Wikipedia: What You May Not Know
These days, it seems that the world can’t stop talking about WikiLeaks. But this weekend, another wiki-named website gets the attention. Wikipedia, the crowdsourced online encyclopedia, celebrates its first decade on January 15. To commemorate the occasion, we go behind the scenes at that other wiki-titled website providing information to the public.
A wiki is a collaborative website that can be written and edited by multiple people. Wikis were one of the first socially-based online tools. (Based on the typical definition, WikiLeaks is not technically a wiki and says as much.)
According to the site, Wikipedia currently offers 17 million collaboratively written and edited articles, about 3.5 million in English. Since the online encyclopedia’s founding, there have been 437,773,444 edits to the English Wikipedia. The site overall attracts about 78 million visitors monthly, as of fall 2010.
These 10 little-known facts about Wikipedia may have escaped the casual user. (Note: All info culled from Wikipedia. Follow links for pages with more information).
1. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales’s company Bomis provided the original funding for Wikipedia, and its non-wiki predecessor Nupedia. Bomis was a men’s entertainment and adult portal.
2. Wikipedias exist in more than 270 languages, including Esperanto, Yiddish, Cherokee, and Simple English. The language with the fewest articles: Marshallese (spoken by the people of the Marshall Islands), with 11.
4. The informal slogan of Wikipedia is “Be Bold” in updating. (Like other wikis, Wikipedia keeps a record of all changes and enables easy reversion back to previous versions.)
5. About 300,000 volunteers work on Wikipedia each month. Studies of these “Wikipedians” have found that they were more likely than others to feel more comfortable expressing their real selves online than offline. In addition, a 2010 study found that they are motivated by a desire to feel efficacious and self-confident.
6. Wikipedia maintains a watch list of pages that are frequently vandalized. They include pages for Apple, Inc., John Lennon, and the unicorn.
8. Wikipedia’s core content policies are neutral point of view, verifiability, and no original research. However, the site also points out that articles achieve these ideal states over time, and “while the overall trend is generally upward, it is not uniformly upward.” Caution is suggested, even by Wikipedia itself, in using the site for research.
9. The Wikimedia Foundation that oversees Wikipedia also manages a host of other projects, including the Wiktionary (dictionary), Wikibooks (open content textbooks), Wikiversity (open learning community), Wikispecies (species dictionary), Wikisource (publication library), and Wikimedia Commons (media files) – all free to users and in various languages.
10. Numerous appearances of Wikipedia in popular culture include mentions on television shows The Colbert Report, 30 Rock, and Tosh 2.0, and inclusion many other places. The website Uncyclopedia parodies Wikipedia.
For Wikipedia’s 10th, organizers in more than 300 cities around the world are planning or attempting to plan celebrations on January 15, including 37 different parties in the U.S. Organizers are gearing up from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and celebrations will take place on every continent but Antarctica. (What, nothing at McMurdo Station?)
Virtual events are also taking place via Skype and discussions occurring via Twitter, Facebook, and IRC.
What has Wikipedia meant to you? Leave a comment below and/or on the site’s Share page.
For more social media and technology tidbits, follow me on Twitter: @evakl.
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