As I wrote in my previous post, there seems to be two things confusing people I know who, heretofore, have not been bombarded every day with news about something including the prefix “wiki.” This post is a continuation of that topic — and an explanation of why I believe it’s very important:
1. Wikileaks is not a wiki. As I noted previously, when they first launched a website, the people behind Wikileaks used a wiki software platform, but they soon decided it was not the best platform to use, so they changed their software approach and started describing themselves as a “news organization” or a “stateless news organization.” However, by that time, the brand “WikiLeaks” was so established, they continued to use it. So, love them or hate them, I think we can all agree on this: Wikileaks is not a wiki.
2. Another thing we can agree on: The online encyclopedia Wikipedia (that is very much, a wiki) has no connection with Wikileaks. Likewise, the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit foundation that operates Wikipedia, has no relationship with the group that is behind Wikileaks.
Whether they love Wikileaks or they hate Wikileaks, I believe it is important for people to be informed that Wikileaks has no connection to wikis, in general, or to Wikipedia, specifically.
Why? Because the Wikimedia Foundation is in the middle of its annual fundraising campaign (yes, I’ve donated), and it’s important for potential donors to understand there is no connection between the people who are behind Wikileaks (no matter whether you agree with them, or not) and the non-profit group and the millions of individuals who have helped create Wikipedia and related wiki-model projects like Wikibooks, that is developing free text books; Wiktionary, that also includes a thesaurus, a rhyme guide and more; Wikiquote, a compendium of sourced quotations; and other projects that collect source material, open-source media and support material for training and educational purposes. (In other words, if you want to give money to Wikileaks, don’t worry about your money going to support all of these programs — and if you want to support these programs, don’t worry about your money going to Wikileaks.)
Why do I care?
In addition to my love of obscure prefixes, I care about the word “wiki” because a small team of people with whom I work at Hammock, provide services to clients who are using wikis to help them collect, organize and collaborate the information and knowledge that’s important to their organizations and to the audiences they serve. So, admittedly, it is important to me professionally, for people to understand that “wiki” does not always attach itself to things that are controversial or threatening. It is a software platform and content management approach and a type of website that can be used in many, many ways.
One of the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation is the open-source software platform, MediaWiki, the content management system that is used to maintain Wikipedia. If you consider the scaling and server-needs created by the multiple-language sites that comprise Wikipedia, and the need for tools to manage the controversies and governance challenges of such a vast community-run resource, and the unprecedented need for features and tools that enable the creation of ever-changing taxonomies, you begin to understand the challenges — and accomplishments — of the few programmers who work for the Wikimedia Foundation or vast community of volunteer programmers who contribute their time and talents to improving the MediaWiki platform.
As Hammock uses the MediaWiki software to run SmallBusiness.com, I have become intimately familiar with the software. I started out frustrated and confused and, like most people who have ever tried to edit a Wikipedia entry for the first time, convinced that the software was hopelessly “un” user-friendly. After a while, however, as I began to embrace the software rather than work against it, I grew to appreciate its unique features and, more importantly, to understand how the community of developers are constantly solving those things I find frustrating.
So, yes, I have a personal reason for wanting to make sure that people who would like to support Wikipedia are not confused into thinking it’s related to something they may not want to support.
But chances are, you do to.