Wikipedia Blackout: Media Sites Try To Fill Gap With 'AltWiki' Thread

Media Outlets Try To Fill Gap Left By Wikipedia Blackout

With Wikipedia temporarily blacked out to protest the SOPA and PIPA bills currently making their way through Congress, some media outlets have stepped up to try and fill the void left by the online encyclopedic giant.

The blackout is one of many that are occurring on Wednesday as a move to bring attention to the two Internet-related bills, which Wikipedia and other tech giants say will dangerously harm free speech and expression on the Web. (AOL is one of the companies that has spoken out publicly against the bills.)

The Washington Post, NPR and the Guardian have all teamed up to moderate a Twitter hashtag called "#altwiki" where users can send all the questions they wanted to look up on Wikipedia. NPR even had one of its reference librarians set up a special Twitter feed for the occasion.

Washington Post blogger David Beard called the move "an experimental, one-day Band-Aid."

On Wednesday morning, some of the questions people were asking leaned toward the esoteric. "Who said that children can recognize thousands of corporate logos, but less than ten local plants/animals?" one person asked. "What variation of base64 encoding uses UTF7?" another user queried.

Others, such as user George Hopkin's question ("What's the world's fastest land mammal?") were more easily answered. (It is, of course, the cheetah.)

The Guardian also tried a more humorous approach to the blackout, dispatching staffer Patrick Kingsley to answer reader questions using a stack of old Encyclopedia Britannicas (just like people used to do in ancient times).

Kingsley was able to find the complete works of Charles Dickens (including his more obscure Christmas stories), but was unsuccessful in his attempt to gather information on a book called "King of the Gypsies." Luckily, if he waits a day, he can find the Wikipedia entry on the author.

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