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Welcome to the Wikimedia Foundation newsletter. Inside you will find articles about the latest Wikimedia initiatives, the thoughts and activities of our Board of Trustees, and words from our founder, Jimmy Wales. You will find current reports from our committees and chapters, notes from the community, and commentary from major figuures in open content, copyright, and distributed research. In this edition Ward Cunningham talks with us about Wikipedia and the future of wiki (see page 5).
You will also find news about recent and future events. Major event in September included a major press release following Wikipedia's one millionth article; a celebration of Wikipedia at the modern Cyberarts Festival in Linz, Austria (whose organizers honored us in May with a Digital Communities award and a generous grant); and a presentation about Wikipedia to the United Nations in Geneva.
The newsletter is available in several languages and formats; you are free to redistribute it. This new forum is a work in progress, but above all it is about the community and foundation that you have built. Be bold with your suggestions and criticisms; let us know what you would like to see in these pages in the months to come.
Brief essays on any subject related to the Wikimedia Foundation or its projects are welcome. We also encourage you to submit notes about your local projects, or quotes from the media about the projects. Comments and submissions may be sent to newsletter (at) wikimedia.org.
We would like to thank the many donors who have kept the Foundation in the black this year, such as fact-index.com. We are especially grateful to everyone who has contributed essays, diagrams, photos, music, code, or dues to the various projects and chapters. Without your dedication, there would be nothing worth mentioning in a newsletter.
Finally, we would like to recognize the 80+ writers, designers, and especially the translators who contributed to this production. Many hands make light work, and producing this newsletter was a pleasure. May you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
Our mission is to give freely the sum of the world's knowledge to
every single person on the planet in the language of their choice,
under a free license, so that they can modify, adapt, reuse, or
redistribute it, at will. And, by "every single person on the planet," I
mean exactly that, so we have to remember that much of our target
audience is not yet able to access the Internet reliably, if
We are an astounding global project that continues to grow at a
staggering pace. Some statistics already widely known in the
community are worth repeating: we see 2,000 new wikipedians each month;
2,000 new articles and 40,000 article edits every day -- almost twice
as many pages and page-edits if you include discussion and meta-pages --
and this is only counting Wikipedia.
As we continue to grow at this rate, we will face some challenges of
scaling. Old ways of doing things sometimes begin to break down as
we become a community with ever larger numbers of people. We want to
maintain and improve our quality standards, while at the same
time remaining open, friendly, and welcoming as a community. This is
To meet that challenge will require a lot of analysis and thoughtfulness.
I also always like to talk about another ingredient that is absolutely
essential: love. It's not so common in technological, academic, and
scientific circles to talk about love within a community, but for us it
is, and has to be, common and explicit.
Our community already comes from a huge variety of backgrounds, and over
time the variety will only increase. The only way we can coordinate our
efforts in an efficient manner to achieve the goals we have set for
ourselves, is to love our work and to love each other, even when we
disagree. Mutual respect and a reasonable approach to disagreement are
essential, and both of those are helped along enormously when we feel
favorably towards each other just as a natural result of being
volunteers together on this incredible ridiculous crazy fun project to
change the world.
None of us is perfect in these matters; such is the human condition.
But each of us can try each day, in our editing, in our mailing list
posts, in our irc chats, and in our private emails, to reach for a higher
standard than the Internet usually encourages, a standard of rational
benevolence and love.
We've come a long way already, and to really achieve our goals, we
have to remain in focus and in love.
This newsletter arose out of a desire to share our activities and opinions with a broader audience; it is addressed to the tens of thousands of contributors to the Wikimedia projects, and to the many others who support our activities.
The Wikimedia Foundation was created as a result of the evolution of Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikiquote and Wikisource. The exponential growth of these projects has required the creation of new structures and new modes of functioning. These structures include the legal capacity to receive donations; the creation of systems for compensation, for requesting grants, for managing domain names and server clusters, and for publishing content via print, CD and DVD; and the coordination of new communication channels between the different projects.
Despite this evolution, the contributors continue to be the vital force and the greatest resource of the Wikimedia projects, and these new structures will continue to be decided on democratically. The Wikimedia Board has the role of organizing related debates and making decisions to ensure the best possible conditions for the development, maintenance, and wide distribution of our free content. We are governed by a desire to protect Wikimedia's founding spirit, based on openness (everybody can edit), trust (no need to have special qualifications), collaboration (via a wiki), respect for others (in attending to the contributions of others), and a gift culture (based on volunteering).
Over the past three months, we have built a solid base for Wikimedia's future. We have laid the groundwork for a membership system, made numerous contacts with people and organizations that will aid our projects over the coming year, and begun applying for grants and organizing regular fundraisers in order to ensure Wikimedia a stable financial future. Official positions have been given to Daniel Mayer and Tim Starling, to ensure transparent publishing of Wikimedia's finances and to increase communication with our developers, respectively.
