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Wikipedia is an open-source, multilingual online encyclopedia that allows its user to add, edit or delete its content using a rich-text editor. Launched by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger in 2001, the website consists of more than 23 million articles in 285 languages written collaboratively by voluntary researchers and editors around the world (as of October 2012). Wiki is also used as a generic term to describe any encyclopedic website that is user-editable and crowdsourced.
Wikipedia was launched in January 2001 by Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger. The name of the site was coined by Sanger as a portmanteau of wiki, the Hawaiian word for “quick”, and encyclopedia. The word “wiki” also refers to the first user-editable website WikiWikiWeb that was launched in March 1995 by Ward Cunningham as part of the Portland Pattern Repository. According to Forbes’ interview with Cunningham in 2006, he named his project after Hawaii’s local airport shuttle bus service “Wiki Wiki Shuttle” that he had heard while on vacation.
Wikipedia was initially envisioned as a drafting companion tool for Nupedia, an online encyclopedia edited solely by experts, but it quickly outgrew its parent website into a global general referential resource with early contributions from Nupedia editors and Slashdot users. By the end of 2001, the site had grown into a vibrant international community with approximately 20,000 articles featured in 18 language editions, 26 language editions by 2002, 46 languages by 2003 and more than 161 languages by 2004.
In 2002, Wikimedia announced that the site will not support any form of commercial advertisements and changed its domain from wikipedia.com to wikipedia.org. The decision was made after the wake of a group of Spanish Wikipedia editors’ departure from the site, who cited growing concerns of its commercial marketability as the reason for leaving. In the following years, the site’s success led to a number of other similar projects like Wikia, a for-profit service co-founded by Jimmy Wales in late 2004, as well as parody sites like Uncyclopedia, a humor site founded by Jonathan Huang in January 2005. By January 2007, Wikipedia had entered the list of top ten most popular websites in the United States for the first time, according to comScore Networks.
In October 2011, Wikimedia announced the launch of Wikipedia Zero, an initiative to open up free mobile access to the site in select developing countries through partnerships with mobile operators. The project aims to reduce two barriers to accessing free knowledge, namely cost of data usage and network speed, by encouraging local service providers to zero-rate, or waiver data charges, the full mobile version of Wikipedia (m.wikipedia.org) and/or the text-only version (zero.wikipedia.org). The initiative went into effect during the early months of 2012, with the launch of zero-rate partnerships in Uganda and Tunisia in April, Malaysia in May, Niger and Kenya in July, Montenegro and Cameroon in August, and most recently, Ivory Coast, Thailand and Saudi Arabia in September and October.
Unlike traditional encyclopedias, the content of Wikipedia is open to free-editing by any registered user with the exception of select few articles that are particularly sensitive in nature or susceptible to vandalism. Wikipedia’s guidelines for writing and editing articles adhere to the standards and conventions practiced in academia and journalism, such as the site’s “neutral point-of-view” policy. In addition, the content of articles are regularly evaluated by voluntary editors for factual accuracy, objectivity and and attribution of credible sources.
The site is largely maintained and updated by its network of voluntary contributors and editors sometimes known as “Wikipedians,” who primarily interact with each other via “talk” pages built on various levels, including within the articles, user profiles and the site as a whole. Although Wikipedia has been marked by its decentralized decision-making process and anti-elitist philosophy, the community does operate within “a bureaucracy of sorts,” namely a clear power structure that gives volunteer administrators the authority to exercise editorial control," according to Wikipedia. Power users and editors with positive reputation in the community can run for voluntary moderation roles, beginning with the “administrator” who has the ability to delete pages, lock articles from reflecting changes or block users from editing.
In 2008, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and Palo Alto Research Center presented a comprehensive analysis of Wikipedia’s distribution of topics and their growth rates, which revealed:
- Culture and the arts: 30% (210%)
- Biographies and persons: 15% (97%)
- Geography and places: 14% (52%)
- Society and social sciences: 12% (83%)
- History and events: 11% (143%)
- Natural and physical sciences: 9% (213%)
- Technology and the applied sciences: 4% (−6%)
- Religions and belief systems: 2% (38%)
- Health: 2% (42%)
- Mathematics and logic: 1% (146%)
- Thought and philosophy: 1% (160%)
An Edit-A-Thon is a community-organized offline event in which a group of Wikipedia editors devote a specific amount of time , normally a day or less, to improving the quality of a certain category of Wikipedia entries.
- World War 1
On June 16th, 2012, an edit-a-thon was held in London, England focusing on World War I. Created by JIsc, a charity group based in the UK focusing on digital technology, it was held in the British library. More than 30 pages were revised.
- Ada Lovelace Edit-a-thon
The first Ada Lovelace edit-a-thon, held in honor of the famous mathematician, was held on October 19th, 2012, in the library of the Royal Society in London, England. Particpants focused on entries on women scientists and were helped by representatives from Wikimedia UK. A second Ada Lovelace edit-a-thon was held on October 15th, 2013, at Brown University.
