WikiEssays

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This is a proposal for a new WMF sister project.
WikiEssays
Status of the proposal
Statusunder discussion
Details of the proposal
Project descriptionEssentially: Wikipedia without NPOV. Evolving essays focused on explaining certain concepts/standpoints, with the Wiki aspect to encourage debate and diversity of opinions.
Is it a multilingual wiki?no
Potential number of languagesyes
Proposed taglineWikipedia, but with essays!
New features to requirejust MediaWiki

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia. As such, a more verbose style is generally discouraged. An enyclopedia, needless to say, has a rigid structure, which needs to be observed. Content needs to be rigidly structured, because most people don't read the article for its own sake -- they read it (or more accurately, they read the conveniently placed Google infobox) because they want to know when Charlemagne was born, not because they want a summarised version of his entire life, legacy and domestic policy.

The exception being people who want intimately familiarise themselves with Charlemagne. The sort of people who, when they're older, want to write a book called 'The Life and Times of Charlemagne'. They're probably going to use the Wikipedia article as a starting point (unless they've been tasked with doing an unimaginative middle school presentations, in which case it's probably going to be their only source). And while Wikipedia certainly is a good starting point, maybe there is room for something... more?

I'm basically proposing a cross between your average blogging platform and Wikipedia. Continually evolving essays, edited collaboratively, to form a canon of the world's knowledge. A slightly more centralised solution to a problem that is usually solved by a wide variety of blogs, explanation videos on YouTube, and longer-than-allowed Twitter threads

Failure modes[edit]

  • Horcruxes: Wikipedia is already prone to edit warring. It turns out that people have wildly varying opinions about how to best display certain information. This problem might intensify if you're not just editing an objective Wikipedia article on epistemology, but writing an essay on epistemology that is potentially deeply intertwined with your own world view, you might get a bit touchy when someone else decides to overturn your delicious phrasing with their own cheap talk full of meaningless tautological redundancy. If you have an opposing viewpoint, you can of course just fork the essay, or rather, write a competing one, but people are probably going to be even more invested when they're not working on a purely non-personal article designed to represent the most popular arguments on a subject, and I don't think it would be wise to have 15 different essays on Wittgenstein and skepticism. To put it more poetically, the author might invest part of his soul into the creation of the essay, so that he may live forever in his position on the correct pronunciation of the word 'Quetzalcoatl' (I don't encourage writing essays about the pronunciation of words -- I'm just making a point). Mitigation: Some kind of community mechanism to resolve conflicts, or some kind of karma system where people who write better essays can overrule others?
  • Underrepresented viewpoints: As with Wikipedia, there would, naturally, be people who would contribute more than the average contributor. It would be safe to assume that essays reflecting on the viewpoints of these people might be better maintained, and perhaps better written, assuming that people with an extremely good grasp of the English (or any other) language are more likely to be more active on such a project. The exact opposite might also occur, and things that might be considered not notable enough by Wikipedia would be strongly featured (Maybe someone wants to write lots of essays about Magic: The Gathering).
  • Wildly varying quality: Again, a problem which isn't unique to this kind of project, but might be more strongly pronounced. You can start an article on Wikipedia by giving a short summary on the topic. You probably shouldn't write a five line long essay on a subject, and call it a day. It might also be more difficult for non-native speakers like me to contribute to essays, if we can't express ourselves well enough. Mitigation: A rigid quality control system implemented from the start

Proposed by[edit]

User:Milanandreew


Alternative names[edit]

WikiTracts, WikiDiscourse, WikiStudies


Related projects/proposals[edit]

  • Wikiversity -- but it's focused on learning resources.
  • Someone mentioned Google Knol on the original proposal, which I mistakenly started on the WMF Village pump.

Domain names[edit]

Apparently wikiessays.org is already in use, but wikitracts.org isn't, and neither is wikidiscourse.org.

People interested[edit]