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> $100,000,000, Is it all in Jimbo's head, and if not, how much do I get?
Somey
post Sun 29th October 2006, 6:55am
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It started out with this e-mail from Jimbo to WikiEN-L, in which he wrote:

QUOTE
Dream big. Imagine there existed a budget of $100 million to purchase copyrights to be made available under a free license. What would you like to see purchased and released under a free license? ...I was recently asked this question by someone who is potentially in a position to make this happen...

Soon after, it was mentioned on Slashdot, and has since made it into the general purpose IT magazines (PC Mag, Computerworld, etc.). It could conceivably make it into the mainstream media, as early as this week.

The response (mostly on Slashdot) has been quite extensive. People have suggested all sorts of things, including the song "Happy Birthday," the entire Penguin Classics Library, the Lexis-Nexus database, and so on. Others have suggested using the money to fund a lobbying effort in support of copyright reform, though that presumably would be a rather US-centric approach to say the least. In other news, a later e-mail on WikiEN-L from "Stan Shebs" speculated that the would-be donor must be Google, seeing as how they're getting into this sort of thing too (think Google Books), and an entry in the SEO Round Table somewhere suggested that Jimbo had visited Google HQ in person shortly beforehand. I think Jimbo might have mentioned it himself somewhere, but I'm deuced if I can find that right now either.

The more recent stories have carried this quote, from roughly two weeks later (boldface mine):
QUOTE
After contemplating what we would like to see made free, we will begin a project of finding ways to make this happen.

Well, that's not what he originally said, is it?

As we all know, it's our duty here at Wikipedia Review to try and figure out the underlying sinister motive behind whatever Jimbo and the Gang happen to be doing at any given time. In this case, I can think of several possibilities:

1. Jimbo needs cash. Needless to say, the "administrative overhead" of finding the copyright holders, making offers, and disbursing the funds would be quite considerable indeed. Jimbo's a former options trader, and knows all the tricks required to ensure that he'd get the highest legal percentage. Mind you, this is just idle speculation!

2. He's borrowing Microsoft's tactics. What Bill Gates & Co. often do is tell the world they're going to include a feature in the next version of Windows one or two years in advance. Then, any company that's currently working on a third party solution to that feature loses shareholder value (think disk-defrag, personal firewall, text-to-speech, that sort of thing), and Microsoft can then buy that company (and their solution) for less what it would cost them to build it themselves. So, if Wikimedia buys a bunch of copyrights in order to "free" them, speculation will abound as to what they're going to "free," driving down the values of companies that are busy creating new content right now in competition with such properties, and who would be harmed by the massive influx of newly-"freed" public domain content that might compete with whatever they happen to be producing. Those companies could then be bought, presumably by Google, for a lot less than they're worth now. Mind you, on the face of it, this seems completely illogical!

3. It's a smokescreen. For what, we don't know - that's why they call it a "smokescreen"! But it's always conceivable that Jimbo has been up to something, something bad, which might come to light at some point soon, and it's always nice to have a more positive distraction story or two going around to help cover it up. (Presumably if this were the case, then we'd have to assume that the $100 million is all in Jimbo's head.) This could even be Jimbo's way of trying to steal some thunder from the Citizendium launch. There's also been a lot of coverage of Wikipedia's porn content lately. Or, it might even be that he's worried about the plagiarism issue getting some "legs" in the mass media... Mind you, I'm just guessing at what it could be!

4. He's insane. On some level, Jimbo seems to believe that buying copyrights in order to "free" them will lead to some sort of modern intellectual renaissance, in which everyone who wants to obtain specialized knowledge about a subject will, in fact, do so as long as they don't have to shell out the usual $30 or $300 or $3,000 they would normally have to part with in order to get their hands on the printed material. In effect, this suggests that someone who wants to become, say, a physicist, literary critic, automobile designer, or computer technician is only being held back by the price tag of whatever textbook, literary work, or maintenance manual they might need to help them along. Aside from demonstrating an unrealistic view of human motivational behavior, this might suggest that Jimbo has little regard for quintessentially human vocations such as teaching, tutoring, and perhaps bookselling. Mind you, I'm sure Jimbo has nothing against such people personally!

Can anyone come up with any other possibilities? I have to get some sleep now.
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everyking
post Sun 29th October 2006, 8:35am
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I must be insane, because I really like option 4.
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Somey
post Sun 29th October 2006, 4:31pm
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Well, okay - let's assume for now that Jimbo's motives are genuine, maybe even altruistic. Putting aside the whole issue of how this might support the global movement towards Western cultural hegemony, and all the other vague objections to free content as hand-picked by a loosely-organized group of (mostly) Americans... that still leaves a question or three.

