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vendredi 11 février 2011

Wikipedia Is Ten Years Old: A Human Adventure

Wikipedia turned 10 about a month ago. For me, the adventure is about five and a half years old. I started editing Wikipedia in October 2004. I remember how I found Wikipedia, it was through the Firefox Crew Picks at the time, a bundle of links to cool open source/free websites included in the Firefox browser, which was then in its infancy. I remember why I contributed the first time, I found that there was no article about Greta Garbo on the French Wikipedia, which I thought was like "wow, this is an encyclopedia and there's no article about Greta Garbo? That can't be a good encyclopedia." What I don't remember, however, is how I found the edit button. I just found it. I registered right away, and started translating the Greta Garbo article into French from the English article. I had never looked at Wikipedia before, and I don't remember it taking me more than 5 minutes to actually get into the editing part of thing. It was, somehow, rather natural.

From my first edit, everything went very fast. I started editing like crazy, spending nights improving articles, translating a lot, correcting spelling mistakes, fighting vandalism. Very quickly, I ended up in the wikipedia-fr chatroom on IRC, asking here and there about how to edit, how to organize, basically how to go about being part of this adventure. I had no clue about Wikipedia being free content, and frankly, I didn't care. It was fun, and most importantly, it was full of cool humans I could interact with from my little Parisian appartment.

A few weeks into Wikipedia, I got to talk to "Anthere" (Florence Devouard), who was on the board of the Wikimedia Foundation. She asked me what I did for a living, and when I answered "event manager", she said "great! we're looking to organize an international conference, and we have no clue where to start, you're the right person for that". So two weeks into Wikipedia, I was brought into the "organisation", introduced to Jimmy Wales, and asked to help with the organisation of the first Wikimania (the name came later). What was but a virtual adventure became pretty quickly a human adventure. I kept on meeting people, at Fosdem first, then at various international and local meetings. The translation of a virtual world into a real-life world was quite a natural thing to me, as I had been a long-time chatter in other channels and had met a bunch of people on the internet, who had quickly become real life friends through meetings across the globe.

The more I got involved into organizing Wikimania, the less I edited. Parallel to the organisation of Wikimania, I followed the founding of the French chapter, and got more and more involved in the organisational part of things. I also got to understand more about open source and free content. I was very active on Wikimedia Commons at its beginning, as I saw in it probably the greatest achievement of the Wikimedia world. I still think that Wikimedia Commons has a tremendous potential, that is held up by the very thing it is built on, namely the "wiki" part of it. But that is for another debate.

The first Wikimania came and went. I met even more people, and edited even less, but got involved more and more in the organisational development. The Foundation, chapters, all of these things that made the whole virtual part of free knowledge less virtual, were the things that kept me there. And are the things that keep me here today. To me, Wikipedia, and even further, Wikimedia, is primarily a human adventure. That so many people around the world share the same ideal of bringing knowledge to everyone, and work together on making it happen, is the most important thing about Wikimedia. I am dedicated to the mission, but most importantly, I am dedicated to the people, because without the people, there is no wiki, no knowledge and no collaboration. I might not be the greatest contributor in the projects, but I am so conceited as to hope that my work (as staff, as a professional and of course, as a volunteer) has helped the whole Wikimedia ideal come a tiny bit forward.

I am extremely grateful to have been part of this adventure for the past 5 and some years and hope to be part of it for years to come. And I want to thank everyone who is making this adventure possible, because without them, well, you know... Wikipedia and the Wikimedia projects would not have become the resource that they are today.

(This post was in the works, and got finished thanks to the prompt of Dieci anni di sapere (Ten Years of Knowledge) where it was translated into Italian.)

jeudi 2 juillet 2009

Wikibu, rating Wikipedia articles on statistical information

I just discovered this great tool called Wikibu. Wikibu is an initiative and research project form the Zentrum für Bildungsinformatik of the Pädagogischen Hochschule PHBern in Switzerland. It is only available for the German Wikipedia, but it looks promising.

The principle is quite simple (well, it might be technically difficult, but that's another story): its goal is to rate the potential quality of Wikipedia articles on a few objective markers, including: Wikibu, ratings for the Michael Jackson article

  • Number of visits
  • Number of authors having participated to the construction of the article
  • Number of backlinks within Wikipedia
  • Number of sources used in the article [1]

It also takes into account whether the article is being heavily worked on, and if the discussion page is being used, which allows to see if the topic is either "hot in the news" or maybe "heavily discussed" due to disagreements. It also takes into account the ratings given by the Wikipedia Community (good article - lesenswert- or a featured article - exzellenter Artikel). Wikibu also lists the different authors of the article, assessing their participation in writing it.

Finally, it lists the necessary links to the different pages of the article (discussion, history) and a link which prompts to work on the article, as an incentive to make it better.

Wikibu is meant to be a tool for education. It does not pretend to be able to rate the quality of the content, but rather aims at giving a few pointers as to what makes a potentially good article in Wikipedia. Based on statistical analysis, it provides a good starting point to evaluate the content and most important, gives a good overview of how an article is built, taking into account the most symptomatic pieces of the community process and making them clear for readers who might not know where to look for discussion or authors.

I am looking forward to seeing it extended to other wikipedias, I think it can help both the readers and the contributors to look at Wikipedia in a different way.

See below the ratings on the article "Dolphin" in the German Wikipedia.



[1] The illustration shows the ratings of the Michael Jackson article on the German Wikipedia, article which, at the time of this post, is highly "newsworthy".