Jimmy Wales

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We should be: kind, thoughtful, passionate about getting it right, open, tolerant of different viewpoints, open to criticism, bold about changing our policies and also cautious about changing our policies.

Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales (born August 7, 1966) is a British-American Internet entrepreneur and wiki pioneer who is most famous as one of the founders of Wikipedia, an international collaborative free content encyclopedia on the Internet, and the Wikimedia Foundation.


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.




  • Dude, you rock.
I hereby decree, in my usual authoritarian and bossy manner, that today (Oct. 31) shall forever be known as Tim Starling Day. Wikipedians of the distant future will marvel at the day when the new parsing algorithm dawned upon us. Tonight at dinner, every Wikipedian should say a toast to Tim and his many inventions.
In countries that celebrate Halloween, children will first say "Trick or Treat" and then, when they get the candy, they will say "Secure and Split" and run away, in honor of Tim's work in this area.


  • 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.
  • I frequently counsel people who are getting frustrated about an edit war to think about someone who lives without clean drinking water, without any proper means of education, and how our work might someday help that person. It puts flamewars into some perspective, I think.
    • As quoted in "Wikimedia Founder Jimmy Wales Responds," by Robin "Roblimo" Miller, Slashdot (28 July 2004)
  • [Wikipedia is] like a sausage: you might like the taste of it, but you don't necessarily want to see how it's made.
  • When someone just writes 'f**k, f**k, f**k', we just fix it, laugh and move on. But the difficult social issues are the borderline cases — people who do some good work, but who are also a pain in the neck.
    • As quoted in "Who knows?", The Guardian (26 October 2004)


  • Wikipedia is first and foremost an effort to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language. Asking whether the community comes before or after this goal is really asking the wrong question: the entire purpose of the community is precisely this goal.
The primary issue is how seriously we take our chosen obligations to people in the developing world... Wikipedia as a readable product is not for us. It's for them. It's for that girl in Africa who can save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around her, but only if she's empowered with the knowledge to do so...
Ideally, our rules should be formed in such a fashion that an ordinary helpful kind thoughtful person doesn't really even need to know the rules.
  • Most people understand the need for neutrality. The real struggle is not between the right and the left — that's where most people assume — but it's between the party of the thoughtful and the party of the jerks. And no side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on either of those qualities.
    • "How a ragtag band created Wikipedia" - TED Talk (July 2005); this has sometimes appeared paraphrased as "The real struggle is not between the right and the left but between the party of the thoughtful and the party of the jerks."
  • We are growing from a cheerful small town where everyone waves off their front porch to the subway of New York City where everyone rushes by. How do you preserve the culture that has worked so well?
  • Wiki editing thrives on local knowledge, but 'local' in an epistemological sense, not necessarily in a geographical sense. For example, I personally know a lot more about world news on topics that interest me and could synthesize much better in those areas, than I know about local politicians where I live
  • We come from geek culture, we come from the free software movement, we have a lot of technologists involved. If we had done the same sort of comparison on poets or artists, I think that we would not have fared nearly as well.


The real struggle is not between the right and the left — that's where most people assume — but it's between the party of the thoughtful and the party of the jerks. And no side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on either of those qualities.
Hayek's work on price theory is central to my own thinking about how to manage the Wikipedia project.  …  [O]ne can't understand my ideas about Wikipedia without understanding Hayek.
  • Quite frankly, several of the people who contributed to the article should be banned from coming near a keyboard until they have learned to engage in proper encyclopedia writing.


  • I think that argument is completely morally bankrupt, and I think people know that when they make it.
    There's a very big difference between having a sincere, passionate interest in a topic and being a paid shill … Particularly for PR firms, it's something they should really very strongly avoid: ever touching an article.
    • PRWeek (30 Jan 2007) In response to suggestions Wikipedia might change policies to allow PR firms to edit the site without breaking a rule called "WP:AUTO".
  • I don't see any particular problem with that.
    • Responding to the deletion of a Wikipedia article from non-administrator view, while the article's deletion was being reviewed by the community. (27 March 2007)
EssJay was appointed at the request of and unanimous support of the ArbCom.
Greatest misconception about Wikipedia: We aren’t democratic. Our readers edit the entries, but we’re actually quite snobby. The core community appreciates when someone is knowledgeable, and thinks some people are idiots and shouldn’t be writing.
  • I think MySpace is doomed, I give them about two more years.... I think Facebook is the next Microsoft in both the bad and the good senses. That's an amazing company that is going to do a lot of good and bad things.
  • Greatest misconception about Wikipedia: We aren’t democratic. Our readers edit the entries, but we’re actually quite snobby. The core community appreciates when someone is knowledgeable, and thinks some people are idiots and shouldn’t be writing.
  • There’s plenty of rude stuff online. People say things online that they would be ashamed to say face to face. If people could treat others as though they were speaking face to face, that would be huge.
    • As quoted in "The Encyclopedist’s Lair" in The New York Times (19 November 2007)


