gone dark today to protest SOPA and PIPA, the twin online piracy bills Congress is working on. The blackout is certainly attracting attention, but it's also causing frustration, especially for unaware Wikipedia users.Wikipedia, Reddit, Craigslist, Mozilla, and many other vital websites have
The Washington Post, the Guardian and NPR are collaborating on an experiment to see if they can fill the knowledge void left by Wikipedia's blackout. Using the Twitter hashtag #altwiki, these news outlets want to answer factual questions for Web users who can't get to Wikipedia. The Washington Post calls it "a single-day Band-Aid" for the missing encyclopedia.
If Wikipedia disappears for forever there's no way I'm getting through college..— Haley Spicer (@haleyspicer) January 18, 2012
The blackout campaign is having no trouble attracting attention, but as the Twitter account @herperpedia has been valiantly demonstrating since midnight last night, many users aren't getting past the "WTF WIKIPEDIA" stage of grief. A convenient, trusted source of knowledge is missing, and some users don't know what to do.
why oh why have they shut down wikipedia?:(— Beth Lamb (@_bethanne_) January 18, 2012
Yesterday, the Washington Post proposed to step in and help those Wikipedia users in distress. "Ask a question on Twitter with the hashtag #altwiki," the Post's David Beard wrote, "and we'll ask our readers to help provide an answer. We'll answer a few ourselves - and likely blog about that tomorrow."
The Post is documenting the process today, highlighting a few choice answers on its blog. It offers a few important disclaimers: "#AltWiki, of course, doesn't seek to replace Wikipedia, or indicate that The Post is taking a stand against the House's Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) or the Senate's Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). It does, however, tell us quite a bit about how much 477 million people a month rely on Wikipedia."
#altwiki why do i have a defective brain— ETPC1 (@ETPC1) January 18, 2012
Offering to field the world's Wikipedia questions on Twitter is pretty ambitious. The Post and NPR say it's all in "fun." The #altwiki experiment is not a stand for or against SOPA/PIPA, but the Washington Post is taking the opportunity to present the facts about these bills. The decision by mainstream sites to go dark today has brought the issue to the fore, and maybe even the slightest glimmer of awareness is worth one weird day on the Internet.
Congress pissed off wikipedia and google. wtf?— Juliet Adams (@xjulietadamsx) January 18, 2012