Last week saw Denny Vrandecic leave Wikidata as director of the project that as of last week passed a milestone of 20 million statements and as of this Monday saw the creation of its fifteen-millionth item, about a Wikipedia category related to beetles. This week also sees Lydia Pintscher, community communications for technical projects including Wikidata, take on the responsibility of product manager for Wikidata.
In a farewell blog post, entitled Data For the People, Vrandecic provided his thoughts about how far Wikidata has come, as well as the possibilities and challenges that lie ahead.
The Semantic Web Blog caught up with Vrandecic, who spoke at the recent SemTech in San Francisco in June, for a little more perspective on the future – Wikidata’s and his own. When it comes to what he’d note as is accomplishments, Vrandecic said that he usually would name the size of the project, citing Wikidata’s community of 3,900 active editors, of whom a third have not been contributors to Wikimedia projects before. “This is, after Wikipedia and Commons, the third-largest Wikimedia project.
We have, within mere months, become a core piece of the Wikimedia mission, and today, whenever you see a Wikipedia or Wikivoyage page, you see data from Wikidata,” he told us in an email.
“But,” he commented, “what I am most proud of is that we managed to find a unique solution for the difficult balance between flexibility and consistency, so that Wikidata is a place that can deal with knowledge diversity and contradictions, with a multitude of languages and sources. There was a worry frequently expressed to the effect that a project like Wikidata would become a threat to diversity – and we have not only anticipated it, but also built effective solutions to counter that potential threat.”
His good-bye post also noted that the road ahead is not without its obstacles: He asked in it, “What is the biggest risk for Wikidata in my opinion? Not to be used.” To that point, Vrandecic told The Semantic Web Blog that (fortunately) he does think it’s a risk that can be avoided. “There are already several plans in place to facilitate wider adoption of Wikidata outside of the Wikimedia projects,” he said. “Just one example is a project we are starting with the Hasso-Plattner-Institute that aims at creating software libraries for easy reuse of Wikidata data. Another example is the improvement of Wikidata’s exports and dumps. I am confident that my successor will keep a keen eye on avoiding this risk.”
In her own blog post published today, Pushing Wikidata To The Next Level, Pintscher concurs that there is still work to be done – around building trust in the data, improving the user experience around Wikidata and making Wikidata easier to understand. “We need to build tools and processes to make our data more trustworthy,” she writes. “Let’s make Wikidata a joy to use and get it used in places and ways we can’t even imagine yet.”
What Vrandecic’s own future plans are, he said, can be found in an email he wrote in the summer, where he noted that he’d be stepping down as director but proudly continuing as a member of the community. “My new day job,though,” he wrote there, “will be at Google, and from there I hope to continue to effectively further our goals towards a world where everyone has access to the sum of all knowledge.”