More to Wikipedia than meets the eye

· The Power of Many

Quoting Simon Willison’s Some notes on Wikipedia:

I’ve been driving myself crazy with coursework over the past couple of weeks, and since it’s always good to have something to take your mind off things I’ve also been spending a fair amount of time lurking around the beautifulWikipedia. Here are a few things about Wikipedia you may have missed:

  • It’s not just Wikipedia any more; there’s also Wiktionary (a multi-lingual dictionary), Wikibooks (developing open content books on various topics), Wikiquote (quotations), Wikisource (a repository of public domain source texts), Wikispecies (a biological species database), Wikicommons (free images and other media) and Wikinews (a new Wikipedia-style news site). Not to mention the huge numbers of projects in other languages.
  • You can view live stat graphs of the Wikipedia squid cache servers and see an overview of the status of all Wikipedia servers.
  • Last year’s drive for donations was mostly spent on new hardware, and a detailed list of hardware orders is available.
  • Wikipedia’s awesome TeX engine for presenting mathematical formulae may soon be expanded to support rendering of musical scores, SVG graphics, chemical formulae and more, thanks to the brilliant Wikitex module for MediaWiki.
  • Wikisource has a bunch of stories by H. P. Lovecraft!
  • Wikipedia’s Periodic table links to detailed descriptions of every single element.
  • Live recent changes feed is a page that shows edits to Wikipedia in real time. It works by keeping the HTTP connection to your browser open and sending updates packaged as JavaScript calls (I think this is the same trick used by CGI:IRC).
  • The channel #enrc.wikipedia on irc.freenode.net carries a bot-produced live feed of recent changes to Wikipedia. Edits occur so frequently that the bot had to be split in to five to avoid being flooded off the channel!
  • Wikipedia has a huge vandalism problem, but malicious edits are cleared up so fast that you’d be hard pressed to spot it.
  • The Wikimedia foundation has an attractive quarterly newsletter, the Wikimedia Quarto. September’s issue includes an interview with Ward Cunningham.
  • Wikipedia provides a great way to sharpen your language skills; not only does Wikibooks have guides to teaching yourself French and German (among others) but the multi-lingual versions of Wikipedia provide excellent practise in reading comprehension. Compare the English and French entries on Bath, for example.
  • The Wikimedia foundation recently received a small grant to develop a series of children’s books.

The deeper I dig in to Wikipedia, the more amazed I become. I see it as more than just a collaborative encyclopaedia; it’s a testament to humanity’s ability to work together for the greater good. I guess you could say I’m in WikiLove :)

Update: Fixed links, thanks to corrections posted in the comments. If this entry had been a wiki page, people could have fixed them themselves…