- Anyone But Burns
On January 24th, 2014, The National Library of Scotland, located in Edinburgh, held a edit-a-thon that encouraged participants to update the pages of any Scottish poet other than Robert Burns.
The Art+Feminism edit-a-thon took place on February 1st, 2014, at the Eastern Bloc gallery in Montreal, Canada. It focused on entries about feminism and contemporary art. At least 15 American colleges also participated, as well as editors who gathered in other Canadian locations such as the NSCAD University Library in Halifax.
The participatory systems built into the Wiki standard that Wikipedia had created proved that Wikis could be useful in generating massive results from teams of participants, making the concept highly popular. Because Wikipedia was not only popular and useful, but also open source, creating derivative works based on Wikipedia’s source code was easy. There was a low barrier of participation making the wiki format highly exploitable. People created new wikis on a wide variety of special subjects, fields, and interests. Early on, there was much being said about what was being called “The Wiki-Wiki Web”.
Wikia is a network of wiki sites that hosts several hundred thousands of smaller-scale encyclopedic projects based on the open-source software MediaWiki. Co-founded by board members of Wikimedia Jimmy Wales and Angela Beesley in 2004, the site was originally launched under the name Wikicities, but later changed to “Wikia” in March 2006 to avoid confusions surrounding the nature of the site. Similar to Wikipedia, the site covers a broad range of topics that is practically unlimited. By early 2005, Wikia had seen the launch of its hundredth wiki and by July 2007, the number had grown to over 3,000 wikis in 50 languages and in April 2010, Wikia announced the creation of its 100,000th wiki project. The impressive growth of Wikia has been attributed to both newly launched projects as well as formerly independent projects that had been merged into the network, such as LyricWiki, The Vault, Uncyclopedia and WowWiki.
Uncyclopedia is a satirical wiki site that is meant to be a general parody of Wikipedia. Founded by Jonathan Huang in January 2005, the site began as an English-language project, but it has since grown into a multilingual network of wikis spanning over 75 languages. Uncyclopedia also provides general coverage of internet memes, however with less focus on the perspective of 4chan in comparison to Encyclopedia Dramatica.
“Encyclopedia Dramatica is a satire wiki site specializing in covering the culture and events of 4chan. Rather than taking the conventional route of objectivity, unbiased language and attribution, the articles and the voice with which the articles are written take on the voice of a highly cynical, highly offensive, possibly basement-dwelling, but often hilarious idiot genius. The articles are written for the intent of bringing lulz because they are written from a standpoint that can only be appreciated after much lurking on 4chan.
Know Your Meme
Although the first incarnation of Know Your Meme was a single page within the Rocketboom wiki, Know Your Meme as it is today is a new type of collaborative knowledge base that is not a wiki. Instead, there is a submissions process by which meme entries are reviewed by staff in order to ensure accuracy and and a certain degree of objectivity. Although Know Your Meme is about memes and highly influenced by the various bits of internet culture researched, confirmed meme entries are to be written neither in favor nor out of favor of the memes presented. Anyone may create a new entry about a meme, and editing to meme entries is reserved for the user who creates the meme, and the site admins, although editing privileges may be granted to additional users who wish to edit.
 is a superscript notation used in Wikipedia articles to identify questionable claims without any basis on reliable sources. Due to its widespread usage on the site, the notation has been also used in other forum communities and weblogs to criticize someone’s argument, as well as in street graffiti art to poke fun at public / corporate advertisements with dubious messages.
The Wikipedia Game
The Wikipedia Game (also known as WikiRace or WikiWars) is a competitive game in which two or more players must navigate through Wikipedia from a randomly assigned page to another page of destination by using the fewest number of links in the shortest amount of time. Usually, the first player to reach the targeted article or the player that reaches the destination with the fewest number of links, wins the race.
Wikipedia Donation Banner Captions
Wikipedia Donation Banner Captions refer to screenshot images based on Wikipedia’s 2011 end-of-year fundraising campaign, featuring various combinations of banner ad images and Wikipedia article titles for comedic effect. The screenshots typically juxtapose pictures of Wikipedia staff members or supporters with oddly fitting article titles that bring sexual or inappropriate implications to the reader’s mind.
Wikipedia Fundraising Campaign
Please Read: A Personal Appeal From X Founder Y is a phrasal template that takes the form of a banner advertisement at the top of a webpage with a close-up profile of an individual representing an organization. The phrase became a popular subject of parodies in late 2010 after Wikipedia launched its first fundraising campaign featuring photographs of the founder Jimmy Wales.
Day without Wikipedia
Day without Wikipedia was a 24-hour blackout that was imposed across English Wikipedia in protest against the legislation of two controversial bills known as Protect IP Act (PIPA) and Stop Online Piracy Act on January 18th, 2012. The decision to go offline was collectively made by over 1,800 Wikipedia editors who participated in the community poll. Due to Wikipedia’s established stature as the go-to reference site for all encyclopedic information, many took their grievances about the blackout event to social networking sites and other outlets.