My Blog-O-Rama column in Manila Bulletin this week deals with “WikiPilipinas and today’s knowledge revolution.”
If you belong to the older generation (like me), do you remember the time when passing a term paper entailed being holed up in the library for hours? Poring through thousands of titles was a great challenge as finishing the paper itself. Of course during this time, buying a 24- or 30-volume encyclopedia was a status symbol in Filipino families, much like owning a piano or having a member of the family work in Saudi or Southern California.
Who would have thought that the encyclopedia would go the way of the dinosaur? The availability of online reference tools these days is simply immense, so much so that the term “research” is already an understatement. And from the vastness of the info universe comes now WikiPilipinas, the net encyclopedia which dispenses all sorts of knowledge pertaining to the Philippines and Filipinos.
Here’s a quick procession of facts about the all-Pinoy wiki: it was conceived on Feb.14 2007 with Gaspar Vibal (of the publishing house fame) as the founder and Richard Grimaldo as the webmaster. The formal site, using an open content management system, was first made available online last June 12 and as of August 23, hit the 100,000 visitor mark shortly after it was launched and announced to bloggers and journalists.
WikiPilipinas has 12 knowledge portals dealing with vital interest areas like religion, science, sports, history and politics, among others. It also contains a Filipino Who’s Who, a directory of various institutions and organizations, an almanac of relevant data about the country and a community portal of the so-called “underserved” groups like Fil-Ams, Tsinoys, gays/lesbians and ethnic groups. If you’re in WikiPinas just for fun, by all means browse through popular culture entries like the Top 10 Scams, the Top 20 TV Shows of All Time, the Top 10 Most Controversial Actresses of All Time and the Most Memorable Movie Lines.
“Ayoko ng tinatapakan ako, ayoko ng masikip, ayoko ng mabaho, ayoko ng walang tubig, ayoko ng walang pag kain, ayoko ng putik.” Yup, it was Maricel Soriano who said that, circa 1984 in “Kaya Kong Abutin ang Langit.” Didn’t think you can easily find it in Google, did you?
It takes listening to Gus Vibal to be startled into awareness about the “new paradigm of publishing” that is now changing the whole industry. He talks about how wikis like WikiPilipinas has democratized access to information” and promotes “participative content development.” This is all anchored on the Wiki’s idea of letting anyone who visits the site to edit the content or contribute more. As a corrective mechanism, community members can watch out for “bad edits” or impose restrictions in cases of bad behavior.
Even more compelling is Vibal’s call for Filipinos to contribute to the 33,540 English articles in the WikiPilipinas database, still phenomenally growing as of press time.With these entries, the country has surpassed the wiki sites of Malaysia, Vietnam, India, Thailand, Iran, Greece and Norway.
Within the year, WikiPilipinas aims to reach its stated benchmark of 100,000 entries to propel it among the top 10 wiki encyclopedias of the world, which are currently held by the English, French, Chinese, Dutch, Spanish, German, Polish, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish wikis.
Vibal did say that the whole idea of a wikipedia is premised on the dictum “publish or perish.” Nowadays, there is so much egalitarianism in the realm of ideas as what we have seen in the explosion and growing dominance of blogs where writing is basically free-for-all. ” Whoever writes controls the point of view,” Vibal adds, and I detect some sort of irony here. With the information overload facing readers and consumers, it is really quite hard to sift fact from fiction, or impose a system of check and balance on how information is filtered down to end-users. Bloggers, for instance, can easily delete or moderate comments from people with opinions contrary to theirs. “Whoever writes controls the point of view” indeed.
It was certainly enlightening to hear about copyright’s opposite term “copyleft” WikiPilipinas adopts the copyleft principle which is a virtual notice giving the public legal permission to freely distribute “a program or other work of art” in accordance with the GNU Free Documentation License. Articles are freely contributed to the project and will b freely edited themselves.
In line with its aim of becoming the “greatest repository of Philippine knowledge,” WikiPilipinas is actively seeking volunteers and contributors for its pages. We wonder how bloggers will warm up to the idea, or if they will find time at all. It will certainly appeal to me to make an entry about myself, lol, or make one that contains my genealogy tree. In the world of wikis, everything is possible.
My only concern is that there is just so much information being absorbed there it can get very overwhelming. The beauty of a wiki is that it compiles and aggregates all useful content, unlike going through a blog which may deal with one or two niches only. Hopefully WikiPilipinas will be as dynamic, colorful and vibrant as the country it represents.