Google Blogoscoped

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mathias, Wikipedia Admin

Mathias Schindler is a 25 year old university student in Frankfurt, Main, Germany. He was among the people who started the Wikimedia Germany association, where he’s currently board member. Wikipedia is often confronted with accusations of all kind – activist Seth Finkelstein called it “a poorly-run bureaucracy where there’s not a lot of accountability” – so I wanted to get an actual & factual inside view.

What was your first encounter with Wikipedia, and how and why did you get involved more actively?

A friend of mine told me about Wikipedia in the summer of 2003. As a journalist, he had written an article about it. At that time, the German language Wikipedia had about 25.000 articles in different stages of usefulness. My first reaction was something like “holy shit, why on earth would anything like a wiki based encyclopedia work?”. Actually, it was pretty easy that time to prove that a reference work that could be edited by anyone was unable to provide consistent high quality content. I think I clicked on a few articles, found a couple of mistakes and took the time to correct one or two.

It took me about half a year until I came back to Wikipedia which had grown considerably in that time. To my surprise, the content not only grew in size but also in quality. It began to fascinate me and one thing led to another. The amount of edits was much smaller then, it was possible for a single person to watch all the recent changes, watch the diffs and actually discuss them in the IRC channel. A friend of mine who was an admin at that time eventually got tired of killing the few nonsense-articles I had pointed out to him and suggested that I should do it myself – become an admin.

What does Wikimedia Germany do, and what’s the difference (or connection) to the US Wikimedia foundation?

Wikimedia Germany, a registered association under German civil law, has been recognized as pursuing charitable purposes only by the German tax authority. It was founded in summer 2004 in Berlin at a meetup of Wikipedians during the Wizards of OS conference. Its charter (which contains a lovely quote from Denis Diderot) states as its primary goal to promote the creation, collection and distribution of freely licensed content in order to enable access to knowledge and education. This includes raising awareness of social and philosophical questions associated with the latter. We are focusing on using wikis as a tool to achieve this, including the projects of the Wikimedia Foundation.

In practice, Wikimedia Deutschland, together with members of the Wikipedia community, attends exhibitions and fairs and organizes conferences and workshops in schools. Recently the most expensive project was to buy a bunch of servers for the data center in Amsterdam to speed up access to Wikipedia for people in and around Europe.

The main difference to the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), located in Florida is: Wikimedia Foundation runs Wikipedia and the other projects, Wikimedia Deutschland doesn’t. Other than that, WMF is working on a global scale. In practice, the level of collaboration is quite high, though. In 2005, the Wikimedia Foundation held its first conference, called “Wikimania”, in Frankfurt, Germany. The second one was in Boston, MA.. There might be a “Wikimedia US” at some day in the future, acting as a local chapter there.

Some of our work is also dedicated to PR stuff and answering incoming emails (or at least forwarding it to the person concerned).

What power do you hold as Wikipedia admin – what can you do, what can’t you do?

On a technical level: A logged in user can write new articles, edit the existing ones or move articles from one place to another. Same applies to talk pages, categories and so on.

On a social level: A logged in user can improve content, review it, discuss it on the associated talk page, propose articles that do not fulfill the criterion of notability for deletion and participate in the discussion about that. And all the other stuff about content.

Admins usually come into play after a consensus has been found or rare work has to be done that goes beyond the tasks mentioned about. Deleting pages is one of them. In most cases, this isn’t really about content itself, rather about how to organize it. If you move an article from A to B, the MediaWiki software creates another page “A” that becomes a redirect to “B”. But what if you would like to move C to A? In that case, MediaWiki would truthfully answer that there is already an article. In ancient times, it took an admin to delete the redirect on A to allow moving C to A. Remember how many times the thing that became Firefox was renamed?

