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Should Wikipedia Just Accept Ads Already? 608

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the or-gimme-a-tote-bag dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Large images of Jimmy Wales have for weeks dominated each and every page on Wikipedia, making Wales arguably the single most visible individual on the planet. Now Molly McHugh writes that Wikipedia is once again pleading for user donations with banners across the top of its site with memos from purported authors and this week, Wales stepped up the shrillness of his rallying cry by adding the word 'Urgent' to his appeal. Wales attempted the same request for donations last year, and failed to meet the company's goal until Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar donated $2 million and Google stepped in with another $2 million gift to the foundation. This time around the foundation is approximately $7 million short of its 2010 fundraising goal, and Wikipedia analysts are saying the site would be better off with a marketing scheme as Alex Konanykhin of WikiExperts explains that the donations-only, no-commerce model restricts Wikipedia to relying exclusively on free volunteers, losing opportunities to involve qualified professionals who charge for their time in addition to the thirty staff members already on the Wikimedia payroll. 'Advertising is not cool. You're not as cool if you have advertising. But you know what else is not cool? Begging,' writes Jeff Otte. 'We do not care if there is advertising on Wikipedia, so long as it is not ridiculously invasive. So please, replace your sensitive mug with a Steak 'n' Shake ad or something, and start making advertisers pay for people to have stuff for free and not feel bad about it. It's the Internet's way.'"
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Should Wikipedia Just Accept Ads Already?

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  • by MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) * <myfirstnameispaul@gmail.com> on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:11AM (#34574530) Homepage Journal
    Don't set up an admin system that shits all over people who disagree with you. Maybe then your appeal for donations would be considered by a larger number of people. I've been sending SomaFM [somafm.com] at least $50 per year for most of this decade and even /. gets $5 from me every now and then. I bought one Wikipedia coaster set back in '03 before I discovered your incompetence and now I quickly close your 'appeals' without reading them. Some may consider that I'm being too picky, but when I saw that Barack Obama had less criticism on his page than Ghandi or Jesus Christ, I knew your system was still flawed, and the Climate Doctor [nationalpost.com] debacle didn't work in your favor, either - and hey, that was, like, 12 months ago, and now you're running out of money - coincidence? Fix that shit and I'll kick down a Ben Franklin.
    • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:16AM (#34574640) Journal

      Ummmm. No. This has virtually nothing to do with donations. What you are running into is human nature. People generally do not pay for things they can get for free. You will find exceptions of course, but by and large this is true. Although your very generous coaster purchase clearly stands in stark contrast to the rest of us.

      Wikipedia is no longer the center of attention that it was. It has a great deal of value and I would not mind seeing some advertising to help support it.

      • I have quite a few friends who regularly give money to online organizations. None of them give money to Wikipedia. Yes, small sample size, but still, none of them.
      • by Pharmboy (216950) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:24AM (#34574786) Journal

        Um, no you are wrong. There are scores of people with the means to donate to Wikipedia, and were serious editors at one time, but the "system" turned us away from helping in any way. Wikipedia has a lot of good things going, but their management structure is so flawed and filled with self serving, basement dwelling admins that have an axe to grind, that it turns off many people with the means to contribute. Take a look at the number of people who have thousands of edits but haven't editing or contributed in a long time.

        The current structure of Wikipedia administration is fatally flawed. It is functional, but flawed to the point of pissing off quality contributors of both time and money. The concept is valid, the execution is not. If not for a few corporations throwing away money in their direction, it would already be gone. Simply put, it needs to be run like a real business, with real accountability and system of checks and balances that is less subject to the whims of a few anonymous individuals. As it is, it is run like a college project, which is why it is in constant financial distress.

        • 1. Take ads. Lots of ads.

          2. Hire real experts, real writers, professional editors. Toss the agenda-driven wankers and college kids.

          3. Regain Credibility.

          4. Profit!

        • by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:13PM (#34575516) Homepage Journal

          Wikipedia is not collecting money for Wikipedia. Wikipedia has enough money.
          Wikimedia is collecting money to build up Wikipedia's sister projects and get funding for 3rd world education projects (e.g. free books). But since Wikipedia is the most prominent project, they go from this angle.

