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Wikipedia: the inside story Andrea Rankin, June 2007 What is a Wiki? The simplest online database that could possibly work (‘wiki wiki’ means ‘rapidly’ in the Hawaiian language).

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wikipedia the inside story

Wikipedia: the inside story

Andrea Rankin, June 2007

what is a wiki
What is a Wiki?

The simplest online database that could possibly work

(‘wiki wiki’ means ‘rapidly’ in the Hawaiian language).

Wiki is a piece of server software that allows users to freely create and edit web page content using any web browser.

Open editing encourages democratic use of the Web and promotes content composition by non technical users.

what is wikipedia
What is Wikipedia?
  • A free content, multilingual encyclopedia written collaboratively by contributors around the world
  • The site is a Wiki - anybody can edit and add to an article. Offers quick understanding on controversial issues. Strong in current affairs. (Google search: define: Wikipedia)
what isn t wikipedia
What isn’t Wikipedia?
  • It is not an archive (it was decided that poems and other literary works were not suited to Wikipedia)
wikipedia s dream
Wikipedia’s dream

‘Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing.’

(Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, Masters in Finance, and nearly a PhD)

Goal: 250,000 articles in every language

spoken natively by at least 1m people

(ie 347 languages)

how and why it works
How and why it works

Operates on an open society basis, where people trust each other!

  • Written by 1000s of volunteers in all languages
  • Run by a non profit organisation – Wikipedia Foundation
  • Wikipedia will spend $2-3m in 2007 – all donations (mostly from the USA)
  • Cost to run Wikipedia - $25-30,000 per month in bandwidth
  • See Margaret Fulton’s entry
  • Free access (if you have the internet)
  • Free speech (although it is vigilantly checked)
  • Freedom to:
    • copy
    • modify
    • redistribute commercially or non commercially
  • 9th most popular site on the internet; 6th in Germany; 12th in India, Japan and Iran
  • 2.23% use every day, 6.19% use Wikipedia every day
  • 2005-6 there was a big jump in popularity
how good is wikipedia
How good is Wikipedia?
  • A study compared Wikipedia with Encyclopedia Britannica
    • Wikipedia had an average of 4 errors per article and Britannica 3
    • Wikipedia followed up on errors after the study, whereas Britannica just got defensive (according to Jimmy Wales)
how should it be used by students
How should it be used by students?
  • RESA Online discusses this
  • Main point – articles are not refereed, so Wikipedia should be a starting point only


Aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by adding ‘gentle expert oversight’ and requiring contributors to use their real names – founded by an ex founder of Wikipedia, who was losing sleep at night!


  • Anonymous
  • Kangaroo
how can you create a wiki
How can you create a wiki?

Use some free software and web space

eg Wikispaces

‘Create simple web pages that groups, friends, and families can edit together’

  • Pick a username
  • Set your password
  • Enter your email address
wikis in universities
Wikis in universities
  • Education
  • Communication
  • UniSA courses – for student assessment and resources eg Information Architecture and Design
  • Boston College student wikia (Wikia offers free MediaWiki hosting for your community to build a free content wiki-based website)
  • CaseWiki – an encyclopedic reference about Case Western Reserve University and its surroundings
  • More examples: School and university projects (Wikipedia)