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Updated Friday, March 30, 2012 at 07:23 PM

Paul Allen backs Wikidata project

Brier Dudley

Paul Allen's feeling generous this month, and geeky.

A week after donating $300 million to advance brain research, Allen's leading the funding of an ambitious database project called Wikidata that's designed to boost the quality and consistency of the Wikipedia encyclopedia.

Wikidata is being developed by the German chapter of the Wikimedia movement. It's "a collaboratively edited database of the world's knowledge."

Wikidata will start by producing a common source of structured data that will support the more than 280 language editions of Wikipedia.

The idea is that by providing common source material, the quality and consistency of Wikipedia articles will improve, according to a release announcing the grant.

The project is being backed with a grant of 1.3 million euros, which is about $1.7 million. Half is coming from the Microsoft co-founder, a quarter from Google and a quarter from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Allen's gift is coming via the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a low-profile funding organization in Seattle supporting research that may accelerate progress in artificial intelligence.

"Wikidata will build on semantic technology that we have long supported, will accelerate the pace of scientific discovery, and will create an extraordinary new data resource for the world," Mark Greaves, vice president of the institute, said in the release.

Here's how the Wikidata project is described in the release:

Wikidata will be developed in three phases. The first phase is expected to be finished by August 2012. It will centralize links between the different language versions of Wikipedia in one place. In the second phase, editors will be able to add and use data in Wikidata. The results of the second phase are scheduled to be released in December 2012. The third and final phase will allow for the automatic creation of lists and charts based on the data in Wikidata. This will close the initial development process for Wikidata.

A team of eight developers at Wikimedia Deutschland will handle the first phase and then transfer the project to the Wikimedia Foundation.


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