          Maybe Wikipedia having ads would be the 'internet way'. But the 'internet way' is also shitty websites. And all the projects with 'paid writers' or 'experts' have failed compared to Wikipedia. So better be independent, and (roughly) continue the way its done now.

          Of course, I agree with your criticism. I would even be ok with a regular (e.g. every 3 years) database reset that deletes the discussion pages and user (privileges).

          • by chdig (1050302)
            Like many mods have suggested, this is an "interesting" idea. It's also completely without any reference and seems to be a serious accusation. Wales' appeal states that wikipedia does need the money for its website, while you say they're lying, and that it's just a siphon.

            Your comments are stated as facts, but you give a note at the bottom suggesting it's just opinion.

            I'm suggesting that until you give some valid reference that the money is going to sister projects, that your post is full of FUD and n
        • by Teancum (67324)

          To evidence that there is a problem, the number of new contributors to Wikipedia has all but stopped. It is a fairly large number, but as I've also pointed out that there are many countries of the world who have more people involved with the development of Wikipedia in their native languages as a proportion of their overall population (Germany in particular comes to mind) than is the case for English language development on Wikipedia. The only reason why English is so dominate is mainly due to the overall

        • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:29PM (#34575752) Homepage Journal

          There are scores of people with the means to donate to Wikipedia, and were serious editors at one time, but the "system" turned us away from helping in any way.

          Back in 2006 I developed a cataract in one eye [slashdot.org], so the first thing I did was to look it up on Wikipedia. After looking it up I saw a specialist for the surgery, who informed me of a new (FDA approved in 2003) device that replaced the traditional IOLs, an accomodating IOL that unlike older types, is on struts, is operated by the eye's muscles, and actually lets the eye focus like a young person's.

          I checked Wikipedia again, and found no mention of this three year old technology on the page about cataract surgery. They had the single focus and multifocal (working much like bifocal or trifocal eyeglasses) lenses, but not the accomodating lens. So I edited it.

          A week later the edit was gone. Re-edited, same thing.

          Oddly, after I mentioned this in a slashdot comment in an article about editing wikipedia, maybe a year or so later, the accomodating lens was added to the article. Obviously, someone from Wikipedia had seen my comment.

          But I'd already given up editing wikipedia; it makes no sense to take the effort to contribute, only to have your easily fact-verified contributions discarded.

      • by magarity (164372) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:29AM (#34574854)

        Ummmm. No. This has virtually nothing to do with donations. What you are running into is human nature. People generally do not pay for things they can get for free.

        You are confusing paying for something that can be had for free with donating to a worthwhile nonprofit organization. People donate lots of money to what they perceive to be worthwhile nonprofits. Ever heard of the Red Cross or the Humane Society? The GP is complaining that he doesn't see WP as a worthwhile nonprofit, so he doesn't donate to it. It has nothing to do with getting anything from it for free.

    • by Thomasje (709120) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:52PM (#34576112)
      Criticism of famous / historical figures has no place in an encyclopedia in the first place; they are supposed to be repositories of information, not opinion. I spent countless hours with major encyclopedias when I was a kid, and whenever I see criticism or praise of people in Wikipedia, it feels jarring and out of place. I don't consider it a problem, though, I just skip over those sections.

      What keeps me coming back to Wikipedia is because it is actually truly excellent as an encyclopedia. Whenever I'm looking for something about physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, geography, history, etc. etc. etc., I find what I'm looking for and I find it quickly. The edit wars that so many people seem to have such huge stakes in tend not to affect articles that disseminate actual information, and those are the only ones I'm interested in; those are the only ones that belong there. The fact that lots of other people use Wikipedia as their personal political soapbox or Geocities page is a very minor annoyance, and maybe the way Wikipedia deals with those annoyances is heavy-handed and/or misguided sometimes, but it takes little to nothing away from its true utility. Certainly not enough to stop me from donating $100 a year.

      • Double plus. I agree. I find a lot of complaints around WP are about someone's inability to insert something they value but which isn't widely known or reported in the media.

