Wikipedia founder tackles politics

The founder of Wikipedia launches a political wiki.

The founder of Wikipedia, the peer-edited online encyclopedia, has launched a new political wiki site, saying it's "time for politics to become more intelligent."

Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales launched the Campaigns Wikia site, at http://campaigns.wikia.com/wiki/Campaigns_Wikia, on the Fourth of July. "It's time for ... democracy to really involve the people," he said in the site's mission statement. "Broadcast media tells you what to think and doesn't let you get involved. It's time to focus on what you need, what you care about, and the messages you want to get out."

The goal of Campaigns Wikia is to bring diverse people together to engage in intelligent debate, Wales wrote on the site. Wales hopes to engage people who "share the idea that they would rather see democratic politics be about engaging with the serious ideas of intelligent opponents, about activating and motivating ordinary people to get involved and really care about politics beyond the television sound bites."

Wales said he doesn't know how to make politics "healthier" and more responsive to voters, but he believes good ideas can come from potential users of the site.

Wales acknowledged that his goal may be "crazy," but Wikipedia, the flagship product of the Wikimedia Foundation Inc., has seen major growth since it was launched in January 2001. Written largely by volunteer contributors, Wikipedia hit 1 million English articles in March. As of March, there were versions of Wikipedia in 125 languages, containing 3.3 million articles.

Wales, in his mission statement for Campaigns Wikia, criticized current political campaigns' focus on "broadcast politics."

"And let's be simple and bluntly honest about it, left or right, conservative or liberal, broadcast politics are dumb, dumb, dumb," he wrote. "Campaigns have been more about getting the television messaging right, the image, the sound bite, than about engaging ordinary people in understanding and caring how political issues really affect their lives."

But blog and wiki authors are inventing a new kind of media, he added.

"It is my belief that this new media is going to invent a new era of politics. If broadcast media brought us broadcast politics, then participatory media will bring us participatory politics. The candidates who will win elections in the future will be the candidates who build genuinely participative campaigns by generating and expanding genuine communities of engaged citizens."

Among the political issues listed on Campaigns Wiki's front page are terrorism, digital rights, gay marriage, and public health care.

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Grant Gross

IDG News Service

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