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Wikipedia

Mar 27 2008

Books are my “Wiki”-ness

by Jimmy L

You probably know what a wiki is, at least vaguely, from the most famous wiki website Wikipedia.  But did you know that wikis can help you read and enjoy a book more?

There is a whole subset of wikis dedicated to individual books,
authors, and book series.  These wikis are great for those thousand
page books (or series of books) where you may forget who some the characters are if you put
the book down for a few days.  Wikis come in handy here, as they
provide an almost encyclopedic knowledge concerning the universe of the
book or authors in question.  Here are some useful ones I found on the web:

I’ve only listed the most popular ones I can find, as those are the ones with the most content.  However, there are many more.  Here’s an index to some more wikis about books.

You don’t need to know much about wikis in order to enjoy them (just
think about Wikipedia; you can use it just like any other
website).  But if you wish to participate in content creation, it’s
very simple.  Here is a video that explains that process and the basic
concept of wikis in plain english:

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Sep 27 2007

Do You Know Who's Writing Wikipedia?

by Jimmy L

Wikipedia_2 As you probably know, the concept behind the popular online encyclopedia Wikipedia is that anybody can add to or change its contents. This results in a huge and powerful knowledge base culled from the varied interests and expertise of its worldwide members.

But this also raises questions about the reliability of such information. Recently, Cal Tech student Virgil Griffith has asked that same question and tried to answer it. Griffith has created a website called Wikipedia Scanner that makes the history of these changes transparent by exposing the changes that come from IP addresses within companies. This way, even when someone is making changes to Wikipedia anonymously, we can match those changes with the source they are coming from. For example, with a search on Diebold on the Wikipedia Scanner, you can find out that the company has excised an entire “Criticism” section from the Diebold entry (which has since been restored). Similarly, Wal-Mart has inserted statements that provide a positive spin on the company, replacing “Wages at Wal-Mart are about 20% less than at other retail stores,” with “The average wage at Wal-Mart is almost double the federal minimum wage (Wal-Mart).”

Knowing as much as possible about the source of your information is one of the keys to doing top-notch research. Thankfully, we have new ways of harnessing this incredible source without so easily falling into its traps.

Check out some of the other great research tools available free at the library!

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