WikiPilipinas is Not an Academic Philippine Encyclopedia

3:16 am PHT

Nope, that title you read above is not a critical opinion. It’s a statement of fact enshrined in WikiPilipinas’ Policies and Guidelines. As Mr. Gus Vibal, the founder of and WikiPilipinas, has said, WikiPilipinas is envisioned to be the one-stop-shop for all things popular and Pinoy. There you can find articles like the “Cutest PBA Players” or “Top 10 Philippine Female Movie Villains”, which while definitely are interesting to read, is of dubious value in an academic context. Hence the “not an academic encyclopedia” description.

Last week saw the successful launch of WikiPilipinas during the 28th Manila International Book Fair at the World Trade Center. I was able to attend two events: first is the bloggers dinner last Friday night (thanks to Annalyn Jusay of the Manila Bulletin) and the second is the “2nd Manila Wikipedia Meetup” cum “WikiPilipinas Team Meets Pinoy Wikipedians” last Sunday.

You may remember that I wrote a critical piece against WikiPilipinas (then called Wikipiniana) over a month ago. That post drew up the most contentious comment thread in my blog ever. A lot of things have changed since then so I need to update my not-so NPOV article. (Lame inside joke there. Hehehe.)

I was also interviewed by Annalyn Jusay allowing me to air some of my updated position regarding WikiPilipinas vis-a-vis Wikipedia.

Gus Vibal and

Regarding, I have no idealogical objections to it. In fact I think it is the best site for Filipiniana studies. They provide tons of primary source materials free of charge! (Though not necessarily free as in speech.) If you’re a history buff, you’d be delighted to pore over their collection of books from the last century.

I was able to meet Mr. Gus Vibal, the founder of and WikiPilipinas during the bloggers dinner and the Wikipedia Meetup. My impression of him is that he is a passionate patriot and a very charismatic man. He clearly sees business potential in giving knowledge away and and WikiPilipinas are proof of that.

While we may disagree on several things (like his disdain for Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View), I would like to say that our country needs more people like him. He has a sense of inspiration, a healthy love for our country, and a good dose of enthusiasm for knowledge that sometimes borders on craziness. (One of his staff says he is nuts; I won’t tell who to protect the guilty. Hehehe.)  :D

The Manila Bulletin Interview

 Photo of the interview article

Manila Bulletin’s resident blogger-journalist, Annalyn “Ajay” Jusay, attended the WikiPilipinas press launch last August 23. She subsequently wrote an article about the website and mirrored it on her blog. It was there that I commented about my dissenting opinion and that’s how she cooked up the idea to interview me “to present the other side.” You can read the first part of that interview online. The first part talks about my passion for Wikipedia (I am a die-hard Wikipedian after all) and several of my updated points against WikiPilipinas.

Incidentally, I am now also a victim of the Bulletin’s inept layout artist, something Yuga mentioned before. This time, they’re supposed to show a screenshot of Wikipedia but the URL they accessed had an extra period tacked at the end giving us a lovely view of Wikipedia’s version of the 404.

Bloggers Dinner

As I suspected, most bloggers were ambivalent regarding WikiPilipinas. They think it’s a nice site and all but during the after-dinner at Harbour Square, several mentioned that they were left with more unanswered questions. This is evidenced by the lack of blog entries regarding WikiPilipinas from the attending bloggers and polite ones from those that did blog about it. For instance, see Karla’s, Darwin’s, Karlo’s, Sexymom’s, and Azrael’s blog posts. Only Juned was up to the task of dissecting the information presented that night. Additionally, Gail, who was able to attend the press launch, told me during the recent Taste Asia foodfest that she also did not see the point of WikiPilipinas.

Anyway, shout-outs go to Rico, Sasha, Shari, Eric, Juned, AJ, and Karlo who I joined for some coffee, pictures, and love life stories over at Starbucks Harbour Square after the dinner. I really wanted to stay longer but my sisters wanted to go home already.  :-) Also spotted at the dinner were Noemi, Dine, Jonas, and Robby. Did I miss anyone?  :D

(I’d like apologize to the other bloggers present that night for my antagonistic attitude during the open forum. Well, if Gus Vibal is passionate about WikiPilipinas, so am I regarding Wikipedia.  :P)

Manila Wikipedia Meetup 2

The first time Filipino Wikipedians met up was last May 20 of this year. We were already planning for a second meetup when the WikiPilipinas issue broke out. Gus Vibal then gave a lengthy piece of his mind then offered to host the second meetup at their expense. We accepted the offer and meetup and dialogue pushed through.

