Wikipedia Academy 2012
Wikipedia Academy 2012Eran Shlomo

The fourth annual Wikipedia Academy conference was held this past Monday at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.

The conference, which examines the integration of Wikipedia’s systems in academics, education and business, was put together by Wikimedia Israel and was co-sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya and the Sammy Ofer School of Communications.

The conference focused on the interaction between Wikipedia, journalists, PR people and the marketing world in particular. The keynote speaker was Jay Walsh, Head of Communications at the Wikimedia Foundation.

Wikipedia Academy “is an opportunity for Wikipedians – people who are engaged with the project and have been, in some cases, for many years – to meet with people who are completely new to it,” Walsh told Arutz Sheva. “It’s a great model.”

Walsh said that there has been “an extraordinary evolution” in terms of the people who edit Wikipedia.

“For the readers all over the world, I think Wikipedia has become a more trusted resource,” he said. “What I heard today at this academy is people talking about the complete shift in the notion that Wikipedia is now a kind of common truth. I think five years ago we weren’t really saying that.”

The Wikipedia Academy looks at introducing specific tools and software that will make Wikipedia easier to use, a fact which will allow more editors to be brought in and more information to be available on Wikipedia.

“We also look at brining in new tools for readers, so that they can rate articles, so that they can provide input and feedback to the community who’s editing articles so we can make articles better,” said Walsh. “We want to help both the reader and the editor at the same time.”

Walsh said that the Israeli Wikipedia community is “a fascinating community.”

“It’s a very active project,” he noted. “There are a lot of active editors compared to the overall population. It’s thriving in that sense, but it’s also been around for a long time. That’s part of the great tradition of Hebrew internet access and the growth of the Hebrew community online. It’s a great model for success to look at. We have a lot to learn from what’s going on here.”

Walsh admitted that politics can play a big role in Wikipedia, particularly in Hebrew articles, but said that he believes Wikipedia “is the optimal space for these sorts of conversations to unfold.”

He added that Wikipedia is built on the idea of finding common viewpoints and honoring those common viewpoints by “writing an article that contains enough information so that the reader can actually form their own opinion.”