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Interview: Jimmy Wales Answers Your Questions 146

Posted by samzenpus
from the citation-needed dept.
A while ago you had a chance to ask Jimmy Wales about the amazing growth of Wikipedia, and his role advising the UK government in making academic research available online. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
Collaboration with National Libraries
by robcfg

I'd like to ask if there's the possibility of collaborating with National Libraries in scanning material (specially +25 year books) and let people access them. I know there's a lot of material just gathering dust and I see a potential for collaboration.

Wales: Our community, particularly through local chapters, is engaging increasingly in partnerships and collaborations with galleries, libraries, and museums, but there hasn't been very much work done to date on scanning per se. In general, we aren't necessarily the right partner for that sort of thing - we are a community of writers, editors, photographers, etc., rather than a hosting service for scanned materials. Having said that, fortunately there are some great projects who are working on this sort of thing. Take a look at as a leading exemplar.

Editing of Information
by sylivin

Wikipedia has become so large that students and youth in particular deem it the official truth. As such governments, companies, and individuals will constantly try to spin that to their own advantage.

Do you believe you will ever be able to reconcile with governments in regards to information they deem classified showing up on Wikipedia and private citizens that consider articles about them to be libel? Or, perhaps, is that just a fight you will need to struggle against for all eternity?

Wales: Human beings will never stop quarreling. It's part of the glorious nature of our species. Government will never cease being stupid and overstepping their boundaries. That, too, is part of the human condition.

The real question is: can open systems adapt and respond in mostly effective ways to deal with the worst of it? And the answer to that is clearly YES.

by Anonymous Coward

Currently, Wikipedia Foundation is a single point of failure. It is not difficult to imagine various Alexandria Library scenarios in which Humanity looses crucial information.Instead of begging people for monetary donations to Wikimedia Foundation, wouldn't it be better to ask for donations of storage and bandwidth to keep the whole thing redundant and de-centralized? Are there any ongoing efforts to change Wikipedia's model in this direction?

Wales: The Wikimedia Foundation is not a single point of failure. There are many people and organizations who do backups which are already redundant and de-centralized, and this is in addition to our own internal backup strategy. If the Wikimedia Foundation were to vanish tomorrow, anyone could take the archives (freely licensed!) and start again tomorrow.

This is one of the key reasons why I've been so firm over the years that Wikipedia must be freely licensed.

Certified articles?
by rjlouro

There's the notion that the information on wikipedia can be edited for anyone, and referencing wikipedia sometimes brings a smile.

I always wondered why Wikipedia does not ask known experts for article certification. For example, you as the co-founder of wikipedia could certify that a section of the wikipedia wiki article (or the entire wiki article for wikipedia) was correct. Maybe you could even pay in some cases.

Has this ever been considered, or do you have any other ideas on how to get wikipedia to be received as a irrefutable source of information?

Wales: This is what I would consider to be a fallacious line of thinking. There's a notion that the way to get the very highest quality information is to have an expert certify it. But there's actually little evidence that this is true. There is far more evidence that the best way to get to high quality information is to have a thoughtful, open, public dialog and discussion and debate. To ask anyone with a concern to come forward and voice it reasonably. And to respond quickly and openly to errors.

So, no, I doubt if we'd consider stepping back to an antiquated way of thinking.

Game of Articles
by AmiMoJo

It seems like most major articles are "owned" by some editors who want to impose their own views and opinions on them. The rules of Wikipedia seem to be designed to facilitate this. The only solution seems to be for other editors to sit on the article constantly undoing the other editors edits. It's a war of attrition and it seems like the bad guys mostly win. A lot of good editors have given up. I gave up, tried it again a few years later and gave up again. Many previously good articles are now full of industry shill references and obviously biased rubbish. The quality of Wikipedia is degrading steadily over time. What is being done to reverse this trend? Can anything be done, or is this as good as a wiki gets?

Wales: Every aspect of this question is false. No major articles are "owned" by anyone. The rules of Wikipedia are designed to prevent this.

There is a bit of a war of attrition in some cases - but it is overwhelmingly the case that the good guys win.

All evidence is that the quality of Wikipedia has steadily increased over time. It is not perfect. It needs more work. There are problems, even problems with people trying to sit on articles. But the ongoing improvement of Wikipedia will continue.

As a side note, usually people who have this complaint fade into the background when asked to justify it, or show me an example - and in the vast majority of cases it turns out that the complaint is really "Why am *I* not allowed to own this article?"

Interactive tours and applications
by MassiveForces

Some of my fondest memories as a child was firing up the old 486 and playing through the interactive quests and games in Encarta. Some of them were timelines and guided learning experiences, others were programs that simulated things like gravity and orbits, and I liked playing with some software that could model particle behavior based on your parameters to describe gas diffusion and so on.

