|Intro. What was the original conception? Came about in 1999, first had idea of free encyclopedia written by thousands of volunteers in many languages. Came up with Nupedia, first effort, ultimately not successful. Top down project, complex review system, people had to apply and prove they were qualified. Not fun for volunteers, intimidating. In 2001, launch of Wikipedia, very open system; got more work done in two weeks than in previous two years. Why bottom up approach? Complaining: Top down approach was costing a lot of money, was very slow, Wales tried to write an article on option pricing theory and Robert Merton, based on his finance work; faced with writer's block. Thought open site would be forced to be locked down in a week or two, though wanted to try to keep it open. Still very open today.
|Work of Hayek influenced the work of Wikipedia. How did that come about and is it true? Read Hayek's "The Use of Knowledge in Society" as an undergraduate; deep impact on thinking. Game-theoretic, rule-making within society, how people interact; basic ideas, e.g., simply making a rule doesn't make anything happen, but just changes the costs and benefits. At the time ongoing debate in economics on the efficacy of a centrally planned economy versus the efficacy of a market economy. Hayek's point in the essay was that this is a question of information: is it more effective to communicate all the information inward to a central authority who will use that information to make a decision, or is it more efficient to leave the information where it is and push decision-making out to the endpoints? Breadmaking example: how much bread to make. Parallel question same for encyclopedia: is it better to gather all the world's information into a group of experts who then make editorial decisions, or to push the decision making out to the endpoints, the people who have the information? That analogy came before or after the fact? After the fact, more about understanding what works or doesn't work in Wikipedia and why. Proposals people make: Is this an effort to centralize something that can be left decentralized? Don't want a bottle-neck of failure.
|How much centralization in Wikipedia now? Anybody can edit it; what role is there for infrastructure, if any, to oversee the whole process? All community-driven; within the community people are elected to be administrations or to the arbitration committee, though in theory you could be elected to the arbitration committee without being an admin. Wales has a role in the process making decisions on when elections are held and final appointments to arbitration community, though traditionally done by following the vote. What role does the arbitration committee play? Deal with disputes that others have been unable to resolve. Last stop in that process. Hear cases in a similar way to the Supreme Court--no lower courts but there are other dispute resolution processes. Very aware of precedent: can set a precedent, can in their findings put forth a principle people will point to in the future so they don't have to go to the arbitration committee. How big is it? Total of 15, but all volunteers so if people are away, runs 9-11. In English Wikipedia about 1000 active administrators, 1622 total, some not particularly active. When started, knowledge of the Oxford English Dictionary? No, read The Professor and the Madman on the subject only several years later. Crowd-sourcing, thousands of individuals contributed to project. Government structures evolved over time; policy pages changed when a document is not actually being done, descriptive not prescriptive; evolved for historical reasons, not attempting a rationalization. Americans have harder time getting it than Britons--where customs and traditions are not always written down. Hayek: discover norms and customs to make laws and to rule, more British. What's been the biggest challenge? Fund-raising. Never had any serious problems but have to take it seriously.
|Out of pocket costs: how many people are using Wikipedia at a point in time? In any given month about 280 million people using the site, staff of only 25 people; everyone else, including Wales, is volunteer. Cost of bandwidth, servers, things like that. Bulk of cost technology related. Is pace of new material on site growing at an increasing or slowing pace? Slowing pace, at least in English. We've figured everything out! How many articles will it eventually have? Don't answer because eventually any answer will sound funny. 2.7 million entries in English, there is a limit, not going to have 35 entries on Colin Powell, will have one. In Wikipedia, haven't checked recently; don't have an article on every member of Parliament in India, about 600 people. Example of something we wish we had but we don't. Long way to go. Do the articles get longer? Yes, over time, to a certain point. Feeling in the community that they shouldn't become too long so that they are not unusable. If article becomes too long, break it out: China, broken with side articles like Human Rights in China. Are insiders, administrators, making those decisions? Yes, but nothing about that process that requires administrators to do. Anyone can create a new article and move some of those things over. What is cultural impact of Wikipedia? Daughter, age 16 wants to know if it can be used for high school history paper? What is acceptability of Wikipedia as a source and is it changing? Don't think it should be used as a cited source. In college, using The Britannica as a source is unacceptable, not the right role for a research project; instead should be going to original sources to write a college-level paper. Separate issue from the reliability of Wikipedia. Younger students, a 10-year old writing for class, we should just be glad the kid is writing and giving credit. Reliability: study done three years ago, out of date, comparing articles from Wikipedia to articles from Britannica. Sent the articles to experts, how many errors? About 3 errors per article in Britannica and about 4 errors per article in Wikipedia. Within striking distance. Surprised people that there were 3 errors per article in Britannica. Doing a good quality reference work is hard. Articles may have been cherry-picked for study. Focused on much more scientific topics where Wikipedia may have had strength. Not a lot of research into the quality of Wikipedia. Would find that Wikipedia's quality is pretty decent. Would love to see research helping understand better where Wikipedia is flawed, where are weaknesses, strengths. Astounding cultural impact, number 3 for most anything you type in; research warranted.
