Peaceful inaugurations remind us how powerful democracy can be.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be getting on a train to head down to Washington DC, where I'll spend a few days enjoying the sights of the capital before attending the second inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. In getting ready for it, I can't help but think about the awesome power of democracy and the right of self-determination inherent in a democratic society. That is, after all, the single most important ideal in a democracy: We the People get to decide.

Wikis are the same way.

We've talked before in previous blogs, such as Sannse's "Wiki Citizen's Guide to Communities," about how wikis should strive to be community projects where the community gets to make the decisions for the wiki. We see this in action across Wikia, with wikis choosing their own administrators, deciding their own policies, and working together towards a collaborative goal.

When you get involved in these kinds of discussions, you’re making sure that your voice is heard on your wikis.

Spread of information

Did you know that your voice can reach even louder than just policies on your wikis? You can even have an impact on the world! Every time you post information about your favorite movie, video game, hobby, historical event, or anything else, you're adding to the freely available knowledge of humanity. Having a free market of knowledge and ideas is crucial to the future of our world, and you and so many other people like you are contributing to that goal.

There's so many other kinds of knowledge and information you can share than just encyclopedic knowledge. Fan fiction wikis, such as Star Wars Fanon, bring a fan-made spin and the passion and ideas of fans to the official Star Wars information found on Wookieepedia. The Conservative Wiki and Liberapedia let conservatives and liberals put forward their particular points of view about politics, letting people share their ideas about political issues—which is very important in such a polarized political environment! Some wikis even bring levity to serious political issues; Wikiality is a spoof of The Colbert Report and serves as a parody of politics.

That may not seem like much just in the context of individual wikis, but when you look at it all at once then you can see how wikis like these contribute to an open sharing of knowledge and ideas. When we face complex challenges across the world, and we want to bring people closer together, being able to share the information and ideas of the world is crucial. There's no other time in history when someone from Egypt could share information with someone in Australia in an instant at the click of a button, and you're contributing to that progress!

Think big

Sometimes, there are even bigger projects here on Wikia that contribute to bringing solutions to issues on an even larger scale.

  • In 2009, the Green Wiki hosted a climate change call to action by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former President of the Soviet Union and an advocate for environmental causes. Mr. Gorbachev took that opportunity in order to use new forms of technology as a way to rally people into joining the conversation about fighting global climate change.
  • GuttenPlag Wiki and VroniPlag Wiki dealt with fraud in German academia by studying plagiarism in the theses of members of the German government. This kind of critical and scholarly analysis led to such high profile events as the resignation of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the German Minister of Defense, after GuttenPlag Wiki determined that his doctoral thesis contained plagiarized work. VroniPlag Wiki has found and researched 40 cases, many of which are still open, and 10 people have lost their titles. More importantly than that, it shed light on the issue of plagiarism and brought it into the German media spotlight. These projects have won numerous awards for their analyses.
  • A year ago tomorrow, the IP Law Wiki took part in a global protest (along with websites such as Wikipedia and Reddit) against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) that were in the United States Congress. A number of other wikis also took part in this. Opponents feared that these bills, if they became law, would be burdensome and harmful regulations on Internet companies. This was all about the debate over intellectual property on the Internet and to what extent copyright holders can seek the penalization of content hosts—such as Wikia. After the global protest, SOPA and PIPA were indefinitely shelved by both chambers of Congress.

    The SF Homeless Resource advocates for homeless citizens of San Francisco.

  • We also have a number of advocacy wikis, in addition to the political ones I mentioned earlier. We have the San Francisco Homeless Resource, which aims to help the homeless population of San Francisco. We have the LGBT Project Wiki, which aims to bring awareness to the campaign for equal rights for the LGBT community. The list goes on and on.

These sorts of projects are all about people using wikis to engage in civic action and help find solutions for causes that are important to them. Whether they're conservatives or liberals, or on one side of intellectual property debates or the other, these wikis bring people together to share ideas and spread knowledge.

This shows us something really powerful. Because their nature is inherently communal and collaborative, wikis can play an important role in the democratic process where people find solutions to global, national, and societal issues.

What can you do?

Get involved! There's a great quote from my favorite show, The West Wing—"Decisions are made by those who show up." If you want to have your voice heard, whether it's to decide a wiki's policy or help advocate for issues that are important to you, make your voice heard. Get involved and talk about your ideas.

Knowing what wikis have done in the past, what do you think wikis can accomplish in 2013? What do you want to accomplish on wikis in 2013?

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