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Jimmy Wales' Theory of Failure 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the citation-needed dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Tampa Tribune reports that Jimmy Wales recently spoke at the TEDx conference in Tampa about the three big failures he had before he started Wikipedia, and what he learned from them. In 1996 Wales started an Internet service to connect downtown lunchers with area restaurants. 'The result was failure,' says Wales. 'In 1996, restaurant owners looked at me like I was from Mars.' Next Wales started a search engine company called 3Apes. In three months, it was taken over by Chinese hackers and the project failed. Third was an online encyclopedia called Nupedia, a free encyclopedia created by paid experts. Wales spent $250,000 for writers to make 12 articles, and it failed. Finally, Wales had a 'really dumb idea,' a free encyclopedia written by anyone who wanted to contribute. That became Wikipedia, which is now one of the top 10 most-popular Web sites in the world. This leads to Wales' theories of failure: fail faster — if a project is doomed, shut it down quickly; don't tie your ego to any one project — if it stumbles, you'll be unable to move forward; real entrepreneurs fail; fail a lot but enjoy yourself along the way; if you handle these things well, 'you will succeed.'"
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Jimmy Wales' Theory of Failure

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  • by N3tRunner (164483) * on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:15AM (#31209816)

    I've seen other articles about failure being good for the creative process, namely the cover story of Wired a couple months ago. The thing is, if these people had continued failing and never had a success, we would never have heard of them. Of course successful people think that failure is good for you: they stopped doing it.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:26AM (#31209868) Journal

      Of course successful people think that failure is good for you: they stopped doing it.

      No, successful people and companies keep failing. They just hide it. Look at Google. I've heard they give their employees a fifth of their time to work on their own project that doesn't have to have a customer. So, if that's true, you have to think of how many thousand projects are going on inside Google that never see the light of day. A few of them make it out but it's definitely the shotgun approach to success. Fire enough bullets at once and one of them is bound to hit your target ...

      Successful people keep failing but they use their resources to expand and diversify what they are doing so that they can prune it down to look like their succeeding more often than not. Some companies just outright suck at it and will push a failure all the way to launch.

      Thinking that successful people stop failing is a dangerous assumption. You don't get to the top and from that point on never suffer a setback or have to kill a project early because it's not working out. Knowing when to do that is what makes those successful people successful. Wales says it should be early and often.

      • by brunes69 (86786) <slashdot@keirste ... minus physicist> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:40AM (#31209934) Homepage

        People have a lot of misconceptions on the 20% time from Google.

        - The 20% is not time to do whatever the heck you want. Basically it is time to spend on things that the company has not specifically directed you to work on. You have to justify the time with (what I believe are monthly( reports with your peers and supervisors on what you were working on.

        - The project is not necessarily anything that would ever be customer facing. I would wager, given the type of employee Google hires, most of them would be actually internally directed projects - optimizations to search algorithms, research into new computer learning techniques or advertising techniques, improvements to storage mechanisms, etc. For all you know, nearly all 20% projects actually get used - only thing is only a small number of them are visible to end users.

        • by FooAtWFU (699187)
          I seem to recall someone complaining that after Google bought out their small company, he had to go around recruiting Google engineers' 20% time to work on them, as well. I think he was rather annoyed by this.
      • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:52AM (#31210302) Journal
        The first poster is right though. There are lots of people who do things about as right as the successful people, but they still fail. If you keep failing, nobody is going to hear of you, unless you become such a huge failure that you are famous ;).

        I've actually seen a few examples - they do the right things, they're just unlucky (well I just have no idea why they aren't more successful). For example I've seen some restaurants - the food is good, the location is OK, prices reasonable, service OK. But they're still struggling with few customers. Whereas close by is a more expensive restaurant that's not really better in terms of quality, but with many customers. There's one restaurant I know of which did advertise regularly and even independent food blogs blogged the restaurant favourably. It's quite sad to see them eventually having to cut quality, portions and raise prices after years of struggling (there's just so much money you can burn) - and still struggle...

        Jimmy Wales might say - if your business looks like it's dying, cut your losses quick and start a new one. And he eventually strikes gold, and brags about it.
        Whereas Mr X might say, if your business looks like it's dying, don't give up, try doing X like me, and he eventually strikes gold, and brags about it.

