Published: September 25, 2007
founder Jimmy Wales spoke to a crowd of 250 people at The University of
Tampa before flying to Switzerland to have dinner with Bill Gates, Tony
Blair and Bono.
Wales discussed the philosophy and technology
behind Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit,
during the Board of Fellows’ Business Network Symposium on Jan. 25. The
event also featured Robert Moreyra of Atlantic American Realty Group and
Eric Newman of J.C. Newman Cigar Co.
recognized him [Wales] as one of its 100 most influential people,” said
John Robinson of the UT Board of Fellows, who co-chaired the event with
Chris Sass. “[
] called him the ‘geek rock star.’ I call him the electronic encyclopedia.”
started with the radical idea that everyone on the planet should have
access to the sum of all human knowledge, Wales said. He gave examples
of how that dream has grown closer to reality, such as the man who
copied the entire online encyclopedia to a CD-ROM and brought it to an
impoverished South African school.
With more than 1.6 million
articles in English and more than half a million in German, the Web site
continues to grow as more language sections are added. It is now among
the 10 most visited sites on the Internet, according to www.alexa.com, a
Web site that ranks sites by their traffic.
discussed other projects that fall under the umbrella of his St.
Petersburg-based nonprofit, Wikimedia. New initiatives include an
open-source search engine, as well as an online library, Wikibooks, and
an Internet university, Wikiversity.
“For a free culture
movement, it’s low-hanging fruit,” he said of the projects. “Textbooks
are expensive, especially in a developing world. Wikibooks and
Wikiversity will give people the opportunity to get a higher-quality
Wales said he would like to see universities at the
forefront, with more professors using the open-source textbooks in the
classroom and adding to them as they go. On Wikiversity, an open
learning community, professors will be able to upload their learning
materials and activities for free download.
“I think it will
change universities, but I see no end to universities,” Wales said.
“There’s a difference between a textbook and what professors do, giving
certification and feedback. Nothing can replace that certification and
the process you go through getting approval from professors.”
Wales predicted that universities will incorporate more distance learning as technology improves.
Daly of Sendtec Marketing Fusion in St. Petersburg said he came to hear
Wales speak about the upcoming search engine. His firm specializes in
search engine marketing and has worked with clients such as Orkin Pest
Control and the Oriental Trading Company.
“It would really change what we do,” Daly said. “It could be the demise of Google.”
in the program, Newman told the story behind the oldest family-owned
cigar company in the country, started by his grandfather more than a
century ago. He also spoke about the company’s philanthropic work in the
Dominican Republic, where some of their most popular cigars are made.
Cigar Family Charitable Foundation bought 23 acres surrounding five
communities near the cigar factory and built an entire infrastructure of
roads, bridges and electricity. It then built a school for children
from pre-kindergarten through the eighth grade. When the children
finished the eighth grade, they had nowhere to go, so the foundation
built a high school in 2005.
“The best way to break the cycle of poverty is through education,” Newman said.
outlined the various prongs of Communications Equity Associates,
including the real estate arm for which he works, Atlantic American
Realty Group. The company recently bought an interest in SimDag LLC, the
developer of Trump Tower Tampa.
“The goal is to keep each business unit as diversified as possible,” he said.
Business Network Symposium is held three times a year by the Board of
Fellows to strengthen connections between the University and the local
business community. Businesses that are well known, changing or new to
Tampa Bay have the opportunity to come and share their accomplishments
and plans with the business community.