Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Wednesday 31 December 2008


Wikipedia's constant pleading for money is annoying, especially the latest round of "A Personal Appeal From Jimmy Wales". It would honestly be less annoying if they just stuck real text ads there that I already know how to ignore without feeling guilty about it. And given the amount of traffic that goes to Wikipedia --- especially the monetizable sort of traffic of people investigating things --- I can only assume they'd haul in a huge amount of cash. Are they afraid of that, or what?


If I was Wikipedia I'd be afraid of putting in adverts (I can't immediately think of any other ways to monetize Wikipedia).
Wikipedia has in many respects become the bastion of general knowledge on the Internet. While it has bias and errors all over the place, I think you'd be hard pressed to say that other encyclopedia's do quantifiably better with the considerably less information they have.
So with this level of respect from many people, it would be a hard pill to swallow to start seeing "BUY Spice Girl's Album CD's" on some article about 90s pop music or "Download Google Chrome" on an article about web browsers.
Robert O'Callahan
We accept ads on TV and in newspapers. Is Wikipedia so much more respected than, say, the New York Times? I don't even see what "level of respect" has to do with ads, frankly. I can tell you that constant heart-tugging appeals for my cash are definitely lowering my respect level.
That's where Adblock Plus comes in so handy: once a webpage gets too annoying, it allows to just filter out those bits (try: wikipedia.org##.siteNoticeBig ).
The only trusted new source I have on T.V is the BBC which doesn't have adverts, so maybe my view on things are a little skewed with that particular example.
But there's at least a couple of qualitative difference between the examples you've given and Wikipedia and other sources of information which don't have adverts, I don't know if they're important or not though.
T.V and Newspapers throw information at you, I expect ads in them as well as Radio, Billboards and other such forms of media. I don't expect adverts when I trying to find references in a scientific journal or a mathematics book. I don't expect adverts when I flip through Encyclopedia Britannica or the Oxford English Dictionary. So yeah, the forms of information gathering, as apposed to information receiving, I only tend to respect advertless ones there.
Of course, there are some obvious counter arguments to that. One being that the forms of information I've mentioned there are bought not given away freely and I have to say I have little recourse to that argument at the moment. Another counter argument would be that I information gather through Google, I don't feel this is the same as Google does not provide the article itself, just the service in which I find it so I don't believe that's a valid analogy.
The other thing I'd start to worry about is advertising words. Can you really say an argument on web browser's is not tainted if there's an advert at the top which says:
"Download Mozilla Firefox - it's the fastest"
"Opera - Users agree it's the best"
In an age of context sensitive adverts that respond directly to what information users are gathering, as apposed to educated guesses in newspapers and T.V, I don't see how Wikipedia could honestly defend trying to be non-bias when adverts starting creeping in to pages.
Anyway, some thoughts to much on, I don't disagree too much with your donations point either :/
Robert O'Callahan
Fine, then they should show ads by default but with a "hide ads" button next to them, for those people who prefer personal appeals from Jimmy Wales.
Robert O'Callahan
Hmm, probably 50% of people would never click that button, thus providing enough revenue that the other 50% wouldn't even need to see personal appeals from Jimmy Wales. Everybody wins.
Aristotle Pagaltzis
I don’t see how creating a financial conflict of interest that will most easily affect niche articles that lack oversight – currently the set least affected by Wikipedia’s own structural problems – could do anything for Wikipedia than sink it.
Christopher Blizzard
That's normal here in the states for public radio and public tv. No license fees and very little direct government support so they run funding drives directly.
I have to say that I find this post a little bizarre. How constant is Wikipedia's pleading for money? The plea from Jimmy Wales thing was a bit distracting, but most of the time I find their requests for donations to be unobtrusive. I think that text ads on every Wikipedia article would be far more annoying, especially since all the content is coming from the users. And, if you find Wikipedia useful, perhaps you could assuage your guilty feelings by donating some money? :-)
Whether you agree with it or not you have to admire him for sticking to his principles. At one point he refused some Google money to avoid even the slightest taint of corporate bias. Reminds me of Craigslist's Craig, they could be making SOOOO much money. You have to wonder, if there was even the slightest suggestion that Wikipedia was making money off of there contributors would the contributors be as willing to spend the countless hours that they do editing Wikipedia? There's no way to know, but he is guarding what he built jealously, and you can't ask for more from the caretaker of such an invaluable resource. Actually, come to think of it, if Mozilla didn't have the taint of all that Google money maybe there would be more community contributors.
Robert O'Callahan
Manu, before the current Jimmy Wales thing I kept noticing other fundraising banners --- "Wikipedia needs your help" and others.
