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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 06-Jul-07

 


Friday 06-July-07

Wikimania

Of late there has been a kind of wikimania in the air. First, Wikipedia takes off and now is the premier reference for millions of people around the world. And that includes me: It is now my default query place, often even before the hallowed halls of Google. The articles appear definitive with often substantial references. It could even be seen as a competitor to changingminds.org!

But the price of success is critical attention and Wikipedia is not immune. The debates rage openly just behind the curtain - just click on the 'discussion' tab on any page (and especially on controversial topics such as religion). An effect of this is that some wikis have set up in competition. Conservapedia.com, for example, considers wikipedia to be dangerously liberal and unsupportive of creationist viewpoints. It corrects this with illuminating and erudite discussion about evidence that dinosaurs and man coexisted.

I have been asked if I would do changingminds as a wiki, but for reasons like these,  I'm keeping it simple and just my own mad doodlings. I try to be concise and I've had kind emails about the value that this offers.

On a more scientifically sound footing, Larry Sanger, one of the founders of Wikipedia, has created Citizendium, with the basis that you have to identify yourself before adding content, for example with professors including links to their university pages. Larry has tried to do a scholars-only version before, with Nupedia back in the early 2000s, but it faded. It's all about brand and support and I do wonder if Larry will get anywhere this time. I suspect that the power of the established brand will win and Wikipedia, with all its faults and foibles is here to stay, at least until the next wunderkind displaces it. One day, they say, computers will be cleverer than people, in which case we perhaps won't need to look things up.

And the wackier end of the world are just having fun. Uncyclopedia.org is a nonsense site where you can write pretty much what you like -- which has resulted in around 20,000 really silly pages that range from bizarre to scathing wit. As ever, George Bush gets a cynical pasting. And moving on, there are wikis for pretty much everything else, from Wyoming writers to Star Trek (or here for 'licensed works').

As a tool for changing minds, wikis have been remarkably effective, adding a new word to the language whilst invading knowledge everywhere! One wonders what the next Big Thing will be...


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