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12/4/2008
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Wikipedia Getting Makeover For First-Time Editors

The site's foundation has scored an $890,000 grant to study and improve Wikipedia's writing and editing interface and hide elements that writers don't need.

The Wikimedia Foundation hopes to simplify its interface for volunteers who contribute to its free online encyclopedia.

The nonprofit group behind Wikipedia has received $890,000 in the form of a grant from the Stanton Foundation. It announced Wednesday that it would use the funds to study and improve Wikipedia's writing and editing interface so first-time authors find it easier to use.

"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," Sue Gardner, executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, said in a statement released Wednesday. "One of our key priorities is to attract those people and persuade them to help write and edit the encyclopedia."

Three full-time software developers, a user interface designer, and a project manager will work on the project. They will commission research to identify obstacles that first-time writers encounter and attempt to eliminate those barriers. The group will aim to hide elements of the user interface that writers don't need. They will use open source software and share it. The project is scheduled to run through 2009.

The grant comes as Wikimedia Foundation works on its sixth annual fundraiser. Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia project have placed a site-wide banner on all pages and articles, encouraging visitors to donate. The Stanton Foundation grant is restricted so it will not contribute to the Wikimedia Foundation's operating budget of $6 million for 2008-2009, Wikimedia said.

ComScore reports that Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation's other projects draw more than 270 million unique visitors a month and ranks them the fourth-most-popular Web property in the world. Wikipedia is available in more than 265 languages and provides more than 11 million articles from volunteers.

The Stanton Foundation grant honors the memory of Frank Stanton, who founded CBS and served as its president for 25 years. Stanton advocated First Amendment rights and civic education. He also orchestrated the first televised presidential debates when Richard Nixon and John Kennedy faced off in 1960.

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