        There are good counter-examples where legitimate info is rejected for "bad" reasons of various kinds.

        But as a core reference work, WP is better than anything else I've ever used. The effort to value ratio is just excellent.

        I've had some run-in's with obnoxious editors messing with my stuff or personally insulting me, but I've also had l

  • Big Empty Space (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BondGamer (724662) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:13AM (#34574590) Journal
    Isn't there a big empty space down the left side of most pages? What is the difference between it being blank or there being an advertisement there.
    • Re:Big Empty Space (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Neil_Brown (1568845) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:19AM (#34574682) Homepage

      What is the difference between it being blank or there being an advertisement there.

      With AdBlock, the end result is much the same.

      Is AdBlock sufficiently prevalent that ad-based funding is decreasingly viable? Is an advert annoying no matter what site it might be on, or are there many AdBlock users who disable blocking on sites which they want to support through that site's chosen revenue model?

      • Re:Big Empty Space (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PyroMosh (287149) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:01PM (#34575318) Homepage

        I need a plugin that blocks comments on slashdot and other forums where people mention how great it is that they use Ad Block.

        We get it. Everyone here knows this technology exists. Some of us choose not to use it. There are half a dozen posts saying "Put up ads! I won't see them! I run Ad Block Plus!" on this article, and only 50 comments total.

        You folks made a choice to opt out of the ad model, but reap the rewards of content that ads pay for anyway. I get that, and hopefully you do too. But why are you folks all so damn vocal about it? It's as if you're smug about blocking ads, and I honestly don't know why you would be smug about that.

        • It's as if you're smug about blocking ads, and I honestly don't know why you would be smug about that.

          Personally, the only time I'm ever smug about blocking ads is when I read about ads being used to deliver malware. It's not the same as ads on TVs, more like ads delivered in person to your living room by random people who might rob or vandalize you. I understand that blocking ads breaks web sites revenue models...but as long as ads remain an unnecessary malware vector, I will not feel one bit of remorse for blocking them.

    • More appropriately, given the audience here:

      What is the difference between it being blank because Wikipedia didn't put anything there and it being blank because we all have AdBlock Pro installed?

    • Isn't there a big empty space down the left side of most pages? What is the difference between it being blank or there being an advertisement there.

      I'll bet you have a Google branded plush pony in your bed and the shirt you're wearing says either 'Izod' or 'Brawndo".

      It's annoying, that's what. Even the modest, quiet, well bred Google ads of distant history are annoying. Blank space is a critically important design concept as well.

      Yes, advertising can be done such that it's minimally invasive, but it's invasive nonetheless.

    • Re:Big Empty Space (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pz (113803) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:25AM (#34574812) Journal

      Isn't there a big empty space down the left side of most pages? What is the difference between it being blank or there being an advertisement there.

      That is precisely the sort of attitude that gets us enhanced pat-downs and video cameras monitoring our every move.

      I use Wikipedia frequently, and made a donation. Did you?

      Here's a hint: the money to run Wikipedia comes from somewhere. If it came from advertising dollars, that money would ultimately be reflected in a increase in the cost of products, but because the conversion of money in your pocket through a retailer's payment processing system to the manufacturer's accounts receivable to the marketing department budget to an advertising agency to an adbuy at Wikipedia is horribly inefficient, the total cost for you, out of pocket, will be much higher than if you just send Wikipedia money. The only difference is you won't be obviously, immediately aware of it.

      Please, donate directly.

      For related reasons, when you donate money to a charitable or non-profit organization, don't take the gifts. That just increases their cost of acquiring your money, making your donation less efficient (and reducing the amount you can deduct on your taxes because the US government considers that a sale of goods and your donation is just the excess above fair market value for the gift you received). Just give the money.

    • The difference is that advertisers see it as their right to put in flashing/noisy "active content" ads that in some cases (I'm thinking about the recent use of DoubleClick to install driveby downloads) harmful crap on the page. I come to WikiPedia to look stuff up, not to be sold on something.

