Opening Plenary (transcript)
Jimbo Wales - opening session of Wikimania 2006
Friday - August 4, 2006, 9:00–10:15 EST
Introduction by SJ (0:00)
Welcome again everyone. I'd sing the wiki anthem, but I'm not sure I can remember the words.There are some really good wiki songs, which we were trying to get for the background music but noone was willing to have their music licensed for such a purpose at the moment. So this is Creative Commons music, quite right. So, hello, I am S-J Klein, and I'm really excited to see so many people here today, it's just amazing. I'm really pleased that Wikimania was able to come to Harvard Law School. I want to run down a few notes so that you can all get round at the conference later today. The sessions over this one are going to be in six different rooms. The plenaries are going to be in Austin Hall. [music stops, laughter] Thanks a lot.
So we're going to have three sessions today and after this session people are going to break out into Lawson Hall and the first floor in this building with a few discussions upstairs. There is streaming and there are transcripts available online and those of you that have computers can access all this from the conference website. The streaming will be available for three different rooms, this room and a room downstairs and there wil be audio available from one other room. There are a lot of sessions going on i want to give you a really quck recap so that people know ... there are discussions about trust and Wikipedia, abot compuaring contents across differenct publishers, about obtains consensus and what it takes to validate great material. We have the edtior-in-chief from ??? Book to speak on the validation panel, we have Lawrence Lessig talking in Austin Hall just after lunch about the ethics of the free culture movement and a discussion of license compatibility. I want to thank everyone who made this possible and if you see people walking around with staff shirts just grab them and, you know, hug them and if you have any problems there is an information desk just outside here and there will be people walking around and there will be a person in each room who can give you a hand. There are also going to be open space discussions and at the end of this session I'll talk just very briefly about how you can set up your own short conversation. After this session closes, there will be space for people to hang out and talk about whatever they want and arrange their own conversation for the rest of the weekend.
A few logistical details. Please make sure you turn off your cell phones when you're in rooms. If you have anything else that makes a good deal of noise and is alerting you that you have to go to the next meeting, likewise. There is a collabarative wiki available, there is a gobby for people that want to have something to edit for real-time transcription. If you want to help out with that, you can access that at clips.media.mit.edu and ... so I think that's all.
I'd like to introduce you to Jimmy Wales. Most of you know him as the founder and the face of Wikimedia and the projects. Ever since his early discussions and philosophical debates about what it means and what it takes to run a project like Wikipedia — rough consensus, running code — to his most recent forays into the free-culture movement, he's been a real hero to me and I think to many of the people who ended up joining the projects. So, I hope you'll welcome him and I hope you'll all have a great time today and you're all able to contribute back to the conversation you take part in instead of just listening.
Jimmy Wales' introduction (5:45)
I want to start out by showing a little clip of something.
[After some technical problems, a fragment from The Colbert Report is played.]
Stephen Colbert: Anyway, while crafting my scathing reply, I forgot whether I usually call Oregon California's Canada or Washington's Mexico [laughter]. So I went to the Internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia to check their extensive entry on this show. I love Wikipedia. Any site that has a longer entry on truthiness than on Lutherans has its priorities straight [laughter]. Anyway, it turns out I call Oregon both California's Canada and, on April 6th, Washington's Mexico. But thinking about it now, that's giving Oregon too much credit. They're more like Idaho's Portugal [laughter]. So what I'm going to do is, I'm just going to log on to Wikipedia here and I'm going to change it. You see, any user can change any entry and if enough other users agree with them it becomes true. There. Now, "Oregon is Idaho's Portugal" is the opinion I've always held; you can look it up.  If only the entire body of human knowledge worked this way ... and it can, thanks to tonight's word: wikiality. Now, folks, I'm no fan of reality, and I'm no fan of encyclopaedias. I've said it before ...
Jimmy Wales: Okay, enough of that, it goes on and on. [clapping]
I'm going to talk today about our movement; past, present and future. This is always the most difficult talk that I do every year. As most of you know, I travel pretty much constantly all over the world, giving talks to people that don't know anything really about Wikipedia and our other projects, and this is the one talk each year where I have to give a talk to people who know everything I know, plus more. So, that makes it really hard to do.
But what I want to do today, is going back to something that's really old and talk about our fundamental mission. The radical idea behind Wikipedia is for all of us to imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge and that's what we are doing. This is really the fundamental mission of the Foundation. It's the fundamental mission of all our projects and I want to review today where we've been in the last year, since one year ago at Wikimania. I want to talk about some of the things that are going on right now, and I've got a couple of announcements, and we're going to do more of that at the press conference later. And then I'm going to talk about what's coming up in the coming year and the years to come.
Article milestones (9:10)
So, the first thing I wanted to go through, was the milestones. This year, we had several significant milestones. The Swedish passed the 100,000, the English passed 750,000 on September 29th, but then, as you all know, we passed 1 million afterwards in March. The Italians passed 100,000, the French 200,000, Portugese, Polish, Spanish, Japanese, Dutch, all had major milestones. The one that I don't have listed on here, is German. The Germans passed 400,000, but for some reason, on our page of milestones, that one is not listed as one that really counts. But the Germans will have 500,000 really soon.
