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Wikipedia Open Search: The World Needs It

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Wikimedia Commons: Category: Eiffel Tower at night

In the last years the Wikipedia’s search has been improving. It still sucks, but it is getting better. There is a smart team working with the search and the Wikidata is giving a structure to the data.

Think what Wikipedia Search could be? Think what Wikipedia Search could do?

First of all, it could answer to some relatively complex questions presented in a natural language. For instance, it could easily give an answer to the question: What are the ten largest cities on the planet with female mayors?  – written just like that to the search field.

This would be useful, no doubt — but in a way trivial.

The most interesting possibilities of the Wikipedia Search are closely related to the vision and the mission of the movement.

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

To get the movement few steps forward to the direction of the the vision and to help us all with the mission, the Wikipedia Search could do so much more. Some software development and awesome UX-design, however, is needed.

In the first stage, the new Wikipedia Search could be expanded to be a federated search to all the Wikimedia projects. This would simply mean that we’ll make all the resources of all the Wikimedia projects easily accessible for all – from a single user interface.

The next step would be to integrate the Wikipedia Search with all the other open and free educational content providers, such as PLOS – an Open Access publisher, Europeana, and Internet Archive.

With the Open Search one could do a search like: “Eiffel tower at night” and get as a result in a single page:

  • photos of the Eiffel tower at night, all taken from different angles
  • art works / painting of the Eiffel tower at night
  • videos of the Eiffel tower at night
  • poems about the Eiffel tower at night
  • songs about the Eiffel tower at night
  • translation of the sentence “Eiffel tower at night” to tens of languages
  • a tip where to take a free cooking course close to the Eiffel tower at night
  • a link to the book The Eiffel Tower, and other mythologies by Roland Barthes
  • . . . . and so on.

But that’s not all!

Just remember that all the content found with the Open Search would be free / libre content. You could study and use the content and benefit from using the content. You could make copies and distribute them. You could edit the content and distribute these derivative works.

This would make it possible for more and more people to take in use the great pool of free content and to use it in their own endeavors. Teachers could create learning materials. Students could do their studies and present their findings with presentations made out of the free content.

I see that this is what the Wikipedia/Wikimedia is all about. Serving people. Making it easier for people to freely share knowledge.

Finally. Guess what?

This is not my idea. It is not a new idea. I just like it. The Wikimedia Foundation started to work on it last year but it all ended-up to be a megalomaniac wiki-drama. You can read about it from the Wikipedia article Knowledge Engine.

This weekend the Wikipedia/Wikimedia community is getting together in the annual Wikimania conference. I couldn’t make it, because of family reasons. I am sure, the search will be discussed in the Wikimania. Enjoy! Break a leg!

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