Jimmy Wales on Making Money

Jan 062012

Last week, I found this nice clip of Jimmy Wales explaining why he’s not milking Wikipedia for every last cent:

Jared Rhodes then pointed me to this clip from Jimmy’s lecture at Ford Hall Forum, where he quotes me. (I’m pretty sure that he didn’t tell me about it at the time… but perhaps I’m enjoying it afresh for the second time!)

The slide says:

Rational people “don’t need to be told what to think, they need facts upon which to draw their own conclusions.” (Diana Hsieh)

It’s in the discussion of what a “neutral point of view” means, and that starts at about 18:00.

Jimmy Wales – Free Speech, Free Minds and Free Markets from Ford Hall Forum on FORA.tv

Still, I wish that Jimmy made bijillions (a word of his that I still use) from Wikipedia!

Another Objectivist at Ford Hall Forum?

Sep 102008

The Ford Hall Forum is a longstanding and prestigious platform for speakers with interesting things to say (like Objectivists Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, and Yaron Brook). The Forum sent out an announcement that Jimmy (Jimbo) Wales of Wikipedia fame will be speaking on September 11 in Boston. This caught my eye, not only because I fondly remember Jimbo from Objectivisty circles many years back, but also because it advertises that he is going to talk about how “Objectivist philosophy guides his vision”:

Free Speech, Free Minds, Free Markets: Competition and Collaboration

Across the globe we are building, editing, and contributing to a growing body of knowledge and tools at everyone’s fingertips. Volunteers in leaderless organizations contribute to online initiatives and articles. Software developers spend their free time collaborating with complete strangers. Amazingly, these efforts are creating products of extraordinary quality, sometimes better than that of large for-profit organizations. Why do we do it? Why does it work? Join us tonight as Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales joins journalist Christopher Lydon to address these questions, where “web 2.0″ will take us next, and how Objectivist philosophy guides his vision.

I would love to ask some questions about how Objectivism guides his vision, but I can’t be there. Maybe someone in the NoodleCaboodle could go and ask questions for us and report back! Here are the ones I am curious to hear addressed:

  1. You refer to Wikipedia as a way to give people free access to the sum of all human knowledge. Yet Wikipedia doesn’t even aim to express what is true—it is focused on documenting what people believe, carefully including all the patently silly and downright vicious things people think. That is, Wikipedia strives for neutrality rather than objectivity with regard to the truth of what is claimed. Wouldn’t Objectivism inspire you to characterize Wikipedia more accurately as a vast snapshot of what people currently think, good and bad?

  2. When you ask for contributions to Wikipedia, you seem to frame or at least decorate the appeal in altruistic terms. How does that square with the ethical egoism of Objectivism, which flatly rejects altruism as immoral?
  3. In your appeal for contributions, you wrote that “This is a radical strike at the heart of an increasingly shallow, proprietary and anti-intellectual culture. … I hope [my daughter] will grow up in a world where culture is free, not proprietary… We’re already taking back the Internet. With your help, we can take back the world.” (Emphasis added.) Just what is bad about being proprietary? Wouldn’t an Objectivist be supportive of the creator who chooses to profit from the sale of his work, rather than fight against him? And “taking back” seems to imply that something was unjustly taken. The Internet is physically composed of private property (computers, connections) and wasn’t taken from you; the information communicated using it wasn’t taken from you, either. Wouldn’t Objectivism inspire clarifying and reinforcing the intellectual and physical property rights involved—including how they recognize and foster a deep harmony of interests—rather than this talk of “taking back” something that wasn’t taken in the first place?
  4. You recently announced your launch of a Green Wiki. That site explains, “In light of the climate crisis and other ecological challenges increasingly facing us,” that it hopes to serve the “people who want to inform themselves and live in a more sustainable way,” because “the threats to our environment are real and that they require action.” It will be “written from a green point of view,” and will focus on detailing such helpful actions as “How to reduce your carbon footprint.” How can this initiative of yours be informed by Objectivism, which repudiates the Environmentalist movement as epistemologically, morally, and politically corrupt?

Obviously, I don’t understand how Jimbo’s actions can be reconciled with Objectivist principles, so I’m surprised to hear that he thinks the philosophy guides his vision. It would be great to see how he addresses this.

Colbert Interviews Jimmy Wales

May 262007

I must admit, it’s pretty cool to watch Stephen Colbert interview someone I know from real life.


Jul 282006

My friend Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has finally reached the pinnacle of celebrity with this merciless article from The Onion.

Confused Reporting

Nov 152004

Okay, so either a reporter was very confused or Jimmy has some ‘splaining to do:

Blog owners usually don’t allow their readers to add their own comments, preferring their monologues to others’ dialogues. On the other hand, a “Wiki,” which gets its name from the Hawaiian word for “fast,” is a type of Web site that encourages active participation. It’s the approach taken by Wikipedia, the most pervasive quasi-encyclopedia on the Web. Wikipedia is free and contains millions of articles in scores of languages that pop up early in many Google searches, but the articles’ authors are anonymous and can be anyone, so their credibility is dubious.

A computer programmer from Alabama named Jimmy Wales created Wikipedia in 2001, inviting Web surfers to add articles on any topic, and they did, with 1 million articles being added as of last September.

Wales admires novelist Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Philosophy, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as a doctrine “holding that all reality is objective and external to the mind and that knowledge is reliably based on observed objects and events.” So he believes that contributors should “write about what people believe, rather than what is so.”

Instead of gathering a stable of acknowledged authorities to write its articles, as do traditional encyclopedias, Wikipedia describes itself as “collaboratively edited and maintained by thousands of users.”

The italicized passage is quite astonishing. Even bypassing the misunderstanding of Objectivism, the only connection between reality as objective and writing on beliefs rather than facts is a negative one!

So Jimmy, what’s up with that?!?


Oct 272004

My longtime friend Jimmy Wales certainly gets lots of well-deserved press for Wikipedia, but does this article really mean that I can find his bearded face in the latest Newsweek in my local grocery store?

If so, wow.

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