Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Interview: Wikipedia's founder on Wikia Green

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Tech News
Channels: Tech News Tags: internetcommunityclimate change

Wikipedia's founder has launched a community for all things green. Like Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales' new Wikia Green can be edited by anyone, but Wikia's built to attract people passionate about a topic rather than provide general reference. For example, the Wikipedia entry on 'Green Computing' takes a broad overview of carbon emissions from IT, while Wikia Green's entry offers tips for individuals, such as buying laptops instead of desktops. We chatted with Jimmy to get the inside track on Wikia Green.

Why do Wikia Green now? There are so many green blogs and guides all over the internet, and they've had a head start on this project. Aren't people feeling over-saturated with 'green'?
Wales: No, this is a growing area. What we're doing is actually complementary to blogs in the sense that what blogs do is update you on a day-to-day basis. Also, blogs are engaged in political or other types of analysis, whereas a wiki becomes a touchpoint for the community, a place where people meet up and work on whatever the consensus is about a certain topic.

We're hoping that a lot of bloggers will find it useful to send their readers (there) and also to collaboratively work on background information. The blogger doesn't really enjoy explaining something over and over. But if I want to tell you about biodiesel, and if you don't know about biodiesel, I can say, "Read this article first."

Were you seeing maybe an increased interest in green topics on Wikipedia? What sparked your interest in launching this? 
Wales: One of the funny things about Wikipedia is I have no idea what the traffic is. We don't even track those kinds of numbers... This was sparked initially by a conversation with Al Gore last year just before he won the Nobel Prize. He said there should be a green wiki...We discussed it some and I decided hey, this is a good idea.

How do you hope to get contributors flowing in? Are you doing any publicity efforts aimed at green blogs, for instance? 
Wales: We're doing a lot of outreach. I've been holding a series of green dinners where people educate me...I met Zem Joaquin and we're working with her on (her blog) ecofabulous, and we're gonna be powering their eco lingo column. We're trying to build relationships and to learn from this community: what's missing? What do you need?

Will this integrate Web 2.0-type features, videos, maps, and other tools at some point? 
Wales: We have the ability for people to do videos and some mapping stuff. The initial focus is on encyclopaedic content and magazine-style articles...The software is the same platform we use across all the wikis.

How do you prevent companies from stacking the entries with what some environmental activists call greenwashing? How will the community regulate this? 
Wales: My view is that's virtually impossible in a wiki context, particularly a green wiki...The community monitors things as they come in. It's not a voting-style system that can be gamed. It's really an open discussion, dialog, and debate system. This is one of the great strengths of a wiki: it's a great counter to astroturfing and other types of campaigns.

What personal interest do you have in green topics and sustainability? Are you measuring your carbon footprint and trying to offset it? 
Wales: Yes, I'm doing some things like that...At Wikia we're going through a process of trying to be certified as a green company...I come to this as an outsider. I'm part of that broad general public saying there's something really important and I want to learn more. It's time to wake up and do something. I'm finding it hard to get educated because the information is so disparate. I saw a need where people could come together and really clarifying and documenting all this kind of information.

Do you use any green servers, for instance, on the back-end are there efficiency features in terms of the hardware used to support all this? 
Wales: No, we're looking into those kinds of things. On the server side of things the single greatest thing we've done is hire our new CTO, Artur Bergman, because he's an optimisation genius and has doubled the efficiency of our servers.

Where do you see this in 5 to 10 years? What do you hope will develop? 
Wales: Obviously we want this to be a large and successful community. I don't have milestones or targets...As long as there's a healthy community and people are having fun and producing something of value, I'm satisfied.

Wikia Green is live now. 

Posted: 09 September 2008, 10:48am by Elsa Wenzel
Based on: Wikipedia's Wales launches Wikia Green

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