Meet your millennials - the Wikipedia generation

Miguel D'Souza - AAP

2 minute read

Social media fundamentally breaks the news, so it’s time to rethink the gatekeeper.

Wikipedia has been around for 16 years, supported entirely by donation and enduring in the face of threats from mainstream media as well as the onslaught of fake news.

If you are now in the age group that is entering university you are the Wikipedia generation.

The online encyclopedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, sees it as “just part of the infrastructure of the world”.

“So this imposes a heavy burden on us as a community," he told the World Business Forum in Sydney on Thursday. “We try to get things right all the time.”

Who writes Wikipedia? “We have a culture of verifiability. It’s a crowd-sourced, volunteer-edited encyclopaedia,” Jimmy Wales

We have 80,000 volunteers who are people making four to five edits a month.

But Wales describes the ‘real community’ editing and publishing pages as 3000 to 4000 volunteers who are organised and passionate. These people know each other and work together under a set of guiding principles.

“They make up the rules; they enforce the rules; they are the ones who build Wikipedia," said Wales, who has moved into publishing an online news site to address the fake news avalanche.

What is WikiTribune? WikiTribune is an entirely new organisation that is bringing the wiki editing model to news but with a twist:

“It is a hybrid model, with paid professional journalists will work side by side as equals with members of the community.”

Wales sees the model as his rethinking of the rules of news publishing.

“Social media fundamentally breaks the news, so it’s time to rethink the gatekeeper," Wales told the WOBI Sydney conference. His approach involves using professional standards-based journalism and combining it with the standards of the Wikipedia community.

And the internet has responded to this disruption of the media sector:  “We have just completed a very successful crowd-funding campaign where we signed up monthly subscribers for $U15 per ($A20) month,” said Wales, who says the initial funding has evolved into something far more substantial.

“We are now hiring technical people and 10 journalists, and are planning to launch quickly even though the software isn’t ready, because we need to iterate quickly."