  • I don't really agree that most academics frown when they hear Wikipedia. Most academics I find quite passionate about the concept of Wikipedia and like it quite a bit. [...] The number of academics who really really don't like Wikipedia is really quite small and we find that they get reported on in the media far out of proportion to the amount they actually exist.
    • Wikimania 2008 Alexandria, press conference, 0'14 (August 2008)
  • We are a passionate community of volunteers who are trying to create a free encyclopedia for every single person on the planet. So we don't often think in terms of competition. We are going to do what we do and we hope Google does wonderful things as well. … If we were approaching this as a business we would think always: Oh, how can we position ourselves on the market... We just don't do any of that stuff.
    • Wikimania 2008 Alexandria, press conference, 0'20 (August 2008), asked about Google Knol


  • I have my team focused on the front end, working on the user experience, and making sure we have all the wiki-like tools people need to work on the site. We're just cranking away.
    • About Wikia Search, in an interview with Susan Kuchinskas in iMediaConnection, March 26, 2009 (only days before Wales would shut down Wikia Search and lay off two developers)
  • To me the key thing is getting it right. And if a person's really smart and they're doing fantastic work, I don't care if they're a high school kid or a Harvard professor; it's the work that matters.


  • I think this article was misleading in saying that I "recognized" Wikipe-tan. My removal of the sexualized version from Commons was in no way an endorsement of the standard versions. I don't like Wikipe-tan and never have. I recognize that some people do, and I'm not particularly agitated about it, but my name should not be invoked in a way that might lead some to believe that I approve. Thanks!--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:33, 7 February 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm on it pretty much all the time. I edit Wikipedia every day, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Twitter, I'm reading the news. During one of the US elections, I actually went through my computer and I blocked myself from looking at the major newspaper sites and Google News because I wasn't getting any work done.
  • Real people are involved, and they can be hurt by your words. We are not tabloid journalism, we are an encyclopedia.
    • Jimmy Wales on Biographies of living persons article
  • I think that reality exists and that it's knowable
    • Quoted in an artwork, also depicting Wales, in the 2018 exhibition 'Internet Giants : Masters of the Universe' by Langlands & Bell.
It turns out a lot of people don’t get it. Wikipedia is like rock’n’roll; it’s a cultural shift.
Simply having rules does not change the things that people want to do. You have to change incentives.


  • Greetings everyone!

I hereby proclaim, in my usual authoritarian and bossy manner, that today (April 20) shall forever be known as Justin Knapp Day. Wikipedians of the distant future shall marvel at the first person to ever make 1,000,000 edits. Tonight at dinner, every Wikipedian should say a toast to Justin and his many edits. In countries which celebrate Easter, which is sometimes at a similar time of year, and indeed will fall on Justin Knapp Day in 2014 for both the Eastern and Western traditions, children will be allowed to eat up to 1 million candies each


  • One of the classic problems we have is -- and we have this a lot in English Wikipedia -- is the annoying user, who at least allegedly produces good content. There are users in the community who have a reputation for creating good content, and for being incredibly toxic personalities. This is a tough issue because [fixes slide problem] but my idea is very simple. Actually, on this issue, I have a very simple view is that most of these editors actually cost us more than they're actually worth, and we're making a big mistake by tolerating people who are causing us enormous...
  • A lot of them, they really cost more than they're worth, and they should be encouraged to leave, and not in a bad way. I mean one of the things that I've always believed is letting people walk away with dignity. We don't have to shame them and scream at them and make them leave and then they're sad and annoyed and then they make sock puppets and then they come back and harass us for years.


  • Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others. When I founded Wikipedia, I could have made it into a for-profit company with advertising banners, but I decided to do something different. We’ve worked hard over the years to keep it lean and tight. We fulfill our mission efficiently.
  • In case anyone is wondering I strongly support the development and widespread adoption of a covid-19 vaccine and will take it as soon as it is widely available... I don't think I should be in the first wave to take it as that should be people more vulnerable or more likely to be spreaders...
  • I think that's right. [replying to comment: "it should go to health care workers first"]. I'm not an expert. I just know that I'm healthy and safe at home, so it will be more helpful for others to go first. But I'm eager to take it!
  • President's power does not extend to threatening or shutting down social media platforms. But we should fear this in every country. Worst case scenario is that platforms don't have courage to tell Trump to go away, that they begin to adapt policies to his whims because he is a lunatic,
  • You cannot write a good Wikipedia article about a small town if there is no longer news about this small town. This [trend] will impact the quality of Wikipedia long-term.
  • The next billion people who'll get online access will enter the Internet with mobile devices. It's difficult to write Wikipedia articles on smart phones. So we're investing more and more resources to improve access for these people.
  • On Sunday July 5th at 5pm we’re all saying #ThankYouTogether! Whether you’re thanking the NHS, key workers, delivery drivers or a friend, neighbour or colleague who has helped you during this time - join us on your doorstep and help spread the word. together.org.uk
    • [1] (3 July 2020)
  • I support freedom of expression. A lot of people I disagree with also support freedom of expression. If that's controversial, then someone will have to explain to me why.
    • [2] (8 July 2020)
We all will be received
In Graceland...
  • [3] (16 July 2020)



About falseness

  • It is tough problem for platforms like Twitter and Facebook. They exist to allow people to share their thoughts and ideas … One of the things that I would like to see more of is, not to stop people from sharing things … but to warn them… So, when I am about to share something, and a reputable fact checking organization has shown it is a hoax, I would like Facebook to warn me “Hey … you might want to check, if this is true or not, before you share it”. I think that would be very helpful.

