April Fool Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales has resigned as Board member and Chair Emeritus of the Wikimedia Foundation, severing his seven-year relationship with "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit."
The man who once called himself Wikipedia's Spiritual Leader has also stepped down as the president of Wikia, the for-profit operation he co-founded in 2004.
In a candid interview with The Register, Wales said he intends to join the brotherhood of Franciscan Friars, taking the traditional vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. "This is the life I was born to live," he said. "There are more important things than power, fame, venture capital, $95,000 speaking fees, and having sex with the Canadian Ann Coulter. Which I did, by the way."
In joining the Franciscans, Wales has his sights set on a new breed of encyclopedia. "With the help of renunciates from across the globe, I plan to record the sum of all human knowledge on stone tablets," he told us. "I'm not interested in the Web 2.0 hype machine. I'm not interested in Google rankings, CNet coverage, or hobnobbing with Bono on the rooftop of some five-star Mexican hotel. Which I did, by the way. I'm interested in the pursuit of knowledge. This is the sole motivation behind Stonetabletopedia."
Like Wikipedia, Stonetabletopedia will rely on "the wisdom of the masses." Any monk will have the power to edit any stone tablet. "If one man of God completes an entry on, say, Hello Kitty, the next is free to re-chisel. Throw enough monks and enough stone tablets at Hello Kitty, and you can't help but reach the truth."
Is Wales worried these stonetablet-fiddlers might hijack his encyclopedia for PR purposes? Push their own point of view when editing entires on, say, the Catholic Church? St. Francis? Bald spots? "Absolutely not," Wales said. "After all, these are men of God. And everyone knows you can trust a man of God. In fact, you can trust them every bit as much as you trust me."
Wales puts so much trust in his renunciates, he's given them the unalienable right to chisel anonymously. "At Stonetabletopedia," he said, "we assume good faith."
But some have questioned the wisdom of anonymous chiseling. According to The Stonetabletopedia Review, a new site dedicated to stone tablet criticism, a monk somewhere in Alberta, Canada is already chiseling under the pseudonym FatWhore, and many suspect he's a British spy sent by Her Majesty's government to discredit Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne.
When we phoned Byrne, he declined to comment.
"FatWhore is not a problem," Wales said. "He's a monk's monk." The fifth columnists will come, he explained, but they'll come from The Stonetabletopedia Review. "We assume good faith - but only until we decide not to. There's no doubt these people are intent on destroying the encyclopedia from within.
"Luckily, I know a fake Franciscan when I see one. And when these charlatans are caught, we'll give their tablets the Charlton Heston treatment. We'll boot them from the brotherhood. We'll excommunicate them. We may even kill them."
Wales is equally adamant that his new encyclopedia is not a commercial venture. The idea isn't to make money, he said, the idea is to enlighten. "Remember: The Catholic Church is a not-for-profit. There's no money in the Catholic Church."
Yes, he recently incorporated a for-profit operation that deals in stone tablets. But he claims the two ventures are unrelated. And he insists the for-profit operation has nothing to do with profit. "Stonetabletopedia and Stonetablet-o-pedia are completely separate operations," he explained. "And I'm about to take a vow of poverty. Which means that even if I pocket millions of dollars, I can always claim it's not mine."
Jimmy Wales also wants the world to know that Stonetabletopedia has absolutely nothing to do with Larry Sanger. "That's true," Sanger told us, "except that it was my idea." ®