Wales blogs for Lessig

Jimmy Wales blogs for Lawrence Lessig

As part of the lead-up to the Wikimania conference, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has spent the past week as a guest blogger for Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig. As the theme for his stint on Lessig's blog, Wales indicated he would present a list, with some audience input, of "Ten Things That Will Be Free".

According to Wales, the inspiration for this list came from Hilbert's problems, an influential list of then-unsolved mathematical problems presented at a conference in 1900 by David Hilbert. Most of the problems have since been resolved, and Wales said he hoped his list could similarly inspire and motivate the free culture movement.

Not surprisingly, the first item on the list was the encyclopedia. As part of his explanation, Wales pointed to a goal of providing "a freely licensed and high quality encyclopedia to every single person on the planet". He also offered some benchmarks to use in evaluating when this goal might be attained.

Wales said that for English, German, French, and Japanese, the target has arguably been reached, as Wikipedia has more than 100,000 articles in each of these languages and already "provides a reasonably comprehensive resource." However, he acknowledged that it was important to reach out "beyond just wealthy western nations with broadband Internet access", along with a need to reach more people in their native languages. Taking these issues into account, he provided this definition of success: "When Wikipedia versions with at least 250,000 articles [exist] in every language which has at least 1,000,000 speakers and significant efforts exist for even very small languages." He predicted that this goal would be achieved in 15 years.

The second item Wales provided in his list was the curriculum. He described the goal as a complete curriculum running from kindergarten up through the university level. Here his prediction was that it would be accomplished by the year 2040, at least for English and other major languages, with the rest to follow afterwards.

Wales indicated that the media attention surrounding Wikimania had delayed him from posting further as of press time. However, a preview of the complete list can be found on the blog of Ross Mayfield, Socialtext CEO and also a speaker at Wikimania. Additional items on the list included dictionaries, music, art, file formats, maps, product identifiers, TV listings, and communities. Mayfield offered his own suggestions as well, such as search engines and scientific data.

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