Wales in 2015
|Born||Jimmy Donal Wales
August 7, 1966
Huntsville, Alabama, U.S.
|Residence||London, England, UK|
|Other names||Jimbo (online moniker)|
|Occupation||Internet entrepreneur, formerly a financial trader|
|Net worth||≈ US$1 million as of 2014|
|Successor||Florence Devouard (as Chair of Wikimedia Foundation)|
|Board member of||
Jimmy Donal "Jimbo" Wales (/ /; born August 7, 1966) is an American Internet entrepreneur. He is the co-founder and promoter of the online non-profit encyclopedia, Wikipedia, and the for-profit Wikia web hosting company.
Wales was born in Huntsville, Alabama, where he attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school. Later, he earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Finance from Auburn University and the University of Alabama, respectively.
While in graduate school, Wales taught at two universities; however, he departed before completing a PhD to take a job in finance, and later worked as the Research Director of a Chicago, Illinois, futures and options firm. In 1996, he and two partners founded Bomis, a male-oriented web portal featuring entertainment and adult content. The company would provide the initial funding for the peer-reviewed free encyclopedia, Nupedia (2000–03), and its successor, Wikipedia.
On January 15, 2001, with Larry Sanger and others, Wales launched Wikipedia—a free, open content encyclopedia that enjoyed rapid growth and popularity; as Wikipedia's public profile grew, he became the project's promoter and spokesman. He is historically cited as a co-founder of Wikipedia, though he has disputed the "co-" designation, declaring himself the sole founder.
Wales serves on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, the non-profit charitable organization that he helped establish to operate Wikipedia, holding its board-appointed "community founder" seat. In 2004, he co-founded Wikia, a for-profit wiki hosting service. His role in creating Wikipedia, which has become the world's largest encyclopedia, prompted Time Magazine to name him in their 2006 list of "The 100 Most Influential People in the World".
Early life and education
Wales was born in Huntsville, Alabama, shortly before midnight on August 7, 1966; however, his birth certificate lists his date of birth as the 8th. His father, Jimmy, worked as a grocery store manager, while his mother, Doris Ann (née Dudley), and his grandmother, Erma, ran the House of Learning, a small private school in the tradition of the one-room schoolhouse, where Wales and his three siblings received their early education.
As a child, Wales was a keen reader with an acute intellectual curiosity. When he was three, his mother bought a World Book Encyclopedia from a door-to-door salesman. As he grew up and learned to read, it became an object of reverence. It put at his fingertips an abundant supply of knowledge complete with maps, illustrations, and a few cellophane layers of transparencies one could lift to explore such things as the muscles, arteries, and digestive system of a dissected frog. But Wales soon discovered that the World Book had shortcomings: no matter how much was in it, there were many more things that weren’t. World Book sent out stickers for owners to paste on the pages in order to update the encyclopedia, and Wales was careful to put the stickers to work. “I joke that I started as a kid revising the encyclopedia by stickering the one my mother bought.”
During an interview in 2005 with Brian Lamb, Wales described his childhood private school as a "Montessori influenced philosophy of education", where he "spent lots of hours poring over the Britannicas and World Book Encyclopedias". There were only four other children in Wales's grade, so the school grouped together the first through fourth-grade students and the fifth through eighth-grade students. As an adult, Wales was sharply critical of the government's treatment of the school, citing the "constant interference and bureaucracy and very sort of snobby inspectors from the state" as a formative influence on his political philosophy.
After eighth grade, Wales attended Randolph School, a university-preparatory school in Huntsville, graduating at sixteen. Wales said that the school was expensive for his family, but that "education was always a passion in my household ... you know, the very traditional approach to knowledge and learning and establishing that as a base for a good life." He received his bachelor's degree in finance from Auburn University in 1986. Wales then entered the PhD finance program at the University of Alabama before leaving with a master's degree to enter the PhD finance program at Indiana University. He taught at both universities during his postgraduate studies but did not write the doctoral dissertation required for a PhD, something he ascribed to boredom.
Chicago Options Associates and Bomis
In 1994, Wales took a job with Chicago Options Associates, a futures and options trading firm in Chicago, Illinois. Wales has described himself as having been addicted to the Internet from an early stage and he wrote computer code during his leisure time. During his studies in Alabama, he had become an obsessive player of Multi-User Dungeons (MUDs)—a type of virtual role-playing game—and thereby experienced the potential of computer networks to foster large-scale collaborative projects.
