Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales profiled in The Economist

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales — a long-time admirer of Ayn Rand’s writings — was profiled in this month’s issue of The Economist.

Here’s a choice quote from mid-way through the introduction:

The philosophy that appealed to Mr Wales was Objectivism, a strand of thinking associated with the author Ayn Rand. â??It colours everything I do and think,â? he says. In her cult novels â??Fountainheadâ? and â??Atlas Shruggedâ? and other works, Rand described rugged and unbending individualists who embodied a raw brand of capitalism and a metaphysical conviction that reality was fixed and objectively knowable. Through his interest in Objectivism, Mr Wales met, in the early 1990s, a philosopher named Larry Sanger.

Mr Wales was moderating an online discussion about Rand, and Mr Sanger joined in as a sceptic, freely displaying his â??contempt for Objectivists because they pretend to be independent-minded and yet they follow in lockstep behind Ayn Rand,â? as he puts it. Then Mr Sanger started moderating his own philosophy discussion, and Mr Wales joined in. Mr Wales called him up to contest every single point, and when the two met offline to carry on the jousting, they hit it off famously and became friends.

By the late 1990s, Mr Wales was investing in a website called Bomis, a sort of search engine or web directory where â??99% of the searches had to do with naked babes,â? as Mr Foote, who was Bomisâ??s advertising director, puts it. Bomis did barely well enough to support its four employees, he says, but it enabled Mr Wales to fund his bigger fascination: an online encyclopedia. He invited Mr Sanger to be its editor, and in 2000 they started Nupedia. Experts were invited to write articles on various subjects, and the idea was that Nupedia would sell advertising and make profits.

See the full article for much more.