Learning Search

A Big Pile of Wikipedia Tools

When I wrote my Wikipedia article last week, I did some poking around and playing with various tools to see how I could make my editing as painless and productive as possible. I ended up finding a bunch of interesting, useful apps and sites relating to Wikipedia, and thought a roundup would be just the thing. Read on for a list of Wikipedia tools.

Alternate Interfaces and Data Sets

Kiwix — http://www.kiwix.org/ — Kiwix offers downloadable data sets of Wikipedia and associated properties, including Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikinews, etc. The site says that Wikipedia is 55GB but when I started downloading it, my download manager said it was a 72GB compressed file. Other collections are more modest – Wikiquote isn’t even 1GB. To use the data you’ll need to install Kiwix reader software. It’s free and available for Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and iOS. The site also notes “Kiwix can run on almost every operating system. But, we don’t provide pre-compiled binaries for all of them. If you are interested in running Kiwix on an operating system for which we don’t provide binaries, you may download Kiwix source code and compile Kiwix on your own.”

Xowa — http://xowa.org/ — Like Kiwix, Xowa offers downloadable Wikipedia data sets. One thing I did see here that I did not see on Kiwix’ page was a link to a Wikimedia Commons download (it might be that I just missed it.) I also noticed that Xowa, on its reader download page, had a version available for Raspberry Pi. I can see where having your own Pi-based Wikipedia to carry around might come in handy.

Wikiwand — https://www.wikiwand.com/ — Wikiwand is a Chrome extension and iOS app that makes Wikipedia look better. The Chrome extension is a little unnerving because its permissions are very wide-ranging, which is too bad because Wikiwand makes Wikipedia beautiful. Check out the menu which easily lets you share items, customize the Wikiwand look, and more.

screenshot from 2018 05 03 16 49 25

Education / Curated Content

Wikipedia for Schools — http://schools-wikipedia.org/ — Wikipedia for schools is a curated set of Wikipedia pages designed for use by schoolchildren. From its home page: “Welcome to Wikipedia for Schools! This selection of articles from Wikipedia matches the UK National Curriculum and can be used by school children around the world. 6000 articles, 26 million words and 50,000 images make Wikipedia for Schools bigger than Harry Potter, the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia put together! Wikipedia is great, but it wasn’t designed with the National Curriculum in mind. And because anyone can edit it, articles sometimes get vandalised. That’s why we’ve put together this special collection to make learning as easy and safe as it can be. Here at SOS Children, we’ve checked all the articles, tidied them up a bit, and put them together by school subject.” I can see where this would come in handy where you really need something kid friendly, or you’re afraid of falling into an endless Wiki-rabbit-hole. It Wikiwand worked with this site it would be extra-terrific.

KidzSearch — https://wiki.kidzsearch.com/wiki — KidzSearch differs slightly from Wikipedia for Schools in that its content is pulled from Simple English Wikipedia, reviewed by an editor, and then sometimes edited to make the content more accessible to schoolkids. Interestingly, the site is open to editing by approved staff, so content does change.

Wikipedia Stats

Deletionpedia — http://deletionpedia.org/en/Main_Page — Deletionpedia tracks pages which have been deleted by Wikipedia from 2013 onward. These aren’t just little articles and throwaways, either; an extensive article on Terry Pratchett’s take on pixies, the Nac Mac Feegle, was apparently deleted in 2014. If you  have a specific topic you’re looking for, go for it, but otherwise I recommend putting in random words and seeing what comes up. I had way too much fun with this site.

WikipediaVision — http://www.lkozma.net/wpv/ — If you’re into mapping check this out. WikipediaVision tracks changes to the English, German, French, Spanish, and Swedish version of Wikipedia and notes them on a map. The site is noted as being in “(almost) real time”; the edits I saw seemed to be about 20 minutes old. I’m not sure how you could use this for research purposes but it was almost hypnotic to watch the pointers pop up on the map.

Wikipedia Analysis

Vis-à-Wik —  http://cii.oii.ox.ac.uk/2015/04/27/vis-a-wik-a-visual-analytics-tool-for-wikipedia-analysis/ — I found this tool via a 2015 blog post, and while the tool is active it’s still noted as Alpha 0.0.2, so I’m not sure how much it’s been developed. Anyway, you can search for Wikipedia pages and then have the tool draw a network diagram of how they’re connected. I was rather impressed with how quickly the diagram was generated.

screenshot from 2018 05 03 20 27 37

Wikipedia English Article Count — http://wikicount.net/ — This site is just what it sounds like; it keeps a count on the number of articles in English-language Wikipedia. At this writing it stands at a little over 5.6 million.

Integrating Wikipedia Data

BetterCloud’s got an article at https://www.bettercloud.com/monitor/the-academy/get-wikipedia-data-right-google-sheets/ that I honestly wanted to dive head-first into. It’s an overview of a Google Sheets add on that lets you add Wikipedia data directly to the sheet via a series of custom functions. This is giving me ideas. Hmm. I wonder if I can sneak in some spreadsheet playtime this weekend?

A 2016 article in Tableau takes a look at goofing with the data and data sets in Wikipedia: “Wikipedia is perceived to be so important that an article in Wired magazine even ran an article headlined ‘Why Wikipedia Is as Important as the Pyramids.‘ The piece stated: “The site’s monumental compilation of 19 million entries in 282 languages has already had a greater cultural impact worldwide than most of the other 936 sites recognized for “outstanding universal value” on the World Heritage List.’ But Wikipedia isn’t just a cultural treasure or a great research source for procrastinating college students. It’s also a really great place to find data sets.” There are no specific tools reviewed in this article but I found the examples fascinating.

Since discovering that editing Wikipedia wasn’t the giant mess I was afraid it would be, I’ve gotten a lot more interested in using Wikipedia’s resources. These tools have sparked plenty of ideas – I hope they will for you, too!

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3 replies »

  1. I’ve been using Wikiwand for a year or two and have been quite happy with it most of the time. I occasionally switch back to the Wikipedia view for some things.

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