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Encyclopedia of Alabama – managed better than Wikipedia?

By Stanistani



I do a lot of Google searches, and for some odd reason, they often include search terms about Wikipedia.

Some only look at the first few results. I am not one of those people. Five pages of Google results into a recent search, I found The Encyclopedia of Alabama.

I muttered to myself, “Well dip me in chicken stew and take me to a fish fry!”

An online encyclopedia! What a concept!

It’s the sum of human knowledge about The Heart of Dixie!

I ran a few searches and poked around at its interface. Hey, an article about a prominent son of Huntsville…

Jimmy Donal Wales!

Claire M. Wilson, Auburn University wrote:
Huntsville native Jimmy Wales (1966- ) is the founder of the Internet Web site Wikipedia, a groundbreaking open-forum online encyclopedia, is president of Wikia, Inc., and is chair of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Well, that’s an interesting article in many ways. Note that a real, named person wrote that article. It’s true that she swallowed the ‘Jimbo as founder’ myth, but reading further, Larry Sanger’s role is mentioned prominently, and some critical views of Wikipedia’s arc.

She also happens to be the Senior Editor at Encyclopedia of Alabama. What are her qualifications?

Claire Wilson’s LinkedIn wrote:
I have been a science and humanities editor and writer for more than 20 years and have worked on a wide variety of publication types, ranging from textbooks, to four-color magazines, to online media. My particular specialty is editing and working with scholarly, academic, and professional writing to make it accessible to a general audience.

Hey, Wikimedia Foundation! Remember that search for Sue Gardner’s successor?
*points upward*

“But can she understand Neutral Point of View?” the neckbeards mumble.

Ohhhh, kinda.

Here’s a bit from the Alabama article:

Rich in mineral wealth and flowing water, the state’s historic poverty cannot be attributed to lack of natural resources. Fiercely independent and resistant to outsiders, a portion of the state’s white population enslaved a population nearly its own size to promote plantation cotton cultivation and became fabulously wealthy in the process. The arrogance of that wealth factored into the decision to secede from the Union in 1861, with disastrous consequences. The death of perhaps a fifth of the prime-age white male population during the war, the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital with the emancipation of slaves, political control by a liberal outside power structure followed by the reinstitution of conservative white rule, and finally the establishment of a system of racial apartheid all shaped the state well into the twentieth century.

Try saying that in a country-western bar in Mobile some time.

Can we just wrap her up and give her a desk in San Francisco? Just abolish the position Sue Gardner holds, and call her Senior Editor. Of. An. Encyclopedia.


Image credit: Flickr/Max Wolfe ~ licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

4 comments to Encyclopedia of Alabama – managed better than Wikipedia?

  • metasonix

    Looks good. Seriously, despite being a Chamber of Commerce-esque project, their “encyclopedia” is probably more trustworthy than some comparable WP content.

    And a free bit of advice to anyone wishing to travel to Alabama in the summer: don’t. Unless you think 90 degrees, 95% humidity, and massive thunderstorms add up to fun. Not to mention the rarely-noticed racial bigotry still bubbling just below the surface. I had to go to Huntsville (in the summer) when I was employed by a firm based there, and despite being Jimbo’s hometown and the “most advanced” part of Alabama, with lots of PhDs and tech companies, it is still a rather segregated city. The businesses are owned and run by white people and all the menial service jobs are held by black people. America has yet to leave its adolescence behind.

  • Lila got there first. No backsies.


  • Joe

    Here in Washington, we’ve got our own online state encyclopedia (www.historylink.org) that’s been around longer than Wikipedia. Believe me, I use and trust it way more than I do Wikipedia.

  • Odd thing, this article was published in March, then suddenly popped back up here in May. I have shoved it back where it belongs…