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10 Interesting Wiki Communities

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This month we take a closer look at the host of communities using Mediawiki software to collaboratively document information and collect media, on a variety of different subjects, ranging from song lyrics to textbooks. The emphasis of this article is not necessarily on the amount of contributors or entries or the ‘openness’ of the content, but rather on communities who have collected useful reference material and resources, people who have used wiki software in an innovative way, and communities who have been motivated to contribute on niche topics and popular cultures. There’s the wiki weird and the wiki wonderful, something for everyone – so keep reading!

Contents

Wikitravel

When I visit Wikitravel, the useful information snippet on the front page reads: “In Singapore, chewing gum is available only in pharmacies - and you need to show ID to make a purchase.” This is certainly invaluable information for a weary traveler desperately in need of gum in a foreign land, and you never know when that may be you.

Wikitravel is a free collaborative travel guide, powered by the 14 948 ‘wikitravellers’ who contribute to the site’s 14 730-strong destination guides and articles. And on 1 May this year, Wikitravel was awarded a Webby award for ‘Best Travel Website’ – a testament to its success and usability.

As I am planning an overseas holiday soon, I thought I’d put Wikitravel to the test. I looked up the country of my destination to find a comprehensive breakdown on how to get around, describing in detail how the train systems worked, which passes to buy and how to find the cheapest tickets - definitely a topic which my guidebook didn’t elaborate on enough. I was impressed with the way that WIkitravel provided a ‘bigger picture’ type of overview on what to expect from cities, something that a guidebook might skim over, while also providing information which is more up-to-date.

Wikitravel is not a Wikimedia project, but uses Mediawiki software. It is available in 16 languages, all of which have been developed independently. All content on Wikitravel is available under a CC Attribution-ShareAlike licence.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons is a project of Wikimedia, and uses wiki software to collect and share freely licensed music, photographs, spoken text, video clips and many more types of media that can be used for other Wikimedia projects. The media is released under a GNU Free Documentation licence, which means that “everyone is allowed to copy, use and modify any files here freely as long the source and the authors are credited and as long as users release their copies/improvements under the same freedom to others.”

Wikimedia Commons is one of the most popular Wikimedia sites, with one of the highest number of users at 149 126, and at a recent count has had 1 438 321 files uploaded. A fantastic resource.

CosmeticsWiki

This one’s for the ladies! While not necessarily the biggest and best wiki – this independent site has 34 800 product reviews and entries, and a small user base – CosmeticsWiki is a good example of how wikis provide a home for all types of collaborative undertakings - even for sharing information and reviews on skin care, hair and cosmetics products.

CosmeticsWiki features product information, user testimonials and ingredient lists, and provides useful price comparisons for each. Submit a beauty tip of the week, or if you simply want to know more about your ‘Brilliant Moisture Lip Gloss, Number 127, Luscious Red’, Cosmeticswiki is the site for you.

Wikibooks

Another project of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wikibooks has two subprojects called Wikijunior and Wikiversity.

Wikibooks was established in July 2003 as a way to create and collaborate on free content textbooks, especially useful for those who face barriers to learning due to the high cost of educational material. So far 25 219 modules have been collaboratively written in a variety of textbooks, and the books which have been deemed to have substantial content are available online in print or PDF versions.

Wikijunior is a print and online project to develop textbooks for 8-11 years old learners. So far three prototype books have been created: Wikijunior Solar System, Big Cats and South America, with more in development.

Wikiversity is a beta project, established in August last year. The aim of the project is to create and host learning materials for all age groups and languages, as well as to foster a community around these materials. Wikiversity’s emphasis is on ‘learning by doing’ models of e-learning, where students learn through collaboration on projects by editing Wikiversity pages. Other resources such as reading lists and lesson plans are available here too.

Wikibooks, Wikiversity and Wikijunior textbooks and content are available under a GNU Free Documentation licence.

Wikimapia

Wikimapia is a mash-up of a Google Earth-type satellite imaging system, and a wiki. It allows users to add information to a world map by marking out a ‘Hotspot’ and then uploading text in the form of a note with wiki-like features, to describe and provide more information about a place. You can also view the history for each note, and edit in another language.

After almost a year of existence, Wikimapia has had 3 million localities identified by its users. The site is unrelated to the WIkimedia Foundation, though it was inspired by Wikipedia.

