Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia, Wikia, Traditional Media

Wikipedia and Wikia co-founder Jimmy Wales spoke with E.B. Boyd for So What Do You Do, Jimmy Wales, Co-Founder of Wikipedia and Wikia? on mediabistro.com.

Wales on Wikia:

The biggest thing is pushing forward the usability of the wiki software platform, to get more people involved. We’re doing a lot on that at Wikia. We’re trying to branch out beyond the tech-geek early adopter crowd, in terms of who’s doing the editing.

We’ve done a lot of testing to get data on what helps people contribute more. And we now have the WYSIWYG editor, which is a much easier editing environment. It’s much more familiar to people, more like a word-processing program.

And we’re branching out topic areas. So, for example, we have the Recipes Wikia, which is doing very well and bringing in a whole different kind of audience from the people who are editing the World of Warcraft wiki.

Wales on the Wikipedia community as compared with social-networking sites:

Particularly as compared to more social Web sites — like Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, where the community does whatever they want to do, and it’s for entertainment and hanging out with your friends — that’s very different than the Wikipedia world, where we have a clear mission that unifies the community and defines what the work is. So the health of the community means more than just numbers of people participating. That’s not really the goal. We’re concerned about having quality participants doing good quality work.

Wales on Wikipedia’s effects on traditional media:

There’s a shift among what are called the magazine audiences. We’re not talking about headline news journalism — CNN or The New York Times — but among the kind of things you traditionally would associate with a magazine. Gaming magazines are probably where we’re having the biggest impact. These days, consumers want information, and they want more information than they ever did before. If they subscribe to a traditional magazine that has 90 or 100 pages of content every month, and a lot of that is advertising — they’re finding (the magazine) to be quite lacking compared to what they’re able to get online. So with something like the World of Warcraft wiki, which has 70,000-plus articles, there’s really no competition. No traditional magazine can compete with that level of detail and quality of information.

I don’t know what the future is. I’m not predicting the death of the paper magazine, because the physical form of the magazine is useful in certain contexts. But I do think that, right now, readers are realizing, “Why should I subscribe to a photography magazine, when I can go and get massive amounts of information, that’s much more detailed and much more in-tune with my interests, online, and it’s good quality?” The idea that people will pay for quality, and that the traditional magazine is quality — that doesn’t really hold up.

For the complete interview of Wales by Boyd, please click here.