Why we need radical approaches and bold ideas
Back to 2001, Internet was a bit different. Email and a couple of instant messaging systems were the dominant way of Internet interaction between people. It was the time when Internet was becoming really useful. More and more people were starting to use it. Forums started to replace Usenet newsgroups. Google was becoming more and more relevant. The first free software CMS-es appeared. Wikipedia was born.
Back to the present, Internet is a bit different. We still use email, different IM systems tend to merge into the XMPP network(s), but we have a couple of more ways to express ourselves. Personal sites are now known as blogs and it is not anymore hard to maintain them; if we are not able to interact with some content — at least to leave a comment there or to “like” it — we think that it is about outdated site; thanks to Facebook, we already met the most of our old friends; we communicate through various social networks, like Twitter and Facebook are; games are not anymore exclusively places for young males without good enough social skills — they are now places for socialization, actually.
Wikipedia has become the biggest encyclopedia in the human history. Worldwide Wikimedian movement was born. Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia chapters are getting more money every year. We are able to do more things to spread free knowledge. We grew up. We’ve built impressive monument of our generation.
But, is our goal to build a monument? Or we want something different? If we want, what is that?
Wikipedia has already changed the world. Wisdom of the millions is now accessible to anyone who has Internet connection, but also to those who have just computers. We will print all Wikipedias at some point of time, for sure. Those who want to learn about other cultures are able to learn it now, no matter if they have good local library or not. It is possible to meet the world by reading content of one site.
If that’s our goal, we’ve almost achieved it. Maintaining knowledge repository, adding up to date information and even translating them — that’s comparable with maintaining a huge library. We don’t need a movement to maintain a library, no matter how huge it is. We need just librarians.
But, there is something more which we want. We wouldn’t build a movement if we don’t want something more. We want to build community with people all over the world who share our ideals. We want to have alive culture, not dead monument of our generation.
To stay alive, one culture has to have new generations to learn from previous ones. To reach new generations, to make our culture attractive to them, it has to be as exciting to them as it was to us while we’ve been building it. And that’s the hardest job which we have before us.
If we want to see how Wikipedia looks to those who are growing up with Wikipedia, we should ask ourselves are we excited when we see or use a car. No, we are not. We grew up in the era of cars. Some of us are, actually, sometimes annoyed by cars. If Wikipedia becomes not just a monument, but a commodity like cars are, we will have users, we will have manufacturers, we will have passionate fans, but we won’t have neither movement, neither culture.
If our goals are just about making knowledge accessible, it would be fair to say that our reach should be stabilized at the level of commodity. However, neither our goals, neither our responsibility is about making a commodity.
We are the best chance of humanity now. Maybe ever.
Community created around Wikipedia, Wikimedian community, outgrew Wikipedia itself. We’ve shown that million of clever people all around the world are able to cooperate together while building knowledge for billions. That never happened before!
We’ve changed history with Wikipedia and now it is about Wikimedia movement to change history.
But, without new generations we are doomed on impressive monument or commodity at best.
We have to continue with our primary job — to build and spread free knowledge — but we have to find ways how to attract new generations. To do that, we have to stay fresh, we have to give them the same feeling which we had: creating history in high tech environment. And wiki is not anymore high tech, as Internet is not, too. Internet, email, blogs, wikis — all of them are commodities for new generations, like cars are for us.
We have to think what new generations want. We know that, actually. Social networks are common place which we missed five years ago. But, it is not just about what they want now. We have to think what even younger generations would like. We have to think as visionaries, because for a long time that will be our ticket for the future. Because, for a long time that will be the ticket of the humankind for the future.
Inside of our Strategic Plan it is written that we should encourage innovation. I would like to see that it isn’t just an empty word, no matter if I would be elected or not.