On 12/21/10 1:12 PM, David Gerard wrote:
I can't speak for anyone but myself - but I think, and I've seen many
others who express an opinion think, that competition would be good
and monopoly as *the* encyclopedia is not intrinsically a good thing.
I can't agree more. To this end, Wikipedia should be encouraging forks,
encouraging other sites to copy articles into other wikis which in turn
could edit them into something consistent with the new site's
philosophies. Being the sole arbiter of NPOV can lead to very
un-neutral results. Where other sites have been copying and developing
articles in their own way, WP could even have interwiki links to these
The big win would be to make proper free content
licenses - preferably
public domain, CC-by, CC-by-sa, as they're the most common - the
*normal* way to distribute educational and academic materials.
I don't see licensing as a big barrier.
that would fulfill the Foundation mission statement -
"Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in
the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment."
- without us having to do every bit of it. And really, that mission
statement cannot be attained unless we make free content *normal and
expected*, and everyone else joins in.
The initiative must still come from those who would run those sites.
Perhaps Sanger could have succeeded if he had put more chips in his site
than on his shoulder. For many, seeing the kind of budget that the WMF
finds necessary can also be an intimidating factor. They could start
with a narrower topic-specific project, but all still need to come to
terms with the realities of financing their own site.
Furthermore, being *the* encyclopedia is mostly a
headache for us.
Wikipedia wasn't started with the aim of running a hugely popular
website, whose popularity has gone beyond merely "famous", beyond
merely "mainstream", to being part of the assumed background. We're an
institution now - part of the scenery. This has made every day for the
last eight years a very special "wtf" moment technically. It means we
can't run an encyclopedia out of Jimbo's spare change any more and
need to run fundraisers, to remind the world that this institution is
actually a rather small-to-medium-sized charity.
(I think reaching this state was predictable. I said a few years ago
that in ten years, the only encyclopedia would be Wikipedia or
something directly derived from Wikipedia. I think this is the case,
and I don't think it's necessarily a good thing.)
It's in the nature of institutions to seek uninhibited growth without
the need to say so. Business strives for a bigger market share as an
indicator of success. Since the total market share is always 100% that
can only come at the expense of others.
So I'd say, no - monopoly isn't a goal for us,
it's something that's
happened. We need to encourage everyone else to take on the goal of
our mission with their own educational, scientific, academic etc
materials. We can't change the world all on our own.
The next question is what to do about this. Deliberately crippling
Wikipedia would be silly, of course. But encouraging the propagation
of proper free content licences - which is somewhat more restrictive
than what our most excellent friends at Creative Commons do, though
they're an ideal organisation to work with on it - directly helps our
mission, for example.
One of the most vibrant things that still happens is the independent
development of other language Wikipedias without the need to have an
exact copy of what appears in a dominant language.
Media-wiki software is fully available to these other sites.
Instructions on "How to start your wiki" could also be helpful.