FAQ

What Is CoalSwarm?

CoalSwarm is a collection of over 9,000 articles about coal. The articles are housed on SourceWatch, an open-source encyclopedia sponsored by the Center for Media and Democracy.

How Reliable is the Information?

The CoalSwarm wiki pages are hosted within the SourceWatch wiki. The policy of SourceWatch is to ensure that articles are fair, accurate and each key point is referenced. Our standard is, wherever possible, to have material referenced to an online source so that readers can go back to the original source and check material for themselves.

Most articles begin as brief “stubs” and are then progressively expanded and refined by CoalSwarm’s own researchers as well as by members of the public. This multiple-author, multiple-editor approach takes advantage of the collective wisdom of the community. Each statement of fact must be referenced to a published source, thereby allowing quick verification of information by readers.

What Software Does CoalSwarm Use?

CoalSwarm is based on MediaWiki, a software platform developed by the Wikipedia Foundation that allows anyone to edit existing articles and create new ones. A key feature of wiki software is that each successive version of an article is saved along with a time stamp and a brief description of the change. This feature makes it possible for mistakes to be corrected and for the rare instances of vandalism to be easily undone.

Who Owns CoalSwarm’s Research?

All material on the CoalSwarm wiki is covered by the “GNU Free Documentation License.”

In plain English, this license, also called a “copyleft,” allows you to freely copy anything on the CoalSwarm wiki as long as you allow others to in turn copy your output.

The full text of the GNU Free Documentation License is found here.

Why Contribute Information to CoalSwarm’s Wiki Pages?

The magnitude and complexity of the global coal industry requires a pooling of information across groups and countries. A wiki is a collaborative tool that allows to compilation of a detailed article to be spread amongst many authors. “Many hands make light work”, as the old saying goes.

Why Use a Wiki?

A wiki page is ideal for creating the best freely available synthesis of information on a mine, a company, a coal plant proposal, or any one of the myriad of other coal-related topics. Instead of trawling through dozens of pages, each of which have a little new information, CoalSwarm aims to condense key information down onto a page or a set of linked pages but also enable readers to follow the links back to the original sources. A wiki also allows people, irrespective of where they live, to collaborate on researching and writing on topics of common interest.

Can CoalSwarm Material Be Reproduced or Republished?

The information on the CoalSwarm article pages is licensed for free use for non-profit purposes as long as there is attribution. In this way, a range of non-profit groups can re-use the information free of charge.

What Impact Will it Have?

Over time wiki pages tend to float to the top of the results displayed by the main search engines. Commonly, CoalSwarm articles will be in the top five results. This ensures that the referenced information on the pages is readily available to citizens, activists and journalists. Journalists often incorporate material from CoalSwarm articles into their stories. Articles are often linked to by bloggers and media sites. Citizens can find out information about local plants, issues or companies. Many pages also include links to the website of groups actively working on an issue so that citizens can contact them if they want further information of get more actively involved.

Why Not Just Add Material to WIkipedia?

While Wikipedia is an invaluable resource, it has some policies which limit its scope. For example, it now discourages articles on living people unless they are of great significance and very prominent. CoalSwarm on the other hand, includes profiles on people such as coal company directors and lobbyists precisely because they aren’t all that visible to the public.

Can Articles Include Pictures, Video, and Maps?

The article pages can incorporate photos, tables, documents that are otherwise unavailable elsewhere on the web, include Google satellite images of remote mines and incorporate links to valuable resource materials.

But Can’t Pages Be Vandalised?

The SourceWatch registration system requires a valid email address to be submitted. This deters most would-be vandals from registering. Even if a user registers and attempts to delete referenced material, this can be undone in a few seconds and the offender blocked from making further changes.

What If I Make a Mistake? I’m Worried About Accidentally Deleting Material!

The wiki software stores every saved change in an archive for each page. So even if you accidentally delete material, this can be easily fixed up by yourself or one of the other editors, who are only too happy to help you learn the ropes.