Our Movement: Past, Present, Future

Jimmy first showed the “Wikiality” clip, which I highly recommend you check out for a laugh.

Fundamental Mission statement: imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.

Milestones of 2006:

  • More than 1 million articles in English
  • Germans passed 400,000
  • Siegenthaler controversy: Jimmy was dragged onto CNN to yell at him about how dangerous the Wikipedia was, but it ended up leading to triple the traffic on the Wikipedia.
  • Nature article comparing science Wikipedia and Britannica articles. Jimmy says they were lucky because the Wikipedia is strong in science, but if they’d compared literature and poetry, the Britannica would easily have come out on top. Humanities articles are not as well developed and this is a place we need to focus on. We’re not as good as Britannica… yet.
  • Jimmy is hoping for a turn towards quality. It’s not just about adding articles; it’s about focusing on improving the quality of core topics (not just obscure long-tail topics).
  • Projects have been far ahead of the foundation’s organizational capacity. Only five employees.

What’s happening now?

  • Starting to apply for grants. The foundation is getting more organized to deal with legal issues, getting funding, etc.
  • Wikia – building for-profit wiki communities. Got venture capital financing. Business models can support free culture.
  • Hired full-time engineers to improve MediaWiki (yay!). This is the first time that people will be paid to develop the software full-time — until now it was all volunteer effort and volunteers only want to work on parts that interest them.
  • Campaigns Wikia – project to improve the political discourse.
  • Materials in 100 languages but not much in developing nations.

Announcements and What’s Coming Up?

  • Wikipedia is first element in content repository for One Laptop Per Child project.
  • Wikiversity – center for creation and use of free learning materials and activities (learning objects, books, lectures, etc.). Also host learning communities. 6-month beta trial period coming up very soon (within the month).
  • Starting an advisory board — people who can foster partnerships and bring contacts, prestige, expertise, perspective, etc.
  • Wikiwyg – working with SocialText to port wikiwyg to MediaWiki (HOT! HOT! HOT!). Jimmy thinks wikiwyg is the future of the wiki movement. (This is something I totally agree with. People can really be intimidated by wiki markup. I get e-mails all the time from librarians who want to add to the Library Success Wiki but don’t understand how to add content and style content.) This will take down many of the barriers to entry for scholars and experts who may feel more comfortable editing the wiki if it was WYSIWYG.
  • Quality initiative – turn our attention away from growth and towards quality. This year, policies on biographies of living persons have become more refined and focus on higher quality. Admins and editors are taking a strong stance against unsourced claims. This insistence on quality should spread to the other types of articles. Image tagging is another area where quality has been improved. They’ve gotten rid of anything that isn’t within the boundaries of “fair use” or has no source. Fair use is a really murky issue and they’d rather have no photograph than have one that is legally murky.
  • Committment to roll out “stable versions” of the German wikipedia. Stable versions will allow anyone to edit while showing the general public something that isn’t too frightening. Preserves openness while improving quality.
  • Wants to foundation to seek funding to hire community coordinators and recruiters for important languages where the Wikipedia is weak.

10 Things that Will be Free (Update)

  1. Free the encyclopedia – Wikipedia
  2. Free the dictionary — WiktionaryZ (still in development, will be functional within the next year. Uses structured data in wiki.)
  3. Free the curriculum — Wikibooks is bigger. Wikiversity Beta. Will seek grant funding for these projects. Wants educational materials created by the community — free to all.

One guy asked about vendors posting information about their products. He thinks that companies should be able to post a little profile and a link to their Web site. This is a huge issue on the Wikipedia and (to a much lesser extent) on Library Success. If wikis allow vendors to post profiles and other information, it’s a really slippery slope to becoming all out advertisements (apparently that’s exactly what LexisNexis did on the Wikipedia — really classy…). I’ve had vendors asking me to post links to their product and it is something I am very averse to doing. It’s one thing when someone is saying “hey, my library uses ___ and we’re happy with it,” but something completely different when a vendor writes a glowing review of their own product. And it’s sometimes hard to know the difference. I have deleted several vendor “ads” on the wiki and will continue to do so. I’ll be curious to see how people at the Wikipedia continue to deal with this issue.

I’m very interested in seeing where the Wikiversity project goes and I’m definitely excited about the integration of wikiwyg into the software. As soon as wikiwyg is rolled out, I will be sure to update the Library Success Wiki so that it is WYSIWYG. That will be a very happy day. 🙂