Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Jimmy Wales' Theory of Failure

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the citation-needed dept.

Businesses 164

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.'"

cancel ×

164 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Articles about failure being good... (5, Insightful)

N3tRunner (164483) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209868)

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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (5, Informative)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209934)

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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211042)

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.

Software engineering involves a lot of false starts. Most crazy ideas are just that, and never see the light of day. Some crazy ideas are just crazy enough to work. I would bet very few 20% projects get used, even within Google.

But it's still an excellent use of time.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211132)

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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (3, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210302)

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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210560)

If you keep failing, nobody is going to hear of you, unless you become such a huge failure that you are famous ;).

http://www.despair.com/priorities.html [despair.com]

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210900)

I think a big part of the reason for Google's 20% time rule is to allow creative people to do what they want to keep them happy. Where else would they have such freedom?

From the point of view of the benefit of those projects, sure most of them won't come up with anything significant. But once in a while someone will and it may end up being very successful. Isn't that basically how all research works?

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

EsbenMoseHansen (731150) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211552)

From experience, if you offer people 20% of their work time to work on personal projects, a fair amount of them will actually work 100% on their assigned work anyway.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (4, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209878)

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'."

Re:Articles about failure being good... (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210024)

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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210936)

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.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

sartin (238198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211056)

Or rather: "Don't be afraid to fail".

Now, there's a lesson. I worked for a firm that ran into a tough couple of quarters after going public. People started to say "we can't afford to fail" and stopped taking on any risky projects. They would only invest in projects that expected 10x return in a quarter. They never had another profitable year again.

Life lessons (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210770)

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.

Well, that's the way things actually work out in life. It also works the other way. My father, who left Reading University in 1959 with a degree in horticulture made a tremendous success of his career just (as he says) by "happening to be in the right place at the right time". Now I'm in my late 40s, I sometimes wish I could say the same, but then (a) I would have missed out on a load of cool things going down and (b) to be truthful, I lack his capacity for sheer dogged application.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210916)

...failure or success is more or less a choice, an activity you do.

This is true. It is also (contrary to popular assumptions) independent of wealth. For instance, I (no false modesty here) consider myself a success, even though by most standards I am actually a pauper. My activities, in conjunction with a certain amount of jiggery-pokery with the banks, just happen to more or less support the way I live and allow me to pursue my various interests.

On the other hand, I have a couple of good friends who are wealthy beyond my wildest dreams ($10^7+) who actually have no intellectual interests, and spend a predominant amount of their time channel-hopping on the TV. This always makes me a bit sad...

Re:Articles about failure being good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31209880)

Everybody tries to explain success and put into simple words, but there is no "formula", the game is constantly changing and the players also, every success story is unique.

A rarity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31209888)

The trouble with the media is that they love the one try-one hit wonders - the folks who started and hit big. Basically, the folks who won the entrepreneur lottery: Google, Yahoo!, Apple, Amazon, companies like that and the people behind them. It's real easy to get the impression that you just have an idea, VCs knock on your door, and you get rich quick.

Re:A rarity (2, Interesting)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210188)

I wouldn't put Apple in that category... Look at Steve Jobs' track record and it's pretty amazing...

Apple, NeXT (sold to Apple for $400M+), Pixar, Apple again (Jobs return and resuscitation of the company via iMac, iPod, iPhone...).

That's a quite of a string of major successes, even if there have been a few product failures at Apple along the way. I'm not sure that Jobs himself has had many start-up failures.

So, it's not right to call Apple/Jobs a one-hit wonder. Maybe he's just serially lucky (SOMEONE has to be at the extremes of the bell curve of any phenomemon), maybe not, but that's a different story.

You have to LEARN from failure (2, Insightful)

voss (52565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210032)

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.

Re:You have to LEARN from failure (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210096)

One of my favourite Alan Kay quotes applies to this article:

If you're not failing 90% of the time, you're not tackling interesting enough problems.

