Case studies/WikiHow

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WikiHow is a wiki-based community with an extensive database of how-to guides. All of the site's content is licensed under Creative Commons (by-nc-sa);[1] and the site uses a modified version of MediaWiki 1.12.[2] The site started as an extension of the already existing eHow website, and has evolved to host over 70,000 how-to articles.[3] WikiHow's mission is to build the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual.[4] In December 2009, "wikiHow had 20 million unique readers from over 200 countries or territories. These 20 million different people visited us a total of over 25 million times in the month."[5]

History

On January 15, 2005, the two owners of eHow, Jack Herrick and Josh Hannah, started wikiHow—a collaborative writing project striving to build the world's largest how-to manual. While eHow already contained instructions on how to do thousands of things, wikiHow allowed a community of volunteer contributors to build something even bigger and better. On 28 April 2006, eHow was sold and wikiHow was launched as an independent site on its own www.wikihow.com domain.[6]

As of December 2009, the number of registered wikiHow users stood at 175,373. wikiHow hit 50,000 articles on January 28, 2009.[7] 77 users are administrators, and two are bureaucrats.[8]

As of January 19, 2010, wikiHow contains over 70,245 how-to articles.

Content and article format

wikiHow is a wiki, which is a website that anyone can edit. wikiHow operates on open source software and an open content licensing model allowing free use and community ownership of the content.

Any visitor to wikiHow can create a new page and write about how to do something. Articles posted to wikiHow follow a standard format consisting of a summary, followed by ingredients (if any), steps to complete the activity, along with tips, warnings, required items, links to related how-to articles, and a section for sources & citations. Pictures may be added to the articles to illustrate important points or concepts. Once the page is submitted, other visitors can edit, improve, or change the page. Anonymous contributors and the wikiHow user community work together to improve the quality of information provided on the site, fix or remove incorrect instructions, and revert vandalism.

Censorship

wikiHow's censorship policy prohibits articles on topics that are advertisements/spams, inaccurate, jokes, potty humor, sarcastic, sexually charged, hate/racist-based, mean-spirited, impossible instructions, social instructions impossible for an individual to accomplish, universally illegal, copyright violations, below character article standards, focused on recreational drugs, political opinion promoting or criticizing a particular political party/candidate/official, vanity pages, or extremely dangerous and reckless.[9]

Business model

The site's initial start-up costs were to some extent financed from Herrick's sale of eHow. It is now funded from advertising on its pages, on the grounds that "...tasteful advertising is the most unobtrusive way to fund our operations."[4] It does not seek contributions, asserting that solicitations are annoying, and it's run as a "hybrid organization" — a "for-profit company focused on creating a global public good in accordance with our mission".[10]

Licensing

WikiHow's content is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike (by-nc-sa) license, which means that the content can be modified and reused for non-commercial purposes as long as the original authors are attributed and the license is not substantially changed. The authors retain full copyright to their content and may publish it elsewhere under different licenses. They grant wikiHow an irrevocable license to use the material for any purpose, including for commercial purposes.[1]

Opt-out ads

wikiHow is one of only a handful of major websites to allow readers control over whether advertising appears alongside content. Readers can block ads for 24 hours by clicking the "hide ads" button.[11] Those who are registered and logged in do not see ads.[11][12]

Criticisms

Prior to adopting the Creative Commons license, wikiHow had been criticized for initial content policies that sought to make a profit from volunteer contributors.[13] The site has also been criticized about the reliability of articles written by non experts, such as "How to stop cutting yourself", or the relevance of articles written about such obscure subjects as "How to taste dark chocolate".[14]

As wikiHow continued to grow, it began to attract more media attention. Columnist Mark Patinkin from the Providence Journal wrote an article about wikiHow, commenting that he found many interesting articles on a variety of different subjects.[15] In the same article, he said [regarding some of the article topics], "Some were too dicey, like How to Mount a Unicycle. Others had daunting titles: How to Change a Partition Size Using Easeus Partition Manager. Some were too long, like How to Be Organized. Others too obscure: How to Care for Sea Monkeys. Some too hard: How to Play a Glissando on a Wind Instrument. Others I didn’t want to know about, like How to Cook a Snake. Some simply grossed me out: How to Cure a Cat of Constipation. Others demoralized me: How to Check out a Library Book. Do people no longer know?"[15]

See also

Comparisons with Wikimedia

External links