        That's why most of those "X ways to be like successful me" books seem more like "How I eventually struck the lottery- you can be like me - just keep trying, don't give up!".

        Now if Successful Person has a track record of turning around other people's businesses that are decent but struggling (not talking about turning around obvious crap), and wrote a decent book/article about it, then that would be an interesting read.

        Lots of people do win the lottery, I'm interested if they actually have an above average technique of doing so[1]. Otherwise, meh...

        [1] Yes, I know of the "wait till the jackpot gets really big, then try to buy up all the numbers" method.
        • We only read about those that lived to tell the story. We don't read or hear about people who failed with the same or better methods. That way, we get the wrong impression about a subject just by judging the few successes, decades after the failures are forgotten.

          Pretty much like the notion that old cars were built extremely sturdy while today's cars are flimsy cardboard boxes that fail in droves. We just have forgotten all those crappy cars except the Pinto and the Edsel.

          Funny thing is, Wikipedia has that

        • by phantomfive (622387) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @03:12PM (#31212526) Journal

          I've actually seen a few examples - they do the right things, they're just unlucky (well I just have no idea why they aren't more successful). For example I've seen some restaurants - the food is good, the location is OK, prices reasonable, service OK. But they're still struggling with few customers. Whereas close by is a more expensive restaurant that's not really better in terms of quality, but with many customers. There's one restaurant I know of which did advertise regularly and even independent food blogs blogged the restaurant favourably. It's quite sad to see them eventually having to cut quality, portions and raise prices after years of struggling (there's just so much money you can burn) - and still struggle...

          This is where people really get lost......they see two restaurants, one that does well, and another that does poorly, and think, "I can't see why they're failing, that's just the way it is, nothing you can do about it."

          Whereas if they had actually sat down and asked themselves, "what do I need to change to be successful?" There are reasons some restaurants succeed and some fail, it isn't just dumb luck. The person who figures out what those reasons are will be the one who is successful. The person who doesn't know why they are failing, and doesn't figure out how to change that will be the one who continues failing.

    • by lawpoop (604919) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:28AM (#31209878) Homepage Journal

      Of course successful people think that failure is good for you: they stopped doing it.

      What you are saying here is that failure or success is more or less a choice, an activity you do. You could actually go out and succeed or fail, by sheer choice.

      I think what these 'successful' people are saying is, "Look, I didn't do anything different in the times when I failed or succeeded. It looked like a good idea, I worked very hard, and nothing came of it. Then, on another project that had similar looking prospects to the failure, by chance it succeeded. So if you don't persist through failures, you will likely never see the success, which is more the case of 'fortune favors the prepared'."

      • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:02AM (#31210024) Journal
        Or rather: "Don't be afraid to fail". My more entrepreneurial friends all have had several failures, but most decided to stick with trying out their new ideas. Some managed at some point to turn one of their ideas into small but successful businesses. On the other hand, I have had several ideas for a business, but I have never had the inclination, energy or guts to put any of them into practise, thinking "that idea isn't good enough...". In other words, afraid to fail.

        Another thing to remember is: "don't be afraid to think big" (or fail big, perhaps). Apple, McDonalds, Google, Dell and others have grown from small enterprises into big corporations. Some of that is luck, being at the right place at the right time and all that, but not all of it. And there are many similar small successes that have failed to cross over into the big time, or failed to even try.
        • by Z00L00K (682162)

          And the funny thing - the online restaurant guide does exist now, at least in Sweden.

          So he must have been too early.

          Some of the ventures that are taken on are actually not wrong as an idea - just wrong in time. You must get the timing right to make it work.

          But then - the timing window is of different width depending on what you do. Some do only have an opportunity window of a week, while other has a window of several years.

        • by npsimons (32752) *

          Another thing to remember is: "don't be afraid to think big" (or fail big, perhaps). Apple, McDonalds, Google, Dell and others have grown from small enterprises into big corporations. Some of that is luck, being at the right place at the right time and all that, but not all of it. And there are many similar small successes that have failed to cross over into the big time, or failed to even try.