Inspired by the remarkably successful initial public offering of Netscape in 1995, and having accumulated capital through "speculating on interest-rate and foreign-currency fluctuations", Wales decided to leave the realm of financial trading and became an Internet entrepreneur. In 1996, he and two partners founded Bomis, a web portal featuring user-generated webrings and, for a time, erotic photographs. Wales described it as a "guy-oriented search engine" with a market similar to that of Maxim magazine; the Bomis venture did not ultimately turn out to be successful.
Nupedia and the origins of Wikipedia
Though Bomis had struggled to make money, it provided Wales with the funding to pursue his greater passion, an online encyclopedia. While moderating an online discussion group devoted to the philosophy of Objectivism in the early 1990s, Wales had encountered Larry Sanger, a skeptic of the philosophy. The two had engaged in detailed debate on the subject on Wales's list and then on Sanger's, eventually meeting offline to continue the debate and becoming friends. Years later, after deciding to pursue his encyclopedia project and seeking a credentialed academic to lead it, Wales hired Sanger—who at that time was a doctoral student in philosophy at Ohio State University—to be its editor-in-chief, and in March 2000, Nupedia ("the free encyclopedia"), a peer-reviewed, open-content encyclopedia, was launched. The intent behind Nupedia was to have expert-written entries on a variety of topics, and to sell advertising alongside the entries in order to make profit. The project was characterized by an extensive peer-review process designed to make its articles of a quality comparable to that of professional encyclopedias.
The idea was to have thousands of volunteers writing articles for an online encyclopedia in all languages. Initially we found ourselves organizing the work in a very top-down, structured, academic, old-fashioned way. It was no fun for the volunteer writers because we had a lot of academic peer review committees who would criticize articles and give feedback. It was like handing in an essay at grad school, and basically intimidating to participate in.— Jimmy Wales on the Nupedia project New Scientist, January 31, 2007
In an October 2009 speech, Wales recollected attempting to write a Nupedia article on Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert C. Merton, but being too intimidated to submit his first draft to the prestigious finance professors who were to peer review it, even though he had published a paper on Option Pricing Theory and was comfortable with the subject matter. Wales characterized this as the moment he realized that the Nupedia model was not going to work.
In January 2001, Sanger was introduced to the concept of a wiki by extreme programming enthusiast Ben Kovitz after explaining to Kovitz the slow pace of growth Nupedia endured as a result of its onerous submission process. Kovitz suggested that adopting the wiki model would allow editors to contribute simultaneously and incrementally throughout the project, thus breaking Nupedia's bottleneck. Sanger was excited about the idea, and after he proposed it to Wales, they created the first Nupedia wiki on January 10, 2001. The wiki was initially intended as a collaborative project for the public to write articles that would then be reviewed for publication by Nupedia's expert volunteers. The majority of Nupedia's experts, however, wanted nothing to do with this project, fearing that mixing amateur content with professionally researched and edited material would compromise the integrity of Nupedia's information and damage the credibility of the encyclopedia. Thus, the wiki project, dubbed "Wikipedia" by Sanger, went live at a separate domain five days after its creation.
|Jimmy Wales: The birth of Wikipedia, TED, 2005|
|Q&A with Jimmy Wales, C-SPAN, 2005|
|Lecture Jimmy Wales: Understanding failure as a route to success, Maastricht University, 2015|
Originally, Bomis planned to make Wikipedia a profitable business. Sanger initially saw Wikipedia primarily as a tool to aid Nupedia development. Wales feared that at worst, it might produce "complete rubbish". To the surprise of Sanger and Wales, within a few days of launching the number of articles on Wikipedia had outgrown that of Nupedia, and a small collective of editors had formed. It was Jimmy Wales, along with other people, who came up with the broader idea of an open-source, collaborative encyclopedia that would accept contributions from ordinary people. Initially, neither Sanger nor Wales knew what to expect from the Wikipedia initiative. Many of the early contributors to the site were familiar with the model of the free culture movement, and, like Wales, many of them sympathized with the open-source movement. Wales has said that he was initially so worried about the concept of open editing, where anyone can edit the encyclopedia, that he would awake during the night and monitor what was being added. Nonetheless, the cadre of early editors helped create a robust, self-regulating community that has proven conducive to the growth of the project. In a talk at SXSW in 2016, he recalled that he wrote the first words on Wikipedia: "Hello world", a phrase computer programmers often use to test new software.
