User:MyWikiBiz/Hazel Notes

MyWikiBiz, Author Your Legacy — Monday October 02, 2023
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Yesterday, I read a "please read" appeal from Wikipedia co-founder (even though the appeal calls him "founder") Jimmy Wales. I guess this must be a continuing effort following the big "Donate Now" banner you’ve seen on Wikipedia these past months. I am a regular Wikipedia reader and have been ever since its entrance changed the encyclopedia world. Many of us believe it has played a major role in transforming the "open source software" concept into "open source knowledge".

But then we wondered why does a website with over 200 million visitors a month have to beg for donations to pay their staff of 23 people and fulfill an annual budget of 6 million dollars?

If only Jimmy Wales would open the doors for advertisement, money would never be an issue. But as you can see on his appeal, he compared Wikipedia to a National Park or a school -- supposedly advertising-free sites. Now, I personally would 100% invite people to donate to Wikipedia and have done so myself, for this favorite site of mine to survive. But should it really have to be asked in the first place?

From his appeal, Jimmy Wales makes advertising sound like a devil that should stay away from schools and national parks. But government-funded schools and parks are actually operated based on people’s taxes, which makes it not entirely "free". And Wikipedia can choose the same option by taxing (read, charging) users who read the site. Of course, this will make moot the "free knowledge" aspect of the Wikipedia movement.

Since Wikipedia doesn't tax people, the second option would be to generate funds from sponsors, and I don't think Wikipedia readers would complain and be siphoned away from the encyclopedia if they were to see a single banner ad on top of Wikipedia (the same spot where they put the "Donate Now" banner). Morally, what would be wrong if Wikipedia used ads to support its growing budget? Would the articles be biased when the subject matter was about a sponsor? Hey, anyone can write or modify an article anyway! There was even the January 2007 rumor that Microsoft paid a blogger to write more balanced information about them on Wikipedia.

I have the utmost respect for Wales' no-advertising principal, as it perhaps will build a "user donates, user reads, user writes" sense of community that everyone loves. I think the moral effect of advertisement would be that people will no longer write for free, but they will write only when they have a money reward. This will jeopardize Wales' concept of sharing the knowledge.

But what would happen if Wikipedia's money pouch couldn't cover the bills? Does it mean no future improvement to the Wikipedia infrastructure, fewer additional quality articles, slower server response time? God forbid.

Perhaps putting advertisement on Wikipedia will do no harm as long as it's contained to a limited spot on the page. Many people would see ads more as extra information rather than solicitation.

Ads would definitely rewrite the whole concept of Wikipedia, and they would probably remove it from its special status compared to other knowledge-centered websites. But do we want to see our beloved encyclopedia begging for donations when it actually can harvest millions of dollars on its own? I have to say it's a decision between hanging on to righteous principals or survival of the fittest.