          I think the big thing here is "it's the customers, stupid", or more generically, it doesn't matter how hard someone

        • I was watching some documentary type TV show a few years ago, talking about some of the largest man-made structures ever built. One was a gigantic bridge over water. They interviewed one of the engineers, asking him how he was able to conceptualize something so massive, and successfully get it completed. He, matter-of-factly said, "It's really no different than building a much smaller bridge. Once you know the principles involved for building one, you just start multiplying everything and using a lot bi

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Another thing to remember is: "don't be afraid to think big" (or fail big, perhaps). Apple, McDonalds, Google, Dell and others have grown from small enterprises into big corporations.

          I think you'll find that all big corporations started out as small enterprises.

      • Say it better - say it in song. Here's the great (and recently late) Lionel Jeffries [youtube.com].

        They don't make 'em like that anymore.

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        But it's not "chance" which allowed them to succeed or caused them to fail. It was market position and maturity - timing, essentially.

        If your timing is off, it doesn't matter what you've got: you're going to fail. That was the point.

        (The Nupedia idea was too little too late; the resturaunt idea was way too soon. No telling on the others.)

        If your timing is right, the rest is marketing.

    • Not just fail over and over again. Its now whether you fail but how you deal with failure. Learning from your failures means you wont make
      the same mistakes, youll make brand new ones, but youll learn from those too.

    • by SpinyNorman (33776) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:17AM (#31210112)

      It's not that failure is good for you (although of course you can learn from it), but rather that it's pretty much inevitable, so you better learn how to plan for and deal with it.

      For example, the success rate for start-up companies is quite small (10% - I forget), so if you're going to try a start-up it's best not to commit yourself to such a degree that it hurts your ability to shake off the failure and try again.. and again..

      There's an interesting book about the start-up experience of AutoDesk (the company that created AutoCAD) called "The AutoDesk File" by John Walker, that says the same thing. AutoDesk's founders never expected to start a CAD software company... but in the end that was the product idea that became successful. The general conclusion was keep trying and let marketplace success not preconceived ideas dictate your level of financial/etc commitment.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      Microsoft is exceedingly prone to failure. Most of their products are - even the ones which make them money.

      But, they've had a handful of products which are "good enough", and that's "good enough". So they're successful.

      There are hundreds (thousands?) of companies making EMR software which is a complete failure on every level, but most of those companies post profit.

  • This is a really old mantra in the business world that I was indoctrinated with when I partook in R&D for a Fortune 500 company.

    Oh, and everyone's got their own version of it [businessweek.com]. I've heard people correct me when I said "Fail Early, Fail Often" and they say that the order matters. But you'll hear three concepts in these phrases:
    • Fail frequently. This can also be said "fail often" and simply means "accept a lot of failures."
    • Fail early. Don't invest a lot of time into what you're failing at and just accept the failure and move on. Just as long as you don't get hung up failing all the time (like Wales said). Also have heard it said as "fail fast."
    • Fail cheap. This might be derived from 'fail early' as time is money. But this is the third optional part you'll hear from investors and businessmen.

    So the ultimate incarnation I've heard of this is "Fail often, fail fast, fail cheap."

    Now for the warning: if you take this too much to heart, you see people axing everything. And from the technical point of view, it sucks. And is demoralizing. Another thing is you get really really sick of hearing it and just being the silver bullet response to "why can't I do X?"

    • by wealthychef (584778) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:29AM (#31209892)
      It's even older than you think. Winston Churchill is quoted as saying "Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." And how about the Chinese proverb, "Fall down 7 times get up 8." However, it must be tempered with the following advice, I don't know who said it: "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."
    • You are right, it is too often used as a mantra, the silver bullet response. Just like ESSA, 'pick low-hanging fruit', 'buy, not build' and crap like that. And these bits of wisdom are crap, if you merely turn them into guiding dogmas.

      One thing I've learned while working on innovative stuff is that the real trick isn't knowing to fail early, it's knowing how and when to do so. To fail early effectively you have to be able to recognise failure, or you'll end up keeping failure alive for too long, or pe
      • Well if you have the capital, e.g. GM or Exxon it can work. It worked for Morgan, Carnegie, MS and others. Let the others take the risk then buy the ones most likely to succeed. That was the GM model and it worked for almost a century. All the brands they had; Pontiac, Chevy, and Buick for example; were all independent companies before being bought out.