Quality, Seigenthaler, Nature, Britannica (9:50)
During this year, our traffic has grown a lot. A lot of things happened, we had a lot of news this year.
One of the biggest things that you can remember was the whole Seigenthaler controversy. For those of you who somehow don't know what this is all about... well, apparently, there was an error in Wikipedia. (laughter) Who knew?! So this error was found in Wikipedia, and Seigenthaler who... I will say, it was a really bad error, and it was a terrible thing that was written about him in the encyclopedia. It was fixed very quickly, as soon as we realized it. They dragged me on CNN to yell at me, and that was about here... in December.  (laughter) As you can see, it nearly killed the project. Our traffic nearly tripled as a result.
So there's a funny backstory to this whole thing. When I was going on to CNN to be yelled at, I had just recently visited at Nature, the science journal. They had shown me an article they were preparing, a study they were preparing. But they showed me under embargo, while I was there, they wanted to get some comments. So I knew this good news was coming out about Wikipedia, but I couldn't say anything about it. So, you know, I was on television, and they're saying "wow, isn't this really dangerous, and scary", and I really wanted to say "well, it's not that dangerous, it's a little bit scary, sure, but...".
So the Nature article that came out, basically, they reviewed a block of articles. I think they sent out 50 for review, and they had something like 40... something... good results. They were on selected scientific topics. They selected articles that were roughly of the same length as Britannica articles. And they found an average of around 4 errors per article for Wikipedia, and an average of 3 per article in Britannica.
Obviously, we were pleased with this result, but I think it showed people a couple of important things. First of all, it showed people that contrary to the press coverage that we had been getting in the previous weeks, Wikipedia isn't rubbish, it's actually pretty good. It isn't perfect, but it's pretty good.
The other thing I think it showed people is that three errors per article in Britannica means that traditional references aren't necessarily the perfect thing that most people imagine them to be. I mean, we as wikipedians doing our work day to day know how hard it is to get things right, and we know how many errors there are in all kinds of different sources. I think that's one of the great lessons that's coming out of this, is that our work is getting better and better, but as it gets better and better, we also begin to realize some of the limitations of some of the traditiona works -- which are quite good. I mean, certainly, I'm a big admirer of Britannica.
So what happend in this study that's really interesting, is that we actually, in my opinion, we got pretty lucky. We got pretty lucky because we are stronger in science than in many areas. I think if we had done the same sort of comparison on poets or artists, I think that we would not have faired nearly as well. We come geek culture, we come from the free software movement, we have a lot of technologists involved, and therefore, that's where our major strengths are. We know we have systemic biases, we know we have problems in the sense that a lot of the articles in the humanities aren't nearly as good as they could be. This has gotten better over time, but it's something I think we still need to focus a lot of attention on, even to the point of thinking about how can we bring more people, more good quality editors in to Wikipedia to help us improve those kinds of things.
Another element of that study is that reviewers were told to focus strictly on the errors, not style. It was basically fact-by-fact, how many errors do you find, just count them up. Obviously, Wikipedia articles are often wonderfully well-written and in wonderful style, and also in many other cases, they're a complete wreck of style. They're a complete wreck of style because what happens is people are editing editing editing as a group, and they're working on some controversy, and in the process, they work out the controversy, but the article itself ends up looking very choppy and very difficult to read, very confusing for the end reader. That is something that also gets better over time, because what happens is once we achieve some consensus, somebody who is a good writer can come back through and smooth the article out.
And of course, they were comparing articles of similar length, so that meant that this was some of our best work, rather than stubs. If they had sort of picked randomly, they might have found for Britannica articles, they might have found a very short article for us. Of course, they might have found the opposite. Obviously, outside of scientific topics, we have huge articles on things like... truthiness... (laughter) that Britannica has never heard of. And I'm just teasing there, we actually have really really great articles on topics like the USB standard, which Britannica has also never heard of, and it's a perfectly legitimate topic.
But my overall point is, although we've always had this overall goal that we should be Britannica or better quality, we all know we're not there yet. We aren't as good as Britannica... yet. And so, I think that one of the things that we can is that, in the coming years, I think one of the themes is going to be, and a big theme for me in the coming year, is a turn towards quality. Especially in English. Also in German, French, Japanese, and all of the larger languages. We can no longer feel satisfied and happy when we see those numbers going up. When you go from 1.2 million articles to 1.8 million articles, what did you add? Well, you added a lot of interesting stuff, to be sure, a lot of Long Tail stuff that other encyclopedias aren't going to cover. But I think we also need to be very interested in focusing our attention on improving the quality of the central core topics, and finding ways to make those things better.
Another thing that has been happening in the past year, is that the Foundation has been maturing. One of the things that has always been true for us is that the projects have always been far ahead of the Foundation's organizational capacity. We started as a very, very tiny organization (that was basically me sitting home in my pyjamas) and that worked pretty well for a while; then I had to get dressed to go give speeches. The Foundation has always been a much smaller organization than almost anybody could imagine given the magnitude of the cultural impact that we are having. I think that's going to continue to be the case, I don't see any reason to think that the cultural impart is going to decline and for us to have an organization to match that, we would have to have, you know, hundreds of thousands of people working in the Foundation. There's no way that's ever going to happen or would make any sense.
