Jimmy Wales


Happy Birthday Jimmy Wales ( /ˈdnəl ˈwlz/; born August 7, 1966[3])

Wikipedia founder Wales has transformed the worldwide landscape of documenting knowledge including ‘failure’. Richard Mullins piece on Wales noted a number of his more prominent ones…

  • Tried “to start an Internet service that connected downtown lunchers with area restaurants. ‘The result was failure,’ he said. ‘In 1996, restaurant owners looked at me like I was from Mars.’
  • Tried “starting a search engine company called Three Apes. In three months, it was taken over by Chinese hackers. The project failed.
  • Tried “an online encyclopedia called Newpedia, a free encyclopedia created by paid experts. He spent $250,000 for writers to make 12 articles. It failed.”
  • Then he had a "really dumb idea," a free encyclopedia written by anyone who wanted to contribute. That became Wikipedia, which is now one of the top 10 most-popular Web sites in the world.
  • “But proving that failure still stalks every entrepreneur, Wales tried starting a new search engine based on Wikipedia themes. It got huge attention, with some saying it would rival or doom Google. ‘Result, failure,’ Wales said. Not enough money and an economic downturn. It shut in just over a year.”

The whole concept of Wikipedia embraces failure. It breaks the conventional notion that some ivory tower boffin can have the ultimate word on a particular topic that gets inscribed and then published into a book which remains the knowledge scripture for years. Instead, it embraces all input including those that have failed to achieve lofty academic status. Its sophisticated system of community and editor moderation is crafted around the understanding that submissions might well be faulty and that the key thing is finding the failures, exposing the failures and addressing the failures of accuracy. The pedantic and pompous continue to dismiss Wikipedia for its occasional mistakes and gaps, but its authority and contribution to the greater knowledge is unquestionable and unparalleled thanks to this dynamic approach.

(thanks Aidan)