If you’re interested to know what happened, we have an evolving write-up in Wikipedia. As a summary, we are able to clarify the respective positions of the two camps and we Wikipedians recognize that WikiPilipinas has minimal impact on Wikipedia. WikiPilipinas is essentially just a means to an end and that end is to promote and to drive academic content there, an aim that is something we agree with. An incidental benefit is that the people who are wont to put up nonsense/spam or to vandalize Wikipedia will instead be attracted to WikiPilipinas instead. Hehehe.  :p

More pictures of the meetup in Flickr.

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On 5:55 a.m., 7 Sep 2007, Baklang AJ wrote:

I think the antagonistic attitude was good, not because of its very nature, but because it served as an impetus for others to speak their minds and ask the right questions.

I would agree that Filipiniana.Net is a good project and that WikiPilipinas is, well… Uhm, Wikipedia is Wikipedia, just like Tide is Tide!


On 6:14 a.m., 7 Sep 2007, Juned wrote:

Your evil eye was scary  :) If I set up my own Wiki promise not to go Dirt Harry one me  :)


On 11:26 a.m., 7 Sep 2007, wikibitzer wrote:

ive read a lot of articles and blogs and comments on this issue, but just the most stupid un-asked question; what do you want to do with wikipilipinas?

wikipilipinas is at the very least just another trashbin of ’masa’-articles no one of high-culture would ever explore—but you have to admit it is getting popular. a lot of people (probably people who watch Mari-mar) are clicking on their ’bangka’ logo, making their user profiles as colorful as their teeth. which brings me to another question—dont you think wpedia and wpilipinas are after two different readers?

they say that tolerance (not acceptance, coz acceptance is ohh so hard) is the only answer to israel and palestine’s eternal confict. maybe, just maybe, it is the answer to yours too.



On 4:02 a.m., 8 Sep 2007, Miguel wrote:

Nice comment, #3… I am in Israel at the moment, in a formerly Arab city! Anyway, I think…

1. Wikipilipinas is for entertainment, given the topics listed above. 2. Wikipilipinas is a SEO scheme—Eugene you mentioned this somewhere… in Yugatech?


On 11:51 a.m., 8 Sep 2007, eunice wrote:

yes, i think both sites cater to different readers. Wikipedia is more scholarly while Wikipilipinas is more on popular contents like trivia and top 10 listings.


On 7:34 p.m., 9 Sep 2007, ecstaticlittleplastic wrote:

“WikiPilipinas is Not an Academic Philippine Encyclopedia”

..and Wikipedia is?


On 12:18 a.m., 10 Sep 2007, seav wrote:

@AJ, thanks for the support!  :-)

@Juned, why would I criticize a Wiki to be put up by someone of your depth?  :-p

@wikibitzer, it’s not a stupid question. Personally, I would want WikiPilipinas to direct visitors to Wikipedia for the “academic” topics like “Geography of the Philippines” and “Noli Me Tangere”. They can continue with their popular-topic coverage such as the biographies of the PBB housemates and top 10 lists of anything under the sun. At the very least I hope that any good improvements to the “academic” articles be ported back to Wikipedia. This is the same strategy used by Apple with their Safari browser: they give back any improvements to the HTML engine to the KDE KHTML engine project.

@Migs, yup, I mentioned it in Yugatech.  :)

@Eunice, I now agree that the two sites have different aims and target audiences. I’d like to think that my previous article catalyzed Gus Vibal to clearly state what WikiPilipinas is supposed to be. When I first saw it, it was clearly a Wikipedia fork so I’d like to believe that my ranting prodded WikiPilipinas into a direction of their own choosing. Also, I’m a bit sure that Gus Vibal’s talk on the “long tail” to dominate Google search engine results is directly aimed against my Google ranking argument in the first article. We’ll see about that.  :-)


On 12:20 a.m., 10 Sep 2007, seav wrote:

@ecstaticlittleplastic: …is an academic encyclopedia. Maybe you’ll scoff at that statement, but I’m quite ready to debate on that.  :-D


On 5:38 a.m., 11 Sep 2007, Miguel wrote:

It’s debatable if Wikipedia is indeed an academic encyclopedia, but I think there’s no doubt on its intention to be one.


