It’s fair to say that Sam Wilson is part of one of the bigger organizations in fSpace. Sam works for the Wikimedia Foundation, a company whose mission is to bring free educational content to the world. If this nonprofit business sounds familiar, it might be because Wikipedia, the 6th most visited website in the world right now, is part of it.
In addition to Wikipedia, Wikimedia has 11 other active projects, from Wiktionary (free dictionary), to Wikibooks (free textbooks and manuals), to Wikisource (free source documents). They even have MediaWiki (free software), a name that Sam even admitted was a bit confusing at times.
Sam’s analogy was Wikipedia could be thought of as the encyclopedias of a library, however a library has many other sections such as archives of photos, newspapers and transcripts. All these other Wikimedia projects share the same vision to freely share information with every person on earth.
Wikimedia projects cover 250 languages and have 75,000 active editors who contribute and edit the content of almost 40 billion entries each year. In case you’re wondering how your website traffic compares, English Wikipedia (which is just one of the 294 language editions) has nearly 5 billion page views each month.
Sam is one of just seven Wikimedia software engineers worldwide, though he prefers the title ‘computer programmer’ since they are allowed to make more mistakes. This team’s work largely consists of creating tools and programs for editors that help manage harassment & plagiarism, research tools, and integrations with partnering galleries, libraries, archives and museums around the world.
Wikimedia operates in a transparent and public forum as nearly everything the organisation does (including the work Sam does) is in the public domain. Wikimedia uses a lot of tools and programs it has developed internally, but also open tools that are available to all. An example of this is Turnitin, a program that automatically checks content for plagiarism against its own database and other records around the world.
Sam’s team works towards completing a list of 100 projects each year, a list that is created through votes by all the editors. One example was Google Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Software for Indic languages that has enabled books to be scanned rather than manually transcribed. Another was a program that automatically scans dead links in Internet archives and updates/restores those links.
Wikimedia has about 300 fulltime employees worldwide and operates on a budget of approximately $85M per year, all of which is publically funded through an average donation of just $15 each. Unlike most other nonprofits, Wikimedia does not rely on grants or large corporations for funding.
Sam also explained that Wiki is Hawaiian for ‘quickly’ and, since it is just a word, any business can use it. This explains the popular confusion over WikiLeaks, another nonprofit organisation that has no association with Wikimedia whatsoever.
Sam concluded his presentation by confirming that, despite what some children of some fSpace members might think, Wikipedia is not evil. While it is true than anyone can post anything and those things could be lies, all content should have at least one reference that represents the academic consensus. He also explained that most of the obvious lies or misstatements for personal gains are spotted by bots and removed within 10 seconds. Wikimedia editors are automatically notified of edits to articles and they obviously have the opportunity to review these. This underlying flaw of access is part of the beauty of the Wikimedia vision: to have an inclusive international community working together to share accurate information to everyone on the planet.
Thanks to Sam for sharing some insight into his work and how he contributes to one of the most incredible organisations in the world.
Visit www.wikimedia.org for more information. Then, for fun, visit their page on Wikipedia to see which one is better https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation