For me, 2007 was the year of the wiki. I find myself looking up the oddest words on Wikipedia; did you know wiki is hawaiian for “fast”? It does and being able to look up such things all in one place made the web seem smaller. Really though, it just became useful.
Google wants in on it; Knol (ironically, Wikipedia has the best info on it) is a sort of content hub that allows authors to create articles on any topic. Users can edit pages, though only when given permission from the initial author. It’s a good idea: compete with Wikipedia for the top search spot, but show Google Ads on the side. Google is fast becoming an eco-system; a virtual mega-mall that fills our every need so we don’t ever have to leave the safe zone.
On closer inspection, Knol looks more like ex-wikipedian Larry Sangers doomed Citizendium project. Citizendium is a Wikipedia fork that aims to rid the world of those ever-clever “you can’t trust Wikipedia because anyone can edit it” comments. The idea is that all its articles are to be “approved” by someone in-the-know. At the time of this writing, Citizendium sports a whopping 46 approved articles.
Of this triad, I see both Wikipedia and Knol keeping their buoyancy. Citizendium is a club of nerds, whereas Knol gives an incentive for authors to work up a reputation in the community. It remains to be seen whether Knol can compete with Wikipedia on the quality of content. My prediction: unlikely, but no matter: Knol will have a different angle, and that’s fine. Citizendium, on the other hand, is like doing homework without the goal of a diploma in the end.
The problem isn’t redundancy. Having started a thriving danish wiki on comics, I’ve learned that the most common question from the community is: why not just use Wikipedia? It’s a good question that stems from the idea that Wikipedia is the be-all end-all wiki. The question is usually settled by comparing similar articles on different wikis; go on, read about Star Wars on Wikipedia, Wiktionary and Wookieepedia. You’ll see three different articles that have each their use.
Wikis are here to stay, even idiot wikis like Conservapedia (I’ll defend to the death your right to say it, and so on). Wikis are likely to change the world, in fact, and I’m not referring to comic-book databases alone. I’m referring to the fact that knowledge does to ignorance and injustice what water does to fire. Puts it out. Righteously.
There’s plenty of room for improvement in the wikisphere. Currently, articles are written in plain text and special wiki syntax and inter-wiki links are manually created. Most of this should be automated, and editing should be rich text, at least optionally. The whole reading, editing and discussing content experience should be overhauled to fit the true meaning of the word wiki: fast. Coming in 2008? I’d like that.