It was aimed at academics, but it applies equally well to business.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210084)

N3tRunner, I'll bet you believe in evolution. How do you suppose that process works? I believe it's through infinite trial and "error" that results in the emergence of complex systems that achieve success in their particular niche.

Re:Articles about failure being good... (3, Interesting)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

The last thing I tried succeeded (1)

CanadianRealist (1258974) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210672)

Failure is pretty normal. So is quitting after failure. But if you're able to move on and keep trying, then you may succeed. Once you succeed usually you continue with that success. Of course you may go on to try other things which may either fail of succeed.

Have you heard people mention finding what they were looking for in the "last place that they looked"?
Does it ever happen otherwise? Do you often find yourself finding what you're looking for then continuing to search yet more locations to see if it's there?

'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Mantra (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209820)

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?"

Re:'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Man (3, Informative)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 4 years ago | (#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."

Re:'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Man (3, Informative)

rugatero (1292060) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209948)

...I don't know who said it: "Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."

Seems it was Benjamin Franklin, in the guise of Poor Richard. [wikiquote.org]

Re:'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Man (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211002)

Winston Churchill is quoted as saying "Success is going from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

...Which is particularly appropriate given that prior to the onset of WWII Churchill was pretty much a washed-up old soak. But (whatever else one may think about him) he was certainly formidable as a war-time leader.

Re:'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Man (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209982)

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 perhaps prematurely kill a fledgling success. And when you do fail, don't just kill the project and bury it out back, learn from your failure.

Buy not build can work. (1)

plopez (54068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210236)

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 it down. Nothing personal, it's just business.

BTW, in my opinion Ford is to GM as Apple is to MS.

Re:'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Man (1)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209986)

And if none of those work you can always give succeeding a shot

Re:'Fail Often, Fail Early' Is Not Just Wales' Man (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210760)

Fail Early, Fail Often

So slashdot's CSS is entrepreneurial, eh? ;-)
   

And fail cheap. (3, Insightful)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211130)

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.

FP (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31209846)

Don't forget to pay your $699 fee you cock-smoking teabaggers.

As a failed entrepreneur (5, Insightful)

OgreChow (206018) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:As a failed entrepreneur (4, Insightful)

BigSlowTarget (325940) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209944)

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.

Re:As a failed entrepreneur (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210322)

> 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.

Re:As a failed entrepreneur (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210360)

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.

Alternatively, "Get a job!"

Re:As a failed entrepreneur (1)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210514)

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 could be something you can fund yourself but it may drain most of your personal savings. In those situations it is certainly hard to see how you can fail often without going hopelessly into debt. In fact I have the feeling that the # of people that happens to is far larger than the people who get to spout bromides like Wales.

Re:As a failed entrepreneur (1)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211004)

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. :)

Agile (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209890)

Early failure is one of the advantages of agile software development as well. The earlier you fail, the less it costs.

Just don't fear it. (2, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209942)

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.

Re:Just don't fear it. (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210298)

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

Unless you're Icarus.

Re:Just don't fear it. (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211096)

I have a friend who has been operating what he calls a "startup" for the last 7 years. He has an MBA from a reputable university, and the business has had multiple injections of serious amounts of capital.

But it seems a lot of what I've come to regard as the "MBA Culture" is that the process is supposed to confer some sort of Midas touch: everything is supposed to "just work". From my (cynical) viewpoint, I see no stellar future for his business: if it was ever going to work, it should have taken off within a year or so of the product being developed, but for whatever reason, my friend can't or won't let go.

It's hard to tell a friend that he's being sucked into a Loss Of Perspective Vortex, especially since in this case he doesn't read enough to pick up on the allusion. :-{

Failure is not always certain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31209960)

The company I work for is the leader of their industry. If they had come to me with the initial idea, I would have laughed at them and said 'forget it.' 2 years in, they were still losing money daily. They were the very image of failure.

And now, over 4 years later, the industry they created has some competition, but despite their competition throwing millions of dollars (each!) at the market, we are still far and above them. Some have even given up.

