SAN DIEGO, Jan. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- The free encyclopedia project Wikipedia
( http://www.wikipedia.com ) celebrates its first anniversary today. In its
first year, the collaborative project has created over 20,000 articles,
organizers say. Wikipedia is a so-called WikiWiki, which means that anyone
with an Internet connection can visit the website and edit an article without
signing up. For such an open project, some may find it remarkable that many
of the articles are reasonably good and that the project has attracted a large
number of well-educated, articulate contributors.
Wikipedia is not only free to read, it is free to distribute. It is
released under the GNU Free Documentation License, which ensures that anyone
may reuse the entries on the site in any way they wish, including
commercially, as long as they too preserve that right in their own versions.
Many participants are attracted to the notion that they are contributing to a
completely free resource that can be used worldwide.
The founders of Wikipedia are Internet entrepreneur Jimmy Wales and
philosopher Larry Sanger. Wales has supplied the financial backing and other
support for the project, and Sanger, who earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy from
Ohio State in 2000, has led the project. Sanger and Wales attribute
Wikipedia's success so far to the presence of a strong core group of
contributors who together maintain community standards of quality and
neutrality. "Participants all keep a watchful eye over the 'Recent Changes'
page," Wales said. "They edit each others' work constantly. It seems
surprising that it works very well, but it does."
The project began life quietly in January 2001 as an offshoot of its more
academic sister project, Nupedia ( http://www.nupedia.com ), but has long
since overtaken it in terms of size. Wikipedia announced 10,000 articles last
September, and claims to have doubled that number in the past four months.
This growth, and the project dynamics that fuel it, have recently been the
subject of articles in The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, and
MIT's highly-respected Technology Review, as well as technology news websites
such as Slashdot and Kuro5hin.
At present, nearly 200 people are working on the project daily, from all
around the world; organizers estimate that the project has had well over a
thousand contributors. The success of such an open project, staffed by such a
large and diverse body of writers, is a puzzle: how can so many people with so
many different backgrounds collaborate with such little oversight? Project
organizers say that it is partly because the participants can edit each
others' contributions easily, and partly because the project has a strong
"nonbias" policy; this keeps interaction relatively polite and productive.
Sanger explains: "If contributors took controversial stands, it would be
virtually impossible for people of many different viewpoints to collaborate.
Because of the neutrality policy, we have partisans working together on the
same articles. It's quite remarkable."
What motivates a scholar to participate in such a wide-open project? For
Axel Boldt, a mathematics professor at Metropolitan State University in
St. Paul, Minnesota, the motivation to contribute dozens of mathematics
articles is "the same that motivates me to work in academia: it's fun to
teach, it's fun to learn, it's fun to interact with intelligent people."
Sanger has been invited to speak about Wikipedia at the
Stanford University Computer Systems Laboratory colloquium on January 16; the
press is invited to attend or to view the talk via the Internet. Please see
http://www.stanford.edu/class/ee380/ for details.
Wikipedia may be found on the web at http://www.wikipedia.com .
Interview contacts: Larry Sanger, +1-702-631-7301
(except Jan. 16, and until Jan. 20), firstname.lastname@example.org, or Jimmy Wales,
+1-619-296-1732, email@example.com, both of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia ( http://www.wikipedia.com ), 3585 Hancock St., Suite A,
San Diego, CA 92110, Tel. 619-296-1732, Fax 619-296-1754.
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