Sanger developed Wikipedia in its early phase and guided the project. The broader idea he originally ascribes to other people, remarking in a 2005 memoir for Slashdot that "the idea of an open source, collaborative encyclopedia, open to contribution by ordinary people, was entirely Jimmy's, not mine, and the funding was entirely by Bomis. Of course, other people had had the idea", adding, "the actual development of this encyclopedia was the task he gave me to work on." Sanger worked on and promoted both the Nupedia and Wikipedia projects until Bomis discontinued funding for his position in February 2002; Sanger resigned as editor-in-chief of Nupedia and as "chief organizer" of Wikipedia on March 1 of that year. Early on, Bomis supplied the financial backing for Wikipedia, and entertained the notion of placing advertisements on Wikipedia before costs were reduced with Sanger's departure and plans for a nonprofit foundation were advanced instead.
Controversy regarding Wales's status as co-founder
Wales has asserted that he is the sole founder of Wikipedia, and has publicly disputed Sanger's designation as a co-founder. Sanger and Wales were identified as co-founders at least as early as September 2001 by The New York Times and as founders in Wikipedia's first press release in January 2002. In August of that year, Wales identified himself as "co-founder" of Wikipedia. Sanger assembled on his personal webpage an assortment of links that appear to confirm the status of Sanger and Wales as co-founders. For example, Sanger and Wales are historically cited or described in early news citations and press releases as co-founders. Wales was quoted by The Boston Globe as calling Sanger's claim "preposterous" in February 2006, and called "the whole debate silly" in an April 2009 interview.
In late 2005, Wales edited his own biographical entry on the English Wikipedia. Writer Rogers Cadenhead drew attention to logs showing that in his edits to the page, Wales had removed references to Sanger as the co-founder of Wikipedia. Sanger commented that "having seen edits like this, it does seem that Jimmy is attempting to rewrite history. But this is a futile process because in our brave new world of transparent activity and maximum communication, the truth will out." Wales was also observed to have modified references to Bomis in a way that was characterized as downplaying the sexual nature of some of his former company's products. Though Wales argued that his modifications were solely intended to improve the accuracy of the content, he apologized for editing his own biography, a practice generally discouraged on Wikipedia.
In a 2004 interview with Slashdot, Wales outlined his vision for Wikipedia: "Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That's what we're doing." Although his formal designation is board member and chairman emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation, Wales's social capital within the Wikipedia community has accorded him a status that has been characterized as benevolent dictator, constitutional monarch and spiritual leader. In two interviews with the Guardian in 2014, Wales elaborated on his role on Wikipedia. In the first interview, he said that while he "has always rejected" the term "benevolent dictator", he does refer to himself as the "constitutional monarch". In the second, he elaborated on his "constitutional monarch" designation, saying that, like the Queen of England, he has no real power. He was also the closest the project had to a spokesperson in its early years. The growth and prominence of Wikipedia made Wales an Internet celebrity. Although he had never traveled outside North America prior to the site's founding, his participation in the Wikipedia project has seen him flying internationally on a near-constant basis as its public face.
When Larry Sanger left Wikipedia, Wales's approach was different from Sanger's. Wales was fairly hands-off. Despite involvement in other projects, Wales has denied intending to reduce his role within Wikipedia, telling The New York Times in 2008 that "Dialing down is not an option for me ... Not to be too dramatic about it, but, 'to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language,' that's who I am. That's what I am doing. That's my life goal." In May 2010, the BBC reported that Wales had relinquished many of his technical privileges on Wikimedia Commons (a Wikipedia sister project that hosts much of its multimedia content) after criticism by the project's volunteer community over what they saw as Wales's hasty and undemocratic approach to deleting sexually explicit images he believed "appeal solely to prurient interests".
