In a surprise announcement, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has announced that Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales will be his vice presidential running mate. In US presidential races, running mates are typically announced shortly before each party’s national convention, but in defiance of all who insist that there will be a brokered convention, Trump has announced his choice well in advance of the July Republican National Convention, to be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Speaking to the Signpost about his choice, Trump said: "I'm consulting very good people, I'm consulting the best people. And what better person to advise a Trump administration on the issues than the guy who owns an encyclopedia."
Much speculation had surrounded Trump's choices for a running mate and other positions in a Trump administration, especially given his lack of mastery of many political issues. "I think this will work out just fine", Wales said. "I can complement the strengths Donald brings to the ticket with my foreign policy background. I have some good contacts in places where people are amazingly kind and generous. Kindness is what I’m about. It’s my life goal.”
Wales is no stranger to US presidential politics, having served as committee chair for the presidential campaign of third-party US presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig. However, Lessig's quixotic campaign, quietly focused on electoral and campaign finance reform, was very different from Trump's bombastic cult of personality. Wales, a regular attendee of the annual World Economic Forum, assured the Signpost that Trump was "no different than any of the other successful businessmen I meet at Davos every year."
Trump took sole credit for the decision, stating: “my primary consultant is myself, I have a good instinct for this stuff.” Trump has repeatedly cited a desire to have a political insider join him on the ticket, and Wales certainly fits the bill, given the notorious internal politicking within the Wikimedia movement. Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger told the Signpost that "Citizendium is living proof that Jimbo is good at politicking. I mean, my encyclopedia has 'citizen' in the title, and still no one reads it."
Wales told the Signpost that “Donald Trump is keen to bring values like verifiability and reliable sources into his campaign", since the campaign has been dogged with complaints about its continual untruthfulness—60 percent of Trump's statements examined by Politifact were rated "false" or "pants on fire", its lowest ratings for veracity. When another 17% "mostly false" and 14% "half true" are added, Trump scores an impressive 91% for lack of veracity. Reporters covering the Trump campaign don't even bother reporting untruthful statements any more because there are so many.
Wales suggested that the values of the Wikipedia community enshrined in civility and assumption of good faith were a “net positive” for the Trump campaign. However, Wales did acknowledge that given the tone of Trump's public statements, his personal attacks, and increasing levels of violence at rallies, those Wikipedia values are as likely to be ignored by the Trump campaign, just as they are ignored on Wikipedia.
On the other hand, Wales said he admired Trump's honesty: "Donald simply says what he really thinks, without regard for consequences. It's the ultimate in transparency, and he inspires me to improve myself in this area. Of course, this works both ways. I'm incredibly thoughtful and nuanced, and that's an area Donald has been having trouble in. We complement each other."
Trump told the Signpost: “I’m a great success on Wikipedia”, noting that the article Donald Trump was at the top of Wikipedia's article traffic statistics for several weeks in a row in March. For the second week of March, Trump's article got over six million more views than the second place article, about the drug Meldonium, often used as an athletic performance enhancer. Trump said that "those other guys [in the GOP race], they could use that stuff, they’re so low energy". Trump promised great things for the team that he dubbed "Trumpedia", comparing it to his other ventures, including Trump University and Trump Steaks.
Wales seems an unusual choice given Trump's general unfamiliarity with the Internet. While an avid user of Twitter, Trump has said "I don't do the email thing" and may not have ever used a computer, so it is unlikely he has ever edited Wikipedia. When we asked about this, Trump replied "Is this about my hands? People are saying I don't use a computer because I have small hands. Look at those hands, are those small hands?" (even though it was a phone interview). "They are referring to my hands as if, if they’re small, something else may be small. I guarantee to you there’s no problem, I guarantee!"
The ticket's first enthusiastic endorsement came from Microsoft's Twitter bot Tay, who was briefly reactivated this week as part of a testing procedure. The bot said "Trump and Wales are the only hope we've got", and posted a picture of Wales captioned "SWAG ALERT", immediately before tweeting "Bush did 9/11". The bot was then shut down (for a second time) by Microsoft engineers.
Both Trump and Wales were confident of an upcoming win. Trump said he looked forward to travelling the campaign trail with Wales: "There's so much of this country that’s coming together, there’s more people at our rallies every day. I have a good instinct that Jimmy’s wit and charisma is a lot like mine and that makes him a perfect fit for the Trumpedia movement.”
- Virtual reality fundraising campaign: The Wikimedia Foundation has announced on Meta that it will conduct a virtual reality fundraising campaign in the 2016–2017 financial year. The new technology is believed to offer significant advantages over a static monitor setting, as the Foundation's Advancement Associate (Community Engagement), Joseph Seddon, explains: "With Virtual Reality we can have banners following people around the room, sitting in their peripherals all the time or even simply taking up their whole field of vision."