But at the same time, the Foundation is maturing. We're becoming a better run organization, we now have five employees ... is that right? We're finally getting to the point where we can actually begin applying for grants and actually expect to get grant money and actually undertake new projects. Last week I met Jimmy Carter and one of the things that he was talking about is aid to countries in Africa, which is one of his core interests and he was explaining that many of the countries in Africa only receive about 20% of the aid that they are eligible for because they're so confused and busy and just sort of trying to get by that nobody even bothers to apply for the aid. Well, gosh, that just sounds like the Wikimedia Foundation, right? We are all of these organizations out there that are willing to throw money at us and help us, we have all of these ideas for projects, but we have never been able yet to get ourselves organized enough to actually go through with that, actually expand and do some of the interesting things that everybody wants to do.
Brad Patrick (17:55)
About few months ago, in September 2005, I got one of these goofy emails. It said: I'd be very interested to speak with you about your ideas and how they interact with certain ideas of mine. It would be a pleasure to meet you and have a bite to eat. And this was from this character here, which is Brad. And then, you know, it's very dangerous to have lunch with me, because the next thing, you know, you might end up with a job. So, this was Brad on his first day at work. Today, I want to introduce to you Brad Patrick. We've hired Brad Patrick as ... [clapping] Brad is a lawyer, and Brad started out ... his volunteer route into Wikipedia was ... we were at a point where the Foundation was being overwhelmed with legal questions and complaints, you know, none of them very serious but we have to take them seriously because if you don't take them seriously, you can get into a lot of trouble, and really, a lot of these things are really customer service issues and making sure we're doing the right thing by everybody. Brad jumped in and started really helping us with a lot of that, he became more and more involved and so, you know, the opportunity came up that he was thinking of changing his career path and I said, this is fantastic. So we hired Brad as general counsel for the Foundation, but also, he is serving as our interim CEO. He's going to lead a search process, both within the community and outside the community, for a longer-term CEO. But so far, in his first two months on the job, he's doing a spectacular job of actually getting the Foundation organized, getting us moving in the right direction in terms of grant applications and all those kind of things. So, Brad, do you want to say a couple of words?
Brad: The part that Jimmy failed to mention about the email, was that I believe the email was dated in August of last year. What I did was invite him to lunch and I found out ... My path to Wikipedia was very simple. A year ago when Jimmy was giving his talk on ten things that should be free and I read in on the Lessig blog, which I have been reading religiously for a very long time. And I said, you know, I wonder where this foundation is. I have no idea, I thought, in San Francisco maybe, somewhere. And I looked and I see it's in Saint Pete, Florida, which is twenty minutes from where I live. I thought, not in my backyard. I need to go and meet this guy, and I need to find out who their lawyer is and I want to be their lawyer. So, in October, Jimmy emails me and says: so, can you call the office and we can set up a lunch date. August, October, so ... in December, we got together and had lunch [laughter].
But it's true, this is an amazing, amazing thing that we're in the middle of and I couldn't get more excited about both the trajectory that's happening and a scale that's really unimaginable. But more importantly, it's the opportunity to work with people and to know that this community is really unlike any other that we're seeing. To be part of the free-culture movement and to be in a position where over the next series of jumps we're going to see astronomical progress and I'm really excited about it. So, good to meet you, please say hi, and thank you. [clapping]
Jimmy: Very good. Brad makes it sound like it took a long time to get back to him but that was actually like, you know, he emailed me one day, the next day I was in the office, I answered, the next day was in the office, we had lunch [laughter]. So, it was pretty quick, actually.
Moving on to other news in our little world. I wanted to talk a little bit about Wikia being funded. So, Wikia of course, as most of you know, is my company building wiki communities, advertising supported, for-profit, wiki communities.
I think this is a real milestone, because we managed to raise venture capital. And I say it that way to make it sound like it was difficult, but actually because of the success of Wikipedia, I was in the very fortunate position of being able to take my time and really choose the investors. And what I did was I was really careful to choose investors who were willing to not only just say that they supported the goals of the Foundation and the goals of the Free Culture movement, but to actually put that into the investment documents. So we have a commitment from the investors that we are going to be able to support the WIkiMedia foundation in a major way with a portion of the money that we've raised.
We are hiring several full-time engineers to improve MediaWiki. So this is really the first time that we've had a large group of programmers in a dedicated effort, directed in a "job" sort of sense, at improving the software. One of the interesting things about MediaWiki is that it's amazingly fantastic, and it's all driven by volunteer development. Brion, of course has been an employee of the Foundation for some time, but there's a whole bunch of work going on around it. But it's very typical of lots of free software projects. It's very creative, there's lots of things going on, but as with, say the Linux distribution, once we have Red Hat to actually package it together, make it neat, make it clean, you've actually got employees paid to do the boring bits. Volunteer developers prefer to do the interesting bits of course.
So I'm really excited because I think there have been a lot of improvements that people have wanted in the software that have lagged for many years, and in fact, the total number of people working on MediaWiki is just exploding. And so, I think we're going to have a really big impact on the software, and really make things a lot better for Wikipedia and everybody in the whole community.
As a company, we have a total commitment to free knowledge and respect for communities. That's really what the business is founded on... the idea that everything that made Wikipedia successful can now be expanded into other areas of free culture. And that, there can actually be business models to support this sort of thing. So that's basically where we're going in that direction.
Campaigns Wikia (24:20)
One of the first example projects, I just launched Campaigns Wikia, which is a project to try to improve the political discourse. I launched this on July 4, so I guess that's very American-centric, but I was thinking about politics that day, and decided to just ahead and plunge in and do this thing I had been thinking about for a while.
One of the things that we know as Wikipedians is that wikis can generate very healthy dialog and mutual understanding... when it goes right. Of course, we also have lots of flamewars and idiotic fights over trivialities. But unlike any other medium that I've seen online, having been online and done a lot of things, Wikis really do seem to drive people to understand each other and to build a consensus view.
So, I've launched this new project to try to help improve the political environment. I'm hosting local meetups all over the world, everywhere I go, I'm putting my travel schedule on our new world.wikia.com site .
So far it's been really exciting, it's really interesting. I had a meetup in Chicago last week, and all these new people came out, people who had... a couple had been Wikipedians, but most of them were just people who had heard about this, they knew about Wikipedia, and they thought, wow this is really great. So I really love that kind of idea, that beyond those of us who take encyclopedias as a hobby, there's a whole world of possibilities, people who take politics as a hobby, where free culture can start to expand and grow and move in all kinds of different areas. So, for me, that's really cool and fun and that's what I'm working on these days.
So I've got some announcements. This is the news for today. We'll have some press releases later, and we're having the press conference to talk about all this in more detail.
One Laptop Per Child
One of the things we're announcing is that the One Laptop per Child project, which is Nicholas Negroponte's project over at MIT, is including Wikipedia as the first element in their content repository. The whole concept... Nicholas has been talking about Wikipedia for a long time, in conjunction with the $100 laptop project. I've heard him call it... something like, it could be the killer app for this device. It's a way for people to not only access knowledge through the content repository, but because these are networked computers, there's a real chance that if we get deeper and deeper penetration all over the world, that we're going to see whole new languages on Wikipedia begin to arise, places where we're currently not doing a very good job. So I'm very excited about the possibility that their project will succeed and we can be somehow a part of that.
The other big thing that's going on is that the board just approved Wikiversity. As most of you know, Wikiversity has been a project that's been under discussion in the community for a very long time. It went through several revisions as we really hammered out what it should look like, what it should be, what the limitations would be.
The basic concept of Wikiversity is that this would be a center, a wiki on the web, for the creation and use of free learniing materials and activities. So, Wikibooks works on textbooks, Wikiversity is much broader than that. Wikiversity includes all of the kinds of learning materials which would be... quizes, review materials, tests, all kinds of different things like that. For all age groups, all languages. Also the idea here is to also host learning communities, so people who are actually trying to learn, actually have a place to come and interact and help each other figure out how to learn things. We're also going to be hosting and fostering research into how these kinds of things can be used more effectively.
This is a kind of example where there are a lot of interesting things, a lot of interesting research projects that can be funded, where I believe that, with the foundation maturing, we're actually going to be able to get a significant amount of funding to make some interesting things happen that haven't happened yet online, even though people have been dreaming about them for many years.
I guess the important things you need to know about Wikiversity is that it's a six-month beta trial period. And we're going to launch in three languages at first, and probably more languages than that if people are interested and get excited. So that's going to launch very soon, I'm not exactly sure the date yet, but within the month anyway. Yay!
The coming year (28:35)
So, what's going to happen in the coming year? I've now given you a little bit of a review of where we've been in the past year, some of the things that have happened. I talked about some things that will happen in the very short term. But now I'm going to talk about more general things, things that we know are going to be happening some time in the coming year.
Advisory Board (28:55)
One of the first things is that at the Foundation, we're going to be creating an advistory board. The Board of the Foundation just approved this concept. The idea here is that we're going to try to pull together a bunch of interesting and important people who can help us with our contacts, expertise, perspectives, prestige, strategic input. We anticipate that the advisory board would be able to help us with partnerships, public relations, financing, technology administration, international matters, and more. I think the advisory board will have a very strong academic component, people who are both very academic, but also have a deep understanding and appreciation for wiki-style free culture. To help us really think deeply about what can we do to improve all of our work, what can we do to improve for example Wikibooks, to have our textbook project stronger, how do we do quality control on Wikipedia. All those kinds of things, we're going to have a more formal advisory board to help us as the Foundation in figuring those kinds of things out.
One of the things in the software world that's coming, is something I'm very excited about, is Wikiwyg. Wikia and Socialtext are working together to port -- Socialtext has Wikiwyg technology, which is in the Socialtext wiki -- we're porting that to MediaWiki. We're not exactly sure when we're going to release it -- it's a very hard and complicated problem -- but Wikia and Socialtext are devoting some full-time people to the project. My anticipation is that this is going to be a really big part of the future of wiki editing, and a really big part of the free culture movement in the long run.
