The idea of putting an encyclopedia in the hands of everyone led Jimmy Wales for form Wikipedia in 2001. Whether he co-founded the site with Larry Sanger or by himself represents one of the many controversies that have dogged the site since its inception.
Even with the controversy, the site now contains more than 14 million articles, 3.2 million in English.
Wales laid out his philosophy in a 2005 talk where he stressed the value of neutrality.
“We should merely report on what reputable parties have said about it. So this neutrality policy is really important for us, because it empowers a community that is very diverse to come together and actually get some work done.”
Wales said struggle develops not along political lines, but “between the party of the thoughtful and the party of the jerks.”
A small group of people tends to handle the bulk of the work editing, revising and correcting entries, he said.
“The type of people who are doing the bulk of the site, the type of people who were drawn to writing an encyclopedia for fun tend to be pretty smart people.”
But at times, Wales has to step in to quell a controversy.
“That’s my job in the community: To say we won’t allow our openness and freedom to undermine the quality of the content. And so long as people trust me in my role, then that’s a valid place for me. Of course, because of the free licensing, if I do a bad job, the volunteers are more than happy to take and leave. I can’t tell anyone what to do.”