For a province of California, Silicon Valley can be strangely puritan at times. That made it an uncomfortable locale for libertine Libertarian Jimmy Wales, the less-than-saintly founder of Wikipedia. Wales told ex-lover Rachel Marsden, the Canadian controversialist, that he wanted to move to New York to be closer to her. Their affair is over — ended, fittingly, via a posting on Wikipedia — but Wales has relocated to New York all the same. The likely reason has to do with work, or the appearance of work. Although Wikipedia's nonprofit parent, the Wikimedia Foundation, is located in San Francisco, and his ostensible employer, for-profit wiki venture Wikia, has itsheadquarters in a suburb to the south of the city, Wales is charged with running a search-engine project for Wikia which is based in New York.
Not that Wikia is likely to get much more of Wales's time. He told the company's board that he would spend 10 percent of his time on Wikipedia, and 90 percent on Wikia, a promise he swiftly broke. There's no reason to expect that a change in scenery would change Wales's ways.
His domestic life is in no better a state. His wife, Christine, whom he is divorcing, has banned him from staying at their St. Petersburg, Fla. house on his infrequent visits to see his young daughter, we hear. A wise move on her part, since Wales conducted some of his obscene sex chats with Marsden from the guest bedroom.
"Everything with Jimbo is the creating of an illusion," says a source who knows Wales. "The illusion of being a good husband, the illusion of working everyday, the illusion of having ideas."
Which makes New York the perfect venue for Wales. From the theatricality of Broadway to the fanciful financial vehicles of Wall Street, New York is a manufactory of make-believe. The island of Manhattan increasingly resembles one large stage set — an artifice of a city. This is a man who's made his career on pretense, on cajoling others to labor for him. Jimmy Wales has come home. San Francisco will not miss him.
(Photo by Mary S. Butler, on a previous Wales visit to New York)