Fosdem '05: Jimmy Wales & Wikipedia

His was a really good talk, and had many good points.

1) Although he couldn't talk about what he was discussing with Google, I suspect that they'd like to link to them for definitions etc. at some point in the future.

2) He presented two explanations/perspectives on Wikipedia; firstly that it's the emergent behavior of hundreds of thousands of tiny actions, secondly that it's the coordinated actions of thoughtful users. He prefers the second, but IMHO it's both: the second is a result of the first.

3) Apparently, at a certain moment they face the prospect of the 'site growth outpacing the growth of the development and sysadmin team. This is another thing Google has under it's belt that nobody else has successfully replicated - their major advances in large-scale administration of clustered/distributed computer farms. Of course, this is a major strategic asset for them, so they probably won't apply this expertise to Wikimedia's server farm for free.

4) Kudos to Jimmy Wales for having the courage to stand up and say that love and respect is an essential part of what makes Wikipedia tick.

5) He made a really good point that things like the Slashdot moderation system are inherently mechanical in nature, and compensate a little for a lack of community. In contrast, wikis are totally freeform, and don't dole out reputation or XP, which means that all moderation/structure/regulation occurs as a result of community action.

This is important: wikis provide space in which communities grow, and their structures grow and evolve with them, and are inherently human in nature. Contrast that with the /. moderation system, and the games/controversies/pending rewrites that surround it.

What I find interesting is to see where else on the Internet we can move from mechanical regulation to simply providing a substrate in which real human communities/societies can grow, unfettered by mechanics imposed by a centralised authority. Something to sleep on.

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