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Founder of Wikipedia on fighting with clickbayt, Facebook fakes, historical truth, Durov and travel

What did I find out after talking with Jimmy Wales for half an hour.

Photo by Lyudmila Savelieva, Strelka Institute

In early July, several European sections of the Wikipedia went off-line , protesting against the draft law on copyrights being considered by the European Parliament – as a result, it was never accepted . It is not known what is the merit of this “Wikipedia”, but no one has any doubt about how much the online encyclopedia has on the society: its name has even become a household name.

July 12, the founder of Wikipedia Jimmy Wales came to Moscow to address the panel discussion and give a lecture in the framework of the joint educational project “Strelki” and Binary District . Friends from the new edition of Strelka Mag asked me to interview Wales before his speech, and I could not deny them.

By agreement, the full version of the resulting conversation is published on Strelka Mag . Below are some of Wales’s most interesting quotes from the interview.

About ClickBate-Journalism

A simple solution does not exist. I have a good feeling about the growth of the subscription model, that is, an increase in the number of people who pay for journalism. If money goes to journalism directly from the reader, it’s much better than when they go from advertising – in the latter case, we have to strive to get as many clicks as possible, and this is often done with a clickbate. But if people say “No, I really understand that I want to pay for journalism important topics, pay for truthful information”, then the situation will be more encouraging. This is not a panacea, but it’s better than if we only have low-quality media cliques.

About fake news on Facebook

Everyone says that Facebook needs something to do with this. But imagine a world in which there are fundamental differences in the versions of historical facts. What would be hysterical if five years ago Facebook would say: “We want to shape your perception of the world by showing you the information that you agree with.” Everyone would go mad, right? We would say “This is terrible!”, Because we would begin to demonetize those news sites that we disagree with.

This is an anti-utopia of what Facebook and Google could be. I would not want them to get too deep into this. It seems to me that while they are moving in the right direction, although obviously there are a lot of problems. It’s not Facebook that should determine which news stories are true and which are not. This is too big a task.

On the problem of historical truth in Wikipedia

A much greater problem for us are cases where there is a significant discrepancy in the facts between sources that we consider reliable. And since we are now in Russia, as an example of such situations, I can give news about what happened in the Crimea, or what happened to a downed passenger plane, when Russian and Western publications very differently saw the facts. These are very difficult situations in which you will not point a finger at The New York Times and say “This is fake news”, or on some of the best newspapers in Russia and also say “This is fake news”. You just say: “Wow, this is a serious problem.” […]

The problem of cultural differences in the perception of the world is much older than the Internet. Hundreds of years ago, the situation was much worse. You can even go back: I remember how someone pointed out that in the English-language “Wikipedia” it was written that the Wright brothers came up with the plane. I do not know what they say in Russian schools, but for English-speaking countries it’s like “The moon is in the sky” – the basic fact, in which no one doubts. But it turns out that in France in the same indisputable style they teach that the plane was invented by another man – a Brazilian who lived in France. And it’s interesting.

Photo by Lyudmila Savelieva, Strelka Institute
About Pavel Durov, who donated a million dollars to Wikipedia

A little [keep in touch]. I do not really know him. I last saw him three or four years ago.

On personal earnings and canceled meeting with Medvedev

From “Wikipedia” I get zero – no salary, no expense, I buy tickets for the plane myself, to go to meetings and conferences. Sometimes I take airplane tickets from them. For example, last year they called me to Russia to meet with Dmitry Medvedev, but the meeting never happened, because he was busy, he is a politician. Then I said that I would go, but only if you give me money for tickets.

But there is also my larger commercial company Wikia, whose site takes something like 20 place in the popularity rating, and we have advertising that supports the community. I do not have a salary there, but I have a share.

The main way of personal earnings for me – I come to conferences and discussions, like this one, and I charge a high price tag for one performance. Therefore, I travel a lot and speak.

About the ICO as an alternative to raising funds through donations

No, they did not think about it. That is, they had such an opportunity in their heads, but of course, they never counted on that. […]

For Wikipedia, its business model – we are a charity, receive donations – works very well. We get enough money and replenish our reserves every year. We are financially stable.

Photo by Lyudmila Savelieva, Strelka Institute

About India and Russia

One of the places where I really liked is India. I think it’s super complex and interesting, and chaotic, and noisy. If you come to Moscow, you will leave the airport, you will reach the hotel Sheraton (near the airport “Sheremetyevo” – note) and walk around the city, you will see the same thing in Europe or America. Everything is western, very similar in many things. But India is very different.

On the dark times of the founding of the Russian-language “Wikipedia”

There is a funny story about the very first days of the existence of the Russian-language “Wikipedia”. In general, some people came and founded it, and then somewhere else all disappeared. It was all in the first two months of existence. Then came new people, began to work on the section, and just saw that it already exists. They do not know who founded it.

I do not read Russian myself and could not check it, but I was told that for a long time, for several months, the inscription ” Russia is the birthplace of elephants ” (the phrase from Soviet anecdotes, the irony of propaganda ) hung on the main page of the Russian-language “Wikipedia” USSR – note ) . It’s just rubbish, but it’s been hanging on the main page for a long time, because people laughed at it – apparently someone came and wrote it, and there was nobody to fix it. And then came new members of the community and removed it.

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