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Wikipedia: The sum of all human knowledge? 4

I was watching an interview this evening with Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales as he discusses why Wikipedia is such a success. Basically he says people take part in the Wiki community because it’s “fun” and people contribute to Wikipedia because they enjoy it and it’s intellectually stimulating; not because they feel they are contributing to a charitable cause or doing good for the world.

He discusses how people contribute anonymously to simply help out; fixing spelling mistakes, etc. He compares this to eating in a busy restaurant packed with people armed with steak knives. Chances are most people in that restaurant don’t want to stab you with those steak knives. They are just there to eat; similarly the Wiki community is there to spread knowledge.

He also discusses how the thrill of hacking Wikipedia doesn’t appeal to hackers because it’s simply not a challenge. He talks about people writing “F YOU” on the George W. Bush page on Wikipedia. It’s been done so many times that it’s simply not exciting for someone to do. He basically tells them, go ahead and write a profanity; it will simply be removed. He calls this Wiki’s “intentional vulnerability”.

At the end of the clip, he says “If you could put ‘F YOU, F YOU’ on the Microsoft site; that would be exciting because it would be a challenge.

“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 Wales, Slashdot – July 28, 2004

  • http://www.georgepechtol.com/ george

    i agree – wikipedia is a fantastic concept and one of the rare instances in the history of mankind where the concept and the technology to actualize a concept have simultaneously converged to make something that is truly successful and beneficial. there’s so much to be gained in this experience from a humanisitic point of view (sadly, as opposed to a capitalist, “how to create an IT startup” point of view) that it’s definitely worth investigating. you should add your top-10 list of vista gadget lessons to wikipedia, jim!!
    - g
    ps. i wonder if wikipedia will evolve into the first version of the “hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy”?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04454437680686627778 Jim

    g, I totally agree. I think it took me a while to get over my brainwashed capitalistic perspective at first; when Wikipedia was first becoming popular, I couldn’t understand why the owner wouldn’t sell advertising on the site to make money.

    I couldn’t understand why he was asking for donations and revealing to the world his operating costs and balance sheet. It all makes sense now though. It’s more than making money and selling out to the corporations. You can just imagine what Wikipedia would be like if it was bought out by a large corporation. It wouldn’t be about the users anymore, it would serve the interests of the corporation which usually is all about making money for the Shareholders at any cost.

    The principles of Wikipedia set a great precedence for the future of the Internet.

  • Anonymous

    You look like a nice guy.

  • http://www.georgepechtol.com/ george

    lol – you DO look like a nice guy… if only people knew the TRUTH!!
    - g