My question is, will Wikipedia ever be able to flex any interactive multimedia muscle, and create a more interactive and guided experience for young learners? People may be willing to devote their time writing out separate articles in the pages of an encyclopedia, but I imagine attracting multimedia development would be difficult (unless you can find whoever has been wasting their time writing a plethora of useless apps for browsers and mobiles).

Wales: I really hope we'll see more of this in the future. One problem that we've had is that for a significant period of time, Adobe Flash, which was a Frankenstein's monster of horrifically stupid and broken and proprietary technology, sucked the wind out of efforts to do interesting open multimedia. The ongoing and glorious demise of Flash is going to help a whole new generation of developers do more interesting things, in a freely licensed way. At least: I hope so.

Editors Dwindling
by Kagato

Back in 2011 the AP reported that you commented that the ranks of Editors was slowly dwindling. "We are not replenishing our is not a crisis, but I consider it to be important." What's have you and Wikipedia done to address that? Do you see problems do you think need to be addressed with the editor population? What do you think is working well with Editors? How hands on are you with the editor population?

Wales: Things have mostly stabilized. It's still not a crisis, but I still consider it to be important. One of the most exciting developments is the visual editor, which I hope will bring in a whole new class of editors who were turned off by the complexities of wikitext. As I put it: there are lots of geeks who aren't computer geeks.

Wikicurriculums & Wikitextbooks
by PortHaven

When can we see this be developed? I know there is a start with Wikitextbooks. But they seem sporadic. I think we could create an entire curriculum and support library (textbooks) to accompany said curriculum. And have it freely available for all...

Wales: I agree, but it's a really big job. :-) I think it will come in due course, but leadership is needed. I hope something awesome emerges, possibly from the fast-growing MOOC movement.
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Interview: Jimmy Wales Answers Your Questions

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  • by Kagato (116051) on Monday August 05, 2013 @11:32AM (#44477645)

    The answers were mostly disappointing, and I thought he was more than a bit evasive when it came to any of the operational questions relating to editors. It's pretty clear to me he's quite fine with how the current lot of editors carry things out on a day to day basis. While the WYSIWYG editor is LONG overdue I think they are diluting themselves if they think it's going to solve the dwindling editor issues.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Monday August 05, 2013 @11:34AM (#44477659)

    More likely you'll teach the students why wikipedia should never be used by anyone, ever, the very first time they get into an argument with an admin and out comes the corrupt behavior and [[WP:OWN]] issues and instant unthinking banhammer attitude.

    And the original author gets a sense of ownership of the topic.

    The worst problems on wikipedia right now are the same as 5 years ago. Small cliques of users or single users who have friends/pet admins who "own" various articles, playing defensive games and provocation games against any user who comes to try to improve the article.

    Years and years ago, and nothing has changed [] at wikipedia. It's still the same corrupt culture, still the same behavior, still the same old "guilty until proven innocent, oh wait there is absolutely NO way to ever prove innocence" when those corrupt shitbags known as admins get involved.

  • Bullshit (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 05, 2013 @11:44AM (#44477775)

    I've corrected spelling errors where there is no possible debate. Literally added one letter or removed an apostrophe. Those edits get reverted by the article's owner within minutes. Fuck Wikipedia and fuck this faggot Jimmy Whales who boldly states this is no problem at all. People like me "fade into the background" because there is no point in wasting any time contributing to this ivory tower bullshit. About 20 seconds is all I'm going to spend correcting something like this. And since Jimmy Whales and the "community" at Wikipedia don't welcome my contributions, I'll not bother wasting anymore time.

    Boy, this son of a bitch must really be full of himself. The best question on there asks about this problem, and the asshole says, "all of that is false". Harrumph! Harrumph!

    I guess the first clue was how the photo of himself keeps getting bigger and bigger each year.

  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:19PM (#44478109) Journal

    > The proper place to complain about other editor's on-wiki behavior is almost always either in a private conversation with them or to do it on-wiki, either on the editor's talk page, the article's talk page, or in one of the project ("Wikipedia:...") pages created for this purpose. Slashdot is not the proper place.

    Aahgahghaghaga, sorry, as a formerly active admin, ENWP bureaucracy is out of hand.

  • by AmiMoJo (196126) * <> on Monday August 05, 2013 @12:35PM (#44478263) Homepage

    Thanks. I forgot to mention the deletionist movement, which seems to run contrary to the idea that Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopaedia and thus there is no reason to delete obscure but reasonable quality articles.

Numeric stability is probably not all that important when you're guessing.