Jimmy Wales Kicks off Wikimania

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Jimmy started his opening keynote by showing the Wikiality video. Today he is talking about Our Movement Past, Present and Future. This is the most difficult talk he gives all year, because it is before people who know everything he knows plus more.

Wikipedia’s mission: Imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.

Lots of milestones over the last year for growth. Seigenthaler Controversy: Apparently, there was an error in Wikipedia (laughter). They dragged me on CNN to yell at me. Just at the time when Wikipedia blew past CNN.com’s traffic:

Nature article: for articles on selected scientific topics which were of the same length of Britannica. Average of 4 errors per article in Wikipedia, 3 in Brittanica. Wikipedia isn’t rubbish, it is actually pretty good. Our work is getting better and better, but we are also realizing some of the limitations of traditional works. We got lucky. We are stronger in science than other areas. Reviewers wer told to focus strictly on errors, not style, etc. Articles were of similar length, which meant it was some of our best work, rather than stubs. We are not as good as Brittanica…yet. One of the big themes of the next year is a turn towards quality. We can be proud of our article numbers going up, but we need to focus on the quality of our central core topics.

The foundation is maturing. It always has been true that the projects have been far ahead of the foundation’s organizational capacity. We are becoming a better run organization, with five employees. At the point where we can finally start applying for grants. Met Jimmy Carter, who explained that many countries in Africa only receive 20% of what the could but are too disorganized to do so, which reminds him of Wikimania.

Introduced Brad Patrick, a new employee, who was a volunteer lawyer and is now general council and interim CEO. Brad stands up and says he couldn’t be happier about the trajectory they are on, but more than that, the great people in the community.

Wikia, founded by Angela and Jimbo, completed a round of venture capital financing after a long search for investors who were willing to meet my strong demands for support for the Wikimedia community. A portion of the money they raised goes to the foundation. Hired full time engineers to support the community, covering the boring bits. MediaWiki is amazingly fantastic and driven by volunteers. Will have a big impact on the software. We have a total commitment to free knowledge and respect for communities.

Campaigns Wikia is a project to try to improve the political discourse. We know, as Wikipedians, that wikis can generate a healthy dialogue and mutual understanding (when things go right!). Hosting local meetups all over the world, with his travel schedule on http://world.wikia.com.


* Today announcing that the One Laptop Per Child project is including Wikipedia as the first element in the content repository. We may see whole new languages in Wikipedia arise as a result.

* Wikiversity: a center for the creation and use of free learning materials and activities. Create and host a range of free-content, multilingual learning materials, for all age groups in all languages. Host scholarly/learning projects and communities that support these materials. Host and foster research based in part on existing resources in Wikiversity and other Wikimedia projects. 6 month trial period and initially in 3 languages.

In the coming year, creating an advisory board. Help with partnerships, public relations, financing, technology, administration

Wikiwyg is a joint venture between Socialtext and Wikia to bring WYSIWYG to MediaWiki.. Release date uncertain, but both wikia and Socialtext are devoting full time development resources towards it. My anticipation is that this is a big part of wiki editing and free culture. My friend who when to Harvard to study Chinese history spent the last 16 years looking at the 8th century. Read about Wikipedia and was excited to contribute. Looked up articles on what she knew (read like an elderly chinese man in san francisco who loved the old poets). She never edited. She clicked on edit and saw some scary markup. Some think this was a good thing, a barrier to entry, but it keeps out some smart people, and it doesn’t keep out idiots (they are highly motivated). Wikiwyg, in some shape or form is the future of the internet.

Quality initatives: with more than one million articles in English. We should continue to turn our attention away from growth. WP:BIO Our policies on biographies of living persons have become more refined and focus on higher quality. Admins and experienced editors are taking a strong stand against unsourced claims, especially negative claims. Typical pattern: minor celebrity sees something they don’t like it, so the blank the article, and they may have been right but we don’t handle it well and they have a bad experience.

Image tagging: huge progress last year on image tagging, with virtually all the images in some problematic categories eliminated. Still a lot of work to do in refining and reforming “fair use.” We should limit fair use to some specific categories. It is a good doctrine, but we will be using it more narrowly in the future as we push to get more freely licensed images as replacements. I’d rather have an image from a Wikipedian than one with the limitations of fair use.

There is a commitment to roll out as soon as possible a “stable versions” experiment in German Wikipedia. This has been under development, allows us to move further in the direction of openness. Protecting articles during a rush of vandalism was always excessive. Semi-protection is better. Allows two goals: allowing someone to edit at any time, but letting the general public have a better view. If we don’t get this done and rolled out by next year, we are making a big mistake.

Last year he talked about 10 things that should be free.

* Free the Encyclopedia: Wikipedia, mission accomplished (that phrase has been ruined, more like mission accomplished but we have skirmishes every day). I propose that the foundation seek funding to hire community co-ordinators and recruiters for important languages where we currently do poorly.

* Free the Dictionary: Amazing work going on with WiktionaryZ. Will probably start to be functional later this year

* Free the Curriculum: Wikiversity. Proposes that we work with people like Taddy Blecher in South Africa to provide him needed teaching materials.

Others who covered this talk: Ethan Zuckerman, Drew, Pete Kaminski, David Weinberger, Meredith, BoingBoing, Cathy, Andy Carvin, Filipino Librarian, Jason Calacanis, Doc (can you tell the usual suspects showed up this year?)


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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.

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