Other than that, admins are technically allowed to block users and IP addresses. That procedure is regulated by rules. People who simply write 100 times “GooHoo sux!!!111” at Angela Merkel might get a short notice on their talk page, asking them not to do that again. It also might result in an immediate block for one or two hours. There are more complex issues that involve lengthly discussions that are open to anyone to participate. Articles for Deletion and permanent blocks of registered users are standard jobs. Everything an admin does is logged in public and can be reviewed by others. It can also be reverted by other admins – at least from a technical perspective. “Wheel warring” is strongly discouraged.

How many Wikipedia admins are there? Is there any age or other restriction, by the way?

enWP has currently 1089 admins.
deWP has currently 253 admins.

To my knowledge, none of the languages has other restrictions apart from approval.

Is your administration restricted to the German-language Wikipedia?

Short notice: There is a rather important difference between Wikimedia Germany and the German Wikipedia: Wikimedia Germany is organized on a national level, Wikipedia and its sister projects are organized by language. In some cases these are the same, but in general, a language is spoken in more than one country and some countries have more than one language that is spoken. Being active in Wikimedia is separate from being an admin in one or more Wikipedias.

Admin rights are granted for one wiki each, by the community of that wiki. So, yes, it is restricted to the German language Wikipedia. If I were a contributor to the Russian language Wikipedia, it would be fine to apply for that job there, too and it would be up to the ruwiki community to approve or deny it.

Can you give us some practical examples of admin activity throughout the day? I suppose you get a lot of requests to do this or that, for starters...

There are a couple of jobs that can be done by anyone, such as “Recent Changes Patrol”. In general, this is something you might expect an admin to do once in a while. There are now a few tools to facilitate this job. We run an IRC server that outputs a list of article changes in real time along with hyperlinks to the diff view of that edit. There are some projects who try to distribute the workload while avoiding two people to do the same work twice.

One important job, not only for admins, too is answering incoming emails. We are using a tool called “OTRS”, an open source ticket system. The requests range from questions (“can you do my homework, please”) to general inquiries about Wikipedia/Wikimedia itself.

One (sometimes exhausting) job is maintaining the “Articles for Deletion” pages.

Do admins ever get “fired” (so that they’re not admins anymore)?

The German language Wikipedia has a procedure that Californians would recognize as “re-call”. There is a procedure to request another approval for a particular admin. And it is fine for admins to seek approval by their own initiative.

Whenever Wikipedia exerts control, people say it’s losing its democratic roots – yet whenever Wikipedia allows an error to pass through unnoticed, (other) people argue it’s turning towards anarchy. What’s your take on this?

“Democracy, anarchy, feudalism, and of course fascism are some of the attributes that are used to explain the social structure in Wikipedia.”

Democracy, anarchy, feudalism, (I think someone suggested Maoism, too) and of course fascism (as in “how does he dare to have a different opinion than me?”) are some of the attributes that are used to explain the social structure in Wikipedia. Dewiki has its own page dedicated to discuss this. All these concepts usually apply to a physical world, have a long tradition and usually several implementations with different results. Applying these concepts to a system on Wikipedia will fail, IMHO. Or: You will be able to spot aspects of all of these concepts in Wikipedia, at least somewhere, depending on how long you search and who you ask.

On a content level, applying the democratic concept will fail; you simply can’t negotiate on truth, unless you are Stephen Colbert. You can, however, find a consensus about how to organize content, for example how to format a bibliographic note. It does make sense to encourage people to cite sources in a structured way so others can understand them more easily.

In a wiki that gets its contributions from volunteers, the person who actually does the job has by nature more influence in how to do a certain job. A person who has a reputation as a hard working librarian might also use his experience in suggesting guidelines on how to transcribe literature in non-Latin characters in a consistent way (to visualize the problem, move your mouse to the left sidebar on this page and watch the different urls show different ways to transcribe this politician’s name).

