Saturday, April 7, 2007

And the curtain finally rises...

Tito's note: This is the fourth in a series of articles about the Version 1.0 Editorial Team in the English Wikipedia.

As I wrote in my previous post, assuming there were no last minute hitches, the Version 0.5 CD should would go on sale on March 26. However, there were a few snags that delayed publication until now. Thankfully, those final obstacles are now a thing of the past, and the long-awaited goal of the Version 1.0 Editorial Team has been accomplished: A CD containing an offline, static version of Wikipedia is available to customers today, thanks to Linterweb.

Our release counts of 1964 articles, which span a variety of subjects, from Art to Zeus. Additionally, it includes a considerable amount of Featured articles from the English Wikipedia, to showcase the best of our work. Most importantly, it comprises more than a year of work by Wikipedians and Linterweb, across countries, oceans and continents. The release is, as Wikipedia, released under the GNU Free Documentation License, version 1.2, with the same conditions Wikipedia articles contain in their respective licenses. Kiwix, the reader software, is released under the GNU General Public License. Most importantly, a portion of the sales will go directly to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Putting this into perspective, Jimbo Wales first put his ideas for "Pushing to 1.0" on August 20, 2003. From there, Jimbo's proposal was discussed, but overall nothing happened: Jimbo's ideas remained mostly in limbo. Now, fast forward to November 20, 2004: Maureen creates the Version 1.0 Editorial Team, and work begins at a slow pace. Originally, work is done by small groups selecting articles; several of these lists still exist, such as the Core Topics list and the Core Topics supplement. However, at around the same time, another part of the team decided to begin work in a test version, to give us lessons as we kept pushing to Version 1.0.

The work on Version 0.5 began on the first week of May 2006, with the creation of the V0.5 nominations page. Nominations actually began on May 23, 2006, and from there, the rest is history. Nowadays, the Version 1.0 Editorial Team is a healthy project, with dozens of dedicated editors. But we didn't have anything to show for our work. I'm glad to be able to say that now, that has changed.

Consider some of the consequences of having a published version of Wikipedia: all of a sudden, you can say for sure what is going to be in a Wikipedia article at the moment you need it. You can point to the CD, and say that this is the revision you obtained your data from. Let's take that analysis even further--you can point to the CD, and say "I wrote this." Isn't that a great feeling? Doesn't that motivate you to write or improve even more articles? However, there is something much more important. Consider Jimbo's personal statement of our vision as Wikimedians:

"Reporters are always asking me why I’m doing this, why Wikipedians do this? I think you know why.

"I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. I’m doing this for the child in Africa who is going to use free textbooks and reference works produced by our community and find a solution to the crushing poverty that surrounds him. But for this child, a website on the Internet is not enough; we need to find ways to get our work to people in a form they can actually use."

This is a small step, but a step nonetheless, that will get us closer to that direction. Please take a look at the CD - it will be available for purchase via, for a cost of ~€12 ($15 USD, £8.50). You will also be able to download a copy of the CD's ISO file, both from a mirror and in BitTorrent format.

Either way, as the number "0.5" indicates, we are not done; static releases, just like Wikipedia itself, are not finished, as they are works in progress. We're starting work on Version 0.7 soon, and as everything else on Wikipedia, "more eyes are always more better" (I know that is bad grammar, but that's intentional ;) ). After v0.7, if things go as planned, we intend to finally publish Wikipedia Version 1.0 and accomplish our goal. Then there's also the whole idea of WikiReaders that we are beginning to consider. Overall, the future looks promising. :)

As part of the Version 1.0 Editorial Team, I hope that you will enjoy and use our work, and we hope to provide you with more news of this kind very soon.