This article is not editable: Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales visits campus

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Jimmy Wales was all over campus on Wednesday, Dec. 8, meeting with students and talking about his ubiquitous brainchild, Wikipedia. His visit was part of this year’s slate of events tied to the Spectrum Series campus theme, “Community and Technology.”

First stop was lunch with students from the Burton D. Morgan Program in Liberal Arts and Entrepreneurship Education and a roundtable discussion about Wikipedia’s model of social entrepreneurship. Wales described the process of nurturing a nonprofit business and finding ways to embrace failure as part of the experience. He said it’s great that in the culture of this country, “young people can start a business, and if they don’t succeed, it’s no shame and no disaster. In fact, it’s cool that you tried.”

Then he joined the afternoon communication classes of professors Copple Smith and Kumar. In Kumar’s “Cultural Globalization and Identity” class, Wales provided some global context for Wikipedia, saying the free online encyclopedia has 16 million entries in some 270 languages, which are edited by more than 100,000 people.

It’s about community, he said, pointing out that Wikipedia can help to bring native speakers closer together. It’s also about freedom of information. Wales is proud of the ways Wikipedia has made gains in places like China, where it was once completely blocked. Since the Olympics in Beijing, most of Wikipedia has been made available to Chinese citizens, despite ongoing restrictions on controversial topics.

The day ended with a packed-house lecture in Swasey Chapel, where Wales expanded on the themes of community, freedom, and effective communication. He said part of the idea for creating Wikipedia came from the frustration born of trying to collaborate electronically. Try e-mailing a Word document to eight different people to add their contributions . . . it’s “a bit of a nightmare,” he explained. “The worst thing that could happen is that you have all eight people answer. Now you have eight versions of the same document and you have to figure out some way to get it back together.” This scenario made him realize there was a great need for tools to help people collaborate effectively.

Wales also spent the day emphasizing the responsible use of Wikipedia. Writing a paper on the Battle of Iwo Jima? Stop by Wikipedia to get an overview of the topic, then do the right thing: go to primary sources. That’s how it should work with any encyclopedia, he said. Wikipedia’s a great place to start, but not where your research should end.

And on the subject of that other similar-sounding but oh-so-different website that has been in the news lately—WikiLeaks—Wales really wishes they would have chosen a different name.

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3:19 PM December 10, 2010

Natalie Keller Pariano wrote:

This was such an excellent collaboration among faculty, staff and students. Jimmy was a gracious campus visitor and it was excellent that he was willing to do class visits and a luncheon with students as well. I found the entire day to be engaging and interesting. Congratulations to the University Programming Council, the Spectrum Series, Communication Department and the Entrepreneurship Club.

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4:02 PM December 10, 2010

tali lekorenos wrote:

I am so excited that I got to be a part of bringing Jimmy Wales to campus. It was a great experience having lunch with him and asking question as well as hearing him speak in swasey. Many thanks to the University Programming Council (UPC) the Spectrum Series, Communication Department and the Entrepreneurship Club for helping bring him here. Thanks to theDEN as well for so many features and articles to read!

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4:29 PM December 10, 2010

Kim Humphrey wrote:

I am so happy that I was able to be a part of this event. This kind of event–one arranged by faculty, staff, and students that speaks to our collective intellects, experiences, and hopes is what I love about Denison. I am so proud of the University Programming Council, the Spectrum Series, the Entrepreneurship Club, and the Communication Department. Thank you for your effort and involvement!

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5:34 PM December 10, 2010

Dolly Cho wrote:

Jimmy Wales was not only such a great speaker but a really nice person to talk to. I’m really glad that Swasey was FULL on a Wednesday night in this crazy week right before finals.
Thanks to all the collaborative work of UPC, the Spectrum Series, the Communication department, and the Entrepreneurship club, the event was a huge success! I’m proud be to have helped organize a phenomenal lecture in Denison history!
Thanks to the DEN for covering this event!

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9:10 PM December 10, 2010

Stephanie Fois wrote:

I was so happy that Mr. Wales answered my question about his thoughts on Wikipedia as a citable source in the academic setting. Hearing his answer makes a lot of sense.

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12:17 AM December 13, 2010

Gregory KOhs wrote:

I wonder how much Jimmy Wales was paid to come to Denison University and be charming to the co-eds. Or, is that information secret, like the amount paid by the Wikimedia Foundation to Q2 Consulting on a research contract that had no competitive bidding?

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10:02 AM December 13, 2010

Gregory Kohs wrote:

Actually, I should be more specific. We know that Jimmy got paid to do this gig — he’d have no reason to visit Denison otherwise, The question is how did the University Programming Council, the Spectrum Series, the Communication department, and the Entrepreneurship club split what must have been a hefty bill?

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