You asked me for my take on this, and I will give you the lazy answer that it should always be the right method for the right problem. Maybe I can cover up this laziness in referring to our meta-rule: Ignore all rules. It does not say: “Break all rules” but rather says that a rule should not be a reason for not doing the job at all. Applied to the task mentioned above: If you have a really good book which should be referenced in an article and you simply don’t know how to transcribe the title and form a proper bibliographic tag, it would be better to insert the text the way you can do it than not doing it at all. You can ask another Wikipedian to fix this tag for you or you might rely on the unproven assumption that this tag will be fixed anyway by someone someday. Our job is not to please anyone by becoming the poster child for a grassroots democracy 2.0 on the internet, but to write a high quality encyclopedia. If a democratic way proves to be the best approach to this, it’s fine.

Do you accept some of the criticism voiced against the Wikipedia project? Specifically which things still need improvement, in your opinion?

I accept all of the criticism voiced against the project and I strongly would like to encourage anyone to come up with more criticism. We need this input, we need a reality check once in a while. And most of us love to debate, too. Seriously, most of the criticism helps Wikipedia one way or another. The simplest example is to point out mistakes in our content. You are always invited to fix the mistake yourself but telling us (in your blog, via email, on the talk page, in your USA Today editorial) where we suck is fine, too. Fixing larger criticism might take more time – from anyone involved in this.

Wikipedia is currently in its sixth year (celebrating its anniversary on January 15th). Just because there is some content already online (~2000 million words in more than 200 languages, according to this page) does not mean that we’re done yet. Comparing Wikipedia to other encyclopedic projects, one might notice a certain heterogeneity in the text, even in single articles. Of course, we deal with problems that haven’t surfaced at Britannica or Brockhaus that much for various reasons. If everything goes well, this year we will see an experiment within the German language Wikipedia that involves flagging versions of Wikipedia articles as being non-vandalized. The idea is to present a trade off between up-to-dateness and another layer of protection. In every case I am aware of, showing a large erect penis next to the photo of the current US President does not provide any encyclopedic value. Flagging versions for lacking vandalism might increase the chance of seeing the actual photo of GWB in his article on Wikipedia from very high to very very high.

Part of dealing with criticism is about listening. Wikipedia has quite a lot of articles with references to what other people have said.

Wikipedia has certain rules, e.g. that articles ought to be neutral, and that everything must be proven by outside sources (so original research within the Wikipedia framework is not allowed). What if I, as Wikipedia user, disagree with some of these rules and want to change them?

There are a couple of “pillars” within Wikipedia that are basically non-negotiable:

There will always be room for changes of interpretation. One famous example is how to handle the “fair use” concept that does exist in some parts of the world. If someone totally disagrees with some rule mentioned above, such as the license part, its fine. That’s his personal choice to have an opinion. The problem would start when disagreement turns into action, for example by inserting content that is still under copyright by a third party that did not grant permission to release it under the GFDL. This would be a copyright violation, it would also endanger Wikipedia. This is where RightToLeave and RightToFork come into play.

Wikipedia’s “Five Pillars.”

How do I become Wikipedia admin – or a real “Wikipedian"?

“People are Wikipedians by self-declaration or by reputation. There is no authority to award you with a Wikipedian membership card.”

People are Wikipedians by self-declaration or by reputation. There is no authority to award you with a Wikipedian membership card. Editing in Wikipedia will make you a Wikipedian, especially if not all of your edits get reverted within 15 seconds :).

Different editions of Wikipedia have different rules and procedures in how to become Wikipedia admin. Becoming an Administrator will answer your question for the English language Wikipedia, any application will go to Requests for Adminship.

Every Wikipedia article has a “backyard” discussion tab where people argue about what to include in the actual article, which parts to clarify, what to delete and so on. Does that mean if I want my edits to stay, I need to spend a lot of time participating in these background discussions?

If you make edits that are not self explaining (fixing typos), you are expected to use the summary line in the edit form for a short description of what you did. If the edit is verbose or in a part of text that has been controversial in the past, it is helpful to give a slightly verbose explanation on the talk page. If you intend to completely rewrite an article that has been there for years, you are stronly invited to announce it on the talk page and to invite comments. There is no fixed ruleset when to do what, use common sense. The more transparent you act, the easier it is for others to see what you did. In highly controversial articles, the talk page tends to become larger than the article itself. This is not the standard case.