        In the oil patch the big boys will watch a play and then assimilate the companies they think have the most potential. If a company they spin it off or shut i

    • by kestasjk (933987) *
      And if none of those work you can always give succeeding a shot
    • And fail cheap. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Animats (122034) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:50PM (#31211130) Homepage

      Fail cheap. This might be derived from 'fail early' as time is money. But this is the third optional part you'll hear from investors and businessmen.

      Right. This is something the better venture capitalists used to keep in mind. As a group, venture capitalists have lost money since 2000, because there's too much venture capital available and companies are running too long on VC money. (Much VC money is dumb money now. Too much money is desperately looking for decent yields in a period when no investment is doing well.)

      Venture capital in Silicon Valley used to be about technology. Someone would propose building a thing, and would get VC funding to build a prototype. Either it worked, or it didn't. If it failed, the VCs were out the cost of building a prototype. If it worked, there was a potential business. The failure rate was about 9 out of 10, and a win meant a 10 to 100x profit.

      As semiconductor, electronics, and software technology matured, startups tended to be business concepts rather than technology concepts. So they had to be brought to the point of having a sizable user base before it was clear whether they'd succeed or fail. This led to the first dot-com boom. In that boom, it was possible to take companies public early, and the VCs could often cash out before the business failed. (I used to track this; see Downside's Deathwatch, [downside.com] where "chart is not available for this symbol" isn't a bug; it means the company is gone and forgotten.)

      In the second dot-com boom ("Web 2.0"), investors weren't willing to pay for untried companies. So Twitter, Facebook, and even Myspace are still running on VC money. Myspace could have gone public a few years ago, but it's too late now. Adult Friendfinder tried to go public last week [nytimes.com], but just gave up.

      Wales' business, Wikia, is in that category - VC-funded, losing money, and lacking an exit strategy. The problem is that VCs looked at Wales' success with Wikipedia, which is a nonprofit, and thought that would translate into business success. It didn't. They should have looked at his unbroken string of business failures.

      VC-funded companies don't always succeed or fail. There's a third option, and it's the most common - the "zombie" company. The company makes enough money to cover its expenses, but not enough to pay back its investors. This is, in fact, the most common outcome. VCs usually have a stable of zombies they're trying to sell to somebody, anybody, just to get them off the books. They usually end up being sold to some big player in the same field at a huge discount.

      • Wales' business, Wikia, is in that category - VC-funded, losing money, and lacking an exit strategy. The problem is that VCs looked at Wales' success with Wikipedia, which is a nonprofit, and thought that would translate into business success. It didn't. They should have looked at his unbroken string of business failures.

        Except Wales doesn't have an unbroken string of failures - because he has Bomis [wikipedia.org], a search engine largely known back in the day as a pornography portal. (Though it now appears to be a DMOZ m

        • by Animats (122034)

          Except Wales doesn't have an unbroken string of failures - because he has Bomis, a search engine largely known back in the day as a pornography portal.

          Bomis, which was a "web ring" (remember web rings?), seems to have ended as a zombie. It never was very successful, and wasn't sold to a bigger player. The site is still up, but hasn't been updated since 2006.

    • Could you please edit Wales' speech and add these important points? Thanks.

  • by OgreChow (206018) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:28AM (#31209886)
    Another real challenge is being able to continue to fund failure. Always seek external funding before you think you need it! When you are forced to put your rent on your charge card your tolerance for failure decreases significantly.
    • by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:42AM (#31209944) Journal

      Bingo. To summarize: spend lots of other people's money.throwing crap at the wall as fast as you can until something sticks. Alternatively, be rich, dabble at things and have fun. Not really realistic advice for most people.

      • by TheLink (130905)
        > Spend lots of other people's money.throwing crap at the wall as fast as you can until something sticks.

        Sounds a bit too close to comfort to what those "Investment Bankers" do - gamble with other people's money.