In mid-2003, Wales set up the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), a non-profit organization founded in St. Petersburg, Florida and later headquartered in San Francisco, California. All intellectual property rights and domain names pertaining to Wikipedia were moved to the new foundation, whose purpose is to establish general policy for the encyclopedia and its sister projects. Wales has been a member of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees since it was formed and was its official chairman from 2003 through 2006. Since 2006 he has been accorded the honorary title of chairman emeritus and holds the board-appointed "community founder" seat. His work for the foundation, including his appearances to promote it at computer and educational conferences, has always been unpaid. Wales has often joked that donating Wikipedia to the foundation was both the "dumbest and the smartest" thing he had done. On one hand, he estimated that Wikipedia was worth US$3 billion; on the other, he weighed his belief that the donation made its success possible.
Wales gives an annual "State of the Wiki" address, at the Wikimania conference.
Wales's association with the foundation has led to controversy. In March 2008, Wales was accused by former Wikimedia Foundation employee Danny Wool of misusing the foundation's funds for recreational purposes. Wool also stated that Wales had his Wikimedia credit card taken away in part because of his spending habits, a claim Wales denied. Then-chairperson of the foundation Florence Devouard and former foundation interim Executive Director Brad Patrick denied any wrongdoing by Wales or the foundation, saying that Wales accounted for every expense and that, for items for which he lacked receipts, he paid out of his own pocket; in private, Devouard upbraided Wales for "constantly trying to rewrite the past". Later in March 2008, it was claimed by Jeffrey Vernon Merkey that Wales had edited Merkey's Wikipedia entry to make it more favorable in return for donations to the Wikimedia Foundation, an allegation Wales dismissed as "nonsense". In early 2016 Wikipedia editors perceived the WMF's Knowledge Engine project as a conflict of interest for Wales, whose business Wikia might benefit from having the WMF spend a lot of money on research in respect to search. Wikia attempted to develop a search engine but it was closed in 2009.
Wikia and later pursuits
In 2004, Wales and then-fellow member of the WMF Board of Trustees Angela Beesley founded the for-profit company Wikia. Wikia is a wiki farm—a collection of individual wikis on different subjects, all hosted on the same website. It hosts some of the largest wikis outside Wikipedia, including Memory Alpha (devoted to Star Trek) and Wookieepedia (Star Wars). Another service offered by Wikia was Wikia Search, an open source search engine intended to challenge Google and introduce transparency and public dialogue about how it is created into the search engine's operations, but the project was abandoned in March 2009. Wales stepped down as Wikia CEO to be replaced by angel investor Gil Penchina, a former vice president and general manager at eBay, on June 5, 2006. Penchina declared Wikia to have reached profitability in September 2009. In addition to his role at Wikia, Wales is a public speaker represented by the Harry Walker Agency. He has also participated in a celebrity endorsement campaign for the Swiss watch maker Maurice Lacroix.
On November 4, 2011, Wales delivered an hour-long address at The Sage Gateshead in the United Kingdom to launch the 2011 Free Thinking Festival on BBC Radio Three. His speech, which was entitled "The Future of the Internet", was largely devoted to Wikipedia. Twenty days later, on November 24, Wales appeared on the British topical debate television program Question Time.
In May 2012, it was reported that Wales was advising the UK government on how to make taxpayer-funded academic research available on the internet at no cost. His role reportedly involved working as "an unpaid advisor on crowdsourcing and opening up policymaking", and advising the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the UK research councils on distributing research.
In January 2014, it was announced that Wales had joined The People's Operator as co-chair of the mobile phone network.
On March 21, 2014, Wales spoke on a panel at a Clinton Global Initiative University conference held at Arizona State University, along with John McCain, Saudi Arabian women's rights activist Manal al-Sharif and Harvard University student Shree Bose. The topic of discussion was "the age of participation" and the ability of an increasingly large number of citizens to "express their own opinions, pursue their own educations, and launch their own enterprises." Wales exhorted young people to use social media to try to bring about societal change, and compared government suppression of the Internet to a human rights violation.
On May 26, 2014, Google appointed Wales to serve on a seven-member committee on privacy in response to Google v. Gonzalez, which led to their being inundated with requests to remove websites from their search results. Wales said he wanted the committee to be viewed as "a blue-ribbon panel" by lawmakers and for the committee to advise them as well as Google.
Political and economic views
Wales is a self-avowed Objectivist, referring to the philosophy invented by writer Ayn Rand in the mid-20th century that emphasizes reason, individualism, and capitalism. Wales first encountered the philosophy through reading Rand's novel The Fountainhead during his undergraduate period and, in 1992, founded an electronic mailing list devoted to "Moderated Discussion of Objectivist Philosophy". Though he has stated that the philosophy "colours everything I do and think", he has said, "I think I do a better job—than a lot of people who self-identify as Objectivists—of not pushing my point of view on other people."
