WikiPilipinas founder wants knowledge digitized for posterity’s sake

Geez, I almost forgot to make a report about my attendance in Wikipilipinas’ meet with Pinoy bloggers last August 31 at Marina Seafood Restaurant, Pasay City.

I need to blog about it before my learnings and thoughts from that event are brought into oblivion. I wish that I had a digital/mp3 recorder so that I could catch fine details of the wisdom of persons I am listening to. One such person was Gus Vibal, publisher of Filipiniana.net and founder of WikiPilipinas.

Before the meeting (or was it a merely a forum?) started at approximately 8pm, bloggers were first asked to indulge in the buffet-style dinner courtesy of WikiPilipinas. I’m no food epicurean (although I was a bit hungry when I arrived at the restaurant around 7pm), so I didn’t feel any thrill in the food as what other bloggers must have had. I was more interested to know more about the guy who received rants and raves for two bold undertakings, an online Filipiniana and a community-based online Philippine encyclopedia called WikiPilipinas. And I was fortunate to have been seated near him. He shook hands with me and upon learning about my blog (this blog), he said matter-of-factly that he read me write something about him. (Huh? I swear that I didn’t mention his name in my first post about Wikipilipinas. I should feel guilty about it, then.)

Inside the dim 20-sq. m. room enclosed by glass walls stood Vibal who started off with a great deal of information about himself. Unfortunately, I could only remember a few but important bits of it. He had studied, lived, and worked in New York. Perhaps inspired by the expertise of his father, Vibal was exposed to the world of publishing, not the traditional but the digital one. He narrated that once he was employed by a digital publishing firm that tasked him to produce CDROM-based computer books at 2,000 CDs per year. If I’m not mistaken, that triggered his propensity for collecting and digitizing published or unpublished works, particularly those of the remote past, which are likely to become extinct and totally forgotten come the next generations. His is a combination of the passion of archeologists and historiographers.

Instead of pursuing his real estate business, Vibal chose to come back to the Philippines and found Filipiniana.net in September last year and then, barely a year later today, WikiPilipinas.org. He said that even his father and his colleagues at Vibal Publishing House did not make out what he was talking about. They wondered what business model the young Vibal was following. Then was the time when he told them that one can actually earn much for things he/she gives out for free. Talking about Google.

Vibal became more popular for the latter project than the former. Credit that to the press, who tried to relate his undertakings to the controversy that embroiled the Vibals to the errors-ridden public textbooks, as well as bloggers and Wikipedians who made public their divergent views about the effort.

Perhaps in his 40s (sorry Gus, if I’m mistaken), the man honestly sounded like a know-it-all to me at first. But as soon as I listened to him until the end of his talk, I thought that his cogency and wisdom were enough to convince me of his noble intention with his endeavors. He was talking about things that only ICT enthusiasts and activists would know: open content, the long tail, free software, collaboration, etc. But more than that, Vibal was able to infuse publishing matters into the digital world, or the other way around. He found a “spiritual brother” in me, to use his term.

I think that he was able to inspire the bloggers that night. “Publish or perish. One who writes controls the point of view,” he said in his presentation. And that explains why he has put up Wikipilipinas. He wants an online knowledge-base that Filipinos use and contribute to at the same time. He doesn’t want it to look and sound like an academic encyclopedia; he wants it “hip and free.”

Like I already said, I began to realize the importance of his efforts at Wikipilipinas. His capable team seems to enjoy the work. And they should be much more inspired because more and more people rave about it, come to the site, and contribute.

However, I still think that Wikipilipinas, although trying to be a different fruit (apple or orange?), has just created a competition with Wikipedia and other collaborative projects there are. And I wonder how both entities have agreed on unnecessary duplication, much less confusing currency, of information that both publish.

In the meantime, count me in, as being one of those who wish the hip-and-free encyclopedia the success it deserves. To support both “wikips”, I’ll treat them differently. If the information I want is related to the Philippines, I’ll go to WikiPilipinas (chances are, the information are culled from Wikipedia). If I’m not satisfied with the information, I’ll try to consult Wikipedia and see how I can help “synchronize” the two. Otherwise, Wikipedia is my friend for most stuff I’d like to know more about.

I’ll register with Wikipilipinas and try to help develop content in my own capacity. And, oh, who is that lady Mindy who blogs for Wikipilipinas? Is there a real person behind the beauteous avatar? I’d like to know.

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