C-SPAN interview (2005)

Interview with Brian Lamb (25 September 2005) Transcript and Realplayer video
Wales: We help the Internet not suck.
So it's that the Wikipedia for a lot of people hearkens back to what we all thought the Internet was for in the first place which is, you know, when most people first started the Internet they thought oh, this is fantastic, people can communicate from all over the world and build knowledge and share information. And then we went through the whole dot-com boom and bust and the Internet seemed to be about pop-up ads, and spam, and porn and selling dog food over the Internet. And now Wikipedia kind of hearkens back to the original vision of the Internet. And so it's important for the whole business of the entire Internet that there be quality resources that people can turn to and want to turn to.

Wales: Our goal has always been Britannica or better quality. We don't always achieve that.
Lamb: Would you put them out of business?
Wales: You know, I don't know. I used to think so but I just was in Germany where Wikipedia is really big in Germany[..]. And Brockhaus is the publisher of the Britannica style traditional encyclopedia. And their sales are up 30 percent in the last year even though Wikipedia is going through the roof. And I think there's a certain maybe there ends up being some complementarity to it that people[..]. So Wikipedia helps people to remember that hey, there is actually something to having a group of people edit, monitor, and put a level of trust to information. And so that makes Brockhaus more appealing, makes Wikipedia more appealing. So it's hard to say.

Lamb: Another thing I read about you is that you are a follower or have been at some point a follower of Ayn Rand?
Wales: That's right, yes.
Lamb: Who was she and do you still follow her and what is it about it that you like?
Wales: Yes. So Ayn Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, as is viewed by many as, you know, something of the founder of the libertarian strain of thought in the U.S. She would have rejected quite rightly, I think, the libertarian label. But I think for me one of the core things that is very applicable to my life today is the virtue of independence — is the vision, you know, if you know the idea of Howard Roark who is the architect in The Fountainhead who has a vision for what he wants to accomplish and, you know, there's some time in the book when he is frustrated in his career because people don't want to build the type of buildings he wants to build. And he's given a choice, a difficult choice, to compromise his integrity or to essentially go out of business. And he has to go and take a job working in a quarry. And for me that model has a lot of resonance for me. You know when I think about what I'm doing and the way I'm doing it is more important to me than any amount of money or anything like that because it's my artistic work.
Lamb: What year did you read Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead?
Wales: I guess I was around 20 when I read The Fountainhead.

Growing up

  • I joke that I started as a kid revising the encyclopedia by stickering the one my mother bought.
  • education was always a passion in my household ... you know, the very traditional approach to knowledge and learning and establishing that as a base for a good life.

Quotes about Wales

  • The more time I spent on the site the more I came to think of Wales as some kind of Queen Ant, letting the vast colony go about its work, at the centre of a system where the knowledge of the community is infinitely larger than the sum of experience of all its individuals.
  • Local press die-offs worldwide are robbing Wikipedia of sources to cite, warns co-founder Jimmy Wales. He told the German outlet Spiegel his team's next aim is to reach 'billions' of potential users in poor countries... Jimmy Wales, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001, told a German news magazine on Wednesday that declines in centuries-old local press sectors around the world worried him more than even fake news in the "Trump" era... Asked by Spiegel magazine if giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook should do more to support Wikipedia, Wales replied: "yes perhaps, but we lay great value on our independence." ...Wales was also asked about the greatest problem he would like solved. He said Wikipedia's "greatest challenge" was a growth in the languages of poorer developing countries.
  • Why do Wikipedians perform these millions of hours of labor, some expended on a giant straw goat, without pay? Because they don't experience them as labor. “It's a misconception people work for free,” Wales told the site Hacker Noon in 2018. “They have fun for free.” A 2011 survey of more than 5,000 Wikipedia contributors listed “It's fun” as one of the primary reasons they edited the site.
  • In 2000, 10 months before Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger cofounded Wikipedia, the pair started a site called Nupedia, planning to source articles from noted scholars and put them through seven rounds of editorial oversight. But the site never got off the ground; after a year, there were fewer than two dozen entries. (Wales, who wrote one of them himself, told The New Yorker “it felt like homework.”) When Sanger got wind of a collaborative software tool called a wiki—from the Hawaiian wikiwiki, or “quickly”—he and Wales decided to set one up as a means of generating raw material for Nupedia. They assumed nothing good would come of it, but within a year Wikipedia had 20,000 articles. By the time Nupedia's servers went down a year later, the original site had become a husk, and the seed it carried had grown beyond any expectation... Sanger left Wikipedia in early 2003...

See also

Wikipedia has an article about:
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