Wikimedia Foundation elections/Board elections/2013/Questions/4

How do we go from being an encyclopedia to being a whole library? How do we become "cutting edge" again?


How do we go from being an encyclopedia to being a whole library? How do we become "cutting edge" again?

I firmly believe Wikipedia is the first step, not the last.

We have about a dozen wikis-- while our for-profit counterparts (eg Wikia) have hundreds of thousands of wikis. This year, we celebrate finally getting our act together enough to create a new project, WikiVoyage. This is progress, I admit-- but progress at a snail's pace.

I can't help but think of all the knowledge that still has no home here at WMF. I notice the Wikimedia family still bars the doors to local wikis, fan wikis, genealogy wikis, oral history wikis-- really, we turn away any kind of knowledge that doesn't neatly fit into a reference book motif.

At the same time, I notice the critical problem that is facing WMF is not skyrocketing "data hosting costs"-- our problem is a plummeting level of active editors among a dying community.

We used to be revolutionaries, working on a project so big that it scared us. How do we get that back? HectorMoffet (talk) 06:39, 11 June 2013 (UTC)[reply]

Leigh Ann Thelmadatter (Thelmadatter)
no response yet.
Milos Rancic (Millosh)
no response yet.
Phoebe Ayers (Phoebe)
The honest answer is -- I don't know. I wish we understood better the spike in editors -- many of whom stayed for the long term -- that happened in almost every big language in 2006-2007; a spike that is being replicated to some extent in some smaller languages now, but that we have not seen again in any large language project. What caused that sudden wave of enthusiasm for contributing to the projects? This is where I think good research will be crucial, both inside and outside the WMF. I have been a part of the wiki research community for some time (mostly through WikiSym), so am familiar with some of the good work that is going on now to analyze contribution patterns and growth trajectories across languages -- and this will help us understand our own project lifecycle, which will help us in turn (I hope!) recover that spark.

I am not convinced the answer is hosting many different kinds of non-reference wikis; see my answer to the question about local wikis, above, as to why.

I want to reflect on some of the phrases you use, though. This project is so big it scares me; we are even more revolutionary than we can currently see without the benefit of history; and I do not see the community as dying (rather I see a rate of attrition we need to reverse; there are still many enthusiastic editors, and their community is far from dead).

I handled a copy of Encyclopedia Britannica today (there's one in my library); I was curious to compare an article I was working on to their treatment of the subject. It made me reflect again -- as I do almost every day -- how far we've come and still how far we have to go. I feel like for the biggest projects we are just now entering "phase 2", of expansion and improving quality -- the big Wikipedias may appear complete, but I think we're just getting started.
Francis Kaswahili Kaguna (Francis Kaswahili)
Thank you very much HectorMoffet (talk) for your comments focusing on wikis development, of cause WMF need a revolution for creating new environmental on this regard. The strong strategy of awarding the future for making this world as a better place to live. And this revolution can help to shape the Wikimedia Foundation. If you go through my responds to other questions and answers, WMF hasn't any problem, but it's a matter of Responsibility and accountability of all of us, your comments can be taken as a start working tool, your right.
Jeromy-Yu Chan (Yuyu)
no response yet.
Samuel Klein (Sj)
What an excellent question. I think about this all the time. Even without getting to specialist wikis - fan and local wikis - there are endless types of knowledge that we simply do not yet cover. Genealogy and oral history are excellent examples.

The process for recognizing good ideas and incubating them with their own wiki should be much simpler. The new project proposals process takes too much energy up front before one can start gathering and curating knowledge, and the process of getting an existing (successful!) project adopted takes weeks and hundreds of supporters. Both should be possible in more incremental stages.

And we must dare more things.

At some point we stopped being scared of the amazing impossible scope of our projects (as you put it) and started to be scared of failure, without that sense of awe. This concern has made it harder to be bold. On each Project, and in creating new Projects, we need to rediscover that sense of joy in attempting something new, somewhat unknowable, possibly impossible. I think Wikidata is the way forward, as well as Wikivoyage: both point towards a future when we encompass the entire library, and things beyond traditional libraries.
Michel Aaij (Drmies)
no response yet.
Tom Morton (ErrantX)
no response yet.
María Sefidari (Raystorm)
no response yet.
Kat Walsh (Mindspillage)
no response yet.
Liam Wyatt (Wittylama)
no response yet.
John Vandenberg (John Vandenberg)
no response yet.