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Stop giving Wikipedia money

17
4 Dec, 2014

Jimmy Wales - No donationsOn a routine visit to Wikipedia today I was greeted with a huge fundraising banner that covered half of the page. Really, click the link to see how huge that thing was.

DEAR WIKIPEDIA READERS: This week we ask our readers to help us. To protect our independence, we’ll never run ads. We survive on donations averaging about $15. Now is the time we ask. If everyone reading this right now gave $3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. Yep, that’s about the price of buying a programmer a coffee. We’re a small non-profit with costs of a top website: servers, staff and programs. Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park where we can all go to think and learn. If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year. Thank you.

Let’s go through this line by line:

DEAR WIKIPEDIA READERS: This week we ask our readers to help us. To protect our independence, we’ll never run ads.

What is the point of a site saying they don’t want to show ads, then covering up 50% of the screen with a request for money? No serious for-profit site would consider giving up 50% of the page to an ad. It’s insane. At least this year’s fundraising banners don’t have Jimmy Wales staring out at the reader like Big Brother. Now, I respect Wikipedia’s non-ad stance. They can’t very well make money on a site that was created through the free labor of its contributors, but for God’s sake show some decorum.

We survive on donations averaging about $15. Now is the time we ask. If everyone reading this right now gave $3, our fundraiser would be done within an hour.

Money is not an issue of survival for Wikipedia. According to its latest annual report, The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the charity that controls Wikipedia, has $51 million in cash reserves ($28 million) and investments ($23 million). No-one can seriously claim that an organization that has $51 million in the bank is in “survival” mode.

Yep, that’s about the price of buying a programmer a coffee.

Note the focus on programmers. But programmers don’t make Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s core software is essentially unchanged since 2001 when the project started. Since then Wikipedia’s programming efforts have been a disaster. The Visual Editor (a tool that would allow WYSYWIG editing) was a failure. Editors still edit using tags and arcane code to create their edits. The recently introduced Media Viewer is universally hated. The people who really make Wikipedia are the unpaid volunteers, but hey get nothing from donations. Nothing, while programmers who don’t have a clue get paid. Is that really where your money should go?

We’re a small non-profit

This is a flat-out lie. The WMF is not a small non-profit. It raised $46 million in donations last year and has 215 staff, over 130 of whom work in the Engineering and Product Development department. Yet all of the money spent on programmer salaries has produced no measurable change to the site’s quality. These programmers take up a huge amount of the foundation’s $20 million spent on salaries, salary payments that rose $4 million since 2103.

The closest WMF gets to creating content is the almost $6 million was spent last year on awards and grants — mostly funding international and regional staff and workshops to celebrate Wikipedia, such as Wikimania. These grants have been described as “corrupt” by the WMF’s ex-director Sue Gardner. who said, “I believe the FDC [Funds Dissemination Committee] process, dominated by fund-seekers, does not as currently constructed offer sufficient protection against log-rollingself-dealing, and other corrupt practices.” Oh dear.

with costs of a top website: servers, staff and programs.

The same KPMG report says that Wikipedia spent $2.5 million of its budget on hosting, almost unchanged since 2013. A closer look at the reports line items shows that the WMF spent almost $684,000 on furniture. That’s almost $3200 per employee. Your donations are going to golden chairs.

Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park where we can all go to think and learn.

I guess parks and libraries would be a lot less popular if you had panhandlers at the doors. Especially panhandlers who have more in the bank than you.

If Wikipedia is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online and ad-free another year. Thank you.

More weasel words. Wikipedia is already useful without the extra donations, and even if donations stopped tomorrow it would still be able to stay online, continue on cash reserves for years (with some salary cuts).

Just don’t

Don’t donate to Wikipedia. It doesn’t need the money, and anything you donate will not go to the people who actually created the pages that you like. It doesn’t even go to the admins who help check the content. It doesn’t go to content creation at all.

Your money goes to a group of incompetent programmers and a management team that jets around the world for “outreach”. When they are not jetting around they sit in their golden chairs, wondering why they only made less than 1%  return on the $51 million they have in the bank. That’s right, they can’t even invest the money properly.

The WMF’s bloated staff of do-nothings want to be rewarded for the value that they did not create. They are laughing all the way to the bank, while they try to guilt you into giving more so they can do even less. If you really want to help the WMF, give it less money so that it is forced to do more with less.

Whatever…

If you don’t want to read about how Newslines compares, stop reading here.

Here at Newslines we don’t have break your experience to beg you for money we don’t need to give to people who don’t deserve it. Our tiny engineering team (me and three part-time subcontractors around the world) have created a modern, multimedia content creation system. It wasn’t that difficult or expensive. The core WordPress software is created by a great team of committed open-source developers. Our writers don’t have to use arcane tags, they don’t have to go through a post approval process that Beelzebub would have been proud to invent. Our writers are the people who drive this project forward and should have tools that make their lives easier.

And one of the best ways to show respect is not to give out some crappy badges and pats on the back, but to give them money. Over the past few months we have paid out $25,000 to hundreds of content creators for 25,000 posts on thousands of topics. Many of our writers have made thousands of dollars, that they can spend in the real world.

