Essentialpedia is a proposed project on Proposals for new projects for Wikimedia. The idea is to provide a shorter and more concise Wikipedia, containing only the most essential.
Aim and need
One aim of the project may be to have an encyclopaedia which can possibly be read from beginning to end, learning the most important of everything. With almost 10 million articles, Wikipedia is simply too overwhelming for the person interested in everything. In fact, even most single articles have simply become too long for anybody with limited time. Take a look at the first article in w:Category:Genes on chromosome 1 for example, and consider that there are 23 chromosomes in total. Our chromosomes are important, indeed, but too overwhelming for the human brain to even scroll through. In Essentialpedia, it might be sufficient to have one article regarding chromosomes, perhaps even merged with DNA and related topics.
The need of such a project is reflected in that speakers of languages other than English often prefer the non-English Wikipedia just because the English one has become too detailed.
Difference from other projects
- Wikipedia has features that may facilitate finding the essentials, but none of them are enough to isolate the essentials:
- Introduction to... articles articles that either try to give a broad summary of several more specialised articles, or act as a stand-alone introduction to very technical articles. Examples include Introduction to genetics and Introduction to evolution.
- Article introductions optimally summarizes the essentials, but even in featured articles this is not always the case. Furthermore, the introductions also provide dumps of information not fitting in into article sections, and if they do ever appear, then summaries may only appear when their articles have reached a certain length. Finally, with soon 3 million articles, and a number of introductions of the same order of magnitude, it is hard to distinguish essential introductions from less important ones.
- Main articles, forking away less important details to subarticles, also facilitates. Again, however, the main article will be a dump of information not fitting in elsewhere. Furthermore, there is no easy way to distinguish unimportant articles from important ones, stubs included.
- Featured articles may indeed indicate importance of the subject, but is mainly denotes well-written articles generally. Most of them are very long and likely full of less important information. It doesn't mean, however, that Essentialpedia also aims to have well-written articles.
- A category of important articles could gather important subjects, but important subjects tend to have very long articles, still including that less-essential part.
- However, a WikiProject Haystack could provide an Essentialpedia integrated into Wikipedia.
- Simple English Wikipedia may seem to partially fill this function, but its aim is still completely different, as it is clearly stated on its Main Page:
- Simple doesn't mean little. Writing in Simple English means that simple words are used. It does not mean readers want simple information. Articles don't have to be short to be simple; expand articles, include a lot of information, but use basic vocabulary.
- The other way around, an Essentialpedia may indeed have relatively advanced vocabulary, as long as it doesn't get too technical.
- Wikiversity is a wiki of learning resources, learning projects, and research for use in all levels, and contains essential as well as less essential information. The function of Essentialpedia is to distinguish the essential part, which includes that whatever is typed in the search box or picked as a random page should be absolute essential, and that can not be the case in Wikiversity.
Wikipedia's vital articles serves a good starting point to the contents. An approximate layout could be:
- the Vital 100; same size as they are now. Thus, no essentials-box is needed, and the whole article may appear directly in the search engine.
- The other 900 Vital articles; reduced to 1000-2000 words (slightly smaller than this page). Essentials box may be contained in an expandable box within the article.
- The other thousands of articles in Vital articles/Expanded; 300-500 words. (like an average introduction in such article)
With this layout, the entire "needle collection" would thus contain approximately 3 million words, like two volumes (of a total of 29) of Wikipedia:Encyclopædia Britannica, and would thus fit in most bookshelves. If we expand Vital articles/Expanded to the desired 10.000, then we would have a work of a size of about six volumes.
Other inclusion criteria
The Vital articles-content may be all inclusion criteria that are needed. Other criteria may be added, for instance as to what parts of these articles should be included.
The guidelines would in almost every sense be same as in Wikipedia, but with more stringent inclusion criteria. Additional criteria could be:
Any contributed information must:
- ...be included in primary or secondary education. (K-12 or equivalent).
Another alternative to this entire project would be to expand the inclusion criteria in Wikipedia itself. However, many, many contributions that have been done in good faith would then have been done in vain. Besides, sometimes you actually need to know as much as possible about something otherwise trivial, in the same way as you sometimes only have time to read the most essential.
On the other hand, what might not be inclusion criteria may be:
- Being the most important information in any very long article, as very long doesn't necessarily mean very important. For instance, according to a major notability guideline discussion, there is no consensus that every article spin-off must prove notability. Thus, not every long article deserves an Essentials-box. In such cases, its function could rather be accomplished by a normal Summary-section, avoiding being included in any separate search among the essentials.
Initially, it would basically be created by copying knowledge from Wikipedia - a relatively easy task in other words, since Essentialpedia actually already is written. It just needs to be sorted out.
A good starting point is to scroll through the core articles taken from the Core Contest:
Such an Essentialpedia may in time stabilize at a size somewhere between a textbook and a conventional encyclopaedia. In other words, it could be printed and read like any book. It could become the book where every single word is chosen by all humankind as being the very most important. Imagine what a bestseller that would be, and the money it could provide to Wikimedia or other charity. Still, the online version would be completely free and constantly updated.
- Minipedia, currently a collection of stubs to facilitate Wikipedias in new languages.
- Lillipedia (From the name of a fictional island called Lilliput in the novel Gulliver's Travels)
Already taken ones
- Shortopedia (shortopedia.com is currently a converter to stubs of any Wikipedia article, including trifling ones)
- Micropedia, taken by Microsoft
- Nanopedia, used for nanotechnology
- Pikopedia, used for pictures (and besides, piko- may sound too minuscule for the scope of the project)
- Knowledge, distilled.
- Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the essence of all knowledge. That's our commitment.
WikiProject Haystack, an Essentialpedia integrated into Wikipedia- was deleted, see: w:Wikipedia:Miscellany for deletion/Wikipedia:WikiProject Haystack
- Mikael Häggström
- Geoff Plourde
- Microchip08 (as long as there's no drama)
- The Flying Spaghetti Monster - Won't be super active - have commitments at Simple.
- Deevrod (I'd like to open Russian part of Essentialpedia and edit it, but only English is OK).
- DavidWS I'd love to work on it. It's a very smart project idea.
- Giorgio Gonnella I think this is a very smart project, and would result in a big success. I'm not sure about how much energy I could invest in it, due to my many interests, but I would contribute for sure.
- norro I like the idea very much
- Workster I like this idea although I believe there is similiar attempts ongoing already inside Wikipedia.
- Ajraddatz This would be very handy for finding basic information quickly.