Meet Startup @TW

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Advises Fake-Free, Ad-Free Content and Being Nice

Digital Innovation Forum 2018

Who hasn’t heard of Wikipedia? The free, multilingual internet encyclopedia has helped much of the online public and was ranked among the world’s top five websites.

This month its founder, Jimmy Wales, gave a keynote speech in Taipei at the Digital Innovation Forum 2018. He also spoke with Business Next.

Open-source, open-content technology such as Wikipedia’s is changing the internet and ways that businesses can adapt to compete, Wales said. He told Business Next about Wikipedia’s anti-fake news strategy, ways to keep the encyclopedia free of ads and the significance of being kind to others.

Anti-fake news strategy

The online encyclopedia is taking steps to combat fake news, Wales said. Among them: reliance on experts in the fields covered by Wikipedia.

Volunteers check recent changes in a Wiki, he said, while experts specialize in a particular area to form what he calls a Wiki “project.” WikiProject Medicine, for example, is an endeavor for experts interested in health.

The volunteer teams track daily news and double-check sources online to ensure accuracy, he said. But Wikipedia’s approach to accuracy is still evolving.

“This kind of project indeed is a bit complicated since the experts still need the time to track down which step or which information needs to be improved in order to give the reliable and accurate data to the users,” he said.

Wikipedia has accumulated 5,689,146 articles in English since its founding 2001.

Ad-free Wikipedia

Caption:Jimmy Wales,founder of Wikipedia, called ads-only business model is “incredibly destructive”.
James Robinson/ Robinson Speaker Bureau

As other media sell advertisements to earn money, Wales called that approach to business “incredibly destructive” as it tempts those media to create content that advertisers particularly like.

To keep ads off its own websites, Wikipedia in October launched WikiTribune as a for-profit website funded by donors.

The service that’s independent of Wikipedia offers news reports written by journalists for curating and fact-checking. The WikiTribune content is public.

Wales predicts that the internet will “democratize” developing countries by opening markets. Current internet use by 1 billion people should double in 10 years, largely in developing countries, he said. The internet can combat stereotypes, censorship, media control, and monopolies while giving citizens of developing nations a more prominent voice.

Caption:Jimmy Wales introduced "WikiTribune" at Digital Innovation Forum Taipei 2018.
James Robinson/Robinson Speaker Bureau

“It does not take a lot of technology to foster open dialogue and debate,” he said. “Even the simplest technologies like mailing lists, wikis and blogs can help a lot. What is needed mostly, I think, is more content in local languages, and support from people around the world to help others join in the global conversation.”

Kindness and time management

Asked about personal traits that might help an entrepreneur survive stress and challenges, Wales advised being kind and managing time well.

“I am friendly person, and I usually don’t boss people around,” he said. “Plus, I am a positive person and I always tell myself that ‘everything is going to be fine.”

Wales also lets his staff help manage his time, which he says was a problem in the past. Wales said before his speech he is good at “failure,” as it can eventually lead to success.

Feliciana Hsu
English journalist and PR for Global Affairs

Feliciana gained her MSc of Media Power and Public Affairs from Royal Holloway, University of London.

After graduating from London, she started her career of being journalist at Business Next Media and Meet Startup @TW Website, and specializes in interviewing about innovation and technology.

Within her career, she has interviewed various experts in their field, including Mr.Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; Fleur Pellerin, former French Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and Sir Christopher Pissarides, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economic in 2010.