Wiki Wiki Wiki!

By

Courtesy cogdog - Flickr

cogdog - Flickr - CC BY 2.0

Whatsawiki?

A wiki is a website in the style of an encyclopedia (You remember encyclopedias, don’t you? Those large, dusty books at the library that are by letter and provided generations of youth with just enough information for a general report on Africa.) but are open to anyone contributing to the content. The theory is that the brain power of “the masses” is greater than the brain power of “one”, and wikis provide an outlet for the web-community at large to pool its information resources into one location.

This is GREAT if you spend a lot of time watching episodes of Family Guy and have been paying attention to the family tree of Cleavland because I often get confused about Loretta’s disappearance and the fact that I swear at one point he actually had an older son as well as Jr. If you have enough passion for Family Guy to know the ins & outs of the secondary characters AND you take time to add a wiki entry on it (by which I am now capable of winning a bar argument in two taps of my enV Touch) – why should I not believe you?

picture-1

From Muppet Wiki

I’m a wiki, you’re a wiki, he’s a wiki, she’s a wiki, wouldn’t you like to be a wiki too?

It started with Wikipedia. And what wiki had as a leg up to the typical web-search was that all the useful (and useless) information was available in one spot in one click. Not so now, my friend. Your wiki-variety is now plentiful. Allow me to share my favorites with you:

MuppetWiki – answers all the questions you have in your mind about the Muppets.

WikiHow – your how-to guide to anything. In a convenient to use web form.

Wikimapia – join the web community in helping to describe the whole world. Literally. All of it.

Again – these will undoubtedly allow me to up my winning streak and take my friend Nathan as the reining king of Trivia Pursuit. If the answers are right, that is. I mean, who’s fact checking this stuff? There was (is) an avid, albeit still volunteer, editing community behind Wikipedia. But now even I can have my own wiki FOR FREE. No fact checkers in MY wiki – they’re too darn expensive.

From xkcd

From xkcd

But wiki me THIS batman, what happens when everything on the globe has a wiki-variable?

Wikaility is where comedian Steven Colbert comically suggests that the end of all factual informational will be at the hands of “approval-by-consensus”. Further proving this possibility in a 2006 prank in which he got enough people to go onto Wikipedia and change the entry for elephants to false information that the population of African elephants had tripled in the past six months. He was so successful that Wikipedia ended up locking the entry all together. In fact, it’s still locked to anonymous users almost 4 years later.

But what happens now that Wikipedia isn’t the only location I can get miss-information? If the idea of a wiki is mass contribution, and even the inventor of the wiki has a hard-time keeping the masses accurate – who’s policing the MuppetWiki’s of the world and keeping them isolated from a miss-informational Colbert bump or just someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

Which is why when someone says to me “I want a wiki!” I get a little nervous. It’s hard enough for me to continue my Trivia Pursuit streak as it is with my choice of bad facts. Can you imagine how difficult it is for the kids who haven’t seen an encyclopedia EVER to get an A in a report about Africa? Think twice when you ask yourself the question about mass-contribution to your very own website. Exactly how much can you trust EVERYONE to be accurate?

  • Dusty Fox

    Great post, Deanna. I love real encyclopedias (dusty or not) and I think you almost create a sense of work ethic in doing a report in school where you had to look up references (in a card catalog or library computer), go through the different sections, ask the librarian for help, accumulate a big stack of books, find a cozy nook in the library to start checking indexes and flipping pages… Sure, Internet research can be extremely difficult, but doesn’t it seem like we lose some of the fun [work]? (And to your point – who really knows what they say they know in the WWW?)