In coordination with the German and French chapters, we have made contacts with publishers
to distribute Wikipedia's content on CD and DVD, and started preparing snapshots of Wikipedia for such offline distribution. Meanwhile, a worldwide press release was distributed in celebration of our reaching the milestone of one million articles. We are establishing increased contacts with the press, and aim to further increase our projects' visibility with the help of a multilingual PR committee.
Finally, we are setting up a new official website dedicated to the Foundation. This will provide information to the public about our Foundation and its mission, our many projects and initiatives, and plans for the future. The website will also detail our financial situation (as the current site does), and offer online membership registration. Watch wikimediafoundation.org for updates over the coming months.
If you have questions or comments, we would love to hear from you. You can reach us on our talk pages (see ), or by email to: board (at) wikimedia.org.
Where can I find information about the Foundation?
Current information about the Foundation can be found in this newsletter, on the dedicated mailing list , on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki , and at the Foundation's website  (in progress).
How many people make up the Board of Wikimedia?
There are five members, including Jimmy Wales, the founder and chair of Wikimedia. Angela Beesley, secretary, and Florence Devouard, vice chair, are the two elected representatives. Michael Davis is the Board's treasurer and works on Wikimedia's financial matters (see Finance). The fifth member is Tim Shell, who participates actively in the English Wikipedia, and is often found on the #wikimedia IRC channel.
What are the official positions and committees?
Daniel Mayer is the Chief Financial Officer. He is responsible for finances, with the oversight of Michael Davis. In particular, he is in charge of establishing our budget  and balancing our books .
Tim Starling is the Developer Liaison, the primary contact between our Board and our community of developers. Developer activity falls into two main areas: server maintenance and development of the MediaWiki software, which is also used for many non-Wikimedia applications.
Tim Starling is setting up a Developer Committee . This committee will be made up of the most active developers and, among other things, will help formalize a method for reaching development decisions, such as the direction of future development, the definition of necessary purchases, and the processing of technical requests.
There are no other official committees, but there are important groups that are much like committees, which form naturally, particularly relating to grants and public relations. For example, Danny Wool has been coordinating a number of grant applications. For other potential committees, see .
How does the Board communicate among its members?
Board activities are recorded on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki , and will in the future be on the Wikimedia Foundation's site . Communication takes place via email, as well as, through the foundation-l mailing list, which is open to the public and publicly archived. Members of the board also frequent the #Wikimedia IRC channel on freenode , where they can be reached for a quick response. While three Board members -- the quorum required for a proper Board meeting -- are frequently present on IRC at the same time, such times are not generally official meetings.
There have been a few active meetings of board members over the summer. On July 4, 2004, Jimmy, Angela and Anthère met in Paris (summary: ).
Later that month, there was a meeting to discuss the creation of an official foundation website at www.wikimediafoundation.org; many took part in the discussion, including Angela, Anthère, Mav and Tim Starling (summary and results: ).
There was also a quick ad-hoc meeting on September 5 about the creation of a database for a tentative Wikispecies project, to let its enthusiasts discuss what they want it to become. All but one of the board members convened for around 20 minutes to discuss this (summary: ).
Do Jimbo, Tim and Michael dominate Board decisions?
To date, Tim and Michael have played a minimal part in board discussion and decisions, and there is no plan to change this. In order to ensure that the community voice is real, Jimbo has pledged, as a matter of convention, never to vote against Angela and Anthere, unless he feels that it is an issue of an absolutely fundamental change of direction for the project -- which is not likely to happen, since Angela, Anthere and Jimbo share the essential values of the community and the project. So as a practical matter, power is in the hands of the two democratically elected board members on most issues, and Jimbo defers to that.
How many board decisions are made by vote?
We prefer to discuss things, find proposals that we can all agree on, make compromises to accommodate each other, where necessary, and reach agreement. All informal votes taken, so far, have been unanimous.
Does the Board record or publish their activities anywhere?
Most of the time, we discuss things on #Wikimedia IRC channel on freenode. On this channel, everyone is free to not only follow board deliberation, but also to participate to the discussions and help us to make decisions. Logs of planned IRC meetings, such as the one regarding the Foundation website, are published on Meta and the Foundation wiki, along with summaries of other meetings. However we also meet on private channels and exchange private mails, as well. It's important for us to be able to speak freely, to think out loud, so to speak, without people taking our speculative comments and thoughts as being new policy or set-in-stone decisions. We hope that our activities are sufficiently visible through this newsletter, board meeting minutes, official announcements on the mailing lists and the Wikimedia website.
How can I become a member of the Foundation?
Anyone who is interested in supporting the activities of the Foundation and has contributed under a user name to any Wikimedia project is a Volunteer Active Member of the Foundation. Starting this year, it will also be possible to become a Contributing Active Member by paying membership dues.
Discussions in July regarding membership dues led to the following proposal:
Becoming a Contributing Active Member will cost 60 USD (or the equivalent), and does not require being an editor of a Wikimedia project. Volunteer Active Members may become Contributing Active Members for 6 USD, but are encouraged to pay the normal fee if they can. Members can choose how they wish a portion of their fee to be used (for instance, "30 dollars should be used only for hardware purchases").
