Hello, world: this is WikiTribune

As a big fan of Wikipedia I was very interested to hear that Jimmy Wales was starting a news service. I have, for a very long time, searched for unbiased material for Deskarati in my areas of interest. I have also always personally hankered for a real impartial news service, this has been difficult and recently has been getting worse.

So it was great to hear that Jimmy Wales is trying to produce such a news service, wikitribune. Good luck! Jim – Deskarati

Jimmy Wales

Welcome to WikiTribune, a pilot project for a new approach to journalism where the community is at the center. This is not a news service – yet. It’ll only be the news service I envisage when you play a full role.

When I wrote the very first words in Wikipedia back in January 2001, I chose “Hello, world!”

It is a long standing tradition amongst computer programmers that when you are learning a new programming language, the first thing you do is write a program which says “Hello, world!”

The day I opened Wikipedia to the public, January 15th, 2001, it was not an encyclopaedia – yet. Therefore, that was not the launch of an encyclopaedia.

What was it, then? It was the launch of a project to build an encyclopaedia.

What is this, then? This is the launch of a project to build a news service. An entirely new kind of news service in which the trusted users of the site – the community – is treated as completely equal to the staff of the site – also the community. As with any true wiki, you can jump in and get involved at the highest levels, doing as much or as little as you like to help. As with any successful wiki, there will be detailed discussions and debates by the community to set policy on all the detailed matters that are necessary to build a news service.

My goals are pretty easy to understand, but grand in scope (more fun that way, eh?): to build a global, multilingual, high quality, neutral news service. I want us to be in as many languages as possible as fast as possible. I want us to be more concerned with being right than being first. I want us to report objectively and factually and fairly on the news with no other agenda than this: the ultimate arbiter of the truth is the facts of reality. That’s agenda enough to keep us busy.

So now let me tell you my rough plans for the next few weeks.

If you’re reading this anytime soon after I wrote it, you’re lucky – we aren’t announcing this anywhere and a big part of the point of this letter is to invite journalists who might be excited to write with awe or gleeful disappointment at our launch to relax a notch or two. This is not the launch of a news service. This is the launch of a project to build a news service. That’s why it says “Pilot” right up at the top.

So we’ve just quietly opened up and we plan to be slowly but surely accepting people who have requested an invite. One of the key things that I want to get right from the very beginning is the attitude that we have as a community. Neutrality is non-negotiable. Treating each other well is non-negotiable. This is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be different. This is supposed to matter.

Over time as we build up activity in the community, we’ll accept more and more people when we are confident that the administrators (some staff, some users) are ready.

We’re using WordPress as the core of our launch platform, and it has some major strengths as a content management system, not least of which is that it is open source and has a mature and strong ecosystem of open source developers. But it also has some major philosophical differences from a wiki – the default assumptions about who can do what are really quite different. So the job of making the software to build our news platform as powerful as we need it to be is going to take some time. Please help me figure out the priorities.

If you’re as excited about this as I am, please do tell a few people, especially people you trust, people you think are smart and kind and might be interested to join our merry band.

Hello, world! Let’s get to work… on WikiTribune.

—Jimbo

JIMMY WALES WIKIPEDIA WIKITRIBUNE

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