Monday, January 17, 2011

Why is Editing Wikipedia Cool

This is the draft of my speech in Nairobi to the students at the Strathmore University on the Wikipedia Ten Anniversary and one day later at the Inoorera University. At Innorera University I didn't had a projector, but I used the white board to illustrate the key points.

[Slide One]
Thank you very much [who ever makes the introduction]

Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen for give me the chance to speak here. It is for me a tremendous honor to be here, in Kenya, not only because it is since a very long time a dream for me to visit the continent and the country where the ancestors of all mankind once lived, but also because in my deepest believe, Africa, and with it Kenya, bears not only the past of humanity, but also the future of it. A lot of people talk now a day about China or the pacific rim area. But what is China in comparison with a continent so full of richness. And the most important richness on this continent is its people. Its people full of mind, ideas, intelligence, wit and knowledge.

So this is the reason why I am here to make this presentation. I would like to talk about knowledge, the most powerful resource you have.

[Slide Two]
At first let me introduce myself briefly. I was born in China, actually in Shanghai. I grew up in Northern China, in a City with the name Harbin. In 1988 in age of 20 I went to Germany to visit university. After my graduation I remained there. In my professional life I am an IT Specialist by IBM. Since 2008 I am elected by the editing community as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. Since 2010 I am the chair's person of the board. Although the Foundation has meanwhile about 50 employees, its board is a totally volunteer's board. So the board work and Wikipedia work is my main hobby and I certainly spend most of my time on it.

Where ever I meet other people and say this people tend to ask: What is the Wikimedia Foundation and what relation does it have with Wikipedia? The most strait forward answer of this question is we operate Wikipedia. We are not Wikipedia, although much of our employees are Wikipedians, we give Wikipedia its institutional and technical support.

[Slide Three]
Wikipedia went online at January 15th 2001. So in a few days we will celebrate its 10th birthday. I became Wikipedia two years later, in January 2003. During the past ten years Wikipedia had grown from a curiosity into one of the most important information resource of the world. So at the moment we have in total more than 17 million articles in more than 270 languages. For many languages it is the first encyclopedia in that language at all. The data of last October says that we have had 400 million individual users globally using Wikipedia and its sister projects. And most important of all Wikipedia is free. You can use it for free, you don't need to pay it. You can reuse it for free, as long as you keep the content with the Creative Commons license agreement. Under the same condition you can even use it for business. And exactly this is mission of the Wikimedia Foundation: To encourage and empower people all around the world to share educational knowledge, freely, in their own language.

Ten years is a very long time for Internet. There were famous websites like Geocities ten years ago that doesn't exist now, and a lot of websites that are now famous like Facebook were not there ten years ago. So, how did we do in the last ten years? Did we arrived our mission?

No, in my opinion we are still far far away from our goal. And we are so far far away, among others, because we need you to help us. Without your help we will never fulfill our mission. And this is the reason why I am here. I am here to ask you to help us.

[Slide Four]
So what I really want to ask you and to invite you to do is join us in the editing community of Wikipedia and its sister projects. Why should you do it? Why should anyone do such a thing? Spend many many hours to work on something completely free?

Let's see what the folks say about it
[Nice People video]

There are a lot of reasons, and there are four reasons that I think are most important:
Edit Wikipedia is good for you
Edit Wikipedia is good for Kenya
Edit Wikipedia is good for Africa and
Edit Wikipedia is good for the World.

[Slide Five]
Why is editing Wikipedia good for you?

First of all, because you can learn a lot from this experience. It is not easy to write a new article. You must learn a lot of things. For example we want to write an article about this school / university / whatever, how would you start? Let's see how we start: School soandso is a middle school at the center of Nairobi. And then? What is its history? When is it founded, who founded it? Why was it founded? How many students did it have when it was founded? How many teachers? How was the condition at that time? Who was the first director? Which major events happened in its history? Now what is the situation today? How many students has it now? How many teachers? Who is its director now? What can the students learn here? Is there anything from it that distinguishes it from other colleges? Is there any plans of the school for the future? Are there any notable alumni from the school? Are there any remarkable achievements from its students? You see, to write an article is surely not very easy. Even if you are a student or a teacher in this school, you may find more interesting things about it you didn't know until now. To write a good article you need to do more. Maybe you want to research in archives, or other sources, and you may find other interesting things about which you want to do further researches. You can become an expert of the history of this school if you want to spend the time and energy on it.

Maybe you would say, well, I am not that good in write articles, and I don't have so much nerve to research all these details. But you can also do small edits and learn a lot of new things. You can simply start with a topic you are interested in, maybe a movie. And click on a link about an actor who played in that movie and maybe another interesting movie with him, and something that was mentioned in that movie. And thereby you may notice small errors in the articles, a word is spelled wrong, a sentence more sound terrible. Correct them. The next reader will be very thankful for that and you can learn a lot of new things you are interested in.

Maybe you are interested in translating articles, from another language in yours. Translating is a very useful skill, and it is a skill need to be trained. I myself translate a lot. Most of my own work is translating. And one of the most proud article I ever wrote is a translation of the article about the Bantu language group into Chinese. Here it is, how it looks like a description about the the Bantu languages in Chinese. And I must say I enjoyed a lot in this work, and learned a lot about these wonderful languages during this work, about which I had no clue at all earlier. And read this, wow, it is already a poem although it is something so normal.

So, you see, by sharing your knowledge you can learn a lot about other people's knowledge. It is a giving and taking. And beyond that you can learn a lot of other things. Like virtually work with other people, cooperate with other people online. Discuss with them about differences and issues.

Another thing which you will learn very fast is the work of the media. Do you trust Wikipedia? Do you trust newspaper, or television? You will find it out when you begin to work with them while you are searching for references and sources. And you will find it out while you are yourself publishing in Wikipedia.

All these skills are very valuable, not only for now, to be fun, but also for your future. If one day you are working in a company, maybe an international company, these are all skills that will do you a lot favor.

[Slide Six]
Why is Editing Wikipedia good for Kenya? Because you will tell the world how Kenya is, how is this land, its people, its culture. Who can do this better than you, who live here everyday? Don't let other people, who only know this land though Internet, newspaper or television to write about this land, write about this land yourself, and tell the world how it is here.

As I said above, by editing Wikipedia it is a taking and giving. It is not a one-way-street. You tell the world about Kenya, and you can learn about the world at the same time. Maybe you want to translate interesting things into your mother tongue, so that also people who don't speak English can learn about that thing.

And maybe you want are working on a language version of Wikipedia in your mother tongue. And by doing so, maybe you are helping to create the first encyclopedia in that language. Maybe you can write down traditions, places, peoples in that language and you or someone else can later translate it into other languages. You can help keep these knowledges not lost someday.

And the final point is you can improve the view point of Kenya. So we have five pillars on Wikipedia, these are the five most fundamental rules with which we work. And one of these five pillars is the Neutral Point of View, which doesn't mean we don't present view point at all, but that we present all view points. But as you know Wikipedia is written by people like you and me. So if there are only Europeans or Americans write about a topic, there will only European and American view points presented on that article. Let's take an example. Let's look at the article “Global Warming” on the English Wikipedia.

[Global Warming Example]
So here you are, and here you see a section with the name “View on Global Warming”. So let's see, there we are. You see we have different views about this topic presented. And here are the sources where these views come from. And you see UK, you see New York Times, you see Deutsche Bank etc. But you don't see Africa, you don't see Kenya. So what is Kenya's view about Global Warming? What do your political, financial, scientific, media leader say about Global Warming? That is something we need on Wikipedia. We need a more neutral point of view, so we need also Kenya's view about a lot of things.

[Slide Seven]
Why is Editing Wikipedia good for Africa?

First of all, it is knowledge that matters. Maybe you had already heard a lot of people talking about this century would be the century of Pacific rim. Do you think so? I will show you an image I saw two days before I came here.

See the proportions.

And think what do you need, for this continent?

You need knowledge, you need to write down your own knowledge, and you need the knowledge of the world, and you need knowledge from each other, from all the people who live on this continent.

Knowledge is the most valuable resource, and a resource no one can take or buy away from you.

You know, I mainly work on Chinese Wikipedia. The Chinese Wikipedian community is very diverse. We have folks from mainland China, we have people from Hong Kong and Macao, we have people from Taiwan and we have oversea Chinese like me, who had lived a very long time outside of China. And we have very different opinions to some of the topics. For example is Taiwan an independent country?

Maybe you can imagine how politicians work on such differences. They will threat each other with wars.

We Wikipedians work differently. We will discuss to each other and work out a way where every view point is presented in a neutral and not agitating language. A lot of problems in the world is not easy to solve. The worst solution is to use simple and agitating answers so that people get emotional and get aggressive. The best solutions is when people can understand the problem thoroughly and can understand each other. And this is how Wikipedia want to work, this is how Wikipedia want to present to the world.

Knowledge is peace, because if you know what other people think, what is their problem, and they know what you think and what is your problem, this is the basis upon which you can solve your problems together. Without those knowledge the others behave strange and looks evil. With those knowledge, they are also human like you and me.

So, work together, for a strong and peaceful Africa.

[Slide Eight]
Why is you editing Wikipedia good for the world?

Because the world need to know more about Africa, about Kenya, about you. I believe two years ago I read somewhere that there are more Wikipedia articles on English Wikipedia about New York City than about the whole continent Africa. I don't know if that was true and if that is still true. But the proportion that Africa is represented on Wikipedia is definitively too small.

Kenya is the cradle of the mankind. People lived here for hundred thousands of years. You have a deep, deep, deep profound resource, and that is buried in your culture, in all the knowledge and heritage you carry with you. And no one on the world can do better by sharing this knowledge with the world.

And you can work together with not only people from your neighborhoods, from your neighbor countries, but from the whole world. And nothing brings people together more than work together, build together and share together. There's no way for you, for me, for other people, to learn each other better than to cooperate and work together.

This is why we need you to help us, and that is why it is good for you, for Kenya, for Africa and for the world.

[Slide Nine]
Wikipedia is only one of several project the Wikimedia Foundation is running. As I had said before. The mission of the Foundation is to encourage and empower people to collect and share educational content. Encyclopedia is only one form of educational content. So, if you don't want to work on an encyclopedia, you can work on a dictionary, or work on textbooks, I would for example like to see a good textbook about learn Swahili, or another Bantu language. I think they are so beautiful. Other examples are working on news. We need more news from Kenya and from Africa generally. If you are very interested in photography, you can work on Wikimedia Commons. I know quite some Wikimedians who started to take photos for Wikipedia, improved their skills constantly and become semi-professional photographers.

So, there are lots of possibilities.

I will now show you another small video

[Edit Button video]

So, I hope you will also find the fascination of the Edit-Button and we can meet soon on the projects.

Thank you very much

[Thank you slide]

No comments:

Post a Comment