There will be no obligation to pay dues; adding to and benefiting from projects will always be free. Contributing money is nothing more than an additional way of helping the project. The full membership proposal may be found on Meta at ; other questions about membership are answered in the Membership FAQ. See also .
Is Wikipedia planning to have ads?
Wikimedia does not plan to allow advertising on Wikipedia or any of its sister projects in the foreseeable future. We believe that suitable grants and donations from the public will provide for a secure future, without the need for advertisements. There are others ways, as well, to gather money, such a grants, prizes, gifts from our mirrors, donations of hardware etc... Running ads would likely raise money, but it would possibly lower other sources of revenues, in particular, donations, as well as, possibly upset some editors.
I hear developers are being paid now. Is it true?
In July 2004, the Wikimedia developers were polled about the feasibility of a bounty system for development tasks. The motivation for this was to improve the guidance of development in certain directions (for instance, by offering payment for developing certain software features). The results of the poll can be found at .
Working closely with the Developer Committee, we will be trying out a system of payment and other rewards for developers who choose to work on particular tasks. This will be a four-month trial run, after which we will step back and evaluate whether it was successful.
The proposed system allows for anyone to request new features, and for any developer to propose their own terms for filling a feature request. The developer committee will advise the Board about the feasibility and usefulness of requests and offers, and the Board will make the final decisions to accept or refuse offers for requested work.
Details of the trial run are available at . All Wikimedia contributors will be encouraged to evaluate it when it is over.
Discussions with potential collaborators have become more frequent this year. External projects interested in working with Wikimedia projects include Project Gutenberg (Wikisource), OpenTextBook and Free High School Science Texts (Wikibooks), and Open-Media (the newly-started Wikimedia Commons). On July 1, a group of German Wikipedians and the Brockhaus new media group met, to get to know one another. At the end of August, Jimmy and Angela met with members of the BBC new media division to talk about Wikipedia, opening the possibility of collaboration with them.
Some partnerships have already been realized. The first was in May of this year, when Wikipedia joined Yahoo's content acquisition program. Through this program, Wikipedia is now directly updating Yahoo's directory with a data feed of its new pages . This helps them ensure up-to-date search results of Wikipedia's content; it also helps improve the visibility of Wikipedia content. Through this program, we receive clickthrough statistics from Yahoo!; in May, clickthrough traffic was around 500,000 visits; in June it jumped to over 2 million, almost a quarter of our visits that month; it has been slightly under 2 million visits/month since then. Partnerships with other content distributors have yielded the most physical results: over 40,000 static snapshots of Wikipedia content will be distributed on CD and DVD by the end of the year.
By the end of September, the German company Directmedia Publishing [DMP]  will put out a CD-ROM of the German Wikipedia. It will contain a partly cleaned up snapshot from September 1, and an ISO-image and the SQL-dump. 30,000 CD-ROMs will be sent by DMP to registered customers, for free. Another 10,000 CD-ROMs will be given to book shops as freebies, or to sell for not more than 5€.
Directmedia Publishing has published some 180 electronic books in the last 10 years, focusing on social sciences, lexicons, and image collections.
Mandrakesoft (producer of their own flavor of Linux) will release a DVD containing a bilingual snapshot of the French and English Wikipedia, with an upcoming version of Mandrake Linux. Mandrakesoft has produced one of the most popular and user-friendly Linux distributions for many years.
The intensive work to tag images and lists in preparation for these publications, long overdue, has provided quality improvement to the Wikipedia projects involved. The image-tagging effort on the English encyclopedia, which involves classifying 50,000 untagged images, is ongoing Please help this effort at .
Other Offers and Invitations
Wikimedia has standing offers of free hosting from a webhost in France, where three new squids have recently been set up. There were other offers of free hosting, as well, particularly while making contingency plans for the first Florida hurricane, in late August.
1180 individual PayPal donations have been made to the Foundation between the start of the year and 31 August, yielding US$46,600 (non-U.S. Currencies converted using current exchange rates), a daily average of $190. Over half that amount ($29,800) was collected in July and August mostly during an unofficial donation drive, which was implemented only on the English Wikipedia.
In May, the Prix Ars Electronica awarded Wikipedia their Golden Nica for Digital Communities, an award which came with a 10,000 Euro grant with no strings attached .
Many grants were considered for application during the summer of 2004, and many hours were devoted to an NEH grant  for projects in the humanities, which looked promising. Histories of Wikimedia were summarized, a detailed description and budget were written for the proposed humanities project, and biographies of contributors interested in staffing the project were gathered. The application was not sent in, in the end, for lack of sufficient time. However, the text about Wikimedia,, which was produced, and the experience gained in writing about specific projects, will be useful in future applications this fall.
Donations from July and August plus money raised in late December (during and immediately following a major server crash and downtime) was used to purchase over $60,000 worth of new hardware (see  and ).
It has been an exciting year, so far, on the technical side. We started with two servers in California and an Alexa traffic rank of 900 . In February, the site moved to Tampa, Florida and added nine new servers. Three more servers entered service in early June and a fourth fast and sexy database server, Ariel, followed at the end of the month. After each upgrade, the number of people using the site rose to fill the available capacity of the new servers. As of the start of September, eight more web servers are in service, with special search and file servers are awaiting installation.
As of September, Wikipedia.org routinely ranks consistently in the top 500 English language sites in Alexa's traffic rankings , and is steadily increasing its reach. In June we saw nearly a million edits. So far, we have avoided the sluggish performance experienced at the end of 2003. Thanks to those whose donations have made it possible to keep up.
May saw the introduction of version 1.3 of the MediaWiki software, with improved templates, categories, a new site skin, and improved language support. Edit conflict handling was also improved significantly with automated merging when using section editing. Version 1.4, due in a few months, will include better database load balancing, speed improvements, preliminary support for PostgreSQL as a database engine, and tools to help with article reviewing.
Entering service soon will be the first Wikimedia hardware outside the United States - a set of three servers acting as a Squid cache in Paris. This will serve pages to users in parts of Europe, so they will not need to wait for pages to come from Florida. Once the cache is working well, we expect to do the same in other places, as offers of hosting allow.
The new developer committee illustrates the international nature of the technical team, with members from six countries, who will be working to keep up with the continued growth of our projects.
There are six active Wikimedia projects:
Wikipedia (1 million articles in 100 languages, 150,000 images, 25,000 contributors, 800,000 visits/day)
Wiktionary (70,000 articles in 20 languages, 500 contributors, 800 visits/day)
Wikibooks (5,000 modules in 250 books and 15 languages, 300 contributors)
Wikiquote (2,500 articles in 6 languages, 100 contributors)
Wikisource (4,000 pages in 30 languages, 100 contributors), and
Meta (1500 articles in 30 languages, 1,000 contributors)
Other projects either newly-created or waiting for further development:
Memorial Wiki - currently only a 9/11 memorial; ~200 pages.
Wikicommons - set up in September, to jumpstart a long-awaited project, to keep shared media such as images and sound files in a single language-independent repository
Wikispecies - set up in September, while the contributors work out what they want the project to be, and how they want to store species data.
Summer meetings of Wikipedians
On the occasion of Jimmy Wales's trip to Europe, many meetings took place, notably in London, Berlin, Paris, and Genova. In the first ever Asia gathering, Chinese Wikipedians met in Beijing. More details are available at .
There were some great photo opportunities at the Prix Ars Electronica awards ceremony in Manhattan in May, where Danny received the Golden Nica award for Digital Communities, on behalf of everyone. At the end of the summer, in the first week of September, there was the big Ars Electronica Festival, which many European Wikipedians attended. Jimmy attended the festival and gave a presentation there.
On September 1, Angela and Jimmy visited the BBC in London. They met during the day with a group, including some H2G2 staff, to present Wikipedia to them and discuss wikis in general. Later that evening, Angela gave a presentation to a group of people at a pub called Oyster.
There was a major press release issued this spring, commemorating the 500,000th Wikipedia article (counting all languages together), which was picked up by many local and online news publications. Another is being released this month, commemorating the one millionth article .
In May and June, following our winning of the community awards from both the Prix Ars Electronica and the Webby Awards, there were a number of popular articles about Wikipedia, most famously an interview with Jimmy on Slashdot .
For quotes from articles about us, see "In the Media", pg. 6.
Out of the Projects
Tree of Life
The Tree of Life wikiproject, focusing on all organisms on the planet, continues to be the largest of all Wikipedia projects. It has contributors and content in many languages, and many thousands of articles to its name.
The board met online in September to discuss Wikispecies, a proposed biological project, related to the Tree of Life, that aims to provide data on every species. This resource will feed into Wikipedias of all languages. The project, which was created later that month, will work closely with the Tree of Life Wikiproject, and similar projects across the Wikipedias.
Two single-topic reference texts, called 'WikiReaders' were produced in German from Wikipedia content, on the topics of Sweden and the Internet . These were developed by a group of contributors led by Thomas Karcher, converted to PDF, and printed in a small print run for 6USD a copy, following a few simple guidelines . They were distributed at meetups in Germany and Austria, and via an online store .
Similar reader projects have been started on the English Wikipedia centered around the topics of cryptography and World War II .
Wikimedia Commons was launched in September 2004, with the goal of providing a central repository for free images, music and, possibly, texts and spoken texts, to be used by all Wikimedia projects. Still in the planning stage, the project will, in future, allow images to be reused across projects.
Wikipeople: This will be both a memorial wiki, incorporating the 911wiki as a portal along with other less specific memorial pages, and a family tree wiki, including genealogical details about people of every era. It hopes to find a way to incorporate the 9/11 memorial wiki.
