Wikipedia is not about one person

Problem

Wikipedia is one of the most popular website on the Internet for the past few years. It doesn’t use advertisement to earn money. However it has the most annoying banner from time to time:

(Photo source: urlesque)

The reason Wikipedia is so popular is its content. And that content is created by thousands of editors who share their knowledge for free. However, Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia would like to be famous as the designer of the website. “A personal appeal” means that Jimmy is the one who needs the money for his website. Moreover if you use Wikipedia often, this personal appeal banner becomes really annoying. There are even browser extensions for removing this banner from Wikipedia pages that you visit. Example: Goodbye Jimmy Wales.

Solution

Don’t force the users to do something –in this case see Jimmy’s face asking for charity money. If Wikipedia is so democratic, it should always show a little “Donate” button at the top right corner and next to it should be a link “see how it is spent”. There can be a page where Wikipedia documents its expenses exactly indicating where every dollar goes.

Rather than showing Jimmy Wale’s face, Wikipedia should send its messages as an organization. Imagine the faces of Larry Page, Sergey Brin on top of every Google page (even on top of your gamil!) or Mark Zuckerberg on top of all pages of Facebook!

Please read: a personal appeal from Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Please Read: a personal appeal from Facebook’s Founder Mark Zuckerberg

Note

PS. Wikimedia developer Oliver Keyes had some thoughts to share about this issue. Please see his comment under this post.

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2 thoughts on “Wikipedia is not about one person

  1. An obvious problem with this is that we’d need the permission of google and facebook to stick massive ads to benefit *us* on their websites. I can’t see this happening.

    We do not only use Jimmy banners. We tested and used a variety of banners in the last fundraiser, featuring editors, staffers at the Wikimedia Foundation, and a whole host of people.

    and actually we do have both a donate button and a breakdown of how our money is spent

    1. It’s good to see that a developer from Wikimedia is paying attention to this issue.

      Yes, I agree that for the cost of being free from advertisement, Wikipedia chose to ask for money from its users. That is the business model of Wikipedia which I don’t want to criticize because it is outside my expertise area. However, as the post suggests there must be more subtle ways to ask for money. First of all, I personally believe people don’t pay to Wikipedia because of Jimmy. He would indeed be unknown to the majority of people if it wasn’t for his personal ads. Wikipedia can use a organizational tone in their messaging for donation.

      Secondly, this big add at the top of each page is really distracting. You see the add even after paying the money. It’s like visual noise. Top of the screen has a high value in terms of visual real estate. If Wikipedia chooses to use that space for showing such a huge banner, how about just showing a relevant advertisement? Something that the user will actually click on it? Many users specially the younger ones and those from undeveloped countries don’t have credit cards. How can they donate? Maybe a click on the ad is not all that bad. It can be a interesting to see if someone can make a duplicate of Wikipedia supported by relevant ads.

      Third, If Jimmy can decide to shut down the whole website as a petition against SOPA, he practically owns the organization. I am a contributor to Wikipedia. I was never asked if I agree with the English version of Wikipedia being unavailable. Is America the only English speaking country? Many of us (users and contributors) had too much of Jimmy. It will not be long before someone suggests a new business model that reduces control from his hands IF we want Wikipedia to be truly democratic.

      The idea of the donate button is: show a little button at the top of every article. It is important that the button is small, yet easy to find. It should not be a visual noise. If the users liked an article, they will find their way to donate.

      I have seen the banners from people other than Jimmy. That’s not the point of this post. It’s more about how Wikipedia should represent itself as a organization rather than people who have “personal appeal”. Wikipedia is not about individuals, it’s about the whole community, the majority of which we even don’t see.

      Back in 2005 Yahoo supported Wikimedia. I don’t know how it works now, but if Wikipedia can decide to shut down the service for a certain cause, I don’t see that much difference between Wikipedia and commercial websites except the commercial websites are more careful for keeping their customers happy and usually don’t promote an individual person as their representative.

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