Jimmy Wales is an American Internet entrepreneur known for his role in the creation of Wikipedia, a free, open-content encyclopedia launched in 2001. He serves on the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, holding the board-appointed "community founder" seat. In 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a privately owned, free Web-hosting service, along with Angela Beesley.
Together with Larry Sanger and others, Wales helped lay the foundation for Wikipedia, which subsequently enjoyed rapid growth and popularity. As Wikipedia expanded and its public profile grew, Wales took on the role of the project's spokesman and promoter through speaking engagements and media appearances. Wales has been historically cited as the co-founder of Wikipedia but he disputes the "co-" designation, asserting that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia. Wales' work developing Wikipedia, which has become the world's largest encyclopedia, prompted Time magazine to name him in its 2006 list of the world's most influential people.
Born in Huntsville, Alabama, Wales attended a small private school, then a university preparation school, eventually attaining a bachelor's degree and master's degree in finance. During his graduate studies he taught at two universities.
Question: How has technology changed the way you work and live?Jimmy Wales: Well, I’m one of these terrible, terrible people who is always, always connected. And so I have a Sidekick, not a Blackberry, ’cause I think the Sidekick looks cooler. But you know, and I use it for instant messenger, and I keep in touch with friends basically constantly. I had my email coming to the device for a while, but I stopped doing that, because it was just too much. I get too much email, and it was just overwhelming me. And sometimes I just don’t want to see my email, actually. But it’s interesting, because there’s a whole different way of thinking about time zones and living and friends and things like this. So, of course, I travel a lot as well, so I see people in different cities and things like that, but it’s really-- yeah, it’s changed my life a lot, you know, to basically have IM on the phone. It’s kind of an amazing thing.
Question: What kind of laptop do you have?
Jimmy Wales: I have a Mac Book. I just got a brand new one, actually. My old one was getting a little scruffy. And yeah, I like it. I’m a big free software advocate, and so well, sometimes people want to know why I don’t have a Linux laptop. And it’s my personal challenge to the free software community that I badly want one, but there’s a couple things I absolutely have to have. I need a good calendar, and they don’t have one yet. And so what I try to do to make sure I don’t get locked into any one platform is I use as much open source software as I can, and I make sure everything I use is saving its data in a free format, so that I don’t have to get locked into somebody’s proprietary format, ’cause then you’re really hosed, so. Yeah, I love my Mac, though, it’s beautiful. Beautiful work of art.
Question: Do you bump into people on the street?
Jimmy Wales: Oh, yeah, everyday. Yeah, constantly. Yeah, yeah. I’ve actually gotten kind of good at it, but yeah, no, I mean, when I was walking here today, I was chatting with somebody, and I was actually chatting with my little girl about Club Penguin, which we both play. So we were discussing, you know, it’s big events this week in Club Penguin. Rock Hopper came, so some viewers will know what that means, and some won’t, but yeah, no, it’s really a-- you know, you have to be careful not to get run over.