Can you give us some beginner tips on how to better edit articles?

There are lots and lots of tutorials and policies and guidelines, best-practice examples and personal statements on how to write and improve articles. Wikimedia Germany has released a leaflet of some ten pages [PDF] that contains a short introduction on how to write articles and where to find help. Its written in German and mentions the German language Wikipedia pages. However, the leaflet is released under CC-BY-SA, we would love to see it being adapted into other languages.

In general, reading featured articles might be a very relaxing way in getting used to the kind of content that is considered the best we can offer right now. Please note that this is a moving target. I would love to hear from your experiences in editing Wikipedia and your suggestions to make the first steps less frustrating (which can be the case) and more rewarding (which should be the case).

What’s the best way to start a new page on Wikipedia, I mean, something which isn’t yet linked from another Wikipedia page?

Well, if we are talking about the English, German, Japanese, French and Polish language Wikipedia (and about the other large editions to a slightly lesser extend), chances are high that a proper lemma is already linked from another article. Of course, there are situations in which a fully legitimate article is currently neither linked nor mentioned in the existing ones.

You can check that via Special:Whatlinkshere (e.g. Special:Whatlinkshere/John_Battelle), even if the page does not exist yet as of today (e.g. Special:Whatlinkshere/Britt_Hildeng).

Before writing an article about a subject which isn’t linked at all or at least mentioned (use the full text search) in the other articles, you should check for similar names for the same concept. If it is a person, you might want to look for different naming conventions, such as “Eric Schmidt” vs. “Eric Emerson Schmidt” vs “Eric E. Schmidt”.

While there are differences between the Wikipedia editions, one general advise that fits everywhere is that you should check for existing articles in your field of expertise which are in need for editing. Here is a real life example: There is no article on Google CSE on Wikipedia, yet. However, the article about Google Co-op could be much better. It would be my recommendation to improve the existing article rather than starting a new one. The information about CSE could be integrated into the Co-op article for the time being.

Let’s say Susan is the webmaster of, a totally great new resource on horses. Is it OK for her to add a link from Wikipedia’s page on horses to She wouldn’t do this out of shameless self-promotion, but because she actually believes her site makes a great addition to the Wikipedia page...

Susan’s new site might be the greatest resource on horses that has ever been on the planet. And even if it’s not, Susan can still be proud of what she did to bring content to the web. To avoid a conflict of interest situation and leaving a bad taste, I would suggest Susan to open up a new topic in the [[Talk:Horse]] page to suggest that URL and ask whether other people consider this to be a useful resource. It could be that her site would make a better resource on a different site, such as [[Equestrianism]] or [[Dressage]].

What are some of Wikipedia’s coolest least known features?

Every autumn, the city of Frankfurt, Germany hosts one of the largest book fairs in the world (depending on who you ask and how you count). And from what I gathered there, almost every feature is virtually unknown. Does our UI really suck that much?

The coolest and apparently virtually unknown feature is the history. You (as in: everyone with a browser) can access (to be fair: almost) every version of every article that is in Wikipedia. You can see who contributed what to this article. You can watch differences with a sometimes-working highlighting tool that marks only the parts that have changed. Try that with and

People use Wikipedia as an encyclopedia which involves citing it for various reasons. Wikipedians are maintaining a list of citations in court cases, for example. I wish that more people knew about the citation feature within MediaWiki. If someone really wants to cite Wikipedia, he should have a look at these two. It really makes your life easier.

One feature I would love to see used more often is the Wikipedia API. Google has given up their SOAP interface, so maybe there are developers outside who need something for compensation this loss. Please tell us how you used the API.

Have you met Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, the Wikipedia founder?

Yes, in person, several times. In 2004, he did a tour, aka holiday, across Europe and I’ve met him a few times since then.

What do you think of Larry Sanger’s claim to be a Wikipedia co-founder, and what do you think of Larry’s new project, Citizendium?

Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan. When I joined Wikipedia, Larry had left the project long ago and, for language reasons, he had never edited in dewiki that much (I think he made an early edit at “”, which was the url at that time, to ask if another host name would fit better). Two weeks ago, Larry started a page on his web site to collect all the pieces of history that show that he was called the co-founder then.

Citizendium was announced at the Wizards of OS conference in Berlin in 2006, I was sitting in the audience. If CZ succeeds, it will produce a large amount of high-quality encyclopedic content under a free license, and Wikipedia is free to use that content the same way Citizendium intends to use the Wikipedia content. Being subscribed to some of the mailing lists of Citizendium, I haven’t seen enough to form an opinion on that project yet. Hopefully the will become publicly accessible soon so we can see how it works.

Whenever I ponder creating a wiki on my server (e.g. a Google-specific wiki), I come to the same conclusion: why bother, I’d be repeating the effort of, duplicating articles, duplicating maintenance work. What do you think is the incentive for people to create their own wikis (outside of intranets, that is)?

Wikipedia has a very limited scope, it is “just” an encyclopedia. Next time you are in a library, have a look at the space encyclopedias take there compared to other books. This applies to wikis as well. A Google-specific wiki could cover things that that are far outside what Wikimedia does with Wikipedia, Wikinews, Wikimedia Commons, Wikisource and so on. The most striking example is anything that comes close to a HowTo. Wikipedia will describe PageRank, it will describe the term SEO but it won’t give you a list of how to conquer the top of the SERPs. There are of course overlapping topics that would both fit in the Wikipedia and a Google-specific wiki but they would be the minority. 55 ways to have fun with Google could fit into a wiki, it could result in annotations and another 55 ways to have fun with Google.

There have been Wikis before Wikipedia and we did not cannibalize them. One project I really like is, which focuses on the large topic of law. Some parts could fit into Wikipedia, but the overall content is far beyond what we do (notes to lectures at universities). These days, some companies turn their complete Web site into Wikis, such as

There might be another incentive soon to start up wikis: Money. is a project by Wikia Inc., a company founded by Jimmy Wales. They do the hosting, you do the content, the revenue goes to you. I don’t even dare to ask where the business model is but it could be fun nonetheless.

There has been much discussion on the recent decision to nofollow outgoing links of English Wikipedia. What’s your opinion on this?

The English language Wikipedia is now having the same nofollow tag as all the other editions. In a perfect world, all external links in Wikipedia are among the best the Web has to offer for any given subject. However, we cannot guarantee this right now. In 2006, we asked Google for clarification whether our usage of this tag was the intended way. The response was positive. A similar response came from Matt Cutts last week when nofollow was re-introduced to the en.wp.

There is consensus that setting this flag for every link is not the best option. However, having consensus is not enough, we need code. We need code for MediaWiki that implements a better method, such as “reverse link rot” (“Remove flag after X edits, X days, X different authors” and so on..).

In my opinion and my opinion only (which applies to this whole interview), the debate did not deal with “The Real Issue” (tm). We are not DMOZ, external links are there to back up figures or to provide living, breathing people an additional service. This service has not been altered in any way, people can still click at the link, good sites linked from Wikipedia will still get visitors and they deserve it.

So, if you want to have good sites see linked again without the nofollow flag, please help us to find a solution that scales. The MediaWiki developers prefer code over a petition :)

Wikipedia has a special editing syntax which can get pretty advanced. Did Wikipedians ever ponder to provide a dynamic “WYSIWYG” rich-text editor to make life easier for not-so-regulars?

“WYSIWYG editors might have a tendency in encouraging people to ‘make pages look nice.’ Of course, this usually applies only to their set of browser, screen resolution, output medium.”

“Pretty advanced” is a nice way of saying that reading this stuff is sometimes a nightmare. The demand for WYSIWYG is there and there is a bunch of reasons to have or reject it. WYSIWYG editors might have a tendency in encouraging people to “make pages look nice.” Of course, this usually applies only to their set of browser, screen resolution, output medium. A WYSIWYG editor would have to take that into account. On the other hand, having seen collaboration work in Writ^wGoogle Docs, this might be a really important feature to us if we are interested in reaching out to people whose second language is not geek. There is a strange hack in the wilderness to include FCKeditor into MediaWiki.

