Wikipedia turns 10 on Saturday, looking to diversify content, authors and party a bit
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And at almost a decade old, Wikipedia still has a lot of growing to do, said co-founder and promoter Jimmy Wales and Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, in a phone conference with reporters Wednesday.
‘The fundamental premise is that everybody brings their crumbs of knowledge to the table and all those crumbs become a banquet,’ Gardner said. ‘And we’re missing some people from the table.’
Some of those people might end up contributing to or helping to edit Wikipedia after celebrating its birthday this weekend. Wales, who has become the face of Wikipedia, will be videoconferencing into many of the parties, hoping to recruit contributors.
More than 350 events celebrating the online encyclopedia’s anniversary are planned across more than 111 countries -- 10 in Germany, 13 in Pakistan and 70 of them in India, where Wikipedia is planning to open an office, Wales said.
The website could also use a greater diversity of contributors not only in terms of country of origin but also in terms of gender, educational background and language.
‘The most important thing when we think about what Wikipedia looks like 10 years from now is the increased diversity in languages,’ Wales said. ‘A few years ago about two-thirds was written in English; today less than 20% is in English.’
The website is also working with museums and libraries to add more information and, in some cases, more photos and multimedia to entries about the arts and other topics not normally covered as well as the sciences and technology, Wikipedia’s strong suit, he said.
Gardner added that Wikipedia was also working on making its website easier to use, contribute to and edit, though it won’t stray much from its roots.
‘It looks a little bit awkward and a bit handcrafted; sometimes the writing is a little bit awkward,’ she said of the site. But because of that, people ‘feel like they own it. It’s the people’s encyclopedia. People built it, they use it, they enjoy it.’
Wales also said that though Wikipedia would advance technologically, it also wouldn’t change from its nonprofit status or look for ways to monetize its information.
‘I don’t think you should expect to see radical, radical changes,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to be Facebook. We’re not going to be Myspace or YouTube. We’re an encyclopedia. We’re text and images.’
And the site will also, very likely, remain hand-written and -edited over the next decade, Wales said.
‘It’s easier to write it yourself than fix a Google translation,’ he said. ‘Right now, the state of machine translation is generally so bad that the best you can hope for is a general gist.’
Machine translators also currently work better with what Wales called ‘economically important’ languages.
‘We don’t need help in German, we don’t need help in French or Spanish,’ he said. ‘What we need help in is Zulu, and nobody is investing in English-to-Zulu translations right now.’
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles