Wikipedia is undoubtedly our number one Internet based source of knowledge. Run by the Wikimedia Foundation, the online, crowd-sourced encyclopedia is one of the best things since sliced bread. However, the foundation also runs some other, similarly useful initiatives and it has now received a $3 million grant to improve one of them.
Wikimedia Commons refers to a vast, public repository of images, videos and other media that is maintained by Wikimedia Foundations. Everything contained in this treasure trove is free to use for the general public. And many completed projects and presentation have this commons repository to thank.
Maintaining such a vast deposit required effort. However, even greater effort is required in ensuring that all the data is properly categorized and can be made available through means of search. This is exactly where the newly $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, will come in handy.
The foundation was set up in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan (Obviously!) who was then the president and CEO of General Motors. The foundation makes various grants and donations to deserving individuals and organizations acorss the world — and as we can see, they can be quite hefty.
Meanwhile, this particular grant will be used to properly categorize the over 35 million media assets currently hosted on Commons. These assets are currently described by “casual notation,” which makes it a heartbreaking job to search through them for anything you might need. The donation will go towards improving the cataloging and ensuring that the content under the Wikimedia Commons can be found more easily.
The grant will also help Wikimedia Foundation bring in elements of machine learning to automate the process of integrating the correct content into third-party services that need it. In essence, it will make searches easier and their results more accurate. The grant will also be used to link the commons assets available to Wikimedia with Wikidata, over the course of three years.
At a time when the world wide web, like the rest of the world, is beset by increasing polarization, commercialization, and narrowing, Wikipedia continues to serve as a shining, global counter-example of open collaborative knowledge sharing and consensus building presented in a reliable context with a neutral point of view, free of fake news and false information, that emphasizes how we can come together to build the sum of all human knowledge. We all need Wikipedia, its sister projects, its technology, and its values, now more than ever.