THE advances in the Internet and World Wide Web have given a wide range of vocabulary to its users. The new terms and their definitions basically mean that all dictionaries related to IT and Internet have to be consistently updated as terms are invented and turned into the routine language of avid net users.
One such word which has become a rage among those who live the online life is “wiki.” Is there such a word in the dictionary? But if you Google it up and you’ll discover that the word is very much there in the Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English along with the American Heritage Dictionary.
Both dictionaries have defined wiki as any website whose content can be edited by whoever is visiting it. In effect, it basically means that it is not just the owner or webmaster of the website who has controls over the content of the website. It is the user, who can add or delete any content from the website – if it is a wiki.
There are certainly many different websites on the Internet which make use of the concept of wiki. Probably the most popular ones include a wide range of websites with the prefix “wiki” and are collectively managed by the Wikimedia Foundation (http:// www.wikimedia.org). Most of the people are familiar only with the encyclopaedia found at Wikimedia Foundation – Wikipedia (http:// www.wikipedia.org) which is the most popular source for copy/pasting material for assignments. But there is much, much more to wikis than Wikipedia. Following are some of the websites of Wikimedia Foundation.
There are loads of quotations stored at Wikiquote (http://www. wikiquote.org) where you can enter a search phrase like “life” or “humour” and get loads of quotations from different notable personalities. Each personality is linked to their page in Wikipedia. Then there is Wiktionary (http:// www.wiktionary.org/) where you can enter any word and find out its meaning.
Also, there is Wikibooks (http:// www.wikibooks.org) having the complete text of quite a few books. You can follow the “Featured Books” link to find out the books there for you without charge. Wikinews (http://www.wikinews.org) is of course the news site where you can read current affairs around the world. News here are categorised very thoroughly into health, education, disasters, culture, crime, science, sports, politics and many others.
Wikispecies (http://species.wikimedia.org/) is dedicated to the diversity of life which exists around us and details on how living and survival. This essentially means you can find out everything you ever needed to know about any specific plant, animal or micro-organism.
On a more academic front, Wikiversity (http://www.wikiversity.org) is the educational portal, where you can get material on various subjects. Moreover, there are classes online which you can sign up to participate in the courses that are offered.
As you can see from the brief descriptions above, wikis have a far greater range than just Wikipedia. This ensures that everyone has something to gain from having some basic knowledge of wikis. That’s the common factor among the website mentioned above. They are not just websites, they are wikis, and you can add anything you want.
For instance, if you know of some worthy event going on in your country which has not been given any coverage on Wikinews, you can create your own news article and post it. And if you know of a book which is available online for free without any copyright issues, you can go to Wikibooks and upload it there.
Wikis are always there so that you can correct the inaccuracies which have been made. For instance, if you spot a mistake, you can easily click ‘edit’ and correct it. In this context, wikis can said to have eliminated the complaint of most people that the Internet is misleading or misinforming people. It is the wikis which enable an average Internet user to actually eliminate misinformation. If there is a mistake, correct it rather than complain about it.
Of course there are people at the helm of affairs who overlook the entire operation of wikis. They make sure that the articles posted up are authentic, that they contain correct information and that no one attempts to abuse their right to edit the content. They also check the grammar, spelling and punctuation of the content. Plus, it is their job to make sure that the content is posted in the right category so that it is easier for Internet surfers to find the content they are looking for.
But, just as it happens with all websites, wikis are also vulnerable to abuse. They can be used to eliminate misinformation; and can also be used to spread it. Before someone finds out, the material is posted. And there is no limit to the number of people who read the incorrect information before it is edited out.
Then, there is the problem of people who never want to accept mistakes. Suppose Person “A” puts up an article where he writes an incorrect date. Person “B” goes and corrects it. But Person “A” refuses to accept his error hence he undoes the edit. The incorrect date is on display for all to see. Of course if Person “B” is persistent enough, he can actually have a war of edits. But then it is authenticity which is the causality.
And of course, one must bear in mind that Wikipedia has restricted the edit of certain articles after they were repeatedly filled with gross misinformation. On such articles, people with a registered account of Wikipedia can edit, but they have a history of making reliable edits. This ensures that the editing part is not open to everyone but of course it destroys the basic purpose of wikis – to have content which can be edited by everyone.
However, the abuse of wikis by some Internet users should not really deter people from making use of this concept. As a matter of fact there aren’t many websites around where you can have your own say about the content. Wikis should also be the answer to all those of you have complain endlessly that websites are spreading misinformation because it is wikis in the end which give you a chance to do something about it. The routine websites will always be there of course and you can’t really help them if they are inaccurate. But as long as they are wikis, get moving!