When asked by Brian Lamb about Rand's influence on him in his appearance on C-SPAN's Q&A in September 2005, Wales cited integrity and "the virtue of independence" as personally important. When asked if he could trace "the Ayn Rand connection" to a personal political philosophy at the time of the interview, Wales labeled himself a libertarian, qualifying his remark by referring to the U.S. Libertarian Party as "lunatics", and citing "freedom, liberty, basically individual rights, that idea of dealing with other people in a manner that is not initiating force against them" as his guiding principles.
An interview with Wales served as the cover feature of the June 2007 issue of the libertarian magazine Reason. In that profile, he described his political views as "center-right". Prior to 2008, Wales attended George Soros' birthday.
In a 2011 interview with The Independent, he expressed sympathy with the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy London protesters, saying, "You don't have to be a socialist to say it's not right to take money from everybody and give it to a few rich people. That's not free enterprise."
Dan Hodges in The Telegraph has described Wales as a "Labour sympathizer".
In 2015, Wales signed up as the committee chair for Lawrence Lessig's 2016 presidential campaign.
Philosophy in practice
The January/February 2006 issue of Maximum PC reported that Wales refused to comply with a request from the People's Republic of China to censor "politically sensitive" Wikipedia articles—other corporate Internet companies, such as Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft, had already yielded to Chinese government pressure. Wales stated that he would rather see companies such as Google adhere to Wikipedia's policy of freedom of information. In 2010, Wales criticized whistle blower website WikiLeaks and its editor-in-chief Julian Assange, saying that their publication of Afghan war documents "could be enough to get someone killed"; furthermore, he expressed irritation at their use of the name "wiki": "What they're doing is not really a wiki. The essence of wiki is a collaborative editing ...".
Development and management of Wikipedia
Wales cites Austrian School economist Friedrich Hayek's essay, "The Use of Knowledge in Society", which he read as an undergraduate, as "central" to his thinking about "how to manage the Wikipedia project". Hayek argued that information is decentralized—that each individual only knows a small fraction of what is known collectively—and that as a result, decisions are best made by those with local knowledge, rather than by a central authority. Wales reconsidered Hayek's essay in the 1990s, while reading about the open source movement, which advocated for the free distribution of free software. He was particularly moved by "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", an essay, which was later adapted into a book of the same name, by one of the founders of the movement, Eric S. Raymond, as it "opened [his] eyes to the possibilities of mass collaboration."
From his background in finance, and working as a futures and options trader, Wales developed an interest in game theory and the effect of incentives on human collaborative activity. He identifies this fascination as a significant basis for his developmental work on the Wikipedia project. He has rejected the notion that his role in promoting Wikipedia is altruistic, which he defines as "sacrificing your own values for others", stating "[t]hat [the idea of] participating in a benevolent effort to share information is somehow destroying your own values makes no sense to me".
Testimony before Senate Homeland Security Committee
On December 11, 2007, Wales testified before to the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. He also submitted written testimony to the Senate Committee entitled "E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration and Access".
Senator Joseph Lieberman introduced Wales by stating:
We are very glad to have as a witness Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, one of the most thrilling examples of what collaborative technology can produce. We have asked Mr. Wales to take us through some of the ideas behind Wikipedia and then to relate them to our jurisdiction, which is to say to help us understand how similar technologies and collaborative activities can be applied to government for greater information sharing and communication, both within the government, but also between the government and the public.
In fact, quite encouragingly, the intelligence community has already developed and is using a process collaborative technology that they call Intellipedia, which is based directly on the Wikipedia model. So Mr. Wales, if imitation is a form of flattery, you should feel flattered. And the aim of this is to foster collaboration and information across the intelligence community, obviously on a closed site.
Wales's testimony is available for viewing on CSPAN.
European Court of Justice Google ruling
On May 14, 2014, Wales strongly reacted to the European Court of Justice (ECJ)'s ruling on the right of individuals to request the removal of information from Google's search results. He stated to the BBC that the ruling was "one of the most wide-sweeping internet censorship rulings that I've ever seen". In early June 2014, the TechCrunch media outlet interviewed Wales on the subject, as he had been invited by Google to join an advisory committee that the corporation had formed as an addition to the formal process that the ECJ requested from Google to manage such requests.
