Q&A with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales
Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, poses for a portrait in Mexico City, Thursday, July 16, 2015. (AP photo/Berenice Bautista)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, July 17, 2017 6:36PM EDT
MONTREAL -- More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the annual conference of Wikimania, which is being held in Montreal this year, from Aug. 9 to 11.
One of those taking part will be Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, who took part in a question-and-answer session with The Canadian Press ahead of the event. Here are excerpts from the exchange:
CP: Why was Montreal selected this year?
JW: We hold Wikimania every year. It's our flagship event where we bring together volunteers from all around the world. We have a process whereby we have bids from various local communities as to why we should have Wikimania in the city. Montreal was chosen because they had the strongest bid and that was very good. Obviously, there's a lot of excitement around the first time we've had Wikimania in a francophone region.
-- -- --
CP: Given the phenomenon of fake news and the fact Wikipedia's content comes from members, administrators and contributors, how do you ensure quality control?
JW: Fake news has been primarily a problem of Facebook in that people see something that looks like a real news site and it's something alarming or it's exciting to them and they share it with their friends, and they share it and share it and share it and it passes from person to person to person amongst people who aren't particularly sophisticated consumers of news. Whereas the Wikipedia community is incredibly sophisticated, very media savvy...We've had very little impact of that kind of fake news.
-- -- --
CP: More and more people and public figures are being harassed online and are seeing their reputations attacked. What is Wikipedia doing to withdraw such pages?
JW: This is something that we're really very focused on. One of the things that I've always prided myself on is that Wikipedia is a community about knowledge, it's about a positive experience, it's about charity work. People give of their time. We take a very hard line on trolling and harassment...Like every website that's open to the public, you always have a few people who come on who are problematic."
-- -- --
CP: Wikipedia saw the light of day in 2001. Back then, not everyone was convinced of the reliability of the information being provided. How has the public's perception changed over the years?
JW: A very strong core value of Wikipedia is to be of quality. We've always said we wanted to be like a traditional encyclopedia quality or better. And obviously in the early days we weren't that...Over the years, people added more and more information and better sources. And of course, we learned a lot as a community. We've written huge policy guidelines and gotten a lot of experience about what kind of thing is useful to the reader, what kind of thing is a good source versus a weak source. So we've just matured over the years. Obviously, we're always careful to point out that Wikipedia is far from perfect. There are still mistakes in Wikipedia and that's something we're very diligent about. We don't want to get complacent.