Magazine article Information Today

A Wiki of Muppet Mania

Magazine article Information Today

A Wiki of Muppet Mania

Article excerpt

On my way home from work on the train one evening, I was going through the new additions to my aggregator and I came across a wild dedicated to the Muppets (http://muppet.wikia .com/wiki/Muppet_Wiki).

This open page was edited by the masses with a focus on those lovable Jim Henson characters that had me laughing throughout my childhood. It was one of those wilds that held me captive through my 90-minute commute home. As I pulled into my train station, I wondered why. What was it about this particular tool that held my attention for so long?

Part of my interest was definitely the topic, but I think there were also other aspects at work, such as the tremendous volume of content and my option of contributing to the wiki since it is a living document. But this was a different experience than adding to the popular Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org). Wikipedia is much the same as the encyclopedia I used for research as a kid. Muppet Wiki felt more as if it were a coffee-table book, one that I would like to page through at a friend's house or while watching TV.

Up to My Elmos in Wikis

Niche, or narrowly focused, wikis such as Muppet Wiki have become popular after Wikipedia entered the mainstream. Wiki platforms became easy to access and cheap to maintain (Muppet Wild is hosted by Wikia; http://www.wikia.com). Just as blogging tools made it easy for individuals to publish to the Web, wild software will do the same for these new tools. Because wikis are dependent on the masses to maintain the resource, it seems logical that these niche wikis will continue to pop up. As librarians, what do we make of them? In my Library Stuff post on Sept. 28 (http://www.librarystuff .net/2006/09/on-muppet-show-tonight .html), I wrote:

      [I]n theory, [Muppet Wild] should
   beat the pants off of any traditional
   muppet encyclopedia in terms of
   content because it is created by the
   masses (should we call them muppetheads?).
   Also, it should be more
   up to date for obvious reasons. But
   is it more accurate? In theory, yes. If
   the Wisdom of the Crowds holds up,
   and I believe it does. I've seen many
   examples of wilds in the past and
   will see many more in the future,
   but it will be wikis like this that reinforce
   the notion that wikis work.

      So, are narrow-focused wilds the
   future in wikiville? I don't know.
   Part of me thinks that Wikipedia is
   way too big, but part of me feels
   that the reason it is so popular is
   what makes it work (even though
   it has been proven that only a
   handful of Wikipedia readers actually
   contribute to only a small
   portion of the articles). … 
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