Great evening event tonight with Amgine — one of a handful of volunteer administrators at WikiNews. Probably safe to say he blew the minds of a roomful of journalists, discussing grassroots journalism and the growth of open-source information repositories. The discussion, of course, centers around the credibility of the source when you replace the traditionally trained information gatekeeper with a collaborative, volunteer-driven process that can only be described as massive organic peer review. Lots of discussion throughout this conference about citizen journalism, but most of the attempts at enabling it pale, I think, in comparison to the success (both in numbers and in growing credibility) of WikiNews and WikiPedia.
At home, started browsing WikiPedia’s public stats pages. Freaky facts (synthesized from that page and tonight’s talk): WikiPedia currently contains more than half a million articles (6x larger than Encylopedia Brittanica), and is growing at a rate of around 1,000 articles per day — the largest single, unified body of information on the planet. The WikiPedia database now weighs around 67GB, most of it plain text (and only 20% of that text is in English). Dishing up around 1200 hits per second. The changelist, when viewed through the administrator’s IRC-like interface, sometimes scrolls by too quickly to read. Average time needed for the hive mind to correct a vandalized article: 4.5 minutes.
And it all runs as a non-profit entity, on top of donated servers and bandwidth. The only religion of the admins and hardcore participants is total, obsessive commitment to neutrality.
It’s difficult to gauge or imagine what the ultimate effect of open source knowledge bases will be on traditional journalism, but it’s clearly adapt-or-die time. It’s going to be fascinating to watch traditional media struggling to cope with this phenomenon over the next decade.
If you missed tonight’s live webcast, I’ll try and get the archives up by late next week.
Update 2012: Amazing infographic on Wikipedia and education: