[AI] Wiki, wiki, smell the coffee

vishnu ramchandani vishnuhappy at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 18 04:47:15 EST 2008


Wiki, wiki, smell the coffee

Author: Rajesh Paleth
There’s an unbelievable volume of information out
there on Wikipedia, the Net’s largest and most popular
reference site 

Your company is sending you to the Cote d’lvoire to
set up a telecom network. You need to find out about
that little African country  fast!
I need to know about cocktails to make for my party
tonight. She needs to do some research on different
types of fashion accessories.
 He, on the other hand, has to finish a project on
traffic engineering. 
Where do we all go?

Ironically, the same place holds the answers for all
of us. The most-used bookmark on my web browser
Wikipedia.org. According to its reference entry on
itself:

Wikipedia is a free, multilingual, open content
encyclopedia project operated by the non-profit
Wikimedia Foundation. Its name is a portmanteau of the
words wiki (a technology for creating collaborative
websites) and encyclopedia.

Launched in 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger, it
is the largest, fastest-growing and most popular
general reference work currently available on the
Internet.

You write, I write

The word ‘wiki’ refers to a collaborative technology
to create websites and is an abbreviation of the
Hawaiian word ‘Wiki wiki’, which means ‘fast’.  
People from all over the world contribute articles,
pictures and sounds on their areas of interest.

These articles are subjected to review by peers, who
have the right to ask removal or modification on the
basis that the article may not be neutral, may
have questionable facts, or may not be appropriate. 
Anyone can contribute to Wikipedia, you and I
included.  You’ll need to sign up, though.

Find it all

So, whether it’s weather, or Scrabble, or yachting, or
Japanese cuisine, or military uniforms, Wikipedia
usually has the answer.

Of course, like any other community content, it’s not
perfect, but usually gives you the answers you need.
Sometimes the articles may read a bit biased or
one-sided (usually positive bias is not so quickly
weeded out as negative bias), but if you’ve been there
long enough, then you’ll know how to read between the
lines.  

Oddly enough, Indian articles stick out a bit as being
a little jingoistic and ‘spin doctored’, but that
could be because we’re so opinionated. 

Since Wikipedia is cross-referenced automatically,
some people have made a hobby out of surfing on it,
moving from article to article as their whims take
them. A hugely entertaining pastime for the
curious-minded among us, this can account for
countless productive, learning hours. Wikipedia also
has guidelines
and ‘training’ for those who wish to contribute
content on their favourite subjects. With easy
templates and uploading, Wikipedia grows every single
day.


Branching out

A number of different offshoots of Wikipedia are even
more interesting  there are Wikis for a huge number of
specialised topics, from marine biology to
popular TV series.   Add to this the Wiktionary and
Wikipedias in at least 10 other languages, and the
world is open to you. There’s even a wikipedia in
Romany (the Roma people, gypsies to you and me?)!

Alternatives for you

There’s no beating Wikipedia when it comes to arcane
and useful knowledge on the web. 
That is, except for HowStuffWorks.com. A site which
uses graphics and animation to explain the workings of
myriad objects (from jet turbines to lock picking),
HowStuffWorks also has sections on Health, Finance
(how credit cards work!), Travel and tons of other
stuff. 

You’ll have to check them out to really understand
that knowledge is within easy reach of the commoner,
and no longer the exclusive preserve of the specialist.


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