First, is this "person potentially in a position to make this happen" real? And if so, does this person actually have $100M, or does he simply claim that he can raise it, under the right circumstances?

Second, are we to assume that there would be no negative effects from this at all? On anyone? I can almost see how that might be the case, but Jimbo has a history of not thinking things through, with respect to the future effects of his various projects.

Lastly, couldn't it be said that the impulse to do something like this, as opposed to what people usually do -namely, fund scholarships, new buildings, or improved facilities at various colleges and universities - indicates a general disdain for traditional notions of higher education in general?
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everyking
post Sun 29th October 2006, 7:50pm
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Disdain for traditional notions of higher education? The way you portray Jimbo, you'd think he and I would get along better.
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guy
post Sun 29th October 2006, 8:42pm
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QUOTE(everyking @ Sun 29th October 2006, 7:50pm) *

The way you portray Jimbo, you'd think he and I would get along better.

Similar objects repel, opposites attract - at least in electromagnetism.
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Somey
post Sun 29th October 2006, 8:51pm
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Ah, but this isn't electromagnetism! Maybe it's time for Jimbo to review Everyking's case? I still think the whole "offer" thing was taken completely out of context, and none of them should have assumed bad faith on his part, considering that he'd never done that before, and that if the deleted info hadn't contained personal info, it would have simply made the requester look foolish.

Back to the point, though. Everyone knows about "Wikiversity," right? Obviously it isn't a particularly workable concept, but just the name "Wikiversity" is indicative of a new and somewhat alarming attitude, in my opinion. I realize there are "open universities" like the Phoenix Online University and so on, that use the web as delivery methods for coursework, but that's still a long way from the idea that an academic institution can be created out of random electrons by mostly anonymous contributors.

Hopefully it will fail miserably, but in the meantime, it's disturbing, and I think it says something about the people who are doing it.
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Somey
post Tue 31st October 2006, 12:47am
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Okay, so back to this $100 million thing.

Now there's this guy named Jason Calacanis, CEO of Weblogs, Inc., who strongly implies that it was him who dangled the $100,000,000.00 figure in front of Jimbo over the summer at a "Wikipedia dinner" (which probably took place at Wikimania). Only he was planning to raise the money by putting a big AOL banner ad at the top of every Wikipedia page, no doubt with plenty of tacky Flash animations and so forth up there. There were many responses, of course, most of which were quite negative indeed. Someone named Fred Wilson then responded to the responses by saying, in effect, that this would be a fine idea, and wondered why people hate banner ads so much...

Apparently, someone named "froosh," possibly Calacanis himself, had also posted this theoretical market valuation of wikipedia.org which put a dollar figure of $580 Million on Wikipedia as a media property. Later, Calacanis himself speculated that a IPO for Wikipedia as a private company could net as much as $5 Billion.

I think we should all choose a month next year as our individual predictions on when Jimbo is going to cash in. I'll take May!

That's assuming he even waits for New Year's.
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Jonny Cache
post Mon 20th November 2006, 8:19pm
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Folks new to this genre of gambit may find the following primers of use in trying to get up to speed on the pertinent terms of artful dodgery:Just a hunch ...
Nothing more ...

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This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Mon 20th November 2006, 8:25pm
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Somey
post Tue 21st November 2006, 5:39am
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So what's the most likely scenario, then? That a super-rich guy somewhere (not necessarily Calacanis) is trying to lure Jimbo Wales and his partners into making a splashy deal that would give him a piece of Wikipedia, so as to turn it into a money-maker that they could scoop adbucks out of with little or no effort? Why wouldn't Jimbo just do that himself?

Naaah, something else is going on here... I don't see this as some sort of long con at all - it's more like a gradual feeling-out process with the cultists. He'll continue to float "trial balloons" in front of everyone until eventually they become so used to the idea of commercialization, they won't really care much when it actually happens. Jimbo is just trying to prevent mass defections, which is probably what would happen if he just up and did it one day out of the blue.