I don't really get what the financial conflict of interest is with having ads. Is Wikia going to slant the Wikipedia editorial line to favour advertisers? That's absurd if you're talking about content-based syndication like Google Adwords. There's already strong motivation to bias Wikipedia articles, I just don't see how ads make that worse.
Maybe someone should write a Firefox extension that replaces the Wikipedia pleas with Google ads and forwards the revenue to Wikipedia as donations!
Miguel, I do admire people who stick to their principles, but that doesn't make them right about everything. Your point about contributors not contributing if people are making money off their work is worth considering, but honestly I've been surprised how little that seems to affect Mozilla. We have a steady flow of excellent new volunteer contributors; it's hard to prove there'd be more if we were poorer; all I can say is that the incoming rate has been surprisingly steady as our fortunes have waned and waxed. Money has enabled things like speedier reviews (by hiring more full-time staff) and better infrastructure, which definitely make life better for volunteers. Perhaps it would be different if some Mozilla people were getting ultra-rich via IPOs or stockholder dividends, instead of the money being reinvested in the project.
Anyway, what successful open source projects are there that no-one makes money off? Do people stop contributing to Linux or Python because Google makes some much money with them and a few Linux/Python contributor Google employees benefit that? Do people balk at contributing to Mono because Novell makes money off it and Novell employees are paid to work on it?
Are you really thinking that wikipedia could contain Ads ???
You need to remember two things :
* Current Ads content are dependent on the content of the page based on a relevance algorithm.
* Wikipedia is editable by anyone
Due to the high PageRank of wikipedia it is already hammered by spammers with links and texts. What do you think will become standard for advertisers in the years to come if wikipedia include contextual Ads ?
1. Create an ad linked to a "key phrase" that was nearly never used in your industry
2. Introduce this phrase in the text of the relevant wikipedia articles.
3. Profit!
Non-Contextual ads cause less problems but are still candidates for situations like "Don't let uses list the current financial problems of my company or i remove my ads and stop to pay you" (Where you need good shoulders to be able to just say fuck-off).
Robert Accettura
Problem with ads is that the value of the ads would be low. No brand wants to be associated with unverified content by anonymous people. It's a liability (just look at brands whose ads appeared on pro-prop 8 blog posts).
Then there is the legal issues of ads, and the controversy of them. Despite the fact that ad networks like adsense totally abstract the site from the advertiser... most of the public, and media don't know that.
"Brand X is advertising on a wikipedia article for anal sex".
"Wikipedia shows ads promoting stem cell research".
While neither wikipedia or Brand X know about, or have any true involvement... they are both can do nothing but apologize. The climate in the US at least doesn't give them any other options.
Personally, if I were them, I'd be partnering with universities and trying to utilize the human power they have to digitalize knowledge. There's a lot of partnership opportunities there. Wikipedia could be of great service to them as they try to move into the digital era. Open University via the army that is Wikipedia.
As soon as Wikipedia starts taking ad revenue it will become a for-profit company as opposed to non-profit (very similar to what happened to Mozilla which I still have mixed feelings about but that's another story).
I personally have very little trust in the for-profit media outlets (pretty much all newspapers, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc) since the profit ends up driving the content. This is why NPR being non-profit is so important and I would argue similarly important for Wikipedia to stay that way.
Open source projects aren't really a fair comparison. Besides, just because someone makes money off of a project, doesn't mean they are who is controlling the project itself (back to the profit driving the content thing). Also you could relatively easily fork an open source project to avoid the corporate overlords from getting their fingers on things, but forking Wikipedia doesn't seem as feasible.
I agree that the pleads for donations on Wikipedia are obnoxious (as are the money drives on NPR), but I'm willing to accept them over the potentially biased for-profit business model.
The Jimmy appeal my be extremely annoying, but never before has the Wikimedia Foundation had this much succes with its fundraiser. Details can be observed on http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Special:FundraiserStatistics and the Wikimedia Foundation blog contains some background on sitenotice selection and effectiveness (http://blog.wikimedia.org/)
The fact of the matter is that the community isn't willing to accept ads except as a last resort. Wikimedia doesn't necessarily have the option of doing what it thinks is best, because it depends for all of its content on volunteers. And there's a very strong attitude among Wikipedians that Wikipedia shouldn't accept advertising. In fact, early on in Wikipedia's life, failure to promise never to run ads was a major contributing factor to a fork of the Spanish Wikipedia[1] that still exists to this day. A majority of the Wikimedia Board of Trustees is elected by the members of Wikipedia, too, in one fashion or another,[2] and more than a couple of candidates (I can't remember if they won) said in their platform that they would be against ads unless absolutely necessary.
