Wikipedia is just fine the way it is thanks

According to Livewire, Wikipedia is a among the top 10 websites for number of hits worldwide. In fact it is consistently in the top 10, battling with tech giants like Google, Yahoo, YouTube, and various social media platforms.

Yet Wikipedia is unlike any of the other websites in the top 10.

For a start it doesn’t have a similar business model. It sole reason for existing is to provide a free resource for any internet user. Content is freely available, and can be edited by anyone, provided they stick to a few guidelines. In essence it rigidly maintains the ethos that the internet should be free to use, and open to all. It doesn’t rely on advertising, with all its operating costs covered by voluntary donations.

Admittedly Wikipedia isn’t perfect, but what is? With anyone able to edit a page, mistakes and falsehoods do creep in occasionally. Many a young aspiring journalist has fallen into the trap of accepting everything on it as gospel. But considering the sheer volume of data, it’s astonishing that the level of accuracy is so high. In fact that’s the very reason why it’s the go to online resource.

So the next time you Google something and see the first result is a Wikipedia page, take a moment to consider what it takes to run the service. Oh and if you can, give a little to maintain this wonderful resource in the way it was intended.

Is this technology for technology’s sake?

virt_assistA BBC News page caught my eye today. It focuses in on the battle between Google and Amazon for the virtual assistant ground.

Reading through the page, one question comes to mind. Is some of the technology innovation displayed at the CES 2018 Conference really necessary?

One use case mentioned in the piece is Amazon’s Alexa being fitted to a bathroom mirror, and then being able to turn on your sink tap or flush your lavatory. Another is Google Assistant being fitted to car entertainment systems.

Here’s my beef with virtual assistants. They’re really not solving the big problems.

OK I know of some people who’d die for the ability to flush a public lavatory without touching anything the great unwashed have touched before. But if you have to, is it really that big a problem?

The in car entertainment system has a practical use at least. I can see a use case for playing your favorite track without fumbling for a button on the display and taking your eye off the road.

The virtual assistant marketing makes a point that you can switch on the oven to cook your dinner 30 minutes before you arrive home. You can even tell delivery men that you’re not at home and to leave what they’re delivering in your back yard.

Useful? Perhaps, but both of these use cases have flaws.

I won’t leave any electric or gas device (except the TV or  lights) switched on whilst I’m out of the house. Having a cooking device come on just seems unsafe to me. Likewise I’m really uncomfortable with telling people I don’t know that the house is empty. I mean what if they broke in and stole all my tech? What would my Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant control then?