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Wikis are an interesting Internet phenomenon. By allowing any reader to also be an author, they can quickly become detailed and heavily fact-checked sources of information. They have their limits -- the Los Angeles Times "Wikitorial" project crashed and burned as a result of heated partisan re-edits of posts and, eventually, digital vandalism -- but for topics which can be addressed in a relatively un-biased way, wikis can be enormously valuable. We saw the perfect example of this value in the aftermath of the December tsunami -- Wikipedia very quickly became the go-to spot for collected and swiftly corrected information about the event and what was known minute by minute.

Writer David Bollier, author of the OnTheCommons weblog (which investigates the ongoing evolution of the intellectual commons), has an excellent (and brief) piece on current trends in wikis and why more and more people are seeing them as a valuable tool for information distribution. Some of his examples should look familiar...

Comments (3)

Thanks for the link to fluwikie - thanks to the very dedicated group of bloggers and editors they are creating a great resource there, and it still needs lots of help. It's great just to watch the "Recent Changes", but it feels even better to contribute or spread it.

There's a forum item that deals with the possibility of translating the whole thing into as many languages as possible, in real time and with high quality - ok, take two of the three :-/.

I believe if we refine the methods and perhaps some changes to the software etc, it might be possible to translate a whole website, perhaps equivalent to 500 printed pages, by a flashmob swarm of 20-100 contributors, in perhaps 24 hours.

Now, if we add some "social hacking" ways so we can get some hard-science-based preventive behaviours, then we might REALLY slow down a pandemic (buy time once it starts!) in the best possible way.

We need to be able to do that in less connected places of the world too. So we need ways to reach the majority of humans - you know, those without internet access! For those of us who may at times feel a bit selfish, slowing things down "over there" reduces preassure at the border. :-)

Any conceptual, muscle or translation power is indeed appreciated - thanks for linking!

Daniel Haran:

Lucas, it sounds like you need the translating equivalent of Distributed Proofreaders.

I wonder if translated wikis could become sources of information for automatic translation software... hmm... :)

Daniel, thanks for the link! I think the idea of sending chunks to volunteers' email adresses is a very good one. Then each volunteer translates and mails back. When the first draft of the whole page or group of pages is done (in parallel, in no time), then one or two "unifiers" review a group of pages and make it terser (if that's the word).

If your chunk of text is edited in the original language, then you may also receive the edited versions and take care of them - it will be easier for you than for anyone else.

I bet someone else has worked all this out as it is so obvious (after some thinking).

Thanks again, Daniel!


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