        They do it better though. If it goes belly up big time, they get bailed out and still get bonuses.
    • by MikeURL (890801)
      I guess a lot of this depends on what you're trying to do. If you want to start up a consulting business for data mining with neural networks then your startup costs are pretty low. it is mostly going to be you working the phones, working on algos, follow-up, etc.

      If, on the other hand, you want to make a new kind of electric car then you are going to need to line up a consortium of VCs and banks and others.

      I suppose the "middle ground" could be quicksand. Something like opening a new pizza shop cou
    • Or you could fund your failures with your successful porn-advertising-ring business like Wales did. :)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bomis
      But if you have a higher moral code then at least there are bankruptcy laws to help you survive failure a little easier. :)
  • Early failure is one of the advantages of agile software development as well. The earlier you fail, the less it costs.
  • by jedidiah (1196) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @09:42AM (#31209942) Homepage

    The point is not to fear failure and to view a single failure as the end of the world forever.

    The ideas of failure that have been ingrained into you by school and your corporate overlords is bogus.

    The point is not to give up after your first attempt ever.

  • Doesn't three failures break a Wikipedia rule somehow??

  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:15AM (#31210102) Homepage

    I'm glad, he is finally making money hand over fist from Wikipedia — a business success like no other.

    Oh, wait...

  • by cenc (1310167) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:23AM (#31210142) Homepage

    I have started and ran a few biz with various success and a few total wrecks over the years. I totally agree with being able to put a bad idea down fast, in a don't throw 'good money after bad' sense.

    I recall reading some stat or quote years ago about how only 1 in 7 new biz make it. So, I needed to start a new biz fast, but could not afford to fail at it for lack of money to anything else. So, I started 7 different ones all at once. 3 of them where complete dogs, and I shut them down in the first couple of month. 1 made money and showed promise, but was just no fun. So I killed that. I was left with 3 working and making money two years later. I killed one that took too much of my time, relative to the money. One took off and has made real money, and the other one is still alive and kicking but takes almost no resources.

  • Disaster... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Chris Mattern (191822) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @10:24AM (#31210144)

    ...didn't stymie Louie Pasteur!
    (No, sir!)
    Edison took years to see the light!
    (Right!)
    Alexander Graham knew failure well
    'E took a lot o' knocks to ring that Bell!

  • Close your eye and shoot. Whatever you hit, call that the target.

    If success simply means getting lots of hits, then yes - I suppose Wikipedia is a success. However if success means earning a living and being rewarded for your efforts, then I guess wikipedia does provide some of that, but is it in proportion to it's internet popularity? No. Now, I appreciate that it's a non-profit organisation and all, but it's hard to turn something that's free into a failure. A better example of success would be to look

    • by spisska (796395)

      Now, I appreciate that it's a non-profit organisation and all, but it's hard to turn something that's free into a failure.

      Ask Jeeves? AltaVista? MSN? Geocities? The clock's ticking on MySpace. It's awfully easy to fail when you're free, and you don't even need a company to do so. Just have a look at all the abandoned projects at Sourceforge.

      A better example of success would be to look at something where the users have to pay for the service they get. In that case, almost every internet project is a failure:

    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Google doesn't belong in that list. You miss the point that Google's customers are actually the individual and organizations that advertise in their system. The search engine and GMail users are just the mechanism in which to exercise that system in order to increase the value of the advertising service they provide.

      Making money hand over fist from their advertising network, and extracting cash directly from their real paying customers, makes Google a huge success.

      -dZ.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Wiki, Facebook, Google, Twitter. None of these have succeeded at directly extracting cash from their users. They all rely on either having an independently wealthy sponsor who doesn't mind losing a few $Bn or they push advertising in our faces and make their money from that.

      Why do you not consider making money from advertising as success?

    • by DaveGod (703167)
      Er, I meant to say "a" TED video, since obviously this isn't the same talk.

      ahem.
  • Wikipedia has learn nothing from nupedia, all these citation needed trollism is asking agin for the experts opinion, hence, nupedia all again.

    • No, there's a big difference. Nupedia, as I understand it, was asking experts themselves to write the articles. Wikipedia asks the article authors to cite the experts. In this, it's very close to standard academic writing practice.

