Thing 17 & 18: Wikis

Wikis are websites that can be easily edited by a large number of people, and can be as restrictive or open as the creator chooses.


17. Explore and contribute to a wiki

I wasn’t very familiar with wikis before this ‘thing’, apart from the font of “knowledge” that is Wikipedia. I had a look at the socialoxfordlibs wiki, but there didn’t seem to be a huge amount on it, but to be fair I didn’t add anything to it either. I guess that points to both a benefit and a flaw of wikis; you get out of it what you put into it.

I have actually contributed to a wiki before, though it was so easy I had completely forgotten I had done so! I added my own ‘library day in the life’ entry to this wiki (the blog post for which you can find here).

It involved signing up for an account with that particular site, but the actual editing of the page was really simple, and didn’t involve technical html code or anything. However, I was just adding my name and a link to a site, so perhaps more skill would be needed for creating more fancy pages.

An interesting experiment in using wikis is the omnictionary, which aims to create a mixture of reality, the fictional world of John Green’s novels, and the insider knowledge of the his online fan community.

18. Discover Wikipedia

I’ve used Wikipedia countless times. It’s a really useful tool to quickly look up a piece of information; though I’ve not been tempted to use it for proper research (my university really pushed the anti-plagiarism!). When researching topics at university, however, Wikipedia was extremely useful as I could get a basic understanding of a concept or an argument, written in layman’s terms.

I hadn’t explored the Discussion tabs on Wikipedia pages before, so it was quite interesting to read through some of the comments (and arguments!). I decided to explore a page I would know a lot about, so I chose the University of Exeter. I particularly enjoyed the contentious issue of the Christian Union in the discussion. It is interesting to see how the final edit has been reached to deal with an issue which many of us students felt angry about, in an unbiased way. On the history tab, I liked the option to compare selected revisions, so see what people have changed.

Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at “Philosophy”. I actually tried this a few times; it blew my mind.

Thing 11 & 12: Podcasting and YouTube

Podcasts are audio or video files that you can either stream on the web or download, for example to an iPod.

Thing 11: Find some podcasts which interest you

I was already familiar with the idea of podcasts, though I didn’t quite realise the extent to which they are used. I had only really encountered the Guardian books podcast, and that was when I borrowed my boyfriend’s iPod, so this ‘Thing’ was quite interesting for me.

Since I was aware the Guardian had some podcasts, that was where I started. I was expecting to find one or two categories of podcasts, but I hadn’t counted on quite so many!

Subscribe to the feed for your favourite podcast in Google Reader

I have subscribed to the Guardian Books podcast in my Google Reader, and also to their Bike Podcast. However, I don’t actually own an mp3 player, so I wouldn’t really get the chance to listen to many podcasts, so I stopped there. Perhaps I will invest in one!

I was struck by how easy subscribing to podcasts is, and is just like any other RSS feed. However there are some RSS readers that are specially for podcasts, such as iTunes, which would make it much easier to put these audio files onto an iPod.

Thing 12: Search for and view some videos on a topic of your choice on YouTube

I already know a lot about YouTube, since I have used it to watch a whole range of videos for various reasons. During a university seminar in my final year, we discussed the sociological mythologies of a Cadbury’s advert, but in contrast I also like to keep up to date with the Vlogbrothers channel.

The great thing about YouTube is that you can pretty much guarantee something you want will be on there. Whether that content is legal (or safe for work!) is debatable, but it is so easy to type in some key words on the site and come up with a relevant video in the first few results.

Find “YouTube EDU” and view some videos from a university of your choice
I didn’t know about YouTube EDU before this ‘Thing’. I searched for Exeter University, but found they hadn’t uploaded much to the site (4 videos). I then had a look for Sheffield, and found that most of the results were from Leeds Metropolitan University, and were videos of various sports matches.
I can see why this part of YouTube is useful, as it narrows down the search results into the ‘Education’ category. I personally couldn’t find much, but I think if I had a more specific topic in mind it would be easier to navigate. It also depends a lot on how much a particular university has contributed, as it is with most of these social media sites I have explored in the 23 Things.