EvoWiki/Pandas thumb press release
This is a proposed article for The Panda's Thumb blog, and anybody else who wants to use it/modify it for their own site. Anyone is welcome to contribute!
We would like to take a moment to introduce the Evolution Education Wiki, or EvoWiki.
A "wiki" (from the Hawaiian for "quick" or "fast") is a website that can not only be read by the visitor, but written by the visitor as well. Visitors can modify almost any page they see at a wiki site, and they can add new pages by creating a link from an existing page. Some of the early uses of wikis were for collaborative development of software and software documentation: the Wiki allows large groups of people, spread out over many locations, to concentrate their efforts in one location. This avoids redundancy of effort and allows everyone to contribute their particular expertise. The simple wiki code and the ease of editing makes wikis incredibly flexible, and useful for users with a wide range of goals and technical backgrounds.
Recently, the uses of wikis have expanded dramatically. Most notably, Wikipedia, a free, online, user-built encyclopedia, has exploded on the scene. The English version has 249211 articles at last count. Many are high-quality and quite detailed. Since any reader can edit any page, errors are usually rapidly corrected by other readers.
Surprisingly, vandalism is not a major problem on wikis. It is true that any miscreant from anywhere in the world can modify or clear pages at will. However, any other user can easily "revert" the page to a previous, unvandalized version, with a few mouse clicks. All old versions of each page are stored, so vandals can do no permanent damage. Vandals quickly learn that they are wasting their time. The occasional persistent vandal can be thwarted by banning his IP address and/or freezing the pages he is interested in.
Wikipedia is an excellent resource and has many good pages on scientific topics, including evolution. However, as an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is devoted to being (1) introductory and (2) being "viewpoint-neutral" (i.e., the text does not take a side where there is a debate, rather, debates are described: "X believes...", "Y argues...", etc.).
On a topic like evolution, there is a continuing need for high-quality information presenting the mainstream science to the public. This sometimes requires discussions that are more detailed than an introductory resource, and also requires unapologetic presentation of the scientific facts. Several excellent websites already perform some of these roles (e.g., talkorigins), but traditional websites are relatively inflexible, slow to update, and difficult to use for large multi-author efforts.
To fill this gap, the EvoWiki was created. The six month old EvoWiki is a wiki devoted to everything related to Evolution, and it currently has over 1200 pages including an extensive collection of responses to creationist propaganda, the beginnings of an encyclopedia of biology, paleontology and other related fields and a small collection of technical articles on evolutionary biology. The project is already a good resource for those wishing to learn about evolution or debunk Creationism.
The goals of EvoWiki are given on the EvoWiki Goals page:
The Evolution Education wiki (EvoWiki for short) is a Wiki about evolution and origins. The focus is on evolution education, particularly addressing the arguments of Creationism and Intelligent Design from the perspective of mainstream science. It is inspired by webpages such as talkorigins.org and talkdesign.org, and the goal of EvoWiki is to complement rather than duplicate these online resources.
Some possible things that EvoWiki can be used for that are otherwise difficult or tedious:
- An encylopaedia of Evolution and Origins, with a glossary of related biological and religious terms.
- An encylopaedia of creationist arguments and counter arguments, with examples of research where relevant.
- Collaborative writing of a talk.origins (or other) FAQ or article (e.g. Peppered Moth)
- Accumulation of links, quotes and references on the above topics (e.g., transitional fossils)
- Archiving material from good posts from newsgroups (like Talk.Origins) or bulletin boards, so that you or someone else will be inspired to edit them into a more comprehensive article later on (e.g., there are many great t.o. posts that deserve FAQdom, but often it takes a long time for an author to revisit a topic and develop a FAQ)
- A place for developing and editing FAQs for hosting at e.g. talkorigins.org
- ... whatever other creative uses you come up with.
Encyclopedia / Textbook type articles. These provide a good introduction to their subject and you should need little prior knowledge of the subject to read them. Any specialist terms used are either explained in the article or linked to a glossary page (see below). These may then go on to explain the subject in greater detail, and then link to relevant technical articles (see below).
Technical articles explore a specific idea, process, species etc in much greater detail than encyclopedia articles, and the reader will probably need to at least read a few relevant encyclopedia articles first, and good technical articles should suggest the relevant encyclopedia articles in a prologue or the introduction. Technical terms should still be linked to glossary pages.
Glossary pages are simply short explanations of terms, and some could potentially grow into encylopedia entries. These should always give a definition that laymen can understand, but may also go into greater technical detail.
See: EvoWiki/Best of EvoWiki for some examples of pages that match these criteria!
A few guidelines
- EvoWiki is intended to present mainstream science. Antievolutionists who wish to present their views on a Wiki are encouraged to create their own Wiki via the free SeedWiki or another method.
- If you make significant contributions to a developing article, please include your name or pseudonym and a brief note about your contribution in the acknowledgments or contributers section at the bottom of the article, so that you get acknowledged (note: this excludes minor copyedits).
- If you have a particular plan/format/goal in mind for a particular page, please describe it at the top of the page in italics. For example, "This page is an annotated bibliography on immune system evolution." You can also discuss where the article should go on its talk page.
- The main purpose of Wiki is to allow collaboration. So, if you think that something you read here can be improved, go right ahead and improve it. It's OK, you don't need to ask permission or anything. That's the point of a Wiki. On the other hand, if you are very protective of your work and don't want others to edit it, then don't post it here in the first place.
- I understand that "vandalism" (abuse of Wiki to damage/delete articles) is quite rare, but if it occurs here leave a note on the vandalism page and the admins will fix it.
Thanks, have fun, and spread the word,
So, if you'd like to join a growing collection of experts, students and lay-people with a common interest in evolution to teach your subject while learning another, or just to learn how to fight those attacking science then come to EvoWiki!