Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales explains its new mission to be ‘mainstream’
Wikipedians plan more outreach for teachers, better tools for developers and simpler editing tools to increase their audience
Wikipedia is expanding its major new ‘open data‘ initiative, expanding tools that allow developers to use its content on other websites and simplifying its editing tools to appeal to more mainstream web users.
The 12-year-old website is also planning more outreach work to educate teachers and students, as well as those in museums and libraries, how to use the site.
Speaking in London on Monday, co-founder Jimmy Wales said Wikipedia was part “of the edutech gold rush” and that students would learn not by reading but by editing the site. New editing tools being introduced later this year will make editing simpler, he said, and encourage more people to get involved in editing articles.
Wales, who has been advising the UK government on open access, said there had been huge progress in the understanding of sourcing material online. “This is a community that will digest and then repurpose information to people in interesting ways – we have a lot to teach on that front … Communities are working to encode more of this information in machine readable ways.”
Most public institutions now interact positively with the site, he claimed. “Eight years ago I got a nasty letter from a British museum over an image in an Wikipedia article … the new way to react, as a public institution devoted to sharing knowledge, is that you need to engage. Wikipedia is the information platform of choice for the entire world – from a business perspective they are much better off making sure they have well written information on Wikipedia.”
Wales said he wanted developers to have a better understanding of the site’s tools, including an extensive API (the system through which external developers can use the site’s content) and through community of approved bots, which perform automated tasks including signing an editor’s name at the end of a post and correcting common errors made by autocorrect.
Other projects underway include improved editing in the mobile version of the site, which is being worked on by a team in San Francisco, and a notifications system called “Flow” for editors. Wales said the new user interface for editing tools would encourage more diverse editors, broadening its community beyond the largely young, computer-centric and 80% to 90% male editors that dominate its volunteer base.
Wikipedia was the eight most visited website in the US in July, according to web measurement firm comScore. Wikipedia’s own data shows the site records 21.3bn monthly page views globally, has 30.7m pages in English and publishes in 286 languages.
Wales described Wikipedia’s mission to be “the sum of all human knowledge available to all in their own language” and said it had worked with regional partners in the developing world to provide Wikipedia Zero, a low-bandwidth mobile version of the site that would be free to users.
About 410 million people now have access to Wikipedia Zero, he claimed. “It is our mission to provide free access to everyone in the world. This is one of the most exciting things we are doing and we’re only just getting started.”
Wikipedia is run almost entirely by volunteers along with other free-to-access websites including Wikimedia and Wikidata. The small, not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation employs 150 staff to manage the site’s servers, administration and legal issues.
Wikipedia’s annual conference Wikimania will be held in London for the first time next year, where about 10,000 fans, editors and volunteers are expected to attend the free event at the Barbican in August 2014.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013