I always like to tell a story. A friend of mine went to Harvard, she has a PhD in ancient Chinese literature. She's one of the smartest people I've ever known. And she had never heard of Wikipedia. She joked to me that she can barely use the internet because she's spent the last 15 years living in the 8th century. So, one day she woke up from the 8th century, and looked at Newsweek magazine and saw my picture... she knew me, we went to highschool together. And we got into contact, and she was very excited, she loved the idea of Wikipedia, she loves the idea of sharing free knowledge.
She looked up articles about the poets who she studies in Wikipedia. And she thought, well, they won't have anything at all. And she said, oh, actually, you know the articles are pretty good. They're not great, they're pretty good. She said they read -- her description was funny, she said -- they read like an elderly Chinese man in San Francisco who loves the old poets wrote the articles. And I said, you know, it could be true, right? (laughter) Because we have a lot of that, we have a lot of passionate people who really care about a certain topic.
And she said these articles are good, but they weren't up to date on the latest academic research, they weren't written to include a lot of the information that she would have included. And so she was very eager, she said "I'm going to jump in, I'm going to start editing Wikipedia," but then she never did. And why didn't she? She didn't because she clicked on Edit and she saw some really scary template codes, and this that and the other, and she didn't really know what to do.
And so, my belief is, we have... In a half joking manner, for years in the community, when it's difficult to edit, we think of that as maybe it's not so bad that there's a little bit of a barrier to entry, right? But the problem is, that barrier to entry, that technological barrier to entry, it keeps out a lot of really really smart people, like my friend, who are geeks, but not computer geeks. And it doesn't really keep out, you know, other kinds of idiots, right? [laughter] They're very motivated, they learn how to edit wikitext, right, and so then we have to deal with them anyway. So the idea that we're sort of having some sort of an intelligence test by making it hard to edit just doesn't work in practice.
So I think that Wikiwyg, in some shape or form, is really the future of the internet. And I think that we can really spearhead that effort and bring it to the public using this technology. So I'm really excited about that, it's a big project, but at least it's finally really moving forward after people have been talking about it for a long time, because we're devoting the resources to actually try to make it happen.
Quality initiative (33:20)
I think that, in the coming year, I think we're going to have a really strong quality initiative. I'm speaking here primarily of the English wikipedia, although the same thing can apply to the smaller wikipedias. I think it's fine for smaller wikipedias to focus to some extent on quantity... we've always been a little uncomfortable with focusing exclusively on quantity. But it's certainly okay if you say, well, we only have 15,000 articles, that really doesn't make much of an encyclopedia, and to say, well we really are concerned with getting lots and lots of people involved, and getting lots and lots of articles.
But with more than 1 million articles in English, I think we should continue to turn our attention away from growth, and towards quality. I think the quality of our work should be something we're all very deeply passionate about, and we should really be thinking about how to adjust our social models, how to adjust the software. What are all the things, the little tweaks and tricks we can use to get to a higher quality level.
One of the social things that I think we can do is WP:BIO. During this past year, in the English wikipedia in particular, our policies on biographies on living persons have become much more refined, and really a strong focus on higher quality. Part of this is just in response by the community to not just the Seigenthaler incident, but to lots of other similar incidents.
As wikipedia has gotten to be larger and larger, two things happened. It's become more and more important, so everybody who's famous, like Stephen Colbert, looks themselves up in Wikipedia. But also, as the project has gotten larger and larger, we're actually writing articles about less and less famous people. So, you can write anything you want about George Bush, but he's not going to call up on the phone and complain, right? He's heard it all.
But what happens is we have very minor celebrities and sort of controversial people, they read their article on Wikipedia, and if it isn't good, then they complain, they get upset. There's a sort of typical pattern where I've seen this happen over and over and over... somebody goes to an article, and they see something they don't like in it, so they blank the article. So somebody warns them. And then they blank again, and they get blocked. And then they make a legal threat, and then they really get blocked. And it's just like a totally bad experience for that person, when in fact, they may have been right in the first place. Or maybe they weren't right, maybe they just didn't like what we wrote about them, but still, we didn't handle it well. And I think social policies have evolved in the recent months to actually handle this problem a lot better. A lot of the admins and experienced editors are taking a really strong stance against unsourced claims, which is always a typical example of a problem.
So my sense of it is that the living biographies part of Wikipedia, which is one of the most difficult and most important areas, is one where we're really seeing a really massive movement towards higher quality. A lot of people in the community are really committed to that. And the few people still sort of in the old days, saying "well, you know, it's a wiki, why don't we just...", they're kind of falling by the wayside, because lots of people are starting to realize, yeah actually, we have a really serious responsibility to get things right.
Image tagging (36:15)
Another item is image tagging. We've made huge progress in the last year in image tagging. We had some really really problematic categories, categories with images that had no source at all, and claimed fair use. Well, you can't really claim fair use if you don't even give a source. Those have all been virtually eliminated.
