Thursday, 13 January 2011

Jimmy Wales in the Cathedral

When I was 8 I remember walking down the corridor at school on the way to the hall where we would all watch an Apollo landing on the TV.  At the time it seemed like we were going to the moon every year and it wasn't really something that I was going to get worked up about.  But, as it turned out, it wasn't a "once a year" thing and we've never been back to the moon since.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention?

This morning I went to Bristol's Cathedral School to see Jimmy Wales, father of Wikipedia, deliver a morning assembly address to school children.  I wondered if they, like me, were a bit blase about the whole thing.  Perhaps Wikipedia, to them, was just a quick way of getting the homework done?

If they were indeed blase then they can be forgiven, the real question is "do the population at large realise what a monumental achievement Wikipedia is.  It is now the eighth most trafficked website in the world and the English language version has more than 3.5 million entries.  It also supports 257 other languages.  Not bad for an organisation that employs less than 50 employees.  Talk about drawing on the power of crowdsourcing.

Obviously there's a cast of thousands working behind the scenes but the point is that this "thing" called Wikpedia has mobilised those thousands and allowed them to self-organise.  What a powerful thing that is.  If only governments could tap into that sort of crowd-sourcing-mobilisation.  Perhaps Wikipedia is an example of "The Big Society" done right?

Anyway, back to the Cathedral.

Jimmy Wales has given so many interviews and presentations that I'm sure he could do them in his sleep.  But, despite him leaving on the 05:25 from Paddington, he gave a remarkably lively presentation and one that was tailor made for the kids.  You can see it here.  (Apologies for the poor quality video, it was hand held in poor light and my camera can only handle 10 minutes of video at a time.)

I don't think that most adults realise what a world-changer Wikipedia is and I'm sure that the kids only dimly realised it, if it all.  But it was quite refreshing and funny when one of them thanked Jimmy for helping him with his Biology homework.  Huh, I never got that sort of help.  All I had when I was a kid was moon landings.