La conoscenza su Wikipedia è organizzata in paragrafi. Per quanto innovativa — nel modo in cui l’informazione è creata e gestita — Wikipedia rispetta il vecchio stile enciclopedico nell’organizzare la conoscenza del mondo. Informazioni e fatti sono creati e presentati in forma narrativa — più caotica e meno rigida dei campi di un database, ma probabilmente più funzionale per invitare chiunque a partecipare.
Scrive Paul Ford:
There are ongoing efforts to transform Wikipedia into something a computer can cogitate over— to truly sanctify knowledge. […] For some reason that is confounding to me and the rest of my fellow nerds, the greater mass of humanity seem to prefer exploring paragraphs and pictures to searching and sorting. In this particular case, narrative—stories and how they are told— has won out over elegantly structured digital facts. The paragraph turns out to be a very robust technology. Which, when you’re used to computers disrupting the hell out of everything, is kind of surprising. Paragraphs, in the end, are tough little birds. (Pilcrows.)
So paragraphs it is. Wikipedia remains focused on encyclopedia entries that, for all of their singing and dancing and templates, would seem pretty familiar to the Encyclopædia Britannica reader of the mid-1800s. And yes, it’s a mess—ask any computer scientist, and he or she will tell you: All these templates, these rules—this is not the right way to do it, despite how well it has worked. Consistent markup that is easy to parse and manipulate; careful taxonomy controls; S-expressions: That’s what you want. There are better, more manageable ways to build the online encyclopedia of everything. But the wiki way—Scotch tape, glue, plain text—has triumphed, at least when it comes to getting people to write encyclopedia pages.