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Wikipedia has put knowledge at our fingertips. Granted that we can scour the web and pick up usable information using a search engine, but Wikipedia’s value lies in the fact that it has collated, organized, and condensed it all for us. Or nearly all, because human knowledge is vast and I think Wikipedians aren’t out of their jobs just yet.
There are many ways to look at and browse through Wikipedia. From browser extensions and plugins to web apps that make browsing Wikipedia more than a scholarly exercise. The vast bank of human knowledge stored within Wikipedia pages also makes for some interesting uses – some which you might not even consider seriously. But checking out these five useful ways of using Wikipedia could be worth your reading time.
Search Wikipedia for “Experts”
It is safe to assume that Wikipedia contributors or Wikipedians know what they are talking, or rather writing about. You can pick any topic and search for a “subject matter expert” you can contact. Let’s say I am searching some information on ‘Arteriolosclerosis’. Clicking on the View History link takes you to the page where revisions from Wikipedians who contributed to the page are listed. Click on the user name to learn more about the contributor, and then click on Talk to leave him a message.
But remember that Wikipedia should be just a starting place for your research and not the end point. The Golden Rule still applies: Don’t believe everything you read on the web. If you are looking for sensitive information, especially related to health and medicine, Wikipedia “facts’ should be corroborated by professional opinion and hard facts.
Get the Bigger Picture with Wikipedia Statistics
As the page itself says, it’s almost impossible for a human to grab all of Wikipedia. So, the statistics page was conjured up to give a bird’s eye view of what’s happening within the boiler rooms of this online encyclopedia. For instance, Wikitrends tells you at a glance what’s trending on Wikipedia. Uptrends and downtrends are available across languages and time spans. Reading the top stories could help you connect the dots as to why the stories are gaining popularity.
Wikipedia as a Foreign Language Dictionary
I came across this old article (dated 2009) which explains how you can use Wikipedia for language translations. You can take advantage of the Wikipedia language sidebar to go to the foreign language specific page and get the equivalent word or term. Of course, it might be a synonym and not an exact translation, but even then Wikipedia and its multi-lingual versions offer an offbeat language learning tool.
Wikipedia as a Time Capsule
Did you know that Wikipedia has a Timeline of the far future? This timeline among all the other timelines that are listed in Wikipedia covers events from just about eight thousand years from now to the farthest edges of future time. It is based on scientific predictions, astrophysics, and plate-tectonics among other things. The List of Centuries breaks down each millennia and century (from 4rth Century BC to 40th Century AD), into its major events – social, political, and technological. You can literally track time using the vast storehouse of information on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia for A Few Laughs
Everything’s not serious about Wikipedia. Wikipedia has a page devoted to deleted articles with freaky titles; because, as the page so eloquently puts it – Wikipedians too loose their minds occasionally. It’s a real pity that the articles stand deleted and only the titles remain. Topics like “Butt munchers” and “Dog Fart Neutralizing Thong” would have made for an interesting read.
In some quarters, Wikipedia may not be taken as a credible source. But as a jumping off point for further exploration, it more than serves its purpose. We have taken a close look at Wikipedia over the years. Have we missed some tip, some unique way to use Wikipedia more effectively? Give us your take if you use it in an interesting way.