Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

Ghonim: "Our Revolution Is Like Wikipedia"

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, February 14 2011

Wael Ghonim, the Google executive who was behind the Facebook group that helped catalyze the revolution in Egypt and was later held by Egyptian authorities for 12 days, made an appearance on "60 Minutes" last night, sitting down with Harry Smith. And he seemed as eager as the rest of us to figure out a shorthand way of thinking about what went down in Egypt over the last month.

In a web-only outtake, Ghonim comes up with a easy way of understanding how the contributions of the many could come together into a force capable of triggering the toppling of Hosni Mubarak. Think of the wiki, says Ghonim, referencing that humble collaboratively-edited medium that Ward Cunningham dreamt up way back in 1995, and of its most famous instance:

Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don't know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.

Of course, as Ghonim tells it, the "Wikipedia Revolution" isn't about a medium at all, but an approach -- a nimbleness that makes use of whatever tools are at hand and whatever interest can be tapped into in the hearts and minds of the people. When Facebook went down after he posted details on the locations of planned protests, says Ghonim, "I had a backup plan." He switched to Google Groups, and then asked people to help spread the information far and wide. "And everyone knew, eventually," Ghonim tells Smith. (So, wait, does that make this an "Email Revolution"? Yes. It must.)

Ghonim has tweeted that he plans a book on "Revolution 2.0." And he's also posted a Google Moderator forum that asks Egyptians to post their hopes and dreams for the country, now that the Mubarak era has ended. So is this a "Google Moderator Reconstruction" of Egypt? Stay tuned.

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

First POST: System-Gaming

Why techies interested in political reform are facing challenges; the latest data on Democratic voter contacts in 2014; Hungary's anti-Internet tax demonstrations are getting huge; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Gimme Shelter

The link between intimate partner violence and surveillance tech; the operational security set-up that connected Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden; how Senate Dems are counting on tech to hold their majority; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Tribes

Edward Snowden on the Internet's impact on political polarization; trying to discern Hillary Clinton's position on NSA reform; why Microsoft is bullish on civic tech; and much, much more GO

monday >

First POST: Inventions

How voter data-sharing among GOP heavyweights is still lagging; why Facebook's News Feed scares news publishers; Google's ties to the State Department; and much, much more. GO

friday >

First POST: Spoilers

How the GOP hasn't fixed its tech talent gap; the most tech-savvy elected official in America, and the most tech-savvy state-wide candidate; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Hot Spots

How Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is making inroads in China; labor protests among Uber drivers spread to more cities; new data about the prevalence of online harassment; and much, much more. GO

More