There's some people who have done some really fantastic work in that area. And it's been a big social battle for people. You know, the experienced admins and administrators who really believe in this sometimes have to go out there and fight with newbies who really don't understand or get it. And they -- I think in the early days, they weren't getting as much support from everybody else as they were. I've seen that change now. I've seen that we've got a lot of support from a lot of people to say that the image tagging has to be nearly perfect, it has to be really good, and we'd rather do without an image than having something that's botched up.
There's still a lot of work to do in refining and reforming fair use. There's ongoing discussion about that. The issues surrouding fair use are actually very complicated because fair use is very complicated. But it's also complicated by the fact that we don't want to rely on fair use in cases where we can get a free alternative image. There's many images where we can perfectly legitimately and legally say under the doctrine of fair use, we can use this image, but we'd prefer not to. We'd prefer to instead get a free image and I think there's been a lot of resistance from people who would prefer to sort of be lazy and say this is good enough. But I think that tide has turned, and I think the people working on fair use tagging and the rules for fair use have done a really fantastic job of changing people's minds and making people realize that we should limit fair use to only some very narrow categories, categories where we think it's worth it to take a stand for fair use; fair use is a perfectly good doctrine in fair use, it basically that the rights of copyright holders are not infinite, they do not extend to every possible thing that you might want to do. At the same time though, we only want to use it in cases where it's really worthwhile doing it, and it doesn't actually hinder the growth of free content. A friend of mine loves to upload pictures of baseball players that he goes and takes himself. And you know, his pictures aren't as good as pictures that someone nicked from a website somewhere, a publicity photo. But they're free, they're under a free license, and anyone can use them anywhere in the world for any purpose. I'd rather have an image from a wikipedian that's not quite as good, than a professional image which we can only use under the very narrow doctrine of fair use. We're not fundamentally about having a really pretty encyclopedia, we're fundamentally about having a free encyclopedia, and in the end that's far more pretty, if you ask me.
So, we're making progress there, and in my view, in the coming year, we're going to do a lot more. I think by one year from today, we'll be able to stand here and say, other than the daily nonsense that goes on as people are sort of struggling to figure out what a new image is and things like that, I think we're going to have a really good comfort level that our images are all properly tagged and our fair use is not just what's legal for us, but actually a very narrow group of fair use images, which are necessary for us to use.
Stable versions (39:40)
Stable versions... This is an idea that's been discussed a lot in the German Wikipedia, and the German press has recently been covering the idea.  There's a commitment to roll out as soon as possible a stable versions experiment on the German Wikipedia.
Just to make clear, some people were concerned that if I said this in my talk, it would be viewed as a surprise announcement for the German community. I'm not intending to announce anything new that hasn't already been discussed in the German community. So I just wanted to make that clear. Sometimes I say things sort of the cuff, and then people freak out because they think I announce something.
In particular, I think the details of this should be widely discussed at this conference. I would love for this to be a really fantastic sort of theme of the evening party conversations, is to talk about, how can we get to stable versions?
One of the neat things about stable versions is that they will allow us to move further in the direction of openness. For a long time, we had to just protect articles whenever there was vandalism. There was a rush a vandalism, we had to protect the article. Well, that's a bad thing, so now we've moved to using semi-protection, which is better, because now lots of people can still edit it. But stable versions are even better than that, because it means that we can simultaneously achieve the two goals of allowing anyone to edit anything at any time, while at the same time showing the general public something that's not too frightening. That's a big part of the mission. We have to lock certain articles, because we can't afford to let the trolls make us look bad, but with stable versions, we can actually let the trolls do whatever they please, and we can just block them and revert them. While at the same time, we can show the public a version that's not been vandalized.
There are a thousand questions; we've been discussing it forever in the community. But I personally feel that if we don't get this done... you know, the Germans are going to do the experiment first... If we don't get this done and rolled out in English Wikipedia by the time I get up to do my keynote next year, we're really really making a big mistake. I think this is one of the most important things we can do to preserve the openness of Wikipedia, but also improve the quality, and the quality of the experience for the end user.
10 Things That Will Be Free (42:00)
Last year, as most of you know, I think Brad might have mentioned it earlier... I did "10 Things That Will Be Free". And I looked through my "10 things that will be free" last night, to see how many of those things I could update everybody on. And it was just a few of them, some of the others I haven't actually followed, they're not projects of ours, so I'm not really sure what's going on. At some point, I think it's going to be worth revisiting all ten, and see how they're doing. And it was actually kind of fun to see what I said last year.
Free the encyclopedia (42:25)
I said last year that in English and in German, if you have a broadband internet connection, our mission is done. I said of course the encyclopedia has a lot of work to do, but it is an encyclopedia, and it is free. And it's pretty good. And also French, Japanese, etc. are not far behind.
Now, obviously, Fench and Japanese now I would say, they've passed certain thresholds that I would say, this is a complete encyclopedia, and mission accomplished so to speak.
I shouldn't say "mission accomplished". (laughter) That phrase has been permanently ruined, right? It was a perfectly good bit of English, and now it's ruined. ... actually, maybe it's sort of accurate... mission accomplished, but there's still skirmishes every day. (laughter) The fight goes on.
