What's WikiDoc & what's our mission

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Mission Statement: Healthcare is enriched when medical knowledge flows freely.

What is WikiDoc?

WikiDoc ( <wee-kee doc> or <wick-ey doc> ): WikiDoc is an open source website that allows an international community of healthcare professionals to add and edit medical content in a process termed co-creation. WikiDoc is designed to facilitate collaborative authoring.

WikiDoc allows a community of healthcare professionals to 'co-create' webpages in a way that does not require knowledge of HTML language or computer programming. As a result, numerous people can collaborate in writing articles, textbook chapters or news stories. Prior versions of webpages are stored, and at any time, a page can be reverted to any of its previous states. The 'Discussion' tab allows the community of users to discuss rapidly evolving issues so that a consensus can be reached regarding WikiDoc content. WikiDoc members can choose to be alerted by email when changes are made to a topic they are interested in by clicking on the 'Watch' tab.

Why Did You Create WikiDoc?

"The tribe is smarter than any one" C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D.

The Golden Book Encyclopedia that my mom got from the Safeway Grocery store

I grew up as an only child in Oklahoma. One of the only books I had was a single volume of a blue encyclopedia from the 1920s that I bought at a garage sale when I was in second grade. I remember reading as much of that one volume of the encyclopedia as I could, over and over again. I kept it right next to my bed and was mesmerized by it. Eventually Safeway grocery stores gave kids volumes from the Golden Book Encyclopdia once your mom bought enough groceries. If just one young person is inspired by our blue medical textbook/encyclopedia like I was by an outdated encyclopedia, it will have been worth the effort.

Please read "The World is Flat" by Thomas L. Friedman. One of the premises of this book is that information technology has leveled the playing field of knowledge workers. Silos of knowledge are coming down. Knowledge workers are sharing information freely. Copyright is out, copyleft is in. Those communities that share knowledge most freely, grow and innovate most rapidly. Distributed learning and collaboration are the keys to success in the future. Knowledge workers are demanding free access to shared knowledge.

The "world is flat", but "medicine is flat" as well. It is in the spirit of fostering collaboration among health care providers in sharing medical knowledge that WikiDoc was created. WikiDoc is a global textbook or encyclopedia of medicine that anyone can add to and edit. It is also a source of healthcare news stories. Launched by C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. of Harvard Medical School in 2006, WikiDoc is the first and largest wiki dedicated to medicine on the internet with an initial focus on cardiovascular disease.

As a student I struggled to find information for rounds in the morning. As a former Chief Resident at the Brigham and Womens' Hospital, I remember struggling daily to find the latest information for morning report. As a fellow, finding materials for cardiac cath conference was always a challenge at the end of a long, busy day. Learning is a life long struggle and journey. As long as you are learning about a disease state, why not share what you have learned with others?

WikiDoc is intended to be a shared resource for housestaff (in preparation for morning report), medical students (in preparation for morning rounds) and fellows (in preparation for conferences). Nurses and attending physicians may find it valuable to share and improve upon their fund of general medical knowledge.

WikiDoc is Copyleft as Opposed to Copyright

WikiDoc contributions are voluntarily given under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). This is a legal principle known as copyleft, a way of using the copyright process to prevent information being controlled by any one person, and ensure it remains freely accessible forever. All of the information in WikiDoc is free for anyone to copy, modify for their own purposes, and redistribute or use as they see fit, as long as the new version grants the same freedoms to others and acknowledges the authors of the WikiDoc article used (a credit or backlink to the original article is sufficient for this). For full information see the copyright page or the text of the GNU Free Documentation License. For example, some portions of the text on this page were borrowed from and modified from www.wikipedia.org.

Strengths, Weaknesses and Article Quality in WikiDoc

WikiDoc's greatest strengths, weaknesses and differences arise because it is open to anyone, has a large contributor base, and articles are written by consensus according to editorial guidelines and policies.

