William Beutler on Wikipedia

Archive for January 2011

The State of The State of Wikipedia

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on January 25, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Chances are good that if you follow Wikipedia closely, then you have probably seen the following video:

The State of Wikipedia from JESS3 on Vimeo.

Last week, it was featured on both TechCrunch and Mashable and, on YouTube alone, it’s climbing toward 100,000 views as of this writing. And you might have missed the following infographic that went along with it, although I hope you didn’t:


Right-click to view at full size in another tab.

Meanwhile, if you happened to see Jay Walsh’s post on the Wikimedia blog last week—or you watched carefully through to the very end—you may have noticed that among those involved was yours truly.

The story of this video’s development began early in 2010 with the launching of the “State of” video series by my friends at the DC-based creative agency JESS3. The first in the series was “The State of the Internet“; more recently, they produced “The State of Cloud Computing” in association with Salesforce.com.

Seeking new topics, JESS3 invited me to develop a story concept for the video you see above. I talked with some influential wiki-thinkers, some of whose names appear in “Special Thanks” at the video’s end, to write a script for the eventual narrator. Not unlike Dan Aykroyd’s first draft of “The Blues Brothers”—and like it in only this regard—it was much longer than what you see above. Left out were asides on the cause (and effects) of the Spanish Fork, the German-language Wikipedia’s different way of doing things, the development of chapters, the invention of bots, the most-visited Wikipedia articles, the most-visited-in-a-single day Wikipedia article, and more.

In the end, it was a good thing they asked me to scale it back, especially once Jimmy Wales agreed to provide the voice as narrator. And the shorter version perhaps better accomplishes the goal of giving viewers a bit of an answer to the questions of where Wikipedia came from, and why it works the way it does. At the very least, I hope it sparks a deeper curiosity among viewers and, perhaps, sufficient interest to get involved themselves.

Who knows if it will have that effect, but it was a great experience to be part of. The effort put into this by the JESS3 team—on art direction, animation and sound—was tremendous, and took it far beyond any concept I had of what it could become. And maybe we’ll do it again in ten years.

How I Spent Wikipedia’s Tenth Anniversary

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on January 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

Alas, I did not make it to the local meetup in Washington, DC, where I live, but I did something else, something as fun as it was unexpected—I was on Ukrainian television.

Friday afternoon, a small TV crew led by reporter Maksym Drabok visited my apartment in Lanier Heights to record me talking about Wikipedia and even editing Wikipedia. Fortunately, I had some material about University of Oregon head football coach Chip Kelly waiting to be added, so I used the occasion to add a few more citations to his biographical article (it still needs more). Also featured in the segment was Thomas Boylston Adams, about the ne’er-do-well son of second U.S. president John Adams, which I created in April 2008 (while watching the HBO miniseries John Adams).

Also also featured: my home office, me in a wiki-related T-shirt, and—you guessed it—this very blog. Here’s the segment in full:

Last but not least, thanks very much to Maksym Drabok and INTER TV for the opportunity.