Does Wikipedia ever need to tackle security issues? Can you give us examples of the past?

Security is something the MediaWiki developers take care of. After all, it is a PHP application via HTTP, so everything you learned about XSS and other techniques could happen to us if no one took care of. One example did not directly involve Wikipedia but it was reported to us and one of the developers fixed it.

What’s an “edit war"? Do you have some examples from Wikipedia’s past?

Edit wars describe a sequence of edits on one or more pages that are moving in circles. Someone makes an edit, someone else reverts it and so forth. They are strongly discouraged. There are some famous/infamous edit wars that are listed at Lamest Edit Wars.

Do Wikipedia admins ever get into heated arguments with each other? And who finally decides on an outcome if the argument can’t resolve an issue?

This is nothing restricted to admins. Yes, there are arguments and if they happen on and/or involve Wikipedia, we try to mediate. There will always be people who don’t fit to each other and in most cases, there is enough room for everyone. Arguments per se are not the problem. If civility is going absent during a debate, other people, including admins might join and suggest to calm down.

Google sends loads of traffic to Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s articles seem to be in the top 5 for an almost endless number of shorter search queries – anything from stuff like “nixon” to “soccer”. Do you know how much traffic Wikipedia gets overall, and how much they get from Google?

We do not have those kind of statistics right now as we are lacking servers for that job and also the software needed to pick up the requests in a smart way. What we do have is the overall number of requests per second for the last day and statistics for some other time frames. This is not page impressions, but requests on objects, including images and so on. Same goes for the incoming and outgoing traffic.

Leon Weber has written a tool to extrapolate the number of page impressions in a tool called “WikiCharts”.

You can see the most frequently accessed Wikipedia pages for some projects. This is still in experimental stage, do not bet your savings on these numbers.

Google loves Wikipedia.

Why do you think so many people like to link to Wikipedia articles?

Well, you should ask the people who link to Wikipedia :). IMHO, using the <a>-tag in general is a way of providing a service to the people who read your text. You can use it to back up statements you made, to provide alternative explanations or other points of view. In some cases, I link to Wikipedia to prevent redundancies. It’s pointless to repeat what has been written somewhere else much better than I ever could. It can be a political statement or it can be required by the license if you took a significant amount of text from

Is there any form of partnership between Google and Wikipedia? Does Google Inc actively support Wikipedia?

“There is collaboration between Googlers and Wikipedians on various topics”

There is a small financial relationship between Google and Wikipedia: someone donated 187 shares of Google to the Wikimedia Foundation and we kept them. So, basically, we own Google (a little part of it). (More about this is in the Financial Statements of the Foundation [PDF].)

There is collaboration between Googlers and Wikipedians on various topics. One project is Google Sitemaps (now part of the Google Webmaster Tools). Crawling a couple of million pages that tend to get updated relatively often is something both important and critical to Google and us. We want new pages (more than 500 new articles in dewiki alone each day) to get indexed as quickly as possible. And we don’t want our servers to die under the load of a googlebot that has has no clue where to search for new or updated content. Since 2005, MediaWiki can produce the Sitemaps XML files on its own to make that part easier. My research about this (not yet finished, will be published, I promise) indicates that a large proportion of new pages (roughly 40 - 50%) are shown in the index within 100 hours of their creation.

The next thing where you can spot collaboration is Google Co-op, which is a fascinating tool to play and work with. There is an account on Google Co-op that is using Wikipedia content in certain applications. The most impressive one right now is calculating the distance between two cities based on the geo-coordinates that are stored in Wikipedia articles. You can expect to see more of that in the future, and of course we would like to get input about how to improve this.

Google is scanning Wikipedia templates for fact extraction. Try searching on the English/US Google for HD DVD capacity. The answer above the actual search results is coming from the template that is included in the enwiki article about the HD DVD.

