Wikipedia has been the standard bearer of the Wikimedia foundation for long. Its user generated content powered by people like us has made it one of the kings of the information heap if not the absolute emperor. One would think that its 10 million articles spread out over 264 languages would be enough for an information gopher, but then there’s nothing like too much information.
Perhaps that’s why the guys at Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit parent body have several other pet projects running. We often have given them a go by without realizing there niche value.
So, I would just like to pause here and take a look at the informational value of the eight sister wikis from Wikimedia.
- Wikimedia Commons
If you are looking for public domain photos to use, then this is bookmark worthy. At last count it had a repository of “˜4,127,824 freely usable media files’. The term “˜freely usable‘ implies files under public domain, Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike and GNU Free Documentation Licenses. The content (audio, music, image, and video files) is arranged by topic, location, type, author, by license and by source. There are some gems to be found – type Greg Williams in the search box and you will be taken to his Wikiworld Archive of illustrations and cartoons.
There’s a coterie of news hounds calling themselves as citizen journalists behind Wikinews. The news is not classified into channels but Wikinews taps into the distributed nature of the internet to break news from all parts of the globe. Sources are cited below the news article to give the piece authenticity. News can be also read by region or by language. Tickers on the Weather, Crude Oil Prices, Market Indices and Sports Scores give a rounded picture. One can also catch up with the latest on Wikinews on an IRC channel, on Twitter or through a RSS feed. There is an audio brief option too.
And if your sense of fun lies in current affairs why not try out the World News Quiz page through the link at the top of the page.
Wikibooks is an accumulation of free e-book resources comprising of textbooks, language courses, manuals, and public domain books. The direct beneficiaries of Wikibooks are students, and teachers in high-schools and universities. It is an important resource for self learning and reference. The English version alone has nearly 28,000 modules from over 3,000 developing books. Subjects cover the gamut of Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Computers and Humanities.
Within Wikibooks, there are two diverging links which point to Wikijunior, a wiki resource for children and Simple English, a wiki with simplified English books. Both are still developing works which focus on creating content for children upto age 12 and books for easy readability.
It’s an internet archive of free content totaling to about 123,965 texts in the English database. More tuned towards the serious reader, there are some literary gems to be found in Wikisource. You might like to try out “˜The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin’ or Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. Wikisource is arranged around an Index of Works and an Index of Authors which along with the search box helps us to drill down to any relevant text. Classics, speeches and translated text can be found here.
Wikiversity serves like an education portal where teachers and students can collaborate in an open learning environment. It is a method of “˜experimental learning’ where teachers combine with students to create educational content from the ground up. “˜Learning by doing’ is the central theme around which Wikiversity hopes to evolve. For those interested, Wikiversity is a vital e-learning medium. Belying its name, Wikiversity has educational courses across all educational levels. For instance, I got interested in the Technical Writing course which was offered Level 1 and Level 2 courses on the subject with a workshop on writing system requirement specifications. The resource allows me to learn, contribute and even interact with an instructor.
Wiktionary is now not only a dictionary but also a thesaurus and also includes etymologies, pronunciations, sample quotations, synonyms, antonyms and translations. It is building itself up to be a comprehensive word reference source. A Rhymes listing, Frequency listing and a Phrasebook are also part of Wiktionary. With 1,195,489 English words, it is a useful catalogue. A user can get to all the nuances of a word using the Define box on the page. An audio translation is also available to understand the typical pronunciation. One can also link to the other language Wiktionary pages to get the meaning of a foreign word.
Wondering who said “˜Fools rush where Angels fear to tread‘? It could be among the 16,508 citations in Wikiquote. A compendium of quotes from around the world, this wiki is browsable by People, Literary works, Films, TV shows, Special Themes and Miscellaneous entries.
Note: The quote was by Sir Richard Francis Burton
It might not immediately goad our interest but this wiki lists 179,317 taxonomic entries sourced from species records in the natural world. This makes it an important resource for a life science student.
Wikipedia and its sister sites have offered us what no other information medium has so far – a comprehensive knowledge wealth and the power to share and edit it for free. So are you among the ones who go over to the other Wikis for information or do you remain rooted to the main Wikipedia? Let us know how you use Wikipedia’s knowledge for your own.
Also make sure to check out 12 Popular Wikis that actually “˜WORK’. While Wikipedia is the biggest wiki out there, there are a number of other niche wikis that are very popular in their medium.