Wikipedia to TXT articles to the developing world
Knowledge for the next billion net users
Wikipedia will shortly become available to readers in the developing world as text messages.
Writing on the blog of the The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation's head of mobile and business development Kul Takanao Wadhwa said “We’re very excited about delivering Wikipedia via text, which we expect to roll out within the next few months.”
The service will see users “send a text request to Wikipedia and, within seconds, they will get the article to their phone.”
Wadhwa's not offered details beyond the snippets recorded above to explain how the service will work, but it is not hard to imagine the service may be a little unwieldy. To understand why, consider that the body text of the Wikipedia article about El Reg comprises 1808 characters, 12 TXT messages. Even with extended texts, you'd be looking at four messages.
Other articles are far longer. That on the sport of Cricket, for example, is over 64,000 characters long, or 400 TXTs. Then there's usability: it seems sensible to imagine that the first text for an article would offer a menuing system, so readers aren't forced to wade through many messages to find the bit they want.
What is known is that Wikimedia will work with South Africa's Praekelt Foundation to make the new service happen. We also know that the TXT program is an adjunct to the Wikimedia Zero program launched last year that sees carriers offer access to a lightweight version of the site at no cost. If Wikimedia follows that model, carriers will presumably send TXTs at low or no cost.
Whatever the format and cost, the aim of the effort is clear, as Wadhwa writes that many folks in thew world can't afford data-capable phones or data services, or live in places where data services are not available. A little information, even in the form of hard-to-navigate streams of TXTs, will surely be welcome in such environments. ®
Htlr ws a bd mn
I had to double check the date on this article to make sure I wasn't reading something from 1998. Seriously, has innovation deteriorated so much so that we're now reverting back to text-for-fact services?
I can understand there being a very small percentage of the world that may not have the luxury of a phone capable of browsing the internet, but why would they bother requesting up unformatted, cluttered and verbose Wikipedia articles on a device with such a tiny screen, making it even more of a pain to read?
The only way I see this being a viable service is if they add the ability to specify verified excerpts in Wikipedia articles, that are then sent through the TXT, sending TXTs with information grabbed directly from the source brings up the problem of vandalism breaching the barrier, except this time the changes cannot be reverted and the person reading the TXT will be oblivious and take that information as fact. Granted this may abridge the information, but it's sure enough better than getting bombarded with a plethora of messages.
It's a nice thought, but I see the hindrance of bad usability and readability becoming something a lot of people won't want to bother with, especially considering these old devices have a limit on messages.
How the service will work
"Wadhwa's not offered details beyond the snippets recorded above to explain how the service will work, but it is not hard to imagine the service may be a little unwieldy."
I dnt rly c da prblm