  • I've run my own business and for too long a period of time I brokered businesses. From my brokering experience I took away a number of lessons, but the outstanding rule of thumb I took away was that, on average, a business that fails and goes into a fire sale mode will realize ~10% on the costs undertaken in setting the business up. Failure is expensive. The costs are at best a tax write off.

    Failure is one of the most underrated means to success. Because failure is expensive two key attendant details should

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      Failure, whether in school, on the playground, in social affairs or business is stupidly branded as a social stain.

      It depends what you fail at, and how you fail.

  • ...except in this case "anyone" means "a small cabal of editors with all the time to spend guarding their pet pages against edits submitted by the likes of filthy scoundrels such as you".

    I like the concept of wikipedia and all but let's stop kidding ourselves. The site stopped being editable by all a few years back. Good luck trying to edit any existing pages because your edits will be rolled back faster than you can hit refresh.

    • by bunratty (545641)
      I revert edits all the time, especially from anonymous editors. Typically the reason is that the editor did not follow Wikipedia policies or made a very poor edit such as adding information that is wrong.
    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Not true. Nobody is stopping you (or anybody) from publishing your own articles or editing any existing one in Wikipedia. That your changes may get reverted later is another matter.

      After all, it's "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit", which indeed they can, not "the free encyclopedia which publishes anything that anyone who is not a member of the editor cabal edits."

              -dZ.

  • Nupedia (Score:3, Funny)

    by kylben (1008989) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @11:33AM (#31210582) Homepage
    My girlfriend designed the logo for Nupedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nupedia [wikipedia.org] She got an official t-shirt out of it. It's probably worth a fortune, maybe even $20.00, on eBay now.
  • by paiute (550198) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:06PM (#31210788)

    This type of anecdotal philosophy is useless. It is the equivalent of asking a 100 year old man what the secret to his long life was. The answer is never, "Well, I just happened to be a couple of sigma away from the mean in the normal distribution of human longevity". It is always like "get up early every morning, smoke a cigar every night, drink a pint of whiskey every day, etc."

    For every anecdote there is an equal and opposite anecdote. It's like a law or something. What about the tale of Bruce and the Spider, where the King of Scotland is inspired by a spider after losing to the Brits six times to go out and try again? According to Jimmy Wales, the King should have packed it in after one or two.

    If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
    Don't throw good money after bad.
    etc.

    • Well, it really depends on your point of view and what you define as the "King of Scotland" and what you define as "the Brits".

      If, for example, you define the "King of Scotland" as Wales and any single attempt as "the Brits", you may well have a point. But if you define "successful website" as "the Brits", then Wales's experience matches very well.

      If we were to expand upon this, I'm pretty sure that the King of Scotland didn't attack the Brits exactly the same way each time. He tried different ways (lunch

    • by No. 24601 (657888)

      The answer is never, "Well, I just happened to be a couple of sigma away from the mean in the normal distribution of human longevity".

      Nor should it be. It's not like the universe must obey some mathematical formula (or in this case, probability distribution) that we applied to model the longevity of human life. So, an answer like that from him would be as good as no answer at all, or simply having him dodge the question altogether :)

      Going a bit further and slightly off-topic, I (and much more importantly

    • by npsimons (32752) *

      This type of anecdotal philosophy is useless. It is the equivalent of asking a 100 year old man what the secret to his long life was. The answer is never, "Well, I just happened to be a couple of sigma away from the mean in the normal distribution of human longevity". It is always like "get up early every morning, smoke a cigar every night, drink a pint of whiskey every day, etc."

      Exactly. For every Jimmy Wales, Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, how many *hundreds* or *thousands* of people are there who worked just

    • For every anecdote there is an equal and opposite anecdote. It's like a law or something.

      This post would be so much more useful if you actually posted one of those equal and opposite anecdotes. As it is, your post isn't even as useful as an anecdote, it is half-assed opinion based in your imagination, not your observation.

