Wikimedia launches Philippine arm

By TJ Dimacali – Wikimedia launched its official Philippine chapter earlier this week, eyeing burgeoning use among students and the academe.

Wikimedia Philippines made its official debut at the Philippine Youth Congress in Information Technology, held last September 14 to 17 in UP Diliman.

Wikimedia Philippines is the official local chapter of the Wkimedia Foundation, the international non-profit free content organization best known for its Wikipedia open encyclopedia project.

Multiple Philippine languages supported

Just like its mother organization, Wikimedia Philippines aims to promote the growth and development of free media but with an emphasis on content created for and by Filipinos.

The group’s collaborative work is not limited to the English language, with other Philippine languages supported including Tagalog, Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Waray, and Zamboangeño.

Reliability: a long-standing debate

The reliability of such free media has been the focus of a long-standing debate among Internet users for several years now.

Most notably, the highly acclaimed scientific journal Nature published a report in 2005 in which it claimed that “the difference in accuracy was not particularly great” between Wikipedia and the online edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Britannica editors contested the methodology of the study, but Nature stood by its original article.

What online Pinoys have to say

In an informal Facebook survey, this is what Filipinos across the web had to say about the reliability of Wikipedia:

“According to professionals,Wikipedia is 90% credible. But that’s STILL NOT credible enough to be considered an encyclopedia. Just go with Encarta and Britannica.They’re official encyclopedias,” argued Jan Emil Langomez.

“Wikis are prone to manipulation. I use it for reference, but still look on other sites to check the info. It’s just a matter of double checking to be sure!” said Mherv Espinola.

“(It’s a) plagiarizer’s paradise,” quipped Mark Jovan.

“The idea that the articles in Wikipedia can be edited by literally anyone makes it not credible as a source. However, the sources people cite to write the articles can be credible,” Ian Meru pointed out.

“Kahit editable siya, it’s still very credible. Mayroon naman kasi footnotes at references cited, and the website also promptly tells if kulang sa reference ang isang article kaya may choice sila kung tatanggapin nila yung information (Even if it’s editable, it’s still very credible. There’s footnotes and references, and the website also promptly tells you if there are missing references. So readers have a choice whether or not to accept the information),” wrote Andro Nataño Madrogaba.

“Wiki is one of many references. Kung mali, may iba pa. Pero napaka-useful niyan, madami agad ang info (If it’s wrong, there’s always other sources. But it’s very useful, with lots of information),” said Ryan Xakra Apuan.

Promoting online discussion

Such healthy online discussions are exactly what Wikimedia Philippines hopes to tap into as it continues to grow its local presence, according to Wikimedia Philippines vice president Joseph Ballesteros.

“Wikipedia is a good starting point for research but should not be the end. Wikipedia is (only) as reliable as its sources or citations. The more verifiable sources an article has, the more reliable it will become. Everyone is encouraged to improve articles, especially those which need citations. That is why Wikipedia needs volunteers,” Ballesteros told GMANews.TV.

For now, according to Ballesteros, Filipino Wikipedia users mostly just edit articles that are related to the Philippines or to their own personal interests. However, he hopes the presence of Wikimedia Philippines will help organize such individual efforts into larger-scale endeavors.

Looping in more experts

“One of our concrete plans is to promote Wikimedia projects (among subject experts) by participating in events such as the National Convention on Statistics, for example. Another plan is celebrate the 10th year of Wikipedia on January 15, 2011. I see more people using Wikipedia responsibly and diligently. There will more experts editing specific articles,” he said.

The group also has social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Friendster to help promote interaction among Filipino youth.

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