Jimmy Wales on the Power of Collaboration
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: What is the power of getting information to the right place at the right time?
Jimmy Wales: Oh, it’s massive. I mean, it’s massive in lots of really tedious and boring ways, you know? A lot of ways that’re easily overlooked. You know, inside a lot of really large organizations, one of the problems they have is sort of pointless duplication of effort. So I just recently I met somebody at IBM who was just relating an anecdote that he had been working on a certain kind of project for, I don’t know, a year or something, and by pure random chance, he stumbled across someone who’s been doing exactly the same thing for a year. And IBM’s a huge, huge organization. It’s not surprising that kind of stuff happens. But it would’ve been really helpful if these two had met each other, you know, a year ago, because they could’ve split up the work, and gotten it done twice as fast, or they could’ve at least learned from each other, or one of them could’ve said, “Hey, you take it; I got something else I need to do.” And actually they met each other through a wiki, so that was pretty good, right? They actually through an internal wiki they were able to coordinate their efforts a lot better. I think those’re the kinds of things that don’t make headlines, you know? Just the idea that through information technology within an organization, there’s a lot more transparency and visibility as to who’s doing what. And that has huge business benefits. Huge social benefits, right? I mean, certainly in the grand scheme of things in the whole world, we’ve got a lot of problems that we need to solve, right? We need to do a lot of different things, and it’s just terrible if two people are wasting time doing the same thing as each other, right? Just makes no sense to anybody. The other person can be doing something else that’s useful. So I think it’s of massive importance.
Recorded on: 04/30/2008
The massive power of connecting people in the right way.
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