Wikiversity: This is currently a wikibooks portal to material specifically for (self-)instruction. Interest in Wikiversity is growing and has great potential, including outreach to university and highschool teachers, who regularly come to Wikipedia with their classes. There is an effort afoot to convert existing wikibooks to be used in courses, and another to attract support for a more elaborate wikiversity initiative.
en : Featured images : in parallel with the featured articles review process, high-quality images are categorized as featured images; a parallel 'Image of the Day' project features one image each day via a fixed template.
fr : A general drive for improving the quality of the project took place this summer: controversial articles were greatly reduced, all images were tagged with license information, and numerous stubs were expanded.
ja : Web Creation Award
On September 9, Japanese Wikipedia won the Special Prize of the Web Creation Award from the Japanese Advertisers Association, for its excellence among Japanese-language websites.
zh : [[zh:wikipedia:质量提升计划�|质量提升计划�]] every 2 weeks a high-level article is choosen, and related articles are reviewed and updated.
Efforts to found the first two Wikimedia chapters, based in Germany and France, began this year. Draft bylaws were drawn up, and interested parties were selected to help organize and promote each chapter, particularly among the regulars on the de: and fr: Wikipedias. Both chapter initiatives have produced extensive documentation, much of it stored on the Wikimedia Meta-wiki, and have started to hold regular meetings.
As planned, the German Wikipedia reached two milestones on June 12, 2004:
That evening, Wikipedians had a party during the Wizards of OS conference to celebrate the 100,000th article, and on the following day, 34 Wikipedians and friends met to found the German chapter of Wikimedia, Wikimedia Deutschland.
The German chapter began work immediately.
On July 1, five members met with the Brockhaus Corporation, the most renowned German encyclopedia publisher, and exchanged experiences. A collaboration was begun with the Digital Library in Berlin to produce a Wikipedia CD-summary, which should conclude at the end of September with the production of 40,000 CDs.
In a well-attended member meeting on IRC, people discussed further strategies and projects. The Berlin Media and Computation Professor, Deborah Weber-Wulff, undertook the coordination of academic efforts on Wikipedia.
Presentations on Wikipedia at festivals and conferences are already planned, particularly, at the Linuxday fairs in Lörrach and the Berlinux conference in Berlin.
The French chapter-to-be is still in its formative stages. A pilot committee (comité de pilotage) has been set up, and draft chapter bylaws and structures have been proposed.
The current status of the association (found on ) seems to be acceptable to members of the pilot committee; no one currently objects much to any specific point in the proposed structure. The organisation's name, which was finally settled on, is Wikimedia France.
Due to the summer holidays, everything was at a standstill in August. This has been changing with the end of the holidays. However, there are not yet many volunteers for the board. According to the planning timeline (found on (), the next milestone is in October, when a meeting is planned to validate status, after which November will see the official birth of the association.
Some of the issues for the new chapter to deal with are: setting up potential Wikimedia mirrors and squids in France, and acquiring wikimedia-related domain names (as the budget allows).
Interview : Ward Cunningham
The Quarto caught up with the father of the wiki movement before breakfast on an early Oregon morning, while he was recovering from the recent Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP) conference held in Illinois. In between cans of Moxie, we picked his brain about the evolution of wiki, copyright, and the Wikipedia community. Afterward, he came onto IRC to hang out in #wikipedia for a while, where he was duly lauded.
On the Wiki Way
Wikis are all about making editing easy. What barriers to editing still exist? How would you like to see wikis develop?
WC: If we talk about what still makes authoring difficult on a wiki, it's the lack of WYSIWYG style editing. Someone suggested that one reason wikis work is that you have to overcome this strange way of editing. But if you think about it, to have all those pages typed in through a little textbox, talk about brutal. By the way, I wouldn't be satisfied if [the editor] didn't work for everybody.
In "The Wiki Way", you advocated the importance of absolute flexibility in editing and refactoring content. Is there also room for preserving old contributions, and just adding better and better summaries?
WC: In my own wiki, I took issues to the extreme. I made as much as possible
editable, and didn't keep a record -- so that 'Delete' really worked, so that
you thought about it when you used it. I'm pleased that people have
accepted that challenge, and figured out what they can do that way. Having
been there, they can say 'here's what's good and bad about that extreme'. I
think tampering with the extremes of wiki positions is fine. But every new
rule makes it harder for new volunteers to contribute.
I admire Wikipedia for staying pretty true to my ease of writing, but still
achieving very readable pages. I think Wikipedia is the shining example of what is
possible in a large project with a high quality of writing, and still with the
essential wiki character -- that if I see a mistake, I can correct it. I don't
have to create a signin, or go through a training course, or...
"I don't think Wikipedia would be possible without [separate talk pages]. Now the question is, was mine a wiki without it?"
What do you think about having separate talk and content pages?
WC: I love it. It's just brilliant. I think Wikipedia is valuable
to people who don't see themselves an Author and aren't interested in the meta-conversation.
I don't think Wikipedia would be possible without it.
Now the question is, was my site a wiki without it?
How about incorporating many languages within a single wiki?
WC: Oh, I think that is a totally awesome idea. The ability to read a page, and
notice a subtle problem with it... that ability to go straight at important
subtleties is something wiki is good at. When you have people with one foot in
one linguistic culture and the other foot in another, you can communicate very
subtle ideas across cultures, about how the world as a whole works.