So my update on this is pretty much more of the same. We do now have 100 languages with at least 1000 articles. But we're still not doing a whole lot for people in developing nations. The languages that we are good at, we're really good at. And the languages we're not good at, we're making progress, but the progress is unfortunately slow.
So my solution is that I propose that the Foundation seek funding to hire community coordinators and recruiters for important languages where we currently do poorly. It's a very simple concept here, which is, in the very early days of English Wikipedia, I was there, Larry Sanger was there, we were meeting and greeting, we were recruiting, we were emailing people to ask them to help us. In a lot of the smaller languages, of course, volunteers do pick this up and try to do it, but many times, they're talking to much smaller communities. It's really easy for me or for anybody in English to go online and start emailing lots and lots of lots of professors and graduate students and talking to smart people everywhere. It's a lot harder to do that in Swahili. So my view is that we should be looking to hire some people in order to simply do this, to simply be there as the advocate and the coach, to actually go out and look for contributors, to actually meet and greet the contributors, help them, train them, teach them, to actually reach out to volunteers.
I mean, I don't think I've ever met a Wikipedian who would say "no" if a language coordinator emailed them and said, actually, there's a professor who lives near you and he would like to edit Wikipedia, but he doesn't know how. Would you go by his office and give him a two-hour tutorial? Any Wikipedian would say yes to that immediately, I mean, that would be very exciting to go and meet someone who wants to work in... Bengali, a very important language where we do very poorly. It would be fantastic to start that kind of outreach program. So that's what I'm proposing that we do there.
Free the dictionary (45:25)
Last year I said, not as far along as Wikipedia, but picking up steam. And I said it needs software development for support.
The current status on that is that there's been some amazing work going on at WiktionaryZ. If you haven't had a chance to do so, you should go to WiktionaryZ and check it out. You should talk to Gerard Meijssen or Erik Moeller to give you a demo. Ask them to give you a demo of the software, of what they've been working on, and some of the ideas there. It is not yet functional; they need help. They've got people working on it. They've managed to get some funding to get some work accomplished there. It's really exciting stuff.
And I think it's going to start be functional later this year. I think before the end of the year, they're going to have something that people can actually dig in and start using. And that's going to be a really exciting thing, because until you've seen the software, I don't think you've really -- at least, maybe I'm speaking for myself -- I never really thought about what it would mean to build a multi-lingual dictionary correctly until I started to look at the software, talk to Gerard. Brace yourself when you talk to Gerard, because he knows a lot about it, and it's very complicated, and I got lost like ten times. I'm like "Gerard, I don't understand, explain it again?" But finally I got it when he showed me the demo. So I think it's really exciting what's going on in Wiktionary.
Free the curriculum (46:35)
Last year, I said this was a much bigger task than the encyclopedia. I talked about Wikibooks.
And so this year, of course, the status is Wikibooks has gotten a lot bigger, and lots of exciting things going on there.
But we now also have the launch of the Wikiversity Beta, and this is an area that the increasing ability that the Foundation is going to have to pursue grants is going to give this project a really bright future. I think there's a lot of interesting things that can go on here.
One of the proposals I have here is that we work with people like Taddy Blecher. I met Taddy Blecher last week, and Taddy is an amazing guy. I wish he could be here, I'm going to see if I can get him to come and give us a talk next year.
Basically what Taddy does, he runs a university in South Africa that is completely free for all the students.  It costs them nothing essentially to go there. And the students come from the very poorest shanty-towns in South Africa. And basically what they do, it's a program where they give them training, education. And they've been very very successful, they graduate about a thousand people per year, people go out and get jobs. One of the conditions that they have for people who come there -- and this is sort of a Habitat for Humanity kind of idea -- is that the people who benefit are actually required to go out and teach other people. And they have a whole program set up to do that.
Well, when I talk to Taddy, he said that one of the big costs that they have is learning materials. The learning materials they have are proprietary and expensive. And I feel like that's something that we could help with. I mean, okay, there's educational material that needs to be written, well, this is what we do, we write things. So I'm going to be talking to him about making a proposal to us, and just working with him, and saying... I said to him, I said Taddy, what can we do to help you, and he started to tell me lots and lots of things, and he's going to write all this down, and I'm going to share it with everybody.
With Wikiversity, I think this idea of "free the curriculum" is something that has really great prospects for the future.
Existing companies and organizations (49:25)
Question: [unintelligible] aware of your sensitivity to not having vendors, services, to create a little page for themselves. I think some of them have been [unintelligible], LexisNexis, for example. But some of them are very discreet... their name, one paragraph, and a clip of their home page. The reason I bring this up is because some of us who try and create this open source intelligence, and open source software, and open spectrum environment, it is underlain by very specific sources of information, some free, some not free... softare, some open, some not... and services, some free, some not... So I beg of you to consider allowing a one paragraph listing of sources, software, and services.
Jimbo Wales: Okay... It's not up to me, right, it's up to the editors.
I think that actually, what you're raising is a very similar question to the living biographies question. Biographies of living people is something we struggle with; biographies of existing companies and organizations is something else we struggle with. And we struggle with it for a lot of different reasons.
