(This was written for a press release, not sure if we are issuing it now as there’s lots going on / out of here at the moment, but anyway it should be of interest to the Irish blog-reading community… If anyone wants to help out, post a comment below!)
Wikis are the latest technology lighting up the World Wide Web.
A wiki (from the Haiwaiian word for “quick”) is a collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it.
“Wiki Ireland” (www.wiki.ie) was set up as a non-profit project to create a valuable local knowledge store for Ireland’s culture and heritage. The founder of the project is Dr. John Breslin, a researcher at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI). With the slogan “our past is our present to the future”, Wiki Ireland will act as a focus for collecting local knowledge and articles that may or may not be deemed noteworthy for a general encyclopedia.
The projects aims to use Wiki Ireland as a central site for collecting Irish knowledge such as folklore, history or geographical information from participants. The site welcomes contributors willing to devote any time to creating or maintaining articles on the knowledge store, be they teachers, students, librarians or knowledge enthusiasts! Articles can include local songs, poems or recitations; historical descriptions of towns, buildings or people; recommended walks for visitors to a particular region; fairy or folk tales; etc.
Wiki Ireland has goals in common with a number of Irish regional heritage plans. For example, the Galway Heritage Plan 2004-2008 lists as actions to “develop an oral heritage and folklore archive” and “implement an archive outreach programme” amongst others. The image of the Red Squirrel, a disappearing character from the Irish landscape, has been chosen as the logo for the site.
“I have a personal interest in putting an archive of recitations online”, said Breslin. “My grandfather, Jack Casey, has been transcribing recitations from memory and elsewhere that he has been interested in since he was in school. My aunt typed up his _first_ volume of handwritten pages, amounting to over 500 songs and poems, and I have just started to input these into the Wiki Ireland site.”
For more information, visit www.wiki.ie.
Notes for Editors:
Wikis enable documents to be written collectively (co-authoring) using a web browser. Wikis are often open to the general public without the need to register any user account. Many wikis operate with a “free documentation license”, so that their content can be freely used and distributed by others.
The most famous online wiki is the Wikipedia, the world’s largest general knowledge encyclopedia with over 675,000 articles.
As well as the English Wikipedia, there are smaller sized encyclopedias available in over 170 other languages including Irish.
The first wiki-focussed conference was held in Frankfurt in August, at which Dr. Breslin talked with the creator of the first wiki, Ward Cunningham. He also met Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, where they discussed the open inclusion process of Wikipedia as opposed to the more traditional printed encyclopedias.
“I’d just created my first Wikipedia article, about a 1970s music group with the wonderful name ‘Tonto’s Expanding Head Band’. Jimmy Wales said you’d _never_ get that in one of the other encyclopedias.”
The Digital Enterprise Research Institute (DERI) was established in 2003 at the National University of Ireland, Galway through funding from Science Foundation Ireland and the Irish Government’s National Development Plan. DERI carries out research in the area of the “Semantic Web”: the next generation of web technologies that will allow people and machines to make better use of the resources available via the Internet.