Wikipedia is one of the most important websites on the Internet today, but you might be surprised to learn it began as a side project of another online encyclopedia. That was called Nupedia, to be a traditional encyclopedia written by experts—free and online—but only one person had final publishing authority and it wasn’t quite taking off.
As the founder of Nupedia, I led the group to establish a farm team of sorts for future Nupedia articles. We used a new software platform to make collaboration easy—the wiki—Wikipedia.
It happened to be the perfect way to write many pages very quickly. Soon enough, Nupedia couldn’t keep up and Wikipedia took center stage. We were creating not just a free content encyclopedia but a “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” Other language editions appeared quickly—over 270 at last count—and it was soon followed by sister projects like Wikisource, Wikinews and Wiktionary.
In 2003, I created the Wikimedia Foundation to ensure that Wikipedia could keep up with its own growth. Wikipedia gets almost 400 million visitors every month, and the list of sites visited more often is very short and very famous. Wikipedia celebrates its tenth anniversary in January 2011 and in these ten years has become one of the most popular websites in the world. I still lead the community and the Wikimedia Foundation helps us to make Wikipedia what it is today.
Who does edit Wikipedia? Over time, as many as 1.2 million people have contributed to Wikipedia. As of 2010, there are more than 11 million monthly edits to all Wikipedias in all languages. According to one survey, we have about twice the proportion of Ph.Ds compared to the general public. On the English Wikipedia almost 50% have no religion and 14.6% of French editors claim to believe in Pastafarianism. It would be fair to say that most Wikipedians are not average.
One reason, maybe, is that editing a single page is easy, but getting heavily involved is harder. The community is defined by more than 200 combined policies, guidelines and essays, to say nothing of the discussions and reviews, committees and noticeboards, WikiProjects and more. All the site content is decided by Wikipedia’s volunteer contributors. The Wikimedia Foundation has no editorial role whatsoever.
The Foundation’s job is to keep the servers running and the lights on, but there’s more to it than that. The Foundation is also growing Wikipedia’s presence worldwide—more data centers to speed up Wikipedia worldwide and even bringing its first office outside of the United States to India.
Wikipedia is already very popular in the West and in the North. A new challenge is going to be making Wikipedia available to the developing world, as well. The Foundation is a charity and runs entirely on donations—some from corporations and institutions, but the vast majority from its millions of editors and readers.
It’s incredible what has been accomplished already, but Wikipedia is far from done. As any reader knows, some articles are very good, but some are not. Wikipedia still needs a lot of work. Yet, this is a new challenge. Not just building an encyclopedia from scratch, but making it better: more accurate, more citations. Not just broad, but deep. There’s never been anything like Wikipedia before, and its future horizon is very, very long. As Wikipedia enters its second decade, it’s up to all of us to make sure it gets even better.
7 July 2005 08.50 London is struck by three bombs. 09.18 (just 28 minutes later) on Wikipedia, the user Morwen creates the page “7 July 2005 London bombings”. 10.38 76 different Wikipedians made 250 edits to this page already, trying to make sense of reality in realtime … By the end of the day the Wikipedia page “7 July 2005 London bombings” have been edited 2581 times!
The video “History unfolding” shows the evolution in time of the Wikipedia page “7 July 2005 London bombings”. Technically, I extracted from the API all the revisions of the Wikipedia page and I got a screenshot of each of them using Firefox with Page Saver extension running on an X virtual framebuffer (I tried khtml2png but I was unable to install it). Then I put together all the screenshots with mencoder and added the audio.
Wikipedia pages are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. The soundtrack I added is Unfinished History by Johaness Gilther, released on Jamendo as Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs. So my video is released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Enjoy!
The video is just one example of history unfolding under your eyes as it develops, of how people create their collective memories in real time.
We can now investigate how we, as a society, create our world, our perceptions of the past.
Now we can research past, present and future! And control it together!
“Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present, controls the past.”
Nineteen Eighty-Four – George Orwell
Personas shows you how the Internet sees you. It is a critique of data mining, revealing the computer’s uncanny insights and inadvertent errors. It is meant for the viewer to reflect on our current future world where digital histories are as important, than oral histories, and computation methods of condensing our digital traces are largely opaque and socially ignorant..
Beside the content (which is interesting, he has a message), the way of presenting it is fabulous!!! I want to do something like that as well in the future!
An interesting tidbit of information. In the talk Professor Philip Zimbardo mention that in the Sicilian dialect (Sicily in the southern part of Italy) there is no verb tense for future! I checked quickly and what I got was a discussion in the Sicilian Wikipedia pointing to a web site that is now down. Being warned about the source, below you can find the translation in English, I modified some parts but over all Google Translate did a great job. Enjoy! “THE FUTURE. In Sicilian dialect is missing the future tense of verbs and any statement about future action is constructed with present tense and the word becomes preceded by an adverb of time (eg: Duman vegnu, Tomorrow I come). Paul Messina explains: As you can understand (almost philosophically) this anomaly? Is the starting point for a link between language and culture, ways of being and thinking. This is the historical consciousness of Heideggerian being-here to produce a continuous reduction of the future to present, of ‘hic et nunc’ (‘here and now’) and this occurs having full possession of the past definitely conquered now. Sicilians are masters of time or, to put it in Tomasi di Lampedusa word, are Gods. But to be (or to be believed to be) masters of time can mean mentally dominate life and death, to be sure of its inviolability only in the present, one that appropriates the future time to prevent death, unavoidable shadow existence. What counts is the present. Being and becoming, in short, blend or merge themselves in the metaphysics anxiety”.
Thanks to David Orban I discovered Omnisio and so I took a chance to merge my slides with the video Gianandrea recorded during my sci(bzaar)net presentation.
Using Omnisio is very easy, you just provide the URL of a video online and the URL of slides on slideshare.net and then you can optionally synchronize slides with video by drag and drop.
You can see my video/slides on omnisio or embedded here below. Slides are in English but I spoke in Italian.
UPDATE: I added the subtitles in Italian as well.
I hope I didn’t violate the license. I was not able to find the license in the Ubuntu site. According to wikipedia, the video is copyright of Canonical, Ltd. released under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 and I uploaded the video on dotsub under this license. Let me know if the license is different. Note that the video file is in the Ubuntu CD which you are allowed to make copies of and share it, but I’m not that good with licenses to understand what this means.
Anyway, help in translating the video in your language and spread the concept of Ubuntu!