On 11:50 a.m., 11 Sep 2007, f!nch wrote:

Yet Another Wiki-Craze LOL!


On 5:57 p.m., 16 Sep 2007, Nino Gonzales wrote:

Hi, Seav. I hope you don’t mind my posting this long comment. They’re my thoughts on Wpinas after our meeting with them. It would have been an entry in my blog if I had one. I didn’t want to put it in Wikipedia, even in Tambayan, since it is very much POV and not really related to WMPH.

Apparently, they’re for real

I must admit that I was initially skeptical about Wpinas’ goody-goody objective of promoting things Filipino not for profit but as part as their corporate social responsibility. I’m of the camp that thinks that not-for-profit organizations must be profitable for them to have a better chance of being sustainable. Apparently, they really plan to pursue this even if it’s not profitable (in terms of money, of course; I think, whatever its financial performance is, it is profitable in other senses). Once again, it was their work with that won me over. Wikiboy (he was Wikiboy, right?) was talking about how they encoded really old and fragile Philippine documents to put in Filipiniana, how they sometimes had to do it manually since text recognition software is not yet sophisticated enough to read irregular, hand-written text. All this, it seems, for a genuine desire to preserve these documents and make them more available. Perhaps it’s just the free lunch; that almost always wins me over.

Purely altruistic intentions are hard to imagine in the context of the business world. All the people needed to have this done—from the dealing with libraries, to the encoding, to the technical work, QA by people who can read Spanish—need money, money you need to justify if you are in a business environment. But I did not take into account that Gus Vibal is not just one more entrepreneurial manager in some business; he’s a scion of a family who runs a very successful family business. One advantage of businesses run by families is that they could do crazy things. This must be how old monarchies used to get crazy things done. Must have been how the Hapsburgs made the decision to bleed Mexico to subsidize the deficitary effort of colonizing and Christianizing people eventually named after one of their princes.

After mentioning something Spanish and something crazy, quixotic invariably comes to mind. But don’t think Wpinas needs to be that. I really think Wpinas or, of all the Filipino internet start-ups, should be and can easily be profitable. I think this is the best way to ensure its longevity. Apparently, Google agrees. Gus Vibal mentioned that the head of Google Asia visited them during the launch. Currently, it seems that targeted ads is the most reliable business model for internet portals. But Gus Vibal didn’t seem to be very excited about having Google put their ads in Wpinas. He said that he wanted to check what the users would think. I don’t think he needs to worry. I don’t think Wpinas users are as fanatically purists as Wikipedians. Anyway, as you say in your post, Wpinas is not really trying to be academic, so there is really no conflict of interest if you put ads in Wpinas. But perhaps Gus Vibal is just one shrewd businessman who knows how to patiently play his cards.

Web 1.5

Aside from NPOV, Gus Vibal also seems to disdain user generated content, which I don’t think is unreasonable. After all, Wikipedia is one of the few successful large wikis, and not a few 2.0 disasters have happened (remember the LA Times wiki experiment?). So it is not surprising that he has a horde of writers and editors in his payroll (for those who weren’t there, the guys in uniform in Seav’s photos) who create content for Wpinas. He expects that user generated content will just complement the “real” content. In other words, Wpinas is not really Web 2.0. They’re somewhere in between 1.0 and 2.0.

He already explained this before, but I underestimated the magnitude of his operation before the meeting. It’s a real content factory. They have full-time scholarly types in-charge of each of the portals each with a target number of articles to produce. They outsource to a local company the routinary tasks. They even have QA and Service Level Agreements. Compare this to Wikipedia which only has a handful of employees, and none of them paid to do writing and editing.

(One advantage of not relying on user generated content is that they don’t need to put up with people who, by whim, tell themselves that they are having a wikiburn-out and need a wikibreak, and in spite of not having contributed anything significant to Wikipedia for more than a year, still consider themselves contributors—people like me.)

Perhaps these are all to be expected from a guy who comes from a family whose company has created most of the content we digest in school.

