“Wikipedia is a great starting point, but it should almost never be the end point”

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As they wrote their Wikipedia page, Jimmy Wales was born in Alabama, United States, on August 7, 1966.

His second name is Donal, he lives in London with his third wife, and he has three daughters. They call him Jimbo, he’s an atheist and it’s not true that he likes to play chess, like someone published once. He is an entrepreneur, blogger and theoretical computer scientist; He is among the 100 most influential people in the world, but even so he is not a millionaire.

See the special WEEK 35 years

In 2001 – together with Larry Sanger – he created this free and collaborative digital encyclopedia that already has 46 million articles and a huge community of volunteers that publishes its contents in 300 different languages. Currently, he chairs the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes in the joint construction of knowledge and brings together projects such as Wikinews, Wikiquote and Wikibooks.

WEEK: How did the idea of ​​creating a free and freely accessible encyclopedia change knowledge in the 21st century?

Jimmy Wales: One of the biggest impacts we achieved was a greater understanding that there are talented people with knowledge they can share. Also that there are good people, who want to do the right thing: it is a very inspiring message and that is how we managed to build a wonderful community of volunteers.

WEEK: What is Wikipedia today was part of the original idea?

J.W .: The original vision has never changed. We had a very simple task before us: to imagine a world in which each person had free access to knowledge. I always thought that Wikipedia could be great, but now I know that it is a fundamental part of today’s world.

WEEK: Before Wikipedia, there was Nupedia. What went wrong there?

J.W .: Nupedia had the same vision of a free encyclopedia, but I did not understand how to build a community and I did not know how to empower people to work for this purpose. It started with a very opposite model, with access controls that only allowed you to contribute if some of your resume information corroborated that you were qualified to do so. There was a long process to publish. And no matter how many people liked the concept we were working for, it was not fun for the volunteers.

WEEK: What does wiki mean?

J.W .: wiki comes from a Hawaiian word -wikiwiki- which means fast. Wiki is a website that anyone can edit, it is a fast and open collaboration platform.

WEEK: That all contents can be edited worldwide is a double-edged sword: on the one hand, many areas of knowledge are covered, but on the other, there is a risk of not knowing how reliable the sources are. How do they verify the veracity of the information?

J.W .: This is a really open process, still imperfect, that depends on two things: first, to ensure that the community has all the tools to control the changes and respond quickly in case someone puts something that is wrong. But, possibly, the most important thing is that we managed to build a community with people who share a set of values ​​by virtue of doing things well and speaking truthfully, in a simple way and without an agenda.

WEEK: It is common to hear that “Wikipedia makes students vague”. And although all consult it, it is still politically incorrect for an academic to trust their contents. Do you really believe that your existence puts the investigative capacity of man at risk?

J.W .: No. We have noticed that academics are very happy with Wikipedia and insist that it should be used in the right way. We always say that Wikipedia should not be cited in an academic essay. It is not a matter of quality, but of knowing what role an encyclopedia should play in the research process: the encyclopedia is to obtain a context, to orient oneself. Resorting only to her at a university level, certainly, is not enough. Wikipedia is a great starting point, but it is almost never the end point.

WEEK: If it is not in Wikipedia, does it exist?

J.W .: That is not true, in any way. There are many spoons in my kitchen, but nothing to say about them, for example. In terms of important things we still feel that there is much that is little documented and that will always be the case. The amazing thing is that sometimes you think you will not find something in Wikipedia and it is! And that is a delight because we achieve a much greater scope than a traditional encyclopedia.

WEEK: Have you ever started an article yourself?

J.W .: Yes, I have. I recently started one on an official of the local transport agency in London. I heard about this man in the news because it is possible that they ban Uber. I was interested in the subject and I did not find any of it in Wikipedia so I researched and started a small entry.

WEEK: What is the most curious edition that someone has done about his biography on Wikipedia?

J.W .: Once, someone put in the introd

 

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