My dream of 'what wiki could be' is something where, through the efforts of
people who read and understand multiple languages, we create a shared body of
work that holds a community of people together despite their not speaking the
same language. I think this happens slowly on the surface of the earth with
traditional media - a body of translators trying to explain culture to each other.
But it would have to be done in such a way that languages which look like
gibberish to you are invisible, and you can see those you know. I'm imagining
that wiki pages in several languages would be presented together. You would get
into the habit of reading in all languages, and when there was a dissonance, you
would say "there's another error that needs to be corrected", and you'd have this
great global process.
So... is Wikipedia a wiki?
WC: Absolutely. A certain amount of credit drifts my way from Wikipedia.
I'm always quick to remind people that my wiki is not Wikipedia, and that there's
a lot of innovation there. I'm proud of what the Wikipedia community has done, I
think it's totally awesome.
Here's what I think a wiki is: content before community. Low latency to
correction. The workflow of submission starts with publication - publish and
then edit. Trivial creation of new pages, to let them grow to the right size.
And a community provided by RecentChanges -- the ability to see what other
editors are doing, encouraging visitors to go from readers to authors to editors.
One thing I read when I was doing wiki was a book by Edwin Schlossberg,
a participatory museum exhibit designer - a thin little book that talked about
how the audience defines 'Quality' for a performance (something is "good" if the people
paying attention agree it is). He said that as soon as you have a medium where audience
members can watch each other work, you develop a sense of community good. That's clearly
Some people want to know what it's like for you now, working at Microsoft.
WC: As I posted on my own wiki, "I'm joining Microsoft, but I'm
still the same Ward". And I think Microsoft is still the same Microsoft.
One would hope that you have some effect on them.
WC: Well, I think they have every intention for me to have some effect on them.
On Timelessness and Copyright
When you aren't using wikis for collaboration, what else do you use?
WC: I use about a dozen wikis. The only other thing I use daily is email...
it demands attention Right Now. If I have something event-oriented, short-lived,
I send somebody an email. And if I want to talk about something timeless, I write
it on a wiki and send them a pointer.
You know, the whole email system is breaking down. Who would have thought that email, with all of its permissions and security, would fall apart faster
than wiki? Our inboxes are much more vulnerable than our wikis, where everyone
Every day, going through my email is a burden, whereas browsing Wikipedia
is a joy. I save that for when I want to reward myself, and I'll do a romp through Wikipedia. Wikipedia is my favorite content site.
(We understand. It's ours, too.)
WC: One thing that I'm really interested in, and was pleased to see, is that
the Wikipedia content is published under a public license. Who knows, a hundred years
from now, what's going to be the 'right' online encyclopedia; if there are fifty to
choose from, that might be okay. I think enabling this is great. We're still beginners on this journey; imagine what it's going to be like when we've had a few generations of experience with this [global collaboration].
Have you edited Wikipedia recently? What do you think of it?
WC: I read Wikipedia, just out of a need to know something, probably every week. But I haven't edited a lot. If someone were to ask me to point to a modern encyclopedia, I would choose Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines encyclopedia now....
Wikipedia is close to becoming an original source, I suppose.
Actually, we are totally against that; one of our basic rules is "no original research".
WC: That's because this is the grounding that keeps it from spiraling off into
argument? I always wanted people to talk about things that actually happened to them;
their own experience was that grounding. A community has to be grounded in something,
or else you end up in a spiral of mutual delusion.
In the early days of wiki, did you think that one might some day be used to build an encyclopedia?
WC: I actually thought of it as a glossary for new words that a community would use. The thought that a community needs a dictionary, helped inspire the first wiki. But Wikipedia's scope is so much larger than the scope of my wiki. At the time, I was aware that there were 'divisive' topics. I discouraged people from writing about them, because I thought the forum was vulnerable in that if people didn't seek consensus, they wouldn't find it.
Now when I'm boasting of the qualities of wikis, I speak of the ability of a community to establish and enforce norms in a way a computer program can't. You
couldn't write down NPOV in a rule and run it as a test on submissions. The
only way to make [such] a social distinction is to have a lot of people discussing
"Who would have thought that email, with all of its permissions and security, would fall apart faster than wiki?"
Did you expect wikis would grow as large as they have today?
WC: I thought there would be failure modes, but I wasn't surprised that
communities found ways around them. I thought it was important that when the
organization proved to be wrong, people could reorganize on their own, that
organization could emerge.
Why aren't there other huge wiki projects, like a book-review or journal project?
WC: Maybe this can only happen once every few years. Maybe the body of people who
realize how the social process works, and the value in it, can only grow so fast;
then somebody has to have the energy to form the community that will sustain it.
And maybe people do create these communities, and say "well, this is gonna be
so good, let me pull a little profit out of it," and are a little disingenuous.
I suspect there will be wikis on all kinds of subjects. But right now, for
people who just want to feel what it's like, why start a new one when you can go
to well-formed communities and just participate?
Do you think that's why we have so many Wikipedia-related communities?
WC: The fact that Wikimedia encourages that kind of splintering and that you've
done some yourself, is in a sense an even grander goal than finishing the
encyclopedia. To turn the process over to more communities.
