Communications committee/Subcommittees/2006/05/17 WLPO Radio

Wikipedia historyEdit

The history of Wikipedia..Why and who started it.

  • JWales is the idea person; he came up with the idea for a free, online encyclopedia
  • Larry Sanger was his employee, and helped make that idea a reality: Nupedia (March 2000)
  • Wikipedia was originally supposed to be an "incubator" for articles for Nupedia, and was set up on its own domain 15 January 2001.
  • There were lots of "whys"
    • To help the internet not suck - collecting all the information everyone searches for in one logical place, presented in a format people can understand.
    • As an exploration in how knowledge is developed: everyone is an expert in what they do and know, so there are far far more authorities than a limited few. By leveraging that expertise, the internet can be a huge tool for everyone in the world who needs to learn something.
    • For fun.
    • To see if maybe this could be done for profit, which didn't quite work out. But it turned out to be a great idea for a non-profit!

Wikipedia sizeEdit

Exactly what is it and how many "pages" or "subjects" you cover...

  • Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, hosting millions of articles about almost everything you could think of which anyone may read for free.
    • Wikipedia is a wiki
      • Wiki software lets anyone edit the website articles.
        • Ward Cunningham created the first wiki software (1994)
        • The software is named after the small buses at the Honolulu Airport, wikiwikis
        • The name is from Hawai'ian language, and it means "quick"
      • Because of the software, every page on Wikipedia is a collaboration - many people can work together on the articles.
      • The software supports versioning, which means every edit is stored forever, and you can see exactly who changed what, when, and you can change back to a previous version very easily.
    • Wikipedia is free
      • Users make contributions under the GFDL, which means the content can be re-used by anyone for most any purposes, including commercial.
      • There are no subscriptions, no advertisements.servers
        • Donations average just about $20 each; we need a lot of donations just to keep the lights on.
          • Our biggest annual cost for the first 5 years has been purchasing new hardware to keep up with our growth in popularity.
  • In all languages and projects, approximately 4 million articles
    • In the English wikipedia edition alone, about 1.1 million articles
    • The Wikimedia Foundation has 6 (7?) primary projects, Wikipedia is only one of them.
      • Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikispecies (also Wiktionary)
    • Projects are available in more than 200 languages
      • Not all projects are in all languages yet, growth is based on having volunteers in a given language
    • Traffic is continuing to grow
      • Currently the daily peak loads are more than 12 000 requests per second (this translates very roughly to approximately 4 000 pages per second)
      • Alexa rank 3mo average is 16 (Alexa undercounts traffic due to being an IE tool)
    • Users number nearly two million registered accounts in all projects
      • Conservative estimate of editors including anonymous IP is 4 million plus
      • 1.4 million user accounts on en.wikipedia
        • nearly 750 new users per day since 2001
  • On en.wikipedia, approximately 1 700 new articles per day net
    • A study in November showed approximately 4 000+ new articles per day, and 2 000 or more deletions per day
      • 3 new articles per minute.

Politicians "buffing"/"sabotaging" articlesEdit

I would ask about the fact that apparently some politicians or their underlings are doctoring the "bios" of their opponents

  • US Congress/Staffers editing articles
    • There have been several articles/investigations regarding edits to Wikipedia articles from IPs in the US capitol.
      • Wikinews investigates Wikipedia usage by U.S. Senate staff members
      • The vast majority of the edits found have been beneficial edits, and mostly to non-political articles.
      • Like every other group of editors, while most edits are good some are not so good and a few are clearly vandalistic.
      • The US House uses a shared IP, protecting the annonymity of the editors - and has a higher rate of vandalism, has been occasionally blocked.
    • Vandalism is removing of verified, factual information or the addition of untrue information, or the defacing of an article in a deliberately harmful manner.
  • State legislatures have been examined as well, though not as thoroughly
    • Pretty much the same pattern: where the legislature is behind a proxy there have been somewhat more vandalism.
  • Rep. Jerry Weller
    • one edit in October of 2005:
      • two edits (in a row) from someone at the House of Representatives; the edits removed critical comments about Weller's relationship with his wife and her relationship with Guatemala and his involvement in the CAFTA negotation, and replaced them with vaguely positive comments about Weller and his wife. The material added by the Congressional staffer is no longer part of the article.
  • Georgia governor's race (recent)
    • Mark Taylor's campaign for the Democratic candidacy for Governor of Georgia accused rival w:Cathy Cox's campaign manager of editing his Wikipedia article in April 2006. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported an IP from Cox's campaign had edited the article, adding facts regarding Taylor's son who was responsible in an auto accident for the death of his friend. The edits took place in November of 2005.
    • Wikipedia confirmed the edits had taken place, but was unable to confirm the IP was controlled by Cox's campaign in November as those records are not available to Wikipedia. The IP is currently controlled by Cox's campaign website.

Wikipedia infrastructureEdit

How many people on the staff?
At the moment, three full-time staff (two software developers and one grants manager) plus one intern.
How is it Financially supported?
Wikimedia is supported entirely by donations and grants. The 2004-2005 budget was approximately $750,000, almost all of which went to pay for hardware, hosting, and bandwidth charges. Wikimedia is a tax-exempt charity in the United States and donations, in most cases, are tax-deductible.
The average donation to Wikimedia is just a bit above $20; almost all donations come from personal donations.
How extensively is it read across the world?
Wikipedia has an Alexa reach of about 35,000, which means out of every 1000 people on the Internet, 35 of them visit Wikipedia. In contrast, the most popular site on the internet,, has a reach of about 280,000. Wikimedia used to generate stats on where visitors come from, but as the traffic level has grown to the level it is now, it has been impossible to do that anymore.
There is a daily cycle of load on the servers; currently this runs from about 6000 requests per second at the low point to above 12000 requests per second at peak. Roughly this translates to approximately 2000 pages served per second up to a peak of 4000 pages per second served; averaging about 3000 pages per second 24 hours per day.