The IWA Water Wiki - comparison with Wikipedia - now being decommissioned (June 2016)

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Re: The IWA Water Wiki - comparison with Wikipedia - now being decommissioned (June 2016)

I just read in an e-mail by IWA (International Water Association) that they are decommissing their IWA Water Wiki. Their e-mail doesn't explain WHY but I assume it must be low participation and usage rates (?).

Here is what the e-mail said (there are hyperlinks in the e-mail but I didn't copy them across, except for one of them; the "Classic Papers from the WaterWiki"):

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Decommissioning the WaterWiki


After much consideration and discussion, the team at IWA Publishing have decided to decommission the WaterWiki site at the end of June 2016.

However, key content and features have now been transferred onto the main IWA Publishing website, www.iwapublishing.com . This includes an exciting new “News” section, which will include blog posts from IWA Publishing authors as well as updates from the worlds of water and publishing. Additionally, you can access “Classic Papers from the WaterWiki” ( www.iwapublishing.com/news/categories/Cl...-3c3699336c-89878613 ): an archive of the most popular articles from the site. The WaterWiki collection of free ebooks has also been moved to the main IWA Publishing website, conveniently organised by subject area.

We hope that these features will provide a clearer, more streamlined space for a range of high-quality information, articles and news that will continue to serve the global water community.

We would like to thank all members of the WaterWiki Community for their involvement in the site and contributions to its repository of information. If you have any queries, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The WaterWiki Team

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I don't want to be mean or display "Schadenfreude" here and I really appreciate that they tried but I do feel a bit vindicated because I have long argued that separate Wikis are not the way to go, and that rather focussing our energies on the big Wikipedia would be a more efficient way forward.

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  • JKMakowka
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Re: The IWA Water Wiki - comparison with Wikipedia - now being decommissioned (June 2016)

muench wrote: I don't want to be mean or display "Schadenfreude" here and I really appreciate that they tried but I do feel a bit vindicated because I have long argued that separate Wikis are not the way to go, and that rather focussing our energies on the big Wikipedia would be a more efficient way forward.


The IWA Wiki closing is kind of a shame as they seem to have been trying to do something quite different from the Wikipedia. The latter is trying to be a general encyclopedia for looking up facts and general information... adding detailed technical information is always a fight with the editors and I can kind of understand where they are coming from given the main purpose of the Wikipedia.

I felt the IWA wiki was intended more of a step towards a sort of unified graduate level textbook that could serve as a reference for all water related topics (but never reached that of course). This is in my opinion a big gap that the Wikipedia is not well suited to fill.

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Re: The IWA Water Wiki - comparison with Wikipedia - now being decommissioned (June 2016)

Well, if they (IWA) were trying to build up a "unified graduate level textbook", as you say, then I am not sure that a Wiki format was the right format to choose. Don't we have already enough textbooks, some even open access? E.g. this one that Detlef recently mentioned:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/165-ce...crc-a-iowater-france

or this one which Marcos von Sperling posted about:
forum.susana.org/forum/categories/165-ce...nsq-free-to-download

I think when you want to use a Wiki format you need to have either a critical mass of editors who edit for free, or you have to pay editors to do the work.
In the case of people editing for free you need to give them an incentive. I think one incentive is the knowledge that one's articles get read and found. With Wikipedia you know that your articlees are easily found with Google searches. But with the IWA Water Wiki? Whenever I searched for something in Google, I was never pointed to an IWA Water Wiki page.

The topic selection in the IWA Water Wiki was also rather arbitrary and more likely to cover water topics and topics about centralised treatment (see www.iwapublishing.com/news/categories/Cl...-3c3699336c-89878613 )

Regarding the level of technical detail in Wikipedia, you said:

adding detailed technical information is always a fight with the editors and I can kind of understand where they are coming from given the main purpose of the Wikipedia.


It's true that sometimes there are discussions about that. Wikipedia is not a "how to" guide, so if someone launches into details on how to build your own composting toilet, this will likely be deleted by other editors. But other technical details are generally welcome and I have hardly ever had additions that I made reverted. Have you? Do you have examples of articles where you tried to add more details and you were overruled?

If I take for example the article on helminth eggs from the IWA Water Wiki:
www.iwapublishing.com/news/helminth-eggs

I find that this is no more detailed than the article on helminths and helminthiasis which I helped to build up in Wikipedia:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminths
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminthiasis

In fact, I would argue that these two Wikipedia articles are more detailed, more up to date and better referenced than the corresponding article in the IWA Water Wiki.

By the way, with regards to textbook and teaching materials, there is also this Wikiversity project:
en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiversity:Main_Page
and there is Wikibooks ("the open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit"):
en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page

I don't have experiences with either of those though, so no idea how well they work in reaching people.

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Re: The IWA Water Wiki - comparison with Wikipedia - now being decommissioned (June 2016)

Yes the IWA Water Wiki never got even close that theoretical goal I was referring to (nor does it seem to have had that goal clearly in mind, just more so than the Wikipedia). And copying Wikipedia articles into it (as was clearly done later on) was a waste of time.

I disagree though that the Wiki format is not suitable for what I am referring too. Yes there are plenty of free textbooks on various topics, but they are usually very much written from a certain authors perspective and narrowed down focus and are also not very "machine readable" (so called semantic web: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_Web ).

A Wiki is more of a "meta" book that transcendences the view of a specific author or a specific time during which a book was written. And because of the non-linear nature and the easy cross-linking into a much larger content it is more suitable for a knowledge archive of sorts.

Wikibooks has all the issues concerning "normal" library of text-books mentioned above, and wikiversity seems to be more focused on creating more or less traditional classroom educational resources, but I don't know the latter project very well.

Hmm... maybe another way to look at it: What kind of project could become a sort of extended artificial memory for a human (through machine learning limited AIs, i.e. advanced cousins of today's Cortanas, Siris and Alexas etc.)?

Wikipedia is sort of on its way to become that, but its editors are (for various other reasons) limiting the scope to that of an encyclopedia. Thus we are on our way to have a great generalist's semantic knowledge archive, but there are not many similar projects for specialist topics, and mixing these two does not seem to work very well (just as with generalists and specialist humans ;) ).

Ok, but this got way off topic now. I definitly agree that to get something like that off the ground you have to pay some editors most likely. My impression was that IWA sort of did that for a short while, but then abandoned the idea.

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