Getting and receiving information on railways, rail business opportunities and new market developments.

If one wants to stay up to date in any topic it requires a certain amount of effort. Not to receive information, but to filter it and get the relevant information picked out of the sheer mass of data. The same applies to the railway market.

Using the internet there is however a certain ease in the aggregation of information. In general, to get an overview of any market, there are two approaches:

  • focus on the customer side
  • focus on the supplier side

Customers are feeding the market with demand and needs, therefore allowing the suppliers to deliver. Intensive market studies, researches and enquiries are undertaken every day in each kind of market to filter out relevant data.

Suppliers are usually the technological drivers that develop products and deliver new answers to questions raised (directly or indirectly) by customers worldwide.

In addition to these two approaches there are certain other ways to figure out information on specific topics: Is it a medical issue, there should be hospitals and universities involved. Is it a technical issue, there are certainly independent organizations of engineers around defining standards and norms.

For the global railway market the following ways might be applied to get the latest and hottest data worldwide:

  • usage of existing networks of information gatherers (i.e. magazines)
  • information collection at the source (i.e. suppliers / customers)
  • cross-branch information collection (i.e. not-rail related sources)

Information Gatherers

Information from the source

Due to the sheer number of customers and suppliers the collection of information from the source needs to be taken in steps.  Questioning oneself, what is the exact information I need? Which branch of technology do I want to look into? Which market segment is the relevant for me?

Europe
Suppliers
Siemens AG
Signaling
Locomotives
Trains

Alstom

Clients
Deutsche Bahn

North America:
Suppliers
General Electric
Bombadier

Wikipedia is offering a list of railway operators sorted by Continent and country, as well as a ranking of these countries according to the railway network size. An extensive list of rail vehicles manufacturers can be found Wikipedia as well as a  shorter list of rail industry companies.

Cross-branch information

Conclusion

The main effort to stay up-to-date in this specific topic won’t be in the aggregation of information, but rather in the transcription of information into the needed form.

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Community-based content generation – circling around topics. Or: Further offsprings of the Wikipedia

Not only are there other projects based on the Wikimedia software out there, there are even companies, such as Wikia, offering ready to use Wiki-Systems for theme based content-generation.

Sure, so far the biggest wikis are around topics, such as Star Wars, Star Trek or Marvel Comics, each over 25 thousand articles, but there are also certain other very interesting approaches:

Alternate History: A wiki collecting storylines of fictional alternative histories of Earth, a literature genre sparked in the 20th century assuming that if certain events went only a little bit different from the way, they happened in our world, Earth might look totally different. There are numerous examples around, some as fictional as SciFi, but some with interesting thought plays, e.g. if Stalin would have discovered the nuclear bomb before the Americans and how that would have influenced WWII.

Genealogy: In contrast to, e.g. Geni, no family tree is built up with current members, but ancestor biographies are made public.

If people have already enough free time and energy to create wikis with more than 60000 articles on a fantasy world known from books and movies, I wonder where the border, the limit, the next frontier lies for the internet and the way we, people, can use it to make not only our own lives better, but smarter.

Because, whatever the reason is, that people invest time, most people (following the homo economicus principle) must find it reasonable and worthwile to invest time and energy. Whether it is esteem (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) or self-actualization, people do it. I wonder where the scientific wikis are, the physics, the cross-university-wikis, the research ones. Maybe I haven’t looked close enough…

Myself, together with several good friends, have launched the RiC Wiki (not at Wikia) several years ago, featuring information about the growing music scene in China, both from a listeners approach, and from a scientific approach (see history, articles).

Despite the Wiki

Everybody knows Wikipedia and everybody is using Wikipedia, either researching facts, revising old entries, updating the wiki with news on recent events or just curiously browsing pages learning new stunning things.

But what about all the other offspring’s of the Wikimedia Foundation? There is the Wiktionary, the Wikiquote, the Wikibooks, Wikisource, the Wikinews, the WikiCommons, the WikiSpecies, the Wikiversity and three other Wiki-related entities.

Well, thinking of WikiSpecies, there we have this year revealed Encyclopedia of Life which follows a similar idea and is funded by world-leading institutes and universities. However WikiSpecies had the earlier start and both initiatives do not waste time to create the same content twice.

On WikiCommons I can only applaud, as it is a meta-service for the other Wiki-systems, giving a unique space and data set for items used by other systems.

Wikibooks is an interesting approach to write scientific and non-fiction books online in cooperation. Examples such as business or mathematics are worth mentioning, but the general excellence of content is missing compared to Wikipedia.

Even narrower are the attempts done at the moment at the WikiSource, which is digitalizing public domain books and as a look in the German version reveals, funded with a budget of 1500 EURO a year. Compared to efforts, such as the Gutenberg Project or the Google Books initiative a relatively small advance.

WikiQuote is collecting statements and quotes from all over the world and all kinds of people and Wiktionary is collecting information on words and their meaning.
Common to all those wiki-services that do not feature –pedia in their name is that initial spark lighting the fire is still missing. Only a few die-hard members are working on the respective systems using their spare time to a certain extend increasing step by step the knowledge of these systems, however by far not in the extend Wikipedia has risen from the shades.

Give them another two years and revisit them again or join and work one them with others.