Jimmy Wales: Fireside Chat

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The following is a blog-best-effort transcript of Jimmy Wales in Melbourne on the 27th April 2007. This is not a verbatim transcript. This post is purely a transcript of the conversation, not the opinion of the author.

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With Mark Pesce

Mark intros Jimmy again. Been a long day.

Casual conversation. Peer productions, peer questions.

Mark will ask 2 questions, then alternate.

Q: Getting over the hump of initial people

JW: 5-10 people make a wiki committed to coming in and checking up. Fee for entry is 5 committed people. eg: swahili language wikipedia; Sanjo from Tanzania. started on it. Wrote first 75 articles. Blogged+emailed. slowly built a community. Taken off. Past 1000 article threshold. One person passionate. Doing the social stuff.

Successful wiki greater than the content, its all the social phenomenon that’s important.

Its leadership, and persistence. Leadership: phrase : servant leadership, idea, lead the community not by general Command+control; following the community. Role in coaching, guiding.

Another example, wikia: furry. About subculture of furry about people who like to dress like animals. More of them than you can imagine. Furry wiki started quickly, within first first month (greenreaper). First month 100 editor. 30-40 regulars. 5-10 admins, Whole community in the world. (editor: now I’m scared). Needed a place to make it happen. (editor: more evangelism for wikia)

Thank you for not email around word documents, do it in a wiki.

Q: This trip, in South Africa and India. First world and third world country schools. Wikipedia and Education> what is it becoming in the 21st Century

JW: is a traditionalist in the manner of schooling. Kids using computers, technology, peer learning: extremely valuable: teacher-student relationship: 1:1 There is something special: technology NOT competing with teachers. Free up time for teachers. Standing in front of a classroom doing your own video: you can be replaced.

In many universities: huge 300 people lecture sessions: not valuable; get most entertaining professor: teacher value is 1:1 real time diagnostic assessment. Sit down with an individual, not mass classroom. Routine learning done in other ways.

Daughter embarrassed him Cambodia/Kampuchea 6 years old. Spinning the world around. Home schooling. Individualized instruction. (editor: hurump from audience)

Q: Andrew Wilson: Managing Fire in Vic Gov’t Use of technology in a multiple-stakeholder world.

JW: remove the tight hierarchy; wiki is more than just the software; its the social side. Removal of voting for editorial decisions. Getting people from diverse backgrounds and choices, listening to all people, 70/30 voting ignores 100% of the 30%’s input. That’s not good.

Must be broad community support.

JW: Watch the old movie, 12 angry men, premise: murder trial. Set in Jury room. Beginning from nearly all convict; then picking apart each of the individual arguments. By the end of the film, vote to acquit.

When a wiki is working well, and healthy, process/group : one person can change the world. Wiki a great tool for structuring how the argument is placed. Forums = flame war, wiki is much more collaborative. Consensus document needs to survive: need to find something that all agree on.

Q: Mark, rebuilt copyright regime rebuilt from scratch

US, copyright law, by default everything you write is under copyright. Now essentially universal. Done just before the internet became “big”. Now you have to do more stuff to make something into the public domain.

Think of the lots of stuff that they don’t care about copyright; it is by default. The hampers our ability to share. Can be done casually with a statement.

JW: let’s have regime where there is no default copyright.

Some people have moral rights/economic rights to retain copyright.

How long should it last? Copyright has extended to absurd lengths. Not driven my organsiation, done by movie industry. Long life IP assets. JW’s view is “it doesn’t care”. So, Disney = 200 years that’s fine; collateral damage in other spheres.

Now, its one size fits all. Recent AU ruling copyright of a design of a boat was functional not artistic. Different act for design protection (from newspaper article). Good idea: multiple options. Beneficial for software: life+90 years?? reasonable. Software author? Life of the computer. Economic life of software less than 90 years; Old version of Excel into the free software movement to make it better.

After a short of period of time, re-register and small fee – lets many things fall into public domain by default. Many pieces that are economically feasible; eg: put into wiki world.

Current process is arduous, tracking down the rights.

JW: Patents: Software patents are a bad idea. No opinion of drug industry. In software industry, patents are defensive rather than offensive. Patents on the web restricted to 6 months. (editor: JW’s opening bid on time, that’s all) Patents are a real threat to wikipedia vs. copyright. With patents, violation: not sure if you are violating it (submarine patent). Interesting political issue

Q: APRA: Opinion. 3-4 Tb of server on songs. From teenagers. Is it a mute point in regards to copyright as the younger generation.

What is fair use? JW has no opinion on how music performers are paid, distributed.

JW buys from iTunes. Technology is going to make sharing easy; “cassette tapes and video” is going to kill companies. Record and timeshift, has been fought against by content creation industry.

DRM is a stupid idea, cf: Steve Jobs, Publishing Company. Getting in the way of ease of use for users.

Q: Mark; everyone will be famous for 15Mb. Bio-page, has something he doesn’t want. JW dinged for editing own page. We can edit our own page, community will fix. Too much truth?

JW: biographies of living people is the toughest question. cf; Queen Victoria, she’s dead so she doesn’t care about her wikipedia entry.

So, how do we deal with biographies of living people? Thoughtful manner, sensitivity. Talk page vs. yell at you.

Not everyone is about whitewashing page. Solution is to become a more open, public person about your life. Famous people, certain things are known – narratives grow around these stories, but only a part of the real story.

Jimmy Wales want to sail around the world. He has an interest in it. Not on his wikipedia.

Wikipedia is powerful of google.

Others are so “over” the internet: they don’t care. More and more articles, less and less famous people.

Discussion now is what level of notability for wikipedia entry.

There are biography guidelines. danah boyd huge impact on her field. cf. being notable for being on Foxnews vs. academic work. Watching the debate on seeing if you should be deleted.

Worse than finding your are unimportant; but also talk about deletion. Mechanism for blanking from external view.

Categories are problematic. Tag there or not. Nuance in text, cannot in category. Criminals for instance. Who should be there or not? Politician caught driving DUI. Some will categorise as criminal. Its binary on/off. Tricky. Categories are provocative.

Q: Mark, pleasure to spend a week with JW. JW, Brian Balendorf, Tim Berners-Lee: low ego people. Ego beat out of you?

JW: early incident in wikipedia in Spanish; dispute over impression JW was going to put advertising in Wikipedia. Opponents were tricking people. JW overly combative. Violated the first rule of wikipedia, assume good faith. Need to explain yourself.

Don’t have an argument with someone for the point of the argument, but in a different

Brian: introduced to Richard Branson as “the person who freed the internet from Microsoft”, JW says its true.

In open source world, win vs. right.

Cannot be a boss and be a jerk. Companies won’t survive. With high level people, they can be jerks, and the employees will survive. With volunteers its different; you have to be as nice as possible.

6 thoughts on “Jimmy Wales: Fireside Chat”

  1. It’s true – we’re everywhere. Heck, I just wrote a news article about a recent event in the Australian furry community. 🙂

    (Most of them aren’t dressed as animals for that, though – in fact, dressing up is just a small part of furry fandom, one which about 18% partake in.)

    As for the wiki growth, it takes some planning to grow that fast. I wrote a presentation on it for Wikimania. The most important thing is enthusiasm, though. With that, the rest follows, and without it, you’re sunk.

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