      I'll see your half-assed opinion and raise it an anecdote: I've never met anyone who kept trying after failure (in business) and didn't eventually succeed. They don't all become Larry Page, but they all become quite comfortable. There is so much opportunity compared to th

  • Go Proverb (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Asicath (522428)
    Players of the game of Go have a proverb "Lose your first fifty games as quickly as possible [xmp.net]".
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@slashd[ ]org ['ot.' in gap]> on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:53PM (#31211160)

    [Disclaimer for US Americans: If you confuse my argumentation with that of creationist retards, you definitely misunderstood me. I understand why. Because they misuse arguments such as these for their base motives. As you see below, I go very much against them. So don’t let them pull everything in the dirt that they touch, and don’t fall for a knee-jerk reaction. :)]

    His biggest failure was a basic architectural assumption of Wikipedia. The assumption of “the one global truth(iness)”.
    This caused him to make Wikipedia a centralized and centrally controlled site, instead of a P2P system.

    Of course this was based on very good intentions, and originally not a problem, since everyone could edit everything. Because with those assumptions, how could there ever be two people disagreeing with each other? Ever? ;))

    Naturally there were people who disagreed. And naturally they found the one main reason why one can only theoretically but not realistically assume a global truth: Because sometimes it is simply impossible to find out which view is really true. E.g. because no one of them got a time machine handy, to fly back into the past, and see for himself. Or because resolving it with quantum physics is not yet possible without calculations taking anything less than billions of years. And because of course in physics, everything is defined relative to other things.

    But even this could have been resolved by educated people with a knowledge of physics and logic, trough simply stating what it proven to what level (e.g. an experiment, a video clip, just a theory, just speculation), and leaving the side-taking with the cavemen.
    Unfortunately there are people, that are unable to discuss things reasonably. (E.g. aforementioned religious fundamentalists.)

    So the idea of one global truth had to die. But what replaced it, was even worse: The people who control Wikipedia started to just accuse everybody who disagreed, of being unable to discuss things reasonably, and the deletion and flame wars started.
    This is the sad state that Wikipedia is in now. Everything is controlled, approved, and doubly approved. By a group of people who sometimes just don’t know what they are even talking about.

    See, the point of a P2P Wikipedia would not have been, to make every crazy bullshit out there equal. But to give them there own sandbox, way away from us, where they could play, and not disturb us. Like Conservapedia: It does no harm, even though it is out there, because everybody knows how silly it is, and just laughs at it.

    Wales hat very good intentions and a great idea. But he was waay deep in treehugger happy happy imaginationland with some of those descisions. And I also was there with him for some time. Until I took a harder look at reality. ^^

    • Unfortunately there are people, that are unable to discuss things reasonably. (E.g. aforementioned religious fundamentalists.)

      The people who control Wikipedia started to just accuse everybody who disagreed, of being unable to discuss things reasonably

      I dunno, this just struck me as funny.

    • His biggest failure was a basic architectural assumption of Wikipedia. The assumption of "the one global truth(iness)". This caused him to make Wikipedia a centralized and centrally controlled site, instead of a P2P system.

      Yes, that's the main architectural flaw, but I would also argue that is the primary reason Jimmy Wales got famous.

      In 2001, Jimmy Wales wasn't the only one with a community-based wiki that was opened to everybody, nor was he the only one with an open source wiki engine. The reason he got famous and the rest didn't (myself included, because I was also hosting thousands of wikis by 2001), is precisely because his "encyclopedia" attracted that controversy and attracted repeated headlines.

      Not that wikis weren

    • by owlnation (858981)

      Wales hat very good intentions and a great idea. But he was waay deep in treehugger happy happy imaginationland with some of those descisions. And I also was there with him for some time. Until I took a harder look at reality.

      Yes. Basically, wikipedia started out too, open and is now too closed, and by the wrong people.

      Since its popularity has declined slightly in the past year or so, and its credibility has most certainly declined significantly in the past couple of years, one might question whether t

    • I don't know if you've read Wikipedia much, but a lot of the articles actually do cover a few different viewpoints. Check out the article on Gringo [wikipedia.org] for a clear example of how they handle different viewpoints, they list nearly every theory of the creation of the word, and indicate which is favored by most scholars.