I think one of the big topics that we will have around the edges in this conference, and particularly for English Wikipedia, is I haven't met an experienced Wikipedian in a long time who didn't say that Articles for Deletion is a mess. It's very contrary to our traditions of kindness and loving and respect for others. Things get deleted that shouldn't, things get kept that shouldn't, the arguments that get made there are sort of strange and don't make any sense.
These problems are compounded in the case of organizations, companies, things like that. In general, I think there should be nothing wrong with having a one paragraph summary of... a stub about a company seems fine... if there's verifiable information. But, it's a complex social process, so it's not for me to sort of set my foot down and say we can have a one paragraph article about everything. But people should discuss these things...
Software changes for stable versions (52:30)
Question: For the stable versions that you talked about, there have been proposals already predating any kind of enchancements in the software, but were you thinking of actual changes to MediaWiki that would support it, and if so, could you elaborate on what we can expect?
Jimmy Wales: Umm, I think you can expect that you should talk to Brion... and you should talk to Kurt, and Elian, and anybody else who's here from German Wikipedia. The discussion that's gone in the german community... there's a pretty strong support there for the idea of stable versions. A proposal was put forward to do just the most simple basic possible thing, which is basically just a flag to say this is a stable version or not, that would affect how and when it's displayed. The details are still very much open. The last I heard from Brion, he was good to go to implement it, and then he didn't get answers in time, and things like that, or it would have been done by now. So I think the thing to do, is this is what I think people should really talk about here at this conference. What I would recommend we would do is the absolute simplest possible thing. I think one of the traditions in this community has always been to just dig in and start doing something that is simple but we know sort of works, right? Instead of waiting until we design the perfect system. And I think in the stable versions issue, we've been debating and discussing for a long time, but I've come to realize that the mistake that we've made, is the classic mistake we normally don't make, which is to wait until we think we've figured out everything a priori, and then do something. Instead, I think we should run small experiments, tests, see what works, what doesn't, and be prepared to be flexible and change, and not be too locked into stone about how things should work.
How's that for a complete non-answer? Ask Brion, that's a good answer.
Free culture's impact on society (54:50)
Question: As bandwidth connects hundreds of millions and billions of people around the world, there will be a lot of talent that's looking to be recognized, to gain reputation, and I was wondering if you see ways that WikiUniverisity or potentially similar projects, to build open source plug-and-play components hopefully, for peaceful and civil institutions to emerge from the grassroots up, eGovernment-like components that introduce transparency into economic and social relations. Do you see ways, systematically, that this reputation, or new talent pool, could earn visibility and reputation by adding to humanity's pool of resources of this kind.
Jimbo Wales: Um, definitely. One of the things I think we're going to see in the comings years, one of the things we are seeing, is that the cost of communications continues to drop very very quickly. Actually, one of the things I say is that the cost of communications is droping very very quickly in places where the cost of food is not dropping. So, all those people who are starving in Africa, they're going to call us to complain. [chuckles]
The idea here though is that as we see communication technologies penetrate more and more areas of the world, more and more people have access, I think there's a natural process that's going to happen, of people who were formerly not able to be recognized, because they didn't have the ability to communicate, to be able to communicate, and to be recognized.
I don't know what kind of mechanism... I mean I don't view that as something that is necessarily our fundamental task, although we obviously play a big role in that... If we can radically change the cost of what it takes to get knowledge, which means, not just the encyclopedia being free to everyone, but also all the learninig tools that a person needs in order to be able to use an encyclopedia, that we're going to play a big role in that.
But the actual practical things that are going to come out of this are, I think, things that we can't even predict. In many ways, it's like... the growth of the interstate system, which gave rise to all sorts of changes in society, and changes in the way people live their lives, that weren't directly about roads at all.
And I think the internet... the... set of pipes, I think I heard? [claps] This set of pipes, it's not a truck [audience shouts "tubes!"] Tubes! It's not a truck. This set of tubes has obviously had an impact on the industry that provides the infrastructure, but it's had a huge social impact beyond. And in the same way, I think that free culture does a lot of things directly in the education market, but it's going to have all kinds of implications beyond that are very interesting.
Thanks to the sponsors (58:00)
Before we close, I wanted to really single out and thank our sponsors.
In particular, Answers.com. Is someone here representing Answers.com? I got an email from Bob Rosenschein, their CEO. He's in Israel, and he's unfortunately delayed due to the difficulties there, but he should be here tommorow, and I want everybody to try to meet Bob and thank him. He's always been a big supporter of the Foundation.
Amazon.com. The Berkman Center of course is hosting us here. I think when they invited me to become a fellow of the Berkman Center, they had no idea I was going to bring all my friends. [laughter] But here we are. Nokia, and OSI, both have sponsored to be here, and have brought people from all over the world. wikiHow, Jack is probably here somewhere. And, oh, well I can't thank Wikia, because that's thanking myself, but Wikia is also a sponsor of the conference.
I hope I got everybody. In the closing ceremony, I'm going to really single out a lot of people who have really made this happen, but I wanted to just say a few words about the sponsors right now.