In the news
Fundraising vs ads redux, WikiConference India nigh, a world lit up with articles
Wikipedia: stop begging and embrace ads
A 2011 fundraising banner featuring an appeal for donations by Jimmy Wales on an anti-advertising platform.
Stephen Chapman, a search engine optimization and internet marketing expert and a self-professed Wikipedia fan, has written a piece for ZDnet, where he suggests that Wikipedia run ads to support itself instead of relying on donations. The article focuses on Jimbo Wales' personal appeal, about which he says "it just seems ridiculous to me that he’s so adamant about not implementing ads". Chapman decries Wales' aversion as "an extremely misplaced endeavor" in the light of the ability of popular sites to monetise their userbase and the significant costs of running a popular site. He proposed that it is not immoral to generate revenue from providing a facility useful to the public, and rejects the notion that running ads is necessarily at odds with a non-profit website's mission of providing free access to information, or with Wales' stated desire to keep the Wikimedia Foundation "lean and tight".
The “free encyclopedia”, ... is only really free to the people who don’t donate.
— Stephen Chapman
He dismisses the backlash that the introduction of ads might provoke as the short-lived and overwrought posturings of a loud minority. Arguing that ads need not be intrusive or a major annoyance to users, to fulfill the needs of revenue generation, Chapman argues "there is so much flexibility with ads these days, it’s crazy to continue writing them off". Those diehards who would fiercely object to seeing ads, he reasons, could easily employ blocking software such as the Adblock Plus browser extension.
So powerful does Chapman believe the site's hold is over its audience, he maintains it would not need to collaborate with advertising middlemen such as Google AdSense; companies would be queuing up to advertise directly on-site. Chapman takes Wales to task for the precociousness of the declaration that "Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others". In Chapman's view, this takes for granted the project's position; if Wikipedia ran into financial difficulty, he says, it could be easily copied, improved on and dramatically monetised by others with more sustainable business plans. He concludes:
||Overall, I’m not asking Wikipedia to stop accepting donations. By all means, keep the donations flowing. But at this rate, as a frequent Wikipedia user, I would very much appreciate the consideration of alternate monetization models. Maybe it’s not a big deal to others, but I’d like to see Wikipedia move from a needy entity to one that’s able to sustain itself primarily through means that ask nothing of its users. Naturally, no one’s visiting Wikipedia to see or click an ad, but if your ads present something that’s relevant to the content of a page and potentially enriching for the life of the viewer of that page in some way, then you’re simply providing added value to their experience.
The article has been somewhat poorly received. In the first day after publication the article received three comments in favor of Chapman's proposal and 15 critical of it. The official launch of the 2011 Fundraiser is expected some time this week.
WikiConference India heralded
The Indian media, as well as the online tech media, took note this week of the impending commencement of WikiConference India 2011, the first nation-wide wikiconference, to be staged at the University of Mumbai from November 18 to 20. The Times of India noted organisers' ambition that the conference become an annual flagship event for Indian Wikimedians, particularly to encourage contributors to build projects in their native language rather than in English. The Indo-Asian News Service greeted the news as "a boost to India’s increasing net community", and revealed that the conference had attracted 7,000 applications for scholarships and participation, as well as more than 550 papers submitted for presentation.
Daily News & Analysis revealed that South India accounted for half of the scholarships awarded, remarking that "even though the conference is being held in Mumbai, the current lack of awareness about Indian language Wikipedias in western India has seen just over 15% of application awards go to this region, principally Gujarat and Maharashtra." In another story, the broadsheet commented on the opportunity for youth to get involved, noting the presentation of 10-year-old Achu Kulangara from Kochi on how his peers were regular contributors to the Malayalam Wikipedia.
A report by Agence France-Presse focused on the growth of internet and particularly mobile phone use in India, and the potential this has for generating readers and contributors to Wikimedia projects. The agency noted that the Indian operation has the Wikimedia Foundation's first office outside the United States. Topics addressed at the conference are to include "Usage of Ajax and Jquery in Wiki", "WikiBhasha: Our Experiences with Multilingual Content", "Legal Aspects of Wiki Culture", and "WikiWomenWeb: Bridging the Gender Gap", reported EFYtimes.com.
Techcircle.in noted the formal approval of Wikimedia India in June 2010 and its becoming the 29th Wikimedia chapter. Techcircle payed special attention to the keynote of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, as did CNBC-TV18's Moneycontrol.com, which said that the event "will see Jimmy Wales, the man himself who's the founder, open-source evangelist and Chairman Emeritus of Wikimedia foundation [sic] make a touchdown!" See this week's "WikiProject report" for an interview with WikiProject India members ahead of the conference.
A world lit up with articles
A world map of nearly 700,000 geolocated English Wikipedia articles, each represented by a single yellow dot.
On the Zero Geography blog, Dr. Mark Graham, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute revealed the latest attempt to map the geographic distribution of Wikipedia's coverage. The maps created by the Institute's researchers show every geotagged article in the November 2011 versions of the Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, English, French, Hebrew, Persian, and Swahili Wikipedias. The map of the English Wikipedia, which had nearly 700,000 geotagged articles, is visible to the right.
Of the varying emphases on different parts of the globe in each of the language versions, Graham commented: "...if your primary free source of information about the world is the Persian or Arabic or Hebrew Wikipedia, then the world inevitably looks very different to you than if you were accessing knowledge through the English Wikipedia. There are far more absences and many parts of the world simply don't exist in the representations that are available to you." The post was picked up by The Guardian's Datablog, where it attracted much commentary, as well as by Gizmodo and The Huffington Post.
- Betascript redux: The Independent this week became the latest publication to take notice of the ethically shady practices of Wikipedia reuser VDM Publishing. The publisher, whose Betascript imprints packages loosely-related Wikipedia articles together and sells them for a hefty price on online retailers such as Amazon.com, was accused by columnist Rhodri Marsden of "tricking people out of their money", although Marsden allowed that their acknowledgement of the source of their books' content may make their activities "perfectly legal". He went on to characterise such legal opportunism as "dark patterns", in reference to the theory developed by user experience designer Harry Brignull, who documents related behaviour on the wiki darkpatterns.org.
- Citizen Archivist Dashboard: NextGov.com, Federal News Radio and ExecutiveGov covered the proposed December launch by the United States' National Archives and Records Administration of their "Citizen Archivist Dashboard", using which volunteers will be able to label, transcribe and compose articles about NARA materials that have been scanned and uploaded. The initiative comes in wake of the Wikimedian-in-Residency of Dominic whose project facilitated the transfer of 90,000 Archives documents to Wikimedia Commons.
- Scotvandals collared for "racist abuse": The Press and Journal revealed that two schoolboys from Moray, Scotland, had been caught adding "racist abuse" to Wikipedia from school computers after staff had been alerted by the site owners; the incident was also noted by its sister publication, the Evening Express.
- GLAM TV: Wikimedian and GLAM-pioneer Wittylama was profiled (starts 0:49) by Australian Broadcasting Corporation's television program The Culture Quarter. He spoke about the initial antipathy of GLAM institutions and the Wikimedia movement, and the common concerns which have drawn them into collaboration.