|With 280 million users, some people are getting some value. Whole issue of accuracy is wrong issue. Milton Friedman's entry on Wikipedia has an error, suggesting the phrase "Inflation is everywhere and always a monetary phenomenon" came from the Monetary History of the United States but that's probably not true. Came from a lecture he gave in India in 1963. But that kind of error is not really very important. Could get you a red mark on a research paper in high school but the deeper thing is that a written encyclopedia has only one expert's view, so if acolyte praise-worthy article, if antagonist, very insulting. Britannica on economists is limited to facts, very little discussion on why particular economists were important. Wikipedia dwarfs Britannica on that score. Neutrality; in general not going to see an article about an important figure that is extremely biased in one direction or the other. Bigger problem of bias of non-neutrality on less controversial subjects than on more controversial subjects. Friedman an important economist and controversial; therefore have a lot of people who are interested and who either like him or don't like him. Obscure topics end up being written by someone who either really hates somebody or are fans; more difficult time. Because there aren't enough eyeballs on each side? Not just numbers, but something like that. Obscure corners of Japanese anime written and read only by anime fans, so no critical eye. A few years ago problem since resolved: two minority religions in U.S.: Church of Scientologists, and Church of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. The Scientologists famously have been very litigious, lawsuits with people revealing their secrets. Entries on their articles tend to be very good, vetted by supporters and proponents. Mailing list post: reading about someone in the Mormon religion that said someone was a prophet. People writing those entries weren't intending to be biased, just wrote what they knew. Added clarifications like "according to the Book of Mormon, so and so is a prophet.
|Clay Shirky podcast: suggested that Wikipedia is the product of about 100 million hours of human effort; watching TV about 2000 Wikipedias a year. Any way to harness that time for other projects? Happening already in a number of ways. As people turn to the internet, they read and become participants. Expect to see a lot of this. Staggering amount, 200 billion hours of television a year. Nice to imagine if 1% of that time, 20 Wikipedia's worth, could be used productively. Wikipedia-like folks are all a bunch of geeks, but TV-watchers are on average less geeky; more likely to watch sports. A few hours here and there. Can successful crowd-source projects help open people's minds about bottom-up economics rather than top-down? Wikipedia and culture: We've thought of it as commercial culture, like pop music, movies, most television, which has produced fantastic things like the Beatles, as well as rubbish; and also as the fine arts, which we think of as something that has to be subsidized either by the government or wealthy patrons, like the opera. Wikipedia is very different: folk culture, ideas spread in grass roots decentralized way, can be harnessed, coordinated in a voluntary fashion. Not a market system but like a market.
|Hard to imagine a better ride, extraordinary achievement. What can you possibly do next? Emotional part. Astounding, hits the most when traveling. Dominican Republic, building technology centers in poorest areas; kids living in shacks use Wikipedia there every day, wanted pictures; really rewarding. Hope that internet will bring learning and knowledge. Now: Wikia--building the rest of the library. About 12,000 communities from political activism to humor to computer gaming; expand citizen participation model. Question and answer site experimentation, tweaking that. Cell phone carriers. Unlike other founders where there is a successor issue, there is no path to follow here. Self-sustaining. Still have role. Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, real person turned into a cartoon after death--Wales's destiny.