So don't be so sure that you've failed just because you've not made a profit in 3 months.

Yes, there are times to cut and run, but don't assume everything that looks bad will fail.

You know... (1, Insightful)

twidarkling (1537077) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209964)

I wouldn't exactly call Wikipedia a "success." Just because something is popular doesn't mean the world is better off for it to have been made. I submit as proof of concept: 4chan.

Wikipedia is a great source for winning internet debates. And that's about it. But people treat it like it's actually a credible source, under the delusion that any incorrect information will be crowd-source corrected.

I got news for you, the majority of people are *idiots.* Common knowledge is usually WRONG. I think the world would have been better off if wikipedia had failed too, rather than so many dumbasses taking it as gospel fact. The only saving grace it possess is it's an aggregator of source material - usually. Those "external references" can be useful sometimes. But by the same token, you still need to analyse THOSE sources yourself, too. It's not like Wikipedia cares if the source used in the article is only a half-step better than the National Enquirer. They just want A source.

Re:You know... (5, Informative)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210022)

Yes, and no ...

There's plenty of reasons to be suspect of WikiPedia, not least that officially it doesn't even strive for the truth - just for verifiyability (basically a published source).

However, there have been studies done showing that WikiPedia articles are on average just as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica ones - both have similar average numbers of errors per article.

http://news.cnet.com/2100-1038_3-5997332.html [cnet.com]

the Journal Nature disagrees with you (4, Insightful)

openfrog (897716) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210196)

The parent is right and should have mentioned that the comparison has been made by no other than the journal Nature.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html [nature.com]
(unfortunately, not full article, another reason to appreciate community efforts like Wikipedia)

Encyclopedia Britannica protested publicly and asked Nature to retract itself.

Nature said OK, we will check our facts again. They did so and confirmed their original results.

I am not surprised to see comments like those of the grandparents reappear. What I find worrisome is to see that they get modded insightful.

Wikipedia is accessible everywhere in the world, to billions (I am tempted to write "billions and billions"...) of people.

It is a game changing accomplishment.

Wikipedia Science articles accurate as Britannica (3, Informative)

Geoff-with-a-G (762688) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210586)

It is a hell of an accomplishment, but worth clarifying - the Nature study references science articles, not all articles.

Re:the Journal Nature disagrees with you (3, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210700)

Because there are very good examples that Wikipedia is, quite frankly, full of bullshit. I know people that have tried to correct some things they had very factual but relatively little verifiable sources of and got reverted because they referenced a forum of people that had pulled it out of their ass. I'm sure other people have their stories about pages that are full of crap.

However when you zoom out there's tons of pages that are just fine, it's easy to get hung up on a few broken pages. I just checked the wikipedia page of my hometown in Norway on the English wikipedia. There's about 8 screenfuls of content, It's somewhat of a mixed bag but it's much longer than Encyclopedia Britannica and has as far as I can tell no factual errors. What good is that? Well it's *good enough* if I just want to point people to a brief summary of where I come from. And unlike any other article on the topic which I could easily find elsewhere on the Internet, it's linked up to everything else. That's what makes wikipedia good, it's the sheer mass of inter-linking. The page itself is just so-so.

Re:You know... (2)

joshier (957448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210036)

It's better than anything out there right now for easily searching factual topics, and where there is demand there will be competition. If you think any product or service can be made perfect right out of a hat then you're misinformed. It takes time, practise and lots of real world experience.

Re:You know... (2)

Richy_T (111409) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210046)

Nonsense. You appear to be talking from a very narrow perspective where Wikipedia is only used for academic research or settling debates. For the purposes I and others use it for, it's perfectly adequate most times.

But then, the true measure of success is whether it can generate enough revenue to continue existing anyway. From the begging I've been seeing on the pages recently, I'm not sure if that's the case.

Re:You know... (2, Insightful)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210132)

But then, the true measure of success is whether it can generate enough revenue to continue existing anyway. From the begging I've been seeing on the pages recently, I'm not sure if that's the case.

