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article imageOp-Ed: Wikipedia’s fundraiser also raises big issues for users

By Paul Wallis     Nov 2, 2012 in Internet
Sydney - It used to be fashionable to knock Wikipedia. The “online intelligentsia” (oxymoron if there ever was one) used to trash the site regularly. Meanwhile, Wikipedia has been trying to handle its costs while everyone uses it.
I was doing some research. I use Wikipedia as a baseline source because it has useful built in references and generally works pretty well as a first stop check.
I saw this:
Wikipedia is non-profit, but it's the #5 website in the world. With 450 million monthly users, we have the same costs as any top site: servers, power, rent, programs, staff and legal help.
To protect our independence, we'll never run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations: $5 is the most common, the average is about $30.
If everyone reading this gave $5, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. Please help us forget fundraising and get back to Wikipedia.
A few questions devolve from this:
Wikipedia is one of the very few fully transparent sources of information. The usual sources can’t even be effectively criticized, let alone altered or amended without a sort of riot happening. That’s hardly productive. So what’s the bitching about, really? An objection to free information?
If knowledge is power, its value is to empower. It’s free. Try buying the amount of information available on Wikipedia on any subject anywhere else, and it’s an expensive way of buying out of date information. So maybe the hostility is against the dollar values of Wikipedia materials?
Wikipedia was at the forefront of the information revolution. It remains one of the very few open sources of information, so many years later. Its value is its currency in context with its transparency. So why are the online “thought leaders so dismissive of Wikipedia, which actually upholds all the values they claim to admire?
Philanthropists are apparently pretty thin on the ground for online sources. They support education, but they don’t support information? Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?
Funding issues
Funding is an obvious major problem for such a gigantic site. The time factor alone would run into huge figures. That puts Wikipedia in a rather difficult position. They don’t want to run ads, because they don’t think they’d be appropriate. That’s fair enough, and although the possible revenue could be considerable, unlike literally everybody else, they’ve taken the hardest option, which deserves some respect.
(Not that anyone would want to think what a Wiki page full of ads would look like, either. It’d be an eyesore.)
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales
Wikimedia Foundation
In the absence of direct funding, they’ve opted for calling for donations. I don’t see any problems with that. It’s the most democratic way of doing things, and it’s voluntary. It’s in keeping with the general Wikipedia ethos.
There are other options, although I don’t know if Wikipedia would be prepared to consider them:
A $1 per year fee for contributors. Given that Wikipedia’s many commercial and personal pages give global coverage 24/7/365 and that many companies and individuals create their own Wiki pages, this class of contribution could pay for itself. That would also be millions of dollars. The payment could be made optional.
A $1 listing fee for rankings on Wikipedia internal searches, sort of like a promo search on Google. Again optional, again useful.
These are ballpark ideas, obviously, but to fit them in to Wikipedia’s obviously determined intentions regarding its independence, they need to be both fair and in context with Wikipedia values.
Donating to Wikipedia
The fundraiser is all over Wikipedia. Click on the blue banner and you’ll see some payment options.
A few things:
I discovered that IE9 has its own ideas about what it will process when you hit the PayPal button on the next link. You’ll probably get a security notice. Use Firefox instead, mainly because you don’t have to go through that ritual.
Your options are credit cards, PayPal and BPay (for Australians, not sure about other countries). PayPal pays in your own local currency. You’ll get the usual PayPal receipt.
If you’re having problems donating, email
Also got a quick receipt from Wikimedia, which is tax-exempt in the US.
The email also puts you on a default opt in/opt out mailing list.
Just one more thing:
If the online heroes want to talk about creative commons, open source and the rest of the much hyped, much underdone ethics of online information and functional issues, wouldn’t it be an idea to get behind the people that do these things? I’ve seen nothing but verbosity on these subjects for years.
If you want this vehicle to move, stop talking and get out and push. Theories that don’t translate into facts are worthless. Wikipedia provides value. It deserves some value in its support.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about wikipedia fundraiser, wikimediaorg, Open source, value of Wikipedia pages, Wikipedia searches
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