Wikimapia has not specified it’s terms of use, and one cannot download users’ contributions. On the bright side, one can incorporate a Wikiamapia into another website, and it can be linked to a GPS receiver. This site is, however, a good example of how wiki software can enhance alternative online technologies, such as maps, by enabling collaboration for better information.

Muppetwiki

Established on 5 December 2005, Muppet wiki is a collaborative site about the Muppets and their creator, Jim Henson. With just over 14 000 articles collected to date, the Muppets seem to have a host of loyal supporters who are ready to contribute information about the ‘world according to the Muppets’.

For example, I was interested in the Muppet take on ‘the president of the United States’. The entry outlines the involvement of Muppets in the race for the presidency and other politicking, and lists the presidents, presidential candidates and first ladies who have worked closely with the Muppets. According to the entry, “At least one Muppet has apparently succeeded in reaching the office, [however]. A Whatnot appeared as President in Muppets Tonight episode 202, undergoing therapy with Meepzorp in the Independence Day spoof “Co-dependents Day: CD4.”

Whether you’re of the Muppet generation or not, this site can be poured over for hours, so set some time aside. Content is available under a GNU Free Documentation licence.

Conservapedia

“Free culture knows no bounds,” is what Jimmy Wales said in his March 2007 interview with The Guardian about this site, and Conservapedia proves this statement true.

Conservapedia is a wiki-based encyclopedia, established as a response to Wikipedia’s apparent anti-American, anti-Christian, liberal views. For example, one of Conservapedia’s [technologies criticisms] of Wikipedia is that it “often uses foreign spelling of words, even though most English speaking users are American.”

Surf through Conservapedia’s 9 200 entries for a, well, unique worldview. Content can be used freely, though carefully – as the “license is revocable only in very rare instances of self-defense, such as protecting continued use by Conservapedia editors or other licensees.”

LyricWiki

Ever been singing along to your favourite tune, only to have someone point out you’ve misheard the words - “Didn’t you know it goes like this: ‘Bwoy out a road fi wi name dem a call, Bout dem want fi dis Basement Jaxx after all’?”

Enough to make your cheeks glow, but Lyricwiki has the solution. You guessed right – this is a wiki for finding the lyrics of your favourite song, or even better, for sharing lyrics with others.

This wiki is near the top of the ‘List of largest wiki’, with around 217 000 pages, though a large proportion of the lyrics (particularly those in the public domain) were acquired and formatted through automated scripts. This is another wiki with unclear terms of use for the content uploaded, they says it is free and refer to the GNU Free Documentation licence on their disclaimer page, but no actual licence is clearly stated on the site. Let’s hope they iron out this information, but in the meantime, this is an interesting site for music lovers to go out and play.

Wookieepedia

From April 2007, Wookiepedia was the most viewed site hosted by Wikia, and is one of the most populated Wikia sites, with over 47 000 articles.

The name might give it away - this site is the Star Wars wiki, Wookiee refers to the “furry bipedal humanoids” from the planet Kashyyyk.

Collecting all things ‘Star Wars’, from descriptions of characters in the films, information on the Extended Universe and more on the games, books and special effects methods – thanks to the ‘Wookieepedians’ who ‘wookify’ the entries in this wiki, the site has received much acclaim as documenting the “Star Wars pop culture phenomenon.”

Wookieepedia has been created in seven other languages, and content is available under a GNU Free Documentation licence.

MemoryArchive

MemoryArchive uses Mediawiki software as a tool for collecting shared memories of historically notable events, people and places; creating an archive of firsthand accounts of ‘history in the making’, for future generations.

The concept behind the project is that we are all part of, and participants in a shared history. In some way, we have all experienced a significant event of our age, which could be of interest to others now, or in the future. By recording our memories we not only document them, but we make them available to share with others.

There are memories recorded here of the devastating Hurricane Katrina and the London Bombings of 2005, and it even has an entry describing ‘life as a gas station attendant’. This wiki could be a valuable education resource for history teachers, though I was a little disappointed with the site’s Eurocentric focus. For example, I tried to find entries on the 1976 Soweto Riots in South Africa, with no luck. These are important events in world history that need to be recorded, though I suppose that it‘s up to all of us to start contributing to MemoryArchive to make it a more inclusive history databank. All content is licensed under a CC Attribution licence.

The orginal article was originally posted on iCommons and made available through a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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