Thank you for talking with us. Do you have any parting thoughts?
WC: I hope you will write about, not just the page count of Wikipedia, but how the ideas [of Wikipedia] are progressing in the world. And I hope you will use the newsletter and the Foundation to monitor and promote these ideas, and to promote culturally idealistic endeavours.
In the Media
Here is a look at what the media (in all its forms) has to say about Wikipedia, be it good, bad or indifferent. Up until now, Wikipedia has hogged the media spotlight; by the next newsletter, we hope to have excerpts about its sister projects as well.
Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing. --Jimmy Wales in a Slashdot interview, July 28 2004.
If you still have any old Britannicas clogging your bookshelves, it is time finally to haul them off to Oxfam. Wikipedia... is a scholarly, thorough work of reference that costs nothing to consult... Best of all, entries are endlessly updated to keep them relevant, errors are gladly corrected within minutes, and - unlike its stuffier predecessors - it respects the specialist knowledge of you, its user. -- The Times (London), July 20, 2004.
Wikipedia, the encyclopedia of the 21st century, is free as beer, open to all, and free as speech. It's a modest and titanic project with growing success. -- SVM, September, pp 76-77 (a full-color two-page spread)
It's called Wikipedia and, like Google, it is one of the wonders of the world. -- John Naughton in The Observer, Sep 12 2004.
A quick timeline of Wikipedia's maturation through the lens of the press:
- Jul 21, 2003 : "Wikipedia.org, for example, lets the public collaborate to build a surprisingly accurate encyclopedia." -- David Weinberger, NPR
- Oct 17, 2003 : "[one of] our top 10 reference sites" -- the UK's Daily Mirror
- Jan 29 : "One of the most fascinating developments of the Digital Age... extraordinary..." -- Dan Gillmor, San José Mercury News
- Feb 25: 'To achieve the quality of established encyclopedias, much remains to be done' -- Tagesthemen, the late edition of a major German news program, concluding a 3-min segment on Wikipedia
- Mar 1 : "One of the 30 web sites that everyone must know about" -- PC Computer, a spanish tech 'zine, referring to es.wikipedia.org.
- Apr 1 : "Impressive...covering every topic imaginable...informative and authoritative" -- UK's The Guardian
- Apr 23 : "One of the most reliably useful sources of information around, on or off-line" -- BBC News
- Jun 1 : "The web's most stunning and exciting site" -- icWales, the national website of Wales
- Jun 29 : "Astonishingly... not a bunch of graffitti and spam [a la] web fora or guestbooks. Quite the opposite: Many entries in the online-reference compare favorably with a commercial reference" -- Mario Sixtus, Frankfurter Rundschau
- Jul 20 : "Fortunately, the same community (i.e., humans) that ruined the Web is revolutionizing the encyclopedia" -- The Chicago Sun-Times
- Aug 11 : "It used to be if you were a kid in a village in India or a village in northern Canada in the winter, maybe you could get to a place where they have a few books once in a while. Now, if you have a telephone, you can get a free encyclopedia. You have access to the world's knowledge" -- Howard Rheingold, in an MSNBC interview
- Aug 14 : "the Brockhaus of Trivia" -- Andreas M. Bock, Suddeutscher Zeitung
- Sep 10 : "Sharp competition for Brockhaus and Encarta: The free on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia will appear in a few weeks on CD-ROM" -- PC-Welt
Wikipedia has been used as a source in academic papers, legal briefings, business plans, and even weather reports:
"[Hurricane] Ivan was in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday... It likely will hit the Alabama coast early Thursday, according to www.wikipedia.org." -- Sept 15, 2004, Dre Jackson, Peoria Journal Star Online
Of course, not everyone is a fan. Other encyclopedias regularly point out Wikipedia's limitations when asked about it. "[People] at Microsoft point out that free online sites don't offer the same consistency and reliability, and attention to user's needs, as Encarta does. At the same time, Encarta provides a safer environment than the Web does for student research" [ Seattle P-I Reporter, 7/12].
The UK's Register has also started regularly criticising Wikipedia: "It's hard to imagine anyone other than a Wikipedian arguing [for] the wider availability of high quality information collections," one reporter claims, calling Wikipedia "an occasionally useful online resource that needs to be taken with a huge sackful of salt," and "the world's most useless online text" [The Register, 9/15, 9/7, 7/14]. A few responses from enthusiastic Register readers resulted in another snide column about the insular nature of the Wikipedia community.
Meanwhile a tech column in the Syracuse Post-Standard attracted attention from the blogosphere in August, after publishing an article warning readers not to trust Wikipedia as a source. Many sites picked up a Techdirt article, whose author had contacted the Post-Standard reporter and had been insulted for his efforts.
The article revolved around a quote from a high-school librarian who seemed altogether opposed to Wikipedia. When some Wikipedians told her about the fuss her comments had raised, she was quick to respond with a polite letter (and to give us permission to quote her in turn):
I just re-read what I originally sent to Al Fasoldt in the recent Post-Standard column. I'm afraid I do have egg all over my face... The message was NOT... that Wikipedia is not an authoritative source. The message was that the best thing about the web (the sharing of information and ideas) can also make it harder for the average high school student to make a judgement call when checking the authority of a source used for research.
