Do you use Wikipedia?

That was the first question Jimmy Wales asked the 300 + audience at the Victoria Rooms last Thursday in Bristol.

The auditorium was a forest of hands.

How many of you have edited Wikipedia, he asked?

A good third put up their hands.

The founder of Wikipedia gave his only UK public talk to celebrate the online encyclopaedia’s 10th anniversary.

A modern legend, Jimmy Wales was a witty, warm, engaging and informative speaker.

  • Judge for yourself from the webcast.
  • The talk’s genesis in November is a testament to digital Bristol including Bristol-based Steve Virgin, board director at Wikimedia UK, the UK chapter of the charity supporting Wikipedia – £5 to join.
  • Mike’s post at Socially Mobile sums up main points of the talk.

As a female, I was struck by the stat: 87% of Wikimedia editors are male.

Jimmy Wales made clear Wikipedia wants to rectify the male mostly young, tecchie, PhD bias.

Sounds like an invitation.

The Wikipedia credo: “Free knowledge for all” inspires me.

And I do like to bring balance to bias with my own bias.

After the talk, Mike and I stumbled on a group – male – surrounding Jimmy Wales backstage in the theatre bar. My opportunity to bring balance had come sooner than expected.

Mike asked Jimmy Wales about Quora – the new in-place for asking questions and getting intelligent answers. Did he see Wikipedia joining forces?

Jimmy Wales said no, but his lengthy answer suggested Quora was on his mind too.

I asked the final question:

“Did you use an encyclopaedia as a child?”

He said as a kid, he loved The World Book given by his mother. The encyclopaedia provided stickers to update events such as the first moon landing.

While researching how to reference this story, I came across Pulitzer-prize winning, Stacy Schiff’s piece on Wikipedia by , .

She writes: “It can still seem as though the user who spends the most time on the site – or who yells the loudest – wins.”

Then we all ended up outside the Victoria Rooms while Jimmy Wales waited for his taxi and Mike took the picture above.

Jimmy Wales has a charismatic rock star aura, and like Wikipedia, is beautifully human and flawed, but aims to be democratic.

I can’t argue with that. Can you?

5.2.11 Edited for style after preferring WP10’s opening paragraph which gave me fresh eyes so I tweaked the rest. WP10’s version cut out the refs to Bristol – now in bullet points – and ended the opening paragraph with the line about Jimmy being an engaging speaker. I also cut out my picture of the Victoria Rooms balcony.