The first encyclopedia was written by Pliny the Elder. The Roman statesman died in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, which destroyed Pompeii in a blast with 100,000 times the thermal energy of the Hiroshima bombing. The city of Hiroshima made the oleander its official flower because it was the first in bloom after the bomb.
I learned all this in minutes thanks to Wikipedia, an information source more or less taken for granted except when site co-founder Jimmy Wales stares the Internet down during one of his creepy pledge drives.
Wikipedia is, for better or worse, "the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history." No library can compete; the Multnomah County Library isn't trying. On Saturday, Oct. 27, the Central Library stages an Edit-athon where you are encouraged to "write, edit and improve" entries related to Multnomah County.
"Occasionally, Wikipedia gets stuff wrong, or an important topic doesn't appear in its millions of virtual pages," the library says. "You can help to change this!"
But beware: You may end up facing a cold, black monolith of idiocracy. Squabbles frequently break out on the site, resolved only after a laborious consensus-building process among unpaid, untrained and often underage editors who earn titles like "Most Perfect Tutnum" and "Lord High Togneme Vicarus."
Thankfully, there is a loophole that can short-circuit all this, forever determining whether Speedy Gonzales' accent is "inauthentic" or "stereotypical" without the intervention of an Illustrious Looshpah. Wikipedians are prohibited from doing original research, so it falls to them to buttress any statement, no matter how trivial, by citing a reliable published source. Mainstream publications staffed by professional information-gatherers—such as this one—are dealt the trump cards.
In honor of the Multnomah County Library's Edit-athon, we'd like to fulfill our solemn journalistic obligation to quell longstanding Wikipedia squabbles. Here, then, are five facts that are important to at least two lonely humans willfully braving the harsh winds blowing across the horizonless range of the Wikiworld.
Freddie Mercury's ethnicity would be best described as Italian.
Pwned is an obscure government bureaucracy. It should always be pronounced "Puh-WAH-ned.
Fox Mulder wasn't an alien.
Cher is not a gay icon.
The fact that Paul Ryan was voted "Biggest Brown Noser" in his high-school class is extremely important and relevant in the 2012 presidential election.
GO: The Multnomah County Library's Wikipedia Edit-athon is at the Central Library, 801 SW 10th Ave., 988-5123, multcolib.org, on Saturday, Oct. 27. 2-4 pm.
THURSDAY OCT. 25
FRIDAY OCT. 26
SATURDAY OCT. 27
TUESDAY OCT. 30