Is Wikipedia the most comprehensive collection of knowledge in human history?

I was thinking about this just now, and I have a hunch it is. Can anyone think of any worthy opponents?

Obviously there’s a lot of ambiguity as to the terms here, but I think a base qualification should be that there ought to be a fairly strong sense, either on the part of the creator or the public, that the resource constitutes a discrete entity. So, “the Library of Congress”: extremely borderline. “the collected works of William Shakespeare”: somewhat borderline. “Rogett’s Thesaurus”: good to go.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy will OF COURSE get the most votes. But for everything I’ve searched? Wikipedia is pretty great.



My guess is that “The Internet” in general would be a larger souce; however, because it might not fit with your definition, I suggest that Google actually is, since it caches pretty much everything it runs by on its servers, including all of Wikipedia, and a damn lot of the rest of the internet.

How about the alphabet? Add in ten digits and a few punctuation marks and you’ve got the complete contents of several Wikipedias plus a majority of other works available in print or online. (some assembly required)

Actually, I would place my money on the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s as comprehensive as you’re really going to get and, as an added bonus, it’s professionally edited and proofread prior to publication.

A Chicago newspaper columnist once wrote that "reading something on the internet is like reading something on the bathroom wall"

Something to keep in mind.

You ask: “Is Wikipedia the most comprehensive collection of knowledge in human history?”
And reply with “single topic” works of individuals, none of which are comprehensive with the exception of the Library of Congress which you rule out.
Wikipedia is probably the broadest in number of topics but not in depth.
The OED is comprehensive where dictionaries are concerned but is limited to english words.
The Encyclopedia Britannica probably covers a breadth of topics and in greater depth than Wikipedia, also more authoratative. Wiki is also covers more modern topics.

Sooner or later it may become competative with the EB.

I’d say the internet as a whole takes that honor. Wiki is merely a subset of that larger collection. It has a great deal of information and some degree of misinformation. Until Wiki gets adequate editorial control and fact checking, I won’t take it seriously.

Ditto. Wikipedia is a very interesting message board, and a good starting-off place, but is chockful of factual errors.

I fail to see how the Library of Congress is any less discrete or unified a collection than Wikipedia.

In its day, the great library at Alexandria was quite comprehensive - probably a match for Wiki, or close to it.

I just don’t follow why Wikipedia would be considered a discrete entity, but the Library of Congress probably would not. The LoC has discrete leadership, staff, funding, buildings, collections, and an indentity as the de facto national library of the United States. Wiki, as useful as it can be, is an open-source project, which would seem to make it less discrete, since the process of what constitutes its collection is more or less dependent on voluntarism, not as a process of an institution. If you can’t really tell with any assurance who wrote an article on Wiki, wouldn’t that seem to make it less “discrete” than a library that has the names of who produced what and in what year.

It’s great that Wiki has probably 3 or 4 million articles in a few dozen languages on various subjects, but the LoC has nearly 30 million books in more than 400 languages, not to mention holdings of video, audio, maps, etc. That certainly beats Alexandria’s library, too.

Still don’t get why the OP refers to LOC as borderline as far as being a discrete entity.

“The Internet” is simply a set of network connections among computers; it’s not a collection of anything. When someone says, “I saw it on the Internet,” that’s really just jargon for, “I saw some data on another computer that I was able to connect to over the Internet.” It would be like saying that all the world’s living people are contained in The Telephone.

Wikipedia, in contrast, is a bounded, managed collection of data, the content of which is known at any point in time.

As pointed out a few posts above, the Google cache contains all of Wikipedia as a subset, and is therefore more comprehensive. In addition, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine contains dated snapshots of Wikipedia, along with all other major websites.

This is the basis of my religious beliefs.

Wikipedia is a great resource and does have some errors, but for the most part, many are caught and corrected. It is totally volunteer and they do their best to make corrections. Since then, there has been a few other wiki sites popping up, like which…naturally logs bands and musicians. It’s a relatively new site, but it seems abandoned.

I think you are being too kind–in my areas of some expertise, I have glanced into Wikipedia and found errors (some large, some snall) in every single article. As I said, it’s a message board, a very good and interesting one, but should never be taken as more than that.

Ditto. The LOC is a much better collection. Unless, of course, you want detailed information on Dragonball Z or Middle Earth.

No, Wikipedia is clearly ahead on quantity. Wikipedia has over 1,250,000 articles with a combined total of 340 million words. Britannica has around 120,000 articles and 55 million words.

The quality issue is open; Wikipedia openly admits it has errors. But Britannica also has errors (besides the innumerable ones due to facts changing over time). I don’t think anyone’s ever managed to do an objective comparison on error rates between the two works. I will concede that Britannica has a clear advantage in the quality of the writing from a style viewpoint.

The honor, of course, goes to SDMB.