Mind you, this was before the recent spate of bad press over plagiarism, viruses, "Intellipedia" (which probably didn't seem like bad press to him, but I suspect it played quite badly in Europe/Africa/Asia), and various anecdotal inaccuracy stories that keep popping up. Stuff like that scares away investors and big-money donors, even as the Alexa rank keeps climbing. I expect Jimbo to stay very tight-lipped on this $100M thing for the immediate future, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we never hear about it again.
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Jonny Cache
post Tue 21st November 2006, 6:08am
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QUOTE(Somey @ Tue 21st November 2006, 12:39am) *

So what's the most likely scenario, then? That a super-rich guy somewhere (not necessarily Calacanis) is trying to lure Jimbo Wales and his partners into making a splashy deal that would give him a piece of Wikipedia, so as to turn it into a money-maker that they could scoop adbucks out of with little or no effort? Why wouldn't Jimbo just do that himself?

Naaah, something else is going on here... I don't see this as some sort of long con at all - it's more like a gradual feeling-out process with the cultists. He'll continue to float "trial balloons" in front of everyone until eventually they become so used to the idea of commercialization, they won't really care much when it actually happens. Jimbo is just trying to prevent mass defections, which is probably what would happen if he just up and did it one day out of the blue.

Mind you, this was before the recent spate of bad press over plagiarism, viruses, "Intellipedia" (which probably didn't seem like bad press to him, but I suspect it played quite badly in Europe/Africa/Asia), and various anecdotal inaccuracy stories that keep popping up. Stuff like that scares away investors and big-money donors, even as the Alexa rank keeps climbing. I expect Jimbo to stay very tight-lipped on this $100M thing for the immediate future, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we never hear about it again.


I was viewing it more fish-eyed than eagle-eyed as being a part of the general schmooze -- just another piece of ambience creation and atmosphere setting -- cultivating that Supper Club Intimation of big money on the move for just the right Wiki-Philanth-Roper to put into play.

I started thinking along these lines a few weeks back when I saw yet another story on the local news about some Senior Citizen of the Griftedest Generation who sent $20,000 in cold hard cash by Featheral Xpress to some address in Phoenix because some guy on the phone said she had won $10 million from Publishers' Shearinghouse, and, like she said, "But he sounded so convincing on the phone". I was right in the middle of exclaiming "Just how gullible can some folks be!?" when I reflected for a moment on how much of my time and effort I had been conned into x-spending on Wikipedia, all for the sake of a really good line.

Since that time I've been contemplating the ways that the Wikipedia-Citizendium game seems very much like some kind of Intellectual Pyramid Scheme. A couple of distinguishing marks -- if you'll excuse the expression -- of a long-lasting pyramid scheme are these: (1) a steady influx of newbies who have yet to tumble to the game, and (2) a mechanism to efflux from the system and to render harmless the marks who have started to ask too many questions.

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This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Tue 21st November 2006, 6:26pm
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Backfire
post Sat 9th December 2006, 12:59pm
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Who is Jimbo Wales?

The image that pops into my head is the rich playboy who mostly hangs out at his private pool surrounded by a bevy of admiring women, sometimes hangs out with the socialite set to be seen with the rich and famous or chases the white powder of more than one kind in Vail. Has a serious ego problem, limelight seeker, always wants attention on how great he is. Is the sort of person you wouldn't really want to get to know personally, nor work for. Probably dabbled in some cult-like "self actualization" mindfuck outfits in the past (Scientology, e.s.t., Neo-Tech, ??). Probably has a history of failed unconventional business ventures - online pr0n maybe - before Wikipedia became a surprise success and made him rich. Runs Wikipedia as a part dictatorship, part personality cult, and would fire anyone at the drop of a hat who does not sufficiently worship him or boost his ego. Pretentions to social relevance and saving the world or something like that to distract from the fact that he is probably an egomaniac and a jerk in person. Sort of a Hugh Hefner-esque or Larry Flynt-esque character with some Kim Jong Il thrown in for good measure. Acts as some sort of minor god for whom the conventional rules don't apply. May follow in the path of other rich egomaniacal playboy-socialites and try to buy his way up Mt. Everest or something like that in the future.

This is all just speculation and I could be way off base. He could be more of a Bill Gates type - nerdy, monotone voice, great at technical geekstuff but uncomfortable at social gatherings. But I strongly suspect he's more of an ego-maniac playboy.

This post has been edited by Backfire: Sat 9th December 2006, 1:06pm
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Jonny Cache
post Sat 9th December 2006, 5:45pm
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Ha! As projective tests go that seems like the proverbial chiliad of words to get from a single publicity glossy, but I heard it on the grapes'o'wrath'vine that it's more like the Ayn Rand Corpseration than PseudoScienceOlogy -- not that it makes a hill'o'beans one way or the other.

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This post has been edited by Jonny Cache: Sat 9th December 2006, 9:23pm
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