The ability to generate revenue is only necessary for a very superficial type of success. I think your attitude is caused by laissez faire capitalism—the idea that the market is perfect so any contribution that adds value will be rewarded commensurately.

But this economics only works for traditional (excludable, rivalrous) goods like wagon wheels. It doesn't work at all for public goods like technology, ideas, culture, etc—most of the stuff that actually improves the world permanently. There are tons of examples (for instance Telsa died poor after inventing the induction motor and a thousand other things).

Anyway, wikipedia=public good. For public goods, ability to generate revenue has nothing to do with success or value.

Re:You know... (3, Insightful)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210110)

If the majority of people are idiots, then probability dictates that you are likely an idiot, and we should ignore your opinion.

Re:You know... (1)

baka_toroi (1194359) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210266)

EPIC WI--Ahem, I mean...
*Standing ovation*

Re:You know... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210646)

Recurse!

Re:You know... (1)

chiui (1120973) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210212)

If you treat *any* source as absolute proof, you are wrong. No warning label can fix this.

Re:You know... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210278)

I disagree.

Yes, if you use it in the wrong way, it isn't as useful as you would expect. What else is new?

Wikipedia doesn't need to spread the 'universal truth' to everyone out there who might be interested. It is not meant as a source for citation, even if people tend to because it's so informative.
It fulfills the role it is meant to play, namely to provide a portal to information for people interested in a subject. When I seek information about a subject I didn't know about, Wikipedia is often the most accessible and useful source for an introduction into the subject. Using Wikipedia a person can gain a general understanding of what the subject is about and learn from it, and move on to source links for more information.

Re:You know... (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210362)

Wikipedia is a credible source and it has been shown to be, at worst, slightly less accurate than Britannica and Encarta. The reward for taking the extra inaccuracy is a massive increase in detail. As for common knowledge, you're massively underrating it. There are certain common knowledge facts that are incorrect, but if you pick a random fact the chance that there's a misconception around it is almost zero.

Re:You know... (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210366)

Oh come on. If you want a basic understanding of a subject, Wikipedia is fine. I've used it to get a basic summary of the breakup of Yugoslavia, find out where certain countries are, found out about different blood type systems... Were I a UN official, planning on invading a country or a doctor I'd use a more credible source for each of these, but I'm not. Even then, I'd possibly use it as a starting point. The references are pretty useful.

Common knowledge is usually WRONG.

It's common knowledge that you will starve to death if you don't eat, tat you should sleep when tired, that cars are a popular means of transportation, that windows are transparent, that stained glass windows are common in European churches, fruit contains sugar... Is all this wrong? It's all common knowledge.

More to the point, where is Wikipedia wrong? People often criticise it but the worst that can be said is that it doesn't go into deep analysis of its topics. Nor should it - it's an encyclopedia.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210682)

It's not all bad. The spinoff of other topic-specific and independent wikis is cool though. So it's effectiveness as a tool for crowdsourced information isn't too terrible. The problem with wikipedia itself is that sometimes information gets deadlocked by over-moderation (usually arguements over relevancy) or too many edits based on conflicting sources. But at least most of the spin-offs don't have those problems.

There is one good thing about 4-chan though. Think about what the internet would be like if those people didn't spend a lot of their time congregating in that one area. As long as you let people have their own particular playground, more often then not they're fairly content to not be bothering everyone else. (Which means you've got to do something to seriously piss them off or threaten them to incur their wrath or unwanted attention. ie: COS, RIAA, etc.)

As for the wiki-like search engine in the article? Isn't it redundant when compared to the DMOZ Open Directory Project? Besides, wikipedia and its kin also serve as a search engine of sorts because all the relevant article and source information links. Still those take heaps of user input before becoming useful, as where the automation in amassing and organizing huge amounts of data is what still makes Google a better search engine for most purposes.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210858)

4chan is the breeding ground for pretty much all memes and internet humour. Thanks to 4chan we have phenomenons such as rickrolling, caturday, motivational posters, EFG, pedobear, fuuu, over 9000, cool story bro, and countless others.

