[Wikipedia-l] Can "outsiders" build their encyclopedia on Wikipedia?

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Apr 24 11:57:31 UTC 2004

Karl Juhnke wrote:

>Suppose a group of people wanted to build a specialized encyclopedia
>for their own purposes, and decided to create it on Wikipedia so they
>don't have to worry about hosting or software issues.  Suppose they saw
>Wikipedia as a free collaboration tool, and although they didn't mind
>releasing their work under the GFDL, they weren't specifically
>interested in creating a _general purpose_ encyclopedia.
>Would this group of people and their project be welcome?

>Specifically, suppose that the Mennonite Historical Society of Canada
>decided that their 2000-article On-line Canadian Mennonite Encyclopedia
>was significantly out of date, and that an efficient way to collaborate
>on getting it updated would be to pipe it into Wikipedia and work on it
>from there.  As an added bonus to them, their articles would start
>getting high rankings from Google.
These would certainly be benefits for them.

>I must stress the hypothetical nature of this question.  I have no
>reason to believe that MHSC is willing to release their work under the
>GFDL, or that they are interested in collaborating by using Wikipedia
>as a free platform.  But supposing they were willing and interested,
>would we want them to?
I appreciate that your point is only testing the waters.

>* Would we want lengthy and expert contributions to current articles on
>Conrad Grebel, George Blaurock, and Mennonite theology?
>* Would we want short biographies of notable modern Canadian
>* Would it be a nuisance and a waste of space to have a separate
>article for every Mennonite congregation in Canada?
>* Would we be embarrassed if there were more information in Wikipedia
>about the Mennonite faith than about any other religion?
I see no difficulty with any of this. It's all encyclopedic.  If 
anything, this should serve as an incentive for other groups to get 
their act in gear.  No group should be held back just because others 
fail to support their own beliefs.  That would be reducing Wikipedia to 
the lowest common denominator.

>Reatreating from the specific question into generalities, I can imagine
>several cases where groups have a set of information, objective and
>encyclopedic in nature, which they want to disseminate for reasons of
>their own.  I can imagine those groups looking to Wikipedia as a free
>tool towards their ends, and seeing the GFDL as a reasonable license to
>sign off on in exchange for the privilege.
>* Have there already been cases of piggybacking?
>* Has the community reached any sort of consensus opinion towards
>* If not, does anyone else anticipate that this will become an issue in
>the future?
Over a year ago there was a similar discussion with the Marxists, who 
have an extensive database of their own.  Although these two groups are 
philosophically very different, the situations are quite similar.  It's 
not a question of whether we can handle them, but of whether they can 
handle us.  They, like the Marxists, could find the wide-open editing 
and NPOV very hard to take.  Faced with some of our more opinionated 
memberz in an edit war they would probably just go away.


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