Semantic Web, Web

Wikipedia as a collaborative editing-ontology tool

Introduction: ontologies

Tim Berners-Lee have a dream: the creation of a semantic web. One of the issue of with that dream is that it rely on various and well-defined ontologies. All the power of the semantic web resides in these ontologies. The current question is: how could we create such ontologies: ontologies that would describe, semantically, the world that we are living in?

Creating ontologies

Two choices are offered to us when comes the time to create ontologies:

  1. Manual creation by humans
  2. Automatic creation by documents analysis softwares

The problem with the second method is that we do not have the document analysis methods and technologies to automatically create complete and well-defined ontologies. The best we can current do with these softwares is what we could call lightweight-ontologies or associative semantic networks[1]. This is a good base to start with, but clearly not enough evoluate to make the semantic web a reality.

Manual ontologies creation

At that time, the best way to create completes and well-defined ontologies is to write them manually. Two types of manual creation of ontologies exists:

  1. Non-Collaborative
  2. Collaborative

A non-collaborative ontology is created by an expert or a small group of experts; only he/them will be able to change and update the ontology in the future. Some issues exists with that ontology creation method:

  • The availability of the expert(s)
  • The price related with he/them
  • The possibility that the expert create a part of the ontology with his believes on a subject that are not accepted by the community

A non-collaborative ontology is created and updated by a larger group of people. In fact, such ontology will normally be created on the Internet, edited and maintained with collaborative ontologies editing tools, and shared and open to anyone who would like to change/expend it. Some issues also exists with that ontology creation method:

  • The availability of easy-to-use collaborative ontology-editing tools
  • How should we handle the open issues where people do not agree on
  • Should these ontologies be centralized or distributed?

Wikipedia as a collaborative ontology-editing tool

A new type of web site emerged in the past years on the Internet: Wikis. A wiki is a collaborative web-page editing tool. It enables people to create collective works like Wikipedia.

If we check at the evolution of Wikipedia [a collective encyclopedia] in the past years, we can clearly see that people are willing to take of their time to write about various subjects, and share these writings with the Internet’s community.

People are writing up-to-date, detailed and complete documentation on any subjects that exist in our World. The question I then ask is: why should they not be willing to create ontologies related with these subjects?


We have a dream: the emergence of a semantic web
We have a problem: the creation of complete and well-defined ontologies
We have a solution: to create these ontologies with collaborative ontology-editing tools
We have a problem: we do not have such tools available
We have a partial tested solution: Wikipedia

How could Wikipedia be upgraded in such a tool?

The idea is the following: upgrading the current Wikipedia’s Wiki software to create an ontology-editing module.

That way, when people would write about a subject, they could also create an ontology related with that subject. After, other people would be able to edit, change and upgrade these ontologies.

The infrastructure is already in place and really reliable. We know that people are willing to create such things. Now what we have to do is to create such a module to implement into the current infrastructure.

What would be the utility to create such ontologies?

The utility would be that new services and new applications would be able to request and use these complete, well-defined, and reliable ontologies. It would open unimaginable possibilities in the domain of information processing. I would greatly help us to handle on of the current problem we have with the Internet: the information overload.

Technorati: | | | | | | | |

8 thoughts on “Wikipedia as a collaborative editing-ontology tool

  1. It’s a good idea. But I’m not completaly sure. The wikipedia could be an excelent vocabulary controlated, but an ontology? If it is possible, this could be one of the philosopical stone of the semantic web 🙂

  2. Hi Gonzalo,

    I see Wikipeda as a good place where to put such a tool (here it would be an add-on to the current Wikipedia system). Why? Because many people are already using it and the Wikipedia users are exactly the type of users such an enterprise need: conscientious, meticulous, etc. It is a beautiful community that would be able to create such interesting ontologies on any subjects. It is why I thought about Wikipedia for such an idea.

    Thanks for you post about that subject but I think that you have a little problem with the link to my blog post 🙂



  3. I had not thought from that point of view. Few years ago, talking about something like wikipedia, will be utopic, but now…
    I agree with the caracteristic of Wikipedia users, and if an open comunity could make it, the “Wikis” are and excelent candidate.
    Excelent blog, and excuse me for the bug in blog posible. It solved now :o)

  4. Hi Gonzalo,

    It is what I think. It should be a good way to start experimenting collaborative ontology developments, and a good way to tech to people what is an ontology, how it could be useful in the web of the future, how they could write their own ontology, etc, etc.

    Thanks for you kind words! This is not a problem for the link 😉 Thanks for fixing it.



  5. Work to create a Semantic MediaWiki is underway! See and play around with it at

    The current version can express relations between articles and specify attribute-values in articles, and can export them as RDF. Creating OWL or RDF Schema ontologies (so that “is capital of” implies “is located in” and the inverse “has capital city”) is harder to do in a Wiki.

    (I’m just an interested user of the project, not quite a developer.)

Leave a Reply