      This doesn't even touch upon the potential for editorial shenanigans... great - I go to WikiPedia to see what kind of MP3 Tag management software might be available... (Free and commercial) and when I get to the articl

    • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:03PM (#34575338) Homepage Journal
      Wikipedia occasionally makes unlicensed use of copyrighted works [wikipedia.org] under fair use (17 USC 107), such as using an image that identifies the subject of the article if the subject is a non-free work of authorship. A use is more likely to be considered a fair use if it is non-commercial, and if there's no ad, Wikipedia qualifies as "non-commercial".
    • by Tom (822) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @02:02PM (#34577460) Homepage Journal

      Isn't there a big empty space down the left side of most pages? What is the difference between it being blank or there being an advertisement there.

      One occupies just some pixels on the screen, the other occupies space in my mind (to filter out).

      Or in more simple terms: Ads are fucking distracting, that's their job. Every advertisement worth its money is built and designed to catch you attention. "catch your attention" is the marketing speak for "distract you".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:15AM (#34574618)

    Replace Jimmy Wales with someone hot and you'll get many more donations.

    • by pyrr (1170465)
      At first glance, I thought there was a bum panhandling on Wikipedia. Then I read the caption and realized it was just Jimmy. After a week or two, it seems they at least posted a photo of him that lacked the week-old-stubble look.
  • by mccalli (323026)
    No, it shouldn't. At that point it loses trust - I can no longer consider the information to be free of commercial conflicts of interest.

    There's already enough problems with the editor model - let's not add more.

    Cheers,
    Ian
    • The same problem exists with the donations model. How do you know that large donors are not affecting the content? For that matter how do you know that the money they are asking for is even needed? Maybe they received enough already to run the site for a while and now they are pocketing the rest. The trust issue doesn't magically appear only when there is a for-profit (gasp) company involved, in an actual commercial transaction, free from "we do it for the people" bullshit. It exists all the time as long as

  • That's the whole point.
    It's the People's encyclopedia, not the elitists' encyclopedia. It is grown out of the generous volunteerism of billions, rather than those who are like Ebenezer Scrooge - only care about the money.

  • User revolt (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gudeldar (705128) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:16AM (#34574642)
    Wikipedia would have to pay a lot of people to edit it because a huge number of their volunteers would probably revolt and quit working on the site if there were ads on it.
    • Revolt and go where? The other ad-free open-access Internet encyclopedia? There really aren't any alternatives to Wikipedia right now, so no matter how mad the purists would be there's nowhere for them to go.
  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnif ... s.org minus city> on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:16AM (#34574646) Homepage Journal

    They will end up with editorial control, and that would be a very bad thing. That's a big part of why our modern news media is so awful.

    Maybe they could go to a model in which people could contribute resources to handle traffic load instead of directly contributing money? The big problem here is the raft of centralized servers and databases needed to keep Wikipedia fast and responsive.

  • by drumcat (1659893) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:17AM (#34574662)
    Look, PBS has ads now. They still require donations, but they have ads. Just keep the bar very high, and the disclosure very clear. Maybe you make it so that companies can advertise, but cannot advertise with any product specificity, and that all images must carry a small (a) sign to signify it's an ad? It's not impossible. Look, many companies advertise on PBS to improve their image. Wikipedia can position itself the same way... as an image builder. Just get past the begging though. It's old. If your idea is *that* good, you shouldn't have a problem getting ad money.
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      This episode of "wait wait, dont drill me was brought to you by BP..... We're sorry...."

    • by traindirector (1001483) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:13PM (#34575506)

      Look, PBS has ads now.

      PBS uses underwriting [wikimedia.org], which is a rather limited form of advertising. Non-commercial television and radio stations are limited to giving sponsors underwriting spots in the U.S. You can call them "ads", but they really aren't as obnoxious (although some I've seen recently push the distinction to the limit), and they only appear at the beginning and end of a program.

      Wikipedia's article on underwriting [wikimedia.org] is okay, but not really good. The PBS information is clipped from elsewhere, and there is no mention of specific restrictions for non-commercial radio.

