Tuesday, January 11, 2011

LWF11 - Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikipedia


We are seeing a world wide growth in the development of informal learning. Wikipedia's aim is to make all knowledge accessible to all {My paraphrase!}.

What is free access? Wikipedia is the largest encyclopaedia. It is free access - that is free as in free speech rather than free beer. When people contribute to Wikipedia, they are contributing an open source resource that is being re-mixed and reused.

What is "the sum" of all human knowledge? It is not YouTube - no funny cat videos. It is not a social network. So the scope of "the sum" is constrained by the type of project that it is.

They have about 50 employees and over 100,000 volunteers. This is a remarkable model that breaks many assumptions about how you can develop material and how much it costs to do it.

Global content comparisons. How does Wikipedia differ in different countries? Turns out the content of different versions are very similar but what people are interested in is very different. For example, in Japan, the biggest section is popular culture. The Germans are most interested in Geography. People are interested in local politics and local government which is an important ole for Wikipedia. At the time of the recent assassination attempt in the USA people have been reflecting on the violent nature of political debate there - Wikipedia strives to maintain a neutral position.

Who is writing Wikipedea? There are 408 million people a month writing entries. By the numbers (from a self-reported survey) 87% male ("Not really a good thing." -- Jimmy Wales) - part of the problem is that editing is still too difficult for non-geeks and geeks tend to be male. Average age is 26. Double the percentage of PhDs wite compared to general population.

The encyclopaedia was just the start. What is coming next? The library is much bigger than the encyclopaedia. Wikia aims to buid the library around the encyclopaedia. They are trying to be much more ambitious than Wikipedia by providing a bigger range of tools - to provide magazine type tools for example. At the moment, it is dominated by popular culture. He gave the example of Lost Wikia - a Wikia section all about Lost. It seems the writers of the show drew heavily on this and worked with the community to create the show. In a way, the show was a wiki - it was co-created.

Can we use this model in education - co-creating pupil learning?

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