The Many Faces of Jimmy Wales


Everybody’s talking about the Wikipedia Fundraiser. And why shouldn’t they? Wales, the founder (actually co-founder, but he has tried to edit that fact), has slapped his face not only on every Wikipedia entry, but now with a new Google Chrome plug in, on every page you might visit. Browsing through the comments to the extension, users have been offering tongue in cheek explanations and thank yous to the Japanese developer vodka45 for coming up with the idea in the first place.

Jimmy Wales’ new found ubiquity is causing an uproar in the blogging community. Why? One blogger asks why Wikipedia needs to raise funds in the first place. Why can’t they just add advertisements to the site and get it done with? This blogger equates Jimmy’s project with a dating site-style ad.

“Do we need this guy staring back at us like he’s God?”

Despite the not-so-blatant derision across the Web, Wales’ ads have been amazingly successful, compared to their previous campaigns.

What I really love is Uncyclopedia’s spook of the campaign, that PhotoShops Wales’ face onto classic art. We can always use a little humor and a little perspective.

jimmywales spoof

When, back in February, Google donated a whopping $2 million to Wikipedia, I was wondering the same thing as these bloggers are now trying to wrap their minds around. Why does Wikipedia need to mine for cash? True, Wales offers a free, open source for knowledge and content creation. We should keep asking ourselves why it remains free and ad-free. We should also keep asking why they need so much cash.

I remember reading the first few pages of Nicholas Carr’s The Big Switch and scratching my head as to why I had never before wondered where the Internet comes from. It’s sort of like the sequel to that great question, ‘mommy, where do babies come from?” The Internet, the cloud, as Carr describes in The Big Switch, is housed all over the world in remote server farms. Wikipedia needs to purchase space in such farms as well as bandwidth. Wikipedia needs to pay their employees (while only a slim 23 are actually on their books, what becomes clear in this blogger’s research is that travel expenses make up a large part of the operating expenses). Traveling to India, maybe?