This month its founder, Jimmy Wales, gave a keynote speech in Taipei at the Digital Innovation Forum 2018. He also spoke with Business Next.
Open-source, open-content technology such as Wikipedia’s is changing the internet and ways that businesses can adapt to compete, Wales said. He told Business Next about Wikipedia’s anti-fake news strategy, ways to keep the encyclopedia free of ads and the significance of being kind to others.
Anti-fake news strategy
The online encyclopedia is taking steps to combat fake news, Wales said. Among them: reliance on experts in the fields covered by Wikipedia.
Volunteers check recent changes in a Wiki, he said, while experts specialize in a particular area to form what he calls a Wiki “project.” WikiProject Medicine, for example, is an endeavor for experts interested in health.
The volunteer teams track daily news and double-check sources online to ensure accuracy, he said. But Wikipedia’s approach to accuracy is still evolving.
“This kind of project indeed is a bit complicated since the experts still need the time to track down which step or which information needs to be improved in order to give the reliable and accurate data to the users,” he said.
Wikipedia has accumulated 5,689,146 articles in English since its founding 2001.
As other media sell advertisements to earn money, Wales called that approach to business “incredibly destructive” as it tempts those media to create content that advertisers particularly like.
To keep ads off its own websites, Wikipedia in October launched WikiTribune as a for-profit website funded by donors.
The service that’s independent of Wikipedia offers news reports written by journalists for curating and fact-checking. The WikiTribune content is public.
Wales predicts that the internet will “democratize” developing countries by opening markets. Current internet use by 1 billion people should double in 10 years, largely in developing countries, he said. The internet can combat stereotypes, censorship, media control, and monopolies while giving citizens of developing nations a more prominent voice.
“It does not take a lot of technology to foster open dialogue and debate,” he said. “Even the simplest technologies like mailing lists, wikis and blogs can help a lot. What is needed mostly, I think, is more content in local languages, and support from people around the world to help others join in the global conversation.”
Kindness and time management
Asked about personal traits that might help an entrepreneur survive stress and challenges, Wales advised being kind and managing time well.
“I am friendly person, and I usually don’t boss people around,” he said. “Plus, I am a positive person and I always tell myself that ‘everything is going to be fine.”
Wales also lets his staff help manage his time, which he says was a problem in the past. Wales said before his speech he is good at “failure,” as it can eventually lead to success.