  • WikiDoc is open to a large contributor base, -- therefore it is less susceptible to retaining bias, is very hard for any group to censor, and is far more rapidly responsive to new information. On the otherhand, it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked information later requiring editing.
  • WikiDoc is written by consensus -- therefore eventually for most articles, through successive editorial iterations, most viewpoints achieve balance, and a acceptably neutral stance can be achieved even on emotive subjects. On the other hand, reaching a consensus takes considerably longer than a simple drafting, and is occasionally made harder by contributors with extreme-viewpoints. Articles tend to be more fluid or changeable for a longer period of time compared to other reference sources until they find a balanced presentation of data or information or a "neutral consensus" that all parties can agree to.

Key strengths of WikiDoc:

  • An unlimited number of health care professionals contribute to WikiDoc rather than a few select editors. Our current mailing list numbers 9,700, and there are 37,000 unique users of the site so far during 2007.
  • Having a very large number of active writers and editors in many languages, WikiDoc often provides unparalleled access and breadth on subject matter that is otherwise inaccessible or poorly documented.
  • WikiDoc often produces topics of interest within hours or days of their occurrence.
  • WikiDoc provides neutral, objective, and encyclopedic coverage of medicine and is reviewed by medical experts (Editors-In-Chief).
  • In comparison with most web-based resources, WikiDoc's open approach tremendously increases the chances that any particular factual error or misleading statement will be relatively promptly corrected.
  • Likewise, censorship cannot be imposed, and therefore censorship by any given group, restriction to "officially reported" sources, or "pushing" of any particular viewpoint, whether official or unofficial, is difficult to achieve and almost always fails after a time.
  • Because the pages are archived, information added to wiki doc never "vanishes", and is never "lost" or deleted.
  • Disagreeemnts can be voiced in the talk or discussion pages that accompany each page or topic.

Key weaknesses of WikiDoc:

  • WikiDoc's radical openness means that any given article may be in the middle of a large edit, a rewrite, or recently vandalized. Some topics have not yet been populated.
  • Likewise, articles may be incomplete in ways that would be less frequently encountered in a more tightly controlled reference work, for example some aspects may be well covered but others briefly or not at all.
  • Citations to published literature may be less robust than published textbooks.

Monitoring and Correcting Content

  • WikiDoc has been designed with the goal of making it easy to correct mistakes, rather than making it difficult to make them. WikiDoc provides two means to verify the validity of recent additions to the body of pages.

The Recent Changes Page:

  • The tool most often used to monitor recently added content is the "Recent Changes" page—a specific list numbering recent edits, or a list of all the edits made within a given time frame. From the change log, other functions are accessible:
    1. The Revision History shows previous page versions. Using the Revision History, an editor can view and restore a previous version of the article.
    2. The Diff Feature highlights changes between two revisions. The Diff Feature can be used to determine if a change to a page is an acceptable or unacceptable edit. If the edit is unacceptable, the previous version can be restored.

Watch Pages:

  • By clicking on 'Watch' at the top of the page, a user can be alerted by email when pages of interest are changed.

History of Wikis

The WikiWikiWeb was the first wiki, established by Ward Cunningham on March 25, 1995. He invented the wiki name and concept, and implemented the first wiki engine. Cunningham coined the term wiki after the "wiki wiki" or "quick" shuttle buses at Honolulu Airport. Wiki wiki was the first Hawaiian term he learned on his first visit to the islands, when the airport counter agent directed him to take the wiki wiki bus between terminals. According to Cunningham, "I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for 'quick' and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web."

In the late 1990s, wikis were recognized as a way to develop private- and public-knowledge bases, and this potential inspired the founders of the Nupedia encyclopedia project, Jimbo Wales and Larry Sanger, to use wiki technology as a basis for an electronic encyclopedia: wikipedia was launched in January 2001. In the early 2000s, wikis were increasingly adopted as collaborative software. Today some companies use wikis as their only collaborative software and as a replacement for static intranets. The open philosophy of most wikis—of allowing anyone to edit content—does not ensure that editors are well intentioned. Wiki vandalism is a constant problem for wikis, though its danger is, to at least some extent, exaggerated. Studies from IBM claim that most vandalism to many wikis is reverted in 5 minutes or less.


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