      In any case, I just donated $35, seeing as how the plea is now urgent. Personally, I usually ignore the banners when I see them, as I assume a lot of people are donating to Wikipedia as something that is of interest to everyone. I generally make my donations to organizations that serve niche interests that don't see as much traffic. A lot of people probably take the same approach. If Wikipedia really needs the money, I hope they have a plan to make it quite clear to these people. This /. article did the trick for me.

  • I used to donate. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Winckle (870180) <mark@[ ]ckle.co.uk ['win' in gap]> on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:18AM (#34574670) Homepage

    Every year I used to donate what I could, £5, £10, or £15 but I got so pissed off with the deletionist attitude of the last year or two I just won't give anymore. I'm sick of remembering articles, going to check them and they're gone and yet stupid shit like "List of Catgirls" manages to stay. [wikipedia.org]

    The most annoying thing with deletionist attitudes is that it doesn't even make sense. The less popular an article is the less resources i.e. bandwith it uses

    • by vadim_t (324782)

      Weird one. Minerva McGonagall is a catgirl? That's stretching it quite a bit.

    • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:37PM (#34575884) Homepage

      There's a lot of pages that are created on wikipedia that should be deleted, go over the AfD page and give it a read. People that have very little idea what wikipedia wants on its pages, or that blatantly ignore it to promote their own music or sports team or as their personal myspace page, one line mentions in a publication, hoaxes and so on. Sadly I think it's much the same as if you try helping out newbies, with each newbie your patience wanes until it's just RTFM!!! Same if you try fighting the endless stream of trash pages, eventually everything that doesn't fit your strict reading gets a "Delete!". I remember back in the early days of wikipedia, I added a bit to it but it was mostly about just adding information that was factual in an encyclopedic style, since unsourced facts were better than no facts. Today I'm pretty sure they'd get deleted because that's not what they want anymore - perhaps they never did but there were a lot fewer who'd delete a reasonably sane article for lack of sources. In a way you're not looking for quality contributions, you're looking for people who knows how to quote someone else without adding anything of their own. Completely different model, really.

  • Meh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haedrian (1676506) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:19AM (#34574684)

    I was just telling my friend the other day - a giant picture of Jimmy or 'random blogger' is pretty much the same as an advertisment.

    If they put ads, they should do them themselves (no giving it out to other companies who will track me) - and they should instead sell spaces in articles. So you look up "mopping" and you get an ad of a mopping company.

  • There is information.

    Then there is commerce.

    Whenever commerce touches information, information has a way of getting warped.

    It's really as simple as that.

    • Wikipedia's bias issues are deeply rooted in its structure, as noted elsewhere. I find it very hard to believe that being ad-free makes Wikipedia neutral; in fact, it's not neutral, especially with regard to controversial issues, and these political issues dwarf the potential ad ones.

      Surely the sort of oversight and openness needed to correct the editorial problems could target ad revenue as well. I'm afraid a donation model -- which I call a "tax on the nice" -- penalizes people of good intentions (over

      • Anything written by human beings is biased. You can't scrub the bias out of Wikipedia, ever. All you can do is minimize it, and I think Wikipedia does a good job at that.

        Look at the "discussion" tab: when it comes to politically charged issues, the concept of bias is simply bombed, stabbed, nuked, and otherwise blown to smithereens. Neutrality is simply impossible.

        So when I see people like you, uncomfortable with Wikipedia's "bias," I have to think that you are expecting the impossible. That you don't understand what it means for an issue to be contentious and emotional, and therefore impossible to scrub of bias.

        You are somehow expecting Wikipedia to solve a problem no one can solve. So do you not have a Wikipedia entry on something like abortion or palestine? No, you have a page on those issues. And you will never satisfy everyone, and someone will always be screaming bias. C'est la vie. Get used to it.

        Basically, you have to stop talking about Wikipedia's bias, it has none. The truth is, on some subjects, everyone has a bias, including you. And this shows on the Wikipedia entry, in what is written, or your reaction to it. Some issues are just deeply charged. So say something in the dicussion tab, or edit a Wikipedia entry. You can't do any better than that. This applies to all of life, not just Wikipedia: go out there and let your voice be heard. You can't passively sit back and expect Wikipedia, let alone ANY media source, to somehow be magically unbiased on issues which are deeply emotional and contentious.

