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CEO of Wikimedia on making a site useful for billions

Sue Gardner, executive director at the Wikimedia Foundation.

So you're at your computer. Try Googling something. How about..."Ben Bernanke." Almost certainly, the first thing that you type for almost anything is a Wikipedia entry. Information written mostly by about 15,000 active users -- not a huge group, when you think about it.

Sue Gardner is the executive director of the WikiMedia Foundation, of which Wikipedia is a part.

Turns out, there's not much different between the business models of WikiMedia and public radio. Both have to ask for money to help support their content. And that model's working really well for WikiMedia -- Gardner says in their latest campaign, they made $2.7 million a day. That's up from $430,000 a day the year before.

But financing aside, Gardner says Wikipedia has a lot of room for growth. Though the website has entries in 286 languages, the entries that get the most edits are in English by people in developed countries.

She also says the huge disparity between the number of male editors and female editors -- nine out of 10 editors are men -- is also troubling.

"It stems from the origins of the project," Gardner says. "So when people were first interacting online in 2001, the folks who were interacting online tended to skew heavily heavily male." She says WikiMedia works actively now to recruit female editors.

When will you see an ad on Wikipedia? Never, says Gardner. She then hedges a bit -- "if it were a choice between putting ads on Wikipedia or shutting down Wikipedia, we would then very reluctantly consider putting ads on Wikipedia."

And of course, you're probably wondering what Gardner thinks about criticism of the site's accuracy. "Everybody's saying, be skeptical of Wikipedia. That is true. They should also be skeptical of everything. We should all be critical consumers of the media."

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
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Good interview, finally caught up from yesterday via the podcast. I found it amusing that the "The pledge of a middle manager" was in the same show, as Sue was a middle manager when I worked with her at the CBC. Not many of the lines of that pledge applied to her, but the one about membership in a super exclusive managers club that turned into a single, giant super-manager by touching matching rings does sound familiar...

I'm a big fan of Wikipedia, and a financial supporter who has for years edited pages with care and good faith. But I recently discovered a big problem with its editing protocols: Recently I noticed some accuracy issues in the article about Ancient Rome's Equestrian Order. Unsure how to fix them myself, I engaged a well known expert and university professor via email and posted our dialog about it under the "Talk" tab where discussions about an article are posted, inching my way to improving the piece. Then suddenly I was cut off, accused of unspecified bad behavior, and barred from posting and editing. Obviously, a mistake, I thought, I'll get to the bottom of this and quickly correct it. Well, that's where the flaw comes in: Not only was I unable to identify the putative transgression, neither could I discover why and by whom a complaint had been lodged nor how to address it, appeal it or fix it. Bang, a good citizen banished by anonymous fiat. This was not so long ago, but as you'd expect, I've neither contributed my money nor attempted to contribute my labors since.

As a financial supporter of both APM and WikiMedia I just wanted to thank both for taking the risk of pursuing this relatively new business model.

Wikipedia knowingly lets false information be on the site,due to having no 'gatekeepers'. Encyclopedia have editors(gatekeepers) that make sure all information is basically accurate. Wikip. does not. Example-Look up Jesus. All information about him is orthodox. 'Son of God',etc.. None of scholarly info. for the last 20-30-50 years is on there. The fact that words and sections were added to the New Testament later by scribes in not here there. That words were put in his mouth,as in the last section of Mark and John-which were added later-as the majority of scholars know well... If anything non orthodox by scholars is put in it is erased or . overwritten. It is maintaining an encyclopedia by mob rule. Think of Wikipedia in 1960 reporting on the Civil Rights Movement and how biassed and slanted that would have been, and you get an idea of what I mean for wikipedia andcertain sections,especially about religion. Nowhere on the internet is iteasy to directly talk to spmeone who can corr3ect information(many complaints also about Craigslsit_ and Wikipedia is no exception. there is no human being at Wikipedia to overrule the false information.

Since I've found (when I've done the comparison) that the encyclopedias usually agree with most of what I read on Wikipedia, I don't really see any effective difference. They are both part of the mainstream; which means they will always offend specialists, who have strong opinions, and believe one of their favorite subjects has not been handled properly. There are no sources of absolute truth; we must find that on our own.

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