The wide chasm between us

Seav, remember when we started talking about WMPH, Gus Vibal said we should study the girl who leads Read or Die. What was her name again? Sky Harbor—if you are reading this, it seems that she’s a very good role model for starting a non-profit… Read or Die seems to be very successful (perhaps we could invite her to one of our meetings, and she could guide us in starting WMPH). Anyhow, she seems to be pretty erudite aside from being a good organizer. In her blog about Wpinas, she compares WP vs. Wpinas to the spirit of the Enlightenment vs. the Medieval Age, and spews out Latinisms like a Neo-thomist. I don’t agree with her. I think Wpinas is farther away from the medieval spirit than the Enlightenment.

AFAIK, back in those medieval days, people knew that knowledge started with reality being known by human minds through the senses. But when that French dude said that “I fish therefore I am” or something of the sort, the world started sliding in that slippery slope of assuming that knowledge starts with “I fish,” eventually leading to the despair of the transcendence of truth, a very normal thing today, with every other guy believing that his truth has nothing to do with my truth or your truth. A German dude even said that “translation is murder” or something to that effect, perhaps trying to excuse the crappy English songs of Rammstein, or perhaps saying that the meanings of his German words are so different from the meanings of their Cebuano counterparts, that if I translate Du Hast to Cebuano, the song will have a totally different meaning.

That previous paragraph actually has a point, and that point is that the philosophy underlying Wpinas is more related with the philosophies of fishes and murder than the medieval spirit. WP recognizes that something could be written by people from all over the world which corresponds to a reality (verifiability), a reality which can be perceived by the editors in a similar way (NPOV). On the other hand, Wpinas blatantly dismisses NPOV, and assumes that the “prisms in our minds” are so different that NPOV is a joke. This despair, combined with a fanatical paranoia of anything written by white people, seems to be the latest trend in Philippine historiography, a point of view which seems to be enthusiastically supported by the editors of Wpinas. One of the “new breed” of scholars they mentioned and seemed to be extremely excited about is Zeus Salazar, who defines history thus: “salaysay ukol sa nakaraan/nakalipas na may saysay para sa sariling lupon na iniuulat sa sarili sa pamamagitan ng sariling wika.” That statement will surely make any Wikipedian cringe. And that, I think, is the wide philosophical chasm between Wpinas and Wikipedia. But in the Philippines, chasms of any breadth could easily be bridged. Thanks to Gus Vibal and the Wpinas staff for treating us to lunch! Wishing and WikiPilipinas millions of eyeballs every day!


On 3:14 p.m., 17 Sep 2007, seav wrote:

@Nino, wow, that’s a really long comment. I’ll need time to digest it all. And I plan to consolidate all of my thoughts about WikiPilipinas in my Wikipedia user pages. You can expect to see my comments on you piece there.  :)


On 12:58 a.m., 18 Sep 2007, alternativity wrote:

Hi guys. Alternativity here from La Union. The head (I’m not sure if that’s the correct term, but ’miracle worker’ will do as well) of Read or Die would be Tin (Kristine) Mandigma. I dont know her very well yet as I am not an active member of Read or Die, but they’ve invited us at the Philippine Order of Narnians and the New Worlds Alliance a few times to participate in Read or Die events, and vice versa. I believe her email is readily available via the Read or Die site. Another nonprofit org (well, alliance) you might be interested in is the New Worlds Alliance, which for five years has put up the Philippine Annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.


On 11:00 a.m., 20 Sep 2007, Nino Gonzales wrote:

Hey, Alternativity, could you invite the person who runs New Worlds Alliance as well as Kristine Mandigma or some other key person from RoD? (Even if she’s just a nodding acquaintance of yours, its much better than an email from someone she doesn’t know…) I’m bringing the conversation to Tambayan, since this is already about WMPH……


On 1:21 p.m., 25 Sep 2007, tin wrote:


This is the representative—how was it?— neo-Thomist (and a gratuitously misread one, as it turns out XD—murder and fishes, indeed. For realz? And your head is where? As another French dude would say).

I’ve been meaning to comment after I was pointed here by several people though I guess I should have logged onto the Wikipedia tambayan page first.

Just dropping a note to say that we will be glad to help in any way—email is / Club mobile is 09283555365.

No Latinism to spout today alas.


On 3:38 p.m., 8 Oct 2007, seav wrote:

@Tin, thanks for visiting my blog. Well, we (the Pinoy Wikipedian community) plan to invite you to one of our meetings so that you can share with us your experiences in founding Read or Die since Gus Vibal highly recommended you guys. I think one of us already sent you an e-mail invitation and I hope you would accept it. Thanks!  :D

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