MediaWiki was written especially for Wikipedia, but as it is open source, highly featured and freely available it has been turned to a diverse range of uses. This week, a writer on the technology blog Corante discussed how wikis could enhance collaboration in a wide variety of fields .
Open source blogging software WordPress uses Mediawiki to work on its documentation, and wordpress founder Matt Mullenweg said there were many reasons why wikis can enhance collaboration, the main one being that they are so easy to use. The lack of barriers to involvement in a wiki encourage a great deal more user participation than many other models.
Mullenweg also offered his thoughts on open source software in general, and said he thought it had a much brighter future than commercial software. "I wouldn't want my company reliant on someone else's business model in such a rapidly changing market. Selling software is dead", he said. However, he noted that a great deal of open source software is written without regard for what commercial users want. Because of this, open source software might sometimes be slow to develop in response to the needs of its user base.
Continuing on the theme of open source software's advantages over its commercial rivals, South African newspaper Business Today examined the pros and cons of either side , and noted that Linux had confounded industry analysts by being both cheaper and more reliable than Microsoft Windows. Wikipedia, said the article, is "an equally visible example of the open-source idea".
The article looked at the expansion of the open source philosophy into media beyond IT, and cited the success of collaborative news project ohmynews in South Korea, although it did not mention the similar Wikimedia project Wikinews.
Also in South Africa, it was reported this week that a project to equip schools in Western Cape province with computer equipment has now installed its 100th school computer lab in the Western Cape. The Schools Linux User Group plans to extend its programme of supplying refurbished PCs to Eastern Cape and Limpopo provinces next year, and Wikipedia is one of the packages installed on the computers, according to the website tectonic .
EContent magazine reported this week on a live vandalism of Wikipedia at a conference in Arizona in April . At the Buying & Selling eContent show, Ross Mayfield, the CEO of collaborative software developers Socialtext, apparently began his presentation by vandalising a Wikipedia article. He revisited the article at the end of his talk, by which time the changes had been reverted.
Econtent's reporter did not seem overly impressed by this demonstration of Wikipedia's self-healing nature. She described Wikipedia as the best known wiki on the web, but despite Wikipedia now being firmly established in the top 100 sites on the internet (see archived story), she said that "may not be saying much, given wikis' relative lack of visibility".
Among the news outlets using Wikipedia content as source material this week are Maine newspaper Magic City News looking to Wikipedia to help work out if Mexico belongs to the Third World ; right-wing website Conservative Voice quoting from European Union following referendum results in France and the Netherlands saying no to the proposed EU constitution ; website getunderground.com examining the phenomenon of Jumping the shark ; and Philadelphia newspaper the Carlisle Sentinel advising its readers on the lethal dose for various animals of Conium, a plant whose frequent neighbor, Dame's Rocket, is common enough to cause farmers some concern .