So they basically have to run beg-a-thons. It's more or less a community decision. If they really can't scrape up the money they need from donations at some point (doubtful), they might be forced to run ads, but until then it's not feasible for them because of the backlash they'd get from their own contributors.
Things are very different for most open-source software projects. For one thing, a fairly large percentage of the contributors to OSS are paid for their trouble, as compared to ideally zero percent of Wikipedia editors (being paid to write articles is a good way to get blocked on Wikipedia). Linux developers aren't going to object to corporate sponsorship if they themselves are corporate-sponsored. Users might, but they aren't going to be able to fork the software, so who cares?
Also, the goal of OSS is usually to produce quality software, whereas the goal of Wikipedia is to produce (among other things) a *neutral* encyclopedia -- a goal that has very serious implications for who you'll accept money from, completely foreign to anything in OSS. If a company is contributing money to an OSS project, they're almost certainly doing it to improve the project, probably because they use it themselves. If they're contributing it to Wikipedia, they're unlikely to have any interest in actually improving Wikipedia, only in improving their own image (which likely conflicts with Wikipedia's goals).
[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enciclopedia_Libre
[2] http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_bylaws#Section_3._Selection.
David Gerard
The list of reasons why Wikipedia won't have ads in the foreseeable future:
* A large proportion of the volunteer base who write the thing would get up and *leave*.
Personally I have no objection to them, but the above is a strong enough factor for me to realise what a jawdroppingly bad idea they would be.
I'm sorry you're annoyed. We could schedule more downtime, if that would be less annoying than an ad - downtime used to be our most profitable donation solicitor (it's true!), but unfortunately the infrastructure sucks a lot less now because we spent what money we had making it not suck.
A chunk of cash from the Mozilla Foundation would also help. Perhaps you can have a word with someone.
Gregory Kohs
Wait a cotton-pickin' minute. Before we start down this road of "admiring Jimmy Wales for his principles", let's review:
Then let's reconvene here and talk about the ethics of the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikipedia.
Robert O'Callahan
Wow, this post really touched a nerve!
OK, if the Wikipedia community just can't tolerate ads, that's the end of the story. I'll just have to put up with it.
Siebrand: good to hear that being obnoxious works, otherwise it would be even sadder.
Jsaon, having revenue does not make an organisation "for-profit", as long as all the revenue is reinvested in the organisation's mission. (As opposed to money being returned to shareholders, as it is for for-profit corporations.)
BTW why don't people worry that Wikipedia will bias towards the sort of people who make donations, e.g., against poor people, for obsequious write-ups of rich people to flatter them into donating?
Well, since they're ALMOST at their intended 6 million USD, the annoying banners will probably disappear soon (In time for the new year!).
And Mr. Kohs (AKA User:MyWikiBiz) is a well known sockpuppeting troll who was banned for trying to make money by writing articles for businesses.
I don't think an advert would necessarily bias the article itself. But a context driven ad would quite probably bias the page or in circumstances could nonsense to the page or even worse it could misinformation to the page.
Maybe I'm being too idealistic, but I find the concept of wikipedia actually working so wonderful.
In many ways I'd find it hard for articles not to bias the current contributors. Not in such an obvious vanity attempt, but rather these people probably edit lots of pages themselves and with all have a certain level of bias.
Gregory Kohs
Lurker says:
"And Mr. Kohs (AKA User:MyWikiBiz) is a well known sockpuppeting troll who was banned for trying to make money by writing articles for businesses."
Shows that he knows very little about the actual series of blocks and what amounted to the "permanent ban". I was blocked temporarily for writing paid GFDL content, but once it was established that it would be for publication on my own website, and other independent Wikipedians could scrape it over if they liked, the block was lifted.
No, what led to the outright "ban" from Wikipedia was that I had the nerve to question User:Durova when she said (and failed to produce public evidence) that I "had given misleading information to journalists that was published in the mainstream press". An untruth which, by the way, she eventually redacted. But I remain banned because certain nitwits on Wikipedia have more fun lording over their playground without anyone to call them out publicly on their hypocrisy and lack of ethics.
It figures that an anonymous "Lurker" would defame me here. Show some pride in your work, and sign it. (And he calls ME a "troll".) Too funny. And pathetic.
I'm in a love/hate relationship with virtual memory because of how prices are always,and I domean always dropping. I hate buying Micro SD Cards for my R4 / R4i at (what seems to be) a bargain price only to see it become a whole lot more cheaper a few weeks later.(Submitted using QDos for R4i Nintendo DS.)