The Innovation Series is a series of events with influential speakers from around the world who have had a significant influence on the world of the Internet. On Tuesday, 13 November, we launch The Innovation Series with a talk by Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia, who was named by Time Magazine last year as one of the top most influential people in the world and by Forbes magazine as twelfth in its first annual The Web Celebs 25.
According to Time, Wales, 39, is a former options trader who in 1999 set out to reinvent the encyclopedia for the Internet age—free, up-to-date and available to all. He started the way most encyclopedists start, by commissioning articles from experts and subjecting them to peer review. After 18 months, he had a pitiful 12 entries; at that rate, it would take a few millenniums to equal Encyclopaedia Britannica. So Wales created a free-form companion site based on a little-known software program called a wiki (the Hawaiian term means quick) that makes it easy—with the edit this page button—to enter and track changes to Web pages. The effect was explosive. That simple button turned readers into contributors and contributors into evangelists. Wikipedia now has more than a million articles in English, nearly 10 times as many as in Britannica. That number nearly doubles each year. And most extraordinarily, the site has not been defaced by vandals or hijacked by zealots. Or more precisely, it is vandalized every day but is usually repaired within minutes by any one of the millions of users who are motivated to protect and nurture the site.
Wales will talk about Wikipedia and the launch of the South African Wikipedias that will move us one step closer to Wales greatest goal: to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language. He will also talk about his latest venture, Wikia, which aims take the powerful principles that have informed Wikipedia’s success and apply these to create potentially profitable business models. It’s a bold step which has captured the attention of pioneers within both the online and corporate worlds.
The launch of Wikipedia Academies here in South Africa is going to be pretty exciting in its own right and the iCommons team have been in talks with CIDA City Campus, Jimmy Wales and others. If ever there was an example of an initiative to help uplift and empower our communities, this is it and it has been quite something to watch unfold. As Heather points out in her excellent and passionate post, the R500 admission to the Innovation Series will go towards the Wikipedia Academies. It turns out I can bring a guest to the cocktail party and if my beautiful (and very pregnant) wife is not feeling up to it, I may have a seat available … you may just have to do something charitable for the Commons … 😉