[Wikipedia-l] Re: Sanger's memoirs
rowan.collins at gmail.com
Thu Apr 21 12:51:26 UTC 2005
On 4/21/05, lmsanger at sbcglobal.net <lmsanger at sbcglobal.net> wrote:
> Richard Holton wrote:
> > > My conclusion?
> > > "Jimbo Wales had a vision for a free online encyclopedia;
> > he and his
> > > employee Larry Sanger worked up Nupedia as a first stab at this
> > > vision; after hearing about wikis - which Jimbo had also recently
> > > discussed with another employee, Jeremy Rosenfeld - Larry laid down
> > > the first strokes of what would become Wikipedia."
> Yes, it sounds very reasonable--for someone who wasn't there.
> Unfortunately, it is still very misleading.
I'm sorry you think so. Let's work on it:
> "Jimbo Wales had a vision for a free online encyclopedia; he hired Larry
> Sanger to be the project's editor-in-chief, and he, with a voluntary
> advisory board, worked up Nupedia as a first stab at this vision. There
> were problems with Nupedia's system, which Larry was tasked to solve. Larry
> heard about wikis one evening over dinner and the very next day, or the day
> after, as a direct and sole result, laid down the first strokes of what
> would become Wikipedia. Jimmy said later, in 2005, as an interesting bit of
> historical trivia, that someone else first suggested a wiki encyclopedia to
> him. This suggestion, however, had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with
> the origination of Wikipedia, nor did Jimmy mean to suggest that it did."
This version simply says the same thing, with more detail. OK, so it's
obviously not *exactly* the same, but it boils down to much the same
> What some people seem to want to be true is this: "Jeremy Rosenfeld got the
> idea for Wikipedia, which he conveyed to Jimmy. Jimmy then told Larry to
> start it, which he did." That is completely false. No:
That is certainly *not* what *my* "conclusion" said, although people
do seem to have got that impression from other parts of the
> "Larry got the idea; Larry asked Jimmy to set up the wiki software on the
> server, which he (or Jason Richey) did; then Larry got to work."
The only thing I was trying to add to this was the fact - reflected in
your "memoir", unless I'm misunderstanding it - that you had to "sell"
the new idea to Jimmy after your epiphanous dinner. It is therefore
historically important that he accepted it; you suggest that "After he
had nixed my several earlier proposals, and given that setting up a
wiki would be very simple and require hiring no programmer, Jimmy
could scarcely refuse".
Is it not possible - indeed likely, unless Jimmy is actually lying -
that the fact that he had discussed a similar concept with someone
else *helped warm him to the idea*? And if so, does that conversation
not have a small bearing on the existence of the wiki - not as an
agent in making it happen, or shaping it, but like a Butterfly Effect;
a small event which may have just been coincidence, but seems notable
So perhaps: "Larry got the idea; Larry told Jimmy about it; Jimmy had
discussed something similar with Jeremy Rosenfeld, but not in any
detail; Larry talked Jimmy into setting it up; then Larry got to
Or, in the style of my original "conclusion":
"Jimbo Wales had a vision for a free online encyclopedia; he hired Larry
Sanger to oversee the project, who - together with a team of
volunteers - worked up Nupedia as a first stab at this vision. While
thinking of ways to solve problems with Nupedia's current model, Larry
heard about wikis over dinner with Ben Kovitz and came up with the
idea of a wiki-based encyclopedia. Larry suggested this to Jimmy (who,
coincidentally, had once discussed something vaguely similar with
Jeremy Rosenfeld) and was given the go-ahead. Larry then proceeded to
lay down the first strokes of what would become Wikipedia."
Or, finally, I quite like the current wording in
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Wikipedia (although it doesn't
mention, as Jimmy now has, that Jeremy literally suggested a
"On the evening of 2 January 2001, Sanger had a conversation over
dinner with Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer, in San Diego,
California. Kovitz, who was a regular on "Ward's Wiki" (the Portland
Pattern Repository), explained the wiki concept to Sanger. Sanger saw
that a wiki would be an excellent format whereby a more open, less
formal encyclopedia project could be pursued. Sanger easily persuaded
Wales, who had been introduced to the wiki concept previously, to set
up a wiki for Nupedia, and Nupedia's first wiki went online on 10
Rowan Collins BSc
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