Wikipedia. How does it organize and work?

libre software, mswl, mswl-cases, mswl-comm, mswl-intro

Hi mates!!!

After the last talk about Wikipedia and the way how it manage itself, now is the turn of this other talk regarding also Wikipedia but this talk will be a perspective from outside.

This talk was given by Miguel Vidal a FLOSS researcher in Libresoft research group, a group of the Rey Juan Carlos University which investigates FLOSS.

So here we go!!!

Miguel Vidal is an active sysop and wikipedist since 2005, now his level or participation is less but he is a very important person inside Wikipedia Spanish version.

He has more than 11.500 editions and 158 new articles (December 2011).
He has contributed in 2500 different articles.

His nick in Wikipedia is Yonderboy.

What not is Wikipedia?

  • Is not a paper dictionary.
  • Is not an editor of original thoughts. So is not to write all your thoughts whatever they are.
  • Is not an opinion tribune.
  • Is not a link, image or file stock.
  • Is not a host for webpages, blogs or social network.
  • Is not an information collection without criteria.
  • Is not a crystal ball (so it doesn’t provide the future 😉 ).
  • Is not censored.
  • Is not an anarchy experiment.
  • Is not a democracy. Neither a bureaucracy.

All the articles written in the Wikipedia must to be compatibles with the license which uses Wikipedia (CC-BY-SA).

The goal of Wikipedia is to do a free encyclopedia.

Wikipedia is not Google, is not a web searcher, also Wikipedia doesn’t want to be it.

Is the self community of editors in Wikipedia the ones who control the content which is introduced in Wikipedia (to avoid Spam, false or illegal content, etc.)
Also the way how Wikipedia is created (the Wiki “framework”) helps the editors to control the new and edit content.

Wikipedia wants to reach a consensus, but if, for instance, there is a problem and the consensus is not reached then a votation has to resolve the conflict.

The goal is to report, not to educate.

It doesn’t have to include examples, exercises, data structures or similar things.

There is a project called Wikiversidad created by the Wikimedia Foundation which can be used as teaching experiment.

Wikipedia is a tertiary site of information don’t have to be used as a primary source of information.

Wikipedia is not the place to develop an original researching or innovative ideas.

Wikipedia is not an authorized source, it’s a good place to starts a researching, finding sources and to get a general view.

There are risks regarding reliability and partiality.

It has to be used with other sources to support the information you find in Wikipedia.

Is not advisable to use Wikipedia as authority source in serious articles, we have to go more than Wikipedia give us, so we have to use different fonts and not to use Wikipedia “as a law”.

A good example Miguel showed the class was two different things to write about GNU GPL license, the first cites to Wikipedia article about GNU GPL license while the second one cites directly the GNU GPL official text site. So in the first case they are using Wikipedia as primary source which is bad, and the second one are used Wikipedia as third source even the content could be the same.

There is unacceptable content for Wikipedia:

  • The ones which mention facts or events not countersigned by any source.
  • Introduces new methods or techniques not documented.
  • Introduces new theories, concepts or terms.

Is also not allowed to write about yourself (as we can see in Lucia Etxebarria case).

What Wikipedia is.

  • Wikipedia is a encyclopedia with free content.
  • Written in collaborative way by thousands of volunteer along the world based in wiki technology.
  • Between the different language editions they share content as images, sounds, videos, etc.
  • It available in different languages. Each edition is different from the others.
  • All of them share the same “five common pillars”.

The five pillars of Wikipedia

  • Wikipedia is an encyclopedia.
  • Wikipedia try to find and to give a neutral point of view.
  • Wikipedia content is under free (under a FLOSS license, CC-BY-SA and/or GFDL).
  • Wikipedia follows general rules of (n)etiquette.
  • Wikipedia doesn’t have firm rules (far from this five principles).

An interesting question made by Laura is about a way to collaborate in Wikipedia, if you have a good article in Wikipedia in English and is not in Wikipedia in Spanish you can translate it an write it in the Spanish Wikipedia. This is a really good way to collaborate with Wikipedia.

In English edition of Wikipedia is it allow the fair-use where you can use for instance a cover or a LP maybe under a not FLOSS compatible license, and in the other side in the Wikipedia in Spanish it is not allowed to use this kind of resources (just allow under FLOSS compatible licenses).
So this give us a view of different editions are different.

Wikipedia try to reach the consensus while one of the first encyclopedias (the French Encyplopedie) tries to has a criticism spirit.

There are common irrelevant cases:

  • Auto-promotion.
  • Biographies and news.
  • Sport ore music without relevance.
  • Websites just to have more followers.
  • etc.

When we talk about the free encyclopedia we don’t talk about the editorial process, just is about the use of a free license for its content.

Since June 2009 Wikipedia uses a free license CC-BY-SA 3.0 this was used after change it from GNU FDL.

The policy is necessary to give reliability avoid vandalism, etc.

  • Content (copyright, PVN, relevance, etc.)
  • Style conventions (structure, sections, brands, interwikis, categories, etc.).

To test we can find a place to doing it, never try to edit o to create an article just to play an check Wikipedia.

Wikipedia control is by its own volunteers (the community).

There are two mirrors for Wikipedia which are managed by Wikimedia Commons one in Netherlands and the other one in Korea apart of the main site which is located in San Francisco (USA).

Anyone can collaborate with Wikipedia editing articles, creating new ones, etc.

Reputation is not a common motivation for the collaborators, because is difficult to know who did the edition, who created the article, is difficult write thousands of articles, etc.
So the main motivation is to join in a community to create something interesting and something good for you and for the others. But is volunteer and this is really important for a community, you can join it and let it whenever you want.

Jimmy Wales was inspired by:

  • Hayek and the essay The Use of Knowledge in Society: the information is decentralized and each individual just has fragments.
  • Eric Raymond and his The Cathedral and Bazaar: advantages of the massive collaboration.
  • Game theories: reject to the altruism.


Has been really interesting how Miguel has explained the origin of Wikipedia, the main goals, its principles, etc.

Wikipedia is here to share share information between everybody, is free but not free because is an anarchy without policy is free because the content is under a FLOSS license, and this is something that the people need to know, I think everybody (as Lucia Etxebarria) think Wikipedia is free, anyone can write an article or edit, etc. but they don’t think about the content and this is maybe the most important thing, the content, because with a content under a FLOSS license everyone can use the content for its own benefit, work, etc.

Also is really incredible to see how a collaborative project with thousand of collaborators can create, in fact is known the case of Microsoft Encarta which was closed because Wikipedia was free, accessible, etc. and the main reason to be of Encarta was discarded.
In fact with this case, you can see how a collaborative project can create and changing the world.

You can find the talk here and the slides used are here.

And that’s all.

See u my friends!!


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