Wikipedia came very late. My history working with the Internet, my first project when I participate in the Internet, and that was before the Web, was the Gutenberg Project. It’s still very much alive today — anybody can read public domain books, usually published before the First World War, because that’s how the copyright system works.
There’s a lot of people in this project. It went on for 40 years, digitized the books — first by typing, and then later with help from OCR technologies — turning the classics into digital files. That’s actually the basis of my education.
The result of this, is that I learned that everybody can contribute. I was active reader. If I read something that was OCR’ed incorrectly, I can tell the Gutenberg Project people to change it. In this way, we see that human knowledge is a commons. On the other hand, because of copyright law, this commons does not contain newly written materials.
So there’s the gap between the classics and today’s world. Wikipedia bridges this gap, by enabling the people working and researching in the frontiers of their respective endeavors, to write, to share whatever they have on Wikipedia.
On Wikipedia, I have contributed to fields that I’m interested in. For example, computational linguistics, the programming languages like Perl or Haskell, and also more Taiwan-specific items, such as acupuncture. It’s something that had been researched in Taiwan, more so than some other places.
For the early Wikipedia, I wrote about things that I knew of. Later on, when people started writing the article about me and about projects that I work on, I then discovered that Wikipedia is not just what we see on the surface — articles with many authors. Behind that, there is a very huge self-organizing system that valued neutral point of view, reasoning together with a deliberative process of deletion, maintaining, merging articles, and formatting of articles.
The design of Wikipedia is not just for human beings, but also for computers, for artificial intelligences like Watson to read — it’s also structured data. Because I have learned programming, I can also contribute making it be not only friendly to humans, but also friendly to machine intelligences. So I also contributed briefly as a contractor for Wikipedia Foundation.