Wikipedia or WikiPilipinas? : the debate continues (part 1)
By Annalyn S. Jusay
After last week's article on the launch of the "hip n' free Philippine encyclopedia" WikiPilipinas, we now present the other side. This is the side of staunch Wikipedians who feel that a Philippine version is just a duplication of content. We sought out award-winning Wikipedia contributor Eugene Villar to explain his take on the issue. He is a twenty-something hardware engineer who also authors his personal blog vaes9.codedgraphic.com, the travel blog vistapinas.com which features Filipino sights as seen from the satellite view of Google Maps and Lakbayan (at http://forge.codedgraphic.com/lakbayan), a Pinoy travel quiz web application.
Q. You say that you're a die-hard Wikipedian. Why so? Can you expound on its virtues, including its value as an online reference tool?
A. I've been a Wikipedia contributor since 2002 and I still am quite active, though not as much ever since I started blogging. As a child, I grew up reading my family's encyclopedia. Well, I didn't read the encyclopedia volumes from cover-to-cover but I would instead skip the boring biographies and histories and read up on articles that interest me like science and technology. I can't remember the first time I heard about Wikipedia or the first edit I did (as an anonymous visitor), but I clearly remember getting excited about the possibilities. Imagine, helping to create the world's largest encyclopedia!
Wikis make editing web content drastically easy. Just click the "edit" link and you can then edit the page. To deter vandalism, wikis store all the changes that have been made to a page so that a page can be reverted to an earlier version. Combine the wiki methodology with the free-software or open-source-software concept of "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" (attributed to Linus Torvalds) we have a potent recipe for creating a populist encyclopedia.
Wikipedia goes one step further by adopting the (1) Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy (in which all opposing viewpoints on a controversial topic--like abortion--is presented in a balanced and impassive way) and the (2) Attribution policy (this is actually two policies: Verifiability Policy--everything stated in Wikipedia must have already been said by a reliable third-party--and No Original Research Policy--again no original claim can be included in Wikipedia; these must all be attributed to a reliable third party). These content policies provide a much-needed direction for the creation of encyclopedic content. I am quite certain that without these two policies, Wikipedia would have not been as vastly successful as it is now.
As a reference tool, Wikipedia excels in giving readers a gist of a particular topic. Nowadays, when I want to learn more about something (like a movie, an artist, a person, a recent world event, etc.) I simply go to Wikipedia and have my curiosity instantly satisfied. I'm definitely not alone in using Wikipedia in this regard.
Q. Can you restate the arguments in your blog against WikiPilipinas? In what ways does it duplicate the content of Wikipedia? Have there been violations of the Wikipedia policy on copy rights and such?
I've written that blog post over a month ago and recent developments have made some of my arguments moot or outdated.
Anyway, when I first heard of WikiPilipinas (Wikipiniana back then) it was basically a fork of the Philippine-related content from the English Wikipedia. It appeared then that they were trying to create a Philippine version of Wikipedia which I opposed for the reasons I stated in my blog post:
1) An encyclopedia for Filipinos by Filipinos is not necessarily a good thing. To state my fellow Wikipedian's comment: "According to the history of China by China for China...Tianenmen Square is...just a place." Having a Filipino-centric point of view is not necessarily good. We need to see all views of a subject in order to make an informed decision.
2) For articles that are existing in both Wikipedia and WikiPilipinas, Wikipedia's articles will almost certainly rank higher in search engines. Since a wiki's lifeblood are the eyeballs that help to improve the content, it makes sense to improve Wikipedia's articles since these are the ones that get exposure. For many terms and keywords, Wikipedia's articles often appear on the first page of search engine results.
3) WikiPilipinas, as an encyclopedia, does not offer anything new. Why reinvent the wheel out of some sense of nationalism? Wikipedia does not aim to be an American- or Anglo-centric encyclopedia at all.
In the intervening time, WikiPilipinas has modified its direction such that my argument #3 no longer applies. They have eschewed Wikipedia's NPOV and No Original Research policies and they have adapted the "WikiPilipinas is not an academic encyclopedia" position.
If WikiPilipinas is not an academic encyclopedia, then why call themselves the "hip and free" encyclopedia? Using the word "encyclopedia" lends an air of scholarship that WikiPilipinas seems to eschew. They should have called themselves the "hip and free knowledgebase" because that's what it is.
Many of the new concerns we Filipino Wikipedians have over WikiPilipinas has been passionately expounded by Wikipedian Shrumster in a blog post ( http://shrumster.multiply.com/journal/item/107/WikiPilipinas_and_Wikipedia_Encyclopaedia_mashup ). I agree with practically most of his statements.
As for your question on copyrights, yes, Wikipedia's copyrights have been infringed in two ways:
1) Articles imported from Wikipedia only point to the Wikipedia homepage. To follow the terms of the GFDL, the WikiPilipinas article must link to the actual Wikipedia article, not the homepage. There are thousands of these articles in WikiPilipinas.
2) Images imported from Wikipedia were uploaded without any attribution, again a violation of the GFDL. I've started correcting this in WikiPilipinas and there has been belated effort on their part to rectify the mistakes on the images.
Here's a last observation of mine: they overemphasize publicity of the website against strengthening their policies and procedures. Their help pages and policy pages are incomplete and there's even a mish-mash of content originally from Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation that should've been cleaned up. Some fellow Wikipedians have observed vandalism on WikiPilipinas already and so far no one's cleaning up. They have a lot of house-cleaning to do.