        Have your bullshit meter on at all times, and don't hold Wikipedia to impossible standards. That's the best it can ever get, with Wikipedia, and in life.

      • There's top down bias, and then there's bottom up bias.

        The original bias of Wikipedia was mostly bottom up bias. Lots of users could edit Wikipedia, but only certain demographics are actually interested editing a given article.

        Lots of people don't like the new editing system because it can introduce a top down bias. A small group of editors or even a single editor and effectively control the tone of an article. The goal of this is to be slanted towards encyclopedia-style objectivity, but it is a bias
    • by snowwrestler (896305) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:52AM (#34575160)

      Commerce is not the only thing that can warp information. It can also be warped by individuals willing to spend their time pushing their own opinions, and excluding others.

      Wikipedia editing has become increasingly bureaucratic and exclusive, which IMO is one reason that they are having trouble raising money. Personally, I'm not going to give to Wikipedia as it exists now: the personal playground of Jimmy Wales and his anointed administrative minions.

      Wikipedia is already serving ads--they feature Jimmy's puppy-dog eyes begging for money. Broadening the ad base would do a lot to make the organization grow up and break out of the near-cult it has become.

  • For one thing, it would exclude Wikipedia from certain sources of funding.

    For another, it would introduce conflicts of interest that would seriously tarnish Wikipedia's credibility (a topic it already has to fight for).

    Third, it would demotivate certain contributors who want to work on a free encyclopaedia but have no interest in developing a product placement platform.

  • by Dan East (318230) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:22AM (#34574748) Homepage Journal

    As much traffic as Wikipedia enjoys, it seems they could have a single large advertiser / benefactor that could be promoted in a subtle, unobtrusive manner because their "ad" would be visible on every page. To me that would be preferable to context sensitive ads (Google adwords type stuff) or rotating ads which have to scream for attention and thus are a constant distraction.
    PBS and other non-profit entities have been able to do similar "advertising" in a very tasteful manner for many decades (between programming - "the following is made possible by donations from..."). That seems most fitting for Wikipedia as well, which is different than flat-out commercial advertising.

  • by arshadk (1928690) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:22AM (#34574750)
    I thought about donating some money. I use wikipedia pretty regularly and I'd like to support it. The only problem is I don't think they need any money. Their financial statements are available and it looks like they've got enough cash on hand to run for the year without any more donations. I don't see the need to add to their cushion.
    • by Eil (82413) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:07PM (#34576358) Homepage Journal

      Care to link? Were you talking aout this [wikimediafoundation.org]?

      I find it somewhat surprising that less than half of their money is spent on servers and infrastructure. (On the other hand, it could be a lot less if they were willing to set up a secure mirror system rather than try to serve everything themselves.) Also interesting is that 21% of their total budget ($4.2 million) is planned to be spent on Community Programs. I thought delivering the world's most comprehensive encyclopedia to the masses for free was already something of a community program?

      I just get the impression from Wikipedia that they're trying to run this non-profit a little too much like a business. Sure, the company itself doesn't turn a profit in the traditional sense, but I'd be very interested to know how much the staff makes and how that had scaled over time in relation to their annual budget.

  • From TFA's summary:

    > Wales attempted the same request for donations last year

    Dude, it's an end of year fundraiser! (And it worked very well, they raised plenty of money.)

    It's about as surprising as trains being cancelled in Autumn because of "leaves on the tracks".

    • Another snippet from the summary:

      > failed to meet the company's goal until

      Until. So, they *did* meet their goals. What are you complaining about??

      (This is just the stupidity from the summary. There's nothing there to suggest it would be worth clicking through to the actual articles.)

  • How about ads on the main page. Ads for free use and no ads if you donate. Ads shouldn't be related to the page you are viewing.

  • I agree if it's a survival issue, but I don't think they should make such a major policy decision based on some highly vocal people being annoyed. If begging for money works, it works. It doesn't have to be wildly successful, it just has to work barely enough.

