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Monday, April 10, 2006

Oh I wish I were as clever as Jimmy Wales

It took me months - maybe even a year - to arrive at the same conclusions about Wikinews as Jimmy Wales forsaw at a conference (see section 7) back in January 2005:

"For now, Wikinews is doing very little original reporting – despite the recent Belize example. Most Wikinews articles are based on the synthesis, checking, and triangulation of news coming from a number of sources. He says that so far, the stigma against plagiarism and copyright violation within the Wikipedia community has been quite effective in ensuring that stolen material is not posted, and that all sources are duly credited. One possible vision for Wikinews’ future, Wales thinks, might be to become the master-synthesizer of what journalists are reporting around the world on any given news story."
(Emphasis mine)

That prediction was spot-on - that is indeed what Wikinews is now, more than a year later. Of course, it's still very small, but so was Wikipedia after one year. And Wikinews is growing steadily.

Personally, I left the Wikinews project last September for three reasons:

1. NGerda. I couldn't be bothered with trying to control the silly whims of a fourteen-year-old any more. Interestingly, he left shortly after I did, with no apparent explanation. I think the main attraction to Wikinews for him was the baiting of me.

2. Study. I started a new course at university and had much less free time.

3. Disaffection. I believe they are many good-quality news sources out there (AP, Reuters etc.). People could read them, if they wanted to. That market is catered. It just happens that many people don't want that kind of news. They want inaccurate tabloid trash reporting, celebrity gossip and the like... who knows why, but people are free to chose to read want they want.

The last made me feel that Wikinews was a waste of time on two fronts: that quality news was there if you wanted it, but there just wasn't a market for it. But since then I've come to realise that view was too cynical: there is room for Wikinews, providing news which covers all the details of a story available from all the different sources (Wales's "synthesis"), with better fact-checking to boot, and although the demand for such news is maybe small, it exists.

So working on Wikinews is not futile. It's not going to set the world on fire, but there is a demand, and Wikinews meets it.

That said, I can't see myself becoming an active contributor once again. Sure, I do minor tidying now and then on "structural" type stuff, but right now I'm not feeling a strong desire to start writing more stories.

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