Who do You Trust for Information?
Where do you go when you need to know whether something is true or not? Is there a person you ask, or a place you go? Think about it -- everyone needs to have somewhere, something, or someone to help establish what is fact and what is fiction.
The Buck Stopped Here
Spiritual information aside, there was a time not so long ago that one of the most trusted sources of factual information, the place where the buck stopped on almost all knowledge, was the encyclopedia. I'm hoping it won't be a stretch for many readers to recall, in your school days, sitting down at your desk or table (either at home or in the local library) to do your homework (with pen and paper - what a concept!), accompanied by a trusty encyclopedia.
The Fall of the Index Finger
Young people today may find that a rather quaint notion, that you would trust one source of knowledge so completely, but have things really changed that much? Where previous generations once turned to the encyclopedia or the library, recent generations have their own go-to guy for information -- the Internet. Thanks to the Googles, Yahoos, and AOLs of the world, we can sift through all the information on the Internet with just a few keystrokes, the way we used to scan the index with our fingers. (How long before we'll have to start calling the index finger the keyboard finger?) The question is, can we trust the information we find there? When was the last time you found exactly what you were looking for on the first page of Google?
What's a Wiki?
Fortunately, there is a place on the Internet where information is at least as trustworthy as that old family set of encyclopedias. Most of you will have almost certainly come across Wikipedia at one time or another in your Internet travels, but if you haven't, it's definitely worth a few minutes (hours) of your time. I don't want to go into detail about Wikipedia (you can explore it for yourself, if you like), but I do want to draw your attention to why it is called what it is. The "pedia" part is self-explanatory, but what exactly do they mean by "wiki"?
Serious About Knowledge
Simply put, a wiki is a place where the users, the readers, contribute the knowledge. So, unlike a more traditional encyclopedia, where the experts and editors do all the research, in a wiki it is the community that shares its expertise. At first glance, you might think this is a formula for disaster, what with everyone saying whatever s/he thinks is true, even if it isn't, and creating lots of erroneous information. This does occasionally happen, but only occasionally. By and large, the wiki is an amazingly effective way to gather great information, that also happens to be true. A quick check through Wikipedia will tell you that a community that wants to know what is true and what isn't takes its knowledge very seriously.
So, how does that relate to us, and what does it mean to our Magic Bookshelf? Well, Wikipedia is great if you want to know the history of the yo-yo, but it's a little sparse on details like how to hoop a baseball cap or how to prevent your specialty thread from breaking. That is where we come in. We want to be your new "Create-a-Pedia", the place where you come when you absolutely need to know the facts about your passion, and the place where you can always trust what you find.
You Have Something of Value
We've built a site that will allow us to do just that, but we can't do it without your help. I don't just mean you the audience, I mean you the person reading this. There is an unbelievable amount of knowledge out there about making beautiful and functional things, and whether you've just started or whether you are used to wowing people on a regular basis with your creations, you have something valuable to contribute. Maybe it's a question about what to do, maybe it's just an idea that you haven't tried yet, maybe it's a time-saving technique, maybe it's a horror story about a project that went very wrong -- whatever it is, it is valuable to someone, perhaps very valuable, and that someone would almost certainly love to hear from you.
One Giant Brain for the Picking
In my last post, in answering the question "what is a blog?", I said that the blog is the part of our Magic Bookshelf that the experts create. The wiki is another important part of our Magic Bookshelf. The wiki is the part that our community creates, the part where all the combined experiences of our users come together into an in-depth resource for information. I also wrote about tags as the way to quickly find exactly the information you're looking for in blogs, and you'll be pleased to know that the same applies to wikis. Imagine being able to "pick the brain" of any one of the thousands of people in our community any time you needed to; that is our goal.
Today's Top Tips
So you may now be asking "Where is this wiki thingie that I'm supposed to get so excited about"? Well, I'm not going to give you the complete answer right here (after all, I want you to read next week's post!), but I can tell you where it starts. Look at our Today's Top Tips forum. When a question, tip or technique is posted there and it is even remotely educational, we approve it and it goes directly onto our home page for all to see, share, and learn from. We did this because, once everyone gets the hang of it, we want everyone in our community to have access to new knowledge each and every time they visit our home page. Actually, don't just look at Today's Top Tips, add something to it. Whether you answer a question or ask one, add something for the sake of the beginner that you once were or still are, for the sake of that person whose best friend's birthday is next week and is stuck in the middle of a project, and for the sake of the warm fuzzy feeling you'll get knowing that you've contributed something of value that is going to help someone else. If you're not sure whether it will fit or not, submit it anyway and let us decide -- chances are it will be exactly what we're looking for.
Next Piece in the Bookshelf
Our Magic Bookshelf is starting to take shape. We have our books and magazines (blogs), we have our index (tags), we have our encyclopedia -- the next piece of our Magic Bookshelf is the scrapbook with all those favorite creations and memories. I hope you'll join me next week as we learn how to create it.
And please keep those comments coming!