Blogs, Balrag, and the Wikipedia

There is no better way to describe this than to give a play by play. This is sort of how it happened as I have ad-libbed a little here and there to make it a little more intersting. And the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Jim, Bill, and I are having a conversation over our cubicle walls about blogs.
Jim observes that the word “blog” is a very ugly word.
Bill says, “Yeah, it sounds like that monster in Lord of the Rings.”
“Which one?” asks Jim.
“The one that Gandalf fought at the end of the first book. Where we were left hanging about what happened to him,” Bill explained. “I think the dwarves called it ‘Darrien’ or something.”
“Wasn’t that thing a dragon of some sort?” I ask.
Laura, Jim’s student assistant, chimes in, “Just Google It and find the answer.”

I start to type something in the Firefox search box for Google, but can’t quite think of what to type. How do I phrase monster thingy that defeated Gandalf in the first book/movie of the Lord of the Rings whose name, according to Jim, is just as ugly as the word ‘blog’? Instead, I turn to Wikipedia, which is a first for me. I had looked it over a couple of times before, but never to look for actual information.

Once there, I type ‘Lord of the Rings’, and then click ‘Go’. I look at the Search button as well, but ignore it for the time being. I still haven’t quite figured out what the difference is, but I’ll look into that later. ‘Go’ results reveal an article about the Lord of the Rings. I scroll down a bit, and in the Contents I click on a link to the storyline. Then I follow a link to The Fellowship of the Ring. At the end of the short synopsis, I discover the name of the monster whose name sounds like ‘blog’. It’s Balrag. And following the link for Balrag results in a page containing more information that I ever cared to know about the monster.

After my first use of Wikipedia, here are my thoughts. Would I put my English paper on the line and only use Wikipedia articles for my sources? Absoulutely not. There have been plenty conversations around the net and on listservs about the authority (or lack there-of) of the Wikipedia. However, I believe this is one particular case (and I am sure there are many more) that knowing about the Wikipedia and using it sure proved useful. I saved a little time as the actual time it took to find the information was much less than it has taken to read this post. I also learned a little bit more about this collaborative, free, web resource. Also, Bill, Jim, Laura, and I will all sleep better knowing that the monster thingy that defeated Gandalf in the first book/movie of the Lord of the Rings whose name, according to Jim, is just as ugly as the word ‘blog’ is Balrag.