The rise of knowledge is one of the internet’s great achievements. Once upon a time, encyclopedias monopolised knowledge, they contained it in a fixed, finite form and charged vast sums of money for access. A set of good encyclopedias was once the mark of a well mannered family, nowadays it is a mark of pretense or age. All of that information is available online, in a much improved form. It’s never been easier to answer any query, from how to become an escort to what happens if you microwave metal. Incidentally, microwaving metal is not a good idea, but there are several youtube channels dedicated to inserting cans of spray paint and other dangerous objects into microwaves.
One of the principal reasons for this are the wikis. Initially, there was wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, full of information gathered and curated by ordinary people. It served as the sparking point for a whole new culture, although it was hardly free from issues. In the early days, it was notoriously unreliable due to its communal nature, with many pages being charmed into humorous forms. Now, extensive moderation and a more responsible community has ensured that erroneous posts are quickly removed.
From Wikipedia came the wikis: smaller, more focussed repositories of knowledge. There is for example, thousands upon thousands of pages about obscure video game mods, tv shows and pop culture artists. Ever wondered who Taylor Swift’s song Tim McGraw was written about? It’s on her wiki. Perhaps you’d like to know how much damage a shift queued epicentre with veil of discord does to a Rubick with pipe of insight? It’s there. The nature of these smaller organisations has allowed these little details, which would considered far too miniscule and irrelevant for a bigger page.
An interesting subset of this trend is the Q&A format. Yahoo answers is the most famous example of this. Although it is declining in popularity, it was once a massive reference point for anyone with a query. Previously, it had dealt with everything from advice to become an escort, to passwords for old video games. Nowadays, the niche effect seems to have become prevalent again. Just as wikis sprung up to cover the things that Wikipedia couldn’t, specialised forums are providing more detailed and expanded advice than the old Yahoo answers ever could. The benefit of forums is even more apparent when one considers that they enable and encourage extended dialogue. Whereas Q&A websites rely on the problem being solved with an initial answer, forums allow people to work through more complicated problems in stages.
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