The May 2014 ECJ ruling required swift action from Google to implement a process that allowed people to directly contact the corporation about the removal of information that they believe is outdated or irrelevant. Google’s Larry Page revealed that 30 percent of requests received by Google since the ruling was made were categorized as "other". Wales explained in email responses that he was contacted by Google on May 28, 2014 and "The remit of the committee is to hold public hearings and issue recommendations—not just to Google but to legislators and the public." When asked about his view on the ECJ’s “right to be forgotten” ruling, Wales replied:
I think the decision will have no impact on people’s right to privacy, because I don’t regard truthful information in court records published by court order in a newspaper to be private information. If anything, the decision is likely to simply muddle the interesting philosophical questions and make it more difficult to make real progress on privacy issues. In the case of truthful, non-defamatory information obtained legally, I think there is no possibility of any defensible “right” to censor what other people are saying. It is important to avoid language like “data” because we aren’t talking about “data”—we are talking about the suppression of knowledge.
Wales then provided further explanation, drawing a comparison with Wikipedia: "You do not have a right to use the law to prevent Wikipedia editors from writing truthful information, nor do you have a right to use the law to prevent Google from publishing truthful information." Wales concluded with an indication of his ideal outcome: "A part of the outcome should be the very strong implementation of a right to free speech in Europe—essentially the language of the First Amendment in the U.S."
In 2012, the Home Secretary of the U.K. was petitioned by Wales in regard to his opposition to the extradition of Richard O'Dwyer to the U.S. After an agreement was reached to avoid the extradition, Wales commented, "This is very exciting news, and I'm pleased to hear it ... What needs to happen next is a serious reconsideration of the UK extradition treaty that would allow this sort of nonsense in the first place."
In August 2013, Wales criticized U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron's plan for an Internet porn-filter, saying that the idea was "ridiculous." In November 2013, Wales also commented on the Snowden affair, describing Edward Snowden as "a hero" whom history would judge "very favourably"; additionally, Wales said the U.S. public "would have never approved [the] sweeping surveillance program [publicized by Snowden]", had they been informed or asked about it.
In March 2014, Wales criticized holistic health, a form of alternative medicine, as "the work of lunatic charlatans." Wales further explained that holistic health is not based on peer-reviewed studies.
Jimmy Wales has been married three times. At the age of twenty, he married Pamela Green, a co-worker at a grocery store in Alabama. They divorced in 1993. He met his second wife, Christine Rohan, through a friend in Chicago while she was working as a steel trader for Mitsubishi. The couple were married in Monroe County, Florida in March 1997, and had a daughter before separating. Wales moved to San Diego in 1998, and after becoming disillusioned with the housing market there, relocated in 2002 to St. Petersburg, Florida.
Wales had a brief relationship with Canadian conservative columnist Rachel Marsden in 2008 that began after Marsden contacted Wales about her Wikipedia biography. After accusations that Wales's relationship constituted a conflict of interest, Wales stated that there had been a relationship but that it was over and said that it had not influenced any matters on Wikipedia, a claim which was disputed by Marsden.
Wales married Kate Garvey in London on October 6, 2012. She is Tony Blair's former diary secretary, whom Wales met in Davos, Switzerland. Wales and Garvey have two daughters.
Wales is an atheist. In an interview with Big Think, he said his personal philosophy is firmly rooted in reason and he is a complete non-believer. As of 2012, he lives in London, England.
Honors, awards and positions
- Wales is a former co-chair of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2008, and a former board member of Socialtext.
- He is a member of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, the advisory board of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, and the board of directors at Creative Commons and Hunch.com.
- In 2006, Wales was listed in the "Scientists & Thinkers" section of the Time 100 and number 12 in Forbes "The Web Celebs 25".
- Wales has also given a lecture in the Stuart Regen Visionary series at New Museum which "honors special individuals who have made major contributions to art and culture, and are actively imagining a better future" and by the World Economic Forum as one of the "Young Global Leaders" of 2007.
- The 2008 Global Brand Icon of the Year Award, and on behalf of the Wikimedia project the Quadriga award of Werkstatt Deutschland for A Mission of Enlightenment.
