Wikimedia’s small-screen future

Wikimedia's small screen future

The office is silent when our small film crew arrives at Wikimedia’s San Francisco headquarters. There’s none of the newsroom buzz one might associate with the operators of one of the world’s largest sites. Hell, the day I started at AOL, there was a bulldog skateboarding through the halls. There are a few subtle, telltale internet startup signs, like several bottles of liquor hastily packed in a filing box on the lower floor, sitting next to a small CD mixer. While it’s Friday afternoon, the company’s resident mixologist is out at the moment. The celebration will have to wait.

Just to the right of the party box is Song Yingxing, a conference room named for the Chinese encyclopedist, which has more recently adopted the “Mushroom Kingdom” name, owing to a slew of gaming consoles and peripherals housed inside. It won’t stay that way for long, according to Matthew Roth, the foundation’s global communications manager, who’s kindly devoted much of his afternoon to chaperoning us around the two floors. “No one really plays the games,” he says. The hammock, too, is empty for our visit. It would be easy enough to chalk up such good behavior to the presence of a visiting media outlet, but sometimes the simplest answer is the best: Friday afternoon or not, the folks seated at these desks are hard at work.

In the lower of two levels occupied by the foundation, developers have their heads down, rushing to get the soon-to-be-released in-house Wikipedia app out the door. The project has only been on the drawing board since January, and the foundation only hired its first dedicated iOS developer in the past month. The move is the next step in expanding the site’s already massive reach to corners of the world that it hasn’t quite penetrated, an attempt to help the organization approach its utopian vision of free information for all. On its face, it’s a simple photo uploader — but it’s more than that, really. It’s a chance to open up Wikipedia editing to an even larger global audience. It’s as good a reason as any to be inside on a beautiful mid-April Friday afternoon in Northern California.

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