      I think your complaint was about how Wikipedia handles differing viewpoints. If it was really an argument of http VS p2p, then http is the clear winner because no one would have used p2p, it wo
    • by Kjella (173770)

      If there's many things wrong with wikipedia, being centralized is not one of them. How would you for example link in this P2P jungle, to what version of anything? Just let people end up at completely different articles depending on which path they took to get there? Yes, people battle for the "one truth" over the same wikipedia page, but they will always battle for the one truth. They'd fight over which page should come up first or redirecting links to the "right" page as long as there is anything to edit.

  • Douchebag (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 20, 2010 @12:56PM (#31211180)

    Wales didn't found found Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] alone, though he does his damnedest convince the world that he did. He's just a typical douchbag marketing businessman who wants to take all the credit for the work of others.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TOGSolid (1412915)
      Hooray, glad someone else pointed that out. Jimmy Wales is a right proper cocksucker.
    • And he avoids mentioning that he had the money to fund the early years of Wikipedia because he operated a website largely known for being a pornography portal.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday February 20, 2010 @02:04PM (#31211852) Homepage

    The article is wildly inaccurate on the subject of Nupedia. They say, "Then he tried an online encyclopedia called Newpedia, a free encyclopedia created by paid experts. He spent $250,000 for writers to make 12 articles. It failed."

    They have the name wrong.

    They portray it as Wales' project, when in fact it was more closely associated with Larry Sanger.

    It wasn't written by paid experts. I believe Larry Sanger had a paid position as editor. I worked on an article for Nupedia, and I can assure you that they didn't offer me any money.

    They make it sound like Nupedia commissioned 12 articles (at some price). Wow, I would have liked to be offered $20,000 to write an article! Actually 12 is just the number that got done (by people working for free) before they gave up and admitted Nupedia was a failure.

    My own experience trying to write an article for them suggests two reasons why it failed: (1) The software to run it was mostly vaporware. Nothing worked. (2) It was no fun. I had a panel of people who were not experts in my field, and whom I had to satisfy in order to get the article accepted. That got old really fast. This is of course the exact opposite of WP's instant gratification philosophy. (Well, WP isn't so much like that today, because a newbie who comes in and tries to edit an article is likely to get his edit reverted without explanation. But that's how WP was in the initial barn-raising stage.)

    • Nupedia also had a fairly convoluted workflow path [wikipedia.org] that the author had to traverse between proposing an article and final approval. Not only was the software needed to drive the system completely non functional, but there weren't enough (unpaid volunteer professional) people to do the actual work. As a result, the system became constipated almost immediately.

      It's interesting to note that Larry Sanger put much the same convoluted and constipated process in place when he founded the Citizendium - wi

      • by bcrowell (177657)

        Nupedia also had a fairly convoluted workflow path that the author had to traverse between proposing an article and final approval. Not only was the software needed to drive the system completely non functional, but there weren't enough (unpaid volunteer professional) people to do the actual work. As a result, the system became constipated almost immediately.

        Yes, this was my experience as well when I tried to contribute an article to Nupedia. One of the huge things working in Wikipedia's favor was that th

  • I think the most plausible theory illustrated by this story is one that slave drivers came up with a long time ago. That is, if you want to succeed, free labor is a lot better than paid employees. I think he succeeded because he had a lot of people doing hard work for him, with nothing in return except maybe their name in some viewable log. I also think it helps if you can afford to spend money on a bunch of failures (one of which cost $250,000) and still afford to do another project. So if you're rich in t
  • I sounds like Jimmy Wales is the secret genius behind Fox TV's programming, because they use his failure logic to cancel the awesome-but-undiscovered stuff all the time.

    Thanks, Jimmy, for cancelling Firefly, Space: Above and Beyond, and Keen Eddie!

  • to dub him "Jimmy Fails"

  • Considering than Jimmy Wales and Wikipedia alternate between begging for money, and slapping around those same people with idiotic rules and many layers of bureaucracy that make improving WP impossible, I have to wonder if he isn't just setting himself up for his 4th failure. The largest and longest by-far.

    I would be quite ironic if WP failed, while citizendium.org prospers.*

    *CZ, for those who don't know, is the WP-like project of Larry Sanger, the WP co-founder you dare not talk about, because if you got

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