A short while ago, Google started including references to Wikipedia in their Google Earth application. You were among the people to blog about this.

Contrary to allegations from our beloved competitors, there is no cabal between Wikipedia and Google to take over the encyclopedic market by upranking Wikipedia and axing other reference works in the search results. However, the greatest support that Google has given since Wikipedia was founded is bringing new people to Wikipedia which leads to a larger participation which leads to more and better content which leads to higher rankings on SERPs and so on. We did not have the money for a large advertising campaign, nor do we now. Free access to the net is something that is very important to us. If companies like Google are fighting to keep net neutrality (whatever reasons they might have), this is helping us.

Wikipedia is donation-financed, right? How does that work out? And what are reasons for not including ads – like Google AdSense – on Wikipedia?

Wikipedia runs on servers owned by the Wikimedia Foundation. We more or less rely completely on donations. A few weeks ago, the Foundation released its financial results [PDF] from 2004, 2005 and 2006.

You might have noticed that there is currently a fund raising drive going on which (as of today) resulted in about one million US Dollar of donations to the Foundation. This will keep Wikipedia running and I am very grateful to every donor.

According to What We Need Money For, we need about 75.000 $US per month.

Advertisements are a source of lengthly debates, arguments and discussions at Wikimedia in general. The current policy is “we will try to stay ad-free as long as there are alternatives. Advertisements would have to be acknowledged by the community and it would take extra care how to keep stay neutral. Personally, I would love to see Wikipedia free from ads, supported by donations in a way to help us plan for a longer period than just a few months. We are currently still in a growth phase and I am curious when there will be an end to this large growth in terms of page requests and so on.

Everybody can take Wikipedia content and republish it on their own site (including their own commercial site), right? What are some of the restrictions in regards to what you can do with Wikipedia material – and what should people consider when you republish it?

Content on Wikipedia is licensed under the GFDL, the GNU Free Documentation License. The GFDL is to content what the GPL is to software. It gives everyone the right to copy, alter and distribute the content, under certain restrictions (such as attribution required and share-alike clauses). The license itself is IMHO a total mess, it was never designed for an encyclopedia with 1.5m articles, 100m revisions and thousands of authors. So, in theory and practice, you can copy Wikipedia content and put it on your site which is what other people did and stil do.

If you want to redistribute the content, you should read the license, check additional resources and, if in doubt, ask a lawyer for legal advise. There are volunteers at Wikipedia who monitor the web for mirrors. If they feel that the site is not using the content in a compliant way, they will start sending friendly letters to you. These are not nastygrams like the ones from the Music And Film Industry Association of America but simply reminders and suggestions to use the content in a proper way.

Wikipedia was meant to be used by other people. If you want to do something with the content: Great! Let us know. Be creative, try to do something innovative and new. And please listen to advise.

Mathias, what do you when you don’t hit the “edit” button on Wikipedia, or in fact, if you don’t do anything related to Wikipedia at all?

I started to enjoy the wonderful world of cooking a while ago, but I am still struggling in how to make basic meals. Totally unrelated to that, it’s on my “2007 Intention list” to lose about 5 kg (~11lb). I am collecting old encyclopedias, y’know, the ones on dead trees (collect them while they still exist).

... what kind of DVD will you be watching on a rainy Saturday afternoon?

The last DVD was Heaven.

... what’s the last good book you read?

Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are, by Frans de Waal.

... what are some of your favorite websites out there? Extra points if you can list obscure sites...

Open answer: where do you see Wikipedia going, in 10, 20 years? And where do you see the web going in 20 or so years?

“Do we really need to store 80 times in different languages that Ankara is a city in Turkey?”

Ouch, that really is an open answer. Right now, most of us won’t be able to tell the future of Wikipedia for the next three years. So rather than giving a precise road map of the development, I will start with a few talking points. Once you’ve set up your wiki, feel free to copy this list to it and let your audience edit this :)


Blog  |  Forum     more >> Archive | Feed | Google's blogs | About


This site unofficially covers Google™ and more with some rights reserved. Join our forum!