Hello, world: this is WikiTribune


Welcome to WikiTribune, a pilot project for a new approach to journalism where the community is at the center. This is not a news service – yet. It’ll only be the news service I envisage when you play a full role.

[To take part please SIGN ON or SIGN IN if you’re already registered.]

When I wrote the very first words in Wikipedia back in January 2001, I chose “Hello, world!”

It is a long-standing tradition among computer programmers that when you are learning a new programming language, the first thing you do is write a program that says “Hello, world!”

The day I opened Wikipedia to the public, January 15, 2001, it was not an encyclopedia – yet. Therefore, that was not the launch of an encyclopedia.

What was it, then? It was the launch of a project to build an encyclopedia.

What is this, then? This is the launch of a project to build a news service. An entirely new kind of news service in which the trusted users of the site – the community members – are treated as equal to the staff of the site. As with any true wiki, you can jump in and get involved at the highest levels, doing as much or as little as you like to help. As with any successful wiki, there will be detailed discussions and debates by the community to set policy on all the matters necessary to build a news service.

My goals are pretty easy to understand, but grand in scope (more fun that way, eh?): to build a global, multilingual, high quality, neutral news service. I want us to be in as many languages as possible as fast as possible. I want us to be more concerned with being right than being first. I want us to report objectively and factually and fairly on the news with no other agenda than this: The ultimate arbiters of the truth are the facts of reality. That’s agenda enough to keep us busy.

So now let me tell you my rough plans for the next few weeks.

If you’re reading this anytime soon after I wrote it, you’re lucky – we aren’t announcing this anywhere, and a big part of the point of this letter is to invite journalists who might be excited to write with awe or gleeful disappointment at our launch to relax a notch or two. Again, this is not the launch of a news service. This is the launch of a project to build a news service. That’s why it says “Pilot” right up at the top.

So we’ve just quietly opened up and we plan to be slowly but surely accepting people who have requested an invite. One of the key things that I want to get right from the very beginning is the attitude that we have as a community. Neutrality is nonnegotiable. Treating each other well is nonnegotiable. This is supposed to be fun. This is supposed to be different. This is supposed to matter.

Over time as we build up activity in the community, we’ll accept more and more people when we are confident that the administrators (some staff, some users) are ready.

We’re using WordPress as the core of our launch platform, and it has some major strengths as a content management system, not least of which is that it is open source and has a mature and strong ecosystem of open source developers. But it also has some major philosophical differences from a wiki – the default assumptions about who can do what are really quite different. So the job of building the software to make our news platform as powerful as we need it to be is going to take some time. Please help me figure out the priorities.

If you’re as excited about this as I am, please do tell a few people, especially people you trust, people you think are smart and kind and might be interested to join our merry band.

Hello, world! Let’s get to work… on WikiTribune.

—Jimbo

Want to read more?
– A chronological list of all stories on WikiTribune – in order of when they were last edited
– All current Projects we’d like your help on or which WikiTribune community members have proposed
– Our FAQs on conduct on WikiTribune, corrections & amplifications, style and sources and more
Want to write for WikiTribune straight away?
– Community editor Pete S. Young kindly wrote this guide to how to write a news story
We need and value your advice so please also go to Feedback on Everything Please!

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