Friday, 30 December 2011

A shared treasure

A year ago, or perhaps earlier than that, I put this image onto the right hand column of this blog to show my support of Wikipedia. Although one must be cautious in trusting everything on this online dictionary, it has in its various incarnations and languages (Danish, English, German, Czech etc.) over the years been an invaluable source for information for me, and I have frequently referred to it in my blog posts.

Like most of us, I have myself grown used to using various online services for free, although frequently that also involves dealing with annoying ads. In reality, we pay a lot of money to some companies, whereas others we more or less take for granted. However, someone has to pay for the servers and salaries required to keep a service like Wikipedia online, and if it should stay free of commercial content, it is up to some of us users to consider contributing a small amount.

One example of Wikipedia's strengths could be the German entries on well-known authors of 18th century books on vampires like Michael Ranft, Johann Christoph Pohl, Johann Heinrich Zopf, Otto von Graben zum Stein, and Johann Christoph Harenberg. And, of course, you can also find background information on contemporary thinking in the entries on e.g. Wolffianism and Christian Thomasius, cf. the English entries on Wolff and Thomasius.

The quality of entries differ (that, unfortunately, is also the case of some professional dictionaries), but at least you get a starting point, whereas not many years ago, and especially in my own youthful interest in the subject, the above mentioned names were but names. Back then I thought that it would be interesting to contact the university in Leipzig to find out more about some of these people. Now, Wikipedia (and other resources) provides you with a headstart from your pc, tablet or phone!

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