I'm sorry if this generated controversy over the authority of the site, this is NOT what was intended. It just illustrates the problem.
We couldn't agree more.
Wikipedia reached a combined total of 1 million articles in September. The previous month saw a number of smaller milestones in many languages. The English Wikipedia reached a third of a millon articles. The French Wikipedia celebrated their 50,000th article with a stub about the Medlar fruit. Danish hit the 20,000 mark the day before Russian reached 5,000 and the Arabic and Icelandic Wikipedias each reached 1,000 articles. The Hebrew Wikipedia just passed the 10,000-article milestone, and three more languages (Bulgarian, Finnish, and Norwegian) will soon do the same.
The growth of smaller Wikipedias is often due to the efforts of one or two very enthusiastic editors to give them a kick-start. For example, عصام بايزيدي and أبو سليمان on the Arabic Wikipedia, or Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason on Icelandic. The Asturian and Slovak Wikipedias grew significantly in the last month, thanks largely to the efforts of Bar and Liso. Also of note is the Luxembourgish Wikipedia, which began only at the end of July yet already has over 600 articles.
Wiktionary, Wikiquote and Wikibooks were recently split into subdomains, allowing their interfaces to be translated and leading to hundreds of new potential projects. Wikiquote is already available in over five languages; Wikibooks and Wiktionary in over 15 languages each.
Meanwhile, new Wikipedias continue to be founded, in Cherokee, Muscogee and Laotian among others; Choctaw seems to be the next one up and is available now for creation. A multilingual Swiss portal was also recently set up, and linked to from www.wikipedia.ch.
A collection of some of our most beautiful content<br\>
In the Brucknerhaus where the conference talks took place, all the prize winners were given the opportunity to present their projects. Mike from the German Wikipedia organized the Wikipedia booth at the so called electro lobby where Mike, Emu, Elian and DerTeufel explained Wikipedia and its concepts to the visitors. We had very nice neighbours: The people from Creative Commons were there, filling everyone up with "Open Source Water" under a Creative Commons License.
The gala on Friday, broadcast on Austrian and German TV, was a little bit disappointing, however. After lengthy speeches from local politicians and sponsors, the awards were handed out. Instead of allowing us a live part in the ceremony, they played a brief video film about Wikipedia which included footage from the London meetup, so we have this nice photo of London Wikipedians as displayed at the German Gala.
Sunday evening Jimbo had dinner with Howard Rheingold and Joichi Ito, two big fans of Wikipedia who were on the Jury of the Award committee. Later at a party with Ito and some others, Jane Metcalfe from Wired magazine and Armin Medosch from the German online magazine Telepolis showed up.
On Monday Lawrence Lessig paid a short visit to Linz, speaking on a panel, and afterwards he talked with Jimmy about the future of the GFDL. Martin Wattenberg, a researcher from IBM who had worked on a Wikipedia visualization project  demonstrated his Java program at the Wikipedia booth - really great stuff.
On the last festival day Jimbo gave his presentation about Wikipedia on the Digital Communities panel, where the jury members Rheingold and Ito explained their decisions for the awards. Since Ito, sitting on the panel, was playing around with his notebook, Jimbo decided to do the same and went chatting on IRC during the speeches. In an experiment, Jimbo asked the folks on #wikipedia to write an article about Ito for the English wikipedia which resulted in some funny conversations and - in the end - an article while Ito was blogging it. The conference finished by celebrating (together with the people from Creative Commons) the launch of Creative Commons Austria.
see Calendar for more
What's happening across the wikiverse and beyond.
New servers installed -> traffic spike.
500,000 article mark
Prix Ars Electronica "Digital Communities" award. Webby "Community" award.
Major Slashdot interview, July 4 meeting in Paris.
8 new Apaches set up -> traffic spike.
Sep 9: Aoineko picks up an award for Wikipedia from the Japanese Advertiser's Association
Sep 15: Milestone: Wikipedia reaches 1,000,000 articles
Sep 21-24: Jimmy Wales in Switzerland; presentation to the UN
Oct 1 : 40,000 copies of a CD with a snapshot of the German Wikipedia sent out
Oct 4 : Wikiversity deadline
Oct 12: Berlinux conference
3 squid proxy servers set up in France
Nov 27-28 : Rotterdam Symposium
Dec 27-29 : 21C3 in Berlin, wikimeetup
Mar 18-20, 2005 : CCC conference, party
The Road Ahead
Interested readers should be able to see this newsletter in print this winter. Keep an eye on newsletter page on meta for new information, or to sign up to receive newsletter updates by mail. Look for the next edition around the new year, and keep the good work and suggestions coming!
In time of need call on the editor's creed:
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis!
If you think what you read should be NPOV-ed,
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis!
So plant a good seed
And do a good deed
And don't ever stop until all have agreed
And then they will call you a real Wikiped-
Thesis, antithesis, synthesis!