Twofish's Blog

September 1, 2006

More thoughts on wikipedia and the PRC block

Filed under: china, wikipedia — twofish @ 3:29 pm

These are personal opinions…. But…..

The basic principles are wikipedia are:

* transparency
* inclusion (everyone can edit).

If we were to set up an independent wiki project inside of the PRC that gets people involved in wikis and creates content that can be exchanged, this is a good thing. If it causes a split in the community, this is a bad thing.

So in order to work well a wiki encyclopedia inside the PRC needs to have content licensable under a wikipedia compatible license like GFDL. Also, I think it would best if the wiki encyclopedia be *subject* limited. Like the Chinese chemistry wiki encyclopedia, or the Chinese physics wiki encyclopedia. This is for two reasons

1) it makes it much easier to move content back and forth. If we have a politics wiki, then what will happen is that it will be almost impossible to create a merged article and this will divide the community. If the PRC internal wiki is a wiki on science or technical subjects, then it will be very easy to move articles back and forth, and we can automated the process so that edits on one wiki are mirrored on another. We can’t do this about politics.

2) it makes it clear what is being censored. If the result of the PRC block is that no one wants to talk about politics, then it is clear what is not being talked about. If we have a PRC internal wiki on political topics, the government is probably going to insist on having a “big mama” moderate the articles, and it becomes more difficult to see where the censorship is.

Also we need to make clear that any wiki encyclopedia in the PRC isn’t wikipedia. It will share content with wikipedia. It will work closely with wikimedia. It will be part of the same community. But it is still different.

We can order the topics in order of sensitivity as follows

physical science
ancient literature
ancient history
modern literature
modern history
political science
current politics

If we create wiki projects at the top of the list, these will not require any censorship, and more importantly it will be possible for people outside of the PRC to participate in a wikiproject on C++, which avoids dividing the community.

Over time, I am hoping that people will slowly create wikis that cover more and more sensitive topics, but that needs to be done slowly and it will be a process that will take years.

Also keeping the wiki subject focused is good for promoting wikis inside of the PRC. Right now, someone will have to be very brave to want to host a site on current politics in the PRC, but hosting a wiki on physical chemistry should not be a problem.



  1. Like your thoughts, do you think you can make a completely ‘walled garden’. For example, Say you had an article on Chemestry 李遠哲 . John Polanyi and Dudley Herschbach won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1986. What would happen to 李遠哲’s article because is would link tot he Academia Sinica which would link to Republic of China?

    Would it [1] go to a blank page saying it is not available because of censorship, [2] have a censored version or [3] be blank but not allow editing?

    Comment by wenzi — September 29, 2006 @ 9:30 am

  2. You do whatever you can get away with. I don’t think it matters much. My view is that it is useful to get *anything* accessible to people in the PRC.

    The main reason that I’m writing this is that there is a private e-mail discussion involved on this, and I wanted to let the public know that this discussion is taking place so that people who want to have a chance to participate.

    I *HATE* closed and untransparent power structures, and the one thing that I don’t want to happen is to have this private discussion turn into a clique.

    My own belief is that you whatever you can. If A gets blocked, you try B, if B gets blocked, you try C, if C gets blocked you try D, and you keep trying new and different things. Over a long period of time, things gradually improve. One reason to keep the conversation semi-public is so that people come up with ideas in case A, B, C, and D don’t work.

    Comment by twofish — October 1, 2006 @ 12:54 am

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