• Founder of Wikipedia lectures on Competition and Collaboration

9/22/2008

On September 11, 2008, Suffolk University celebrated its recent partnership with the Ford Hall Forum with a kick-off reception and public lecture by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia.  The reception, held in the Donahue Building, gave Ford Hall Forum members an opportunity to mingle with members of the Suffolk Community in the classic tradition of the forums of the past. 

Kenneth S. Greenberg, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, offered opening remarks which praised the Ford Hall Forum for continuing the tradition of intimate speaking engagements. “In a world full of talk,” he said, “the simplicity of a one-on-one conversation is still extraordinary.” 

Shelly Green, President of the Ford Hall Forum, expressed her enthusiasm to be joining the Suffolk community, and highlighted the pleasure she took in seeing the energy and enthusiasm of the students. For the Ford Hall Forum, she explained, “the audience is as important as the speaker.” 

James Carroll, Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Suffolk’s College of Arts & Sciences, Boston Globe columnist, and former Ford Hall Forum speaker, concluded the kick-off reception addresses, reiterating the importance of students, faculty, and the greater community engaging one another in open and honest discussion to improve the lives of all.  Carroll introduced the public lecture, encouraging others to open their minds to the “accidental genius of Wikipedia.”

Following the reception, Jimmy Wales, founder and CEO of Wikipedia, introduced by journalist and media personality Christopher Lydon, lectured on  "Free Speech, Free Minds, Free Markets: Competition and Collaboration."   Lydon likened Wikipedia to a “confirmation of a longstanding New England tradition of outspoken individuals sharing thoughts and ideas to create a shared intelligence and a democracy of users.”

Wales’ lecture covered a range of topics, from the roots of Wikipedia, which he traces to an early love of the writings of novelist Ayn Rand, to the effect that the “wiki phenomenon” has had on popular culture around the world.  “Imagine a world,” Wales encouraged, “in which every single person on the planet had access to the thoughts and ideas of each individual.” He explained that practices such as giving community members control of content, striving to maintain a neutral point of view, and demanding that international growth be free of censorship, have helped to mould his small company into a global power.  Wales can maintain one of the World Wide Web’s largest growing sites with only fifteen employees, and with a zero dollar budget for advertising. With only minimal interaction between the company and its 263 million unique users, Wikipedia has yet to fall victim to any problematic hackers or viruses.  He explained that by expecting the best from people, rather than planning for the worst, he has not been disappointed by the results. 

Wales continues to develop other projects, such as Wikia, a community destination supporting the creation and development of wiki communities on any topic people are passionate about.  He encouraged the audience to find something they care deeply about. “Your mind is what matters. Use it to learn about the world.”

A complete listing of this semester’s Ford Hall Forum events can be found here.

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