Last modified on 8 April 2014, at 18:15

Jimmy Wales

Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing.

Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales (born 7 August 1966) is a U.S. Internet entrepreneur and wiki pioneer who is best known as one of the founders of Wikipedia, an international collaborative free content encyclopedia on the Internet, and Wikimedia Foundation.


Simply having rules does not change the things that people want to do. You have to change incentives.
  • Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing.
  • I frequently counsel people who are getting frustrated about an edit war to think about someone who lives without clean drinking water, without any proper means of education, and how our work might someday help that person. It puts flamewars into some perspective, I think.
    • Quoted in Robin "Roblimo" Miller, "Wikimedia Founder Jimmy Wales Responds," Slashdot (2004-07-28)
  • [Wikipedia is] like a sausage: you might like the taste of it, but you don't necessarily want to see how it's made.
  • When someone just writes 'f**k, f**k, f**k', we just fix it, laugh and move on. But the difficult social issues are the borderline cases — people who do some good work, but who are also a pain in the neck.
    • "Who knows?", The Guardian (26 October 2004)
  • Wikipedia is first and foremost an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language. Asking whether the community comes before or after this goal is really asking the wrong question: the entire purpose of the community is precisely this goal.
  • Ideally, our rules should be formed in such a fashion that an ordinary helpful kind thoughtful person doesn't really even need to know the rules. You just get to work, do something fun, and nobody hassles you as long as you are being thoughtful and kind.
  • The real struggle is not between the right and the left but between the party of the thoughtful and the party of the jerks.
  • We are growing from a cheerful small town where everyone waves off their front porch to the subway of New York City where everyone rushes by. How do you preserve the culture that has worked so well?
  • Frankly, and let me be blunt, Wikipedia as a readable product is not for us. It's for them. It's for that girl in Africa who can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around her, but only if she's empowered with the knowledge to do so.
  • We are Wikipedians. This means that we should be: kind, thoughtful, passionate about getting it right, open, tolerant of different viewpoints, open to criticism, bold about changing our policies and also cautious about changing our policies. We are not vindictive, childish, and we don't stoop to the level of our worst critics, no matter how much we may find them to be annoying.
    • Wikipedia-l mailing list (18 December 2005, 15:39 UTC)
  • We come from geek culture, we come from the free software movement, we have a lot of technologists involved. If we had done the same sort of comparison on poets or artists, I think that we would not have fared nearly as well.
  • Quite frankly, several of the people who contributed to the article should be banned from coming near a keyboard until they have learned to engage in proper encyclopedia writing.
  • I think that argument is completely morally bankrupt, and I think people know that when they make it. There's a very big difference between having a sincere, passionate interest in a topic and being a paid shill ... Particularly for PR firms, it's something they should really very strongly avoid: ever touching an article.
    • PRWeek (30 Jan 2007) In response to suggestions Wikipedia might change policies to allow PR firms to edit the site without breaking a rule called "WP:AUTO".
  • I don't see any particular problem with that.
    • Responding to the deletion of a Wikipedia article from non-administrator view, while the article's deletion was being reviewed by the community. (27 March 2007)
  • EssJay was appointed at the request of and unanimous support of the ArbCom.
  • I think MySpace is doomed, I give them about two more years.... I think Facebook is the next Microsoft in both the bad and the good senses. That's an amazing company that is going to do a lot of good and bad things.
  • Greatest misconception about Wikipedia: We aren’t democratic. Our readers edit the entries, but we’re actually quite snobby. The core community appreciates when someone is knowledgeable, and thinks some people are idiots and shouldn’t be writing.
  • There’s plenty of rude stuff online. People say things online that they would be ashamed to say face to face. If people could treat others as though they were speaking face to face, that would be huge.
    • As quoted in "The Encyclopedist’s Lair" in The New York Times (19 November 2007)
  • Given enough time humans will screw up Wikipedia just as they have screwed up everything else, but so far it's not too bad.
  • I don't really agree that most academics frown when they hear Wikipedia. Most academics I find quite passionate about the concept of Wikipedia and like it quite a bit. [...] The number of academics who really really don't like Wikipedia is really quite small and we find that they get reported on in the media far out of proportion to the amount they actually exist.
    • Wikimania 2008 Alexandria, press conference, 0'14 (August 2008)
  • We are a passionate community of volunteers who are trying to create a free encyclopedia for every single person on the planet. So we don't often think in terms of competition. We are going to do what we do and we hope Google does wonderful things as well. [...] If we were approaching this as a business we would think always: Oh, how can we position ourselves on the market... We just don't do any of that stuff.
    • Wikimania 2008 Alexandria, press conference, 0'20 (August 2008), asked about Google Knol
  • I have my team focused on the front end, working on the user experience, and making sure we have all the wiki-like tools people need to work on the site. We're just cranking away.
    • About Wikia Search, in an interview with Susan Kuchinskas in iMediaConnection, March 26, 2009 (only days before Wales would shut down Wikia Search and lay off two developers)
  • To me the key thing is getting it right. And if a person's really smart and they're doing fantastic work, I don't care if they're a high school kid or a Harvard professor; it's the work that matters.
  • I'm on it pretty much all the time. I edit Wikipedia every day, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter, I'm reading the news. During one of the US elections, I actually went through my computer and I blocked myself from looking at the major newspaper sites and Google News because I wasn't getting any work done.

C-SPAN interview (2005)Edit

Interview with Brian Lamb (25 September 2005) Transcript and Realplayer video
Wales: We help the internet not suck.

Wales: Our goal has always been Britannica or better quality. We don't always achieve that.
Lamb: Would you put them out of business?
Wales: You know, I don't know. I used to think so but I just was in Germany where Wikipedia is really big in Germany[..]. And Brockhaus is the — is the publisher of the Britannica style traditional encyclopedia. And their sales are up 30 percent in the last year even though Wikipedia is going through the roof. And I think there's a certain maybe there ends up being some complementarity to it that people[..]. So Wikipedia helps people to remember that hey, there is actually something to having a group of people edit, monitor, and put a level of trust to information. And so that makes Brockhaus more appealing, makes Wikipedia more appealing. So it's hard to say.

Lamb: Another thing I read about you is that you are a follower or have been at some point a follower of Ayn Rand?
Wales: That's right, yes.
Lamb: Who was she and do you still follow her and what is it about it that you like?
Wales: Yes. So Ayn Rand is the — she wrote Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, as is viewed by many as, you know, something of the founder of the libertarian strain of thought in the U.S. She would have rejected quite rightly, I think, the libertarian label. But I think for me one of the core things that is very applicable to my life today is the virtue of independence — is the vision, you know, if you know the idea of Howard Roark who is the architect in The Fountainhead who has a vision for what he wants to accomplish and, you know, there's some time in the book when he is frustrated in his career because people don't want to build the type of buildings he wants to build. And he's given a choice, a difficult choice, to compromise his integrity or to essentially go out of business. And he has to go and take a job working in a quarry. And for me that model has a lot of — a lot of resonance for me. You know when I think about what I'm doing — what I'm doing and the way I'm doing it is more important to me than any amount of money or anything like that because it's my artistic work.
Lamb: What year did you read Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead?
Wales: I guess I was around 20 when I — when I read The Fountainhead.

About Jimmy WalesEdit

  • The more time I spent on the site the more I came to think of Wales as some kind of Queen Ant, letting the vast colony go about its work, at the centre of a system where the knowledge of the community is infinitely larger than the sum of experience of all its individuals.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

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