Veropedia aims to be a legit wiki

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A project that could save students and teachers copious amounts of Aspirin has found its way onto the World Wide Web.

The project, titled Veropedia, hopes to improve on Wikipedia, while avoiding the vandalism problems associated with that website.

“I found an article that had been on Wikipedia for 18 months, chronicling an island with a population of 127,000 people that lay off the coast of Lebanon,” Danny Wool, founder of Veropedia, recalled.

“It was a sturdy, well-written article that used the same formatting of other Wikipedia pages. The only problem was that this island doesn’t exist.”

Issues like these are the main focus of Wool’s Veropedia, which currently employs a staff of 113 former “Wikipedians.”

According to the Veropedia website, its aim is to “collect the best of Wikipedia’s content, clean it up, vet it, and save it for all time.”

The process of vetting Wikipedia articles will depend on the review of recognized academics and experts.

The project is unique in that it is not an expert-driven project: all articles are written by Wikipedia contributors, while at the same time the vetting process ensures that only the “cream of the crop” will go on the site.

“While going through featured articles on Wikipedia,” Wool explained, “One notices that there are only 1,600 out of 2.5 million articles vetted. And even in these articles there are problems that need to be fixed.”

Grammar, punctuation and redundant information seemed to be the main issues plaguing these articles, Wool added.

Despite criticism, Wikipedia was positive about the project.

“The more free content projects of high quality [that] are available, the better for the world,” Sandy Ordonez, communications manager at the Wikimedia Foundation, said.

Wool hopes Veropedia will be adopted by academics and educational institutions.

“We’re hoping as interest gets out, more academics will want to use it,” Wool said.

But some academics are skeptical of the service.

Tim Blackmore, associate professor in the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, said, “We have sites like this already where content is checked, ideas are considered, articles are reviewed each year and added to, if need be " we call them encyclopedias.”

Blackmore pointed out the main lure of the Internet is free information, and Wikipedia is the perfect example of that.

“We need to examine how we use wikis like Wikipedia. If we want them because they’re free ... than any competing site would need to be just as accessible and free.

“As long as academics are prepared to write for nothing, then a site like this could continue. But sooner or later it will be up against much more powerful sites like Britannica.”

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