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Monday, March 05, 2007


Attack of the Wikis

One of our favourite topics here at the House of Commons is Wikipedia and anything Wikipedia-related. I'm a huge cinema buff and I can spend hours looking at film pages on Wikipedia - pretty much every time I see a movie now I go to the Wikipedia page afterwards for interesting tidbits (and occasionally when I have no idea what the movie actually meant, like Mulholland Drive, and Star Wars Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones). Friends have told me that I link to Wikipedia pages just a little bit too much when I blog. However, it seems as though there are many new, peer-produced, wiki-based, encyclopedias popping up all over the Internet that I may be able to link to in the future!

One of these new pages is Conservapedia, which is getting a lot of coverage from both the media and my fellow bloggers (see Andres Guadamuz at Technollama's post here and Pete Black at Freedom to Differ here - both of these are worth a read). Conservapedia is, according to its founders, a "'much needed alternative to Wikipedia', which they say is 'increasingly anti-Christian and anti-American'." (From Bobbie Johnson's article here on the Sydney Morning Herald site). Conservapedia was created in November 2006 and today it boasts over 1 million page views.

Notable pages include its current "Most Viewed Entry": Examples of Bias in Wikipedia, where one example given is that Wikipedia uses British, rather than American, ways of spelling words. In my opinion, I don't think I ever noticed the way certain words were spelt on Wikipedia - as an Australian, we're used to seeing words spelt both ways (is it licence or license?) I just looked for "Colour" on Wikipedia and the page on colours - ie, red, purple, pink etc - is given the heading 'Color'. So it seems that not all Wikipedia pages adopt the British way of spelling. It’s also interesting to look at the Wikipedia page on Conservapedia – see it here – I get the feeling that the Wikipedia and Conservapedia pages on each other will just continue to grow.

While on the topic on other online, peer-produced encyclopedias, there is also Uncyclopedia, the "content-free" encyclopedia, although be warned that it's not for the easily offended. In that vein, I will not be linking to any of Uncyclopedia's pages. Still, it does provide a few giggles and is an excellent example of commons-based peer production - the hours that contributors have spent building up some of the pages is amazing. (There is some interesting coverage on Oscar Wilde - but in order to avoid any kind of legal liability or just a stern telling off from the Powers That Be I will not be linking to that site).

Aside from telling you about interesting pages, however, there is one interesting issue about these new sites. Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation Licence. Another wiki, CreationWiki, is also licensed under the GNU FDL. Uncyclopedia, though, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence.

The differences in licences don't matter - I think it's great that everyone's getting into sharing content and licensing products of wikis. Conservapedia, however, does not appear to be licensed. In my opinion, this is something that should be re-thought - everyone knows the best way to get the word out there is licensing!

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