Fosdem O'Reilly
2005 Edition Free and Open Source Software Developer's European Meeting


2005-02-22 - Jimmy Jimbo Wales


An interview conducted by FOSDEM & the LinuxFR readers
FOSDEM - Have you planned any promotion/advertising campaigns as well as partnership with universities or any other academic structure ?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - Promotion and advertising would cost us a lot of money and would be unnecessary, since the world is finding us quite well already. When you do work of high quality, it gets noticed, and the biggest trouble we have is keeping up with our growh in traffic.

We also have no specific plans for parterships with Universities, because we find so far that it is better to simply reach out to individual academics to help us. One problem with partnerships of any kind is that we have a strong desire to remain independent, and no partnership can ever put constraints on our work.

FOSDEM - Will there be a vote/rating mechanism allowing people to choose the best version, so that at the end you can choose to browse wikipedia using the "best" versions, not the latest?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - We do not believe that voting/rating mechanisms alone are powerful enough to do the job of real live human editors. We *will* soon have a method for rating articles, but the purpose will be strictly limited to gathering information for a further review process for a "stable" branch of Wikipedia.

FOSDEM - Where does the project about a cd version of wikipedia - including reliable and relatively complete articles - stand?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - As is common with free software: it will be ready when it is ready. :-) I would anticipate within this year we will have a first pass at it.

FOSDEM - Is there any possibility to publish wikimedia projects - wikipedia and others - as real books ?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - Yes, of course, and we are very supportive of the concept.

FOSDEM - Wikimedia projects seem to always be successful. What is your opinion about it and why is that so?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - Love. Our community has an atmosphere of love and respect for each other, a real passion for the work, a real interest in _getting it right_. We make it fun and easy for good people to get involved.

FOSDEM - Do you think wikinews has a future compared to blogs, or search engines like (except being free to use)? The purpose of news is to be outdated very quickly. Therefore, can it work with a wiki as editing system ?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - We don't know yet! It's an interesting experiment. As with the early days of Wikipedia, we are trying to be as open as possible so that successful policies can emerge organically from the natural needs of the people involve and the subject matter.

FOSDEM - How do you foreshadow wikipedia in 20 years, and which solutions do you have for storing the digital informations for so long?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - I think wikipedia will be the dominant reference in every language in 20 years time. I think we will be working in partnership with for-profit and non-profit entities to distribute it globally.

I don't have any special ideas or insight into long-term storage solutions.

FOSDEM - How did the idea of starting a world collaboration encyclopaedia come to your mind?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - Is there anything else more fun I could be doing? I feel that every part of my history led me to this.

FOSDEM - Some people are arguing about the fact that an encyclopaedia that everyone can edit cannot be trusted. How would you answer them in a few lines?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - Compare the quality for yourself. It is true that the live development version is not 100% reliable, hence our efforts to create a secondary review process. But this is no different from the software world: just because the bleeding edge of what is in CVS might not even compile at any given moment, this does not mean that Apache or GNU/Linux is unreliable.

FOSDEM - What about the software: what is so special about MediaWiki ? Why did you do your own implementation ?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - I think one of the most important innovations that we have is the "talk" page which is tied to every article. This enables us to separate discussions about the work from the work itself.

FOSDEM - Is the work on Wikipedia done only by volunteers or, given the huge amount of work, are there also people working on it full-time ?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - Some volunteers work full time. :-) In the past we had all volunteers, and we still have all volunteers as editors. We are now paying for someone to help me with the physical servers, and we are also starting to pay our lead developer for some work he is doing liasoning with outside organizations who want to re-use our content and need tech support for that.

FOSDEM - Speaking of bandwith, hosting costs and similar things, how is Wikipedia being sustainable as a non-commercial community effort ? Do you get any sponsoring ?

Jimmy Jimbo Wales - So far so good. It is important to donate to Wikimedia if you want us to stay as we are. But I anticipate no difficulties in the coming year at least. The future beyond that is for futurists to predict. I live in the present. :-)


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