  • Just waiting for it to happen again... where they purposefully cut back on bandwidth and make Wikipedia really really slow. Nothing quite like wanting to read all about every MLB earned-run average champion ever [wikipedia.org] but having it take more than 5 seconds to get there to make people feel like donating.
  • How isn't the big splash banner with Wales mug all over it already advertising? They are just advertising themselves.
  • If Wikipedia included ads, would I even know? I regularly visit a number of sites that I know have ads, but I know only because of the occasional user comment that a particular ad is offensive. I don't see the ads because my browser blocks them. I started blocking ads not because I found them objectionable, but because waiting for six different overloaded servers to deliver the d*mned things slowed things down a lot. Is there reason to believe that Wikipedia's ads would be resistant to blocking?
  • by chebucto (992517) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:38AM (#34574998) Homepage

    A personal appeal to Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales (Dear Jimmy: fuck off.) [jwz.org]

    Also, was I the only one to notice that Jimbo is calling himself the Founder (ie not Co-Founder) in his Personal / Urgent appeals?

  • Blame Jimbo (Score:3, Informative)

    by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:52AM (#34575154) Homepage

    I think a lot of people have grown annoyed with Jimbo Wales over the years, myself included, over his reactionary tendency toward censorship. All it takes is for one semi-famous person to criticize some aspect of Wikipedia, be it drugs, sex, or religion, and Jimbo would go in and radically truncate a bunch of pages. Nevermind that he was redacting factual information, he just wanted to "save face". Quality of information seemed to matter less than it's potential for scandal, which is a fantastic way to piss off the liberal-leaning intellectual elite (and by liberal I don't mean the imbecilic U.S. political label).

    From day one, he's treated Wikipedia like his own politically-correct version of the truth, alienating countless key supporters in the process. Take him off those freakin ads and maybe, in a few years, people will forget that this megalomaniac took a big crap all over their masterfully crafted articles.

  • about.com (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dalroth (85450) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:54AM (#34575190) Homepage Journal

    You want to see what Wikipedia will look like if they start accepting advertising and basing their revenue model on that? Go to about.com. No Thanks,I like Wikipedia just the way it is.

  • by GrantRobertson (973370) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:54AM (#34575196) Homepage Journal
    ... honestly and completely reveals his salary, other compensations, and expenses. Non-profits are supposed to report expenses but his are hidden in vague, general categories.

    P.S. I posted a similar message on Huffington Post and they deleted it.
  • by sirwired (27582) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @11:54AM (#34575198)

    Okay, I get that Wikipedia doesn't run for free. But plastering a big picture of "Jimbo" at the top of every page is precisely the wrong way to go about it. If I'm going to donate money, it won't be because Jimmy Whales himself asked, it'll be because Wikipedia is a mostly-reliable resource of knowledge.

    This should have been a "We, Wikipedia, need money" campaign, not a "I, Jimmy Whales, want you to give money to Wikipedia" campaign. And showcasing the unpaid contributors doesn't make me want to give money either. Personal appeals for money work if the person is a celebrity, and they don't actually run, or work for, the charity they want you to support. Otherwise, stick to appealing to ideas, principles, and projects, and leave the individual out of it.

  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:42PM (#34575962)
    The donation system isn't working out because it's not INTEGRATED with the Wikipedia workflow. What is it with the pleading picture that pops up everyone once in a while? How stupid can you get? Just give users the opportunity to become "paying members" while they are going about their normal business. Put a link for "become a paying member (it's cheap!)" at the header of every edit page. Make the cost small, like $5/month, and automatically recurring. You wouldn't need to offer any privileges to being a paid member other than allowing users to show it in their status. I bet you nearly every single one of those 1%'ers that do most of the work would member up, and many more besides.
  • No, no, no (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @12:46PM (#34576018) Homepage

    Terrible idea. If Wikipedia starts running ads, the better volunteers will quit. Who wants to work for someone else for free?

    Look what happened to Wikia. It was supposed to be the commercial version of Wikipedia, with ads. So what's on Wikia? The Star [Trek|Wars|Gate|Craft] wikis. The "Cocktails" wiki. The travel wiki. The coffee wiki. Wikia does junk culture. Nobody serious goes there, and it doesn't make much money.

