Wikipedia as a first home for other wiki projects

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Friday, August 31, 2001, 4:02 PM -- As part of my extracurricular activities, I play Irish fiddle. I suggested on Irtrad-L, a music mailing list, that somebody set up a wiki devoted to listing Irish traditional music sessions. (Nobody is maintaining a complete, definitive list these days, and I thought a wiki would be the perfect solution.) I gave Wikipedia as an example of a wiki so people could understand what wikis are all about.

Well, wouldn't you know it but somebody decides to start the list on Wikipedia. At first I said (on Irtrad-L) that this was a bad idea, for a variety of reasons--that the wiki should be located somewhere else. Then I thought again: hey, we can always copy the information that gets started on Wikipedia to wherever the information will eventually live. So why not let people get started, working on Wikipedia?

Then the thought occurs to me that the net result of this will be a few more cheerfully addicted Wikipedians--particularly if there is indeed a successful Irish session wiki started up, they will learn the wiki system and remember that Wikipedia is what got them into it originally. Warm fuzzies!

It occurs to me now that this is actually probably a very good way to get people into Wikipedia who might otherwise not know or care at all about it. We all have hobbies and academic interests that, in various ways, might be very well-served by the collaborative treatment that wikis allow. So that's my thought--we could start encouraging the creation of wikis about our interests, and offer to host an initial page about it, and then encourage people to take the wiki info elsewhere.

(Unless it's actually encyclopedic info--in which case, encourage them to keep it on Wikipedia.  :-) )

Someone's already done this, too, with AmbientCalculiOnline. That actually brings Wikipedia quite a few hits.


I think it's great to attach collaborative sites to wikipedia articles like AmbientCalculiOnline does. The only concern would be that the material on those pages could be mistaken for encyclopedic and neutral because of the wikipedia URL. How about if we ask people to stick to certain page names, for example "External: Irish music" or maybe "Non-Wikipedia: Irish music" or "Group discussion: Irish music"? --AxelBoldt

My proposal entails that, with few exceptions like AmbientCalculiOnline (which occupies one page that will never be an encyclopedia article), we encourage people to begin projects here, and then (quickly) move them elsewhere. This makes your suggestion unnecessary. --LMS

I think this isn't a very good idea. It stands a risk of just increasing the amount of useless cruft in the database, and incurring name collisions. UseModWiki is extremely easy to set up, and those wishing to use wiki should do so. If they happen to produce information that can be used in wiki, then it'd just be a matter of cut and paste to bring appropriate bits of it back in.

I don't like it either. Here are some potential problems that I see:

  1. Confusion of content: How will people know the difference between encyclopedia content and the content of special projects?
  2. Name collisions: Projects will use pages that should be reserved for articles.
  3. Abandoned projects: What will be do when people start a project and abandon it? The material will just sit around Wikipedia, taking up space.
  4. No selection - rejection process: If this idea takes off, we may get have more special project pages than encyclopedia pages, and no way to control the influx.
  5. How do we enforce the rules? If people are only permitted to start projects here, how do we make them move on when the time comes? Who decides when the project has matured enough to leave? What if they refuse? What will we do when people find content from a project that has moved on and start to add to it?

I know that we have AmbientCalculiOnline, but it is merely one page of external links, and hasn't caused us any problems. If we open the doors wide open, it could endanger the whole encyclopedia project. As Bryce said, wiki software isn't very tricky to set up. And there are also servers like that exist for people to set up wikis on anything they like. These would be better options, as I think the cons far outweigh the pros of letting projects start on Wikipedia.

I am not convinced, though you've made some good points. Let's look at the arguments presented so far. I think I have adequate replies to all of them.

  1. Confusion of content: We can have people who begin projects here specially label them as such. See Irish Sessions as an example.
  2. Name collisions: This will not happen as long as the projects stick to subpages of the main project (again, see Irish Sessions as an example).
  3. Abandoned projects: If a project is abandoned, eventually, I or you will delete it.
  4. No selection - rejection process: Actually, I very much doubt that many people are going to start projects here. I am just suggesting that a few people (people who are reading this) ask their friends to get wiki-type projects started here. I'm not suggesting that we loudly advertise Wikipedia as a place to start non-encyclopedia wikis. (We've got plans for that, anyway.)
  5. How do we enforce the rules? "If people are only permitted to start projects here, how do we make them move on when the time comes?" -- I post a warning, and they move it. If they don't, I delete it.

The essential point here is that there is some risk that, if poorly managed, non-encyclopedic projects that begin life here would threaten to dilute the encyclopedia. I acknowledge that there is some risk along these lines, but I think it's very small, for the above reasons. I think the benefits of getting new people familiar with both the wiki format and Wikipedia outweigh these small risks: it means more people contributing (encyclopedia articles) to Wikipedia. --Larry

I am not convinced, though you've made some good counterpoints. ;-) I still maintain, however, that encouraging people to sign up for their own wiki at would be better. Or perhaps a separate wiki could be set up, something like a project hatchery. But anyway, my points have been made. I just want my objection noted in the log... -- STG

How about if we add a new wiki, akin to the international ones, called, and let them play there? --AxelBoldt

Actually, it turns out that Bomis is going to set up a website for this.  :-) --LMS

Beautiful. I retract all objections. -- STG

I want to add September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack as an example of something that's halfway between Wikipedia entry and separate project. See September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack/In Memoriam.

I'm pretty strongly in favor of encouraging not-obviously Wikipedia projects to be added to Wikipedia. -- TheCunctator