Friday, February 16, 2007

Bible Commentary Wiki?

Anyone who follows my main blog will know that I’m somewhat fascinated with wikis. If you’re not familiar with the term “wiki,” here’s a brief definition:

A wiki is a website that allows the visitors themselves to easily add, remove, and otherwise edit and change available content, typically without the need for registration. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for mass collaborative authoring.

That definition, appropriately enough, came from Wikipedia, which is an online, collaborative encyclopedia. Wikipedia is the most well-known example of a wiki; if you happen to know something about butterflies, and go on over to the Wikipedia entry on butterflies, you can share your knowledge with others. Or perhaps help correct or clarify a point that the article is already making.

I myself have also started a wiki, about the Ubuntu operating system, which is aimed at helping new Ubuntu users—especially users who “grew up” with Windows—get used to a new way of working. This isn’t a normal wiki, in the sense that it’s not open for public editing—I want to maintain control, at least for the present, to make sure that it’s newbie-friendly—but the downside to that is that it’s still a very bare-bones wiki, because I’m not editing it 24/7.

In brief:
  • The upside to a publicly editable wiki is that you can use collaboration to get a wealth of in-depth information available, much quicker than you could if you were to try and do it on your own. (According to the main page for Wikipedia, since the site’s launch in 2001, there have been over 1,635,000 articles on the English version; there’s no way they would have accumulated that many articles if Wikipedia was maintained by a core set of people.)
  • The downside is that you have to give up a fair amount of control over the content of the site. You have to have a certain amount of faith that the people writing these articles know what they’re talking about—and that the articles are worth having in the first place. (How many of those 1.6 million+ articles are written about some guy’s dog?)
If you didn’t click the link earlier, but are interested in the topic, see the “Wikis” post on my main blog, for a more in-depth discussion of this topic.

The reason this comes up is that I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a Bible Commentary wiki. There are a number of good Bible commentaries out there—and probably a larger number of crappy ones—but it would be nice if a definitive, online commentary could be created. As it grew, with time, it would become an invaluable resource for future Christians. (Not sure if the “Tent of Meeting” refers to the inner structure of the Tabernacle, or the whole thing? Well, head on over to the Bible Commentary wiki, and see what they say about it…)

Just as with any other wiki, there would be pluses and minuses:
  • With enough contributors, the site could potentially accumulate a lot of in-depth knowledge.
    • Similarly, if there are contentious topics, you could get all of the different viewpoints in one wiki article, rather than having to read numerous commentaries, for all of their points of view. Pastors always have a million Bible commentaries lying around in their offices; if a pastor were editing the wiki on a particular topic, he could include the wisdom from various commentaries in the wiki article.
  • On the other hand, just as with any other wiki, the more contributors there would be, the more potential for articles being written which wouldn’t be accurate. Or which would not hold to the Gospel, or which would deny the Trinity, or contain heresy, or… well, think of the million things that Christians disagree about, and you’ll get the idea. A Christian Bible wiki would be concerned with more than just “accuracy;” it would also be concerned with Truth. You think some of the topics on Wikipedia are contentious? Whoo boy, if there were a Bible Commentary wiki, every article would become contentious!
So, I’m still thinking about it, and not sure where the thinking will take me. Maybe I’ll start one, and maybe I’ll think better of it. If I do start one, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t make it a fully public wiki; maybe just have a core set of contributors, who have proven themselves to know the Scriptures, who can be trusted to give good analysis of what they’re reading.

My feeling is that if you are going to start a wiki, you shouldn’t aim for a lot of content in a short amount of time. Instead, you should concentrate on quality content, and let the site build gradually. For this particular case, if the Lord comes back tomorrow, then it doesn’t matter anyway, but if he tarries for another thousand years, then you’ve got a thousand years to write content that will help others to grow in their knowledge of the Scriptures.


David Hunter said...

Update: It eventually occurred to me that someone else might have had this idea first. So I did a search, and there is already a Bible Commentary wiki.

Of course, I went there, and found out that it had been vandalized, and a rather nasty picture was on the main page. To be expected, I guess. That's the other problem with a wiki.

Anonymous said...

So did you ever start one? Know of any one else who successfully got one off the ground?

David Hunter said...

I never did, no. I had previously mentioned one, in my earlier comment, that had been vandalized, but the vandalism was taken down, and I haven’t seen it since. (Not that I go there that often.) If you’re interested, it’s BibleWiki.

Anonymous said...

Maybe not exactly a wiki, but I found a website where you can give a Bible Commentary on every single bible verse: Anyone who follows my
Verse by Verse Bible Commentary Every Bible Verse has it's own blog-posting and even a rating system.