In the next few weeks we are adding a revenue share system that will allow our writers to earn much more. When we make money from ads we split the revenues with the people who deserve it — the writers and editors who actually took the time to write and create the content. That’s only fair.

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17 Comments on "Stop giving Wikipedia money"

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Nikolay Kolev
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Very well said! I had the same feelings, but you backed them up with facts and numbers, and I thank you for that!

Gregory Kohs
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Actually, the software changed quite a bit between 2001 and August 2003, when “Phase III” of Mediawiki was the upgraded version. But, agreed — since August 2003, Wikipedia’s software has largely been based off the same core platform.

Krzysztof Machocki
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Krzysztof Machocki
1 year 5 months ago

Except for VisualEditor, mobile editors, mobile apps, gazillions of behind-the-scene changes, UX changes… But yeah, if you judge the software by the look of the menu on the main page, the software is still the same 😛

AlexJerez
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AlexJerez
1 year 5 months ago
This post reads like an spoiled brat not realizing that he’s getting a world of knowledge at the tip of his fingers for free. If I had to pay Wikipedia a dollar for every time I’ve used the site to look something up this year, I would be paying Wikipedia hundreds of dollars. In addition to that, Wikipedia is not something you’re entitled to. They can close up shop tomorrow just like that, then we’d all be left to rely on poorly cited articles and Geocities websites again for our resources. It’s an absolutely invaluable tool on the internet today… Read more »
Tandem Tricycle
Guest
Tandem Tricycle
1 year 5 months ago

Did you even read the article? They do not need the money. Feel free to do some research on this yourself. I was a Wikipedia contributor in the past and agree with this article. Jimmy Wales up there needs us more than we need him. Those who do not use their money wisely should be left to fail anyway. If there is demand for a site like Wikipedia, the market will meet it. If we’re lucky, we might even see some competition! You’re not a communist are you Alex?

Remy Sheppard
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

Oh my god I’d have to go read freely available research papers and journals written by scientists, engineers, professors, and PhDs instead of a (quite often poorly written and factually inaccurate) crowdsourced “encyclopedia”!? THE HUMANITY!

If I don’t give them my $3, I might just have to start reading BOOKS again! NOOOOOOoooooooo0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o0o…..

Gregory Kohs
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

People like AlexJerez are exactly the demographic the Wikimedia Foundations seeks out for donations — people who think that donating money to Wikimedia Foundation is showing “thanks” for Wikipedia. Only 6% of money given to the Wikimedia Foundation actually goes toward keeping Wikipedia up and running, and less than 1% goes toward creating or improving content on Wikipedia! The clueless shall ever be easily separated from their cash, though. (Also people who still haven’t learned the difference between its and it’s.)

Jasper Colton
Guest
Jasper Colton
1 year 5 months ago

Who didn’t use it’s or its correctly?

Gregory Kohs
Guest
1 year 5 months ago

I thought I was clear on that — AlexJerez. …”justifying not giving $3 to it’s cause”… Also, there’s the delightful “an spoiled brat”.

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[…] Stop giving Wikipedia money | Newslines – The Story of EverythingDon’t donate to Wikipedia. It doesn’t need the money, and anything you donate will not go to the people who actually created the pages that you like. It doesn’t even go to the admins who help check the content. It doesn’t go to content creation at all. […]

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[…] dollar go to the internet hosting, the vast majority goes to providing salaries, travel expenses, and really nice furniture for the rapidly growing staff of what has essentially become a software […]

ceejayoz
Guest
1 year 14 days ago

“I guess parks and libraries would be a lot less popular if you had panhandlers at the doors.”

Never been to a US National Park, I take it? They charge admission.

Florian
Guest
Florian
1 year 13 days ago
While I respect this article for pointing out rather disturbing financial facts about the Wikimedia foundation, I’m afraid it seems unfair in many aspects. 1. No software changes since 2001? Running a website on the scale of Wikipedia, which is arguably one of the most visited in -the world-, requires an extreme amount of software engineering and IT infrastructure. Arguably, the front-end has not changed much in the last decade for most users. But there has been an incredible amount of optimizations to mobile websites, invisible client-side scripts and many other hard-to-notice aspects. I think it’s unfair to make such… Read more »
Michael
Guest
Michael
5 months 8 days ago

The owner is a billionare and Wiki has record profits. They do not need donations.

Sheri-Lynn Kranz (Sher)
Guest
Sheri-Lynn Kranz (Sher)
5 months 18 days ago
Damn, you’re the only one who’s said anything that makes any sense. Everyone else just blindly follows disguised corporate greed cloaked under the age-old “we’re a non-profit so give us more money,” BS. I couldn’t give a rat’s hind end if Wikipedia disappeared because everything that’s posted on it is up for debate anyhow and I seek “RELIABLE,” sources for my information. Libraries still exist and many have archived, documented and readily available information online. If you don’t want to get off your lazy butt to find anything yourself, then donate your money and shut it. Otherwise, take what they… Read more »
Han Solo
Guest
Han Solo
5 months 9 days ago

Well, I’m convinced.

Michael
Guest
Michael
5 months 8 days ago

DO NOT GIVE THEM ANYTHING IT’S A SCAM.
The owner is a BILLIONARE.
They do not need any money! This is an example of a rich man begging for donations. It’s insulting for them to ask for handouts !

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