[Wikipedia-l] Why Wikipedia needs linkbacks

lsanger at nupedia.com lsanger at nupedia.com
Tue Oct 30 01:54:49 UTC 2001

I am not going to pretend to have an edifying opinion about specific
*legal* issues.  I'll leave that to Jimbo and others, who have probably
studied this stuff a heck of a lot more than I have.  I want to get the
legal problems straightened out as soon as possible; the stress is very

What I do want to comment on is why having links back to Wikipedia, in
general, is such a good thing.  You'll forgive me for waxing eloquent on,
well, one of my favorite subjects (the future of Wikipedia).

(By the way, I agree entirely that a text link back to Wikipedia would be
just fine.  We, Jimbo and I, haven't said so on the "requirements" page,
but that's because we're waiting for this issue to get properly resolved
so we can figure out what we *should* put up there.)

First, I have a goal.  This is my *professional* goal in life.  I want to
is to help create--probably together with Nupedia--the biggest and
highest-quality encyclopedia in history (eventually, anyway).  And one,
moreover, that is free, both libre and gratis.  This is a hugely ambitious
goal, and I never thought it was going to be easy.  I'm enormously
gratified that we've gotten this far.  When I was given this job (it
really was a great gift), I certainly didn't have *that* ambition.  I
never thought I'd work professionally on an encyclopedia.  But I've warmed
up to the task and by golly, I'm going to do my best to see it through.

Eventually, if we *focus* and stick to the task, Wikipedia will become a
truly useful resource.  I think the two main keys to our success are focus
and time.  As long as we resist travelling in the direction of Everything2
or Usenet, with their acceptance of low quality, bias, and internecine
warfare, and as long as we are given enough time, Wikipedia will grow from
15,000 not-too-bad-articles to 150,000 wow-these-are-actually-good-
encyclopedia-articles.  And then who knows what will happen.  It could
become something truly amazing.  It's definitely worth the old college
try, anyway.

Links back to us from websites that use our content will help make this
possible success more probable, particularly if they are links to specific
articles.  I want to make sure that people who want to contribute to the
Wikipedia and Nupedia projects, who see Wikipedia and Nupedia content on
other websites, are given the option of returning to the original source
of the content and working on it.

Consider this: the people who return to the source of our articles from
another website will be twice as impressed with Wikipedia precisely
*because* someone thought the content was good enough to use and put on
their website.  Think, as soon as particularly large, relatively
"prestigious" websites start using our content, the credibility of
Wikipedia is going to be given a solid boost.  At that time, we will want
to be able to invite people who are impressed by our content to come back
and work on it.

Can you imagine what this project could be like in ten years, if we stay
on track?  It really *could* beat out Britannica in terms of quality.
And *everybody and his grandmother* will be wanting to use Wikipedia
content.  We would be denying ourselves, I imagine, potentially
*thousands* of very qualified new contributors, if we didn't require links
back to Wikipedia.  I want those people to work on Wikipedia!  I
internally do a little dance whenever I see a new highly-qualified person
writing lots of articles for Wikipedia.  It makes me think, "By golly,
this really is *working*!  This is friggin' great!"

Anyway, that's why I feel strongly about this issue.


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