Jimmy Wales is giving the Wikimania keynote. He started to good effect by showing a video of Steven Colbert talking about Wikipedia and editable reality, which was a funny way to kick things off. (I happen to be sitting in the front row between two friends and superb bloggers, David Weinberger and Ross Mayfield, both of whose fingers are flying as they write up a blog post; I’m taking advantage of the situation to try to get a little bit better blogging myself.)
Jimmy talks about Wikipedia news from this year, and new Wikimedia stuff:
- article milestones, in hundreds of thousands of articles in each of a number of language
- the Seigenthaler incident – Jimmy deadpanned, “Apparently, there was an error in Wikipedia.” Of course, it was a nasty error, but it got fixed quickly; he talked about having to be on CNN to explain why Wikipedia might have errors, and how they’ll also get fixed. He shows a great graph comparing CNN and Wikipedia’s traffic at the time; CNN goes down, Wikpedia goes way up
- the good news of the Nature article comparing Wikipedia favorably with Britannica
- but also, he talks soberly about the background of the Nature comparison; Wikipedia got a little lucky in the comparison, because they picked science articles, not culture or something, and Wikipedia got started with geeks; they only evaluated errors, not writing style; and they picked articles that were roughly the same size as Britannica’s, instead of stubs. Wikipedia’s going to keep getting better, though
- Wikimedia Foundation is up to five employees
- Brad Patrick, general counsel and “interim CEO”
- Wikia funding, they were careful to pick investors, and let “a significant portion of our investment funds authorized to be used to support Wikimedia”
- Campaigns Wikia
- Wikipedia being the first element of the content repository for One Laptop Per Child
- board approving Wikiversity
- creating a formal Advisory Board, to interface with other institutions and the rest of the world
- Socialtext and Wikimedia working together to integrate Wikiwyg, our open-source what-you-see-is-what-you-get Wiki editing interface into Mediawiki. He told a sweet story of a friend who could have made great contributions to Wikipedia, but found she couldn’t because of the wikitext interface; he thinks Wikiwyg is going to be really important at helping more people contribute to Wikipedia. Right on!
- quality initiative – concentrating from growth and concentrate more on quality
- for instance, working on WP:BIO, better policies and taking a strong stand against unsourced claims, especially negative claims
- better image inclusion policies, especially concentrating on using freely-redistributable images
- “stable versions” – something that’s had a lot of thought, especially in German Wikpedia. simultaneously achieve two goals: let anyone edit things at any time, but also having a good stable article version for general public view. “One of the most important things we can do” to improve quality and the experience for general users.
- update on his 10 things from last year. I’m going to let other people blog each of these, but during the update of one of them, Jimmy said something funny, just the phrase “mission accomplished”. He said, “I guess I shouldn’t say that — it used to be a perfectly good English phrase, and now it’s ruined.” He paused, and then said that maybe it does fit: “Mission accomplished but there are still skirmishes every day.”
There’s time for one question: the policy of not having commercial information providers. I beg you to let vendors have one paragraph summaries about their products and services. Jimmy says this is sort of like the biography situation, and may take similar policies, and that this sort of decision is up to the editors and the community, of course.
Oh, time for other questions. Support for stable versions in the Mediawiki software itself? Jimmy says to talk to the tech folks like Brion and the German technical folks, but there’s just some simple support required to flag an article’s stable version. Jimmy emphasizes again that stable versions is something folks should really talk about here, because it’s really important, and suggests the technical folks do the simplest, quickest thing that would work, instead of trying to get a perfect solution right away.
The next question is about the ability for e.g., Wikiversity to promote the reputation of people who are good but wouldn’t usually get respect. Jimmy gives kind of a general answer, but compares free culture / wiki culture to the interstate system; it’ll change the rules and as a result, society.
A good keynote, lots of good updates, and Jimmy’s got a nice friendly, funny style.