The co-founder of the open-source encyclopedia called Wikipedia is recruiting volunteer contributors from India to Japan, but collaboration comes with consequences. Jimmy Wales answers readers' questions
Between the growing incidents of vandalism and the use of fraudulent credentials, how can anyone trust Wikipedia as a valid tool?John O'Connor, East Meadow, N.Y.
The key is to look at the quality of articles. The quality of Wikipedia today compared with three years ago is a dramatic improvement. But people do need to be aware of how it is created and edited so they can treat it with the appropriate caution.
Why did you remove Ryan Jordan [a prolific editor who lied about his credentials] if he was doing a good job?Joel Gunn, Greensboro, N.C.
The community of Wikipedia is still very much built on trust. A violation of that trust is a very serious matter. It's a sad scenario.
Is there a plan to make Wikipedia more reliable?Kelsie Lenihan, Regina, Sask.
Definitely. We're looking at software tools that will allow the community to quarantine edits from people we don't know. No one in the Wikipedia community would write that Sinbad is dead [as happened on March 15] and leave it up there. That would be a bannable offenseno question. But in the current setup, it can slip through the cracks.
How can I persuade my teachers to allow me to use Wikipedia as a legitimate research source?Kaitlyn Grigsby, Medina, Ohio
I would agree with your teachers that that isn't the right way to use Wikipedia. The site is a wonderful starting point for research. But it's only a starting point because there's always a chance that there's something wrong, and you should check your sources if you are writing a paper.
Can you share information on the Wiki Search Project?Irvin Moise Carlin, Chula Vista, Calif.
Current search engines lack transparency. All the software we're doing is open source, and all the algorithms will be published. [Entering the search market] is pretty intimidating, but I try to have fun. In the current issue of Fast Company, right below my face it says, "Google's Worst Nightmare." And I think, God, I should really get to work on that search engine. [Laughs.]
A new online information site, Conservapedia, was founded to counter Wikipedia's "anti-Christian" and "anti-American" bias. What measures does Wikipedia plan to use to keep bias out of its articles?Julia T. Quijano, Birmingham, Ala.
Well, I think we don't have a liberal bias, and I think they have a conservative bias.
Six years on! What are the future prospects?Saydul Alam, Swansea, Wales
It's exciting to see the growth trajectory and to realize that, for example, Arabic Wikipedia in five years will be as large as the German site today. It's going to be freely available to people who have much more serious problems with accessing information than we do.
What drives people to contribute to Wikipedia? Altruism?Shashwat Chaturvedi, Mumbai, India
No. It's realizing that doing intellectual things socially is a lot of funit makes sense. We don't plan on paying people, either, to contribute. People don't ask, "Gosh, why are all these people playing basketball for fun? Some people get paid a lot of money to do that."
What have you seen in people that makes you confident in finding truth by a collective process?Megan Smick, Rockford, Ill.
It's seeing the results. The majority of edits to Wikipediaeven from anonymous usersare beneficial. On some difficult topics there's a lot of discussion on how to get it done. But those debates are taken up by people in good faith. It turns out that people aren't as horrible as the Internet made them seem for a while.
Is it true that in his youth the President of Iran was the drummer for the British pop-music band known as the Beatles?Lionel Bartram, Rittman, Ohio
[Laughs.] Not that I'm aware of ... that's funny.