The World Wide Web is not just a place to check your email and read the news. A growing number of web sites allow you to become a producer of information as well as a consumer.
The Wiki Wiki Web
Blogging, the art of keeping a public diary online is all very well for the narcissists out there, but not everyone wants to keep the rest of the world updated with the little things that make their lives soâ€¦ wellâ€¦ boring. For those whose egos don’t overflow quite so much, or feel they have something more constructive to contribute to the community at large there are sites like Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) that enable anyone who can type and surf the web to create their own content.
The founders of Wikipedia have the grand aim of building a people’s encyclopaedia online. Or rather, they have set up the means for anyone to contribute to the project. That is right – anyone – even you! Every page on Wikipedia has a link labelled edit. Click on this and you can change any text on the page. You can create new pages. You can even delete what someone else has written. The Wiki system is very simple – if you can write an email then you can edit a Wiki site.
It sounds completely crazy. Surely some vandal could come in and delete all the pages. Surprisingly this is a very rare occurrence, and one the builders of Wiki systems sites such as Wikipedia are built on have created protections against. Wikis work because people want them to.
But back to Wikipedia. Like a printed encyclopedia, the site is organised into distinct sections such as Culture, Geography, Science and Technology. Each section is broken down into subcategories to help you find the information you need. You can also search alphabetically. The site holds 358,305 articles as of writing this article. The articles cover almost anything you care to name. And for those things that it doesn’t cover, read onâ€¦
Sticking your oar in
Unlike other encyclopaedia sites out there, if you find something that is wrong or you disagree with you can immediately click the edit button and correct the page or add a comment. If a subject isn’t covered you can take the opportunity to create a new page and add what you know about it. Because of the constant updating of entries and their democratic nature, Wikipedia has become one of the most trusted sources of information on the web.
There is even a Swahili version of Wikipedia at sw.wikipedia.org, although this doesn’t have nearly as many entries as the English language version – it is crying out for Tanzanians to start adding entries relevant to them.
The people who made Wikipedia have set up a number of other useful reference sites, all of which allow you to correct errors and add new entries. Choose from Wiktionary – a collection of online dictionaries and thesauruses in a number of languages (no Swahili yet!); Wikibooks – a collection of free textbooks and manuals which may come in very hand for cash strapped students; Wikiquote – an online collection of quotations from the famous and infamous; and Wikisource – a project to make public domain texts available freely.
You are invited to join any of these projects, all of which aim to increase their non-English sections.
Wikipedia and its relatives are not the only Wiki’s out there. The technology behind Wiki which makes it so easy to set up collaborative web sites has been embraced by many groups. Other interesting Wikis include Disinfopedia, a site discussing politics and news; FotoWiki – a site of contributed photographs; and AgWiki – agricultural info.
So what are you waiting for – get online and start sharing your knowledge! Let me know of your wiki activities and I will mention them here. It is all about sharing.
- www.wikipedia.org – the original online collaborative knowledge base
- sw.wikipedia.org – Swahili encyclopaedia – needs your help!
- www.wiktionary.org – online dictionaries
- www.wikibooks.org – online text books
- www.wikiquote.org – Still no entries for Julius Nyerere! Be the first!
- www.wikisource.org – online public domain texts
- www.disinfopedia.org – who manipulates the news?
- fotowiki.net – shared photographs
- www.ibiblio.org/ecolandtech/agwiki/ – agriculture wiki.
- www.worldwidewiki/wiki/SwitchWiki – a list of all known Wikis in the world.
Originally published in Arusha Times 340