Jimmy Wales was recently a guest at the Long Now forum with Stewart Brand. The podcast was very thought-provoking. (Summary here; MP3 here.) Here are some random notes and reflections.

Asked to speak about “vision,” Wales began by saying he is “more of a carpenter than an architect.”

The vision of Wikipedia is to “imagine a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”
[Even though I’ve heard/read this hundreds of times, I still paused and reflected on what a wondrous statement that is.]

Wikipedia is empowering everyone on the planet to get involved.
[Wikipedia has some interesting methods to involve the non-connected world…capturing local knowledge through non-digital means, distributing database dumps, etc. “Wikipedia is the killer app for the OLPC.”]

The free license of Wikipedia is key. Four dimensions of free license:
1. Copy
2. Modify
3. Redistribute
4. Redistribute modified copies (commercial or not)
[He neglected to discuss the issue of share alike or the IMHO onerous GFDL license; to me, these are both restrictions on freedom.]

Wikipedia is a top 20 web site and has a broader reach than the NYT, WSJ, MSNBC, and others combined.

Two views of how Wikipedia works: emergent phenomenon/evolution – “wisdom of crowds” vs. community of thoughtful users. Wales espouses the second view. He claims that most of the active Wikipedians really know each other and that trust and communication are foundational values.

Here’s a great story from Wales: Imagine you’re designing a restaurant. You’re going to serve steak. You’ll have steak knives. Steak knives are potentially dangerous. So obviously you build cages around all the tables, right?
This story was told to make the point that “When you prevent people from doing bad things,… you often prevent them from doing good things.”
In addition, a philosophy of trying to eliminate all potential of bad often eliminates opportunities for trust.
This is a good point for schools to consider.
I’ve been searching for an argument to rampant school blocking and filtering that will resonate with conservative school board members and the like. This is a good one, as is Kevin Honeycutt’s point made at Edubloggercon:
“If you ask kids to do the right thing, 99 times out of 100, they will….Why are we zero tolerant with digital, when analog isn’t that way?”

Wales talks about the value of dialog over voting.
[Maybe Wikia should take on reforming the democratic process in the U.S.? Larry Lessig could head it up. He didn’t really belong in Congress anyway.]

Wikipedia – LongNow interview with Jimmy Wales

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