You may believe that, with all your righteous attitude, the world would be better off without it but frankly you are dead wrong. The world is in fact a whole lot better due to 4chan. But people like you, who are out of touch with the world and aren't aware that the real world isn't what you get through yahoo or tv are simply fail to understand that, let alone appreciate it.

Re:You know... (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211150)

I wouldn't exactly call Wikipedia a "success." Just because something is popular doesn't mean the world is better off for it to have been made. I submit as proof of concept: 4chan.

Since when is the question "Is the world better off for this?" a criterion for success? Using that metric, it's hard to see how Coca Cola was ever a success. I mean really, is the world better off with sugared drinks?

The only measure for success is, does the enterprise meet the goals set by the founders? Using that metric, both Wikipedia (make information freely available to the world) and 4chan (bring together socially-inept misfits and give them a common forum) are runaway successes.

On the other hand... (1)

slashmonkey (664188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209968)

It's fairly easy to pick holes in these postcard-sized theories when looking at more than one case study. You don't have to look too hard to find counter examples; companies that struggle for years, overcoming unsurmountable odds until they hit the big time.

Three failures??? (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 4 years ago | (#31209992)

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

And, finally, his success arrived... (2, Funny)

mi (197448) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210102)

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

Oh, wait...

Re:And, finally, his success arrived... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31211460)

To even call wikipedia a success is a stretch. Sure, hundred of thousands of dupes go there to validate the wacked out left wing opinions, but few would argue that it is A)definitive, B)accurate, and C) Reliable.

With editors building their little fiefdoms to protect their POV while arguing that all others are trying to add something contradictory are pushing "a POV and not allowed". Deleting things that are supported by facts and citations, but juuust don't quite meld with their politics.

Wikipedia is as successful as South Central LA or the Projects in Chicago. There's something there, but it stinks.

Well put, my own list of failures (2, Interesting)

cenc (1310167) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210142)

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... (2, Funny)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#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!

best way to succeed? redefine "success" (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210182)

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 at something where the users have to pay for the service they get. In that case, almost every internet project is a failure: 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.

None of them succeed in getting money from users. Just about the only internet (financial) success stories are the gaming sites.

Re:best way to succeed? redefine "success" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210316)

"If you don't count their major source of income they don't make any money."
Way to go, Mr. professional analyst.

Re:best way to succeed? redefine "success" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210552)

You have to consider who Google considers their customer. The user is the product and they sell you to the advertisers who are actually the customer. In that respect I would say Google has been fairly successful.

Re:best way to succeed? redefine "success" (1)

spisska (796395) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210828)

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: Wiki [sic], Facebook, Google, Twitter.

You've got it backwards. The customers are the advertisers, and they're paying Google handsomely. Whether or not Facebook and Twitter can accomplish long-term profitability is another question. I suspect not, but I've been very wrong before. Wikipedia has achieved sustainability, and for a non-profit that equals success.

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.

By this measure, every non-premium television station is a failure, as is every terrestrial radio station. Yet there are more TV and radio stations now than there have ever been. Red Hat has somehow grown both its profits and its margins this year even though I've never paid them a dime for Fedora.

Methinks there is a flaw in your logic.

Re:best way to succeed? redefine "success" (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210906)

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.

The TED video (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210224)

Re:The TED video (1)

DaveGod (703167) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210250)

Er, I meant to say "a" TED video, since obviously this isn't the same talk.

ahem.

release early release often!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210232)

Fail early and fail often! erh wait ??? release early release often!!! ....

Nupedia has teach us to avoid experts (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210272)

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

Re:Nupedia has teach us to avoid experts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31211276)

No, it has taught us that if two idiots state the same fallacy and reference each other, it is seen as truth, and anyone who disagrees (even with first-hand expert knowledge) is at best a fool and at worst a spreader of lies.

