How do you describe a Wiki to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about? Here is one definition:
“ Wiki (from the Hawaiian word for quickly) is a medium for collaboration that allows many people to participate in the production of a long-term knowledge repository or database, often devoted to a specific subject or field of interest. It is based upon a relatively unstructured collection of hyperlinked documents that may be modified or edited by any number of authors but that also incorporates a mechanism for comparing the result with the pre-edited version. A wiki allows users to gather all information pertinent to a project or activity in one central location. See also: Blog, Collaboration software, Corporate blog. Knowledge map, Social network “.
Wikipedia is a popular information tool used by thousands of people every day. It is easy to check Wikipedia (and free). But as anyone can join Wikipedia and then log-in to create a new entry – or rewrite existing text – information found on the site may or may not be factually or technically correct (or even current).
Can you imagine a clinicians giving clinical advice to their patients, based on information found in Wikipedia? Eeek! Far better to check the dictionary on MedlinePlus.gov.
So it was with interest that I read an August 2007 news article on the BBC website describing the work of Virgil Griffith, a graduate student at California Institute of Technology, who created a useful site called WikiScanner. Following is an excerpt from the BBC article:
” Virgil Griffith… created a database called the Wikipedia Scanner, a search tool that traces the comments and edits on Wikipedia entries back to their source IP address. The once-anonymous writers behind the entries are no longer quite so anonymous. “
All rights reserved – Copyright 2007
Typing in a search statement in Wikiscanner allows you to check the actual IP address, date and time when a person logged on to Wikipedia and then rewrote or deleted entries on the 2.83 million English-language entries there. Here is a link to “WikiScanner FAQ page” written by Mr. Griffith.
Hmmm. Someone changes an entry on “Wal-Mart“, and the IP address is shown to be coming from Bentonville, Arkansas (the corporate hometown of Wal-Mart Inc.)? Not a coincidence, surely.
Have you heard of a site called WikiLeaks? Following is an excerpt from their “About” page:
“ Wikileaks is an uncensorable version of Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. It combines the protection and anonymity of cutting-edge cryptographic technologies with the transparency and simplicity of a wiki interface.
” Wikileaks looks like Wikipedia. Anybody can post comments to it. No technical knowledge is required. Whistleblowers can post documents anonymously and untraceably. Users can publicly discuss documents and analyze their credibility and veracity. Users can discuss the latest material, read and write explanatory articles on leaks along with background material and context. The political relevance of documents and their veracity can be revealed by a cast of thousands. Wikileaks incorporates advanced cryptographic technologies to ensure anonymity and untraceability. Those who provide leaked information may face severe risks, whether of political repercussions, legal sanctions or physical violence. Accordingly, sophisticated cryptographic and postal techniques are used to minimize the risks that anonymous sources face…. Wikileaks information is distributed across many jurisdictions, organizations and individuals. Once a document is leaked it is essentially impossible to censor. ”
If you have information to actually submit to WikiLeaks, here is a link to their FAQ on how to do so.
Useful information to keep in the back of the peripheral brain.
(Thanks to journalist Slewfootsnoop, who wrote about WikiScanner recently on his blog.)