Wikipedia – crowdsourcing making the world a better place

I attended the OMMA http://bit.ly/q9cZ36 (Online media and marketing association) conference in New York City yesterday. While it is a two-day event I could only steal away for the opening sessions on Monday morning. I’m glad I went since the opening keynote was delivered by Jimmy Wales – Chairman Emeritus and founder of Wikipedia.com. Mr. Wales did a really good job in his short fifteen minute keynote (which by the way seems to me to be an ideal amount of time), and I gained an ever greater appreciation for Wikipedia.com and its mission.

If you spend any time on the internet you are no doubt aware of Wikipedia.com. Touted as the world’s free encyclopedia Wikipedia is available in 282 languages. There are more than 3.7 million articles in English, 19.7 million articles in all with more than 90,000 regularly active contributors. Of course there are reports of errors and vandalism that most of the time are corrected – and corrected quickly. And yes my source is – Wikipedia.com.

The content on Wikipedia.com is all user-generated and contributors are not paid. The crowd acts as its own police force when it comes to what is accepted as content and what is not. The accuracy (as of 2005) as reported in Nature showed that the science articles they compared came close to the accuracy of Encyclopedia Britannica. Personally I have come to rely on the accuracy and concise and easy to digest information contained on Wikipedia.com. I may never buy another set of encyclopedias again.

When Wikipedia.com founders Mr. Wales and Angela Beesley determined that there were topics that did not fit a traditional encyclopedia model, they then started Wikia.com. Wikia’s user-generated wikis range from video games and movies to food and environmental issues – it is considered a collaborative publishing platform for pop-culture. Wikia, Inc. attracts more than 45 million unique visitors per month to its 275,000+ enthusiast communities. Particularly popular with the gaming community, Mr. Wales noted that some Wikis are started and then simply die-off due to lack of interest. It would have to be that way when you really think about user-generated content and the areas of interest in which people would feel compelled to start a Wiki.

What I like best about this ten-year old platform is that at its core it is all about making the world a better place.

I wonder if and how much Julian Assange’s Wikileaks.org (unaffiliated with Wikipeida.com) has damaged Wikipedia.com’s brand?

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
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3 Responses to Wikipedia – crowdsourcing making the world a better place

  1. Gregory Kohs says:

    “…founder of Wikipedia.com…”

    Wow, you managed to squeeze in two errors in only three words.

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    • markkolier says:

      Snarky Greg but not an entirely innaccurate observation depending on your point of view. It was not my desire to rehash the history between Mr. Sanger and Mr. Wales. I’d be interested in how you would represent Mr. Wales’ contribution.

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  2. Gregory Kohs says:

    I doubt you’re genuinely interested in learning the facts, because it seems that you’ve disregarded most facts in building your assessment of Wikipedia (“.com”). As a quick test of your Internet access, please type “Wikipedia.com” in your browser, press Enter, then let us know which web URL actually shows up in the browser address field. Is it Wikipedia.com?

    As for Mr. Wales’ contribution to the creation of Wikipedia, I don’t need to take the time to explain it to you. I’ll accept most of Wikipedia’s own account:

    “Wikipedia began as a complementary project for Nupedia, a free online English-language encyclopedia project whose articles were written by experts and reviewed under a formal process. Nupedia was founded on March 9, 2000, under the ownership of Bomis, Inc, a web portal company. Its main figures were Jimmy Wales, Bomis CEO, and Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief for Nupedia and later Wikipedia. Nupedia was licensed initially under its own Nupedia Open Content License, switching to the GNU Free Documentation License before Wikipedia’s founding at the urging of Richard Stallman.

    Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia. While Wales is credited with defining the goal of making a publicly editable encyclopedia, Sanger is usually credited with the strategy of using a wiki to reach that goal. On January 10, 2001, Larry Sanger proposed on the Nupedia mailing list to create a wiki as a “feeder” project for Nupedia. Wikipedia was formally launched on January 15, 2001, as a single English-language edition at http://www.wikipedia.com, and announced by Sanger on the Nupedia mailing list.”

    “Wales started to play down Sanger’s role in the founding of the project in 2005, a few years after Sanger left Wikipedia. In light of Wales’ view, Sanger posted on his personal webpage several links which supported his role as a co-founder. The citations include earlier versions of selected Wikipedia pages, press releases from Wikipedia in the years of 2002–2004, and early media coverage stories describing Wikipedia as founded by Wales and Sanger. Sanger was identified as a co-founder of Wikipedia at least as early as September 2001. Jimmy Wales identified himself in August 2002 as ‘co-founder’ of Wikipedia. During the time of Sanger’s involvement in the project, he was routinely known as a co-founder. The Wikimedia Foundation’s first press release in 2004 described Sanger as co-founder. Sanger is widely cited in the media as a co-founder. While Sanger organized the project Wales concentrated on Bomis.

    It was only in 2005, after Wales first began his efforts to identify himself as the sole founder of Wikipedia by downplaying Sanger’s early role, that Wales first claimed that he had actually initially heard of the wiki concept in 2001 not from Sanger, but instead from Jeremy Rosenfeld. Wales had also been quoted in the press as far back as October 2001, stating that it was ‘Larry (who) had the idea to use Wiki software.’ ”

    I would add that Sanger also coined the name “Wikipedia”, and that Wales spent only about 30 minutes finding wiki freeware on the Internet, then installing it on the Bomis servers that he and his business partners owned. Considering Wales and Sanger for the next 6 months, it is fair to say that Sanger did about 90% of the work related to building Wikipedia, versus Wales’ ten percent.

    Sanger never sought to be named anything more than “co-founder”, and indeed, that is the term that was officially applied to both Sanger and Wales by the Wikimedia Foundation’s own press releases. Wales was the only one who (eventually) was not content with that label, as he sought to have his followers call him “sole founder” of the project, after he failed to keep Bomis profitable and was able to terminate Sanger’s employment.

    The main responsibility of Wales (as the CEO of Bomis) was to keep Bomis profitable. In that, he failed, while Sanger built a much more successful program with Wikipedia. Wales still owes the Bomis corporation a loan repayment of over $61,000, which is documented in public records in Florida.

    Everything about the story underscores that Wales stumbled into success with Wikipedia, while Sanger deliberately forged that success. The fact that Wales would then back-stab his employee who had set up everything to be a success, just goes to show you how the very local “world” of Wikipedia was not made “a better place”, as far as Jimmy Wales was responsible.

    Now, I’ll look forward to your denying most (if not all) of these facts laid out before you.

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