November 05, 2009 |
In the end of every year Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit institution behind the famous Wikipedia, launches the efforts of raising funds to run Wikipedia next year – to finance salaries of employees, numerous servers or whatever else it may be that is needed to run a huge website that Wikipedia has grown to be over the years.
I guess it is pretty hard to find anyone online who has somehow managed to avoid all the tips and advice regarding how unreliable Wikipedia can be if you use it for any study or work-related purposes. We’ve even heard doctors specifically claiming that Wikipedia should not be used for health-related research because it can be very harmful.
But I guess no one will dare to deny the fact that Wikipedia is actually one of the most useful things that exist online – simply because even if you can’t trust the user generated content of the human-edited encyclopedia 100%, you can at least get the basic understanding of any subject you may be interested in. And this basic understanding will be enough for further in-depth research using some of the more reliable resources.
This understanding of Wikipedia value and usefulness is probably one of the reasons for a very moderate amount of critical voices when it comes to Wikimedia fundraising efforts – people tend to agree that it is better to keep Wikipedia ad-free and independent by helping it with donations (small from private users and huge from some corporations).
Also it is probably the reason for the attention that Wikimedia fundraising efforts generate in the blogosphere every year and for the enthusiasm with which that we report every new million dollars raised. Yes, we do enjoy watching the progress bar moving forward and love this evidence of how something can actually be crowd-powered – knowledge same as the mere existence of the giant encyclopedia.
But still some people can’t help but have some doubts regarding the overall idea of fundraising and some specific actions in the process. One question that seems to be disturbing already is the scale of this year’s fundraising campaign that will feature the largest banner of all ever used for the purpose.
The thing is that I have just seen one of the Russian developers of the MediaWiki platform and administrator of the Russian Wikipedia version express his concerns (in Russian) regarding the size of the banner that will be used for the fundraising efforts this year – and the content as well. The creative as well as the designs of the pages that will be used for the fundraising campaign are available for everyone to take a look at here (the images are copyright-protected so I will refrain from using them here just in case – though you can easily click through and see everything for yourself).
The wiki page also mentions the campaign is scheduled to be launched on the 2nd of November but since I can’t see the banner on Wikipedia now, my guess is that the campaign has been delayed for some reason but will probably go live any time soon.
So the concerns of the engineer I am referring to here are about the evolution of the fundraising banner: it began with one line, transformed to a frame, and then turned into a real pretty large and very noticeable banner. This year’s creative makes it clear that the recession has probably affected Wikimedia pretty hard given that the banner looks like it will be impossible to keep your eyes off the banner (and on the page content) at all.
But the banner size is not even the worst part about the campaign: the content of the banners is fully capitalized so to anyone who’s been online long enough it looks like Wikimedia team is shouting something at everyone visiting the site – like demanding to donate something. The company that created the content claimed that (quoting) “all caps will be fine” when asked about how reasonable this capitalization will be.
Now let me get this straight: I have no objections against Wikimedia fundraising campaigns (and I will likely donate something of my own as I think it will only be fair given how frequently I consult Wikipedia for some things). I actually think that the reasoning for Wikipedia to stay independent and ad-free is quite logical as well.
What’s more, as a long-term ad blocking antagonist I am quite comfortable with all types of banners – including the largest banners of all. But my relatively long time online has taught me not to shout at people with Caps Lock on and to dislike people shouting at me in this manner. And it somehow feels uncomfortable for me to think that Wikipedia will be shouting at users this year demanding the donations – even if their agency thinks all caps will be fine.