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Wikipedia gets $890,000 for the Luddites

User-built online encyclopedia receives grant to hire new developers, with a goal of making the occasionally confusing interface friendlier to non-geek contributors.

Anyone who's ever edited or created a Wikipedia entry can attest to the fact that it's not that self-explanatory. They're in luck--the nonprofit anyone-can-edit encyclopedia has received $890,000 from the Stanton Foundation in order to make it easier to use.

More specifically, the grant was given to the Wikimedia Foundation, the organization that encompasses Wikipedia. It'll fund the hire of three new software developers in the foundation's San Francisco office. Then, per a press release, the team will "commission research to identify the most common barriers to entry for first-time writers, and then work to systematically reduce or eliminate them...hiding complex elements of the user interface from people who don't need them."

Wikipedia will make all new code open-source.

"Wikipedia attracts writers who have a moderate-to-high level of technical understanding, but it excludes lots of smart, knowledgeable people who are less tech-centric," Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner said in the release. "One of our key priorities is to attract those people and persuade them to help write and edit the encyclopedia. I am thrilled that the Stanton Foundation recognizes the importance of that work, and will be helping us with it."

Also a plus for a more user-friendly Wikipedia: Ideally, its millions of articles will have a broader depth of coverage. My colleague Declan McCullagh did an assessment last year of the skew toward geeky pop-culture content: the article for the mythological figure Vulcan, for example, is about one tenth as long as the article for the Vulcans of Star Trek fame.

The Stanton Foundation was founded by broadcast executive Frank Stanton, who served as president of CBS (which publishes CNET News) from 1946 to 1971.