Wikipedia Turns Ten: Lessons of Collaboration


Wikipedia is the world’s most successful model of citizen engagement and collaboration. It began ten years ago as an experiment in information that challenged the top down approach to developing encyclopedias and now boasts millions of active users with 400 million visits a month. Its staggering popularity ultimately proved the power and wisdom of the crowd in developing online resources well beyond simply creating an encyclopedia.

From the very beginning of the Sunlight Foundation, we were impressed by the philosophical ideals of Wikipedia and sought that kind of access and collaboration to government information. This shared ethos brought Jimmy Wales, the founder and public face of Wikipedia, to our advisory board and soon after our founding we pursued a wiki model for Congressionally oriented research.

The first project the Sunlight Foundation launched in April 2006 was Congresspedia, a collaborative wiki project with the Center for Media and Democracy that was designed to shine more light on the workings of the U.S. Congress. It was an explicit homage to Wikipedia and operated on the belief that a healthy democracy is built on a public informed about the inner-workings and connections of government and its officials. The Congresspedia project followed relevant public figures and tracked special interests in the wiki collaborative writing format that Wikipedia popularized ten years ago. That project eventually became part of Open Congress (which Sunlight proudly supports as its core funder) where the Transparency Hub page is a great collection of resources coordinated by Sunlight’s policy director John Wonderlich and our policy counsel Daniel Schuman.

Happy 10th birthday Wikipedia!