Thursday, 1 December 2005

We are the world [Cybertrack 4]


Imagine a whiteboard on a roadside, markers and eraser easy to hand. Random passers-by write whatever they want to, or erase or modify stuff others have written. That, in essence, is a wiki, except that it’s on a website. Famous examples: Wikipedia and Wikinews.
Wikitravel, one of the newer resources built on this platform, aims to be a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable world-wide travel guide. As of this writing, the English version (five other languages available, several more in progress) features over six thousand destination guides, contributed by “Wikitravellers” who get paid only in reader gratitude (hope Outlook Traveller’s accounts department isn’t reading this). And it being an open platform, sometimes not even that, because information can get deleted or edited by anyone. It seems like a recipe for chaos – after all, some idiot could come mess it up any time. Which does happen. But, like all successful wikis, it relies on basic human goodness. To quote the site’s FAQs, “People who care about having well-written travel articles ... are the majority. People who just want to vandalize or delete things eventually get bored with it ... and the rest of us come in and clean up.”
Ideal for trip planning, you can assemble a guidebook customised to your itinerary, and carry a hard- or soft-copy with you. Since it is accessible wherever you can find a net connection, you can find info even while travelling. There are also phrase books in various languages. Quality of information? I checked a few places I’m familiar with; coverage ranged from excellent to earnest-but-not-quite-there. And in the period that I have monitored the site, even those have improved.
All of this is yours, free.
I really shouldn’t be writing about this here.

Published in the December edition of Outlook Traveller, in a column called Cybertrack

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