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August 13, 2005 » 12:38 pm

Jimmy Wales on Things That Need To Be Free

Thoughts on Jimmy Wales‘s keynote at Wikimania. Read Ross Mayfield‘s post for a more extensive summary:    (JN8)

  • “1. Free the encyclopedia!” Jimbo considers the English and German Wikipedias “done,” and he expects the rest to be complete in about 10 years. His metric is 250,000 pages of content.    (JN9)
  • “3. Free the curriculum!” Jimbo suggested that professors work collectively on free textbooks, which raises the obvious question: Would this be successful? Incentive structures in academia are heavily weighted towards individual achievements, and a group of professors may not have the diverse makeup necessary for a superior collective outcome. Nevertheless, I think there’s some potential there and that it would be a worthwhile experiment, especially for books at the grammar and high school level.    (JNA)
  • “8. Free the product identifiers!” I found this to be the most original of the 10. The so-called Long Tail is creating a market for product identifiers based on open standards. Jimbo calls these LTIN, or “Long Tail Identification Numbers.” This would be a great, achievable, bottoms-up project for someone smart who wants to make a big impact on the world. The timing seems right.    (JNB)
  • “10. Free the communities!” Jimbo’s basic point was that communities need to own their content, even in for-profit spaces (like his current project, WikiCities). This is the Blue Oxen Associates philosophy and our approach with the Blue Oxen Collaboratories. Licensing community content under Creative Commons is not enough, though. You need freely transportable identities, which leads me to a proposed addition to the list: Free identities! I’ll expand on this in a future post.    (JNC)
  • To Jimbo’s credit, the keynote was highly inclusive, even Wiki-like. Folks from the audience freely contributed ideas and critiques (Permission To Participate was rampant throughout the conference), and Jimbo modified his list on the fly. When someone in the audience suggested, “Free research!”, Jimbo responded, “You’re right. I’m going to make that number four.”    (JND)
  • Jimbo on business models and free content: “Everyone tells jokes, but we still have professional comedians.” He also noted that this line isn’t his, saying, “I steal everything, including my jokes.”    (JNE)
  • The most challenging suggestion was, “Free medical information!” In theory, this sounds wonderful. Someone in the audience (Florian) told an anecdote about a project in Austria to create a fully anonymized knowledge repository where doctors could share misdiagnoses. Jimbo suggested that such a resource should be available to everyone. The flip side of the argument to freeing medical information is that the content literally could be the difference between life and death. There’s a tremendous responsibility among the part of the authors and publishers. As Jimbo noted, no one is going to die if there’s an inaccuracy on the Thomas Jefferson Wikipedia page.    (JNF)

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