement as ineffective and unnecessary. I do, however, believe that Wikipedia is one of those websites that should be kept alive.
I’m not so sure about the point you are trying to make with your reference to Facebook. If the list only includes websites with the user base of Wikipedia or Facebook it will be a very short list indeed.
You are, however, bringing up an interesting point. How should the UNESCO treat successful commercial ventures? World heritage sites are usually not part of commercially successful ventures for pretty obvious reasons. Those sites often don’t require any protection. Facebook is very successful and not in need of any protection∆.
Wikipedia, however, relies on donations. I think Wikipedia is inherently a lot less stable than, for example, Facebook.
†I’m not in the mood right now for discussing whether a world heritage list can provide such protection for websites.
∆The UNESCO also more or less only cares about the sites. Whether or not, for example, the company is still in the building or whether it’s a museum is secondary for them. Websites are fundamentally different and that’s certainly an interesting problem.
Can UNESCO take a copy of Wikipedia (or, better yet, the list of "Featured Articles" on Wikipedia) and preserve that? Yes. Can UNESCO preserve Wikipedia itself? No, since, in this case, preservation is the same as destruction.
Imagine how much people in 500 years can learn about our culture by having a copy of wikipedia as it is now, and can look at its evolution over time.
Mostly it just means you have to get planning permission to sneeze and you can't have wheely bins or on-street dumpsters.
Heck, the organization is bureaucratic enough as it is right now (visit the Administrators' Noticeboard, if you want proof). Do we really want to be injecting UN levels of bureaucracy into that?
More often than not, the regulations would "protect" the house from home owners who wanted to perform renovations. There were many kinds of improvements that the owner of the house might like to make, but wouldn't be allowed.
I think this parallels the Wikipedia thing pretty well. Becoming preserved in this way cedes much authority to a third party, who can then dictate the kinds of changes that you may (or even must) make.
In the hands of an entity like the UN, I might even worry that steps might be taken to ensure that the resource that is Wikipedia be usable by all people -- and therefore needs to be sanitized of offensive content.
Unlike real estate, we will never run out of empty websites to build encyclopedias on. And, unlike a house, once you own a "free encyclopedia", you've invested nothing and can abandon it at any time.
If the world governments want to make a sanitized uneditable copy of Wikipedia, great. Nobody will use it, but it will make them happy. And that's what's great about the Internet.
Oh, well, the messiah has spoken </sarcasm>
/* await downvotes */
However, you do have a good point. It should not matter that it was pg saying it. It should only matter what the actual possibility of Wikipedia being overtaken is. Personally, I don't think that's likely to happen. There's just been too much put into Wikipedia for it to be disrupted, for better or worse.
I lost 8 points for that comment. That comment cost me 4, so that means pg fanboys have gone looking for other comments and submissions of mine to downvote. Which adds some quantitative evidence to support your assertion that my point was good.
Last I checked, fanboyism is also discouraged. Which was my point.
[Edit since I can't reply to comment below]: last I dug through the arc code, there was no points multiplier for downvotes. Sure, it could have been done better. Meh.
You don't need the attitude to get your message across. In fact, I'd say attitude generally harms whatever point you were trying to make, because people will react with similar hostility/rudeness. Being blunt is acceptable. Saying "Why does it matter that pg said it? I think people put too much weight to his words. We're hackers, shouldn't we be against 'fanboyism'?" would have probably got you upvoted, and started a decent discussion. Being rude about it generally just starts flame wars.
As for the point value, I wouldn't be surprised if downvotes take off more karma than upvotes, especially after a certain point. The paranoid "fanboys are downvoting me!" mentality is ridiculous.
No-one is hunting down your other comments and d/ving them. It really is just that your comment is at -8, even though it says -4.
I understand the sentiment you're expressing, but you went too far. Yes PG is not always right and shouldn't be quoted as if anything he says is fact. On the other hand there are ways of pointing out unbridled fanboyism politely.
If Wikipedia was really world-heritage material, it's strange that a public figure like PG could get away with such a statement with no controversy.
I think that's called Google. And one of the big weaknesses of Wikipedia, at least in English, is that few Wikipedia editors go beyond Google or their own personal experience in sourcing articles. There is a huge amount of well curated information that still exists only in research libraries. Even though Google has made efforts to digitize that information, various technical and legal barriers make it hard to make that information generally available, and anyway most Wikipedia editors don't look up most of that information.