Falling Off Bicycles (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210340)

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 be kept in mind. You have to be able to pull the plug and, as time is money, timing is crucial. Good planning in the initial stages of the business should include an exit strategy and the better the ground work done in laying out a business plan the better positioned one would be to pull the plug in a timely fashion. The second aspect seems to be culturally blighted. Failure, whether in school, on the playground, in social affairs or business is stupidly branded as a social stain. We necessarily succeed by learning from our failures and getting it right the next time, but, in order to progress, we need to be able to learn as much as possible from our failures. Going back to the earlier point, the better the business plan going into the venture, the better the lessons that can be taken from failure. Also there are relative gains from a business failure. You can salvage and even enhance resources including things like financing sources and heighten your exposure in a wider community.

...a free encyclopedia written by anyone... (1, Insightful)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210398)

...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.

Re:...a free encyclopedia written by anyone... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210602)

Ah. Didn't they want your original research?

Re:...a free encyclopedia written by anyone... (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210842)

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.

Re:...a free encyclopedia written by anyone... (1)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210910)

No. Typically the reason is retarded such as disagreement over comma placement. The second being the reverter is usually a dick guarding his pet page.

Re:...a free encyclopedia written by anyone... (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210940)

If there's a disagreement about where a comma should be placed, you should discuss it on the talk page and abide by the consensus agreement. If you want to dispute the decision, there are ways of resolving disputes that don't involve an edit war. The placement of a comma can make a huge difference in the meaning of a sentence [snopes.com] .

Re:...a free encyclopedia written by anyone... (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210948)

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 (2, Funny)

kylben (1008989) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210582)

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.

Wikipedia (1)

NocturnHimtatagon (1116487) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210680)

This comment is entirely truthful. Since it can't be backupped by something posted on the internet. It must be a lie.

Heh, How am I doing summarizing wikipedia?

Re:Wikipedia (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210732)

Poorly. The real Wikipedia policy is: The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth [wikipedia.org] . If you cannot find a reliable source to verify your claim, it does not meet the criterion for inclusion in Wikipedia. It has nothing to do with whether it is true or not.

Re:Wikipedia (1)

dzfoo (772245) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210972)

The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is not truth, but truthiness [urbandictionary.com] .

So I'm due (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31210722)

I've tried 4 web ventures also without success. Does this mean I'm due? Sites that depend on "the network effect" seem especially difficult. The network effect means that you need a sufficient number of both consumers and contributors (such as buyers and sellers) before it holds it's own. My earliest ventures were like this.

Later I focused on specialized niches and found more promising results (although not promising enough to be self-sustaining). People looking for something specific are more likely to use your service or product even if it's not popular (yet).

Sites that rely on the network effect, such as FaceBook and WikiPedia, have become the most popular of web places. But they also are more likely to fail, and thus are a bigger gamble. I'm not saying don't try those, only that your risk/reward profile is much steeper.

For a (silly) fishing analogy, you have to decide whether to use bait targeted for a typical 12-inch fish and have a reasonable shot at getting something, or go for the glory of the Big Cahoona but with a marginal chance.

Now I'm tinkering around with open-source projects instead of web-sites. I don't know about its fishing seas yet. I don't expect money, but maybe some geek bragging rights/fame if all goes well. Live and learn...

And drink a pint of whiskey every day (4, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Depends on your point of view (1)

ShinmaWa (449201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31211044)

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 site, chinese hack spawn, nupedia) to defeat the Brits until he succeeded.

come up with an idea, try it, repeat on failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31210888)

Prediction: 20 percent of all the mass market business books written in the next three years will mention Jimmy Wales and his three prior failures, with varying amounts of journalistic detail.

"Fail fast" is an old idea. But it works best the smaller the company is, otherwise big company politics and shareholder pressure come into play.

His fourth and biggest failure yet. (2, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#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. ^^

Re:His fourth and biggest failure yet. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31211456)

>> This caused him to make Wikipedia a centralized and centrally controlled site, instead of a P2P system.

You can post on other wikis.

Douchebag (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>