Like me, Jimmy Wales is a Florida kid done good. Okay, well. Wales has actually done a ton better. The founder of Wikipedia--the site is exactly 10 years old this week--has overseen a phenomenon that's grown to epic, even cosmic, proportions. Even if you have a problem with Wikipedia, you have to admit its huge influence.
Jimmy talked to me via email--he's in London this week--and prepared for me a little list on what makes him proudest about Wikipedia.
And before you ask, yes, I'm trying to keep my name off Wikipedia. I'm scared spitless of Wiki vandalism. And despite the wailing of Valleywag, I've been successful so far.
One of Wales' passions is curbing online hate speech: Says Wales: "I'm standing up for civil digital discourse because I believe that the Internet represents an amazing opportunity for all of us to come together, think about the future of the world, think about how we should be living together on this planet, but the only way we can really realize that dream is to have serious, thoughtful conversations, not attacks, not viciousness, not partisanship, certainly not bullying."
And no, Wales had absolutely nothing to do with Wikileaks. "Wikipedia has absolutely nothing to do with Wikileaks, and I want to emphasize that," he told me, to quell any confusion that might be out of there. Wales stays squarely out of that discussion. More on that can of worms is available here.
Here's the list: a Top 10 List of What Jimmy Wales Thinks is Best About Wikipedia. From Jimbo direct to me, and, now, to you.
- 1.) I've always been passionate about learning, and with Wikipedia we're giving everyone on the planet free access to the sum of all human knowledge. Wikipedia is the fifth largest website in the world and has over 400 million unique visitors a month. I'm really proud of that.
- 2.) The community of Wikipedians takes very seriously the need for neutrality, which is especially important when dealing with sensitive or controversial topics. Overall I'd say we're doing a good job at that, although there is always room for improvement.
- 3.) The quality of the articles in Wikipedia have greatly improved over the years, which is a testament to the passion of the volunteers working on the site every day.
- 4.) I get to travel all over the world and meet amazing people who care about Wikipedia. Ten years ago I never imagined that I would be doing that.
- 5.) Our goal is to make Wikipedia available in every language of the world, and we're well on our way to doing that, although we still have a ways to go, especially in areas such as native African languages.
- 6.) We're opening our first international office of Wikipedia this year, in India.
- 7.) We're a champion of free speech. Censorship as it exists in certain parts of the world is a major human rights issue and one we're speaking out against.
- 8.) Wikipedia is absolutely fun to read, it's got tons of fascinating information in it. When I have a free moment, I go to the site and see what the leading articles of the day are. It's a blast.
- 9.) Because Wikipedia is free and doesn't accept advertising revenue, we're not beholden to any outside influences.
- 10.) We have about 17 millions articles on the site, and we're still going strong.
Congratulations on your 10 year birthday, Wikipedia. For Techweb and the upcoming BYTE.com I'm Gina Smith.