Productivity

How To Work Around The Wikipedia Blackout

English-language editions of Wikipedia will be offline for 24 hours from 4pm Wednesday January 18 (Australian Eastern daylight saving time) to protest the proposed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the US. If you urgently need Wikipedia content during that period, what can you do? Here are a few emergency alternatives.

Obviously, the point of the outage is to demonstrate the level of community concern over SOPA, which creates wide-ranging and poorly-defined powers against sites alleged to be involved in promoting piracy, in itself a broad catch-all. On that level, living without Wikipedia for 24 hours is a minor issue.

If you support efforts to stop the bill, then not using the site and joining in appropriate protests is the best move (and that’s what I’ll personally be doing). But if you are a very regular user of Wikipedia — let’s say you’re a researcher or a student — there are a few options you can consider over Wednesday and Thursday.

Use Google Cache or the Wayback Machine

Google stores cached copies of Wikipedia articles, and Wikipedia results are often amongst the top results for searches. So in theory you should be able to click on the cache link (which appears after you hover over a link on Google and then click the double-arrow to the right) to access it.

One issue is that Google updates its cache very regularly, so it might soon fill with blacked-out content over that day. In that happens, grabbing the URL and pasting into the Internet Wayback machine will also get you older versions of the article.

Use a foreign-language version of Wikipedia

Non-English versions of Wikipedia will be running protest banners, but not shutting down. You could grab an article from one of these (the largest are the German, French and Dutch versions) and then use Google Translate (or Chrome’s automatic offer of translation) to access the content. This won’t be good for detailed research if you don’t already speak the language, but it could be handy for quick checking.

Cache a copy of Wikipedia for local use

We’ve featured a number of tools in the past for creating offline copies of Wikipedia, including WikiTaxi and Pocket Wikipedia. Installing one of these today will give you a good repository of basic information. (Note though that a backup of the English Wiki can consume 3.5GB, so you’ll want to get started soon and have a reasonable download allowance.)

Research a little bit harder

Wikipedia is incredibly useful, but a good Wikipedia article is entirely referenced, pointing to sources for all its information. So if you can’t rely on it to provide information, you should still be able to search for it in other sources online. It will take a little more effort, but it won’t hurt your research and verification skills. If all else fails, hit your local library: there are still plenty of reference books there. Picture by katykat

Tweak the site

Now the blackout is live, there are some more options:
•Because the blackout diverts using JavaScript, you can avoid it by disabling JavaScript, using a script-blocking extension or hitting ESC as soon as the page loads.
•The mobile site isn’t affected, so if you edit the address to begin with ‘en.m.wikipedia.org’ rather than ‘en.wikipedia.org’, you’ll be able to see the relevant article.

I’ll state it again: if you support Wikipedia’s protest, then not using the site and joining in the protest activity is what you should be doing. These are back-up strategies (and none of them break the law).


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