    Wales thought he could take the Wikipedia concept and monetize it. He was very wrong. He thought he'd get a private jet out of the deal. He was wrong. He thought that Wikia Search would rival Google. That shut down in 2009.

    Everybody else who's tried to monetize this idea has failed, too. Citizendium, Google Knol - all flops.

    It takes an incredible amount of volunteer effort and organization to keep Wikipedia from turning into junk. Lose those volunteers and you're toast.

  • by FridayBob (619244) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:39PM (#34577006) Homepage
    There's a whole corner of Wikipedia, a science subject, that owes almost its entire existence to over 20,000 of my edits contributed over a 3-year period. I learned a lot during that time, which I think is reflected in the quality of the articles I worked on, but sadly Wikipedia did not. In the end I was spending way too much of my time defending the way those articles were written from complete debutantes who had less of an idea what they were doing than when I started. I felt like a blade of grass in somebody's lawn: wanting to grow higher, but regularly being cut back down to size.

    I suppose one of my main problems was that there has always been considerable public interest in the subject I was writing about, but at the same time there has always existed a lot of fear and misunderstanding. Consequently, after I had carefully researched the subject of each page, filling it with facts and tagging every sentence and paragraph with one or more references, others would often come by and, totally unimpeded by any knowledge of the subject, just start making changes as they saw fit. I could argue with them, typically regarding the quality of their sources, but they were often stubborn and refused to understand. I could point out that they were not following Wikipedia's own guidelines, but they didn't see it that way. The administrators and arbitrators didn't have any knowledge of the subject either and figured we just had to remain civil and reach a consensus.

    It's been almost two years since I stopped contributing and many of the articles I worked so hard on are now steadily decaying, reflecting less fact and more public ignorance. The admins should be looking for better ways to preserve good edits and prevent bad ones. However, not only does Wikipedia lack an effective mechanism to counter quality deterioration, they aren't even looking for one. The current approach was probably more correct five or six years ago, when any information was better than no information, but now they need a new strategy, or else they stand to lose as much as they gain.

    Oh, I still visit the site often enough, as most of us probably do, but as a result of my experience I no longer have the respect for Wikipedia that I once did. If Jimbo thinks advertising on Wikipedia's pages would be degrading, I don't see how that would be worse than the way the project is currently being managed. So go ahead, rent out some banner space; it won't make a difference to me anyway.
  • by arshadk (1928690) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:42PM (#34577060)
    I might've been looking at the 08-09 annual report, that's all they've got up: http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Annual_Report [wikimediafoundation.org] But saying they need $16M urgently, when their expenses were only $5.6M in 08-09 seems sketchy.
  • by gmarsh (839707) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:59PM (#34577390)

    Sort of like the Maxwell House "brew some good" ads. Which don't really advertise coffee, they just show a can of coffee with a backdrop of some charitable work that the company donated to going on in the background. I'm sure the cost of airing the ad exceeds the cost of the charitable work by a huge amount, but at least they're doing something. There's plenty of other ads like that airing on TV right now with the same theme.

    I'd say let companies do the same sort of thing with Wikipedia. If a company donates above a certain minimum amount, let them have an unobtrusive ad display every so often where they can brag about donating to the site. Let them show a cup of coffee, box of KD, a server rack or whatever the company's product is, let them make a small reference to their product, etc... but the main theme of the ad has to be "We donated to this place.". Clicking on their ad wouldn't bring them to their site, it'll bring them to a page within Wikipedia which has more information about the donation(s) they've made.

    If I logged in and saw a small "Wikipedia runs on Dunkin' - Proud supporter of this site." image in the upper right corner of the screen, I'd honestly be pleased to see that - while I've never donated to Wikipedia, and feel somewhat ashamed about it because I do spend a fair bit of time on there, I've got huge respect for people and companies that do. And unlike the aforementioned Maxwell House ad, 100% of their advertising cost goes to Wikipedia. Can't knock that.

    But if I saw a "Announcing the new MochaLatteChocoChino from Dunkin Donuts!" image in the middle of the screen, halfway through an article, I'd be seriously pissed off at that.

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