[Wikipedia-l] Wikipedia is an encyclopedia

Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales jwales at wikia.com
Tue Mar 8 19:16:21 UTC 2005

Wikipedia is first and foremost an effort to create and distribute a
free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single
person on the planet in their own language.  Asking whether the
community comes before or after this goal is really asking the wrong
question: the entire purpose of the community is precisely this goal.

I don't know of any real case where there is a genuine strong tension
between these two things, either.  That is to say, the central core of
the community, the people who are really doing the work, are virtually
all quite passionate on this point: that we're creating something of
extremely high quality, not just goofing around with a game of online
community with no purpose.

The community does not come before our task, the community is
organized *around* our task.  The difference is simply that decisions
ought to always be made not on the grounds of social expediency or
popular majority, but in light of the requirements of the job we have
set for ourselves.

I do not endorse the view, a view held as far as I know only by a very
tiny minority, that Wikipedia is anti-elitist or anti-expert in any
way.  If anything, we are *extremely* elitist but anti-credentialist.
That is, we seek thoughtful intelligent people willing to do the very
hard work of getting it right, and we don't accept anything less than
that.  PhDs are valuable evidence of that, and attracting and
retraining academic specialists is a valid goal.

There may be some cases of PhDs who think that no one should edit
their expert articles, but there are many many more cases of
completely unqualified people who think the same thing.  It doesn't
matter: if someone can't work in a friendly helpful way in a social
context, that's a problem for them and for us, and we'll always have
to make some very complex judgments about what to do about it.

I'm 100% committed to a goal of "Britannica or better" quality for
Wikipedia, and all of our social rules should revolve around that.
Openness is indispensible for us, but it is our *radical* means to our
radical *ends*.


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