Interview with Jimmy Wales – The Knowledge Benefactor

Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales contribution to knowledge is, in one word, immeasurable. He once stated in an interview on slashdot, “[pqr]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[/pqr].” Through Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia with it’s 2,372,745 articles (as of 4/14/2008), he has turned this vision into a reality.

As with any company of such magnitude, Wikipedia has had it’s share of critics and missteps. However, Jimbo has shown us that success is not measured by how we succeed, but rather, on how we learn from our failures. In this open interview Jimbo gives insight into his life, what drives him and his inspiration.


The Interview


Jimmy Wales

What are are your nicknames and why did you receive them?::

Online I am known as “Jimbo”. Early in my time on the Internet, I was on a mailing list which had a Jimmy, Jim, and James. To differentiate myself, I started signing “Jimbo”. It stuck.

What items do you always carry with you?::

I carry my Sidekick LX phone with me everywhere. Everywhere. And my computer, of course.


What challenges do you face in your line of work, and have you ever felt like giving up?::

Recently, it has been very difficult and painful for me to discover that I am somehow a public figure and that people are bizarrely interested in my personal life.

What does your work environment look like?::

I travel constantly, so I don’t have a particular “work environment”. Reporters often want to take a photo of my at my desk in my office, but I have neither a desk nor an office. I wander the earth, doing email from wherever I happen to be.

What do you consider greatest failure and why? What do you consider your greatest achievement and why?::

I don’t often think in terms of failure and success. I simply try to do my work as best I can. Even some notable of my “failures” such as Nupedia have held within them the seeds of success.

Who (and or what) inspires, motivates you?::

My daughter and her mother inspire and motivate me a great deal. My daughter is being homeschooled by her mother, who is doing an astounding job of it.

What are the most important things you have learned in your life so far?::

It is important to have fun every single day.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?::

My strength is primarily that I am a very friendly person. It takes quite a bit of provocation before I give up on someone who could be a friend. I trust people… even though that does not always pay off, I still think it is worthwhile.

My major weakness is in organization. I have a hard time being organized.

What are you goals for the future?::

My primary goal for the near-term future is to have fun working on my search engine project, at – I think about it, work on it, and write about it constantly.

Is it possible to have an open-source architecture and code for an industry-standard quality search engine? Is it possible to find a way to push the editorial decisionmaking of a search engine outside the company and into the general public, in the way that wikis work for text?

I hope to find some good answers to these questions… and have fun puzzling over it.


10 Questions: Jimmy Wales- TIME [Online Image]

Joi on Flickr – “Jimmy Wales on Flickr” [Online Image]

Jimmy Wales – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [Online]

Jimmy Wales [Online Blog]



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