Meet the Wiki Family

“Wiki” has become a household name with the rise of the internet and particularly due to the popularity of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia. In this article, we examine other projects by Wikimedia Foundation, the American non-profit organization. The foundation was established in 2003 by Jimmy Wales as a way to fund Wikipedia and its sibling projects through non-profit means. The Wikimedia Foundation has the stated goal of “developing and maintaining open content, wiki-based projects and providing the full contents of those projects to the public free of charge.”

The Wiki Philosophy

Ward Cunningham and co-author Bo Leuf, in their book The Wiki Way: Quick Collaboration on the Web, described the essence of the Wiki concept as follows:

  • A wiki invites all users—not just experts—to edit any page or to create new pages within the wiki website, using only a simple, standard web browser
  • Wiki promotes meaningful topic associations between different pages by making page link creation intuitively easy and showing whether an intended target page exists or not
  • A wiki is not a carefully crafted site created by experts and professional writers and designed for casual visitors. Instead, it seeks to involve the typical visitor/user in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration that constantly changes the website landscape.


Wikimedia Projects

The Wikimedia Foundation is responsible for various knowledge projects. These projects run through the collaboration of millions of people residing in different corners of the world i.e., it works under the crowdsourcing philosophy. In this article, we have compiled a list of 10 projects from Wikimedia Foundation which we think are most useful for educators and students.

1) Wikipedia: Ever found yourself in need of some info on your favourite celebrity? Or simply curious about some trivia? We all know where to go on the internet. Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, is one of the major projects run by the Wikimedia Foundation by people all around the world. Wikipedia in simple words can be referred to as a ‘digital encyclopedia’ that consists of resources of thousands of topics written in more than a hundred languages. Although questionable regarding trustworthiness due to crowdsourcing, Wikipedia has a team of dedicated editors and some clear policies and guidelines that have been crucial to maintaining the quality of its articles.

2. Wiktionary: While most dictionaries are boring, Wiktionary has evolved beyond the definition of a  standard dictionary and now includes a thesaurus, a rhyme guide, phrase books, language statistics and extensive appendices. It aims to describe all words of all languages, including the artificial languages such as Klingon and Sindarin, using definitions and descriptions in English. Just like WIkipedia, Wiktionary is a crowdsourced project where everyone can contribute.

3. Wikiquote: We all have had such moments where we partially remember a quote from a book or movie and wish we had access to a library of such quotes to look into. The solution comes in the form of a project named Wikiquote. As the name suggests, Wikiquote is a collection of quotations from notable figures and works. It consists not just quotations but slogans and mnemonics in different languages which helps individuals to quote statements to validate their points if such are relevant in their work. 

4. Wikibooks: Did you know that a plethora of e-books of different categories, and even textbooks or annotated texts, exist on the internet that are free to use and contribute to? Wikibooks is such a project from Wikimedia foundation. It is an undertaking similar to an open-source software project where a contributor creates content for the project for personal enrichment, or to accomplish something for his or her own work, or to help others. In addition, instructional guides and manuals are also available on Wikibooks. 

5. Wikisource: If you like reading classic works in the field of science, literature, law and such disciplines, Wikisource might be a gift for you. Wikisource collects and stores in digital format previously published texts; including novels, non-fiction works, letters, speeches, constitutional and historical documents, laws and a range of other documents. All texts collected are either free of copyright or released under the Creative Commons Attribution. The key difference between Wikisource and Wikibooks is that Wikisource is a free collection of existing books and articles which are now a part of the public domain, while in Wikibooks the members contribute to create editable textbooks and learning materials.

6. Wikispecies: Some people find it interesting to go through classification on living things and see how closely related any two of them are. If you are one of such people, you will enjoy going through Wikispecies’ huge database on every species of living thing on Earth. This project, however, is directed towards scientists rather than the general audience.

7. Wikinews: Wikipedia is an online collection of news articles that are written by the general audience. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has distinguished Wikinews from Wikipedia by saying “on Wikinews, each story is to be written as a news story as opposed to an encyclopedia article.” The neutral point of view policy distinguishes Wikinews from other citizen journalism efforts. But just like other Wiki projects, crowdsourcing makes it particularly vulnerable to vandalism since there isn’t much time to rectify the falsehood before the news circulates or becomes stale.

8. Wikiversity: With various MOOCs such as Coursera and EdX offering popular courses, most people aren’t aware of a similar initiative by Wikimedia, one main difference being that the latter doesn’t provide any certification. Wikiversity is a center for the creation of and use of free learning materials, and the provision of learning activities. People can use the learning resources or contribute to refining and expanding them. It differs from Wikipedia in that it offers tutorials and other materials for the fostering of learning, rather than an encyclopedia.

9. Wikivoyage: From information about travel destinations to areas of tours, Wikivoyage is a multilingual travel guide that fascinates travelers on their journey. It is open to all and users from all around the world can write, update and learn from resources available. If you are an avid traveller or someone who likes knowing about fascinating places, Wikivoyage might prove beneficial to you.

10. Commons: Sometimes we are in need of images or other media content for any report or article we are working on but have difficulty browsing through the vast sea of copyrighted materials that Google brings us. Wikimedia Commons can solve that problem. It is an online repository of free-use media files such as images, audio, video, JSON files and other media. It has been criticized for a large number of amateur content that lack quality and usefulness. Despite this, its huge repository of over 70 million media objects offers many good quality, useful things to us. 

Hopefully, exploring the projects above will make you awe at the quality and quantity of open-source resources available through the Wiki project. While visiting the sites above, did you notice that none of the Wiki projects have any room for advertisements? They are non-profit organizations and need funds to operate, most of which comes from donors and contributors from its patrons. We hope more people will contribute to this project to ensure it remains free and accessible to all.

Note: All the images used in this article are freely licensed media resources.