Wiki of the Month April 2011
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Gardenology.org is a wiki-based project to create a free, "complete plant and garden wiki encyclopedia." There are over nearly 20,000 articles on the site, and a plant search box. Gardenology.org is a "reference database with botany basics, cultivation, propagation, plant maintenance, glossary of botanical names and glossary of gardening terms".
The majority of the pages are plant pages, each dedicated to a genus or species. The plant pages use Semantic Mediawiki and Semantic Forms to allow new plants to be added using a form, and existing plants to be updated using the same form. The form contains a great deal of information about the plant, which SMW allows users to then do very in-depth searches on, based on the plants' characteristics.
Other types of pages include definitions for gardening terms, how-to information on gardening techniques, botanical gardens and gardening in certain climates and regions.
The website was launched in 2007, and it uses the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike license.
Who is using the wiki?
Gardenology.org is built through collaboration of gardeners from around the globe. Articles can cover an individual species or cultivar, a family, a gardening term or gardening topic. Anyone can register for a free account and edit the encyclopedia.
What is SMW used for?
Semantic Mediawiki was added in mid-2009 in order to ease the adding of plants using a form, and allow much greater power in searching for plants based on their features (zones, height, type, flower color, bloom time, cold hardiness, fragrance and many other characteristics).
Many typical searches are set up on individual pages or in list item format in order to ease searches for users new to SMW. A master page of plant lists is maintained, and clicking on any of the links on the plant list page will bring up a new page with a master list and sub-lists. For example, when on the plants lists page, you can click on the first link, which is to the list of trees. The page that will come up will at the top list sub-lists, such as trees that grow in each climate zone, trees that fruit or flower, etc. Below these, will be the actual list of every single tree that has been marked with that SMW property, along with some of the characteristics of those trees that gardeners might need to know in order to select one for their garden.
The entire use of SMW so far has been exclusively for this plant entry form and for doing searches based on that form.
Behind the scenes
Setting up the SMW form involved a definite learning curve. Deciding on all of the properties and their variables was in itself a challenge, as this would of course affect the way searches would function on all of the semantic information available for each of the plants. Next, working out the variable names for properties, the template and the form proved to be the most challenging part, with a lot of experimentation and referencing other SMW websites to see how forms and templates were used on them. The final step was setting up a large number of preset searches to automatically generate plant lists. This was a very simple process, allowing a lot of flexibility. There is one constraint which it would be nice to have lifted, which is the number of variables that one search can utilize.
Sample forms and pages
You can read more about the background of Gardenology.org on the following pages:
- "A Wikipedia for Plants", The Christian Science Monitor
- Gardenology, Garden World Report (video)