The problem that Wikipedia has in many other languages (but less so in German than in most languages) is that the articles are mostly cribbed from the English articles, and the English articles are not very well sourced. I read several other languages, and two others besides English well enough to use those languages for professional research, and I often trace Wikipedia interwiki links to see what articles in other languages say about the subject I have researched most thoroughly over the last two decades. The English version of Wikipedia tends to set the tone and provide most of the references for many other language versions of Wikipedia.
Another problem that Wikipedia has, as Wikipedia reports, is an "unsustainable" decline in the number of administrators willing to help the project actively.
The Wikimedia Foundation points out that if the number of articles grows while the number of administrators shrinks, it will be very hard for Wikipedia to meet the foundation's stated goal of improving article quality.
All of the above being said, I am a Wikipedian because I thought the original vision of Wikipedia made sense, and I have liked using Wikipedia as a reference resource from time to time. But in my efforts to volunteer to the project and give back to the editing community, I have discovered the problems I just mentioned above. Those problems need to be fixed for Wikipedia truly to rise to world heritage status.
After edit: I might as well edit here, after taking a look at the other comments. Maybe my point of view is old-fashioned, having been educated for two postsecondary degrees at a large research university, but to date, for sure, any large university library has much more total information inside than ALL of Wikipedia, in all languages combined. (One quick way to verify this would be to do something that German Wikipedia has attempted to do, namely to make its complete content available to a print publisher.) Wikipedia as a whole still contains a lot less information, and rather more poorly curated information, than any research university's library. So if there is a claim just on the basis of aggregate information collection size for regarding Wikipedia as a world heritage site, there is a much stronger claim for that for any well administered university library.
One thing each of you can do to get a reality check on Wikipedia is to look up several articles on some subject that you know very well, a subject that you have taken care to research thoroughly in other sources, and see how long it takes to find something to fix in the Wikipedia articles. That Wikipedia is an online resource "anyone can edit" was a bold social experiment, and it has proven to be a largely successful experiment, but when I want do serious research on any subject related to my occupation or to my family's health or well-being, I still turn to sources beyond Wikipedia, because Wikipedia today is nowhere near inclusive enough of the best information in the world to be relied on without double-checking other sources.
P.P.S. Last edit to this post (I think): Wikipedia is user-editable over long time spans, as several commenters here have mentioned. HN threads are not as long-lasting, and each post has a short edit window. Does anyone have any reliable sources
that suggest that any of the factual statements I have made in this post are untrue? What sources do you have about the information content of
b) a typical research library,
c) Wikipedia as a whole as of today?
I guess you can count me as one of the few. I was in my university's library for a week researching and sourcing this one:
Except they do collect all that information.
You are cherry picking.
In terms of significance, Wikipedia is far more significant than Stoclet House. [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1298]. More interestingly Wikipedia would be one of few sites created by volunteers for non-commercial nongovernmental purposes.
Complete list of World Heritage sites here:
[not arguing that it was worthy of World Heritage protection] but the closure of GeoCities removed access to some 30 million web pages. [http://geocities.yahoo.com/index.php]
Digital preservation does indeed more funding/attention though. One example I've always found fascinating is the inadvertent digital preservation through piracy. There's plenty of garage bands, old games whose studios have closed, and more obscure movies that are now widely available thanks to people sharing and downloading. A lot of this stuff wouldn't really even be commercially or legally viable to sell, but piracy has made it widely available. </tangent>
However, there's no point in becoming a world heritage site. It's simply recognition.
I'd say Wikipedia is a giant construction that took enormous effort.
I'd wager no-one on HN has heard of even 25% of them, let alone visited anywhere near that number.
What, pray tell, is the point of any of this?
I get 'UNESCO' for, say, nice places that deserve recognition and protection, but... a web site? Are they going to cough up cash? Whose cash?
Wikipedia could gain by becoming somewhat independant for its many expenses in keeping the site running.
Although "need for protection" is not listed in the criteria for selection according to UNESCO's website (http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria), the "Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage" which established the concept of World Heritage Sites specifically states that World Heritage Sites are to be used for protection of threatened sites. Page 1 of http://whc.unesco.org/archive/convention-en.pdf states it all quite clearly.
Many of the places on the list - Notre Dame, for example - are in no such danger, either.
EDIT: Downvoted for this! It stands to reason that a true measure of greatness comes with time. This is the reason that the 'pontification' process has these checks of time. To let reason and proper debate hold sway over other considerations.
And Wikipedia's been going ten years: that's not a lot of heritage.
Funny enough, this Wikipedia article gives significantly smaller average work forces:
Wouldn't that mean that it couldn't be changed.... ;-)
I downvoted you for making a vague statement which could have been interesting if properly backed up, and then I downvoted you again for inviting me to downvote you.
This is insane.