- The 2009 Nokia Foundation annual award, the Business Process Award at the 7th Annual Innovation Awards and Summit by The Economist.
- In April 2011, Wales served on the jury of the Tribeca Film Festival, Wales has received a Pioneer Award, the Gottlieb Duttweiler Prize and the Leonardo European Corporate Learning Award in 2011, the Monaco Media Prize,. Wales has also received honorary degrees from Knox College, Amherst College, Stevenson University, Argentina's Universidad Empresarial Siglo 21, and Russia's MIREA University.
- On December 5, 2013, Wales was awarded the UNESCO Niels Bohr Medal in Copenhagen, Denmark at a conference on "An Open World" to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Niels Bohr's atomic theory. His presentation on "Wikipedia, Democracy and the Internet" emphasised the need to expand Wikipedia into virtually all the languages of the world. The "Wikipedia Zero" initiative was beginning to prove successful in encouraging telecommunications companies to provide children in the developing world with free access to Wikipedia for educational purposes. Wales was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame in 2013.
- In February 2014, Wales was named one of "25 Web Superstars" by The Daily Telegraph. On May 17, 2014, Wales became Doctor Honoris Causa of the Faculty of Communication Sciences of the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI Lugano, Switzerland). On June 25, 2014, Wales received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. On July 10, 2014, Wales received the UK Tech4Good Awards "Special Award" for establishing Wikipedia. He was one of eight winners in various categories meant to honor organizations and individuals who use digital technology to improve the lives of others. In December 2014, Wales shared the inaugural $1-million Mohammed bin Rashid Knowledge Award with World Wide Web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
- In January 2015, Maastricht University awarded an honorary doctorate to Wales. On April 25, 2015, Wales received the Common Wealth Award of Distinguished Service along with Jon Bon Jovi and Edward Norton. On May 17, 2015, Wales received the Dan David Prize of $1 million in the "Present" category (others won that amount for "Past" and "Future" contributions to society). He was awarded the prize for "launching the world's largest online encyclopedia".
- In January 2016, Wales, along with Baroness Rebuck, became a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group. On February 2, 2016, he received an honorary doctorate from the Université Catholique de Louvain.
- Brooks, Robert; Jon Corson, Jimmy Donal Wales (1994). "The Pricing of Index Options When the Underlying Assets All Follow a Lognormal Diffusion". Advances in Futures and Options Research 7.
- Wales, Jimmy; Andrea Weckerle (December 31, 2008). "Foreword". In Fraser, Matthew; Dutta, Soumitra. Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World (1st ed.). Wiley. ISBN 0-470-74014-0. OCLC 233939846.
- Wales, Jimmy; Andrea Weckerle (January 8, 2009). "Commentary: Create a tech-friendly U.S. government". CNN.
- Wales, Jimmy; Andrea Weckerle (February 10, 2009). "Foreword". In Powell, Juliette. 33 Million People in the Room: How to Create, Influence, and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking (1st ed.). Financial Times Press. ISBN 0-13-715435-6. OCLC 244066502.
- Wales, Jimmy; Andrea Weckerle (March 3, 2009). "Foreword". In Weber, Larry. Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business (2nd ed.). Wiley. ISBN 0-470-41097-3. OCLC 244060887.
- Wales, Jimmy (March 17, 2009). "Foreword". In Lih, Andrew. The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia (1st ed.). Hyperion. ISBN 1-4013-0371-4. OCLC 232977686.
- Wales, Jimmy; Andrea Weckerle (March 30, 2009). "Most Define User-Generated Content Too Narrowly". Advertising Age 80.
- Wales, Jimmy; Andrea Weckerle (December 28, 2009). "Keep a Civil Cybertongue". The Wall Street Journal.
- Mons, B.; Ashburner, M.; Chichester, C.; Van Mulligen, E.; Weeber, M.; Den Dunnen, J.; Van Ommen, G. J.; Musen, M.; Cockerill, M.; Hermjakob, H.; Mons, A.; Packer, A.; Pacheco, R.; Lewis, S.; Berkeley, A.; Melton, W.; Barris, N.; Wales, J.; Meijssen, G.; Moeller, E.; Roes, P.; Borner, K.; Bairoch, A. (2008). "Calling on a million minds for community annotation in WikiProteins". Genome Biology 9 (5): R89. doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-5-r89. PMC 2441475. PMID 18507872.
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