Wikimedia president highlights i-Tech event
The second annual Kootenay i-Tech Tradeshow and Luncheon was held at Cranbrook’s Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort, Friday, May 25.
Cranbrook’s Dr. James Heilman is currently president of Wikimedia Canada — a division of Wikipedia – and he outlined the purpose and benefits of the ‘Wiki world’ to the luncheon attendees, on hand from throughout the region.
Wikipedia (wiki means ‘fast/quick’ in Hawaiian) was first established in 1994 by Ward Cunningham and it now features a vast array of different aspects, including Wikibooks, Wikispecies, Wikisource, Wikinews, Wikianswers and much more.
Heilman noted that the infamous ‘Wikileaks’ is not associated with Wikipedia.
Despite being the fifth most popular website in the world, with 482 unique visitors a month, Wikipedia is “not a big company,” said Heilman, pointing out that it has 75 employees world-wide, compared to Google which has 33,000 employees.
“We are not quite as popular as Google, but we are close. More than 30% of global Internet users visit Wikipedia monthly. We are the largest reference work on the Internet. And we are planning growing substantially in the next five years,” he said, adding Wikimedia is always “seeking volunteers.” Heilman is a volunteer with the non-profit society.
To give a physical example of the ‘size’ of Wikipedia, Heilman asked luncheon attendees to visualize 1,660 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Heilman said he became involved with Wikimedia because as a doctor he loves the idea of available research when it is needed. “People contribute because they want to be altruistic and contribute to the sum of all human knowledge, which is why I am here,” he said.
While a criticism of Wikipedia has been the sometimes dubious source-nature of material included on the website, Heilman said the days of people posting unsubstantiated or verifiable information is coming to a close.
There are about 700 administrators (volunteer) who can block “editors or IP addresses that make poor efforts,” he said. “One of the concerns is – yes – anyone can edit,” he admitted, but of the four million articles on the site “only 1.6% is vandalism.”
“Articles” must now undergo “a semi-formal peer review,” Heilman said. That said, there is still much work to do, he continued.
“We need to get more academics involved,” he said, noting it is harder than it may seem because many academics often need recognition for their papers. And Wikipedia doesn’t give bylines.
Opening the luncheon, staged by Kootenay Business Magazine, was David Savage from the Kootenay Leadership Institute who spoke about the fledging organization.
Additionally, Kootenay Business owner Keith Powell named the Influential Women In Business Awards, with two Columbia Valley businesswomen and a Cranbrook businesswoman emerging as winners.
The winners were: Cynthia Levagood, Smoking Water Coffee Co. Café/Bistro, Fairmont Hot Springs; Sydney-Anne Porter, owner of AG Valley Foods, Invermere; and Suzanne Pantazis, Notary Public in Cranbrook.
Another touch to the tradeshow, with numerous regional technology and electronic business support companies in attendance, was the appearance of a Chevy Volt, the first electric car to appear in Cranbrook, courtesy North Star GM.