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The history of Wikinews and my role in it


I am sometimes called the "founder of Wikinews". I'd like to clarify what I have done, and what this means (not much).

Early history


The first public suggestion to start a Wikinews within Wikimedia I am aware of was made by an anonymous IP, in a two-line comment on a page called "Wikews" on

I thought of another brilliant sistr [sic] project idea: Wiki + news = Wikews.
The point of this project is to have the news on a wide variety of subjects, unbiased and in detail.

The anonymous IP would never participate in the discussion again, to my knowledge. (The anonymous edit was claimed by Wikipedian Fonzy in November 2005.) A longer thread over many months unfolded, with many complaining about the choice of name. The issue of original reporting was not brought up -- the idea described was more focused on the "human news aggregator" aspect. I didn't much like that idea.

Around late 2003 or early 2004, the idea formed in my head that Wikinews could be more than that. In January 2004, I moved "Wikews" to "Wikinews". I started talking to people about Wikinews. I registered the domain name in April 2004 (I would later transfer it to the Wikimedia Foundation). In May 2004, I worked on my election statement for the board election that took place later that year. In that statement, I wrote: [1]

Another project idea near and dear to my heart is m:Wikinews, even though the page on Meta does not reflect my current state of thinking, which I have so far not written down. I believe that the same principles which have been applied to create an encyclopedia, free textbooks, and so on can be applied to compete with every TV and radio station, every newspaper in the world -- to become an independent, neutral news website, like Wikipedia is an independent, neutral encyclopedia.
There is, however, one important difference. On Wikipedia we do not allow original research, and that gives us an easy way to deal with cranks and crackpots -- if they can't prove that someone else has made their claims, then the claims aren't relevant to the article (unless they themselves are important researches and have published them). Wikinews, if it doesn't just want to be the open content equivalent of (i.e. a news summary service), has to do original reporting.
The democratic potential of truly free, international news media cannot be overestimated. Aside from open content and massive collaboration, there is one key difference between this project and something like Indymedia: We would be able to maintain a neutral point of view. Indymedia is essentially an advocacy news site, while this project would be as unbiased as possible.

I wrote some more about how I thought credibility could be ensured, how reporting could be funded, and how articles could be reviewed before publication. I do therefore take credit for being the first to suggest that Wikinews should include original reporting, and to document in detail what the project could work like. A few days after I wrote this, Isomorphic joined the discussion and also suggested that Wikinews should include original reporting, and an interesting debate began. He deserves credit for being the first to refactor the discussion into a proposal page in July 2004.

Getting started


While I lost the election by 11 votes to Anthere [2], I continued to pursue the creation of Wikinews. At the Wizards of OS conference in June 2004, Jimbo Wales and I discussed the idea, and in his public talk, he announced that "We're gonna do it" (it being Wikinews).

In October 2004, I started pushing things forward. I rewrote the Wikinews project proposal, made a formal announcement, added an FAQ, participated in many prolonged discussions, rewrote the proposal again based on that, moved the controversial aspects to a separate "Thinktank" page, organized the multilingual vote, set up the demo site, wrote many of the first pages and policies, created the IRC channel and mailing list, and to this day manage the creation of new language editions. In other words, besides proposing ideas, I spent many hours to get what was a very controversial project in the community off the ground and address concerns. In December 2004, the first two editions were officially launched.

In the first phase of Wikinews, I implemented a template-based review process -- all articles had to undergo review before they could be formally published. I later replaced this process with Wikinews:Article flags. I still believe that a formal review process is needed, but I think such a process needs to be software-assisted in order to be scalable.

Being "founder" and a regular editor


I do not expect any special treatment due to my early role in the project. Treat my edits like you would any other. If you are kind and respectful to me, I very much welcome that - but we should try to be kind and respectful to everyone. :-)

Sometimes people contact me and ask me to settle a dispute. I cannot settle a dispute unless all parties agree to me being a mediator, as with any other member of the community. Please, never take something I have written and use it as a justification for doing something someone else disagrees with, in the form of "Eloquence has said ..., therefore I can do this." My arguments and proposals have as much weight as everyone else's. Please do quote me on this, should it come up somewhere.

Because I am doing many different things in the Wikimedia communities, I am not always active on Wikinews. (I do, however, visit the site daily and check for messages.) Please do forgive me if I sometimes pop up and make a bold edit, start an experiment, or similar. Do not hesitate to talk to me or revert me, if you think something I have done is wrong,

Finally, please do keep in mind that Wikinews is built by its very large and active community of editors. Many, many people are writing and editing here much more actively and passionately than I am, and these are the people who deserve credit for making Wikinews what it is. It's fine if you refer to me as the "founder" of the site. But please do not identify the site with me -- identify it with the people who write stories every single day, who do original reporting ranging from mundane to courageous, who welcome newcomers to the community, who contribute code and ideas, who boldly go where no Wikinewsie has gone before. :-) Identify it also with the anonymous person who wrote the very first suggestion to start such a project. It is this level of openness for innovation that is the heart of Wikimedia.