Happy Birthday Wikipedia

A bumblebee cannot fly.

I was told this fact by the Sisters of Saint Joseph while I was growing up in Catholic School. As were many other kids. It’s meant as a testament to God above science. As the story goes, scientists and aerodynamic experts got together and did the math and realized that with its mass and wingspan a bumblebee isn’t capable of generating the lift needed to get airborne. Put more simply: a bumblebee cannot fly. It’s too fat and its wings are too short.

Wikipedia cannot exist.

A collection of human knowledge. Collected by humans. For humans. Around the world. In a decentralized fashion. A self-policed non-profit funded out of the goodness of others. Unbiased. And built on a wiki. A goddam wiki. With every decision endlessly debated by committee. Put more simply: Wikipedia cannot exist. It’s too open and it doesn’t make any money.

Except it does exist. And it’s existed for fifteen years. Fifteen marvelous years of humans gathering up the history of all we know, so that other humans can’t forget it. Fifteen years of managing our collective memory. Fifteen years of making sure that we get to tell our own stories. Fifteen years of you having as much of a voice as anyone else. Fifteen years of the people collecting the people’s history. 28% of the planet alive today have never known a world without Wikipedia.

When Wikipedia asked us to partner with them on their 15th anniversary celebration we were beyond delighted. Not only is this an organization we love, it’s an organization that we need. And being able say that we had a tiny tiny tiny part in their story was an honor.

For the theme of the celebration we wanted to focus on the millions of little moments of joy that people get from reading Wikipedia every day. The tiny bits of happiness. The arguments about whether all polar bears are left-handed (they’re not). Whether “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” is a grammatically correct sentence (it is). Why Southern Californians put the indefinite article in front of freeways (because they named them). Whether women can give birth to bunnies (they can’t, but they tried).

These are the moments that take you down the rabbit hole (no pun intended). Where you initially go to Wikipedia to settle a bar bet about koalas and an hour later find yourself immersed in the success story of the California condor.

Knowledge is joy.

We started drawing a bunch of weird little pictures and eventually came up with a whole system of weird little drawings which we handed to the Wikipedia community and they did even more amazing weird little drawings.

Then we made them a fun little site that tells the stories of some of the amazing people who make Wikipedia possible. People like me and you! And I encourage you to read all of their stories. You’ll be inspired.

Bumblebees can fly. Wikipedia can thrive. The web can be free.

Visit the site. It’s fun.


Originally published at muledesign.com.

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