Infopeople has blogged about Wikipedia before (and also here) as have many others, but the other day I was struck by an interesting parallel between Wikipedia and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In honor of the release this Friday of the movie version of the h2g2 (as it is fondly known by those of us who get tired of typing the whole thing out over and over again), I have been listening to the audio book version on my iPod (I got the version that was read by Douglas Adams himself, very cool). It wasn't very far into it that I heard this and thought, "Wow, that's Wikipedia!" See what you think:
In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker's Guide has already supplanted the great Encylopedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom. For though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects.
First, it is slightly cheaper, and second, it has the words DON'T PANIC inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.
Substitute Encarta or Britannica Online for Encyclopedia Galactica and think about it: it kind of sounds like the brouhaha over Wikipedia, doesn't it? Is the Wikipedia always accurate? No. But hey, is the evening news always accurate? Look at poor Dan Rather. If I could hop in a time machine and fast forward about ten years, it would be interesting to see how all of these issues resolve themselves. But then ten years from now, they may all be obsolete, replaced by who knows what.
Meanwhile, check this out! I was just looking at the Wikipedia, and noticed a startling design coincidence. Here's a graphic from the cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide (from the first several and the 25th anniversary editions), next to the Wikipedia graphic:
Weird, huh? Anyway, like the guide says, don't panic. And go see the movie; I'm betting it'll be a goodie.