WikipediaThe founder of Wikipedia has claimed take up of wikis by mainstream media is dependent on the cultivation of communities rather than concerns about vandalism.

Jimmy Wales told that newspaper sites could use wikis to serve as a focal point and support mechanism for communities to post news that would not normally be covered by the paper.

Issues surrounding vandalism and inaccuracy, he claimed, could be lessened with software features.

"To do a successful public wiki it really has very little to do with the software and a lot to do with people," he said.

"The LA Times experiment with a wiki really pretty clearly failed because it didn’t bother to first cultivate a community of users."

He added: "If newspapers think of it as a cheap way to get content then people aren’t going to appreciate that.

"But if they think of a segment of the community that it isn't serving well and which it can't serve well because the economics don't work out then this new method of production means they can actually provide a new service.

"I think that would be a healthy way to look at it and it actually has a lot of potential."

Mr Wales said he did recognise there was potential for news publishers to be open to libel should wikis run on their sites fall foul of vandals. However, he suggested that there were ways to lessen the effect of vandalism.

"One of the things we're introducing soon is a new feature in the software to allow the community to identify the best work and flag it," he said.

"It still allows open editing but you could also surface the best version of an article rather than the most recent if something is vandalism prone.

"Some little tweaks in the software like this one will over time make wikis more usable on things like newspapers where they have a feeling they have to be more conservative and cautious about what they are displaying to the general public.

"We've never worried too much about it, we come from the internet. This is a new medium and consumers are aware that although the overall product is quite good with user generated content it’s occasionally dodgy and you have to keep an eye out."

He added that since announcing plans for Openserving, in December, Wikia had received several thousand requests to use the software.

Despite having to work through a sizeable backlog of requests, Mr Wales said he was hopeful of launching the much-anticipated search engine project - wikiasearch - in the next three months for public testing.

"To me the idea of having a freely licensed, fully transparent search engine is really cool and exciting. It has really captured people's imagination and for me this is what I intend to spend most of my time working on in the next year.

"We're hopeful that we can at least match and perhaps surpass the quality of Google but we are going to do it with open-source software and open public algorithms.

"What makes it so interesting is that it invites participation from lots of different people. It's a brand new idea."

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